Deena Warner

2008: I'd like to thank Trentina Porter for the story to accompany this card.

Halloween Card 2008

"Shadowed Life"

by Trentina Porter

For those who seek no peace of mind, welcome to hell’s self-wrought life. Those who've seen what lies hidden in pages of secrets well kept, shall never again see this world after they've slept. Once a year on hallows eve those with camera soon bond to a dream. Far from any sane mortal’s eye, delusions of pictures turned awry. No one comprehends what they've seen within that still frame of living horror. The ones that dare take pictures outside the sanctuary of a loving home seal their fates with a foolish hand...

Blankly my stare continued around the room, refusing to acknowledge the outlandish story that was being retold around me. What did they know anyway? Aside from a few small details, they weren't even remotely close to truth behind their words. Hell, I think the only delusions here were the ones telling me I could enjoy any type of celebration the night before Halloween.

Only one family—or so told by legends passed down through my lineage—had the ability to see creatures this time each year. This one family can take their picture on that fateful night, sending the monsters to places unmentioned, where they rotted awaiting a chance to once again escape into our realm. But until that picture was taken, these monsters fed off the mortals around them. Each death caused the ones who held the power to bind them into waves of anguish, as if taunting them to a fight they had no way of winning. The only way a win could be conceived would be after midnight on the 30th of October. Only during the 24 hours of Halloween could they send back the abominations before they evolved into a much larger threat. Within the moments I saw my father mutilated in front of me, desperately telling me to take a picture, every childish campfire story turned to reality. My 17th Halloween, these horrors revealed themselves as my past and regrettably, my future.

* * *

I shook my head in disgust as they finished this year’s newest rendition of the deaths that happen around this time of year. My husband then tapped me lightly as I continued to rant in my mind. If it wasn't for him, there would be no Halloween office party to attend. The thought amused me, turned my scowl into an uplifted smile.

“John, what are you doing? I would have thought you'd be more interested in apple bobbing then hearing these tragedies. How can anyone say that the deaths are caused by the insane?” I snuck in a small kiss as my question caught him off guard.

 “Now Alison, I didn't know they would recite that story again this year. I assumed the last two years in a row would have been enough for them.” He wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me closer. “Now are you going to relax and enjoy the evening or not? You still have a day until Halloween.”

A laugh caught in my throat as he spoke. Since I became 17, these . . . these . . . monstrosities have wreaked havoc in my life. Destroying my neighbors and family as they grew stronger and I, barely knowing the power that was held in my curse, watched as “animal” killings were reported. Two people had already been killed this year. I loathe the week before Halloween.

Trying to appease him, I nodded solemnly and slowly slipped out of his reach. “And that one day is why I have to go take the kids to my mother’s house; you know how I feel about them in the same town as me when this shit starts up. We've already pushed our luck this year.” John sighed and waved as he slipped back into the crowd of his coworkers. My lips pursed while I walked toward the entrance, mumbles of the photographer's nightmare still wafting around.

Getting home was pretty easy in our small town, considering everyone was at that aggravating party. How ironic people celebrate the worst nights of my year. As I pulled into the driveway the house was completely dark, aside from the flickering of my eldest son’s TV. Rolling my eyes, I quietly undid the locks and stepped inside. A strong smell of blood washed over me as I took in what I thought would be a relieving breath. Panic took control of every muscle in my body as I rushed through the house, flipping on lights and frantically trying to find my digital camera.

My middle child woke with frightened eyes as she met my own. I quickly hissed an order and shut the door. The further I moved into my house the stronger the smell became. Danny, my youngest, was shivering in the corner of his room as I threw open his door. His eyes couldn't lie to me; I could feel the fear radiating off his form, so much stronger then my own. Scooping him within my arms, I ran him back to my daughter’s room.

Closing the door behind us, I laid Danny down beside his sister. Fighting back tears, I turned to her. “Emma, where’s Alex?” I tried to sound forceful but my voice only came out as a whisper. “And I know you were the last to play with mommy’s camera. Where did you leave it?”

“I—it’s back in your room on daddy’s table, next to your big book of funny pictures.” What I would give to be six years old again, the fate she had and no idea of her future. A faint grimace shook my body as I looked at what I've gone through so far. What may possibly be added to my list of sorrowed nights.

“Okay. But, sweetie, you didn't answer my other question. Where’s your brother?” I smoothed her mangled hair as I waited for a response. I just wanted to hear something that brought down my worst conclusions. If anything, become ready for what I'll face when I open my own child’s door.

Emma burst into uncontrollable sobs, clinging tightly to my arms. “Mommy, no! You can't go find him!” Her tiny hands gripped me with all the strength she could muster. As much as I wanted to hold onto her, I knew better. Softly and slowly I pulled away. “The noises I heard from his room were so scary. I went to go see, and there was red everywhere.” She sobbed again, “Please, Mommy. I'm scared, don’t leave me.”

I held my breath and slowly got up from her side. “Stay here with Danny. I’ll be right back.” I glanced at a small glowing clock. 11:50. Ten minutes and I could save another human from a bloody end. I should just stick with mortal; I can’t even call myself human after the things I’ve seen and lived with.

As I left the only reason for my sanity alone, I wandered to my bedroom. If that thing was still here, I didn’t want to seem paranoid. Above all, I had to keep a level head during these horrific events, even if I lost something irreplaceable. I quickly took deep breaths to calm myself. Upon entering my room, I swiftly locked my door.

“Better safe then sorry,” I murmured. “Now where the hell is that thing?” Bolting to the desk I skimmed it carefully, moving everything aside that could have covered my camera. “That is the last time I listen to salesmen. Bulk is better then slim every time.”

Tearing open drawers, I found an old Polaroid. Film and flash. For once, I got lucky this time of year. Eyeing it for any signs it wouldn’t work, I let a tear fall. That’s why I had this, my father’s first camera. The clock on my nightstand went off as soon as midnight struck, causing me to jump and utter a gasp. Softly brushing my fingerstips over it, I switched it off, marking the beginning of my hunt. Whatever bastard got released this year wouldn’t last long; I was too pissed to let it walk freely.

Piercing screams came from the front of the house as electricity blinked repeatedly. A male’s voice I wouldn’t have expected home yet cried in reply to the electrical disturbance. “Alison!”

Springing, I pulled at the door handle, fumbling with the lock. “Jonathan! Come this way! Please!” I cried out as loud as I could. I couldn’t lose him, too. Pulling and cursing at the door, I felt my panic rise again. The door finally listened to my mental pleas and unlocked. Hurriedly, I followed the sound of his first scream. Looking for the smell of his cologne, I was met with charred flesh as my alternative. Static was all I could comprehend at first, but once I tuned in to the sounds, I heard something more. Steady breathing! He must be ok. Oh, thank god.

The last corner to the parlor room was all that separated us. The lights flashed again, and then the house went black. Frightened cries from my Emma and Danny hit me hard. I stopped; nothing passed me as I moved through the hallway and the door was firmly closed. I continued to assume it was just the lights that frightened them. Blue light illuminated from the furthest corner of the room. I instinctively raised the camera and took a picture of the eerie glow. Once my flash went off and the picture was spit out, the lights automatically came back. Turning my back to the room, I held the picture tightly, waiting for it to appear. Neither my husband’s voice nor any type of breathing could be heard. I didn’t want to see what had become of him. Truly I didn’t want to look at the image I had just taken either, but that was something I couldn’t help.

“No, no, no, no, no!” I feel to my knees and held the picture tightly. Sobbing and trying to control the urge to burn it, I laid it on the ground face down. “Leave me alone! I just wanted a normal life, my loved ones with me always. You damned fuckers just go away!” I took it back into my hands and then to my room, not wanting to see its hellish illustration again. I held it face down. I couldn’t even allow Emma, the next heir to this life, to see this picture right now. Before I could comfort them, I had to do my family’s job. As I hung my head and shuffled my feet to a now lonely bedroom, I passed them. Hearing two racing heart beats was enough to keep me ok through this next moment.

My room looked so much bigger when I entered it. All lights seemed dimmer, and the bed was as empty as my heart. Lost and alone, I found my way to the oak desk. Everything skewed the way I had left it only moments ago. Clearing off everything aside from my “family” album, I sat back reluctantly and found a quill and ink. Every picture of these creatures is captured in this book. None of them have been repeated so far, but this is so much more than a picture book. If any of these still shots we’re torn or burned, it would mean those creatures didn’t have to wait to be reborn. Nor would they wait for October to come out into our lives. Flipping to the next blank slot, I glued the picture in silently. It reflected everything I always feared would end up within these pages.

Shakily, my hand scribed 31 October 2008, just as my father had always done and I will teach my children to always do. A sob escaped as I looked at my pages in the book I pasted together. This year, my camera not only caught an obscenity but a murder. A wolf-like creature of blue energy glowered into my lens. White teeth to match the burning color of blue, but between those teeth were the charred remains of John’s head. Of course that wasn’t enough to send me into spiraling depression. The flash captured the wall behind him, which will forever be stained with red. His body twisted and contorted at the wolf’s feet, blood still dripping on to the carpet. What awaited me in Alex’s room could wait until tomorrow. There was no way I could handle it now.

As soon as the ink dried, I turned to my grandfather’s first creatures. 1928: the year he was able to defend his mother against the beast. Softly, I whispered my apologies to those I let down throughout my life. I’ve never been blamed for the death of anyone, but somehow I feel responsible. Each time I see these pictures, my grandfather and father drift into my mind. Everything they’ve said and done for me. Now, with all that’s happened, the one thing that’s been repeated more times than I could comprehend finally makes sense. “The day draws nigh that disturbs my serenity. For ev’ry Halloween brings forth an obscenity.” And it truly was every Halloween; it was never going to end.

No one in our family is going to have this lifestyle. I refuse for another around me to fall. Pulling out a book of matches, I began to cry, soon lighting one and placing it on the cover before I had a chance to rethink my intentions.

 “Emma! Grab Dan and get in the car, now!” Jolting around my room and theirs, I grabbed what I could and quickly followed their fleeing steps. My mind raced and my heart throbbed, but for what I had done there was no time to mourn. Bare feet sloshed across the dewed grass, causing Danny to fall. I picked him up and got him in the car just in time to hear a hundred howls come from my house. Thank god Emma was already in tight. No longer would I play the silent hero. My daughter and son wouldn't ever have to risk their lives to be one, either.

Without waiting for the car to warm up, we skidded out of the driveway. Looking back in my mirror, I saw the home I’d made with John go up in flames, our neighbor's house flashing brightly with blue. What had I truly done? I reached back and pulled Danny and Emma to me. Holding them tightly, I let go of the wheel as I accelerated. Sobbing and holding all I had left, I closed my eyes. If our bloodline is to defend against these creatures, then let the line end now, and so will end our world's suffering. My hands held their faces close to me as the world we knew fell to pieces for the last time.

* * *

Suddenly through closed eyes, I see an ending far different than what I expected. A broken breath filters through useless lungs. Before I let go of my last opening to life and enter into my own oblivion, voices sound all around me.

“Hurry, those things are coming here. Can anyone be saved?”

“The little girl seems mainly shaken and has a broken arm. The mother’s lost most of her blood, and the boy’s body is mangled and cold.”

I attempt to move, reach out and grab my baby, save her from the life I so desperately didn’t want for her. Nothing works, nothing moves. The men agree and take her alone. As the sirens fade into the morning's light, so does my will. 


Thanks, Trentina, for such a great story!