Blondie smashed Roxy with a pumpkin, a plump, orange, glorious pumpkin as round and vivacious as the moon was full. She smashed Roxy with the pumpkin’s thick stem straight through one of her blue eyes, and then through the other, over and over and over, until blood streamed and steamed into the frosty grass.
“Hooray!” cried Blondie, swiping her blond hair back. She punched her small fists at the moon.
It was bloody Halloween, a night for naughty pranks like slipping needles into caramel apples and poison into candy. A night for masquerade masks disguising the faces of normalcy, community, dignity, and rules.
It was the one night Blondie lived for every single night of the year— when she could be her true self: danger unleashed upon the world. She could run around as a goblin with a baseball bat bashing in heads of little girls and boys. Free! Yes, she could be a free spirit, which is what the night of the dead is all about… making people dead.
She dipped her finger into Roxy’s blood, brought it to her lips and tasted it, savored it like last year’s pumpkin pie with next door’s kitty cat liver inside. Death tasted delicious, no, simply vicious, she thought with a giggle. She smeared Roxy’s blood across her cheeks like blush.
She glanced around. Kids ran amok from house to house dragging their trick o’ treat baggies behind them like one hundred pounds of pirate booty.
While she’d bashed Roxy with the pumpkin, children screamed with fright and glee down the long sidewalk to her porch. They scooped handfuls of candy from the cauldron she’d left out. Their parents watched from the road, sipping hot cocoa, talking to each other about PTA projects and who had volunteered the longest hours, enjoying the show she’d put on for the kiddies. They waved at her and gave her thumbs up. Blondie had taped Roxy’s mouth, so she hadn’t said a word. Her muted screams blended with the CD sound effects. Perfect! Perfect!
Blondie slipped the hangman’s noose around Roxy’s neck, threw the rope up and over the tree’s gnarly old branch and hoisted her into the air. “Thar she goes!” she yelled in glee.
She put the spotlight not on the body, but off center, just so. The Joneses had mummies and graves in their yard. The Smiths had five scarecrows. But Blondie, she had proper death hanging on her front yard apple tree. What could compare? Parents and children walked by thinking it was just another macabre yard decoration, yet somewhere deep down inside them all, alive and primal, was a knowing. A knowing that among the aromas of warm apple cider and cooling pumpkin pies was a scent much more related to what Grandma Lucy did with Mr. Turkey on the chopping block Thanksgiving eve than to Halloween games and candy. In the primitive folds of their subconscious minds they would know the blood dripping down Roxy’s white dress and pale ankle was not the fake gooey stuff from the Halloween store, nor ketchup either. But, preferring to have gruesome knowledge hidden than revealed, a little voice would whisper to the passersby, Look away! And so they do, choosing their teeth to be spoiled by candy rather than their night to be spoiled by what hung on the apple tree.
All the better for Blondie. For her, killing was candy. This, Blondie knew, in every sense of the word.
She smiled at the hanging body. It was a pity she’d have to take Roxy down and bury her in the back yard by morning.
Blondie sighed, shook her head, picked up her knife and walked to the street. She still had time before midnight for another kill. Mist settled from the streetlamps to the pavement, and the children, goblins and princesses, began to scatter each to their own homes. Below a far bush, she noticed two bodies pressed low to the ground. She drew close and pointed her knife. “Who or what are you?”
“We seen what you done! And we will tell The Reaper!” Two sets of eyes reflected in the soft light of the moon. They peeped out at her from between the leaves of the small, green brush. Mist hid their bodies. “The Reaper will know what to do!”
“The Reaper will save us…” mimicked Blondie in a child like voice. “I will play your game, little monsters.” She cackled loudly and swung her arms out in the air and spun in a wide circle. “Halloween games are my favorite! My favorite!”
“Mommy!” A little witch and scarecrow screamed and ran down the street.
Blondie stopped and caught her breath. She watched the last two children, brother and sister, clutching hands and candy bags, disappear around the corner. The street was deserted. There went her fun… and dinner.
“Damn it,” she said in the hangnail glow of the moon.
What she had really hoped to do was tell them a bedtime story: Hansel and Gretel. And while they were at it, they all could make a big pot of stew together, and when the time came, they could reenact the entire story with a new twist ending. Creativity, boys and girls, that’s what this world needs more of!
The bush rustled behind her. Mist fully encompassed it now, so she saw nothing in or around it. “Are you still there, scoundrels?” She stabbed her knife through the top and into the sides. Nothing.
She turned to walk back to her house when a whisper caught her ear. She whipped around and kicked the bush. “Come out, monster! Goblin! Leviathan of hell!” She kicked over and over. The sharp branches of the bush jabbed back until her black and pink striped tights tore and her shins dripped with blood.
The ghostly whispers came again, and Blondie stopped and listened. She followed the whispers back across the street to the broken cobble stone alley behind her house where old, condemned houses lined up one by one like gravestones in a graveyard, unmarked, dark, and falling upon each other.
Ivy crept, claiming decrepit porches and overgrown lawns, little by little. Who knew what slept under the green shroud. A DO NOT TRESPRESS sign tinkered in the wind on a leaning post. Something stirred in the ivy just beyond. Blondie stopped, her breath freezing in the frosty Halloween air.
A white doll-ish face with button eyes appeared around the corner of the sign. “Smashing Roxie met the reaper,” it whispered, “you will too.” Then it disappeared.
Blondie, taken back, thought about this. She was no fool. Dolls do not leave their homes and walk around. Obviously, these were the children from under the bush. What a fantastic mask! And quick they were! If they thought they were going to play an All Hallow’s Eve trick on Ol’ Blondie, they had another thing coming. Yes, indeed.
“Come here, monster dolls. I want to tell you a bedtime story.” Blondie gripped her knife and tiptoed down the alley to the sign. She looked behind the fence post, but nothing was there. A laugh leapt like eerie bells further down the alley, she ran towards it.
Weeds and nightshade grew up out of the cobblestone, biting at her shins and whipping at her clothes as she went by. She hacked at them with her knife, relishing the feel of slicing through something, anything.
“Once upon a time,” she said, breathing heavy with the exertion. “There was a little boy and a little girl whose mommy and daddy didn’t want them anymore. So one morning, the mommy and daddy took the boy and girl out deep into the dark woods and left them there,” she paused, “to die.”
A cat mewled in the distance. Something scraped against Blondie’s ankle and she stomped on it. She felt a crunch and smiled. From the corner of her eye, she saw a small body dart.
“Smashing Roxy…” a voice whispered.
She looked, but the doll was gone. So she kept walking slowly forward, swinging her knife at the tall weeds.
“The boy and girl cried all morning. But by afternoon, they stopped because they were hungry. So they thought if they began to walk, perhaps they’d find a cottage in the woods or perhaps a compassionate soul to take pity on them. And feed them.”
Blondie stopped when she heard a whistle up ahead. Three ghostly bodies raced across the alley, leaving bloody footprints in their wake. One stopped and looked at her. It was the same face she had seen by the post: doll face with button eyes, dark hair flowing over white shoulders.
It hissed, “The reaper will save us.”
Then it fled toward a house that kissed the clouds with a Victorian flair. Peeling paint clung to the old wood like dirty snowflakes, ivy like serpents. An old screen door open and shut, but there was no breeze. More white bodies with button eyes ran to the house, and through the wooden screen door. Candlelight flickered inside.
Blondie flicked her tongue over her lips and tasted Roxy’s blood. “Hmmm… so many of you out tonight without your mommies knowing. Naughty goblins. Naughty the all of you! Well, let me finish my tale, so that we might celebrate this night together— inside.” She turned down the overgrown path towards the Victorian house, hacking at the poisonous blooms of nightshade. “The boy and girl wandered until darkness fell upon the leaves and twilight rose up out of the ground like the dead. And there, in the mist of a clearing, they found a candy cottage.”
A doll whistled from the house.
Blondie reached the porch steps, they threatened to give under her weight. “They ran to their salvation only to be met by the mistress of the cottage! A delicate rose with sharp prickly thorns, named Blondie.”
Blondie reached the screen door and peeked through it. “Trick or treat?”
Silence met her. She opened the door, and it squeaked loudly. She glanced left and right. A large room sat empty with holes in the walls, rat droppings on the floor, along with something else, long and spindly. She drew back in dismay. It was hair, thick and dark, strewn from one wall to the next all the way to the hallway where a curved stairwell led to the second story. It was if someone had taken Rapunzel, bruised her hair a horrid rat color, then hacked it off and left it behind.
For the first time Blondie felt a twinge of doubt in her delights. She stood on the threshold of All Hallow’s Eve in an old empty house filled with little dolls (that must be children, of course!). Blondie pressed the curve of knife to her leg, hesitating. She could still feel blood drip from her shins.
“Finish the Halloween story!” cried a child’s voice from the stairwell.
“Oh?” said Blondie. She stepped inside and the screen door slapped shut behind her. “Well,” she cautiously moved towards the stair. The hair seemed to come alive and twine about her boots like serpents. She stamped down hard upon it, and kept moving, telling her story. “The mistress Blondie ushered the children inside.” She saw a crackle of firelight from the kitchen and thought to go that way, but then a whistle and a gallop of footfalls upstairs changed her mind. She mounted the stairs, grateful to be out of the hair.
Every step creaked and the wood bent under her weight. “She promised them love, fresh linens, and candy! The children were overjoyed to have finally found a mother to love them.”
As she climbed the stairs, she noticed a worn and tattered tapestry on the wall. It was the color of rust with trees reaching out from the sides, a stairwell curving around the middle. At the top of the stair sat an overturned scale, its arm slid off the top of the stairwell, so the pan swung in the empty space. Blood dripped from the pan. As the drops fell, they grew in size, stretched and oblong, so it appeared as a crimson waterfall pouring from the top of the stairs. In the blood was the body of a woman, her arms and legs stretched out as she fell to the cauldron of flames below. In the whisper of smoke rising from the flames rode the grim reaper, his scythe slicing at the woman’s body.
“The reaper,” the dolls whispered. “The reaper will save us.”
Blondie gritted her teeth. “There was no one to save Roxy. And there is no one to save you!”
The wooden step beneath her snapped and she jumped to the next stair, and then the next, each step bending and popping like kindling in a fire. She scrambled to the top and looked back. The stairway creaked, groaned and collapsed in a plume of splinters and dust.
Blondie turned to the dark hall. A yellow candle beckoned at its far end. She followed. The old wooden floor moaned. Blondie spoke to keep up her courage, “Now, where were we? Mother’s love and candy? Oh yes. The mistress Blondie promised all these things, but first they must dine! For she was very, very hungry.” Her stomach growled. “And so were they. So she put a large pot on to boil, and took out her largest chopping knife and called them both to the kitchen… “
Blondie reached the end of the hallway. The candle sat before a tall green door with a rusted knob. Shadows danced upon the door like unleashed demons. She reached out and slowly turned the handle, relishing the whine of the old knob. When, suddenly, the door flung out of her grasp, swinging open, she fell forwards, caught herself, then stumbled backwards, kicking the yellow candle off—out— into nothing—nowhere… Blondie was confused, until, grasping the doorframe, she looked down and shrieked.
The floorboards beyond the door were gone, collapsed years ago. Rich smoke wafted up, and an enormous cauldron sat boiling upon a campfire of old wood.
“No,” she said.
Whistling behind her…
She turned. A torrent of white faces with button eyes and long dark hair rushed her from the bedroom. Bloody footprints trailed behind them. “Meet the reaper,” they cried. “The reaper will save us,” they wailed. “Smashing Roxie met the reaper, you will too.”
Blondie screamed and crouched into a wrestler’s stance in the doorframe, her knife poised before her. “Bloody Halloween this is! Bloody Halloween!”
The children pushed through her knife, pushed through to her body and pushed her over the threshold. As Roxie fell, she heard whistling. A dark robe and scythe formed from the smoke rising above her. A swing of sharp silver… and Blondie joined the night of the dead.
Mav Skye has never met The Reaper, but if she ever does, she hopes he will tell her a story—a dark, delicious story, one that she will never awake from. Smashing Roxy is just one tale in a series of horror stories called 3 Tales to Chill Your Bones. Mav designed it so the reader can enjoy a good 30-45 minute read of exquisite terror before one closes their eyes. So far in the collection there are Scarecrows, Witches, Shapeshifters, Bunnyman and Abyss.
(First published in Pulp Modern, Volume 4, © Jodi MacArthur, 2013)