A Short Story for Halloween.
For me Halloween has never been about serial killers and torture-porn nastiness (so no Silence of the Lambs or Hostel for me) but about Day-Glo plastic skeletons and spooks made of bed sheets. Here is a little tale that I knocked up to celebrate the ghastly day, and maybe another day too...
You can also read this story on Wattpad.
"The Late Tommy Marrow."
By P. T. Mayes
Copyright 2016 P. T. Mayes.
Tommy Marrow opened his eyes (even though they were both as runny as half-boiled eggs and not much good for anything) and let out a long moan.
Moaning was just the thing you did when you’ve been fast asleep for a year.
Well, maybe not asleep, but certainly taking a long nap. A dirt nap.
Just like the year before Tommy could not see the lid of the pine box above his head for the dark, but as there was a nice big hole in it that he’d made previously, it didn’t take him long to escape the coffin and dig his way up through six feet of dry, crumbly earth to the surface. He stuck his head out of the ground, wearing a tuft of grass as a hat, and saw the midnight sky above him, the full moon as big as a tarnished hubcap, the gravestones scattered all about, their bland surfaces so illuminated by the moonlight that they appeared to glow, as if powered by some supernatural source. Directly behind him the words on the gravestone read: “Here Lies the Remains of Thomas William Marrow 1964-2013. May He Be On Time, This Once, At Least.”
Tommy moaned again, and rolled his eyes. In life his wife had constantly nagged him for being late. He was late for their wedding; late for the births of both of their children; late for dinner; late to bed; late to rise; late to see the doctor about the pain in his belly. He had even been late for his own funeral, although that had not been his fault as the hearse had got a flat tyre when it ran over a hedgehog. He was rather glad that his wife had not become a zombie like him; in fact she became a harpy and more than likely was right then harassing ships crossing the English Channel. He pitied the poor sailors.
Dragging the rest of his carcass out of the grave, Tommy stretched his limbs, clicked his joints and moaned some more. It was October 31st -- Halloween -- and from sundown to dawn the next day he was allowed the walk – or more precisely shuffle – the earth. Making his way through the graveyard to the lychgate, he wondered where his friends Bertram, Cynthia and Algernon were; they were usually out hunting for brains by now. And where were the ghouls? More often than not they were to be found by the old monument, digging for bones and bits of gristle. Maybe the pickings were poor this year. Tommy shrugged his bony shoulders and shuffled on, out of the graveyard and into the lane where Lance the werewolf was usually hiding in the shrubbery, but Lance was not here tonight and Tommy assumed that he must be hunting elsewhere. In the park he looked for the vampires, but they were not hanging from the children’s climbing frame, or from the limbs of the old oak tree, nor from the basketball hoops. Where is everyone? he wondered, but the brain of a zombie is not a complex thing; in fact it is rather soft and gooey, and so he didn’t think too deeply about it and carried on, dragging his large intestine behind him like a limp pink tail. The bandstand was the favourite haunt of the witches, inviting children to bob for wormy apples in their bubbling cauldron, but tonight there was only an amorous couple, who took one look at Tommy and told him to beat it, the pervert. Why did old perverts have to pant so heavily? And moan too. Ugh, it was disgusting!
Feeling dejected -- and if there’s one thing zombies know all about its dejection -- Tommy shuffled off, wondering where he should next look for company. There was always the lido, and the sewage farm; maybe even the yard beside the mall. Last year a maniac from the US had visited town, complete with mask, dungarees and chainsaw, and he said that Halloween were quite different on the other side of the pond. He said that everyone there dressed up and you could wander around as if you were normal person for once and actually rub shoulders with the living without them trying to burn you alive, exorcise you, or even "bonk" you, if you were really unlucky. But this wasn’t the US, this was the UK, which meant that trick and treaters were few and far between, and even when they did knock on a door the occupants would more than likely turn off all the lights and hide behind the curtains, hoping the little monsters would go away and bother someone else.
The sound of raised voices caused Tommy to glance around. A group of people were coming up the hill towards him. People meant trouble and so Tommy swivelled around and tried to head back the way he had come, only to find that another group of people were approaching from the other side, all talking together excitedly. Tommy didn’t like groups of people because they were hard to scare and more than likely one of them would try to bonk him on the head in a attempt to destroy his brain, which for some strange reason they thought would kill him, although Tommy didn’t know why this should be so as most of his brains had leaked out of his ears years ago. It was odd that even though his brains were like watery porridge, he could still think and remember things from before he died, although it was more like looking at a scene played by actors through a veil of mist than an actual memory. Maybe his mind wasn’t in his head at all, but located somewhere else, which didn’t seem possible as every part of his body was as equally rotten as every other part.
It didn’t matter, getting “bonked” (which was zombie vernacular for having your head splattered by a heavy object) wasn’t a pleasant prospect, and so Tommy looked around for a direction in which he could escape, only to find the two groups had met and dispersed around the base of the hill. There was no escape, in any direction. Luckily for him someone had left a pile of old wood at the top of the hill, beside which was a slumped dummy, dressed in an old-fashioned costume and wearing a hat that looked like a black bucket with a wide rim. Tommy looked down at his own clothes, the clothes he had been buried in, and the soup that had once been his brain realised that he might have more luck in the costume. The people might mistake him for a living human and let him pass without trying to bonk him. He quickly changed clothes and was pulling on the hat when he saw that two young men were coming up the hill towards him. He quickly climbed onto the pile of wood and rested nonchalantly against a post that had been rather thoughtfully placed there. Then he pretended to be dead, which wasn’t very difficult. He'd had a lot of practice.
“Hey, who made the new Guy?” asked one of the men, picking up the dummy from the ground, which disintegrated in his hands, spewing straw and balls of scrunched up newspaper.
“I don’t know, but I don't like the look of it much,” said his friend as he peered up at Tommy, who had pulled the big black hat with the silver buckle as far down over his face as it would go. “I think that’s the zombie mask my son wore on Halloween. I’m surprised he wants to burn it, it was damn expensive!”
“Well I'm all for your son doing our job for us," said the other man, beckoning to him. “But the sooner we get back the sooner we can get this party started.”
As Tommy watched the two men hurry down the hill to where the crowd were waiting (for what?) he could not shake a strong impression that he’d been to a gathering similar to this when he had been alive. He put a gooey hand into one of the pockets and pulled out a long colourful paper tube with a stick glued to its side. He blinked at it, having a dim recollection of having seen something similar a long time ago. It came to him slowly, like molasses forced through a small tube. He was holding a firework, a rocket by the looks of it, and a powerful one too. It was only then that he saw the flames licking through the wood at his feet and realised that someone must have lit the bonfire behind him.
“Oh, Tommy Marrow, you’re late again!” he heard his wife say, and knew she was correct. He was late all right, five days late to be precise, and it wasn’t Halloween, it was November the 5th. Bonfire night! The night when bonfires were lit all over Britain and on those bonfires Guys were burned, and fireworks were set off, and sausages and baked potatoes eaten. Tommy had overslept for a whole five days.
Someone in the crowd -- which ooed and aahd as the rather ugly looking Guy was consumed in flames and fireworks exploded around him left right and centre in colourful stars -- wondered who was having a hog roast nearby and if they could get a bite. It smelt delicious.
Have a fun and safe Halloween, and if you live in the UK, a fun and safe Bonfire Night too.
You can check out more of my Halloween and ghost stories here.