Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Trick 'em All
By: Adam Light

Travis Raines couldn't believe it.  He had been stuck with the menial task of pushing the sweets out the door when the trick or treat festivities got under way.  At sixteen, he was considered too old to go out and take part in the real fun, but his parents refused to allow him the honor of escorting his brother and sister around while they went door to door collecting their booty.
            Staring down into his bowl of corn flakes, he muttered, "Why can't I take them out?"
            He had known it was pointless to ask the question, but he was not known for his tactfulness.  And he was pissed.
            A troubled look passed between the two adults.
            "We don't feel you're ready for that kind of responsibility.  You're manning the candy dish, and that's final.  We shouldn't have to explain all of our decisions, anyway."
            "Maybe next year you can chaperone, kiddo," his mom added.
            He looked first at his dad, then at his mom, his breakfast forgotten.  "I know what it is.  You can try to bullshit me all you want, but I get it."
            "Watch your language, young man," his dad warned, brow furrowed.  "And if you already know why we don't want you doing it, you shouldn't have to ask."
            Travis imagined how good it would feel to lunge across the table and scoop out his old man's eye ball with his spoon.  His stomach squelched like a giant fist had squeezed its contents into his upper intestine with malice, and he excused himself from the breakfast table without another word.
            Honestly, he had no desire to drag those little shits around the neighborhood anyway.  What irritated him was the lack of trust his parents had for him.  He saw himself as mature for his age, and the fact that they still treated him like a child was what really got his blood boiling.
He marched upstairs and set to work carving the massive pumpkin he had stored in his closet. He was supposed to do it outside, but he didn't care.  Yesterday, he had drawn an vil face on it with a magic marker.  As he chiseled out the demonic features and emptied its gooey innards, he focused all of his hatred on it.  He imagined the knife sliding in and out of his father's chubby body, gouging holes in his mother's makeup caked face.  It felt good to get his aggression out like that.  It was liberating.  After he finished, and the wicked face had been crafted just to his liking, he lit a candle, lifted the top off the pumpkin and set it aside, lighting it up.  He knew that if he got caught with a jack o' lantern in his room, it would only illustrate his parents' point in regard to his immaturity, but fuck 'em.  They could rot for all he cared.  He was beyond caring about their opinion of him.
            Travis had never been fast to make friends; in fact, he had never been involved in a meaningful relationship with another kid, or even his own siblings.  He glanced at his carved jack o' lantern and silently lamented his lonely existence.
            Finally, he sighed and cleaned up his pumpkin mess, tossed everything into the trash, and checked over his work.
            "And you shall be called Jackass, my friend," he said.
            A moment later, the pumpkin replied.
            So you want to be friends, huh, Travis?
            Travis blinked.
            He shook his head and laughed.  Yeah, right, dumbass.  The jack o'lantern is alive.
            Once again, it spoke, its soft voice mellifluous, inviting.
            I'll be you're friend, if you want, Travis.  How about it?
            This time he thought he actually saw the jack o' lantern's mouth move.
            Not completely convinced he hadn't imagined it, he still answered.  "Sure, I'll be friends with a talking pumpkin."
            Good.  Thanks for that, young man.  I knew you had good taste.  And so do I.  We're going to get along just fine.
            There was no denying it.  The thing was talking.  What craziness is this?
            I've sough release from the darkness for so long, Travis, Jackass said.  You've brought me into the light, and I am more grateful than I can put into words.
            Travis was floored.  This couldn't really be happening.  He had finally lost his mind.
            "This is just great.  I'm such a loser, I'm now having a conversation with an inanimate object.  Jesus Christ."
            You made me, Travis.  I'm here because you wanted me to be.  This is real, and you're not a loser.  I think you're pretty terrific.
            Travis sat in stunned silence, his mouth hanging open.  He watched the pumpkin's features, the mouth and eyes he himself had cut out of the thing, come to life and move in an almost exaggerated mockery of a human face.
            You created me, but I fear the job is only halfway finished.  I'm just a head!  A low throated, mischievous laugh erupted from the candlelit mouth.  It made Travis's flesh crawl.  I need to be whole.  I'm in a pretty compromised position right now.  I need you to complete me.  And I know how to make your problems go away, too, by the way.
            Jackass winked conspiratorially at him, and Travis grinned.  It was like watching a live cartoon.  Even though his mind was unable to grip what was happening, it was certainly a delightful experience.  No one would ever believe it.  But he wouldn't tell anyone.  This was his secret.
            Travis's mom called him downstairs, and though he had no desire to move at all, he figured he'd better go find out what was going on.  The last thing he needed was for one or both his parents to come storming in to find a lit jack o' lantern in his room.
            "I'll be back soon, Jackass," he said, and ran out of his room, still unsure whether Jackass was real, or if he had simply fallen down the rabbit hole.  Maybe he had had a nervous breakdown and he was really sitting in a padded cell right now, hallucinating the whole thing.  He hoped nt.
            Regardless, the wicked witch waited, and he had to find out what she wanted.

It was time for dinner.  They had tacos, which were good, but Travis could barely concentrate.
            The twins were not at the table.  His dad revealed that one of the neighbors, whose kids were friends with the twins, was going to do the chaperoning, and had come over and gotten them a little while ago.
            And they still insisted that Travis pass candy out to the trick-or-treaters.
            Travis's bitterness about being relegated to such an asinine job on this wondrous night rekindled, and though his attitude was acrimonious, he kept his temper in check.  A plastic smile pasted across his mug, while he thought about what waited upstairs for him, he endured the pain of sitting with his parents.  Jackass consumed his every thought.
            Unfortunately, his mom and dad prattled on and on, over explaining the reason Travis was not old enough or responsible enough to walk his younger siblings around the fucking block.  As far back as he could remember, they had always treated him this way.  As if he didn't understand them the first time they said things.
            And they had already started drinking.
            The old man and the witch had been out to get him for so long.  They treated him like shit right to his face, showing him no respect at all.  He know how they talked about him behind his back, too.  He had overheard the talks they had when they thought he wasn't able to hear them.
Like the time he found the Golden Retriever in the woods behind his school playground.  The dog had been old and sick, and he'd done it a favor, put it out of its misery.  Then, he'd been inclined to see what made the animal tick.  So he'd taken it apart.  He thought back on the day with a mixture of emotions.  Touching the organs and bones he'd pulled from the animal's furry flesh had been so exciting, his penis had bulged excruciatingly against the inside of his jeans.  He hadn't understood why that had happened at the time.  He only knew that it was exhilarating, and the urgent throbbing in his loins had been his introduction to sexual arousal.
            He'd been caught by some teachers who had been dispatched to find him when he didn't show up for class after recess.
            His dad had come to get him from school, but had barely spoken.
            When his mother had arrived home after work that night, they had discussed Travis behind his back.  Thinking he was asleep, they spoke openly about their disdain for him, how he made them sick and afraid to sleep in their own home.
            "Jesus Christ, Tom.  Where in the hell did this come from?  Because it certainly isn't from my side of the family."
            "Now, Judy, I don't think that's necessary.  Sometimes people are just born... different."
            "We're perfectly normal, and we made a psychopath and brought him into the world, then?  Is that it?  Jesus Christ."

Travis had heard them loud and clear.  It was awful.  His own parents hated and feared him.  
            His father had beaten him within an inch of his life the next day.  It had been a savage thrashing, and Travis had, for a frightening moment, thought his dad had meant to kill him.  Amazingly, his dad had avoided leaving any obvious marks on him.
            "You tell your mom what just went down, you sick little fuck, and you can kiss your ass goodbye.  This'll seem like a day trip to Disneyland, got me?"
            He had nodded, tears still streaming down his face, swearing vengeance on the bastard.
            "Seriously, Travis.  Your ass is headed for boarding school if you fuck up one more time."  His face flushed, sweating so profusely he looked like he had just finished a marathon, and he had not waited for a reply.  He just stormed out of the room and Travis had heard the tell-tale sound of the liquor cabinet opening and slamming as his father retrieved a bottle of something strong.
            Travis had been kicked out of grade school after the incident, at the tender age of ten.  His mother had quit her job, too, so he could be home-schooled.  He had seen a therapist for a while, and was given a clean bill of mental health.  But mom and dad were never convinced.  They spoke about him in hushed tones behind his back to this very day.

Those thoughts weighing heavy on his mind, Travis unceremoniously excused himself from the table, mumbled "fuck both of you" under his breath, and went on his way.
            He hurried up the stairs, but slowed down as he neared the top, and stopped altogether when he reached his bedroom door.
            Back in his room, the sun drooped low outside the window, casting a blinding glare through the dusty glass as it crept closer to the edge of the sky.  He turned on his mp3 player, cranked up the speakers, and filled the room with the sounds of death metal.  He then sat cross-legged on the floor in front of Jackass, and shoved his glasses instinctively up onto his nose with a forefinger.
            "Sorry to make you wait so long, buddy.  I had to deal with those assholes that brought me into this world."  The pumpkin seemed to gaze straight through him.  Its mouth twitched, though, its evil grin expanding.
            It's time for us to help each other, Travis.
            "Okay.  But, um, how does that work, exactly?  What else can I do for you?"
            We both know how you feel about those two fools you call your parents.  Do we not?
            "I guess."
            I need to ambulate.  I'm not meant to sit here in this little patch of bum-fucked-nowhere for the rest of eternity.  I need your help with that.
            "Okay.  It would suck to be just a head.  I feel for you."
            I know what it is you need.  You need to be free from your parents' iron fist.  They only cause you pain.  I can help you get rid of them for good, Travis.
            "How do you propose that I get rid of them?"
            I think you know the answer to that, Travis.  I will not suffer a fool for a companion.  You need them out of the way, and I need them to make me whole again.  It's that simple.  I can't exist inside this rotten gourd for very much longer.  In order for me to come fully to life, I need some of their... parts.
            It had all been true.  Every second he had spent carving Jackass, he had basically fantasized about his parents meeting terrible fates.  The pumpkin had basically been his outlet for the rage he had felt.  And now it was encouraging him to get rid of them.  It was insane.
            "What exactly are you saying, Jackass?  You want me to... kill them?"
            It was your hatred for them that fueled your creativity when you made me.  I am born of your rage.  You know that this is what you want.
            "Tell me what you want me to do."
            Jackass explained what had to be done, laying it out in detail for the boy so he could understand.  As the explanation spilled forth, Travis grew anxious, his alarm growing every minute.
            Finally, the pumpkin said: I'm the only friend you've got, dear boy.  You will do what needs to be done, and if you prove you're worthy of taking a most esteemed position at my right hand side, I can give you so much more than freedom.  You'll know what it's like to be somebody.  To be really important.
            "I just don't think I can do what you're saying.  I don't particularly like them, but I'm no killer."
            Time runs short, even now, dear boy.  If you don't act soon, all will be lost.  You'd be crazy not to take this opportunity.
            "I hate them, I really do.  I'm just not capable of doing anything like that," Travis answered.
            Travis knew that he shouldn't be taking any of this seriously.  He could just stomp the jack o' lantern into the floor and it would all be over.  But the damned pumpkin had him mesmerized.
            Do as I say, or you may as well kill yourself, Travis.  Those fools have wanted you dead all along.  They wish you'd never been born.  Look at your pathetic little life.  Yours is a soul yearning to unfurl its beautiful wings and fly free.  Dn't you want to soar free, Travis?  You're in prison.  You're nothing.  Nothing!  They'll see you into an early grave and laugh the whole time, your dying breath choked out of your fragile little lungs.
            Though it was insane, the pumpkin made some good arguments.  His family had been against him all along.  They had never tried to understand him.  They couldn't care if he lived or died.
            A rush of conflicting emotions had overcome him, nauseated him.
            In a moment of panic, Travis dashed out of his room and charged headlong into the bathroom, slamming the door and locking it behind him.
            Jackass was in his head, waiting for him.  No more running, my friend.  The world is ours.  Just set me free, and the world is ours.
            Finally, Travis could not stand it anymore, and screamed out, "Please just leave me the fuck alone!  Why are you doing this to me?  Why, Goddammit?"
            Then he broke down, head in hands, sobbing loudly, incoherent words churning like gravel in his mouth.  
            Immediately following Travis's outburst, his dad's footsteps rumbled up the stairs.  Travis felt the first cracks appear in his sanity, and knew he was teetering too close to the edge of a chasm that was so deep that if were to slip over that edge, he would never stop falling.
            He knew, as the pounding footfalls approached the bathroom door, that his only option was to get the hell out of the house.  Just run away, hide out in the woods for a while.  Otherwise, there was not telling what might happen.  He was surely going insane.
            You can't run away from me, my dear Travis.  You and I are forever bound to one another.  And we have so much work to do.  Gather your tools, and let's get on with it.  No more bullshit.
            Travis's brain suffered a vicious cramp and panic seized him, and he feared he was having an aneurysm.
            Through his anguished pulsing headache that gnawed on his skull like a pack of rats, Jackass's soothing voice coaxed him, encouraged him to kill for him.
            Travis composed himself as well as he could, splashed cold water on his face at the sink, and slung open the bathroom door at the exact moment his dad was preparing to open the door and walk in.
            Father and son stood speechless for a moment, staring at each other, silent in the awkward moment.  Finally, Travis edged past his dad and hurried down the hall before his dad had a chance to say anything to him.
            He took the stairs at a gallop, sprinted down the hall toward the foyer, and slid to a stop upon the wooden floor mere inches before he would have plowed into the front door.
            Outside, trees swayed to and fro, the gusting winds denuding branches; orange, yellow, and crimson leaves swirled along through the crisp autumn twilight.  Running around the sides of the house, he unlatched and flung wide the privacy fence gate, launched himself into the backyard, and headed for the toolshed. 

Everything he needed was there.  He grabbed a small hatchet, a machete, a vicious looking filet knife with a razor sharp blade, the heavy duty battery powered jigsaw, and an assortment of other large hunting knives his dad kept in a locker, which was conveniently unlocked.  All of it went into one of his dad's old weather-beaten rucksacks.  On the way out, he spotted a large, gleaming hacksaw with a nearly two foot blade.  He took it, too.  
            Hauling the sack of tools into the house and up to his room proved easier than he had figured. His parents were nowhere in sight.  The television in the family room was turned up too loud, so he couldn't hear anything else, but there was no doubt they were lounging on the sofa, getting soused, probably unaware that he was even still around.  Travis had been certain that his dad would be waiting for him to come back inside after his outburst.
            He carried the rucksack into the bedroom, and emptied the contents not he bed.
            Travis sorted the tools out and advanced the plan to its next phase.  The sky was darkening outside, and there would soon be kids streaming through the neighborhood; he had to make the best of the precious little time remaining before then.
            "Mom!" he yelled.  "Can you come up here for a minute?"
            Despite his intentions, he felt unusually calm.  His palms were dry.  He hefted the hatchet, and ran the blade lightly across his thumb.  It was sharp enough.
            The television volume lowered and his mom called up from the bottom of the stairs.  "Everything alright up there, Travis?"
            "Yeah, it's all good, mom.  But can you come up here and look at something for me?"
            His voice was steady, but he felt nervous and hoped his mom didn't detect anything threatening in his voice.
            After a moment, she came up the stairs.
            Do it quick, Travis.  If you hesitate, all is lost.
            He ignored Jackass, and stood just t the side of his bed with the hatchet held behind his back, gripping it fiercely.  When his mother walked into the room, he blinked a couple of times, while she stood swaying a little on her feet, glancing around the room.  She spotted the jack o' lantern and frowned at him.
            Before she could speak, Travis made his move.
            He swung the hatchet up and lunged at her, swinging the hatchet down with all the power he could muster as he closed the distance between them.
            She never suspected a thing, just stood there, her mouth opening up in a little puckered "o" right before the razor-sharp hatchet punched through the top of her face and nearly split her head completely in half.
            His mother convulsed horribly and then went limp.  Gravity claimed the lifeless body, and she hit the floor like a sack of flour, pulling the hatchet handle out of Travis's hand as she went.
            Travis gazed at the sight of his mother sprawled on her back, murdered by his hand, but Jackass's voice interrupted right away.
             Quickly, Travis.  Get your dad up here, now.
            "I know."
            Travis dragged his mom's cooling body over to his walk-in closet and pulled it inside, then shut the door.
            He had to get his dad up here without arising his suspicions.  One down, one left to go.
            "Fuck it," he muttered.
            He yelled to his father.
            "This better be important, Travis," his dad bellowed from below.
            "It is!  Something's wrong with mom," he answered, hoping he sounded panicked enough.  "I don't think she's breathing!"
            The telltale footsteps thundered up the stairs.  Travis pushed his bedroom door until it was nearly closed.
            Travis pressed his back up against the wall just to the right of his open bedroom door.
            His dad came barreling into the room, slowed down only slightly by the door.
            "Judy, are you allure-"
            The fish knife slid viciously across his dad's throat before he could finish his question.  The old man had never seen it coming.
            Blood jettisoned across the room with incredible force.  It splashed onto the walls and Travis's bed before his dad's hands went up to the ragged, gaping gash in a desperate bid to keep the rest of the blood from escaping.
            Gurgling, he turned and saw his murderer standing there, a sadistic grin on his face, brandishing the knife at him.  His eyes were shocked and wide, but also confused.  There was no doubt in that look that he couldn't believe his son had done this.  Blood was sheeting down his front like water from a faucet.  He went down within a few seconds, and thrashed violently around on the carpet as he drowned in his own blood.  It took an eternity.
            The hour of resurrection is nearly at hand.  Jackass was quick to assert his will.
            Do it all exactly as I told you, Travis.  Our destiny depends on your ability to carry out my instructions.
            Travis nodded at the jack o' lantern.  "Okay, okay.  I've got it together."
            He had to drag his mom's body out of the closet.  He laid her out beside her husband, who had curled up in a fetal position as he died, and went to wrk on her with the jigsaw.  When he had the chest cavity chiseled out, he used the fish knife to cut out her heart.  It was bigger than what he had expected, but still went into the top of the jack o' lantern easily enough.
            Ah.  Yes, that's it, Travis.  Keep going.  You're almost there.
            The next part was the real bitch.  The jigsaw battery died halfway into the first cut he made in his father's skull.  He had to resort to using the hacksaw.  It took him too long, and he began to grow panicked, but the body had to be flipped over three times in order for him to cut all the way around the head and remove the skull cap while causing as little damage to the brain as he could help.
            While we're young, Travis, Jackass quipped.  Travis was not amused.  This was awful.  He had finally managed to detach the brain from his father's cranium, but it was slippery, and kept sliding out of his hands.
            At last, he stuffed the brain into the top of the pumpkin, and collapsed onto the bed, exhausted from the exertion.
            He watched Jackass carefully.  Waited for something to happen.
            When nothing changed after several minutes, he stripped out of the gore soaked clothes and got in the shower.
            Refreshed after a good scrubbing, Travis was back in his bedroom.  He ran his fingers through his stringy wet hair, a few locks falling back over his glasses, blocking out the view of his hideous creation sitting in the corner below the bedroom window for a second.
            A crushing black metal dirge poured forth from speakers hung around his room, vocals like demons conjured forth from the very bowels of the deepest hells, several down-tuned guitars laying down thick stuttering riffs.  It was perfect.  The gore soaked clothes Travis had changed out of were balled up atop his bed.  He had changed into his favorite outfit.  Black leather pants, a Marilyn Manson t-shirt, leather jacket with jingling zippers everywhere, combat boots.
            He had gone back to the shed after he finished with his parents.  The gas in the five gallon can had sloshed around at the bottom, but he figured he would not need a whole lot.  It would be enough.
            In sixteen years, Travis had never felt more isolated, helpless, or doomed.  He sat and brooded, flinching every time he looked around him.  Tears of madness leaked from his eyes.  A few candles strategically placed on the windowsill and headboard described otherworldly patterns on the otherwise night-darkened room.  The bloated, jigsaw smile of the jack o' lantern sat dark and oozing beneath the window.  For the last fifteen minutes, Travis had contemplated his next move, but he had been unable to stir himself into action.  His ass simply refused to detach itself from the carpet in his spot in the opposite corner of the room, no matter how badly he needed to act.
            He stared fearfully at Jackass, saw it leering its demonic grin at him, and a fit of chills coruscated through his spinal fluid.
            It was Halloween night, and darkness had fallen.  In his neighborhood, trick-or-treating had just begun, and droves of children would come knocking at the front door any minute.  Time had run out.  The night was already alive with the laughter of so many children.  The shouts of joy and wild abandon, as the children made their merry way through form house to house, dragged like fingernails across so many blackboards in Travis's brain.
            He wished more than anything that he could trade places with one of those kids.  He longed to know their innocence, for his was lost.
            Somewhere out there, the twins would be roaming around with their friends, unaware of how their lives had been devastating while they had their night of fun.  Travis had taken their parents from them.

He was aware of how everything had gone horribly wrong, but he actively attempted to convince himself something could be done to reverse time and put everything back the way it was.
            Everything that has happened, I've brought upon myself.
            He peeked out the window.  The arc sodium street lights buzzed to life as twilight changed to dusk.  Smaller lights further illuminated front porches of the homes whose residents participated in Halloween festivities.  The wholesome sounds of children finally freed to gather their treats filled the chilly night.  They capered about out there, blissfully unaware of the atrocities that happened every day in the sick twisted world around them.
            Travis thought about the acts he had committed.  He was a murderer.  Not only had he killed his parents, he had mutilated them and stuffed their pieces in his jack o' lantern.  And what had it all been for?  But had that really been him?  He wasn't a good guy, at least he hadn't thought he was.
            Am I evil?  He could not believe it, but he knew it was he who had brutally destroyed these two bodies strewn over the length of his bedroom carpet.  Their fluids were spattered from one side of the room to the other by his hands.
            In the midst of this human wreckage, he had waited for something that was never going to happen.  He didn't know for sure what he had expected to happen once he had done the things Jackass had bid him do, but he knew now that there would be no triumph tonight.  He had been promised a new lease on life, a grand new existence, but the only world opening up to Travis was one in which merciless convicts raped little guys like him in the shower every day for the rest of their lives.  Jackass had lied.
            But had he?  Or had Travis just been lying to himself.  He supposed it didn't matter in the end.
            Jackass had remained conspicuously silent ever since his dad's brain had gone into its hand-carved cranium.
            Had it ever really talked to him at all?
            He glanced furtively around, seeking the aftermath of the evening's carnage as if for the first time.
            Bile filled his mouth, and he stagger-stepped around his parents' corpses, ran down the hall into the bathroom.  After the contents of his stomach had been expelled, he felt a little better, but not much.  His throat burned, so he stuck his head under the bathroom sink and drank greedily for a few seconds.
            On trembling legs, he returned to his room.  He didn't want to go back in there, but he had to.  The end of all this was coming at him like a tidal wave, about to crash into him and deliver him to his fate.
            The smell of gasoline burned in his nostrils.
            After he had doused his bloody clothes and bed, there was a little bit of gas left in the can.  He now opened the lid and poured the remaining fuel on his head.
            An eerie hush had descended, like the room itself had been sealed inside a century's deserted mausoleum.  Travis sat at the foot of his bed, in his newly christened kingdom, and consciously averted his eyes from the mirror that adorned the inside of the bedroom door.  The sight of his reflection shocked him. He quickly looked away.  Then he picked up his father's hatchet, averting his eyes from the blood and clumps of hair that matted its otherwise gleaming blade, and swung it violently into the mirror, sending thousands of pieces of glass showering down onto the floor around him.
            He had found a pack of wooden matches in the shed when he had retrieved the can of gas.  He pulled one of them out of its box now, and looked around at his room one last time.
            Then a peal of laughter boomed through his head like thunder in a mason jar.  Travis cried out, the pain driving him to his knees, his resolve dissipating like so much smoke.
            Foolish boy.  What are you doing?  You won't be ruining it all now.  I still need you to complete the ritual, Travis.  You're the last piece.
            Jackass laughed like a crazed hyena.  When the cackling finally came to an end, the jack o' lantern began to vibrate.  It looked bigger than before, and there was a tangle of green vines sprouting from underneath its bloated, bloody face.
            The jack o' lantern was raised off the floor by the new growths erupting from its every surface.  The vines twined around each other, tighter and tighter, until they formed a thick stalk-like formation upon with the pumpkin was lifted higher into the air, growing taller than Travis before it finally stopped.
            New offshoots grew outward from the stalk, one sprouting from each side, like arms.
            Come to me, Travis.  I need you to finish your job.
            Travis understood something in that moment.  This thing he had created, it was not his friend. It wasn't going to do anything for him.  He would have to stop it.
            Stepping over his dead father, he reached down and pulled at the hatchet that still protruded from his mother's face.  It wouldn't budge.
            What are you doing, Travis?  I have plans for you, boy.
            The thing was laughing again.  Its improvised arms stretch toward Travis, but they had not grown long enough to reach him.
            Travis tried again to free the hatchet's lodged blade, but it was no use.  He would have to tackle Jackass and take him apart with his bare hands.  He whirled around and tried to step over his mom's prone form, but his foot caught on her blood-streaked abdomen, tripping him.  His arms flew out in front of him as he fell, but it was too little, too late.  His face smacked the bedroom window, cracking but not shattering it, and his jacket met the fat black candle sitting atop the sill.
            An explosion of agonizing pain ripped through his head.  Travis didn't notice when the candle's fallen ignited his jacket, but he felt the sudden concussion of the gasoline catching light, setting his entire body aflame.
            He screamed and windmilled his arms wildly as he ran right into the waiting embrace of his monstrous creation.
            Jackass embraced the burning boy, smothering some, but not all, of the spreading flames.  The boy screamed and screamed as his flesh cooked; his head burned like a roman candle.  The bloody, viscera packed jack o' lantern face loomed in front of him as his eyes melted out of their sockets.  Its laughter was the last thing he heard as darkness engulfed him and the darkness took him.  

The fire spread fast.  Within minutes, it had completely engulfed the top floor of the house, and soon the shocked trick-or-treaters standing around on the street, watching the house burn up, had to clear a path for the first responders, who arrived, sirens blaring, twenty minutes after a neighbor had called 911.  
            The firemen bravely battled the leaping, crackling flames, hoping like hell they could rescue anyone who might be trapped inside the burning house.  As they focused their attention on the front of the house, the back door creaked open and, through it, something crawled out into the chilly October night.  Dozens of zippers jingled as it crept across the ground.  Its jigsaw smile broadened as it emerged from the burning house into the October night.
            It was alive, and it was free.

About the author:
Adam Light resides in northeast Florida with his beautiful wife and daughter, and their aptly named Walker hound, Walker.  He haunts a cubicle by day, writes horror stories at night, and virtually never sleeps.

He is the author of several short horror stories, some of which have been published in his first collection, Toes Up.  His stories can also be found in the anthologies Bad Apples and Bad Apples 2, and Dead Roses.

About the books:

Toes Up
Genre: Horror, Short Story Collection
Publisher: Corpus Press
Publication date: 9.11.2013
Pages: 192

TOES UP is a collection of six short tales in the horror and suspense genres, with occasional doses of dark humor splattered about here and there, as well.
            Ride along with a long-distance truck driver on a dark mission to appease his "Goddess" in TAKEN...
            Journey into the bowels of a shadowy agency at the end of the world in THE CONTINUANCE AGENCY...
            Enjoy the insanity of an appendage with a grudge in VENGEANCE BY THE FOOT...
            Hunker down for a long night during a brutal hurricane with Natalie and Mitch Whitley.  Which one of them will survive the night may depend on a father's love in SERVING THE SPIRITS, published for the first time in this collection.
            These are just a few of the delightfully demented stories to be found inside the pages of TOES UP.

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