~ Vintage Halloween ~
Broomstick ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
(This is a re-post on my website.)
She was old and stayed shut up inside her castle high on a lonely mountaintop. There was one night in the year, though, that she had to go out into the world, and that night was Halloween. She wouldn’t be much of a witch if she didn’t fly on Halloween.
As the sun sank behind the mountains in the west, she woke up her old black cat, Lucifer, who was sleeping in front of the fire, and told him to get up and have a snack and wash his face in preparation for leaving.
“I’m not going with you this time,” he said.
“Why not?” she asked.
“I’ve seen enough of the world. I’ve flown with you on countless Halloweens. I just want to be left in peace.”
“Well, suit yourself,” she said. “You’ll be missing a good time.”
“I’ll guard the castle while you’re gone,” he said, going back to sleep.
As she flew off on her broomstick, she realized she hadn’t flown since the previous Halloween. She really needed to get out more. She was a little wobbly at first, as if she might fall off, but soon she hit her stride and did a couple of loop-the-loops and reverse maneuvers to prove to herself that she still could.
After she had flown a good distance away from her castle, she felt an urgent need to do something bad, to cause some mischief and mayhem, as witches do on Halloween. Seeing a church in a village, she threw a ball of fire that caused the steeple to burst into flame. Then, outside the village, she caused some railroad tracks to buckle so that the next train to come along would derail. She turned a cow standing in a field into stone and two small children into white mice. Feeling less than fulfilled, she redirected a creek so that it would flood some farmland. These things were nothing, though, compared to what she did next: Hovering over the roof of a maternity hospital, she cast a spell that would cause the next baby to be born to have two heads. Now there was a fiendish accomplishment!
As good a time as she was having, she felt that something was missing. In the old days of her witchery, she always had somebody with her; if not a victim, then a fellow witch. Doing bad things just wasn’t as much fun if there wasn’t somebody along to tell her how terrible she was. She needed to hunt up the old gang to see what they were up to.
She flew on until she came to the environs of her youth, the place where she got her start as a witch. The forests, mountains, and rivers all looked the same. The village was much the same but had grown shabbier and poorer. The witches’ nightclub, Eye of Newt, was still there, thank goodness! She went inside, carrying her broomstick in her hand.
A hunchback dwarf greeted her at the door. She recognized him at once.
“Raphael, is that you?” she said.
The dwarf squinted up at her in the dim light. “Have we met?” he asked.
“It’s Mignonette, the witch. Don’t you remember me?”
“Oh, yes! Mignonette! Of course, I remember you, but I thought you were dead.”
“My eyes are not what they used to be.”
“Any of the old crowd here?”
“I think you’ll find a few of them at the table in the corner.”
As she made her way through the crowd to the last table against the wall, nobody turned to look at her. There was a time when she could command an entire room with her presence.
Two witches and a ghoul were sitting at the table. She recognized the two witches from the long-ago, but she didn’t know the ghoul.
“And who might you be?” one the witches, the one known as Hildegard, asked.
“Why, it’s Mignonette,” she said. “Your old friend.”
“I don’t remember anybody by the name of Mignonette,” Hildegard said stubbornly.
“Why, of course you remember her!” the other witch said. (Her name was Carlotta.) “There was the time that Mignonette was the toast of the town.”
“Oh, yes, I remember now,” Hildegard said. “She tried to kill me once.”
“Only once?” the ghoul asked, standing to hold the chair out for Mignonette as she sat down.
He was Erich, a holdover from the Third Reich. (People always wanted to hear the stories about his association with Herr Hitler.) He wore a top hat and pince nez. With his long, emaciated body, skin the color of ivory and black circles around his eyes, he was every inch the ghoul.
“I’m so happy to make your acquaintance, mademoiselle,” he said in his smooth continental accent, taking Mignonette’s hand in his own and kissing it.
“Likewise, I’m sure,” Mignonette said.
He motioned for the waiter and ordered a round of witches’ brew.
“So, I’m wondering where all our old friends are this evening,” Mignonette said. “Ethelbert, Lulu, Patsy, Lucille, Laverne and the others.”
“Oh, haven’t you heard?” Carlotta asked.
“Lucille and Patsy are dead. Ethelbert got married and went back to the Old Country. Lulu’s in a hospital for the criminally insane and, last I heard, Laverne was in jail for something or other.”
“So, it’s just the two of you left in our little coven?” Mignonette asked.
“I’m afraid so.”
“There are lots of new young witches coming along,” Carlotta said, ever the optimist. “I’m thinking we can recruit some of them to join us in our crusade of evil.”
At the mention of young witches, they all turned to look at the crowd that was hemming them in against the wall. The young witches were nothing like the older generation, which included Mignonette, Carlotta and Hildegard. They were sleek and didn’t go in for scary ugliness as the older generation had done. They had done away with the long black dresses, pointed hats, green skin, facial hair, and warts. Some of them didn’t even look like witches. They seemed to be more interested in flaunting their assets than in casting spells and riding around on broomsticks.
“I’m afraid things have changed,” Hildegard said.
“The old ways are still the best,” Mignonette said. “We can still have fun doing what we always did.”
“My motto exactly!” Erich said.
“It’s the one night in the year that witches should be having a good time.”
“Yes, yes, that’s so true,” Hildegard said.
“You’re not going to sit here all evening and drink witches’ brew, are you?”
“Well,” Carlotta said, “Hildegard and I were thinking about kidnapping a couple of teenagers from lovers’ lane and scaring the hell out of them. Make them think we’re going to kill them and then let them go at the last minute.”
“We’ve done all that,” Mignonette said. “Time and again. Maybe it’s time of think of other things to do.”
“May I make a suggestion?” Erich asked. “Forget your teenagers. Some friends of mine, fellow ghouls, are getting up a party in the Cemetery of the Holy Ghost for around midnight. It’ll be a lot of fun. Skeletons dancing around a fire and that sort of thing. I’d be happy for the three of you lady witches to accompany me. And you won’t have to fly on your broomsticks. I have my car outside.”
“Can you imagine three witches and a ghoul in a car on Halloween night?” Carlotta said. “What do we do if a policeman stops us?”
“You either turn him into a toad or we tell him we’re on our way to a costume ball,” Erich said.
“It really isn’t any of his business,” Hildegard said.
“You three run along,” Mignonette said. “I don’t think I’ll come along.”
“Why not?” Carlotta asked.
“I think my time as a witch has passed. Do you know that I haven’t even left my castle since last Halloween night? My black cat, Lucifer, didn’t feel like coming with me tonight. It just isn’t the same without him.”
“Oh, I haven’t had a black cat for years,” Hildegard said.
“I have another suggestion,” Erich said. “The two of you run along and I’ll stay here with Mignonette. I’ll even lend you my car. You know how to drive, I trust?”
“Well, I like that!” Hildegard said. “She’s still doing it, after all these years! Stealing away all the men!”
“I’m not stealing away anybody,” Mignonette said.
“It’s parked just down the street,” Erich said. “You can’t miss it. It’s a 1932 Cadillac V16 Fleetwood sedan. The keys are in the ignition.”
“Let’s go,” Carlotta said. “I haven’t been to a cemetery party in years. We’ll have the pick of the men there.”
After Hildegard and Carlotta were gone, Erich ordered more drinks and moved his chair over as close to Mignonette as he could get. He put his arm around her waist and whispered in her ear.
“My place is very cozy,” he said. “I have embalming fluid.”
“Why me?” she asked. “I’m just as old and ugly as they are.”
“No, you’re not,” he said. “You’re different.”
“Wouldn’t you like to see my collection of Nazi memorabilia?”
“If I go with you, will you tell me all about Herr Hitler?”
“Would you be surprised if I told you I have his body in a trunk in my bedroom?”
“We’re going to try to bring him back to life.”
“Come along with me and you can meet them.”
She blushed and pulled the brim of her hat down farther so her eyes were hidden. He stood up and took her by the hand.
She hadn’t had a passenger behind her on her broomstick for many years, especially a man. As he leaned forward and put him arms around her waist, she felt a quickening in her blood that she thought was long dead. He was a gentleman, she could see, and a Nazi gentleman at that. It was turning out to be a very fine evening after all.
Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp
All Hallow’s Eve ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
(This is a re-post on my website.)
Farnsworth ate the liver and onions without tasting. When his mother was satisfied he had eaten enough, she let him go. He ran upstairs and put on his costume.
He was a ghost this year, same as last year. Next year he would try to dig up something different; more than two years as the same thing was boring.
The false face still had dried spit around the mouth, but he didn’t care. It was his spit. He put it on and checked himself in the mirror. Something was missing. Oh, yes, the old derby hat. It was the one thing that made his costume look just a little bit creepy and scary. Without the hat, the costume was just a cheap little-kid’s getup.
Mother was in the living room and heard him come down the stairs.
“Come here, Farnie,” she said, “and let me look at you.”
He stepped reluctantly into the living room.
“You be careful now, won’t you?” she said.
“We’ve already been all through that!” he said.
“Just a couple of years ago you wanted me to take you around trick-or-treating in the car. What was wrong with that?”
“Nobody does that anymore.”
“Who are you going with?”
“I already told you. Some friends from school.”
“What are their names?”
“Charlie, Eric, and Stan.”
“I’m going to call their parents and speak to them.”
“Please don’t do that!”
“As young as you are, you need adult supervision.”
“I think Charlie’s older sister is coming along.”
“How old is she?”
“I don’t know but she’s in high school.”
“That’s not exactly an adult.”
“We’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
“Be home by nine-thirty. Ten at the latest. You have school tomorrow.”
“No, I don’t,” he said as he went out the door. “Tomorrow is Saturday.”
He was glad to finally be out of the house. He breathed deeply of the cool air that smelled of the fallen leaves and began running. Trick-or-treaters were already in his neighborhood in twos and threes, even though it wasn’t all-the-way dark yet. The littlest kids were accompanied by their mothers.
He met his friends at the corner by the park. Eric was a skeleton, Stan a hobo, and Charlie the Long Ranger. Charlie’s sister, Oda May, was smoking a cigarette. She wore a tight tweed skirt that came to below her knees and a boy’s jacket. In her hand was a gorilla mask.
“You had that same stupid ghost costume last year,” Eric said.
“So what?” Farnsworth said.
“Let’s get going,” Charlie said. “All the good candy will be gone.”
Oda May flipped away her cigarette and put on the gorilla mask and they headed for the neighborhood on the other side of the park where all the best houses were.
A few of the houses were dark, meaning stay away, but most were brightly lit. Oda May was the leader of the little group. She chose the houses and rang the doorbells or knocked as fitted the occasion. When people opened their doors and saw her in her gorilla mask and tight skirt, as tall as a grown woman, they looked alarmed and readily forked over the candy. After an hour or so on the same street, their bags were getting heavy.
“And that’s how it’s done,” Oda May said as she sat down on the curb, hefting the bag of candy appreciatively between her legs. She lit a cigarette without taking off the gorilla mask.
“Where to now?” Charlie asked.
“I don’t know about you punks,” Oda May said, “but I’m going to go meet my boyfriend.”
“What about us?” Stan asked.
“You’re on your own. I’ve played nursemaid long enough.”
“It’s all right,” Charlie said. “We don’t need her.”
“And don’t you dare follow me!” she said, and then she was gone, carrying her bag of candy.
“Leave the mask on!” Charlie called after her. “Your boyfriend might like you better that way!”
“What will she do with all that candy?” Farnsworth asked.
“Probably give it to her boyfriend.”
“Who is her boyfriend, anyway?” Eric asked. “Why don’t we get to meet him?”
“He’s a criminal, I think,” Charlie said. “She doesn’t want me to see him because she’s afraid I’ll tell on her. I think he’s really terrible looking, like a convict.”
“I’d like to see him,” Stan said.
“Hey, I stole some of her cigarettes when she wasn’t looking,” Charlie said, passing them around and lighting them.
Farnsworth took a puff and began coughing, causing the others to laugh.
“I’ll bet you haven’t ever smoked before, have you?” Charlie said.
“I’ve smoked plenty!” Farnsworth said.
“It tastes terrible!” Stan said, taking the smoke into his mouth and blowing it out.
“Why do people like doing that?” Eric asked. He threw his cigarette down and spit on the ground.
“Oh, you big babies!” Charlie said. “I like to smoke! I inhale it all the way down into my lungs. Tastes so good! So smooth!”
“My mother says smoking is bad for you,” Farnsworth says. “She used to smoke but she quit.”
“Are you always going to listen to what she says? They’re always going to be telling you not to do things you want to do!”
“Why are we just standing here?” Eric said. “Let’s get going before all the candy is gone.”
They went into a neighborhood they didn’t know. After a couple of houses, a gang of older kids began chasing them to steal their candy, so they ran down an alley to get away. When they came out the other end they were almost downtown, so they kept going in that direction.
“This is just like The Wizard of Oz,” Stan said, “with the Wicked Witch after us.”
“This is nothing like The Wizard of Oz,” Farnsworth said.
They stopped at a delicatessen, where an old man ran them out with a broom as soon as they walked through the door.
“Ain’t givin’ away no candy here,” he said. “If you want to buy something, then buy. Otherwise don’t come in here in no spook disguises.”
“How’s that for hospitality?” Charlie said.
“Let’s play a trick on him,” Stan said. “It’s ‘trick or treat,’ remember?”
They were going to throw a brick through the front window, but no bricks were available, so they put chewing gum on the back side of the door handle and ran down the street giggling.
They had better luck at a tavern. A large man in an apron was standing outside the door, handing out candy from a plastic pumpkin.
“Yous kids need to be home in bed,” he said, as he threw handfuls of candy into their bags.
At a bakery a woman gave them day-old cupcakes, which they ate on the spot. A girl at a music store gave them each a miniature harmonica wrapped in plastic. Somebody at a fruit market gave them apples. They weren’t so quick to eat the apples but stowed them away in their bags.
“You have to check for razor blades before you eat them,” Charlie said knowingly, but the others didn’t know what he was talking about.
They came to a bright oasis of light that was a movie theatre. A crowd was milling about, waiting for the next feature to begin.
“Do you see what I see?” Charlie said.
Standing in line at the ticket booth was a person not to be missed, a woman wearing a gorilla mask and a tight tweed skirt. It was Oda May and she wasn’t alone, either.
“She’s got a kid with her,” Stan said.
“That’s no kid,” Farnsworth said.
“Oh, my god!” Charlie said.
They could see clearly that the person accompanying Oda May wasn’t a child but a fully grown man of a child’s size. He was dressed in a cowboy costume, including large white hat, chaps, boots, spurs, and guns and holsters. Oda May was leaning over to him with her hand on his shoulder.
“Her boyfriend is a tiny cowboy?” Eric said.
“It’s a midget,” Charlie said. “She’s dating a midget. And he must be thirty years old. I am definitely going to tell on her now.”
When it was Oda May and the midget’s turn at the ticket booth, Oda May went around behind him, put her arms around his waist and lifted him up. After he had paid for the tickets and had them in his hand, she set him back on the ground and the two of them went into the theatre, seemingly oblivious to all else except each other.
“Now I’ve seen everything,” Charlie said. “Can you imagine what their children will be like? I don’t even want to think about it.”
“Let’s go,” Eric said. “We’ve spent enough time here. If we’re going to do any more trick-or-treating, let’s do it before all the candy is gone.”
It was starting to rain and Stan figured it was about time to go home, so they worked their way over to his house, stopping to trick-or-treat at all the houses that still had their porch lights on.
Now, the interesting thing about Stan was that his father was an undertaker and the family lived above the funeral parlor. It was a subject of endless fascination to Stan’s friends.
“I think I’m going to call it a night,” Stan said when they were at the corner near his house. “Thanks for walking me home.”
“Do you mean you’re not going to ask us in after we’ve come all this way?” Charlie said.
“Do you have a body in a casket we can look at?” Eric asked.
“Stan’s right,” Farnsworth said. “I should be getting home, too.”
“I have to go to the bathroom,” Charlie said. “I don’t think I can wait until I get home.”
“Oh, all right!” Stan said. “You can come in but you have to wipe your feet first.”
They were delighted to discover that Stan’s parents were out for the evening and they had the house to themselves. Stan took them down to the basement to show them around but made them promise not to touch anything. First he showed them the room where the embalming was done and then the adjoining room with its cabinets full of jars and bottles where the bodies were dressed and prepared for burial. The most impressive part of the tour, though, was the casket room, where more than fifty caskets were opened up for display. After removing their shoes, they were each allowed to lie in a casket with the lid closed to see how it felt. They were all subdued afterwards.
“I’m going to be cremated,” Charlie said. “That’s the best way.”
“I’m not ever going to die,” Eric said. “It’s too awful.”
“It’s only awful for living people,” Stan said. “Dead people don’t know anything that’s going on.”
“I need to get home,” Farnsworth said. “It’s after ten o’clock.”
He walked part of the way home with Charlie and Eric, but they left him and he had to walk the last four blocks alone. He held his bag of candy, his treasure, in his arms because it was so heavy and the bottom was a little soggy and might easily break through. He was a little afraid that the older kids would jump out at him and try to rob him, but he encountered no one. Everybody seemed to have gone home.
His mother was waiting for him at the door in her bathrobe. “Did you have a good time?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Now I can breathe easy. My baby is home.”
Without saying anything else, he took his bag of candy and went upstairs and locked himself in the bathroom and weighed himself on the bathroom scale, first with the candy and then without. He weighed eleven pounds more with the candy. It was the best Halloween ever.
Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp
Without Sin ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
(This short story was published in Paranormal Horror Anthology and is a re-post on my website.)
The service ended. All the mourners departed, and the caretaker, whose name was Lemon, was left alone. He stood beside the open grave, his hands in his pockets, looking off into the distance. He was waiting for the two grave diggers to come and finish the job.
He approached the coffin. The lid had not yet been secured; he lifted it and looked inside. The deceased was a woman with artificial-looking red hair, about fifty years old. He wondered, as he always did, what had taken her. She looked healthy enough. He had heard of many suicides—something inexplicable in the air, perhaps, that made people melancholy and want to do away with themselves. Maybe she was one of those.
She was wearing a necklace with one fairly large red stone, apparently a ruby, and several smaller ones. It could be a real ruby or it could be colored glass. Her family looked prosperous enough. They wouldn’t want her to go to her eternal glory wearing fake stones. She was also wearing a wedding ring with a medium-sized diamond and some smallish earrings, no doubt worth a lot of money. He shook his head in amazement, as he had many times before, at the foolishness of people. Burying precious jewelry forever in the ground where it will never do anybody any good.
He heard someone coming and closed the lid. He looked up and saw the two gravediggers coming toward him. Drexel was the older of the two and out in front. He walked with a swagger wherever he was, even when no one was around. He thought he was cock of the walk and wasn’t bothered one bit that he displaced dirt and buried dead people for a living. The profession, for him, had certain advantages. He had few rules and could always do the job no matter how drunk he was.
The other gravedigger was as much a boy as a man. His name was Lanier. He lived with his mother in town. People believed him simple-minded but he was a good worker and never complained or caused trouble. He was happy to work as a gravedigger and looked up to Drexel, who was his third or fourth cousin. The two of them got along well because Drexel didn’t mistreat Lanier and Lanier always did as he was told without question.
“Where the hell have you been?” Lemon asked.
“Around,” Drexel said. “We’re here now.”
“I could have you fired in a flash for not being here when you’re supposed to be.”
“Well, we’re here now,” Lanier said in the cheeky tone he used only when he was backing up Drexel.
“What have we got here?” Drexel asked, pointing toward the coffin.
“A good lady, waiting for you to send her off to her eternal slumber,” Lemon said.
Drexel raised the lid and looked inside. “Looks like she’s already started on that,” he said with a little laugh.
Lanier looked away when the lid was opened. He didn’t like looking at dead people.
“That’s a ruby necklace she’s wearing around her neck,” Drexel said. “Must be worth something, if I know my jewelry.”
“Not this time,” Lemon said.
“What do you mean ‘not this time’?”
“I mean the good lady keeps her jewelry.”
“How is it that you get to say? You’re not the only one here.”
“Every living thing on earth is part of a hierarchy,” Lemon said.
“Part of a what?”
“In the hierarchy of things, the caretaker of the cemetery is above the gravedigger in all matters.”
“That’s crazy talk.”
“Nevertheless, it seems this woman is a distant relative of my mother’s. I don’t want to defile her person at a time when she is most unable to prevent it.”
“You haven’t got a mother.”
“Very well, then. We’ll let a coin toss decide the matter.” He reached into his pocket and took out a coin. “Call it,” he said.
“Tails,” Drexel said.
“Very well. If the coin lands on its tail, we take the goods, bury the lady, and nobody is any the wiser. If, however, the coin lands on its head, the lady goes to her eternal slumber fully equipped.”
He flipped the coin into the air and made no attempt to catch it when it came down. It landed at his feet.
“Hah!” Drexel said. “It’s tails! I want the ruby necklace. I have a dear friend that it would look very good on.”
“I saw it first!” Lemon said. “The necklace is mine. And I’m not so stupid as to give it to somebody who might wear it in public and have it recognized.”
“Oh, and what are you going to do with it?”
“I’ll sell it to the acquaintance of mine in the faraway city who pays a good price and doesn’t ask questions, as with the other stuff. You see, there’s a way to remount a stone like that so the lady herself would never recognize it.”
“A worthy rejoinder, if I ever heard one!”
“You talk like a damn fool. Let’s get the goods before somebody comes and get the old dame in the ground and get it over with.”
Lemon opened the coffin again and took hold of the necklace and gave it a tug. He couldn’t see how to get it off and didn’t want to break it, so he slipped it off over the dead woman’s head. Once he had the necklace in his hands, he held it up to his own neck, waggled his hips and took a few mincing steps.
“Oh, what a lovely girl!” Drexel said with a sneer.
Lanier had turned his back on Drexel and Lemon and didn’t want to think about what they were doing. He knew they were doing something bad and he wanted no part of it, although he did nothing to stop it.
“I’m going over there,” he said and walked quickly away out of sight.
“That boy is without sin,” Lemon said, “rather like those three little monkeys: Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.”
Drexel removed the woman’s wedding ring with a devilish chortle and put it in his pocket. When he tried to remove the earrings, though, he couldn’t see how to get them off.
“There’s a little thing in back that releases them,” Lemon said.
He helped Drexel turn the woman partway over so they could see the backs of her ears. She was as stiff as a pillar of salt and didn’t bend at the joints.
“She’s really truly dead,” Lemon said.
“I think I hear someone coming,” Drexel said.
He let the woman fall back into place and took out the pruning shears. He cut off the woman’s earlobes neatly and wrapped them, earrings and all, in a rag and put it in his pocket along with the wedding ring.
“The good woman will arrive at the gates of heaven with her earlobes missing,” Lemon said. “St. Peter will take one look at her and believe she has met with an accident.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Drexel said. “When you’re dead, nothing matters.”
“Nevertheless, she shall be welcomed with open arms!”
Drexel whistled for Lanier to come back and began to secure the lid of the coffin.
“One moment!” Lemon said. “I wish to bid the good lady the fond farewell that she so richly deserves.”
He bent over and kissed the dead woman full on the lips. Drexel did the same and, not to be outdone, licked her lips and squeezed her breast.
“Ah-ah-ah!” Lemon said. “There’ll be no necrophilia in my presence.”
“As if you yourself don’t engage in the practice every chance you get!”
Lanier returned and they secured the lid and lowered the coffin into the grave. Before they were finished replacing all the dirt, another service began in another part of the cemetery. They tidied up the gravesite, cleared away their tools and left unnoticed.
Two days later Lemon and Drexel were both dead.
When Lemon failed to appear to perform his duties as caretaker, the cemetery owner and his assistant went looking for him, expecting to find him in a drunken stupor. Instead they found him in the caretaker’s cottage, lying on the bed in full woman’s rigging, including dress, stockings, shoes and curly red wig. Around his neck was the ruby necklace he filched from the dead woman. They thought to revive him but on closer inspection discovered he had been dead long enough to stiffen. His tongue was swollen out if his mouth and his eyes and ears were seeping old blood.
As for Drexel, an old farmer saw him standing in the middle of an empty field with his arms outraised. When the farmer went to him to find out who he was and what he was doing, Drexel was babbling and insensate. While the farmer was asking Drexel useless questions, he fell dead at the farmer’s feet. The farmer looked through Drexel’s clothing to try to find some clue to his identity and discovered the handkerchief containing the earlobes with the diamond earrings attached and the wedding ring.
The woman with the ruby necklace had sickened and died with alarming suddenness. Her doctors didn’t know how to treat her illness because they didn’t know what the illness was. How or where she contracted it was never known. It was obviously an illness that came about through contact with one infected, rather than through the air. Had the lady led a secret life of some kind?
Lanier never touched the woman or her jewelry, so he escaped the illness. His mother forced him to abandon his profession as grave digger, however, as she suspected that Lemon’s and Drexel’s deaths had something or other to do with acts they performed on a dead body when nobody was around. The thought sickened her.
When Lanier was asked what Lemon and Drexel were doing on that last day in the cemetery that might have made them sick, he shrugged his shoulders and smiled his benign smile. They were always doing and saying things that didn’t interest him, he said. He was in another part of the cemetery tending to some flowers he had planted, minding his own business while other people minded theirs.
Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp
Mademoiselle Lulu ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
(This short story was published in Danse Macabre and is a re-post on my website.)
A family of the living dead resided in a fine old house on a ten-acre estate outside the town of Harmony Hill. Their name was Farrier and they were a mother and her seven children. People said that Mrs. Farrier was hundreds of years old, although her age had never been verified. The children were five males (Cottonwood, Maurice, Eustace, Junius, and Percy) and two females (Lulu and Esther). Mrs. Farrier’s husband and the father of the brood of seven had long ago departed for the other realm. Mrs. Farrier ate him one evening for dinner.
Most of the people of the town of Harmony Hill knew about the Farriers, but few of them had ever seen the Farriers. There were those who believed that the Farriers were nothing more than an old wives’ tale or a story told around campfires. Everybody had, of course, seen the fenced-in ten-acre estate that belonged to the Farriers with its mysterious old house, but people had been led to believe (by whom, nobody knew) that a very old witch-like woman lived there in seclusion with her two strange daughters.
The truth was that, long ago, the town had come to an agreement with the Farriers; to wit, the town and its people would not bother the Farriers on their estate if the Farriers did not bother the town. If the Farriers should ever go back on their agreement and eat anybody from the town, the town would go after the Farriers with a vengeance, burn down their house and cut off their heads. Cutting off the head was the most commonly known method of killing the flesh-eating living dead.
Mrs. Farrier had learned to control her family of flesh-eaters and make them stay out of the town. The family had developed a system whereby they could have the requisite number of flesh-bearers to eat without putting themselves in danger by letting their appetites run away with them. Eustace and Junius were the most accomplished—and the subtlest—hunters in the family, so they, in general, went out on nighttime hunting excursions. They fed themselves on the “game” they were able to bag and, by daybreak every morning, took the remainder home to their mother, who took a generous portion for herself and distributed the remainder to her other children.
Of the other Farrier children, Percy and Lulu had the most rampant, the most uncontrollable, appetites. They were more likely than not to go into the town and eat the first person that came to hand without ever considering the consequences.
Percy was cunning, very strong and capable of tearing a victim to shreds with one hand tied behind his back. He was also an insensate beast with frightening, blank eyes, a wild man who could not be controlled. His brothers had no other choice but to keep him chained in the basement. His personality—his “self”—had been entirely subverted to his appetite for flesh. He was worse than any wild animal.
Lulu was very fat and hardly ever left her boudoir in the upper floor of the old house. When she was hungry, she paced the floor and sometimes picked up heavy objects and threw them against the wall. Appetite was for her a physical pain. When she wasn’t eating, though—when her appetite was satisfied—she simpered around the room in her satins and silks, a Chinese fan in her hand, and engaged in lengthy conversations with people who existed only in her imagination; in this way she dealt with her loneliness and isolation.
The other Farrier children—Esther, Cottonwood and Maurice—were docile enough as long as they had enough flesh to eat, although they themselves didn’t possess the penchant for killing. They were content to stay in the background and not bother their mother or their brothers. After they had fed, they would remain on their beds, bloated and happy, for hours or sometimes even days at a time, their blank eyes staring at nothing.
Eustace and Junius were not happy with the arrangement of going out almost every night, in all weathers, to get flesh for themselves and the rest of the family. Since they had to stay out of the town, they had to travel a long way to go to another town. And it was more than just a matter of plucking the first person they saw off the street. They couldn’t kill indiscriminately, as they would have done in a world more favorable to them. They had to plan their strikes with subtlety and finesse. The idea was to make disappearances seem random: a man here and a woman there; a child the next night thirty miles from where they had been the night before; hikers in the mountains sleeping around a campfire; lovers trysting in a deserted country cemetery; hobos waiting at night for a freight train; a drunk making his painful way home after drinking all night in a tavern.
Junius had heard stories about a conclave of the living dead in the Metropolis. For him, the principle attraction of the Metropolis was that there were millions of flesh-bearers living there, milling around on the streets at all hours of the day or night, ripe for the taking. If he could make his way to the Metropolis and become a member of the conclave, he imagined there would be no end of flesh to eat, and he wouldn’t have to spend the better part of every night looking for it. He told his brother Eustace about the conclave, and Eustace agreed that life for the two of them would certainly be easier in the Metropolis. What were they going to do about the rest of the family, though? They would not be able to just run off and leave the others behind, defenseless and with no way of getting flesh for themselves.
After lengthy conversations on the matter, Eustace and Junius agreed that they would go to the Metropolis to live, but first they would abide at home for a while and teach their two younger brothers, Cottonwood and Maurice, the skill of locating, stalking and killing the prey that was necessary to their continued existence. After Cottonwood and Maurice became adept at providing for the family, Eustace and Junius would go to the Metropolis and, in time, they would send for the others, where they would all live the easy life that was to be had there.
Cottonwood and Maurice were dismayed when they learned they were to go hunting with their older brothers, but Junius gave them a lecture about assuming the responsibilities of adulthood. They couldn’t go their entire lives expecting flesh to be brought to them by someone else; they needed to learn to be self-sufficient so they would never have to depend on anybody else. Maurice sniffled and looked at Cottonwood and nodded his head grudgingly, as if to say that, as much as he disliked the idea, he had to admit that he agreed with the logic of the argument.
Eustace and Junius decided not to tell their mother that they were taking Cottonwood and Maurice hunting with them. She would not have been receptive to a different way of doing things and, besides, she was resting in her room until the time that she could feed and was not to be disturbed.
The four of them—Junius, Eustace, Cottonwood and Maurice—set out from home at about eleven o’clock on a balmy moonlit night in the middle of October. They would make a detour around the mountain, covering a range of about twenty miles, and come back toward home from the other direction. They were certain to find at least two or three flesh-bearers out on such a warm and agreeable night.
They had gone a dozen or so miles and were nearing the hamlet of Benbow. Maurice was complaining about his feet hurting because he wasn’t used to walking so far, when Junius with a wave of the hand bade him to be still. He could smell a flesh-bearer nearby; he believed he had spotted movement at the edge of a clump of trees.
As they were closing in on their supposed prey, Eustace stopped and held out his hand for his brothers to halt. He had an uneasy feeling about what lay ahead. He was about to motion to the others to turn around and go back the way they had come, when there was a loud yell, like a signal, and then another yell from another direction. Before they had a chance to take cover, there was a blast of gunfire coming at them. They had walked into an ambush.
Eustace and Junius, with their lightning reflexes born of years of experience, seemed to the eyes of the flesh-bearers to melt into the earth—that’s how fast they disappeared—while Cottonwood and Maurice simply stood where they were, not understanding what was happening. They were knocked down by bullets and then a group of flesh-bearers—at least ten or twelve of them—swarmed over them and cut off their heads with axes, cheering and laughing the whole time. Eustace and Junius had no other choice but to stand in the darkness and helplessly watch their two younger brothers being slaughtered.
When dawn came, they made their way forlornly back home. Not only did they not have any flesh, but they were going to have to tell their mother and their sisters, Esther and Lulu, that their family had, in the course of the night, been diminished by two.
Their mother accepted the news with equanimity at first, but after her initial shock had passed she became enraged. She began screaming uncontrollably, calling Eustace and Junius every name she had at her command. She struck both of them repeatedly about the head, face and shoulders with her fists and kicked at their legs. She spit and swore and frothed at the mouth. She was as dismayed that Cottonwood and Maurice were dead as she was that no flesh had been brought home.
Esther, who was waiting in the other room to begin her feeding, heard the disturbance and came running. When she saw her mother pummeling her two older brothers, she became frightened and began flailing her arms. Her eyes rolled up into her head and she jumped up and down repeatedly, moaning in a kind of archaic ecstatic chant.
When Junius and Eustace had recovered themselves to a degree and retreated to the far side of the room, they began hurling objects at their mother—a book, a metronome, a marble bust of Nero. Junius picked up a chair and threw it at her, hitting her in the head and knocking her down. She was stunned for a moment, but she soon stood up again and re-entered the fray with renewed vigor.
Reading a romance in her boudoir upstairs, Lulu heard the terrible row that was taking place below stairs. It sounded as if all the forces of hell had been unleashed upon the house. She crept down the stairs slowly, faint with hunger and frightened, but nevertheless determined to discover the source of the disturbance.
She was used to seeing her family members hurling objects at each other, but never before with such anger and vehemence. Her mother had a gash in her forehead oozing purplish liquid and was jerking crazily as though she had taken leave of her senses. Junius, always so dapper and calm, was disheveled and screaming epithets at his mother and hurling anything he get could get his hands on across the room at her. Eustace was lying on the floor behind a table, cradling his arm, bellowing in pain and frustration. Esther was standing in the corner—or rather jumping up and down in the corner—screeching and pulling her hair out by handfuls.
More than anything, Lulu wanted the screaming to stop. Without thinking about what she was doing, she went into the kitchen and picked up the meat cleaver her mother used for dismembering prey, took it back into the parlor and, with one powerful stroke, cut off Esther’s head. Her eyes went blank as if a lamp had been extinguished and her head fell to the floor with a melon-like thud. A spray of foul-smelling black-and-purple matter spewed from the stub of her neck; her body fell over like a collapsing wall.
Seeing what Lulu had done, her mother went for her like a madwoman, hands upraised like claws. She managed to get her hands around Lulu’s neck in an attempt to strangle her but Lulu pulled free and swung the meat cleaver at her in a powerful backhanded motion and cut off her head. Her head left her body and sailed across the room and smashed against the wall. Her body, after she fell, continued to writhe and jerk as with an electric shock.
Having dispatched her sister and her mother, Lulu had no intention of stopping there. She raised the meat cleaver over her head and ran toward Junius. Understanding her intention, he made a valiant attempt to get away but it was no good. She caught him with the meat cleaver across the back of his neck. His head separated from his body as he fell against the wall, purple matter spewing out the hole where his head had been.
Eustace was still lying on his back on the floor behind a table, groaning and emitting intermittent screams. As Lulu approached him, she knew he didn’t see her. His eyes were covered with a gauzy scum and he had lapsed into a sort of stupor. He never saw the meat cleaver as it took off his head, a coupe de grace if there ever was one.
Lulu pulled the four bodies one by one—along with their severed heads—across the room and pushed them into the enormous fireplace. When she had all four of them—her mother, sister and two elder brothers—arranged in the fireplace like stacked firewood, she poured a can of gasoline over them and set fire to them. The fire took hold very fast and in just a few minutes the flames consumed the bodies.
Worn out from her exertions and weak from not having fed at the customary time, Lulu went to the door and went outside. The sky was just brightening with the rising sun and the birds were singing cheerily in the trees. The beauty of the landscape was not lost on her.
She hadn’t been outside the house for so long that just the simple act of walking along the ground felt good. She walked a short distance into the woods until she heard a sound that made her hide behind a tree. When she was sure she hadn’t been seen, she looked around the tree and spotted a hunter carrying a gun, a brown-and-white dog by his side. Before the hunter even knew what was happening, she crept up on him and ate him in the flash of an eye. The dog, not understanding where his master had gone, approached her shyly, wagging his tail. She reached down and patted him on the head and told him to run along home.
Her appetite sated for the moment, she went back to the house, climbed the stairs to her boudoir and had a good rest. When she awoke, she packed her clothes and a few books and keepsakes into two trunks. She dressed herself in a long, flowing black dress that came down to her ankles and an enormous black hat with a veil that hid her face.
When she went down to the basement to unchain her only remaining brother, Percy, she was sure he didn’t know who she was, but he seemed grateful to be out of his chains. She looked into his clouded eyes and pointed toward the door to let him know he was free to leave. When he nodded his head to show that he understood what she was saying, she put her arms on his shoulders in a kind of embrace and helped him to his feet. He needed to be allowed to leave the house or he would starve to death; go into the town if he must.
She called a taxi and, as the taxi man was loading her trunks, she closed the front door and locked it, probably for the last time. The house already had a forlorn, abandoned feel. As the taxi was driving away, she took a last look over her shoulder at the house and saw that a wisp of smoke was still rising from the chimney.
She went to the Metropolis, not to join the conclave of flesh-eaters, but to arrange to go abroad. With the money her father had left her before her mother ate him, she engaged a lavish stateroom on one of the finest passenger ships in the world. She hired a personal maid to help her with her clothes and carry out small errands.
Her destination for the moment was not definite, but she planned on sailing into every port city in the world. When she got tired of traveling, she would settle down for a time in one of the European capitals. She might someday return home, but she couldn’t see herself living by herself in that lonely old house.
While traveling, she rarely had occasion to leave her stateroom, but anytime she appeared in public she always wore the long black dress and the hat with the veil. She effected a slight foreign accent when she spoke, causing her fellow shipmates to refer to her as Mademoiselle Lulu. Everybody knew there was some secret thing about her, but nobody could figure out what it was. She was mysterious; she wasn’t like anybody else. People could gossip all they wanted but they would never know her truth.
At every port of call where passengers were allowed to go ashore for a few hours or an entire day, Lulu was always among them. She loved being in a new place and seeing sights she had never seen before but, most of all, she loved the abundance of flesh-bearers that were always in those places. She always had her fill. Unencumbered by family, she was living the kind of existence she had always dreamed about.
Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp
Dracula 1931 ~
Fog so thick you can cut it with a knife. Howling wolves (“Listen to them! Children of the Night! What music they make!”). Giant spider webs. Welcome to Dracula’s crumbling castle high in Transylvania’s scenic Carpathian Mountains. How much more creepy atmosphere could you ask for?