This story is by Sandeep Aggarwal and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
My first week at the new job came to a frantic close. I sat back at my desk and took a deep breath. I made it. I started as an entry level analyst and climbed the ladder. I beat out two candidates for the project manager position. I cleaned off my desk and grabbed my coat. I just wanted to go home, crack open a beer and relax over the weekend.
When I opened the door, my jaw dropped. A gruesome looking Frankenstein stood before me. He took off his mask and laughed.
“You should have seen your face, Boss.”
“You scared the hell out of me, Tim.”
Tim was assigned to me as my personal assistant. So far, he lived up to my expectations. My team couldn’t function without him.
“It’s Halloween!” he said.
“Oh My God! I forgot. I was so wrapped up in the week, time slipped by.”
My girlfriend dumped me a month ago. She usually took care of our social schedule.
“I’m headed out to a party. It’ll be a good opportunity for you to meet people from other departments.”
“I don’t have a costume. “
“Here, take this.”
Tim handed me a black mask to place over my eyes.
“Pretty basic, huh?”
We walked to the parking lot. I zipped up my coat and raised the collar. My hair swirled around my scalp as I shielded my eyes from the twilight sky. I followed Tim out of the city then onto a dark, deserted, dirt road. The wind howled through the leafless trees as their branches swayed in a dance-like pattern, intermingled with their neighbors. My muscles tensed as I looked onward. Goosebumps popped up on my arms.
We stopped on the side of the road behind a long line of cars. I heard a succession of taps on my window. A tall, slender man dressed as a butcher towered over my car and motioned me to come out. No way! Tim was ahead and came over. He opened my door.
“Hey Boss. This is Dan from Accounting.”
“Sorry for the scare, sir.”
“Don’t do that again, Dan.”
We all laughed but my heart pounded against my chest. The pitch black sky didn’t help matters. The clouds hung motionless far above and cloaked the moon in a shroud. I could see an outline of a house and small lights in the distance. We walked together among the cars and other recent arrivals then came across a fountain with cloth ghosts and goblins strewn about in weird shapes.
“Whose house is this?” I said.
“It belongs to one of the VPs in Accounting. Dan’s boss.”
We went up to the porch and knocked on a huge, wooden door. A woman, wearing a long flowing robe appeared, her face disguised with a thick white paste, heavy mascara and dark purple lipstick. She spoke with a deep, voluminous voice.
“Welcome,” she said. “I’m Mira.”
We exchanged greetings. Dan stayed for a couple of minutes and spoke with her. Before I could say anything, Tim thanked her then grabbed my arm and led me through the crowd of costumed guests to the other side of the room. He had spotted the food and drink table right away. The house was decorated to the hilt with Halloween items. I didn’t recognize anyone due to the costumes until a couple of my team members came up and took off their masks. They then went back to join their friends. I grabbed a drink and a plate of hors d’oeuvres. I downed two helpings and chugged a glass of punch. My last meal was breakfast.
I mingled for a while and felt the alcohol loosen the death grip on my trapezius muscles from the stress of the new position at work. I took a leave and when I returned, the room had emptied out. Where did everyone go?
I looked for Tim, but he was nowhere to be found. The owner of the house had also disappeared. A guest scurried by and told me everyone had headed down to the basement. Mira had a surprise. She built a fun house with live actors in various gruesome costumes hiding in elaborate exhibits.
“Sounds scary,” I said.
“Nah. It’ll be fun. Let’s go.”
I joined the others as we descended dimly lit steps, covered by black and orange streamers. I didn’t see Tim and decided to follow the crowd around the exhibits. I extolled the sophistication of the decorations and realism of the actors’ costumes and behaviors. I cowered as I approached each new attraction. My hair stood on end. Carbon dioxide gas floated throughout the cavernous yet colorful room and casted a shroud on everyone. I shielded my eyes from the bright lights and at times propped them wide open in the dark corners. Shrieks of fear or laughter erupted from deep recesses in the basement.
I had just recovered from a frightful experience with a beast when I heard a high pitched, blood curdling, bone chilling scream. We all stopped in our tracks. A young woman ran out of a dark corner along the back wall of the basement in an awkward and incoherent pattern. As she approached, I could see a massive amount of blood from a deep cut in her left arm that formed a trail behind her on the adorned floor.
“Help!! she said. “A man stabbed me with a sword or knife.”
I tried to stop her to check the wound, but she raced past me to find an exit. As we went to investigate, the lights turned off. My nasal passages constricted and my gut wrenched from the odiferous scent of blood. We heard more screams. Out of the corner of my eye, a glint of light from a partially covered window bounced off the smooth blade of a sword as a tall silhouette of a man ran through the crowd and slashed limbs and body parts on his way out of the house. I tried to run after him but tripped on bodies that had fallen behind him. The screams then stopped and all motion in the room ceased. I could hear moans and groans and relied on the night vision cells in my retinae to guide me along the slippery floor.
I heard sirens as I reached the foot of the stairs. Thank God. A brave soul called for help. When the cops arrived, they located the fuse box and flipped the switch. The bright lights illuminated the horror in the basement behind me. Dead and wounded guests lied on the floor in weird and twisted contortions as if a choreographer placed them in that arrangement. I nearly puked as the paramedics cleared bodies off the steps.
The man with the sword had vanished. I followed the cops to a back room, and we found Mira and Tim tied up on chairs back-to-back.
“Thank God,” Mira and Tim said.
“What happened?” I said.
“Mira and I came down to turn on the exhibits. The actors were to arrive a few minutes later, but when we reached the last exhibit, I felt a sudden pain in my head as if a boulder crashed down.”
“A man then grabbed me and stuffed a cloth in our mouths and tied us up,” Mira said.
“Yeah, he wore a goblin face mask and vowed to return later, then shut the door behind him as he slithered out into the dark space of the room.”
As we all left that back room, the hair on my neck bristled as the paramedics wheeled out the dead and wounded.
I looked at Tim and Mira. They had bowed their heads in a liturgical manner. We survived. Many did not. My first week on the job came to a close. Dare I return for a second…
Seshadri Sreenicasan says
I imagine you put your heart and soul into creating this poem, which shows. You offer a satisfying social backdrop that highlights the sad reality of young people compelled by circumstances to live in a fear-filled environment,
Larry Bone says
This story is cool. It reminded me of a Hindi film where there is a party that goes awry in a high rise, not at a house out of town. It highlights how anything can go wrong or off the rails when everything seems routine. It is a good horror trope well played as the suspense or foreboding accumulates just as the protagonist is winding down from having gotten the job.