You know you’re in for a treat when you can already see the props peeling off the walls before you even get in.
Rick tried to push the foam sword back on the wall, only for it to flop back down the moment he let go. I snickered and elbowed him. “Leave it alone, you’re just making it worse,” I said.
“It looks… so sad though…” Rick nudged it before he huffed and crossed his arms. “This is so stupid.”
“Shut up, it’s either this or we’re stuck watching Nightmare Before Christmas on repeat with my little sister,” I said.
Susan blinked owlishly. “But I like Nightmare Before Christmas,” She said.
We all bust out laughing at that as the line slowly trudged forward. This was the only haunted house within driving distance of our houses and it left a lot to be desired. But ever since we were freshmen we’d pay the ridiculously high fee of seven bucks a person to go on through anyway.
When The Death House is your only option on Halloween, you’re taking that option. Better a shitty scare than no scare at all.
The five of us walked up to the bored looking girl in a cheap vampire costume standing at the front. “Five for the house,” I said, pushing forward our tickets.
The girl looked up and popped her bubblegum. “Rule change- only four at a time,” She said.
You got to be kidding me. We all groaned and Rick threw up his arms. “Come on, it’s just one more person! We’ve always gone together!” He complained.
The girl shrugged. “Not my problem. One of you can go with the next group.”
God, I hated people who couldn’t bend a rule. And I could already hear the muttering of the annoyed people behind us. “Fine, fine, uh… who wants to wait?” I asked. I was already looking at Rick, he was the oldest other than me and he could learn a lesson about patience.
A soft voice cleared her throat.
“Um…” Rachel smiled and waved her hand. “I’ll wait a few more minutes. It’s okay, I’ll just walk extra fast to catch up.”
I must’ve looked flabbergasted. “Rachel, you cried last year when the clown jumped at you, what’s the sudden change?” I asked. I was already feeling hesitant, Rachel was the youngest of us and fainthearted when it came to fear.
“I didn’t cry!” She pouted before sighing. “Really, I’m fine. Go, go!” She shooed us on.
I chewed my bottom lip before I shrugged.
“All right. Hurry up and try to catch up, and remember- the actors are not allowed to touch you, and if they do, feel free to clock them.”
Rachel laughed and after our tickets were handed in, the rest of us walked in. I caught a glimpse of Rachel talking with the vampire chick, who seemed to have the reaction anyone had around Rachel- melt because of cute. Even tonight, she was dressed as a princess with a bright pink dress and a crooked rhinestone tiara. The rest of us had gone as horror icons, I was Freddy Krueger, Susan was Carrie, Rick was Jason Vorhees and Grant was Jeff the Killer… I nearly kicked his ass because he had lied and said he was going to be Leatherface, not some shitty creepypasta character. Most of us had ditched our masks and left them in the car, I for one wasn’t going to wear that sticky rubber nightmare all night, Rick was the only one who kept his and it was hanging off his belt at the moment.
Not Rachel though. She wanted to be cute and nothing could talk her out of that.
I bust out laughing as a ‘cannibal’ leaped out from the cheap fake vines and moss, howling and grasping at our faces. “Hey man, brush your teeth,” I said, laughing again when the cannibal flipped me the bird.
“You’re so rude,” Susan tutted her tongue.
“It’s not my fault they all suck… you can literally see the guy’s chainsaw poking out of the cage up ahead, it’s not exactly a jumpscare when you know it’s coming.”
It’s not the actor’s faults, not really. The Death House has been set up poorly year after year and whoever they dragged into acting had to make do with crap props, cramped spaces and horrible make up.
It didn’t mean I didn’t get a good laugh out of scaring them.
I dragged my fake claws along a prison wall, snickering quietly as I heard the mad prisoner up ahead drop character and yelp. “You sleep tight tonight,” I cackled, waving menacingly at the now flustered actor, who looked like he’d spilled ketchup all over his fake beard and tacky orange jumpsuit.
“How are these guys still in business? Nightmare Before Christmas is sounding better by the second,” Rick said, fake lunging at more of the mad prisoners and watching them flinch.
Susan nodded. “And my blood’s getting itchy,” She complained, scratching at her face.
“We’ll wash it off when we get out.” I instinctively looked back, expecting to see a bright pink dress at any moment. “Jesus, where the hell is Rachel?”
“She might not go in,” Grant said quietly enough that we had to strain our ears to hear him. “I should’ve stayed back with her, she’s probably frozen in fear.”
“She’s not a baby anymore,” Susan said, nearly tripping over some plastic chains, “She’ll be fine. Race you to the black lagoon with the zombie hillbillies!” She took off running, hoisting her dress up past her knees to avoid falling on her face.
“No fair, you got a head start!” Rick whined, nearly dropping his hockey mask on the ground as he scrambled to catch up.
I rolled my eyes and looked at Grant. “Should we wait a bit longer and see if Rachel catches up?” I asked.
Grant thought for a second, biting his lip. “…. Nah. We’re not supposed to stop anyway, Rachel’s probably buddied up with the group behind us. The ones that looked like famous dead people as zombies.”
“Yeah, was one of them undead David Bowie? Because not fucking cool.”
We took off after Rick and Susan, laughing at the terrible light effects and poor set up. One of the actors saw Susan and Rick bolting towards him and he ended up running away at the sight of Carrie and Jason coming at him full speed.
The end didn’t come fast enough, but a smile was on my face the whole. Sure, it was a shitty haunted house, but it was our haunted house, you know?
I swore as I tripped over a mannequin meant to look like a corpse, nearly landing on my face. “Jesus Christ, wait up, Rick!” I said as I scrambled back to my feet.
A hand wrapped around my ankle and I nearly pissed myself. I slowly turned my head around.
The ‘corpse’ grinned manically back. “We’re all dead! We didn’t make it out!” He cackled.
I screamed and nearly kicked the guy in the face, getting to my feet. “No fair! You’re not supposed to touch the people going through the house!” I complained.
“You also kicked me in the ribs, dude, that was fair.” The guy flopped back down and resumed being dead.
I limped the rest of the hallway down, not even reacting when another actor wearing a tattered yellow and red cape waved at me. “Happy Halloween, would you like a treat?” He said.
“Fucking pass,” I grumbled as I pushed open the exit door and walked out to meet with my friends. “Thanks for leaving me behind, I nearly got eaten by a zombie.”
Grant snickered. “The guy on the floor? Oh man, he actually got me! I nearly lost my shit!” He said.
Susan shivered as she giggled. “I’m so cooold, let’s get back to the fairgrounds so we can chill by a bonfire and have some hot cider!” She said.
I held up a hand. “Wait- what about Rachel? Did she leave yet?”
All of us looked around, Grant standing on tippy toe to catch a glimpse of that princess dress. “… Nothing,” He said, lowering back down. “She’s probably still inside.”
“Or she never went in at all,” Rick sighed. “Wait here, I’ll check by the entrance. Here, have my jacket,” Rick pulled off his coat and draped it over Susan’s shoulders. “I’ll be back in a sec!” He took off running.
I plopped down on the ground and caught my breath. “Jesus Christ, for once I actually got got in the Death House,” I mumbled.
“He got me and Rick too. I think Rick nearly cried,” Susan said, setting a hand on my shoulder.
Grant nodded. “For once, we get a good actor and he’s at the very end. He should go pro.”
I saw Rick jogging back. “Hey, Rick! Did Rachel head back for cocoa?” I asked, getting back to my feet.
Rick came to a stop and I saw how unsettled he was. “Rachel actually went by herself, three minutes after us. Vampire chick said she seemed pretty confident… you don’t think she fainted, did you?” He asked.
I looked back at the door, my stomach twisting. “I’m going back in,” I said, walking up to the door.
“You know if you’re caught going back this way, you’ll get us all tossed out of the carnival!” Susan said, trying to grab my arm.
I shook her off. “And if Rachel fainted, she might’ve hit her head. Or she’s having a panic attack and can’t move because some stupid actor actually grabbed her,” I said. I reached for the doorknob.
The door slammed open and nearly hit me across the face. There stood Rachel. A little paler, and her eyes were a little red with tears, but she was there.
Then she grinned and held up a round, bright red lollipop. “Trick or treat! Did you guys get the candy from the guy in the cape?” She asked.
“No, I told him to fuck off… wait, he was seriously giving out candy?” Oh man, I missed that? I groaned and my shoulders sagged. “How much candy did you get?”
Rachel unwrapped her treat and popped it in her mouth. “Just this, but he had a whole bag full! All homemade and a huge variety, chocolates, suckers, jawbreakers… you seriously didn’t get any?”
Susan looked sheepish. “I thought he was joking. Oh man, that looks yum!”
Rachel pulled the lollipop free of her lips. “It is! Oh man, this is way better than the Dum-Dums you get at the bank!” She put it back in her mouth. “Come on, I want a hot drink and to sit by the fire!” She ran on ahead, grinning from ear to ear.
My heart had finally slowed down and I shook my head. “I can never read that girl,” I said.
Grant shrugged. “I guess she really did grow up from last year. Come on, last one there buys cocoa!” He took off after Rachel.
I shook my head but gave chase. My paycheck was still a few days out and I was borderline broke already.
Susan was the last one to the firepit, she was now carrying her heels. “My feet hurt,” She whined.
Rachel giggled hysterically, the candy had now smeared her lips scarlet. “Maybe next year don’t wear a costume with heels?” She hiked up her skirt and showed off her dirty tennis shoes. “I’m comfy and I still look like a princess!”
“Mostly,” I said, reaching up and readjusting her crown, “But that’s gonna fall off if you’re not careful. And you’re absolutely going to choke if you run around with a sucker in your mouth!”
Rachel shook her head. “Nah, it’s already mostly gone, see?” She pulled it out of her mouth, a trail of crimson saliva connecting her lips to the stick for a second before the spit strand flopped back down on her chin. Sure enough, the candy had already mostly dissolved, leaving only a small misshapen orb left.
“Huh.” I took the stick to get a better look. “I thought they’re supposed to last longer than this?”
“Like he said, they were homemade. Maybe they taste better but don’t last as long. And gimme that back!” Rachel snatched it back and licked it a few times. “So tasty,” She whined before she wiped her mouth off. “I want another one, but I don’t have the money to go through the Death House again…”
“Neither do I. I just have money for maybe two cups of cocoa,” I said.
Rachel stood on tiptoe and kissed me on the cheek. “Then buy me a cup? Pretty please?” She said, her eyes wide and pleading.
I sputtered for a few brief moments, Grant’s jaw dropped and I heard Susan quietly squealing behind me. “Uhhh… s-sure. Susan? You lost the race, come with me for a second?” My voice sounded more like a twelve year old going through puberty’s at the moment, but I didn’t care.
I speed walked away from my friends as casually as I could. “Did that just happen?” I said, trying to keep my voice quiet.
Susan grinned. “It totally did! Oh my gosh, finally! I’ve been wanting you two to get together for forever!” She said, practically dancing with every step she took.
“Oh my god, Susan,” I groaned and dragged my hand down my face. “I don’t even know if I like her like that. She’s still in highschool, we graduated last year.”
“She’s graduating this year, you weirdo.” Susan smacked my back as she skipped up to the booth. “Okay, two ciders, one cocoa… and this guy has to get a cocoa for himself and his giiiirlfriend.”
I groaned. “Please, do not call Rachel my-”
A loud scream cut me off. Not one from the Death House either, although you never heard screams from there in the first place. This one came from the firepit behind us.
I spun around and saw Rick lying on the ground. For a second I thought that Rachel was shaking him, trying to get him to wake up while Grant was trying to get closer.
Then I realized that Grant was trying to pull Rachel off of him as she gnawed Rick’s throat.
“Get off of him! Rachel! Help! Someone help!” Grant managed to lift Rachel off of him, the girl hissing and spitting like a wild animal. She threw her weight backwards, Grant falling back into the open flames.
He howled as he rolled away, his white hoodie catching like a match.
For a second, Rachel looked back up at me, blood dripping down her mouth and her chest. She cocked her head to the side before she sped off, running for the nearby woods.
Susan screamed, she ran to Rick’s side and ripped off the jacket he’d given her to wear, pressing it against his neck. Grant was putting himself out, I could hear him moaning in pain.
I ran after Rachel and into the woods.
I tripped over brambles and ripped open my jeans on thorns, nearly falling on my face twice as I looked for glimpses of my friend. I caught sight of that bright pink dress on occasion, but it’d blink out of existence the moment I saw it.
I came to a stop, my lungs burning as I attempted to take a breath. I wheezed before I looked up. Where’s Rachel where the fuck is-
I was now eye-to-eye with the actor wearing the yellow and red cape.
I couldn’t even scream. He bent down to look me in the face, was he this tall when I saw him in the Death House? His skin wasn’t pale from make up, although I’d thought that was the only way you could look that white without being dead. He grinned literally ear to ear, revealing a mouthful of yellowed, broken fangs. He slowly reached into his cape and pulled out a sack, opening it up for me to look inside.
Candy. So much candy. All in homemade packaging, tied with ribbons and each piece looking far more delectable than anything else you’d get on Halloween night.
“Do you want a treat, David?”
I reached into the bag and plucked out another lollipop. This one was a dark green, with a solid core that may have been chocolate or some sort of gummy.
I swallowed before I put it back. “I… no, I don’t want a fucking treat! Where’s Rachel?!” I backed away, unable to look at this freak’s face any longer.
I looked behind me to see Rachel. She’d shed her pink dress and was only in a white slip now, but she’d still had the costume crown on her head. She smiled, a handful of teeth falling out of her mouth. You wouldn’t see a space among all the new sharp ones protruding from her gums. “Go home, David. Please,” She said.
I shook my head. No. I couldn’t leave Rachel. Not now. Not with this… this thing.
She took my hand and gently squeezed it. Fingernails had been exchanged with claws, they sliced through the meat of my palm like butter. “Please, David. Go home,” She said, an odd sadness in her eyes that didn’t match her macabre grin.
And crying like a baby, I did. I ran all the way home. I didn’t even go back to the festival, even though I could hear screams behind me. The festival was going to hell but I didn’t care. I went home.
The neighborhood is quiet, but I can see police cars slowly patrolling the streets. There will be no trick-or-treating this year, someone already came by the house and told my family not to take candy from anyone we didn’t know, especially if this candy was homemade or in torn wrappers.
How many people took candy from that man in the yellow and red cape tonight?