by Rob Holliday
William hungered as he watched from the wood line. His pulsed quickened as The Ache Inside confirmed he’d quench his desire tonight.
You’ve been good, you’ve been patient, William. You deserve your reward. Reap it. A smile smoothed across his face.
He locked his eyes on the house through the Bushnell binoculars, the directional microphone telling him the story unfolding within the house.
“Jilly, you’re in charge tonight, you’re a big girl now.”
“I know, Mooom, I turn 13 next week,” the daughter quipped.
“Oh, don’t we know it, honey. There’s some dinner in the fridge for you and Theo, it’s ready to go, just cold cuts and stuff. Theo?”
A small voice returned, “Yes, momma?”
“Come on down, buddy, Daddy and I are getting ready to go.”
“Aww, mom, I’ve got Bink out of his cage, he hasn’t had anytime out today.”
“Bring him with you and come down, please.”
Quick and light feet bumped down the stairs. “See, Mom, he’s happy now.”
“Theo, that’s fine, honey. Now, you two listen to me. You can answer the door for the trick-or-treaters. Keep the lights on when you answer the door and no one comes inside.”
Except me. The smile broadened even more as his tongue snaked over his lips.
“Yes, Mom, we get it. Don’t let the Boogey Man get us, “ the snark rolling off Jilly’s tongue.
Oh, you’re going to learn respect tonight, Jilly. Before I’m done, you’ll be wanting to please me. And you'll beg me to taste your sweet spot but it won’t do you any good, but you’ll learn to be respectful.
“You’re such a smarty pants.” Laughter cut across the microphone.
“After the trick-or-treaters, can we watch a movie in the movie room?”
A different voice, a man. “You what? You want to watch a movie in MY movie room?” The kids all laughed, as their father ribbed them. “Yes, you can watch a movie. What are the rules?”
“We know, Dad, only watch, don’t touch your goofy stuff.”
“Goofy, huh? I’ll show you goofy.” More giggles and snorts. “Yes, you can watch a movie, just don’t call us because you’ve scared yourselves. We’re going across town and it’ll take us a bit to get home, so no crying wolf, got it?”
“Yes, sir,” the children in tandem.
“Alright, well, we’re going. You two have fun. Oh, and don’t forget to feed the pets. That was the agreement, right?”
William spied the garage door lifting from his perch and watched the parents’ departure.
He inventoried his kill bag- flex cuffs, braided wire, mallet and flooring nails. Night vision goggles with soft mount. Gerber pry bar, duct tape, gauze and rubber tubing. He unsheathed the polymer-gripped deer skinner at his belt. He admired the scalpel-honed blade, ending in a bevel-edged hook at the top. The voices from the house brought him back from his crimson envisioned evening.
“You hungry yet?”
I am, Jilly.
“No. Want to hold, Bink? Be careful, he’s a little molty.”
“Uh, no, he’s gross and I don’t want to hold you’re lizard. Whatcha wanna watch tonight?”
“He’s not just a lizard, he’s a bearded dragon. Sheesh, don’t you know anything about our pets. Do we have to watch one of those freaky ones you like?”
“Whyyyy? You gonna be scared?” the sister teased, her brother laughing.
“No, they’re just boring. Can I watch two since mine are short? I wanna watch “Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman”, Frankenstein and Wolf Man are epic.”
“Sure squirt. Oooh, wanna watch ‘House of Horrors” too? The Creeper is freaky!
“Ha! Yeah, that’s a good one. I was hoping you wouldn’t pick one with that overdone herky-jerky black-haired girl, those are stupid.
Go ahead, carry on. You two won’t be able to speak to each other after tonight, though you’re going to be together in ways you never imagined.
As the evening set in, William’s Ache grew, seeing the coltish blonde girl and her ginger brother greeting each trick-or-treater with no idea of what was to come. They dressed up too- the older girl, a candy corn witch I know you wore that for me, you know you did and the boy, a wizard. You’re gonna squeal, little piggie, as I cut off those toes. His palms glistened, his senses heightened, his Ache hardened.
The parade of goblins and superheroes dwindled and his time had come. He adjusted in his perch and put the earphones back on his head and scanned the house for them.
“You getting hungry, Teddy?” the sister asked.
“Yeah, but I don’t want to eat too much- can we have popcorn with the movies?”
“Sure. I’ll go get dinner and come back up and we can eat. Keep watching, okay?”
“Thanks, Sissy. Hey, remember we gotta feed the pets tonight or Mom and Dad are doing to make us get rid of them”
“Yeah, I know, we’ll do it in a little bit.”
William grabbed his bag and shimmied down from his perch. He inspected the area around him to ensure he left no trace.
He left the woods and crossed the street. He’d cased the house ever since seeing their picture in the paper in the city section, “Wallace Family to Host Halloween Charity Ball”. They looked idyllic.
Oh, I’ll smash that picture tonight. There’s no safe place, not with me in the dark, in the shadows.
William moved to the back of the house and let his ears adjust. He heard muffled starlet screams from the movies in the upstairs room. He peeked through a window. The refrigerator light shone dimly, casting the girl’s silhouette, highlighting her body against her cotton gown.
You dirty little whore, you got ready for me, I see.
Jilly turned abruptly and he snapped back and held his breath. He heard her talking, hoping it wasn’t a call to the parents or police.
“I know babies, here’s a little snack. When I come back, I promise, Teddy and I will feed you.”
Dogs inside. He felt for his small chloroform bottle and shook it, the capsules winking against the glass. Pop a couple of these and they’ll go down.
He peeked back in and the kitchen was dark. He caught the swish of her gown as she turned up the stairs. Go time.
He moved to a sliding door and slipped the pry bar under the jam, lifted, flicked the catch with his knife. The door slid open. He turned on his goggles, bathing his view in green glow. He scanned the room, no animals. Satisfied, he slid the door closed and angled for the stairs.
When he mounted the stair landing, the TV glow from down the hall told him his prey was near at hand. You're gonna love it, Jilly, when I stuff it in while Theo watches. He calmed himself and pushed the door open.
Jilly and Theo sat eating, watching the movie, not noticing William in the doorway.
“Hello, meat pies.”
The children jumped up and reeled back away from the voice in the doorway.
“Please, don’t get up. Love the gown, Jilly, go ahead pull it up and show Willie what you've been dying to show me.
Theo came from behind his sister’s shielding body, “Mister, you better leave or you’ll be sorry.”
William unsheathed the skinner, “Nah, I don’t think so. I’m gonna have a good time tonight. Starting with you, Theo.”
The two children looked at each other, their look of surprise turned to something else. They looked back at William, a familiar look in their eyes. He knew the look. It was the look of predators.
Jilly looked past William, “Get him, babies.”
William turned and saw three diminutive sets of eyes below knee height, eyeshine glowing in the hallway. “What is this, attack of the Chihuahuas? How ‘bout if I slice and dice them to go with the cold cuts?” he guffawed, turning back and moving toward them. His face went dead. “No more games.”
Jilly menaced, “No, no more games.”
A shadow fell across the children, William in its penumbra. He turned back to see a shadow with crimson eyes five sets of eyes? looming above him. It crashed down upon him, sending him into the darkness.
“Wake up, mister.”
William woke, laying on concrete, his arms and legs secured in cruciform by his own braided wire.
William glanced around, his mind searching but still foggy in the candlelight. Shadows on the wall with scarlet eyes stared back at him, their mouths jagged maws. He twisted his head, counting at least eight sets of eyes. His breath grew ragged and panicked.
“What, what the hell…what the hell are those?” He jerked at the wire with little effect. “You let me go right now and I'll let you…”
Theo shushed him, crouching down beside him, “Mister, I warned you to get out of here.”
Jilly came over and squatted down on the other side of William. “You see, William, you think you’re the scary thing in the dark. But you see, you’re not. Remember when you were a kid, and everybody said there’s no such thing as monsters in the dark, they’re just shadows. Well, that’s not true. What most kids don’t know is those shadows, those monsters that are in the dark, once you embrace them, they’re the best protection we have against real monsters, like you”
She sniffed at his face a bit, “You stink, William. My babies smelled you in the woods for the past week and they’ve been chomping at the bit to get a hold of you." She stood back up. "Theo, let them off their leashes.”
“Can I, Sissy? Thanks!” Theo gathered the candles and headed toward a door, Jilly joining him. She looked back at William, “You should never have come after children, William. Go ahead, Theo.”
The boy grinned and began blowing out the candles, one by one, the beasts circling closer with each extinguished flame. William whipped his head back and forth, “Please, I…I understand now. I’ll…I’ll go confess--”.
“No, no, mister, now none of that,” Theo tsked, as he picked up the second to last candle. “And for what you said out there in the woods, I’m gonna have Beatrice start with your little piggies.”
Theo blew it out and a shadow emerged from the wall near William’s feet and set upon his legs. William gasped as the darkness inched upward, arterial spray misting the room in black.
“Goodnight, mister. Don’t let the monsters get you. Oops, too late,” Theo snickered. “Eat up, babies, make him all gones.” With a wink, Theo blew out the last candle, plunging the room into pitch.
The last things of William’s life were crimson eyes, the mirthful growls of a pack ripping into fresh prey and agony.
“Should we wake them?”
“Nah, they’re comfortable. And look at them, they’re so sweet cuddled like that on the couch.”
“Okay, well, let’s at least turn off the TV. Oh wait, before you do, let me get this candle over here.”
Their mother lit a candle and as their father turned off the TV. He noticed the movies lying about. He laughed softly, “They do love these old movies.”
She chuckled, “They love monsters.” The candle cast soft light about the room. Anywhere the light cast a shadow laid a slumbering beast. One craned its head and thumped a tail.
“Did my babies have a good night?” More shadowed heads popped up, sleepy fuschia eyes slitting open, the whisper of ethereal tail wags. Theo and Jilly stirred on the couch. The boy’s whisper fell into her ear, “Hi, mama”.
“Hi, sweet boy. Did the babies get fed?”
As Theo nodded, Jilly turned toward her mother, “Yep, they sure did. They’re nice and full.”
“Good. Good night, sweeties.” Their parents turned to leave.
In tandem, “Good night.” Falling back asleep, Theo requested, “Momma, you can blow out the candle, we don’t mind the dark.”