This is an entry for the 2013 Halloween Contest. Be sure to place your vote and check out other entries. Thanks.
"It's that offensive line, man," Gary said. "You can't do anything with a line that's in shambles."
I took a drink of my beer and nodded. "I wish they would've spent some money on that instead of those puny running backs and receivers they picked up."
Gary shook his head and looked away from the flat screen above the bar.
"Oh well," he said. "Another season already down the drain."
The bartender took Gary's empty bottle and replaced it with a fresh beer.
"Get him another," he told her, motioning to me. "Nah, I can't," I said. "I gotta get going after this one."
Gary made a face. "Jake, come on man. Hang out for a while. They're throwing a Halloween party here later. The band is in the back right now."
I gave him a weak smile. "I can't."
"Dude, my brother is coming tonight, and Dave and Toby... oh, and that chick Nicole that lives in my building is gonna be here. The one with the pink hair and tattoos?"
I deflected the thought of the beautiful punk rock girl by saying, "I thought she dated girls or something?"
"Just hang around a while," Gary said.
"Nope. I gotta get home. I promised Amy that I'd be there to hand out candy with her."
I saw my friend's expression change slightly. There was a glimmer of concern in his eyes that I did not miss.
"How is she doing?" He asked.
I shrugged. "She's okay, I guess, but she's still really down about everything. Seems like she hasn't been feeling good lately, though. I wish she would stay away from her aunt. She was supposed to go see her again today, I think."
Gary's brow furrowed. "What's so bad about that?"
"Her Aunt Mary is a bit of a cook," I said with a sigh. "I don't know, she's just really superstitious. Mary always comes up with these ridiculous home remedies for all kinds of things."
"And she has a home remedy for... for Amy?"
I shook my head. "That's pretty doubtful. And I wish she would quit filling my wife's head full of false hope and garbage."
"Wait," Gary said, his eyes hazy with thought. "That's the old woman that has all that voodoo looking shit in her house, right? The one that always wears dresses and charm necklaces and stuff?"
I nodded. "She's a bit out there. Anyway, she's been coming around Amy for a while ever since we got the news. Hopefully Amy will snap out of her funk soon and stop talking to her."
The image of my wife's aunt appeared in my head. I could see her sunken eyes and thin lipped scowl. The thought of her joyless phony smile was enough to make me shudder. I turned up my bottle and finished the rest of my beer. As I stood, Gary rose and gave me a pat on the back.
"She'll come around, brother," he assured me. "It'll just take some time."
"A lot of time, I guess," I said. "She's probably waiting on me. I should hit the road, man. I'll see you later."
The sun was just beginning to set as I made my way up the steps to my front door. Frank was lying on the porch and rose to greet me, and I scratched behind the Husky's ears. I still smiled at the thought of his ridiculous name, one that Gary had dreamed up for him. It had somehow stuck.
"Hey, Frank," I cooed. "What're you doing out here buddy? Did Mama not let you back in?"
I opened the door and headed inside with Frank following at my heels. To my surprise, the house was completely dark and silent. Usually, Amy would have been in the kitchen cooking and singing along to whatever music she had on the television. It was a little odd even considering my wife's mood of late.
I poked my head into the kitchen and saw that Amy wasn't there. Her purse, however, was sitting on the counter near the door that led to the garage. It was where she always tossed it when she came in. It seemed as though she had just come home.
"Amy?" I called into the silent house. "Babe, where are you at?"
There was no answer. I looked through the sliding glass doors and scanned the back yard. Frank mimicked my actions like always. The sunset painted leaves nearly covered the ground. I had thought to find Amy sitting on the back deck, as it was her favorite place to relax, but she wasn't there either.
Turning from the doors, I looked up the stairs leading to the bedrooms.
"Amy!" I called.
There was still no answer. A hint of worry began to gnaw at my insides. I started to wonder if I would find her lying sick in the bed. She had mentioned something about feeling feverish the night before. I sighed and began climbing the steps when a sound made me stop.
I turned around when I heard the whimper below. Frank was sitting at the bottom of the steps. Whereas usually he followed me everywhere, he didn't seem to like the idea of going upstairs. His ears were back and his body seemed tense. His blue eyes studied me with a sort of anticipation.
"Frank, what is it, boy?" I said patting my leg. "Come on, you can come up here."
The dog rose, but turned his snout away like a reined horse and backed slowly away. It was strange that Frank wouldn't follow me. Normally, he was like a shadow to either Amy or myself. I shrugged it off, thinking that maybe he had messed up something upstairs and Amy had gotten after him with a rolled up magazine.
I reached the hall of the second floor, where the house seemed to grow darker. Where downstairs the warm orange glow of the sunset peered into the house, the second story was dull, cold, and grey. Just as I was about to head for the master bedroom at the end of the hall, I heard a faint hissing sound.
Tilting my head, I strained to make out the sound. Though I couldn't be sure, it sounded like whispering. Before I could make out any sort of voice or word, the sound stopped. Gears began turning in my head that I hadn't meant to turn as the hairs on my arm stood. My mind worked to puzzle together a logical reason for the whispers that I heard. It was almost as though the sounds had ceased suddenly when I took notice to them.
My voice seemed deafening in the unsettling silence. A high pitched ringing in my ears was the only response I received. Then came a whining sound from the stairs behind me. It startled me a bit when I heard it, but I recognized that it was Frank at the bottom of the steps. It took a few seconds for my heart to relax.
I was about to head down the hall when I saw movement in the corner of my eye. Shadows near the crack of the door on the carpet appeared and faded. Someone was in the spare room, the nursery.
"Amy, you in there?"
Just as I spoke the name, I heard the hissing of whispers yet again. It was impossible to make out what was being said, but it seemed as though the sounds were coming from the nursery. I turned and reached for the doorknob. The whispers rose like a gust of wind as I pushed open the door, then immediately ceased when I stood inside the room.
Amy was standing across the room with her back to me.
"Jeez, Amy I called for you like a dozen times," I said breathing a sigh of relief. "I figured you were in the bed sick or something."
My wife didn't respond. She didn't even turn at the sound of my voice. Amy simply remained still and silent, facing toward the window. She appeared to have been cleaning or working around the house. Her hair was tied in a ball of brown curls atop her head, and she wore only a thin pair of black tights and a long tank top. One of the straps hung from her shoulder, exposing the feminine curves of her back.
Again, she was frozen and silent. I had initially thought that she was looking out of the window, but the blinds were shut and the thin blue curtains were pulled to. Something in the air of the room was dark and chilling, a contrast to the bright blue walls. All of the corners near the ceiling seemed hazy and somehow congested by something intangible.
"Amy, are you okay?"
When my wife didn't answer for a third time, I quickly approached her and turned her gently by her shoulders. As her glossy eyes rose to meet mine, she blinked and shook her head. Whatever trance she had been under seemed to fade. Amy seemed coherent when she looked up into my eyes.
"Are you alright?" I asked her. "I kept calling your name and you didn't answer or move or anything."
Amy shook her head and rubbed her eyes. "Sorry, babe, I've been zoned out all day. I didn't sleep too well last night."
I cracked a smile of relief, though I was still perplexed by how odd my wife had acted.
"You were creeping me the hell out there for a second," I said with a laugh. "I didn't know if you were sleep walking or a zombie or what."
Amy let out a weak laugh. She brushed her dark brown bangs out of her eyes and sighed. I studied her curiously. She did look extremely tired. The the skin around her eyes was puffy. I couldn't be sure if she was actually pale or if the lighting in the room was playing tricks on me. A peculiar thought crossed my mind.
"Were you talking to yourself in here?" I asked.
Amy shot me a funny look and a grin. "Um, no, why would I do that?"
I chuckled and shrugged. "I... I don't know, I just thought I heard something before I came in."
"Cool," she said with a nod. "So we're both weirdos."
Amy leaned in on her toes and planted a kiss on my lips. She started to head for the door, but I looped her into my arms and pulled her closer. Our hips pressed close as my hands explored the curves in her back. A little smile formed on my wife's face.
"Was that the only greeting I was gonna get?" I asked. "Just a little 'nice to see you peck' and that's it?"
Amy cocked her head.
"Well, what were you wanting?" She teased.
Tracing my fingertip along her smooth skin, I gently pulled the loose strap of her shirt up over her shoulder as it belonged.
"I want the good stuff," I said.
She hardly had time to get the words out before I moved in to kiss her. Our lips met, and she invited my tongue into her mouth. We embraced for several seconds, our tongues dancing gracefully together. My hands began to wander down her slender back to the arch of her ass. Her round cheeks felt amazing in her silky smooth black tights. I could feel the familiar curve of her plump ass and the thin strap of the thong panties that disappeared between her cheeks.
Moving slowly, I broke away from her lips and moved to her slender neck. I nipped at the spot beneath her ear, which I knew would give her chills. I did feel a shuddering breath catch in her chest. Growing a bit bolder, I found the edge of her tights and slid my hand inside over the smooth cold flesh of her ass. I couldn't resist the urge to squeeze her cheek in my palm tightly.
I felt Amy push against me gently with her hands.
"Jake... Jake, wait," she breathed into my ear.
The tone of her voice was one of reluctance. I pulled away from her neck and studied her. Amy's eyes were downcast as she bit her lip, standing rigid in my arms.
"Baby, what is it?" I asked her, though I knew what troubled her.
Amy shook her head, her bangs fluttering on her forehead.
"I... I just... I can't," she stuttered. "Not right now, I'm... I'm sorry babe."
She turned away from me to leave. Something in my chest knotted up and hardened. I sighed helplessly and stretched the limits of my understanding even further.
She stopped in the doorway and turned. I licked my lips and wiggled my fingers nervously.
"You okay?" I asked. "I mean, I just didn't expect to find you in the nursery."
Amy's eyes fell from mine. Her lips tightened.
"Uh-huh," she mumbled, turning quickly and leaving the room.
I wondered what it had truly meant.
Amy shivered and scooted closer to me, pulling her arms in close. I leaned back and sat straight for a second, feeling the ache in my muscles from sitting on the porch for so long.
"It's actually really cold tonight," Amy said.
"Yeah, I'm surprised there were this many trick-or-treaters," I agreed. "Seems like there were a lot more this year. Should be about all of them though. Don't think anyone else would be out this late."
I shook the big orange bowl in my hand. There were only a few dozen pieces of candy left. The jack o'lantern beside me still burned brightly, its gaping grin casting shadows on the porch. Amy always loved Halloween. She carved pumpkins every year and dressed the house up to match the occasion, though I never held much interest for the holiday myself.
I glanced over. Amy was nibbling at her fingernail. For several moments she said nothing. Finally, she sighed and put her arm around my waist.
"Look, I'm sorry about earlier," Amy started. "I just... every time I think about it, it reminds me, and I can't really get in the mood with that in my head."
"I know," I said. "It's not your fault. I mean I'm not trying to pressure you, it's just that it's been a while since we've messed around, you know. I guess I'm just testing the waters."
Amy sighed. "Maybe things will be better soon, though. Mary was telling me today that I have to try to eliminate some of the stress. She's got this book that says I actually have a pretty good chance to-"
"Are you seriously listening to her babe?" I blurted. "You're going through a rough patch right now. I don't mind you visiting her, but I'm not comfortable with her filling your head full of false hope and superstitious crap."
Amy looked as though I had slapped her. I immediately realized how hateful I must have sounded.
"Okay, she's a little strange," she admitted. "I can see that, but I wouldn't pass off everything she says and does just because you don't understand her."
My anger flared for a moment and I fought down the urge to raise my voice.
"Honey, you can't have children," I said flatly. "I know that crushes you, and it's going to take some time to get past that. Hell, you may never get over it completely. But no special potion or soup or damn ritual prayer, or whatever Mary has been doing with you that's gonna fix that. You can't let her manipulate you like that!"
Amy narrowed her eyes at me from behind her bangs. "She's my aunt, Jake. She's trying to help me. Like she did when I had that heart problem when I was just a baby."
I threw a hand up in protest.
"You don't know that she helped that, Amy."
"Why are you acting like this?" She said. "She's not doing voodoo or witchcraft or some satanic ritual on me. Its not what you think, its about body chemistry and vitamins and-"
"I can't believe you buy into the stuff she tells you," I muttered.
Amy shook her head. For several seconds, she stared silently off into the front yard, watching a few leaves dance across the rest as a cold breeze blew. I couldn't feel the chill. I was warm with anger. The thought of such a crazy old superstitious woman taking advantage of my wife during her most vulnerable of times made my blood boil. It was worse that Amy had been so distant from me yet so close to her Aunt Mary, a woman who hadn't come around in years.
Amy's voice startled me a bit when she finally spoke.
"You can't believe anything," she stated bluntly. "You don't believe in anything, you don't have faith in anything, and you won't listen to anyone."
I looked at her. Amy's jaw was clenched firmly and her eyes were as cold as the autumn wind. She shook her head once more and rose from the porch steps.
"Amy... Amy, wait," I started.
"I'll be in the bed," she called over her shoulder. The front door slammed shut, leaving me in the cold beside the grinning jack o'lantern.
There was a hard knot of emotions deep in my chest that kept me awake. I shifted and fluffed the pillow beneath my head. No matter what I did I could not seem to get comfortable. When I grew hot, I would peel the sheets away, only to pull them over my body moments later.
I could feel the warmth from Amy's back inches from my own. Part of me wanted to put my arms around her and hold her close, but another part felt like shaking her and forcing her to listen to reason. I was tossed between tides of anger and empathy. For all the emotion welling up inside, I did nothing.
My eyes were drawn as they always were to the tiny green light. The small bulb on the smoke alarm above the bedroom door was the only light at all in the darkness. No matter how much I tried to stare into the soothing black, my gaze was drawn inevitably back to the green glow cast upon the door. Though faint, it was a beacon to my eyes.
In my head a chorus of voices swirled like a storm, colliding and overlapping one another. There was the desperate reasoning of Amy as she struggled to cope with the terrible misfortune she had been dealt. It seemed to me that I had lost the old Amy. She had been replaced by the worrisome, tired, and empty woman that she was now. I would always be there for her. I would never abandon her, yet it seemed that there was nothing I could say that would make her listen. It made me feel helpless.
The withered creaking voice of Mary haunted my mind as well. Everything about her was unsettling, from her piercing glass like eyes to her false crooked smile. The things that she believed and practiced were almost pagan and just... odd. Even as I lay struggling to find sleep, it angered me to know that Mary was suddenly taking such great interest in my wife in her time of despair. She had always had some strange influence over her ever since Amy's mother had passed. I had always supposed that Amy saw her aunt as the last tie to her mother in some way. The sisters had been very close, and in turn, Mary had grown close to my wife.
"She's always been so special to me. And she's more perfect than she'll ever know."
I remembered her saying the words shortly after we had received the awful news that Amy could not bear children. It wasn't an unusual thing for someone to say about their niece. It was the tone that bothered me, the way that she had said it. As if she knew something that I could not. The old woman was sly and misleading. Everything she said seemed to mean more than she let on.
I wasn't sure how long I lay staring at that green light above the door. The knot in my chest was beginning to loosen, giving away to fatigue. My eyelids felt like heavy quilts. The tension in my body melted into the warmth of the bed. I set my worries aside. They could wait. I didn't have the energy to worry anymore. My every blink began to linger.
That crooked grin and glossy eyes flashed in the hazy void of my mind. She was laughing. No. Just grinning. But she might as well have laughed. It was the only genuine smile I had ever seen on her weathered face. Something deep inside of me shrunk away. Something about her was... wrong. I saw nothing behind those eyes. Nothing substantial. Only dark. Only weightless lifeless dark. Yet something did seem to stir there. Something peered back unseen in the blackness of those eyes.
My eyes shot open and I drew in a swift heavy breath. My heart was racing and my chest was cold inside. Still wrapped in the covers, I trembled. It took me a few seconds to come to my senses, realizing that I had dozed off. For how long I wasn't certain. I exhaled and rubbed my face. Shifting slightly my gaze was again drawn to the faint green glow of the smoke alarm, and to the silhouette standing in front of the door.
Blinking my eyes hard, I peered across the room again. I had thought it to be a result of my hazy vision, but there stood a dark figure at the bedroom door. I froze beneath the sheets and stopped breathing. My mind reeled as I tried to process what was happening. The only logic that my drowsy mind could initially conjure was that someone was standing there. Someone was standing there. It wasn't a dream. They were standing there.