This is a short story written as part of my masters course. Enjoy!
Trick, Not Treat
When the electricity failed, Pat was plunged into darkness and was not aware of anything except for the suspicion of a noise out on the porch. He froze, hands suspended above the keyboard, not sure if he had heard anything. It was so dark in the windowless office that he couldn’t see any light at all. Not only that but, with dawning horror, Pat realised he hadn’t been saving the work he’d been steadily crawling through. When had been the last time? Just after tea? That must have been at least three hours ago. He just hoped the computer had backed up some of it. He hoped. Slamming a hand down on the keyboard he jumped as there was an answering bang from the porch.
“What the?” he asked the quiet room, his voice echoing. Getting up and walking like a recently dead zombie with hands stretched out in front of him he stumbled from the office and into the hallway. For Christ’s sake this was his own house. Why the hell didn’t he know that the hall table would be there? Limping a little from a bruised toe he shuffled onwards. Near the front door he heard a scratching sound followed by a thump. He thought back to last night and, sitting alone, watching Jamie Lee Curtis in ‘Halloween’, appropriate, he had considered, for the thirtieth of October. A classic. But he couldn’t help but smile, realising that just like the heroine he had yelled at last night, he was stumbling in a dark house toward the creepy sound. Luckily he wasn’t a young girl but a six-foot twenty something. Still, he knew that should he find a mask encrusted serial killer he probably would scream like a girl and run.
Reaching the telephone table next to the front door, Pat pulled open the small drawer and fumbled for the torch that he was sure he put in there a week or so ago, just in case. Letting out an impromptu cheer as he found it he switched it on. A weak beam fled out of the thin device, lighting a small section of the hall. Not brilliant but it would do. Okay, now he had some options, should he open the door, or should he just run and hide? In the circumstances Pat was fairly certain Jamie would run to the darkest part of the house and hide whilst creepy music led the killer to her location. Luckily he could hear no music, but he could just make out a scratching noise, like a man with a boat hook dragging the tip back and forth across the wooden steps outside. Rotating his shoulders Pat tried to dispel the tension that had locked up the muscles of his back, but as his hand reached toward the front door he couldn’t stop the slight shake that made the light wobble.
Quick, I’ll do this quick, then if there is anyone there I will surprise them. Pat froze, hand on the doorknob. What if someone is there? A tentative voice asked. Don’t be so silly, he answered himself, this is not a horror movie and the only scary thing happening is that you are talking to yourself in different bloody voices. Pat grinned into the darkness and pulled open the door, not expecting anything but ready for action. This meant that as he opened the door quickly and aggressively he was in a half crouch and ready to pounce.
“A hedgehog,” Pat muttered, looking down at the terrified animal that was scrabbling and trying to get away. Somehow the little critter had got caught in the boot scraper. Relaxing his stance Pat squatted next to the now frantic creature. “Now, how did you get in there?” he asked. Carefully he put down the torch and lifted the heavy wrought iron contraption, an unwanted Christmas present from some uncle or aunt. The hedgehog took off and was quickly out of the reach of the torch.
Pat stood and looked up and down the street. There were only three houses in this stretch; his own and the two opposite. Neither had lights on that he could see. From the house directly opposite he could hear the frantic screaming of a baby. The young couple were new to the area and only a week ago they had become parents. Suddenly, the door flew open and the new father shot out and straight next door, his own torch beam laying a hasty path before him. Strange, Pat thought.
All that went through Josh’s head was the need for hot water. The power had gone off just as he’d switched on the kettle to give little Bill his feed. He knew that perhaps bottle feeding was considered bad but unfortunately Maria’s milk had never come in. Until that moment as the power shut off, he hadn’t realised just how dependent their lives had become on the kettle and that power switch. Now Maria was in tears and pacing with little Bill, trying to get him to stop the panicky sounds. And it was all Josh’s fault. If he hadn’t been five minutes late then they would be, at this moment, sitting cosily on the sofa and giggling about Bill’s first power cut experience. They’d been doing that a lot; first wind, first rain, first blanket. Except that because he’d needed to watch the end of the movie, although he practically knew the script of the damned movie, now he was rushing to Mrs Cullen, their elderly next door neighbour, their only next door neighbour. Mrs Cullen was so old-fashioned that she hadn’t changed from solid fuel. Yesterday he and Maria had laughed at the old woman as they watched from the upstairs window as she spread ash over her back garden path. Now she could be a life saver.
Reaching Mrs Cullen’s door, Josh knocked. “Hello?” He paused, waiting for an answer. Please be in, he thought. “Mrs Cullen?” he called. There was an answer – a groan. “Mrs Cullen? Are you alright?” he asked and at the same time pushed at the front door.
Surprisingly, it swung open. Josh stepped inside and back in time. The whole place was caught in the 1940s, everything in drab browns. Yet he was surprised to see no stairs in front of him; his own and this house were meant to be carbon copies but obviously the insides were very different.
A muffled moan came from where he thought the kitchen was. He walked in and there along the far wall sat a black Rayburn. And from the warmth in the kitchen it was on. But there was no sign of Mrs Cullen.
A moan, from a cupboard?
Either side of the Rayburn sat what appeared to be two full length cupboards. They reached the ceiling and stopped about a foot above the floor. Oddly, the one on the right appeared to be moaning.
Yep, the right one was moaning, which meant it held an injured Mrs Cullen. Who had put her in the cupboard? Josh put the bottle down on an ancient table and took a stance not unlike Pat’s as he had opened the front door, except he threw open the cupboard door and was confronted by stairs. Obviously, without the light from his torch, the stair well would have been completely black. On the floor, directly in front of him and mashed into the stair well, was Mrs Cullen. Blood had seeped from under her bobble hat and her limbs appeared to be twisted, especially her left leg. Josh dropped to his knees and shone the torch directly in her face.
“No,” she whispered. It was a fragile voice very unlike her usual strident tones.
“Sorry.” Josh lowered the torch beam. “Mrs Cullen, what happened?” he asked, feeling for her pulse.
“Fell,” she groaned in obvious pain.
Josh found her pulse but it was quick and not as strong as he expected, but then his doctoring experience only extended to colds and holding his wife’s hand during labour. She had a powerful grip.
“Mrs Cullen, I need a phone.”
The old lady raised an arm and revealing, clenched tightly in her hand, a cordless phone. Then Josh remembered her saying that her daughter had insisted on getting one. Which of course was great if she fell, unless the power was out. Still, Josh took the dead phone and gazed at it.
“No power,” he said. “It won’t work.” Looking round he tried to see an old-fashioned phone. “The old phone…”
“Shit,” he said. “Look, I gotta go get help.”
Mrs Cullen looked at him and he saw the determination enter her eyes. “I know.”
Josh nodded and left, taking the torch. “I’ll be back in just a moment.”
Josh stormed out of the house and saw Pat standing on his porch. “Do you have a phone?”
“Yes,” he said, stupid question. “Why?”
Josh sprinted across the road barely missing a van that had to swerve to miss him, stalling in the process. For a moment he looked at the two men in the van and then hurried across the road. At the same time Maria came out of the house with a screaming Bill in her arms.
“Jesus!” the driver said.
“Fuck yes,” the passenger exclaimed.
Putting the van into first gear the two men pulled away.
“What do you think that was all about?” Simon asked.
“Dunno,” Frank answered. “Mad folk live in these rural places.”
“True,” Simon said looking at the commotion behind him in the wing mirror. “Genius plan though, mate. Bringing down a tree to get the electric cable. Pure genius.”
“I know, mate,” Frank answered, a smug smile on his face. “Should get a few quid for the scrap metal.”