Here is part three and the conclusion for this short story, Shadow Trick or Treating. Check back on Friday for my memoir story about H.P. Lovecraft!
Shadow Trick or Treating
Mom killed a Shadow Man? They Trick or Treat for children?!
I motioned for my sibs to come out and they climbed out of the gutter dragging their candy bags in the grass. Michael lost a shoe somewhere and Ava’s trousers were covered in mud. We’d find it in the morning, I told him and promised Ava I’d hide her from Mom seeing her muddy pants, evidence of the gutter.
“It’s ok to go in,” I whispered. “Mom got the one guarding the house.” Ava gave me a funny look, but then she always did that. There was movement in the trees near the back door, but it must have been the wind. We bolted to the comforting light of the back porch. Mom got there when we did, coming out of nowhere. I didn’t even hear her turn off the car but I wasn’t thinking much about it then.
“Look! Here’s that Shadow Man.” Mom kicked a big black pile of cloth on the porch and we stood there in shock. Was it really dead? It looked like it moved a bit so we ran screaming by it.
“We’ll just leave it outside for the Shadow Men to pick up.” She said laughing.
Maybe she was making it up but sitting at the kitchen table in the kitchen light, we wanted to forget we had seen them at all. I didn’t want to know how she killed it, I was scared enough. We counted our loot and I got my share for standing watch on the rich street. Three Baby Ruth’s from Ava, Two O’Henry’s from Michael and a pile of Tootsie Rolls and gum balls. It wasn’t anything near what they got on that street but it was good enough for me. I didn’t want to go Trick or Treating again for a very long time.
As we chomped our candy, Mom leaned over and asked for a candy bar.
“Doesn’t dear old Mom get some, too? After all, I killed one of those creatures. “
“Aw, Mom, there’s no such thing as shadow men. They’re ghosts. We know you didn’t kill one, that’s just one of Dad’s old tarps for the tent. You don’t have to kid us.”
“Is that right?” She asked grinning. She made us all some hot chocolate and put us to bed but before saying prayers with us, she ducked into her room for a minute and came out with a top hat on.
We laughed again…more nervously.
I slept through the night, walking to four hundred houses wore me out, I didn’t even dream.
Mom chuckled over breakfast. “Darn old shadow men invade my neighborhood on Halloween, I don’t think they’ll do that again.” She left to get something in the basement, I forget what it was she said she needed. I didn’t think anything of it…then.
We guffawed when she was out of hearing range. Mom had really lost it, we told each other. Only kids see Shadow Men, right? Since when do grown-ups play kid games? Me, my brother and my sister looked at each suddenly, my brother’s mouth forming a perfect circle. I knew what they were thinking, was it a game? It was Mom who told us about them in the beginning, way back when...
We ran to the porch to see if the tarp was there. It wasn’t. Had the Shadow Men come for the body? At least we didn’t have to call the cops to come get it. We traipsed back to the table to finish breakfast when Michael dropped his fork on the floor and ran to the pantry to get another one. When Ava and I heard the ting on the floor of another fork falling, we ran after him. He was staring out the back window. We joined him in time to see Mom dragging the tarp and the body out to our garbage bin. I suddenly became aware of four little hands clutching my arms, two on either side of me. We couldn’t move, not one of us. We could only stare in shock.
I noticed her scarlet mouth first and then her flattened nose. Her skin was unnaturally white and her hair blew away in the November wind. She dropped the body and ran after the wig. For a moment she twirled her hands around each other in that weird sort of way. I could almost hear her say something in that high pitched language and make those slurping noises through the window but I must have imagined it. Then I saw the fangs, millions of them like curved jagged combs in her gums, on the top, and on the bottom. One leg flopped out of the tarp and the Shadow stuffed it back in but not before we saw Mom’s favorite shoe on the foot.
Michael regained his speech first. “We’ll pretend, ok?” he pleaded. “We’ll just pretend we don’t know and maybe it will go away. I mean, if we don’t say anything, it has to pretend to be our mom, right?”
Sheesh, little kids… “How long do you think it will do that before it eats us? You heard it, this is Shadow Trick or Treat for them. Look what it did to Mom. You can stay but I’m outta here. Grab the candy and run!” I yelled.
All I know is I ran way past the seven blocks we were allowed to go in the neighborhood. At one point I turned around and my sibs almost knocked me down running into me. Not bad for little kid legs, keeping up with me racing the wind, that’s for sure. Never mind carrying those bulging pillowcases, too. I figure that much candy will keep us for a week or two before we have to go home, we can keep watch from under the William’s porch. Maybe by then the Shadow Mom will be gone... that is, if they haven’t taken over the neighborhood.
Beware the Shadow Men!
photo credits: morguefile.com