Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Short Story: Trick Or Treat

Halloween - has come and gone again. And if I were on the pumpkin I would have posted this, my Halloween short story, last week.

But, I'll do like the Simpson's Halloween special (Airing this Sunday to come) and post this story "after" Halloween. It's all the rage now, isn't it?

Oh, and picture note - my daughter designed the pumpkin.

Trick Or Treat
by Paul Darcy

So, Bob thought, it was Halloween again.

He hated Halloween.

It was such a meaningless, commercial fiasco. Maybe not quite as over done as Christmas, but almost as bad. The time of year when chocolate bars and chip bags shrank in size, garbage bags turned orange and kids had the opportunity to be on the loose, in disguise, and out of control.

He hated Halloween.

He was home alone and preferred it that way on this evening. Most of his friends had gone out to parties, or were staying in catering to the little brats from the local neighborhood. He had no such intentions of handing out candy to kids. Oh, a few came to his door, they did ever year, and every year he ignored them.

He hated Halloween.

It had just become dark and what was the time? 4:45 p.m.? He was sure that the time change occurred the weekend before Halloween just so the little monsters could start early and reap a bigger haul of candy than if the time hadn't changed. If he had it his way, he would have the time change delayed one week. Then make the change November first. That would fix them.

A few quiet hours passed and then Bob noticed a couple of figures walking up his drive. He went to the livingroom curtains and pulled them slightly apart to get a better view. It was a couple of kids. One in a hokey pirate costume, the other draped over in a K-mart bed sheet. Waste of time kiddys. He let fall the curtain and returned to his chair in the dark.

His doorbell rang. It never failed, even with no lights on and his sign out front which said "Bugger off, I hate Halloween", still they came. Maybe he should have made his sign bigger this year. The doorbell rang again, and, annoyed, he sat back in the dark trying to ignore it.

He hated Halloween.

The doorbell rang one last time. There was a period of silence. Then out of the silence, Bob heard a rustling at the door and the rattling of chains. Must be one of the little twerp's costumes, but he didn’t remember seeing any chains. Maybe it was the pirate. If so he hoped they were real chains, industrial, heavy, hundred pound chains oily and with a few good sharp burrs. That would slow the little bugger down. He chuckled to himself in the dark. But instead of the rattling dissipating it grew louder and began to travel into his hallway. What the hell was this? One of the brats must have gotten in somehow, but that shouldn't have been possible. The inner stainless steel door was wired into the 220 amp stove service. Anybody touching it would be stopped cold. He grew alarmed and stood up in his chair, in the dark, in the living room.

He hated Halloween.

He reached over and turned on the living room lamp. He was no sucker in some cheesy horror movie. He half expected the light not to work, but the room lit up as it should and from the hallway came the ghostly apparition of his old business partner, Jason Harley. They had once run an Internet Provider years before. It was Jason Harley rattling chains which were draped all over his body. But how could this be? He had died from a terrible Coke-Cola overdose years ago. His hair was long and tied in a pony tail hanging along his back as it had done in life. Bob was stunned. How could this be?

The apparition spoke. "Hi Bob. Remember me, your old partner? We sure used to suck in those Internet geeks, didn't we?"

Bob couldn't believe this was really happening. "Jason? But this is impossible. I must be dreaming."

The apparition moved closer. "No, you aren't." And with a fast crack from one of his translucent chains whipped Bob across an arm.

Bob yelped in pain. "He, cut that out. How do I know that you are not some nightmare brought on by an undigested bit of pizza, a bowl of custard, some crumbs from the bottom of a bag of Doritoes, or the fragment of some underdone Kraft dinner noodle?" Considering his dinner now, Bob thought it highly likely that this apparition was caused by his poor supper choices.

Jason's ghost spoke again. "Well, don't believe me then. It doesn't really matter. You never believed me when we worked together in life, so I wouldn't expect you to start now in my death. But, before I go, I have a message for you. I came here to tell you that on this night you will be visited by three more ghosts."

"What do you mean, three more ghosts?" Bob didn't like the sound of this.

"I can't divulge that information. You will find out, soon enough." The apparition rattled back down the hall and disappeared. Bob followed, but when he got to the door there was nobody there. He almost made the mistake of touching it but stopped himself in time. He checked the circuits of his electrified kid zapper and found everything was in order. He was not dreaming, but damn that was weird.

He hated Halloween.

The rest of the evening passed relatively quietly. Only three more kids had dared his front door, seen his sign, and beat a hasty retreat. It was just past midnight when he decided it was time to go to bed. He had made the determination hours ago that the apparition he had seen was due to his indigestion and that was that.

He was settled comfortably in his bed, covers pulled up, just about to nod off when he heard a sound. Something crept up to his bedside and hurled the sheets from him. Bob leapt from the bed. "What the hell is this! Who are you!"

The apparition before him, small, childlike yet older than tanned leather said. "Did that no good for nothing Harley not visit you earlier. Ah, well doesn't matter. I'm the ghost of Halloween past. I'm taking you on a tour." And with that the slender youthful old ghost grabbed Bob by the wrist and they flew off, through the wall and into the night Peter Pan style.

In the blink of an eye they arrived at the old Internet Provider store. It was just as it had been years before and Jason was talking to himself as a younger man. It was like a bad rerun of Seinfeld, but he was fascinated none the less. "Hey spirit. What is this?"

"Why, it is the past. Why do you think I'm called the ghost of Halloween, Oh, never mind. Just watch." And Bob did. He began to hear the conversation.

Jason said. "Did you order that Corel suite package for that guy that keeps bugging us?"

And he heard his past self reply. "What, I thought you did? Ah, hell. Who cares, he's a bum anyway. He'll just call again tomorrow and bug some more. I'll deal with it then, I'm too busy trying to get this stupid Windows 3.1 computer to load Explorer properly. God I wish everybody would go to Windows 95 and be done with it."

Jason checked his watch. "Jesus, do you know what time it is?"

"What are you talking about?" Bob heard himself reply checking his own watch. It was quarter to four. Still two hours till closing time.

"Its time to close up. You know, the Halloween party?" Jason began to pull the vertical blinds on the front of the store.

"Are you nuts! I've still got to finish this system, then I have three more to do, not to mention logging in six Internet people and a house call. If you want to go to the party, go. I can't. We should hire somebody else around here." Bob watched himself snarling and tapping a keyboard as Jason got ready and left.

"Scene change," said the ghost and Peter Pan style they once again took to the air. This time they arrived at the party. Bob's past self was not there.

Jason stood next to a tall thin blond girl. He was holding a huge mug. The girl spoke. "What have you got in there?" Meaning the giant mug.

"Coke. This mug will hold an entire two liter bottle." He looked proud of himself. The girl looked skeptical. "Hey, where is Bob? I thought he would be here." The way she had asked it was quite obvious that she was very interested in Bob. More than just interested Bob could tell looking on with the ghost of Halloween past.

"Oh, he is still at work. That guy, sometimes I don't know." The girl looked sad and wondered off and into another conversation. The ghost of Halloween past looked at Bob. "Missed opportunities Bob. What a waste. She was a nice girl too."

"Hah. Are you joking. That was thin as a pin Malinda. I'm glad I didn't go to that party now. Thanks for showing me that. I always though she had a crush on me. What's next?" Bob was beginning to get into the spirit of this.

"Last stop, the store, again," the ghost said and they were off.

Outside the store a single monitor shone its lonely light out of the front window. The store was still open and the figure of Bob could be seen crouched over a terminal working. "Your life has not changed much," the ghost said.

"That's good." Bob replied.

The ghost began to look annoyed. "Look, you are supposed to be seeing the error of your ways. Have you learned nothing?"

"Well, I learned that work saved me from Malinda. Is that what I was supposed to see?" Bob didn't know what the ghost was getting at.

"Oh, never mind. Maybe the next ghost will have better luck with you. I give up." And before Bob could say, I hate Halloween, he was back in bed, in his house, in the dark.

The next thing he knew, he looked over at his clock radio. It displayed 2:00 AM. He heard another noise. He suspected it could be the second visitation and was not disappointed. Into his bedroom glided a large rotund individual, clad in what Bob was sure was a Santa Claus suit.

"Ho, Ho, Ho," bellowed this new arrival. Bob pinched himself just to be sure, and he found out from the pain. This was not dream either. The large round red Santa looked down at Bob and dropped a rather heavy looking sack to the floor. Out of it tumbled many pumpkins. "So you are Bob, eh? Let me check my list." Santa pulled out a huge scroll checked through thousands of entries before stopping. "Ah, yes here we are. Bob." He rolled the scroll back up and replaced it somewhere in one of his big black boots.

"Ah, who are you? If I didn't know better, I would say you are Santa Claus, but that's ridiculous. Santa is supposed to be in the North Pole, playing with elves or something."

The Santa finished stuffing the spilled pumpkins back in his sack and regarded Bob. "That's not for another couple of months yet. What do you think I do all the rest of the year? Anyway, enough with my career. I am here, young man, to show you the Halloween of present. Ho, Ho, Ho." He chuckled and his body jiggled like a huge bowl of jelly. It was disgusting to behold. His cheeks were all rosy, like he had been drinking, and Bob suspected he had.

"So," Bob said, "you are the ghost of Halloween present, that is when you aren't Santa Claus?"

"You are swifter than the ghost of Halloween past said you were. Yes, yes, I am. Ho. Ho. Ho."

Bob was really getting tired of his annoying laughter. Who ever laughed like that anyway he thought.

"Well lets get on with it. I've got to get up for work tomorrow." Bob was losing patience with Santa and this whole ghost visitation thing.

"Very well, grab onto my sack, and we'll get off." Santa held out his big bag and Bob, tentatively touched it. As soon as he had they shot straight up the chimney of his house and sailed through the sky. They quickly came to a late night supermarket and flew down the store's chimney until they were inside. Bob didn't like flying up and down chimneys of any sort. It was unnerving to say the least.

Inside, Santa lead the way down one isle after the other and soon they came to a Halloween display where pumpkins were being sold. "So what is this all about Santa? Don't have enough in your sack? These ones on special or something?" Bob was warming up now. Santa glared at him and held a finger up to his lips demanding silence. Then he pointed to a mother and child approaching the display. The mother said, "and we can make a nice pie from this. The rest we can put in the compost. Isn't that lovely?" The child's eyes went wide at the site. They grabbed one and headed for the cash. Bob noticed that they had been ignored. So they could see, but couldn't be seen.

Santa spoke to Bob. "See how happy Halloween makes kids?"

Bob answered Santa. "No, what I see is a poor mother going to all the trouble to make a pie when all she had to do was just buy one. The kid would never know the difference." Santa grabbed Bob by the collar and they flew up the chimney again.

Next they came to a run down house in the worst part of town, and, yes, down the chimney they went. Inside, Bob recognized one of his workers. It was Nishmar Pratchett and just coming in from the only other room in the dilapidated house was a child, limping in threadbare clothes. "Oh, high Timmisha. How is the leg?"

"Okay, I guess, when the pain goes away." The child sat down on the floor next to his father.

"I found a pumpkin seed today Timmisha. Would you like to see it." Nishmar began to fish in his grubby pocket.

"I wish we could have a real pumpkin." said Timmisha sadly.

"I know Timmisha, but my employer Bob won't pay me any more." Bob had heard enough. He spoke to Santa. "What is this? That no good for nothing Nishmar is lucky to have a job at all in this day and age. I pay him 3.50 an hour, what does he want. I caught him the other day just loafing on the job. I should have sacked him right there on the spot."

Santa raised and eyebrow. "Have you no compassion for your fellow man?"

"Not when they are playing with my profit margin. Anyway, I said I didn't sack him, what more does he want?" Santa shook his head sadly, grabbed Bob and they were out the chimney again.

It wasn't long before he was home in bed again, and to his relief, when Santa left he didn't give any more Ho Ho's.

When next he woke it was 3:00 am and another sound could be heard. It must be the third and final ghost.

Bob was ready. "Who is there?" He waited for a reply and soon got one.

"Its me, Kirk." And out of the shadows of his bedroom stepped Kirk. Captain Kirk. Oh, no. This was even worse than Santa.

"Don't tell me you are the ghost of Halloween future?" Bob asked not believing.

"Who did you expect. Look I don't have a lot of time so if you are ready." He motioned to Bob and pulled a communicator out of his hip holster.

Bob got out of bed just as Kirk made the call. "Okay, beam us up." This was better than shooting in and out of chimneys, but still pretty damn ridiculous.

They materialized in the transporter room of the Enterprise. Bob noticed O'Reilly at the transporter controls who gave him a nod and carried on doing whatever it was he did when the transporter was not in use. "Kirk stood next to Bob him on the pad and spoke to O'Rielly. "Everything set?"

"Yes, captain. Whenever you are ready."

"Okay." Kirk flashed a glance at Bob. "You ready?"

"Why not." Bob answered and with the wave of Kirk's hand he experienced the transporter effect again.

Kirk materialized outside a large mansion of some futuristic design.

"Where is this?" Bob, despite feeling completely ridiculous beaming around with captain Kirk, liked the house and grounds.

"This is your house, Bob. Your house of the future." Kirk began to walk toward the long driveway and Bob followed.

"Wow, you really mean this is where I'm going to live?" Bob asked.

"And die, Bob. As a matter of fact you just died this day, and nobody cares. Do you see anybody around. You were alone. All alone." Kirk was talking like Bob was some sort of computer that needed to overload on a logic paradox.

"Wait a second. You were a loner too. As I recall from that latest movie, you were pretty alone at the end too, under a pile of twisted iron with just that bald guy, what’s his name there. So, what is your point?" Kirk stopped in his tracks. He looked annoyed.

"Look you. This isn't about me. It's about you, alone, hated."

"Rich." Bob finished for Kirk and before Kirk could get another word in Bob asked. "Say is that a BMW in the driveway? My BMW?" Bob approached the car, totally impressed.
"Yah. All of this is yours. But."

Again, Bob cut off Kirk. "Are you saying that if I continue the way I am in life right now this will all be mine in the future?" Bob looked around the extensive grounds, very pleased.

"That's correct." Kirk looked at Bob's expression and knew he was defeated. He flipped open his communicator. "O’RIELLY, beam our guest directly to his house. Mission is a failure. Kirk out."

Bob was just running his hand along the sleek lines of the BMW when he was transported to his bed. He pulled the covers over his head, happier than he had ever been.

He didn't really hate Halloween that much after all.

The End

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