Halloween was less than a week away, and Brad was already sick of it. He was sick of the way Juliet wasted money on candy for kids he could care less about, sick of the smell of pumpkin, sick of the low down look Juliet’s son Timothy wore half the time.
Most of all, he was sick of Juliet’s friends asking her, “How are you doing?” If her husband was such a loser to get himself killed on Halloween that was his problem.
Brad picked up Juliet’s purse, took out her wallet and riffled through it. “This all you got?” he demanded.
“Brad,” Juliet protested. Her voice quavered. “We need groceries.”
When she reached out to grab the bills back, he held them up with one hand and gave her a shove that knocked her against the wall. “I need a drink!” he snapped back.
Timothy gave a strangled shout, and flew at him. “Give that back!” he screamed. “It doesn’t belong to you…”
“Shut up, you little...”
But the kid wasn’t done. “My Daddy will get you! My Daddy will come back on Halloween!” Brad backhanded him and he landed on the floor beside his mother. The two of them were still sniveling when he walked out.
Brad took a deep breath of the chill air and stood looking at the dark, wet mess of dripping trees. Maybe he should go down to California. Get warm for once.
What was it about this night? Cold…really cold. The dank weather must be keeping everyone off the street. As he walked along he felt someone’s eyes on him. He growled, but when he turned around, the street was empty.
At the bar, he plunked himself down in chair beside his buddy Ryan. Four drinks in, they were roaring laughs about Timothy’s screaming his Daddy would come. “If they’d seen what I saw,” Brad said, wiping his mouth, “he’d thank the universe for keeping his old man dead. The tractor tipped over and crushed him. I found him – his blood dripping into the ground, and a grinning scarecrow for company.”
Ryan shuddered. “What was the guy doing out at night anyway?”
Brad shrugged. “Fixing the corn maze for the kid’s Halloween party. I was supposed to help but I told him I was throwing up.” He laughed. “So he’s dead, and me, the hired hand waltzes in and takes over. Juliet needed a real man around.”
“Yeah, right,” Ryan said.
Brad thought of punching him out, but he was muzzily aware he was too drunk. He glared sullenly for a bit, but his money was gone, so he heaved himself upright and stumbled back out into the night.
Cold drizzle, icy enough to freeze a guy. Like dead fingers groping up his shirt. Brad shivered and tried to do up his coat but his hands were too thick with beer. He laughed stupidly, and rolling a bit, headed home. At the front step his half-fuddled eyes caught a glimpse of someone behind him. He whipped around but no one was there – only thrashing branches and flickering streetlights.
“Who’sh there…” he mumbled for good measure. Then he cursed and groped for his key by the guttering light of the jack-o-lanterns.
Once inside, he flicked the light switch but nothing happened. He swore at the power company that couldn’t do their job. Then he shambled into the dark kitchen, swaying, cursing Juliet for not having enough money for him to keep drinking. He snorted and smelled the sweet scent of liquor. With a feral smile he yanked open a cupboard and reached for his hidden stash.
He screamed. Glass sliced his hand. Blood spattered into the pool of bourbon dripping slowly down onto the dark counter.
For a bleary moment he wondered why Juliet didn’t rush out. He cursed her selfishness. Probably sleeping when he needed her. Lazy witch. Good for nothing woman.
Her perfect husband – her perfectly dead husband – wouldn’t help her now. He groped for a towel to temporarily stop the bleeding. Instead, his hand connected with the stove element, sizzling hot. He cried out again and snatched his hand back. No power? Burning…
Behind him, he heard a low chuckle, rising and falling like the wind gusting outside.
“Who’sh there?” He shouted. “C’mon out or I’ll kill you!”
“Time to leave, Brad…” The crackling voice hissed through the air, filling the void around him. “We’re done with you here…”
Brad swayed in pain…and a shard of fear slashed through him.
“Leave while you can, Brad.” The voice was a menacing whisper. “I’m at the window, Brad.”
Like a puppet Brad jerked toward the kitchen window. A moan of pain and fear escaped him. A face, a scarecrow’s face swayed behind the glass. The painted mouth contorted into a snarl.
“I’ve come from the cornfield, Brad. That’s where men die, Brad. I’ve come to take you to the cornfield…”
The lights flashed on and off, on and off. The laugh screamed through the house. Whimpering, Brad backed up, tripped over a stool, then scrambled back to his feet. A trickle of blood etched his face.
“I’ll never leave you Brad,” the voice screeched. “You hurt my wife and son. I won’t rest until you lie beside me in the cornfield!”
With a cry of animal terror, Brad bolted for the door. The jack-o’-lanterns on the porch rolled and smashed beneath his feet. The laugh cackled behind him as he ran into the night…