Halloween Outfits & Xenophiles
By: Gregor Xane
I dressed up as Lon Chaney, Jr.'s wolf man for my first Halloween stroll without parental chaperones. I wore a flannel shirt, a pair of jeans, and a thin plastic mask with a rubber band that strapped it to my head. I was five at the time and deemed old enough to go out with just my two older brothers. This was the early 1980s, when parents let their kids run the streets, when trick or treat didn't start until after dark.
Brad, my oldest brother, led the way. My second oldest brother, Matt, and I trailed off behind him. We lived in an unincorporated area. No sidewalks, no street lamps. We traveled by porch lights and the moon. I don't remember most of that evening (or didn't until years later), other than it was fun and exciting. The only part that stuck with me was venturing down the long gravel driveway to beg at the doorstep of the house where my brother Brad said the 'business queers' lived. I didn't know what 'queers' were, but it did seem strange to me that three men lived alone in this old house without women or kids. This being Halloween, I didn't find it weird that all three men wore dark suits and sunglasses when they answered the door. It wasn't until later that Brad told us they always wore sunglasses and dark suits and always traveled in a group of three.
These guys passed out crumbly cinnamon sticks with no brand label on the clear plastic wrappers, and my dad wound up throwing them away year after year. At least, he threw mine away. Brad and Matt ate theirs before we got home from the candy inspection. They said the stuff tastes good. I never tried it. The 'business queers' scared me, and my dad thought their candy was 'suspicious,' and that convinced me I didn't want any of their stuff.
I learned the word 'queer' was offensive when, one night while watching TV, I asked my why President Reagan surrounded himself with all those 'business queers.' She was confused at first and wanted to know what I was talking about. Of course, I was referring to the Secret Service agents. I explained to her about the 'business queers' and she told me not to use that word anymore and that we shouldn't be going to that house on Halloween.
I couldn't stop us from going to that house. Brad wanted to go, so we went. The next year, I dressed up as a clown. I'd become obsessed with clowns. I plastered the walls on my side of the bedroom with clown pictures clipped from magazines and coloring books. Not long after Halloween, our family went to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily Circus and I got to see my first real clown up-close. That bastard scared the piss out of me, and when I got home I tore every clown picture off my walls, ripped them to shreds, and stuffed them in the trash.
But soon I covered my bedroom walls with again, with KISS posters and glossy photographs of Gene, Paul, Peter, and Ace. At the time, grocery stores carried KISS-related periodicals in their magazine aisles. There wasn't much text. These were just pin-up mags, really. I cut all the pages out and turned them into decorations.
Not surprisingly, the next Halloween, I dressed up as KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. And, yes, my brothers and I went trick or treating at the house of the 'business queers.' Brad and Matt ate their cinnamon sticks, and my dad threw mine in the trash. It was a tradition now.
The things you worry about never happen.
The next Halloween, I dressed as a panda. My brothers made fun of me. And now that I think back and can see my dad's face, I don't think he approved of my costume choice either. My mom thought I was adorable and was probably relieved that I wasn't going out dressed like Alice Cooper.
And, yes, yes, we begged on the doorstep of those 'business queers' again. We walked off with cinnamon sticks. You get the idea.
Well, now I'm going to have to jump ahead in time, over a decade, and take a major detour in order to explain how the 'business queers' are significant.
In my early twenties, I was in a garage band. We thought we were a mix of The Mothers of Invention and They Might Be Giants, but in reality we were obnoxious, pretentious jackasses. But, hey, we played all originals, except for a rocking cover of the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon theme song. I've been a Spidey fan since seeing him for the first time on The Electric Company. Anyway, it was around this time that you couldn't go to a grocery store without seeing the face of a big-eyed alien now commonly known as a Gray on magazine covers and tabloid newspapers. The Gays were all over TV, too. You could find Whitley Strieber's Communion stuffed into every mass market paperback rack in America. My band-mates and I became obsessed with the Grays, but we invented our own name for them: Tuttis. We played songs about Tuttis, wrote stories about Tuttis, and drew pornographic comics featuring Tuttis wearing wigs and sexy lingerie. Tuts were the punchline for all of our inside jokes. So, wen we heard the news that Whitley Strieber was going to be doing a reading a book signing at a Barnes & Noble about fifty miles away, we bought up a bunch of paperback copies of Communion and took a mini-road trip.
Streiber's reading wasn't great, but we were all excited just the same. We lined up afterward with our paperbacks in hand, except for our drummer. He handed over our band's latest album to poor Mr. Strieber to sign. The author of The Night Church looked over the homemade cassette tape cover design, which resembled a collage a schizophrenic with a spanking fetish might whip up, passed it back cautiously, like it was a live cobra, and politely said 'Um, I don't think so. This looks kind of funny.'
Now, he didn't think it was humorous in the least. He used 'funny' in the way your mom uses 'funny' when she says the milk in the fridge smells 'funny.' The rest of us got our books signed, politely thanked Mr. Strieber, and walked on.
Part of the reason we went to see Strieber live was to see if we could detect from his general demeanor if he was bullshitting the world with this alien abduction business. And after standing a few feet away from the man and exchanging a few polite words with him, we couldn't be sure. He seemed tired and nervous, but you'd guess he'd act that way whether or not he believed aliens were stealing him and his family away for way out-of-network medical procedures.
The night of the reading, I couldn't sleep. The next night, I tried to drink myself unconscious and wound up reading Communion. After that, I didn't sleep for eight straight days. I can't say that meeting Strieber or reading Communion had anything to do with my sudden insomnia. My lifestyle at the time was what you'd expect from a dingy garage rock n' roller who dreams of one day becoming a finished basement rock n' roller who can afford better booze. But, if I had to guess, my sleeping problem could be blamed on a combination of Strieber, my current lifestyle, and other life events that occurred around this time that I don't feel comfortable getting into at the moment.
Either way, I was a mess. I was seeing shit that wasn't there. Every time I nodded off for a second, I'd hear a loud cracking sound and a jolt of electricity shot through my body to snap me wide awake again.
I still lived with my parents, and they noticed their son had turned into a zombie. They took me to see someone, a psychiatrist named Dr. Benjamin Groper.
The good doctor asked me to fill out a gigantic diagnostic questionnaire that had me feeling suspicious of my fondness for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland; it contained three separate questions pertaining to this classic. We played word association games, and I told him stories about my childhood. We talked about my relationship with my parents, my siblings. We talked about sex, drugs, rock n' roll, my writing, the writings of William S. Burroughs. And eventually he suggested hypnosis to see if we could have a little talk with my subconscious to uncover the severe anxiety causing my debilitating insomnia.
Our hypnosis sessions led us back to my first Halloween out alone with my brothers, the Halloween of the cheap-o Lon Chaney, Jr. wolf man mask. After counting backwards up to full awareness from that fateful session, I had some new memories of that Beggar's Night, or rather, what appeared to be unburied old memories.
My brothers ended our trick or treating run at the home of the 'business queers,' just like I remembered, but instead of taking our cinnamon sticks and heading home, we accepted an invitation to step inside. There was a quiet little party going on. Three women dressed in sexy outfits, not much more than skimpy bathing suits, sat as still as mannequins on couches and chairs made of black glass and chrome. These women never moved. They spoke to us, but their lips didn't move either. We heard come-ons in our heads. Or at least it seemed like my brothers heard them, too. Loud classical music blared from wall-mounted speakers. The 'business queers' ripped off their suits like male exotic dancers stripping off tear-away tuxedos. But their flesh came off with the suits. Their muscle, too. And after shedding their skins like snakes, only Tuttis remained. Three aliens straight out of Whitley Strieber's Communion. Their appearance caused the motionless women to break out in fits of insane laughter.
I screamed as two Grays levitated my paralyzed brothers and swallowed them whole like pythons gulping down gazelles.
This must have been when Dr. Groper brought me out of the trance, because it's now the last thing I remember from that night. An impossible memory. It couldn't have happened. My psychiatrist agreed. He said these fantastical memories were a screen my brain had constructed to protect me from something far worse. He told me that I must have suffered great trauma that Halloween, and the only way for my mind to heal was to dive deeper, to strip away these false memories and to confront the hard reality underneath.
I never went back for a follow-up visit.
About the author:
Gregor Xane lives in southwestern Ohio. When he's not typing, he can be found in his workshop building dangerous remote-controlled toys. He's the author of the horror novellas Six Dead Spots, The Hanover Block, Loving the Goat (in Dead Roses), Doctor Proclivity & Professor Propensity (in Bad Apples 2), and the forthcoming Brides of Hanover Block.
About the books:
Six Dead Spots
Publisher: New Dollar Pulp
Publication date: 11.22.2013
Frank makes a startling discovery in the shower. He finds six strange circles of skin gone completely numb - three neatly spaced down the center of his chest and abdomen, and three more down his spine. His doctor takes sadistic pleasure in carving out bits of Frank's flesh and a perverse childlike glee flipping through hundreds of pictures of his interior. But when the tests come back, he's unable to make a diagnosis and refers Frank to a psychiatrist. Under guided hypnosis, Frank uncovers clues in a repressed dream, but his sessions on the couch are soon cut short when he loses his job and his health insurance. Now Frank is forced to solve the mystery of his six dead spots on his own. Armed with nicotine patches, pornography, sleeping pills, and a stack of books on lucid dreaming, Frank delves into the world of nightmares to do battle with the monsters lurking inside his head.
The Hanover Block
Genre: Horror, Bizarro
Publisher: New Dollar Pulp
Publication date: 11.2.2014
Living in the long shadow of a tragic accident, Marion struggles through his solitary suburban life. He's resigned himself to a static existence, to living and dying in a world where every house looks exactly the same. Then he notices changes in his neighborhood. Tool sheds and playhouses are cropping up all over, hastily constructed and set at odd angles. The nut job down the road builds an outhouse in the middle of his front yard, and the guy right next door is erecting two geodesic climbing domes, one nested inside the other.
People are doing strange things on their lawns.
It Came from Hell & Smashed the Angels
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Publisher: New Dollar Pulp
Publication date: 4.5.2014
Note: This story originally appeared in TWO: The Second Annual Stupefying Stories Horror Special.
Thanks to his big ugly mug, Ben Coburn always played the heavy in Hollywood. Yeah, his name was in the credits of a bunch of low-budget B-movie horror shows, but at least he could say he was in the movies.
That was a long time ago.
Now Ben sits alone in a trailer park listening to an old married couple across the way argue about money, just nursing a beer, waiting for something to happen.
But nothing ever happens. That pisses him off.
No, Big Ben Coburn isn't going to wait around anymore. He jumps on his motorcycle and tears off into the night.
Intent on escaping into a new life, he races past a field of scarecrows, barreling headlong down the highway toward a blazing inferno and a bottomless pit.
Mr. Tucker & Me: A Short Story
Publisher: New Dollar Pulp
Publication date: 12.12.2014
Mr. Tucker lives in the woods out back. He spends his nights in an abandoned recliner, watching a TV encased in a weatherproof enclosure. Hundreds of eyes flicker in the darkness around him - his followers - hypnotized by the flickering screen.
They watch and they learn.