Memories of Halloween
from a Dark Fiction Writer
By: Keith Deininger
It's the small things, tiny fractures in reality.
October begins and I'm walking through the neighborhood when the first cold breeze of the season lifts the air around me and I realize there is no one in sight. The breeze subsides and a hush falls over the world. The streets in every direction are empty. There is no movement, not a single bird on the distant power lines. The colors of the dried leaves and fast food wrappers in the gutters are abruptly vibrant and unreal. The feathers on the carcass shimmer.
I am alone.
I am with friends and it is dark, our capes and hoods flapping at our backs, our masks pulled back to reveal our sweating faces to the night. We are smashing jack-o-lanterns, waiting until no one is looking and then bringing our sneakered feet down. That satisfying squelch and scattered pumpkin guts. One of my friends lifts one above his head, howls and heaves. The pumpkin explodes in the rocks.
I am in 5th grade.
Later that night, long after all the trick-or-treaters have gone home to their warm beds, their buzzing, sugar-overloaded brains spinning with the excitement of the night, I am still out with my friends, ringing doorbells and running away, all of us laughing. We came around a corner and there is a group of older boys at the end of the street. It is very dark, a single streetlight casting a dull buzz over the scene. They circle something, taking turns kicking the motionless mass. One of the older boys looks up. His mouth is filled with jagged teeth and he points at us.
We run and I later assure my friends that the older boy was only wearing a wolf's mask.
I am at a party, drunk as usual when a friend pass me the pipe and I make the mistake of taking a huge hit. I hold in the smoke, even though I know how this goes. Within minutes, I can feel my heart beating in my throat and my brain is tingling. I have to get away from everyone. I can't let them see me this way. I pass through the kitchen, surrounded by apparitions I know are college kids in Halloween costumes, but that have become somehow insidious, as if a cloudy veneer has ben wiped away to reveal their true nature, and stumble down some stairs into the dimness.
I am swallowed completely by the basement before I see the first bloody handprint on the wall. Sickly fascinated, I creep deeper, around the ancient furnace, where there is a small room. A knife protrudes from one wall, the point of its blade stuck nearly half an inch into the wood. Leather straps hang from the ceiling. Obscured in shadow, a large bundle of something lies on the floor. I stare at it, blinking, willing my mind to understand what my eyes see. There is movement and the bundle moans.
I turn and bolt up the stairs and leave the party. No one chases me, although it feels as if eyes are watching.
Years later, happily married and with baby daughter Violet's first Halloween approaching, life seems settled and domestic. I have a dream in which my daughter can walk, although she is still a 10 pound infant, and we are wandering through an ancient forest together. Something chases us. There's always something chasing us. I don't know what it is, but, although I'm sure it's dangerous, I'm not scared. I know that I will never let anything happen to Violet. After all, this is October. Fall has arrived. The world is growing cool and the plants are dying. This is our time, Violet's and mine.
Which is to say October and Halloween are a special time for a writer of dark fiction such as myself. But the truth is, for most of us, it never truly leaves our minds. We've opened ourselves to things most people don't notice, that most people, even if they do, will dismiss and ignore. We've opened ourselves to a vaster reality, and the truth is, for the dark fiction writer, Halloween is just another day in the life.
About the author:
An award-winning writer of fantastic and disturbing fiction, Keith Deininger is the author of several novels and novellas, including The New Flesh, Within, Marrow's Pit, The Godgame, and The Blood of Talos. He currently resides in the American Southwest with his wife, baby daughter Violet, and four dogs.