Greater than Ever - Halloween 2018

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Redfin

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The sound of kids laughing flittered through the field. They were rough in their playing. Shoving, chasing, falling down, it all happened. But they were happy to get dirty with grass and mud stains. That was why Tom spent a lot of time finding and removing large rocks and old stumps from his land. The kids would certainly still get scrapes, but nothing serious.

Tom was an older man. His hair was graying. It was kept short, but still full. From long days out in the elements, his skin was worn and cracked. It was most noticeable around his forehead. Lots of squinting left permanent marks there. Calluses covered his hands. They were perhaps as hardy as his soles. Tom was still spry and strong enough to haul a wheel barrow down a dirt path over to the pens.

Two of the kids came over. They were ten and eight. Tom know that since he knew their parents, and they came over all the time because he allowed them to play on his land.

"Hey, Mister Grover," the older one said. His name was Rod. "What is that? It smells horrible."

Tom picked up a shovel to move around a bunch of sludge. It was a mixture of vegetables, meat and more. "This is feed for the pig. You boys want to see lunch time? Don't get too close, though. If you fall into the pig pen. I'm not going in there to save you, and those pigs will eat anything. Like little kids!"

Both children let out a mixture of laughter and shrieking.

"Maybe?" Moil said. Who named their kid Moil?

"Yeah, let's go!" Rod cheered.

Before they set off, Tom's phone jingled. He pulled off the glove using his armpit. "One moment." He scrolled to the newest message. "Hey, kids, you say 'totes,' right?"

"Uh, sure, Mister Grover," Rod said. He was trying hard to keep a smile down.

"Totes it is. All the way totes." Tom slowly typed out the message with one hand. "And send. Alright. Let's go."

He pushed the wheelbarrow all the way over to the pig pens. An unpleasant scent filled the air. The kids covered their noses and mouths as they got closer, but Tom was used to it already. Tom shoveled the slop into the trough, moving back and forth to fill the space evenly. Before he even let out a call, the pigs knew it was mealtime. They rushed out in squeal and crowded around the feeding trench. Tom continued shoveling food on.

"Ew, that's gross," Moil said.

"But you have to keep the pigs nice and happy," Tom said.

Rod went near the fence but he kept his meaty digits away from the ravenous pigs. "Mister Grover, what are you going to do this Halloween?"

"Are you looking for a sneak peak?" Tom asked. He had finished doling out the feed and was wiping his brow.

"Maybe."

"You'll just have to wait and see, but let me assure you, it will top the last years for sure."

"Awesome," Rod said, his eyes lighting up in anticipation. "You throw the best party. There's no need to go anywhere else!"

Moil was looking uncertain. "I thought last year was plenty scary already," he mumbled.

Tom laughed. "Halloween is what I live for nowadays." He looked towards his house. It was already decorated with giant spiders on the walls and tombstones in front. A witch was standing on the porch. Despite how busy it looked outside, the inside was empty and quiet. It was only him that lived there. "It's my favorite time of year."

His phone beeped again. "Hey, kids, do you think I should invite my new friends over?"

"Sure. They'll love seeing what you do to the farm," Rod said.

"Do I say my party is woke? Is that right?"

"I think you want lit," Moil corrected.

"Lit, of course." Tom let out a soft chuckle as he pulled off his glove again.

The boys ran off to rejoin their friends.

After Tom sent the message, he looked over to the trees. The leaves were changing color. The air was cooler. Night was growing longer. Everything felt crisp. That time of year was certainly back. He had a lot of work to do. The farmhands might help with planting and harvesting, but decorating the entire farm for the Halloween party was all Tom.

He finished his work. The rest could be handled by the staff. Tom went inside his house. It was dreary and lifeless inside. The wallpaper had faded in color. Most surfaces was covered in a layer of dust. It was easy to see which part of the house he used and which part he didn't. There was a lack of care everywhere. The floor and stairs creaked with each step.

"Darling, just wait until Halloween this year," Tom said. He entered a dark bedroom. A frail, thin figure sat on the bed with a swaddled bundle in its arms. "I have all these new ideas, and I'll make it even better than last year's. I'm so excited. Aren't you? He stroked his fingers across bony cheeks and entwined his fingers with a wispy hand. "Oh, I should go clean up first. I'll be back soon."

<><><>

Tom was driving down a dark road. Only the light from his truck lit the cracked asphalt. Tall trees loomed on either side trapping shadows between their trunks. The veil beyond was filled with creatures of the night. He was dressed in a thick jacket with a hood. Pulled up, his face was hidden away. A pair of dark eyes peered out looking for a suitable location.

He stopped at a point in the road where the woods was thinner. Before leaving, he picked up a pack from the back seat. In the bed of the truck was tarp and rope. Tom landed on his grungy boots. He trudged into the woods, slow and steady. He used a flashlight to make his way until he found a nearby clearing. It was good enough. Not too far from the road and an open space.

Tom took out a spherical device from the pack. It was a portable disco ball that flashed bright with ever-changing colors. Then he set up a radio, pumping up the sound on his dance track CD. The songs were what the kids enjoyed, meaning they were like noise to him.

All while he was working, no sounds of cars passed by. The road was a lonely one that people refused to travel. After he finished everything, he checked the time on his cell phone. It was almost nine, and he would have much longer to wait. People were rarely on time. There was no signal at that location.

Rather than stay in the clearing, he headed towards the road. The disco lights was looking good from the distance, and he could still hear the music. The space he set up had turned into a sphere of changing colors surrounded on all sides by closing darkness. The bare branches scraped and grabbed towards the light, but they were unable to reach. Sharp fingers remained hovering in the air wanting to snatch those that entered.

The last message sent on the cell phone was Tom inviting his friends over to a cool party. The recipient was a teenage girl named Sarah. Of course, when he sent the message, his profile was one of seventeen-year old Addie. Tom put away the cell phone.

Wind howled through the leaves carrying with it sounds of the night. Chirps and growls surrounded the area. The cold air grasped at Tom, trying to keep him down. The moon was high in the sky, casting pale light over the horizon.

Tom was there to get decorations for his event. He had to make things better. That meant bloodier, scarier, more realistic. He reached inside his pack on more time, his fingers wrapping around a handle. He pulled out a sickle. It gleamed in a sick grin underneath the light.

A car approached blasting loud music that shattered the night. Loud talking and laughing filled the air. Tom stood against the shadow of the trees. Sarah brought friends, as expected. There were four kids in the car. Perhaps a pair of couples. Tom's face became slack. He looked out at the group the same way he looked at something on the shelf of a market. There was no great emotion. He needed them to make his scene complete. That was all.

"Hey, you sure this is the place?" the teenage boy driving asked. He looked like the most physically capable out of the group, though it was tough to tell as he was wearing dark cloak for a costume.

"Yeah, it is," Sarah said. She checked her phone but frowned. She was dressed as Robin Hood complete with feathered cap. "Look, there are lights over there." She pointed towards the woods. "And you can hear music."

Two others were sitting in the back. The boy was dressed as a skeleton, which didn't work for him considering is large gut. The girl had on a tight blue cat suit with a eye mask.

"Oh yeah!" the girl in the cat suit said. "It's time to party!" She was already doing so and held up a bottle of beer.

They wandered off in search of fun and dancing. One of them wondered, "Where are the other cars?"

The hooded man slinked out of the darkness. His hand tightened around the sickle. He circled their car and listened to their voices. The sickle raised into the air. It came down hard, piercing through one of the tires. As the man continued his way around, he slashed through another tire.

"What was that?" a voice asked.

The four teenagers came back through the woods. They were had a look between confusion, annoyance and anger.

The boy in the dark cloak said, "Hey! What happened?" He ran over to the car. "Shit! Who did this?" He crouched next to the tires. "This has been cut."

"What?" Sarah said. Her voice grew several pitches. "No. Why?"

"It's your bitch friend, that's who. She set us up."

"No. Why would Addie do that?"

"Look around!" The boy swept his arms out. "There's no one here. The party is a dud." He took out his phone. "And we have no service."

The hooded figure stepped forwards with one hand behind his back.

"Whoa, dude. Who are you?" the boy asked. He raised a hand and kept the others back. His face was filled with suspicion.

The hooded man could see beads of sweat forming on his face. Fear shimmered in his eyes. As big as he was, the hooded man was stronger and faster. There was a flash of steel and a rush of blood. The teenager's dark cloak grew a streak of red. The rest widened their eyes in surprise. No one knew what had happened, but the boy was trying to speak. He could only gurgle. Reaching for his throat, he removed his hand to find blood covering the palm. He collapsed to the ground from a deep gash in his throat.

"What the fuck?" the boy in the skeleton costume cried. "What the fuck!"

The girls screamed. All three of them scrambled away, but grasping branches and rough terrain slowed them down. The girl in the cat suit had on heels, making her an easy target. The hooded man approached. The sickle dripped with blood at each step.

The girl stumbled into a tree. She reached out for the boy in the skeleton costume, but he already ran off. "Help!" she shrieked.

The hooded man slashed downwards. His blade caught her in the side, but the fabric of her costume partially deflected the blow. A slash ran along her torso, but she remained alive. He raised the sickle again. Swinging down, his attack found air. Sarah had pulled her friend away.

The hooded man took a long, even breath. He went into the woods, watching, listening, stalking. His long, steady strides were more than enough to keep pace with a pair of staggering teenagers.

The girl in the cat suit was still crying. "Help. Help. Don't leave me."

"Don't worry. Come on," Sarah reassured through gritted teeth.

Where could they go? The hooded man needed to catch up. It would be inconvenient if they got too far away from the road or if they got lost all together. He was able to follow the trail of blood and the noises of pain. Why were they running? They were going to be part of a wonderful experience.

The hooded man caught up with the two of them resting against a rock. The girls were panting hard. They yelled when they saw him, but no one was around to save them. Sarah stood up with her arms out. What was she doing? It was such a pointless gesture.

The hooded man raised the sickle. He continued forwards with an even pace. He slashed at Sarah. She avoided the blade but fell to the ground. Instead of pursuing her, he went for her friend. The girl in the cat suit was struggling to get away. Blood flowed down her side onto her leg. It was a shame to leave a job half-finished.

Leading with the point, the hooded man buried the sickle into the girl's back. It penetrated through her body. She wanted to yell out in pain but was unable to do so anymore. He wrenched out the harvesting tool, and the girl fell like a stack of hay.

"No!" Sarah cried. "Why are you doing this?" Instead of running away, she lunged forwards, still desperately trying to save her friend.

The hooded man knocked her to the ground with the back of his fist. He stood over her, casting a long shadow. The moon loomed overhead. A mangled, mutilated form would work as a Halloween decoration. The hooded man slashed down. She screamed as the blade plunged into the arm she tried to defend herself with. He repeatedly cut downwards, drawing out red chunks with each blow.

Her body stopped moving long before he was done. Blood coated the blade. It was on his face, his jacket, his shoes, seeping into the forest ground. Shredded skin barely hung onto meat. Shards of bone stuck out from the deep gashes. Her face was twisted in wide horror.

There was one final decoration to claim. The hooded man strode away. He made small markings on the tree to remember the location. There wasn't too many places for someone to go out there. The teenagers' car was disabled. No one would help him on that road, not for several miles.

He scowled when he found the last teenager. The boy in the skeleton costume was in his truck trying to steal it. The attempt was going poorly. The hooded man moved with silent footsteps. The dark, shadowy figure appeared on the side view mirror, but the boy was too busy to notice. Getting larger and closer with each step, the hooded man reached out. He opened the door and then tore the screaming boy out of his truck. He wasn't about to get the inside covered in blood.

"No, leave me alone!" the boy in the skeleton costume shrieked. "Get away—"

The sickle landed, cutting through the side of his head. The hooded man let out a satisfied sigh. The evening had been productive. He had several new decorations. To get them home, he unfurled the tarp in the truck bed. One next to him. One next to the broken car. Two in the woods.

Yes. The evening had been productive.

<><><>

Tom smiled as he took a stroll. The sky was darkening. The moon peeked out as clouds traveled. It was time for his Halloween celebration. He was dressed in ragged and torn clothes. His jeans was frayed at the bottom. His jacket was covered in dirt and blood. A hood cast a shadow over his face. In his hand was a sickle covered in chunky dark splotches.

He looked around at his work. The lonely path was lit up by lantern posts. It went around the edge of his farm meeting the forest at the edge. It was a natural desolate place that was far hidden from the rest of the property. He couldn't see the lights of his home or the rest of the workers preparing for the event. The path was something he decorated alone every time.

Something swayed from the trees. They were strung up by thick rope and left hanging high in the air. Their shape was humanoid. They were no longer human, of course. They were his decorations, his atmosphere, his joy. Their faces were covered with a sack, but pieces had been cut out revealing bits of pieces of the terror within. The hanging figures were wrapped in ragged clothes caked in dust. Blood dripped down from gashes deep enough to reveal bone.

The way the humanoid decorations swung in the breeze was majestic. They looked down upon those that went down the desolate path. There was more than just hanged people along the way. Sticking out of the ground was skeletal arms and legs. Piles of guts and gore were pooled in the shadows. Off in the distance, a red glow lit up a monstrous face. Everything was of the highest quality, as real as could be.

Tom strolled down the path taking in his work. The pall faded away as he rounded back to the main portion of the farm. Jack-o-lanterns decorated the entrance. The barn was set up for fun and festivities. Games and snacks were provided.

A smile appeared on the farmer's face. The first guests were arriving.

He stalked up through the shadows as the group was greeting one of the farmhands. It was his neighbors and a group of their children. "Yah!" Tom yelled as he jumped out of the darkness.

The kids shrieked, as did some of the adults.

"Oh, Tom!" one of the mothers reproached. She let out a laugh. "You've outdone yourself once again. Just when I didn't think you could after last year."

"It does take a lot of planning, Mary," Tom said. He welcomed the group.

Some of the kids recoiled from the blood on his body. Others came forwards to get a better look.

"How do you get the blood to so real?" Mary said.

Tom smirked and patted a splatter on his chest. "Mix in a bit of corn starch. But not too much or it will be too thick." He backed up and spread out his arms with the sickle slicing through the air. "Welcome one and all to a most fiendish night. Won't you take a ride you won't soon forget?" He waved towards a truck set up for a hayride. "Down, down a winding nightmarish path."

He backed away to give a view of the gloomy path that glowed with an otherworldly red. Tom helped his guests onto the back of the truck, but one kid didn't want to go. It was Moil, and he looked on the verge of tears.

"What's the matter?" Tom asked.

"I'm scared," he said.

"Really? You should be scared, but in a fun way."

"I don't think it's fun." Moil stared at the ground with his lips trembling.

The kid didn't want to go? After all that work Tom put into making things so fantastic? Tom's grip tightened. His face slackened. How could a child be so ungrateful? And the mother was just going to allow that? For a person to put in so much work, it should be appreciated. It was meant to be scary, meant to be over-the-top. How could that be bad? How could it be wrong?

Tom sighed. "Okay. If you don't want to. You can go up to the barn. I have games and snacks there. And if you change your mind later, the hayride will be going on all night."

Mary smiled. "Thank you, Tom. What do you say, Moil, do you want some sweets? But not too much."

"Yes," the child said.

Tom checked to make certain everyone was seated. He went up to the driver. "Alright, Miguel. We're ready." He watched as the first guests were off to experience his path of nightmares.

Tom walked over to a stack of hay next to the entrance of the path. A picture was sitting on top a bed of gysophila flowers. The woman in the picture looked out at everyone that passed. She had a radiant glow that softened her features. Her eyes were wide and earnest, full of hope. "There they go, Darling. I think this year is going to be fantastic."

"Who is that?" Moil asked.

"Ah. This is, was my wife." Tom sat down next to the picture. "She died a long time ago. I do these extravagant celebrations for her. My wife loved Halloween. She would have wanted this."

Mary gave a sad sigh. "Come on, Moil. Let's not disturb Mister Grover too much. Let's go to the barn, okay?"

"Okay!" Moil said.

Tom smiled as the mother and son went off. More guests were arriving, so he had more work to do. "I hope you enjoy yourself," he said to the picture before hopping off the hay. His mind was already swirling with ideas for next year. It always had to be bigger, better and scarier.
 

Mystydjinn

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Understanding of Premise: A kind old man goes PLUS ULTRA for his Halloween decorations. No teenagers allowed.
Rating: 6/10 (Where did that skeleton come from?)

Your mechanics were good, your premise was solid, your elements fit together, but I think you chose the wrong perspective.

This was freaky.

I really liked this story a lot. Nutjobs are always as much fun to write as they are to read, and I'm pretty sure I could see how much fun you had writing this self important nut too.

That said, fun isn't scary.

You did really well with establishing the social norm and Tom's motivations, but while Tom is freaky as hell, the story isn't as scary as it could be when told from his perspective. I was unnerved with the way you described the scenes and objects going on here and you ironically tapped into some personal fears of mine when you described Rod's fingers as "meaty" when he was making sure to keep them away from the "ravenous pigs."

I've heard too many stories of pigs actually fucking eating people alive, so you had a bit of an edge with that single moment alone.

The rest of the story played out great as well. I was chilled for those decorations and by Tom's methodical and focused assassinations. That said, I think I was too infected by Tom's mindset.

Those kids weren't teens, they were set pieces, and they had to look good for Rod and Moil.

Don't you fucking get it? Tom worked hard on this, you should be fucking grateful you stupid piece of shit!

WHY AREN'T YOU FUCKING SMILING?!

Jokes aside, the problem here was the perspective I think.

You spooked me, but only for a second because "I" was not in danger. There was no emotional connection to me and the teenagers that Tom murdered, just Tom. And while Tom's connections to me were handled splendidly, it wasn't enough to make me feel like looking over my shoulder for him.

You used shock value for horror in the physical act of the murders and Tom's cold matter-of-fact attitude about them, and that's not bad in any shape or form.
There just wasn't enough of it to get me. (And as I say this I worry about myself a little bit more)

Tom taking Moil aside and adding him to his decorations at the very end for being ungrateful I think would've pushed you up to a nine for me because I know the build up path you would take for it would be enough. Alternatively, I think that showing the murder scene for the teens from Sarah's perspective with more gore could have done it too without killing Moil.

Perfect honesty, looking back at it now I should've given this a 7 or an 8 but I waited until the last minute to read and rate everything so it's too late to change it now. In any case, all in all good piece, it just needed a few more dead kids or a bit more blood.
 

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