Happy Halloween friends! This next one I adore, and I’m sure you will too.
You can see the live list of participants and their posts dates on this link.
Follow the buzz on twitter using the official hashtag #DarkCarnival. Oh, and don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for a giveaway!
The Monster Comes At Midnight
A brief note before we begin:
This story is best enjoyed with the lights low on a fall evening, perhaps with a pumpkin beer in your hand.
Picture if you will, a cold October night in the Midwestern United States. The leaves have just turned and the nights become darker. Spirits begin to roam the countryside searching for unsuspecting souls. Out of the shapeless void of these fall nights comes the dark carnival, an annual fright fest dedicated to warding off these spirits. Disguised as spooks themselves, the performers of the dark carnival is out to trick these phantasmagoria wandering its halls and perhaps give a few paying customer the fright of a lifetime, but amidst the fake blood and pumpkin beer lies a dark heart that no employee or customer had prepared for, this is what happens when the spirits strike back…
The blade thrusted deep into her stomach, her eyes closed welcoming death; she had been running too long. A comical amount of blood began spraying everywhere. Her long black hair covered her face and she slumped to the floor. The screams of the three girls next to her only added to the cacophony.
The killer in the hockey mask turned towards the direction of the group, blood still dripping from his machete. They were next. They managed to run past the killer down the only path the forest would let them go. Not far off they saw a cabin, the kept running screaming all the way. The door opened, propelled by an unseen force and the three ran inside.
Warm firelight bathed the room. Slowly one of the girls turned to see the cabin lone occupant. Rocking in the corner, an old lady was knitting the night away unaware of the girls who had just invaded of the terror that had brought them there.
“Excuse me miss?” one of them said.
The old lady was unmoved, and the rocking continued. One girl moved closer to the chair. Still rocking in the firelight undaunted. She came closer. The chair spun. The hockey-masked killer removed the wig to reveal himself still terrifying in a polka-dotted dress. From his hand, he dropped the still bleeding head of the old women
More screams as the three girls huddled in the corner. He came closer. One of the girls could swear she could hear chanting. His machete was drawn ready for his kill. It was at that moment that the windows in the cabin all shattered, and the black-haired dead girl floated into the room the wound still dripping blood on the floor. She held up a book that looked to be covered in human skin.
She screamed a scream so otherworldly you could almost hear demons and other ghosts echoing her refrain.
“Klaatu Barada Nikto!”
The whole cabin shook, and the girls could only watch in terror as their would be killer was now afflicted with a light that shone through from the cabin floor and seemed to engulf him. Red hands reached up from the floor, and he was being dragged downward through the light finally disappearing. The black-haired girl ceased floating, the book and her dropping to the floor, un-moving.
There was dead silence for what seemed like an eternity; finally a tinny, disembodied voice chimed in.
“Thank you for visiting the Dark Carnival’s Forest of Horrors! We hope you had a deadly time! Please exit to your right.”
A large green exit sign and doors became illuminated on the right side of the cabin. The girls glanced over to where the black-haired demoness had been, nothing, she was gone. They looked at each other; one had already pulled out their smartphone the illusion far gone from their mind.
“Oh my god that was so scary! Let’s go again!” Said one.
“Seriously, fuck this ride,” said the other.
They got up and pushed open the wide double doors into the harsh sunlight. The whole of the Dark Carnival awaited them, and they hadn’t even reached nightfall yet.
In the basement of “The Forest of Horrors” the Black Haired demoness queen sat drinking Werebeer (The official beer of the dark carnival!). Next to her, there sat a one-limbed zombie trying to enjoy his lunch.
“That’s just ridiculous,” she intoned to the zombie. “How can you say diplomacy has never worked!
The zombie continued munching Fritos. “Oh, please! Even if you could come up with an example of mediation that had worked, let’s talk about all the times that it has failed. Our country doesn’t tend to tend to rely on it because to do so would be farcical.”
The hockey masked killer burst in the break room door looking menacing in the light. He dropped to the floor in pain.
“I hit my knee again! Ow! Ow!”
The black-haired demoness rushed over to him and pulled off his mask revealing a mop of brown haired twenty-something.
“You alright Fred?”
She looked at his knee, but nothing was bleeding.
“Just hurts like a bitch.”
She caught his eye. “I can kiss you and make it better”
He smiled. They locked lips passionately, killer and victim. The zombie put his head in his head.
“Oh geez guys, who knows how often that floor is washed.”
They paid him no mind and continued as if they were the only people in the room. He wished that someone would invent eye Purell. The two finally sat up and while the demoness went to finish her beer, Fred went to the fridge to grab one.
“How long are you guys working til tonight?”
“We are done for the evening” said the demoness proudly. “Tonight’s HorFor’s night in the park.”
Fred sat at the table setting down two beers. It became clear that were both for him as he began to chug one furiously. A ghoulish woman entered, carrying a plate of caramel apples.
“Hey Fred! Hey Regan!” she smiled, betraying the blood tearing out of her eyes.
“Hey Morgan!” Fred said in an almost ghoulish monotone.
The zombie loudly munched his chips and was staring off into space.
Regan snapped her fingers at him. “Tim! Hey Tim!”
“What?” he said, flashing a mouth full of corn chips.
“You want to go with us tonight? Should be pretty amusing!”
“What a terrible pun,” said Fred.
She looked at Fred confused. “What? I don’t…”
“Sure, I’ll go. You guys headed to the Ouija Coaster?” He looked directly at Morgan to gauge her reaction. She was biting into caramel apple in a very awkward way for someone that beautiful, or at least awkward based on the way movies would have us believe that beautiful people bite into caramel apples.
“You’d better believe it! I’ve been on that ride every year since I was ten! It’s a Schaefer family tradition!” She stated as if his question validated her deeply held nostalgia for the ride.
Fred just could not connect with her wide-eyed wonder at a park she knew from first hand experience was as fake as the vomit she sometimes spewed on patrons. It did not phase him in the least. Fake blood and guts, fake terror. Manufactured to capture a brief moment of joy that most felt could be bottled for a darker time. Fred did not believe in such nonsense. Fake is fake, no matter how atmospheric. He wished he could see it as Regan did with the same wide-eyed wonder of a five-year getting the shit scared out of him by a creepy clown with long fingers.
The haunted halls held no fear.
Regan continued to explain the lengthy game plan of what rides must be done and the rituals that needed to commence for their to be maximum nostalgia. The warm recapturing of a cold October with spice in the air and loved ones huddled in pure horror waiting for the next ghoul lurking in the shadows.
They finished a few more beers, changed disguises from monsters to humans and headed out into the early evening. The night turned its usual gorgeous and the screams of terror throughout the park grew with the darkness.
Nothing too eventful happened for a few hours. Regan led the group on the ritual dance in a way that would seem to most readers as “Ordinary”. Most readers ruined by television would, simply imagine sequences of four teenagers, one a couple and the other two strangers, awkward co-workers thrust into entertainment by circumstance, set to Dead Man’s Party by Oingo Boingo.
Regan knew Fred was trying she really did but she knew he wasn’t all there. He was a good boyfriend, but it bummed her out that she could not let go and experience the Dark Carnival through her eyes. She could feel the fear and joy that brought nothing but nostalgia shooting through her like a drug, all he could see was red corn syrup and a cheap mask. Still she was thankful for his presence.
Fred sighed and looked at Regan, showing a half-smile. The liquor at least made him feel something even if the Ouija coaster didn’t. Regan was his future, a planchette through which he could divine a good feeling, if only briefly.
“Time for churros and witches brews!” Regan shouted.
Fred followed her over, to the already titanic line. The churros at the dark carnival were rolled in a mix of pumpkin and cinnamon spices, and the “Witches brews” were beer mixed with a green cider, a staple of the dark carnival since its opening.
As the line wore on, both Regan and Fred ran out of things to talk about and just let their minds wander. Fred stood silently reflecting, staring off the space as he often did, and then something strange happened. Now strange is a relative term when one is in a theme park of people unknowingly trying to ward off the undead, and Fred had to be sure he wasn’t just imagining this, but Fred wasn’t prone to imagining much.
A line of static, like kind you would see on old VHS tapes, was running across the sky and down across the patrons of the dark carnival. Fred watched it slowly fade as it hit the ground.
“Did you see that?” he said to Regan as it dissipated.
“See what?” she said. She had been staring off the same direction as he.
He tried to reassure himself; perhaps it was just his eyes doing something he had yet to experience.
“I see it!” she exclaimed.
“The static? Isn’t it weird?”
She looked at him with bemusement. “What? no the ride over there, I’ve never seen it before either!”
He looked across the way to see a worn and warped structure not much bigger than a shack. Fred had never seen it before either.
“We have to check it out after!” she exclaimed.
Fred could not take his eyes off it. He’d worked at this park for two seasons, and never once seen it. There were words written on the building but he could not make them out. He had to go there, he had to see what was inside.
The churros and witches brew were delicious and really set one in the spirit, really gave one a sense of the wonderful dark fall evening that the group was having. Fred was having none of it. He could not stop staring at the greying building. As he stared it happened again, a long line of static streaked across the park landing right at his feet. Several more followed it.
Before, he could think anything else he and his friends were standing at the entrance of the building. Fred and Morgan were making out off to the side and Regan was attached to his arm.
He couldn’t remember how he got here. When did Tim and Morgan start liking each other? Come to think of it when did Regan latch onto his arm?
Before him stood the building that had drawn him like so much moth to flame, the decaying structure had a large clown like figure taking up most of the real estate at the entrance. his large face with spit curl hair on both sides opened at the wide grin of his mouth drawing them in. At the top were the words “Steeplechase: The funny place!”
Below that and to the side of the face were various exclamatory phrases to draw you in, a silent carnival barker from ages past.
“The wreck of the Hesperus!”
“Dante’s Inferno will heat things up, feel the devil’s kiss!”
“Marvel at the prestidigitation before your eyes!”
At the very bottom and in a different scrawl entirely was the phrase “H.H Holmes. Proprietor.”
“You ready?” Regan said excited at the prospect of doing something at the dark carnival he looked interested in. It looked to her that it might have been a stupid show rather than a ride.
Tim drew his face away from sucking Morgan’s to shout “This looks boring as shit dude!”
Fred didn’t even hear him; something else had all his attention. It wasn’t just the strange static he was seeing or the draw of a part of the dark carnival he’d never been to something was calling him here. He chalked it up to the alcohol and continued on.
Walking inside the mouth, Fred could see a line of static so large it covered the building and group. Regan, Tim and Morgan were briefly covered in snow static mist before reemerging, Fred’s eyes started to hurt the world looked less colorful like wearing glasses that constantly saw the world as a polaroid.
Before them stood a large building with gas lamp lights flickering on either side, the building itself lit up in brilliant white bulbs with the phrase “The Grand Emporium” in lights. The building reminded Fred of the pictures he’d seen of Main Street at Disneyland; somewhere Regan was dying to go. The building was brilliant in its imposition, Fred wondered how something so large had fit into what from a distance looked like a dilapidated shack.
Regan stared at the place with a similar wonderment. Tim and Morgan were still making out. Another line of static ran across the sky and down to Fred’s feet.
Walking into the grand emporium they saw that they were now in a single straightforward passageway held up green steel work in ornate patterns near the ceiling. Etched into the beams were words to be read as the walked down the dimly lit hallway.
Fred seemed to be the only making note of them as they descended into the unknown.
“Oh Lydia The Queen of Tattoo.
On her back is The Battle of Waterloo.
Beside it “The Wreck of the Hesperus” too.
And proudly above waves the red, white, and blue.”
After the arch, which read “and proudly above waves the red, white, and blue”, the room opened into a large open area with a curtain that had been pulled tightly in front of a stage. Tim and Morgan instantly snuck off to the darkest corner of this standing theater. Lights came on in front of the theater with a loud thud and the clank of a motor could be heard coughing to life.
A projector wheel began spinning loudly in a location none of them could quite make out. Regan stood against the wall and smiled at Fred, her frame still looking like it was through some type of filter.
Tinny but ethereal organ started playing. A voice disconnected from the group by what sounded like centuries spoke:
“It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintry sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.”
The curtains opened to reveal waves that were made from what looked like hard corrugated cardboard, pulled back and forth by some unknown force. A painted backdrop showed a cold but blue sky, a large schooner made from the same material as the waves popped up sailing the ocean once more.
“Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.”
The voice continued its journey showing us what befell the great Hesperus. The ship hit a great storm acted out by more corrugated cardboard.
“Down came the storm, and smote amain
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable’s length.”
The stage showed us the wreck, the ship cracked and many cut out ghosts heading up from the sea.
“Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman’s Woe!”
The short show, clearly meant to most directly affect an audience that was not classified as “Millennial’s” finished its dance, ending in a brilliant crash of thunder. The curtain came down and a door in the left side of the room opened leading to another hallway.
Fred looked over at Regan. She smiled at him. He had to know what the deal was with this place.
The hall seemed to snake downwards now, a loud wind blowing from below. The path began to wind from side to side as well as becoming steeper and steeper. The walls more jagged now, almost as if they were in some sort of cave. Undeterred, the group moved on.
The cave was lit even more dimly than the previous hallways, Fred had stopped to wonder why they hadn’t seen anyone else in the ride but just began to assume it was something that had been kept in the park strictly out of nostalgia for whoever founded the park.
A sharp bend in the cave had brought about their first horror of the ride. In the alcove at the end of the corner was a propped up coffin with a skeleton visible through a window in the middle. In a gold plate on the coffin it read “H.H. Holmes Proprietor” below the coffin was a steel table. As Fred approached the table he saw that there was an old Ouija board laid on it, the planchette left to the side.
The table had deep scratches almost as if someone was carving into it.
“Leave the dead, dead” as far as Fred could make out, this is what it said.
An unholy dread began to fill Fred. This was a fucking ride and nothing more, but something in him didn’t want to touch the Ouija. How stupid would it be to appear scared now, he’d built a personality out of seeing everything as fake bullshit.
His fingers moved over the planchette and it immediately began to hover all over the board. A rumbling in the cavern could be heard as the planchette moved rapidly over two numbers 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2
Another static line descended and Fred turned around he saw Regan turn to distorted colors. She faded back almost as quickly, as she turned, replaced with an even more faded filter to his eyes.
She smiled at him again.
Funny, it looked just like the smile she gave at the shipwreck show.
“The Monster Comes at midnight” She said with an almost otherworldly tone. Frightened, Fred looked around for Tim and Morgan but they had vanished.
In a burst of static noise Regan vanished too. Fred had enough, he’s seen a lot of tricks and scares but this one had its teeth in him. He wanted out; he wanted the ride to be over, to be back with Regan and his friends.
The lights over the coffin went out, from down in the caves came a voice singing.
“Let’s have a party there’s a full moon in the sky
It’s the hour of the wolf and I don’t want to die “
He ran further down the caves, down and down the wind growing louder he did. The path began to get darker but as it did he could see a bright red shape at the end of it. The shape became clearer as he got closer.
Someone in a devil costume circa the 1910’s came into view before him. He was clearly wearing a costume but Fred almost wondered if it was permanently attached to his body.
“Welcome Fred! We’ve been expecting you, your judgment awaits!”
“Lenny is that you?” he said fearing the answer. No reply came from the paper Mache devils head it just showed its only emotion, an evil grin. He pointed the pitchfork at him. “Get moving!”
In a searing display of red lights and cellophane fire the devil led him into a mock court room seemingly placed in the middle of hell. The devil led him to a podium where a jury of similar looking devils.
A devil in a judge’s robe took the bench. Behind Fred he saw cardboard demons as the crowd chanting:
“Put em’ in the hot seat! Put em’ in the hot seat! Put em’ in the hot seat now!”
The devil judge pounded his gavel asking for quiet. The noise from the fake crowd died down.
“Quiet!” thundered the judge.
The devil that led Fred into the courtroom from hell turned to the jury and began to speak like a preacher on the Day of Judgment.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the damned! I beseech you to condemn this man. Was his crime being chasing after a choice bit of calico? No. It was ossification! On a toot of panther piss not seen since the days of Daniel Boone I tell ya!”
Despite the jarring nature of this “Ride” Fred couldn’t help at smile at these employees dedication; their commitment to this bit was admiral, almost believable despite the horrible outdated and fake setup.
“Bring in the evidence!” he intoned.
Through a hole in the floor a platform was raised with “The Evidence!”. Fred recognized it immediately and his whole body began to chill despite the sweltering temperature of the room. Someone was fucking with him. On the platform was Mr. Monster. His Mr. Monster trick or treat pail.
Nostalgia mixed with fear. Long dead emotions rising from their buried graves.
The devil prosecutor continued. “Shore up, fellows, shore up and feast thine eyes upon it!”
He gestured to a devil in a cop’s uniform that disappeared behind the bench and came out wheeling a shelf with a television strapped to the top and a VCR underneath that. The devil brought Mr. Monster over to the podium where Fred was standing and popped open the purple top. Inside was a worn VHS with no label.
Fred stopped trying to figure out just what kind of trick these employees were playing as the devil noisily jammed the tape into the deck. The static on the TV slowly dissipated revealing an old commercial already in throes of its pitch.
The colors in this commercial reminded Fred of the tint of his girlfriend and friends just before they got separated. A Ghostly looking pumpkin was chatting up a purple monster and a green witch. Fred recognized the commercial. The purple monster spoke in a thunderous tone.
“Me don’t know what to be for Halloween!”
The witch and ghost pumpkin tried to console this devastating news.
“I bet we can help you, Mr. Monster!” The witch intoned.
The ghost pumpkin turned to the TV screen.
“What are you going to be this year kids? The clock is ticking; it’s almost here! When you are at the Dark Carnival this year, be sure to eat at Pumpkin Mcbooingtons! All kids in costume get one of three highly collectible pails for trick or treating! Terrify your neighbors with Regina Witchington, Mr. Monster or me Pumpkin Mcbooington! Bring an appetite, as our food is something you can really sink your teeth into! Muhahahaha!”
When he said, “Sink your teeth…” Pumpkin Mcbooington revealed that they had dressed Mr. Monster up as a vampire.
Static covered the screen taking away the commercial as if someone else had then recorded something over it. The static moved to black. The clack of a lens cap being removed was heard. The black moved to a brilliant white coming to focus on what looked to be the tile floor of a bathroom. The sound of rushing water most likely coming from a sink could be heard.
The camera focused upwards to a mother and her child. The child about 6 or 7 was sitting on the sink counter and had the blue overall leg of his Super Mario costume pulled up. In the corner of the frame, some blood washed down the sink. It was clear the child had been crying; a small band-aid was on his arm.
“Mom!” The kid said starting to put himself together. “Mom when do we get to see Mr. Monster?”
“Soon, sweetie, soon you’ll see him tonight!”
The mother was in an orange sundress covered in pumpkin faces. She looked at the camera.
“Turn that off, why the hell do you…”
Another static transition.
This one displaying a noisy scene of children and their parents all enjoying a night at a kid friendly restaurant. A costumed representation of Pumpkin Mcbooington greeted children, complimenting them on their unique costumes while bored teenagers handed the screaming, laughing, or crying children buckets with the kind of disdain that only comes from the service industry. Fred could smell the pizza, cheap soda and the faint air of Desitin that hung in the air.
The loud speaker was blasting music; Fred could almost make out the lyrics too.
“You worry too much / You make yourself sad
You can’t change fate / But don’t feel so bad
Enjoy it while you can / It’s just like the weather
So quit complaining brother . . . . . . .
No one lives forever!!”
The camera followed the kid dressed as super Mario over to meet Pumpkin Mcbooington.
“Happy Halloweeeeeeen little one! Who are you supposed to be?”
The kid looked at the pumpkin and declared.
“Where’s Mr. Monster? I’ve been waiting forever for him! I need to tell him a secret!”
The body in the suit stopped its bouncy joy, taken aback by the question. After a moment of deathly silence he spoke:
“Mr. Monster is not feeling well, he had to rest up for Halloween!”
The kid continued undeterred “So how long.”
Mothers and fathers and children were all staring. Across the room the body in the Regina Witchington costume.
“Kid, i’m sorry, Regina Witchington is over there though!”
The kid in the Mario costume was devastated. Pumpkin Mcbooington wrestled a stack of buckets away from one of the employees. He fumbled through the stack and found a Mr. Monster pail, the last one in the stack. (The warehouse had failed to make as many Mr. Monsters as the other character; the pail itself fetches a pretty good price on eBay.)
He snapped the purple lid on the top to complete it.
“There, there is Mr. Monster.”
The boy stared at the pail like he had found the most prized item in Odysseus’ treasure chamber. The representation of Mr. Monster in pail form couldn’t let him down, it could only be filled with candy or food, or Pumpkin McFunbucks. He smiled back at the costumed, overworked employee.
There was scattered applause as the kid returned to his family to enjoy more kid-friendly Halloween frivolities.
Barely in frame, his mother was so tired of crying. It wasn’t her bruising she was so worried about; it was his inside and outside. She tried to hide it, but the more she tried the more visible it became.
The static brought the scene down and revealed yet another piece of tape. The young boy in normal clothes this time sat playing
Fred could sense every emotion and the surroundings as if they were real. He could no longer tell that he was watching a video screen in the hell courtroom. He was there, back in that house playing with Legos while the great pumpkin rose out the pumpkin patch on TV before him.
He remembered the love he felt radiating from his mother’s eyes, she always looked so peaceful despite knowing what she was going through then. Who was there from his family to film this? Perhaps there were better questions to be asking while one had entered into his own past through a VHS tape, but they were better saved for when one’s mind wasn’t reeling.
All Fred could think about was how much he missed playing with Legos. The last lights of autumn were fading in through the windows. Above the TV the VCR clock was blinking 12:00, 12:00, 12:00, 12:00.
A car screeched into the driveway and froze both him and his mother with fear.
“Go back in your room and shut the door Fred!” she shouted.
Everything fell away. He knew this fear, abandoning his toys he headed for the hallway. It stretched out before him endless and terrifying. He knew that he could not turn around and look at the front door to his home. He must never look there.
The hallway ended at his bedroom doorway. He made it to the other side slamming it shut with a loud thud and backed himself into the corner behind his bed. He heard the front door swing violently open. He tucked himself as much into the corner as possible, silent tears staining his cheeks. He knew what was coming.
The door stood silent, even as untold noises raged on outside it stood shut with just a crack of light beneath it. Fred had no idea how long he had been in that corner, but he just waited for the inevitable. Waited and Waited and Waited.
He looked at the nightstand next to his bed. His Mr. Monster pail sat next to his clock. It was blinking. 12:00, 12:00, 12:00, 12:00, 12:00.
The judge pounded his gavel and Fred was back at his podium. He could feel himself covered in sweat.
“Jury!” He thundered. “We leave it to you!”
The jury of devils rose and in unison shouted.
“The Monster comes at midnight, The Monster comes at midnight, The Monster comes at midnight”
They all laughed maniacally. The hellish room began to grow dim, all he could see was them and the purple phosphorescent glow of Mr. Monster. The jury faded replaced now with the howl of the wind.
All he could hear now was a voice singing.
“I’m so happy dancing while the grim reaper
Cuts, cuts, cuts
But he can’t get me…“
Another static line ran across the void.
“Fred there you are!”
Fred’s head was pounding and the bright lights of the carnival seemed to drag trails. His friends, now in full color came running over to him.
“Fred where have you been?” Regan exclaimed.
“Dude, you said you had to yak and we haven’t seen for like an hour! Did you blackout?” Said Tim.
Fred stood up from the bench outside the bathrooms. To his left he could see the area where they had Witch’s Brews and Churros. He looked around for the building but could not see it. He must have been hitting the bottle pretty hard this time. Regan helped him to his feet and hugged him.
“You ok?” she said with so much concern that it almost broke his heart.
He blinked hard and surveyed the area one last time.
“Yeah, I think so I just had too much to drink, so what’s next?” He gave her a half smile.
“Well, I haven’t seen the all ghoul stage review yet, it might be fun and we could sit for a while, sound good?”
“Yeah” he said gathering himself up. “That sounds more than good!”
They started walking in the direction of the show. Fred was shaken, but he was glad to be out of whatever kind of alcohol induced dream that was. Things finally settled back to normal during the walk to the stage show. Jokes began being traded again and the evening continued. Regan and Fred finally ended the evening out by his car, making out.
“Hey Regan? You went to this carnival a lot as a kid right?” he said settling back into the driver’s seat.
“Yeah, of course I only regale you with stories like a 90-year-old shut in all the time, dork” She smiled at him from the passenger seat.
“Do you ever remember a restaurant in the carnival called Pumpkin Mcbooington’s?” He asked, in the awkward way one might reveal that they had a clubfoot or had an Amish upbringing before escape during Rumspringa.
“Do I? Jesus, what a trip I freaking loved that part of the DC, remember they had those little trick or treat pails you could get, I had like 10 of them, they might still be in my garage, but for some reason I never got a Mr. Monster.”
“I had a Mr. Monster one” he said
“Wow, that’s awesome I hear they were pretty rare, wow I didn’t know you even went to the DC as a kid! You’ve been holding out in this nostalgic goldmine on me this whole time?” She almost seemed aroused by the prospect.
“I didn’t think of it till just now” He said as apologetically as he could.
She smiled and kissed him. “I love you Fred“
“I love you too, Regan”.
She hugged him and said good-bye for the evening. A late night mist had settled over the parking lot and he watched her disappear into it.
When he got home he sat outside of his car leaning against the garage, listening to music and smoking a cigarette. Tonight’s events had been so, so real. The memories long thought shipwrecked and buried deep beneath the seas. The CD finished playing and all Fred could hear was the hum of the streetlights.
He shouldn’t have been smoking. He and his mom made a promise to quit together. He finished the last drag and stomped it out. He froze.
Across the street, silent and unmoving stood one of the devils from the courtroom. He seemed to stare straight through Fred.
Fred blinked, and in the same instant the devil had vanished. It really had been a long night.
He opened the door to find his mother, sitting on the couch, still awake despite the late hour. Smoke was rising through the air and hitting the track lighting. He glanced at the clock; it was almost 11:35.
“Mom?” He said.
She turned around, and he could see that she had been crying. He ran over to her.
“Mom what’s wrong?”
She took a long drag and looked into his eyes.
She finally spoke but found that it was difficult.
“A package? Why…”
“For your father, a package came addressed from your father.”
“Someone must be playing a sick joke!”
He turned as pale white as his mother already was. Both Fred and his mother attended His funeral. They saw Him lowered into the ground.
“What was in it?”
“I didn’t open it, it was addressed to you.”
She gestured over to the dining room table.
A large square brown package with red handwriting.
Mr. Harold Marsten
3845 W. Sycamore Ln.
Mr. Fred Marsten
11805 Mockingbird St.
He took his keys and cut the box open. Inside was an endless sea of white packing peanuts. He dug through the box until he felt something solid. He dredged it up from the packing sea floor.
He immediately dropped it.
The bright purple plastic lid rolled under the couch where his mom was sitting. His mother looked at the plastic pail smiling at her from the floor and the wave of fear seemed to transfer from her to him.
Then she saw what was inside it.
Fred kept hoping that he would wake up back in his car with Regan. This couldn’t be real.
He placed the bucket back on the counter and pulled the tape out. He dusted off the VCR side of the DVD/VCR combo and slotted the tape in.
Static, but Fred should have expected that.
Slowly the tape dissolved to color.
The camera swayed from side to side as the person walked through a hallway. Faint echoes of laughing and screaming children could be heard in the background. She opened the door at the end of the hallway. The camera women spoke.
“Here he issss! Bringing joy and fear to all the good little kid’s It’s Mr. Monster!”
A mid-thirties man with the bottom half a purple monster costume sat in an overstuffed chair drinking out of a flask. He drank deep and wiped the excess whiskey into his mouth.
“Put that fucking thing away Barbara!” There was deep anger that only came from years of fine tuning words into wounding knives.
She spoke again “It’s Freddy’s birthday! Aren’t you excited? You have a job dressing up as his favorite thing in the world!”
“Fuck that little piece of shit, he’s your son, I don’t give a flying rat fuck if it’s his birthday!” He said lighting a cigarette.
Fred turned around and looked at his mother, the black makeup of her eyeliner was reaching her chin. He moved from the floor and put his arm around her.
Harold took another long swig and finished the flask.
“But Harold, you promised…” she said almost trailing off.
“Fuck you bitch, make yourself useful and find me an Amstel!”
He immediately began searching for more booze. A harried girl in her young teens burst into the room with a clipboard.
“Five minutes and we are going to bring you out to greet the little ones Mr. Marsten!”
He looked at her almost confused. “Hey bitch, can you bring me a beer?”
The girl rolled her eyes, she spoke louder this time an annunciated everything “FIVE MINUTES, MR. MARSTEN, don’t make me get Mr. Demarco.”
“Yeah, yeah fine…” He trailed off into more obscenities.
He was smacking the last dregs of an empty vodka bottle into his mouth. Pale and sickly he turned to the camera.
“I said turn that fucking thing…”
The tape cut to static. Loud piercing static that filled the entire house. It sounded as if all the other TV’s in the house were now on and turned at full volume. They covered their ears. The volume button provided no relief the noise just seemed to grow louder.
Fred looked at the VCR, it was now blinking 12:00,12:00,12:00.12:00.
He turned to look at the kitchen clock. 12:00, 12:00, 12:00, 12:00
The Microwave, the oven all echoed the same refrain.
12:00, 12:00, 12:00, 12:00
The static stopped. The TV turned itself off. Fred uncovered his ears and looked at his mortified mother who was looking down at the floor.
A car screeched into the driveway and his mother’s head shot up as if controlled by some force and looked at him square in the eyes. She screamed at the top of her lungs.
THE MONSTER COMES AT MIDNIGHT! THE MONSTER COMES AT MIDNIGHT! RUN! THE MONSTER COMES AT MIDNIGHT!
Almost as if out instinct Fred shot down the hallway past clock stuck or blinking on 12:00 and slammed the door to his room. He huddled back down into the familiar corner and felt the worn grooves in the wall from hidings past.
He stared at the pale white door and did not take his eyes off it.
He heard the front door slam shut.
He kept staring at the door, the light creeping in underneath, but it never moved.
The monster comes at midnight.
The monster comes at midnight.
Eons seemed to go by.
He glanced at his nightstand; there smiling back at him was the Mr. Monster Pail.
A line of static ran across the screen.
Buried in Water by Dead Man’s Bones
No One Lives Forever By Oingo Boingo
The Hearse Song By The Marshmallow Ghosts
The Shaking Of The Leaves by Into It. Over It.
Family Plot By Spook Houses
Beady Eyes On The Horizon By Jukebox the Ghost
Selections from “The Wreck of Hesperus” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg.
Ezekiel Conrad was born under auspicious circumstances in the same year that George Orwell predicted our doom. Having survived that he grew up to the ripe old age of 26, but is still currently living.
Although his current whereabouts are unknown he has been known to live either with his family or alone in a place the television machine like to call “The O.C”.
Another fact may possibly be that Ezekiel Conrad fell victim to something the locals call “The Tiki’s Curse” and as a result can no longer enjoy Italian food with any lasting results. Use as Directed.
Step right up! Try your luck!
Anyone may enter the giveaway. This includes the artist and writers contributing to the Dark Carnival, as well as the readers of the stories. Enjoy!