Enjoy this seasonal fright-night story by Robyn Bailes
Megan’s grandma had something of a love-hate relationship with Hallowe’en. On the one hand, it was very much her time of year; on the other hand the whole thing had become so horribly commercial.
It was all about scaring people rather than the true meaning of All Hallows Eve – which Grandma held extremely dear, since she was a witch.
Hallowe’en also, to Grandma’s mind, perpetuated a lot of negative stereotypes. She always enjoyed explaining to Megan’s friends that witches, real witches, did not dress in long black cloaks and unfashionable pointed hats. Grandma could have been a model of what the well-dressed older lady wore.
“But it’s not scary!” a friend of Megan’s insisted. “How is it scary if you look the same as everyone else?”
“That,” Grandma intoned, “is what makes it scary.” And Megan’s friends ran screaming for the door.
Even a witch needs a hobby
Grandma was quite clear that it was not a witch’s job to scare children, at Hallowe’en or at any other time of the year – that was another negative stereotype. But everyone needs a hobby.
Perhaps it was as well for all concerned that Grandma was never in town on the night itself. She always had coven business, and this year had to attend a High Council of Witches and Associated Dark Magic Practitioners at a Travelodge just outside Shepton Mallet.
Most Trick or Treaters skipped Grandma’s house, feeling that, even had she been in, tonight was not the night for venturing into witch’s homes.
However three boys felt differently. Unusually they were not really Trick or Treating for the candy; they’d picked up some, of course, but were old enough and stroppy enough to take more interest in trick than treat.
While they would never have approached Grandma’s house when she was in residence, her absence emboldened them.
Got the eggs?
“Come on!” Jack pushed the hedge apart and held it for Tom and Liam. They had decided to approach from the back; they did not want to be spotted and have someone tell Grandma. They were not that brave.
“Got the eggs?”
Tom held up four rolls with which they planned to deck the house.
“Let’s do this!”
As Jack raised his arm, egg in hand, Tom stopped him.
A window was open. The boys exchanged glances.
Everything was quiet and still as the boys climbed in through the open window. The phrase “as quiet as the grave” entered all three heads. All three instantly tried their best to dispel it.
Jack hurled an egg at the wall
As witches’ kitchens go, Grandma’s was a major disappointment, there was no open fire, no cauldron, no occult paraphernalia at all – just an Aga, a bread-maker, and a radio with the dial set to Classic FM.
There were witches who clung to “our glorious past” but Grandma regarded them with a measured disdain.
“What do we do now?”
Jack, Tom and Liam were not bad children per se. They were pre-bad children, standing at the crossroads where a child may yet go either way. As such, theft was not on their agenda; that would be wrong.
“Let’s egg it from the inside!”
Vandalism, however, was fine. It was Hallowe’en so egging houses was allowed; they had just chosen a different angle from which to do so. Jack hurled an egg at the wall.
And was hit in the face by an egg.
“Aagh! Who threw that?”
Liam shrugged. “Not me.”
“Me neither,” said Tom. “You’ve got the eggs.”
Let’s get out of here
Jack looked at the wall at which he had aimed; it was clean. Somehow he had hit himself in the face.
Liam and Tom took an egg each and hurled them at the kitchen door.
Two more eggs hit Jack in the face.
“Not fair! Why didn’t they hit you?”
“Why didn’t they hit the door?” Liam considered this a much more pertinent question. “Let’s get out of here.”
Jack sneered through the egg.
“What? You scared?”
“Who shut the window?” asked Tom.
The window through which they had climbed was closed, the catch secure.
“Yeah,” said Liam, definite in his admission. “I’m scared.”
Tom said nothing but clearly agreed with Liam. Even Jack was a lot less happy than he had been.
“Come on, let’s just…”
All three boys could have sworn that the kitchen door had been closed when they came in but now it stood open, seeming to invite them deeper into the little house.
The boys looked at each other; what choice did they have?
They waited for something to leap out at them
Aside from some of the books on the shelves and the broomstick hung on the wall (which Grandma still used occasionally if the trains were running late), the living room held as little witchcraft as had the kitchen. But the boys, still clutching their candy, some eggs and four rolls of toilet paper, viewed it with perturbation, waiting for something to leap out at them.
“See,” said Jack, defiant despite the egg on his face, “I told you there was nothing to be scared of.”
He sat on one of the comfortable, homely armchairs directed at the plasma screen in the corner.
“What’s that noise?” asked Tom.
“It’s just the wind.”
“I don’t think so.”
Tom and Liam tried to pick up the discreet rhythmic noise which definitely seemed to be coming from somewhere in the room.
“She’s got some really nice stuff,” observed Jack, putting his feet up on the coffee table. He turned to his friends and was surprised to see them both staring at the ceiling, their faces frozen in fear. “What’s wrong with you two?”
The ceiling moved up and down
As Jack listened more closely, the sound that had seemed like wind took on the regular in and out of slow breaths. Unwillingly he looked up at the ceiling; it was moving up and down.
Suddenly the armchair on which Jack was seated bucked like a startled animal, hurling Jack to the floor. It bounced on its castors, looking this way and that before issuing a sound that could only be described as an upholstered bark, like a dog eating a cushion. Then it ran at Liam.
Liam tried to escape but it was no good; the armchair scooped him up and carried him towards the front door. At the last moment the door slammed back and the chair came to a sudden halt, catapulting Liam out of the door in a flail of limbs and a shower of candy.
The armchair raced back in pursuit of Tom, who clambered over other furniture in his desperate attempts to evade it. This unfortunately seemed to wake up the sofa, the other armchair, and a nest of tables which cantered towards the kitchen, springing gazelle-like over Tom as they went.
For all his efforts Tom could not escape the rampaging armchair for long, and soon found himself flying out the front door like his friend before him.
The front door closed with violent force
Jack had made for the stairs. He half-ran, half-crawled up them, tripping in his haste. He was almost at the top.
But he was not to reach it. With a writhing, muscular spasm the stairs beneath him rippled and flattened out. Jack found himself pawing for purchase on a carpeted slide. Unable to keep his grip he tumbled back down, ricocheting off the wall. He came to a gentle stop in the doorway, dazed and perplexed.
Then… SLAM! The door closed with violent force, sending Jack skittering along the garden path like a curling stone, coming to rest beside his dumbfounded friends. They looked back at the house. It was still and silent.
The lawn was littered with candy
When she returned from what had been an averagely successful Council meeting, the first thing Grandma noticed was that her lawn was littered with candy. She glanced at her house before stooping to pick up a humbug. She unwrapped it.
Her front door opened a crack, then flapped open and closed with enthusiastic speed.
Grandma tossed the humbug in. The door slammed, and from the house there issued the sound of sucking.
For more fun, haunting and chilling Hallowe’en stories, pick up this week’s issue
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