The Halloween Project 2022 - Story 8: Mr. Tricks (Part Two)
Last story of 2022. The last one will always have to be about Halloween. We check in on a recurring character from 2020. (Read Mr. Tricks Part One)
“Will you hold my hand?” it asked.
Brunswick, or Brun as his friends called him, now 16, was not as stupid as he was five years ago. The voice, a curdled cheese grater rasp, more a demand than an ask, stated:
“Take my hand, Brun.”
He remembered the past. A Halloween night, out with his friends when they were 11 and 12. Its body underneath the rags, like before, a squirming mass of undulations. Same decrepit, shabby, torn and ripped drapings that passed as clothing. A trenchcoat; worn, battered, grimy. The flattened, drooping hat. And the eyes, he always remembered the eyes or at least one, shattered and bloodshot. It would come to him in his dreams and Brun would awaken, trying not to scream. He had called himself Mr. something and then had said “Santa”.
“Mr. Tricks,” it intoned and reached out an arm.
Trick or treating had played out perfectly despite the fact that they were all too old now and they knew it but they couldn’t resist full size candy bars like Milky Way and Nestle Crunch. His pillowcase was heavy and he sighed knowing this had to be the last year. His friends were funny, fun and comic assholes. But the asshole part was becoming a bit much. They terrorized the middle schoolers and were polite to the toddlers and their parents. The night before, Mischief Night, they wreaked havoc all over the neighborhood. Toilet paper flew, soap smeared car windows. Eggs came out and were tossed pretty much everywhere. Old man Barnes house was a mess when they were done with it because he was just an old fart.
“You little bastards!” he yelled from the front porch and one egg almost caught the guy in the chest. Brun felt a little bad about that. “Don’t you come by here tomorrow night!” And they never did because Barnes never even turned his lights on.
Once again, Mr. Tricks, asked in its slow wheeze, spittle descending its chin, “Will you take my hand, Brunswick?”, arm out. Against the voice screaming in his head and against his will, Brun reached across the shadowed sidewalk and it took hold, firm and subtly fierce, but without pain. Fingers grasped. Brun noticed it had no fingernails and the skin felt like leather, but older, cracked and dried; fissured like a saddle hanging too long in the sun and rain.
They walked in silence down one block and then the next. A turn, then another, no one left on the street, most porch lights extinguished. Brun’s footsteps moved automatically, not pulled, yet not resisting. The tattered sleeve flashed images of muscle and bare bone, but no skin. The long filthy garment swept the sidewalk. The lack of any sound except their footsteps caused Brun’s heart to quicken.
Twice he looked up at it like a frightened child. A face appeared yet changed constantly. Beneath the extended brim; a youth, fresh-faced, then a cancerous, distorted visage, an old witch-like crone, a fang toothed bear, a baby, a cobra, a large worm, then a black and cavernous hole.
Brun’s second glance revealed its eyes, blackened without pupils, staring at him. His head snapped to the pavement and that was the last time he looked.
At their last turn of the street, both in tandem stepped down from the sidewalk curb. A large park loomed directly ahead the expanse lit only be the early rising moon and erratic streetlights to their backs. Brun knew the park, it was big and deep and stretched for many blocks into a small city forest covered with trails.
“No”, Brun said firmly, pulling on the grasping hand, that would not let go.
“No,” he said again, “Mr. Tricks”, he added.
Brun knew, without looking, that it was casting a long look at him. Its breath filtered across the arm length and smelled of rot and garbage laden with maggots.
“No,” Brun said.
“No,” the creature seethed and silence reigned.
“Keep my hand,” and it stepped forward Brun in tow without a choice left to him.
Forward, through the park, veering only for trees and shrubs, darker and darker still, they moved into the deeper forest. Brun tried to pull and it stopped never looking down, simply waiting. Despite Brun’s struggles it never budged, never swayed, never leaned, like a stone column fixed to the earth. Seconds like hours passed as they moved, finally approaching a pond.
“And so…,” it whispered and stopped.
Brunswick stared at the water. Symmetric moonlight wavelets, receding into tiny arcs, coursed to the shore. Miniscule black and white echoes of light on the water. His eyes adjusted, darkness welcoming sight.
And Brun saw the foot. It extruded from the water, a contradiction. Large Converse sneaker, white low sock, blue jean partially lifted to reveal an ankle. The rest, all the rest, resided below the waterline.
Brun tried to breathe and failed. He tried again and failed. Then a slow hiss of exhale and a grasp of air. It held his hand tighter now.
“No!” Brun shouted.
“Yes!” it screeched back, malevolent yet low.
“No!” and it jerked Brun’s hand into silence.
“Someday…,” it hissed, “Someday…you will hold another’s hand.”
(to be continued)