This story is by Sandy Belford and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The breeze swirled around us carrying candy wrappers and multicolored leaves. That and shadows cast by the light of a full moon set an atmosphere perfect for trick or treating.
My 8-year-old son and I walked along with all the other ghosts, goblins, and hideous creatures. My thoughts drifted back to a similar night 20 years ago. The night was just like this, breezy, with a full moon, and it was beggar’s night.
My best friend, Tom, and I were here, just like these kids, collecting our hordes of candy, without a care in the world. We were a little older than most of the kids. Some townspeople thought we were too old to be trick or treating, but most wanted us there to look out for the younger kids.
I shivered when a gust of cool air, a warning that we were near the old house. The old mansion, a grotesque monstrosity, loomed in front of us. The path going to it, hardly visible, was overgrown with brush and trees. Peeling paint and broken boards made it appear empty and abandoned in spite of the faded yellow lights that glowed in the windows. Tonight, the lights appeared brighter.
Once beautiful, the house had a magical appeal that made it a major attraction in the community. People, young and old, gathered for parties and magic shows. But, that was before Mr. Hardy, the old magician died. Now, no one goes near it. Once known as Mr. Hardy’s House of Magic, it’s now known as Mr. Hardy’s House of Haunts.
The trick-or-treaters hurried past the gate that marked the entrance to the mansion. As I glanced at the gate, I noticed something strange. Some of the letters were missing while the remaining ones hung at varying angles. Rearranged to read “MURDEF,” the “F” was substituted for an “R.” My heart was pounding, thinking about Tom and the person who did this. We were not the only ones who knew the truth.
According to the newspaper, Mr. Hardy died of natural causes. But, Tom and I knew the truth. He was murdered because he tried to expose their crime ring and refused to practice their black magic. With Mr. Hardy gone, the house stood empty all these years. At least that’s what people thought until the voodoo doll was found on the sidewalk.
Thoughts of Mr. Hardy and the mansion plagued me lately, especially at night. Suspense was building as if something was about to happen. I couldn’t stop thinking about the voodoo doll.
Sammy interrupted my thoughts. “Dad! Hey, there’s Neal and Tom.
Tom waved. “Wow, Sammy! Look at that bag of loot!”
Sammy and Neal fell in step, side by side, lost in comparing their candy.
I glanced at Tom. When our eyes met, I knew. I knew what he was thinking.
Tom slowed, dropping back from the boys, and whispered, “I think it’s time, Bill. You know they’re still there. You heard about the voodoo doll?”
I nodded. “It’s been 20 years. It’s time we put a stop to it.”
“Meet you at the back path in an hour?”
Back home, while the family sorted candy, I strapped on my shoulder harness with my .38 and grabbed my black jacket. Saying I forgot something at the office, I made an excuse to leave.
As I got closer to the old house, I saw someone standing near a tree. It was Tom. I knew he had his .38, just as he knew I had mine, both prepared to bust this crime ring.
“So, what’s the plan?” I asked.
“I notified the captain to send backup. But, can’t say I have a plan.” Tom half-whispered. “Do you?”
Shrugging, I said, “Guess we’ll decide when the time comes. They’ll be expecting us.”
We cut between the houses, ducking into the darkness, making our way through the brush and weeds to the back of the house. The windows were emitting a dim glow of sorts, like they were moving, breathing. It was like the house was alive.
“Why do the townspeople never talk about this house?” I asked. “They act like it’s not even here.”
Tom said, “Do they even know what happens here? Black magic controlling their minds, making them blind to what’s been happening? How did we get so lucky or unlucky to have seen it?”
When we reached the landing by the back door, the glow in the windows grew stronger. “Do you feel that?” I asked.
“Yes,” Tom replied. “They’re expecting us, just like they seem to know all and seem to be in control of everything.”
Our eyes met as those words rushed through my mind.
“I’m telling you,” Tom half-laughed, half-grimaced. “It’s all part of his black magic, and it scares me. Haunted? Yeah. No big deal. I can brush that off, but not the black magic and the voodoo.”
“Well, here we are,” I said, as we came closer to the door. “No turning back now. You have your gun?”
Tom patted his side and nodded, “And a little something extra.” He pulled a small vial out of his pocket. My bit of black magic. It contained a black substance. I’ve done some research, and I have a little surprise for them this time.”
“Do you want to do the honors, or should I?” I asked as we stood looking at the doorknob.
“Let’s do it together,” Tom checked his phone. “Back up is in place around front. If they try to escape that way, they’re ready.”
We placed our hands on the cold doorknob, knowing it would be unlocked. Strange how the door was in such good condition compared to the appearance of the house from the street.
The door fell open effortlessly. I felt as if something was pulling me into the house. Tom must have felt it too because he took a step back.
Standing there outside the door, I resisted the urge to turn and run.
Tom touched my arm. When our eyes met, we both nodded.
“On the count of three,” Tom whispered.
Without hesitation, I counted, “One, two, …….”
But before I finished counting, we were pulled through the doorway and into the house. The door slammed behind us.
Standing in total darkness, I heard Tom whisper, “Hey?’
“Yeah, I’m here. Now what?” I asked.
Tom replied, “I have a lighter in my pocket. Give me a minute.”
Tom flicked the lighter and a flame appeared.
When my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw a portrait of Mr. Hardy, the magician, hanging on the wall before us. A big X was painted across his portrait. Sad to see that done to the portrait of an old man who did so much for the community.
We stood there, frozen in place, staring at the portrait.
Tom whispered, “Listen! Did you hear that?”
“Yes! It’s them!” I gasped as I felt for my gun. It was happening all over again. Only this time, this would be the end of them.
As the light flickered, Tom pulled the vial from his pocket. After removing the lid, he poured the contents into a puddle on the floor. Standing back from it, he mumbled something in a language I have never heard. “This is our last and only chance to stop them!” he said.
The spot of black liquid began to spread over the floor. As it spread, the floor began to give way, opening beneath us.
“Hurry!” Tom yelled. “Get to the door and out of here. The whole house will be swallowed up and they will disappear along with it. Gone forever!”
When we tried the door, it was all we could do to pull it open. We finally squeezed through the opening and ran for the path just as the house and everyone in it were swallowed into the earth. As if by magic, the ground smoothed out over where the house stood, hiding any evidence of where the house once stood.