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The Halloween Project 2019 Story 15: Mischief Night(mare)

We weren't bad, not truly bad. We were rambunctious. We were wise-ass litle punks. We were obnoxious. We were stupid. We were bullies. We were mean. We were bad. But not as bad as they accused us. We did't do it. I swear to God, we didn't. It was 1964, political correctness was not yet invented. "I'm not coming to bail you out of jail." My father said it just as flatly and matter of fact as that. Then he raised his right hand and pointed his index finger at my forehead just three inches away. He lifted his thumb and curled his other fingers into a fist, making the age old symbol of a gun. Pulling the trigger he said, "Bang," just softly enough for me and him to hear. "Just letting you know. You run with those boys on mischief night and you're getting into trouble. The rest of the year you seem O.K., but Halloween, I don't know what happens to you. You lose your mind. Like I said. You find trouble, you get yourself out." Then he turned and walked away, leaving me with several predicaments. My friends and I, we learned from the older guys. You could say they taught us the ropes. It was a slow, steady escalation. We were now 13 or 14 or a couple were 15. The older guys from the streets had graduated high school or not. Some were in the military, most had jobs. A couple lived with their girlfriends. I think one was actually in college. Imagine that. A few might have moved away, but I also think they might be in jail. We started with the simple stuff. Ringing doorbells led to soaping car windows. That became toilet paper hurled over trees and houses. Next was dog shit in a paper bag set on fire on some old fart's porch. Then actually soaping the body of cars which we heard was really a mess for the owner. Toilet paper across a street between telephone poles. Eggs. There were always eggs, raining down on cars, houses, people. That always bugged everyone. And we laughed. We laughed and laughed. Then things took a turn. Feels like yesterday but it was a long time ago. Stupid people didn't lock their cars or we could get into them with a coat hanger. You could just slip the automatic gear into neutral and we would push the car out to the street. Someone would jump in and steer and we'd push it down the street, maybe around the corner. If we had enough guys, maybe a couple of blocks. Then we'd just leave it. We never thought of it as stealing. One friend of mind, Bobby, one of the guys who died that mischief night, he used to carry sand around in his pockets. He would open up a car's gas tank and pour a handful of sand into the tank. That was it, you could cancel that car, it was finished. I never did that. I never did a lot of this stuff, but I still paid the price. The police always tried to catch us and stop us. They'd get a lot of other adults who had walkie talkies or police band radios in their cars and they'd chase the heck out of us. But think about it. They had to stay on the streets, we would split up and run anywhere. We'd cut through alleys, run between houses, meet down by the black dirt wetlands. Sure, they caught some of us. But not often. Mischief night had been way over the top and we decided to continue the tradition. That night was dark and really damn cold. We always just dressed in dark clothes and threw on any old mask that was laying around in the Halloween box in the attic. We knew it wasn't Halloween but we acted like immature criminals trying to hide our faces. We rang doorbells and ran. We hucked eggs at houses and cars. Sometimes if we were feeling peeved we'd boost a car or other stuff I'm not going to mention here. It was getting late, some of the guys already went home. They were scared of their parents and it was a school night. I was scared of my father too, but we all do stupid things. Sometimes we ran in a pack of 10 or 12 but there were five of us left then. We crossed through the park and like I said, it was bitter cold. Wind rustling any leaves that were left on the trees. No moon out. Cop sirens out in the distance. Weird scraping noises in the tree branches. I swear, you could write a book. This was a huge park on the farthest edge of our town. There was a lake, not a pond, a lake. It was all town on one side, but on the far end, way passed the lake and the town pool and the big wooden structures where the Knights of Columbus and the Lions Club would hold their annual summer shit shows there was nothing but forest. This was where the train tracks ran into town. Four separate train tracks, and honest to god, hoboes and vagrants and other weirdos would jump from the trains and hang out in the forest. We would sometimes explore way into the forest and it was god awful. Campfires and empty cans of food, porn magazines and lots of empty bottles of booze. Honestly, scared the shit out of us. Ahead of us in the park we could see someone walking away. Not walking, kind of rocking with small steps, heading for the deeper part of the forest. Seemed like he was carrying something. There were five of us. Me, Bobby, Simon, Jay and Nat, for Nathaniel. We were still juiced from the night's excitement. Even though we were heading back toward town, we turned, picked up our pace and eventually got within 10 yards. We thought we were the mischief night kings. "Hey!" my friend Simon yelled, "what 'cha got there?!" We all snickered. It turned around and to this day I can't tell you what it was. It was as tall as a man or taller, but very wide, especially at the shoulders. It's head, if you could call it that was kind of squat. Not flat, just squat. It had eyes but they were set way to wide like it could see in all directions with a quick turn of the head. Man, I took a serious breath and said, "Let's get the fuck out of here." It was carrying a girl. We didn't know who it was then, but it turned out to be Becky Marston. She was in ninth grade at Lexington High. We all knew immediately that she was dead because her neck was wide open like a tin can that had been opened by your mother. Her head flopped back, barely hanging. There was blood dripping right there and then, down onto this guy, on this thing's long coat and pant legs. He dropped her like a stone. Like a boulder. And he moved so damn fast. "Holy shit," Simon barely managed to say before the thing caught him around the neck, pulled him up over his head and threw him so hard to the dirt that you could actually hear his skull crack against the park forest ground. A few blazing steps and it caught Bobby. The next day the police found Bobby, a little bit of him here, some over there, one of his feet still in its Keds over in the pond. The three of us blasted out of there. I'm telling you now, when you think something is chasing you, you have absolutely no idea how fast you can run. We didn't stop for a good while. But it wasn't chasing us. We had flown off in different directions. I pissed my pants twice and I couldn't find the other guys. I ran home and my parents called the cops. The park forest turned into an amusement park of cop cars, flashing lights, useless ambulances and news cameras. They found them all. Simon on the ground, his head looking a lot like one of the eggshells that we threw at houses. And Bobby. They found Bobby. Here. And there. And Becky Marson as well. At first they accused us. Of course they would. We were "bad", they all said. Bad seed. My father just shook his head in Juvenile Court. Our reputations were so bad already. They couldn't find footprints for this guy and our supposedly eyewitness accounts didn't sound anything alike. I guess in our panic we all just went a little crazy. We had to go to court and all that but nothing ever came of it. We did probation for being mean. And bad. But things went bad for all of us from that night. Nathaniel killed himself just a few years later. He hung himself on mischief night. Or at least I think he did. Hang himself, I mean. They found his body tethered to an old oak tree. Been there for a few days. It just seems very, very weird because where do you think he hung himself? Come on, you know. In the park forest. Jay didn't fare much better. Several years after Nat somebody stabbed him after he left a bar called Leon's. 22. That's how many times he was stabbed. No suspect ever found. Of course he was drunk. Jay was drunk a lot after that mischief night. Where did he drink? The same place they found his body. At one of the old hobo camps. And so here I am. Jobs come and go. Relationships come and go. I live in this crappy apartment downtown with food stamps and federal assistance as company. I basically talk to no one. I'm afraid to go to the store. I'm afraid to go out. I'm afraid all the time. And I never. Never. Go near the park. The End - Year Three

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