So, this year I have written five stories for Halloween and, as such, I will be posting all of them over the next couple days. Two will appear only for the day. One on this blog, one on my Tumblr. Then POOF they are gone. Hope you like them, and if you do, check to the right and you can find links to my books and you can order them online. I read this one last night at the Skelebration of Scares.
It’s always hard, the waiting, but then, without the waiting the meal wouldn’t be so sweet. The pursuit wouldn’t be so delicious. Waiting, watching, hunting and stalking, that is what those like me do, what we are born and bred to do, but when the moment comes, when the trap is sprung, well, there are few things better. No, no, there is nothing better. So I wait, because it is what I do.
It is the nature of the beast to hunt, to devour, and I am no different, though, it could be said that my methods are not the same as others of my ilk. For me, Halloween is the greatest night of the year, and what makes it great is the hunting. It has always, always been a great night for hunting. The night has always been full of magic but with the crispness of the air and the length of the shadows it makes things feel so natural for me, so perfect for hunting. Well, that and there is just so much prey. The streets are wild with the delighted screams of the children on Halloween night and I watch them run and shout and laugh and play from the safety of my hunting blind – a lovely place buried in the bushes near a thriving cul-de-sac. A happy place, a place of families, of children, and of laughter. I take so much joy from their joy. Watching the children on this night is a feast in and of itself and I could sit here for days just watching them, if that was all I was allowed to do. Ah, but I am on the hunt, and here for meat, so there is little time for partaking of the beauty of the season, as much as I may want to. I have other things to attend to. There is just such strong magic at work in the play of children, and I think it’s been forgotten, forgotten how wonderful and dangerous they are, but such are the times.
Even with all that happens on Halloween it’s the hunt that is the draw of the night and that is why I am here. I take up my perch, my blind, the evening of Devil’s Night, and hunker down into the hollow place in the earth I have made. For years I have come here, drawn to the simple happiness of these people as much as the prey, and for that time this place has proven to be very good hunting grounds. Ah, but when the prey dries up I will be off and away to another town, another place, and will make a new den but for now there is here, there is this, there is now. I hunker down in my blind and make myself part of the background by breathing with the wind and moving with the brush and waiting. I sleep through the day of Halloween, preserving my energy for the night and the hunt and when the temperature starts to fall I awake and make my preparations. One by one the street lights come on, and with them so too do the houselights, and as the sun slowly slips away the children begin leaving their homes to join the grim parade. From house to house to house the children go, their parents, those that come along, trailing far behind, too far behind, as their children rush around in search of candy and treats. Oh, but the parents, trying so hard not to crowd, trying to loosen the reigns if just for a night but never suspecting that there are predators out in the night watching their children, hunting them, and waiting to strike. Waiting to spring their trap.
Slowly, so slowly the night passes. I have been watching the street for hours, waiting for the perfect one, the one that has the right look, the right scent, and is at the perfect place for me to catch them. Waiting until it feels right. I have seen a few that fit my needs, that seemed almost perfect for me but still I waited, the hunger shaking my hands and making my stomach turn. Oh, but the waiting is the sweetest part. The waiting is the best part. It makes the hunt what it is. As much as the hunger may draw me, it’s the anticipation that keeps me here and stays my hand. Ah, and finally, finally all my waiting pays off and there, amongst the children, is the one I want – a ghost who has joined the pack but who is now trailing behind. The group passes me, then well back come the parents – two mothers, at least twenty paces back and dressed as witches – and twenty paces back from them is my prey, walking with a boy. The ghost is holding candy out to the boy, a cowboy, and the two walk slowly towards me, talking about how the night has gone. It is late and the streets are not nearly as crowded as things wind down and jack-o-lanterns are blown out and the celebrations move indoors.
I smile and can smell him, my target, the smell sweet like candy but sour beneath, sour with the scent of sweat and fear. I move into a crouch and watch as they approach.
The cowboy seems to sense something is wrong, his new friend offering more candy and speaking faster, trying to keep the boy there. The cowboy quickens his pace and the ghost matches it, laughing nervously as he looks around the neighborhood. Up ahead one of the other children calls after the cowboy and the ghost stops as the boy takes a step away, then another, then turns and runs after his friends, yelling to them as he goes. The ghost seems to sense me and takes a clumsy step towards me in my den and I can taste him in the air. I smile wide and take what is mine.
The ghost is the only prey of the night but he is enough, his flesh sweet with its corruption and his soul sweeter with its shadows. When I grab him from the bushes he lets out a startled cry but in an instant he is with me, in my blind, my den, my home, and when he realizes I am no mere parent, that I am no police officer come to finally end his crimes, when he realizes I am a predator just like him it isn’t a scream he gives me but a whisper, a whisper before I devour his head whole.
His blood is sweet on my tongue, his bones like candy, and I swallow him in three bites and when I am done and bathed in his scent, I let out a satisfied belch and scratch absently at my belly. As the children leave the streets and the lights go out one by one I stretch and stand up and am a great black shadow spreading my form out and out and out and moving to join the other shadows as they leave their dens to come out to play. There are a great many days and a great many ways in which to hunt for prey but for like as me the sweetest meat comes from a fellow predator, one that feeds on the young. Oh, we lesser demons, we creatures of the dark, are not much for sentiment but I love this night, and know I am not alone. I quickly catch up to my brethren and it is laughter, black and cold, which sends the world into uneasy sleep this night, as we make our ways back home, happy and well fed.