The Countdown to Halloween Story Marathon

by Brandon

From now until Halloween, every Friday I’m posting a Halloween-themed story. These stories will vary in length and style. Some will be long, some short. Some will be scary, some funny. But every story will about the “dark side.”

While a few of the stories will be written by me, the majority are going to be from other authors who have graciously devoted their talents to the marathon. If you have a story you’d like to submit, feel free to contact me.

The first story in the Halloween Story Marathon is from author Gary Patrick. It’s called, “Dead Hooker Bag.”

Enjoy…

 

Dead Hooker Bag
By Gary Patrick

Caleb had played in this forest for a long time. He was 10, and had only been allowed to go out of the yard since he was 8, but in his eyes, that was a long time. He knew which path to take to avoid the blackberry bush and the thorns that came with it; he knew which trees were fun to climb and which ones sucked; he knew where the older kids kept their aluminium cans with the holes poked in the dent they’d made on one side.

Of course, it wasn’t really a forest. In his little neighbourhood, the road simply ended and someone driving had to turn either right or left; there was another road less than 300 yards on the back side. A real estate agent in later years would refer to it as “undeveloped land”, and it would become a lot that held a small trailer park. But to Caleb, it was a forest. And to Caleb, it was his forest.

So he was understandably confused when he was sitting in the clearing one day, thumbing through the nudie magazines that the older boys had left there, and he heard a crash in the brush that he’d never heard before.

He put the magazine back into the ammo case, which he supposed was to keep them dry and safe, and knew he had to investigate. Maybe an animal was hurt and he’d get to help. Caleb had always liked animals.

He grabbed up his machete (always returned to the shed before his father got home from work) and headed in the direction of the noise.

Caleb hacked a few branches along the way. He wasn’t really clearing a path, and the branches he hacked at weren’t blocking his way, but this was simply how it was done. If you travel in the woods, you hack with a machete. Everyone knows that.

He finally reached the source of the noise and realized that he was much closer to the main road on the back side of the woods than he had originally thought. As a matter of fact, if he climbed the small hill in front of him he’d be standing on the shoulder of the road. The culvert that ran under the road to the swampy area on the other side loomed before him, pitch black. It was so overgrown on the other side that you couldn’t even see a pinprick of light to mark the end of the tunnel.

Caleb was a brave adventurer – he even had a machete – but he had never been more than a few feet into the big metal pipe. He could stand up in it; it was easily five feet tall, and he wasn’t claustrophobic. He wasn’t afraid of the dark, either. But something about the darkness further into the tunnel suggested that the blackness on the other end just wasn’t natural.

In the brush beside the culvert was what appeared to be a duffel bag. It was olive green, and looked just like the one his dad used to carry around their baseball equipment when they had practice or games.

From the shape of the bag lying on the ground it appeared to be full of…something.

Caleb hacked at the tall grass around the bag. As he did, he noticed that there was writing stencilled on the bag. Yep, he thought, just like dads. Then he noticed that there was something else written on the bag in what looked like permanent marker.

He had to get right next to the bag to see it clearly. (His mother never let him wear his glasses when he was going out of the yard – they couldn’t afford a new pair if he lost his.) Caleb gasped out loud as he finally read and comprehended the words that were scrawled on the side of the bag.

“Dead Hooker Bag” was written in large, block letters on the side of the bag. They’d been written by hand, that much was sure – this wasn’t the stencilling that marked the bag as army surplus, and whoever had done it hadn’t worried much about staying in the lines of the block letters they’d drawn.

Caleb knew what a hooker was. In the summer his parents would let him stay up until 11:00 instead of going to bed at his usual 9:00. His mother loved to watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and it seemed like every week they were trying to figure out who had killed the drug-addicted hooker and left her body under the bridge.

What he didn’t know was that they had any hookers in his small town. Those belonged in big cities, not a coal mining town with a population of around 5,000 people. He was just as sure that nobody in town was addicted to drugs.

Too afraid to do much with the bag, he did the only thing he could think of. He raced back through the forest, not even hacking at branches this time, and jumped on his bike. He rode as hard as he could, past his own house and for two more blocks until he reached David’s house.

David, as usual, was sitting in the sandpile in his front yard, playing with a big yellow metal toy truck and bulldozer. His mother sat on the porch reading her Bible, just as she always did, a glass of iced tea on the table beside the porch swing.

David was two years younger than Caleb, but he was the only kid in bicycle-riding distance who wasn’t a girl. And he was always home. David’s mother was what his father called a “thumper”, and most of the other kids wouldn’t play with him anyway.

Completely out of breath, Caleb ran up to David, nearly tripping in his effort to stop himself.

“Hey, Caleb, cut it out! You’re messing up my working area!”

Noticing that David’s mother had looked up from her reading, Caleb decided this was one of those situations that called for secrecy. So to avoid looking suspicious he started whispering.

“David, you have to come with me. I’ve got something to show you!”

In a normal tone of voice, David replied, “Caleb, I can’t. You know Mom won’t let me go out of the yard. Besides, Mom’s been gone all day and said she wanted to spend some time with me. I just got started out here.”

“Shhh! Just…I don’t know. Tell her you’re coming to my house, and then I’ll take you. Just like that time you said you were spending the night at my house but we ended up going to the movies with my mom and dad!”

In a voice that was even louder than before, David said, “You mean the time I got in trouble with my mom for going out without telling her?  I was supposed to be at your house, but your parents made me go watch that dirty movie!”

“That movie was Avatar, David. It’s not a dirty movie. It’s about…”

“What are you boys talking about?”

Caleb looked up to see that David’s mother, Mrs. Qualls, was now standing at the railing of the porch, looking very interested in their conversation.

“David isn’t allowed to leave the yard, Caleb. You’re more than welcome to stay and play with him if you want, but he’s not going anywhere.”

“Yes, Mrs. Qualls, I understand. But I wanted to…”

Mrs. Qualls cut him off before he could finish. “You wanted to what?”

Caleb wasn’t sure if he should share his discovery with Mrs. Qualls. He’d spent the night with David earlier in the summer, and she was nice enough. He hadn’t had as much fun as he’d had at other sleepovers, though. David and his mother only had one television. And to beat it all, they didn’t have a DVD player – just a VCR and a few Veggie Tales videos.

She was, however, an adult. His mother and father had always told him when something was wrong you’re supposed to tell an adult. If they’re not around, find an adult you know. And while his mother was at home, probably playing some stupid farming game on the computer, she technically wasn’t around.

“I…I found something.”

“Oh yes? What did you find, Caleb?”

“I…I’m not sure, really. It’s in the forest.”

Mrs. Qualls got that look on her face. The look that adults have when they’re listening to a child tell a fantastic story, one that’s far beyond exaggeration and has jumped over into the neighbourhood of make believe.

“Oh? And where exactly is this forest?”

Caleb realized she had no idea what he was talking about.

“It’s what I call the bunch of trees and stuff down at the end of the road. The forest.”

“You mean at the intersection? Caleb, there are things in there that could hurt you. Briars, snakes, spiders…”

“I’m not afraid of any of that stuff. I’ve got a machete. Can I take David and show him?”

“You certainly may not!” At this, David simply looked back to his truck and bulldozer. As far as he was concerned, the conversation was over.

David was amazed when his mother said, “You should, however, show me what you’ve found. If it’s something that has you in such an uproar it might be dangerous. Let me get my car keys. We’ll drive down. You can put your bicycle in the building behind my house to keep it safe.”

Caleb was visibly upset. “I can’t leave my bike – I can just ride…”

“David, get in the car. Caleb, you too. You let me see what this is, and if it’s anything important we’ll take it from there.”

A few minutes later Caleb was leading Mrs. Qualls and David into his forest. It felt odd, and kind of like a betrayal, to be taking an adult into his place.

As they passed the clearing, Mrs. Qualls stopped at the metal ammo box. Stencilled on the side was “200 cartridges, 7.61 MM M80 M13”.

“Good heavens”, exclaimed Mrs. Qualls. “I hope there aren’t bullets in there! You really could get hurt!”

As she bent to open the box Caleb tried to get her attention for a couple of different reasons. One, he didn’t want her to find the nudie magazines; two, he was excited to show her what he’d found. But he was too late.

Mrs. Qualls face turned bright red as she took out the folded up magazines. “Caleb, are these yours?”

“N…no, ma’am. I’ve never seen them before. I don’t play in this part. This belongs to the older kids.”

He couldn’t tell if she was convinced. She pulled the rest of the books from the box.

David was trying to get a look at the cover of the magazines in her hand. “What are they, Mama?”

“Don’t you worry about it, honey. Nothing you need to see. Caleb, just show me whatever it is you’re going to show me. And let me have that machete. I don’t want any of us getting hurt because you feel the need to be overzealous in cutting down weeds.”

They were soon at the foot of the hill. Caleb thought he noticed a hint of movement from inside the culvert, but chalked it up to his fear of the place. He forgot all about it when he noticed the green of the bag, showing up in a different shade against the green of the weed around it. “It’s right here! Come look at th…”

As Caleb stepped up to the bag he realized that it looked different. It actually looked…empty.

Mrs. Qualls said, “David, stand right here. I want you to hold these. Do not unfold them. You don’t need to see filth like this.” She handed the magazines to David who did as he was told. He even went so far as to hold them behind his back. Mrs. Qualls stepped closer to Caleb.

She stepped on the bag a few times until she seemed satisfied that it was empty. “Well, that was fast.”

Caleb looked at her. “What was fast, Mrs. Qualls?”

“He’s already eaten.”

Caleb was still trying to process this when he felt something against the back of his legs, just behind his knees. He was still considering what the feeling might have been as he fell backward.

He looked down and realized that he was bleeding. He looked up into the face of Mrs. Qualls, who seemed to be smiling. Caleb noticed she was holding his machete, and there was something wet on it.

“Wh…what did you do?” He suddenly felt the pain blossom from the back of each of his legs.

“Well, Caleb, I’ve cut the tendons in the back of your leg. Have you learned about those in school yet?”

David piped up, “We have, Mama! They’re what the things that hold bones and muscle together!”

“Very good, David! You’re absolutely right. If your tendons don’t work you can’t move your muscles and bones. Much like Caleb here, who is lying on the ground.”

Caleb was starting to panic. “But…what…”

“You won’t be able to run, Caleb. Or even stand to walk I’m afraid. And I’m sorry that it’s going to take a while.”

Caleb could feel his face flushing. He was sweating, even though it was relatively cool here in the shade of the trees and brush. “Wh…wha…” he said.

“If you had simply found the bag it wouldn’t have been a big deal. That might have led to some kind of police investigation, but more than likely would never have come back around to me.

“But then I found those…” She pointed at David, still dutifully holding the magazines behind his back. “…and I knew that you were one of them. Just another hooker.”

Caleb couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “I’m not a hooker, Mrs. Qualls. Hookers are…”

She cut him off. “I KNOW WHAT THEY ARE! Don’t you try and talk back to me, Caleb. I didn’t really like you from the first day you started playing with my David. I didn’t want you coming around, but David seemed to like you. So I figured you may be different, although I doubted it. And it looks like I was right.”

She looked at David and said, “David, you know now that your friend is a dirty hooker, right?”

David simply nodded.

“And what do we do with dirty hookers?””

David seemed to consider for a moment, and then said, “We make them into dead hookers!”

“Very, very good, son! I’m so proud of you!” Mrs. Qualls walked over to her son and hugged him. She took the magazines from him and laid them down with the machete.

“Now, we just have to put you in the bag.”

Caleb was close to losing consciousness, but he managed to get out, “Wh…why in the bag…”

“Well, silly, it won’t eat anything that’s not in the bag. That’s how it knows we brought it food.”

“What? What are y…what are you talking about…”

Mrs. Qualls picked up the bag and started to slip it over Caleb’s head. If he was correct, and it was just like his dad’s, it would cover him down to about his ankles. He remembered playing with his dad’s bag when he was too little to actually play baseball, and putting it over his head was one of the first things he’d done. It covered him fully back then; now he was a little taller and it wouldn’t go quite so far.

“Just be quiet, Caleb. I’ve already fed it once today, so it may not be hungry right now. I don’t honestly know. If it isn’t, you might be here a while before it decides to eat. But if not, it’ll be over pretty quickly.”

As he tried to struggle against her to keep her from slipping the bag over his head he realized just how much blood he’d lost. He was so weak.

Then darkness overtook him.

He knew he’d passed out, but wasn’t sure how long he’d been unconscious. He could feel the roughness of the bag against his face and arms. He was still weak – he could barely move beyond rolling side to side, which wasn’t doing him any good at all.

Caleb tried to sit up, but with the bag around him there he couldn’t move his arms, and anyway, he didn’t have the strength to push himself up.

He heard some cars going by on the main road above and tried to yell for help. His screams were nothing but a whisper.

It was then that he heard it.

As the sound of the last car going by faded there was the noise of something moving. But it sounded – different. He couldn’t figure out what exactly it was.

All at once he understood. It was someone – or something – walking. The weird sound was the reverberation from being inside something enclosed, like a bathroom.

Or a big metal culvert.

As he started to scream, he realized why there was no sunlight showing from the other side.

Had anyone been near, they’d have heard Caleb’s voice, hoarse from screaming, whisper, “No light. No light at all.”

Then they would have heard nothing at all.

**

The house was a bustle of activity, with plenty of well-dressed people walking around carrying cups of half-drunk punch and plates with half-eaten quiche. Everyone was solemn and talking in hushed tones.

Mrs. Qualls and David, dressed in their black Sunday best, knocked on the front door. Caleb’s father let them in, accepting a hug from Mrs. Qualls, then dropping to one knee to put himself on David’s level.

“I’m sorry you lost your friend, David. It’s been hard on all of us.”

David looked up at his mother, who nodded slightly, then looked back at Caleb’s father. “I’m sorry for your loss, sir. David was my best friend.”

Caleb’s father simply closed his eyes and nodded. When he opened them again, tears were threatening to run down both cheeks. He stood up and looked at Mrs. Qualls.

“Won’t you please come inside?”, he said.

“No, I’m afraid we can’t stay. We did, however, want to come by and offer our condolences.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Qualls.”

“You’re very welcome,” she said. And with that, they turned and walked through the rain back to their car.

As they neared some other late-comers to the gathering, they overheard a lady say, “I heard they only found his machete at the scene. That and a bunch of footprints.”

One of the others answered, “Well, it all depends on the parents. You shouldn’t let your 10 year old out and about with a machete, especially not that close to a highway. Anything could happen to them.”

As they passed the group of people in the driveway, the man added, “I just can’t believe the way some people raise their kids these day.”

Mrs. Qualls looked down at her son, who looked back up at her, and smiled broadly.

He reached up and took her hand. As they walked on, the rain continued to pour.

____________________________________________________

Book two of the Day Soldiers Trilogy is coming soon! It’s almost time to return to the war against the darkness. You can get book one at Amazon for the kindle or in paperback, or you can pick it up for the Nook at Barnes & Noble.


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