“Come on, Love,” I encouraged my wife, Angela. “We won’t get back in time to set up before the kids start coming around.”
“Stop being childish,” she chided gently. “We’ll get home in plenty of time.”
Practical Ange had spoken.
The queues to the tills were like long, winding snakes, backing up into the aisles, causing me irritation and consternation. What I had in mind was going to be spectacular, at least for our street. I had obtained actual police cordon tape, pumpkins already dug out and carved, lanterns to be hung with spider webs, and so the list went on. I don’t know why I wanted to do it, perhaps I simply enjoyed the fun of the occasion; we didn’t do Halloween when I was young and I was probably trying to make up for lost time.
Finally, we were at the till and I handed over my credit card.
“How much?” my wife exclaimed.
“It’ll be worth it,” I replied, smiling at her.
“I guess,” she acceded, looking at me as a child that had to be humoured.
We fought our way past the other shoppers, many of whom didn’t seem to have any idea as to what they were doing or even where they were.
“Bloody people!” I mumbled to myself, elbowing my way past a knot of people who had simply stopped in the entrance to the shop, oblivious to those that had a mission. It looked like I had just missed some incident; perhaps there had been a fight as some of the milling masses had blood on their faces. “They won’t need makeup if they’re going out tonight,” I mused to myself.
Getting to the car on the far side of the car park I sighed with relief as I sat down. It felt like shopping was becoming more and more of a chore with each passing year. Maybe my temper was just on a shorter fuse. I turned to my wife.
“That was pretty weird, wasn’t it?” I observed.
“I think most seemed to have been on the pop already,” she replied, looking at her watch. “And at this hour.” It was only half past four in the afternoon and Saint Ange had spoken.
“Did you see those shoppers with blood on them?”
“I did. It scared me a bit, they must have been fighting or something.” She leant over and kissed me on the cheek. “At least we’re away from there now, we’re safe.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, still feeling unconvinced about our safety. It felt like something was in the air, something forbidding, malevolent. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
I started the car and carefully weaved our way out of the car park, dodging more drunks on the way. Suddenly a people carrier hurtled past me, its horn blaring as the driver thumped the steering wheel repeatedly in what seemed like extreme road rage. The other two people in it seemed to be arguing and exchanging blows, blood splattering the windscreen. I swerved out of its way and watched it careen out of the exit and across the road only to be side-swiped by another car travelling at speed.
“What the fuck!” I exclaimed.
“Don’t use that language,” my wife said, admonishing me for my profanity.
“No buts, just call the police.” Pragmatic Ange had spoken.
I braked to a halt and attempted to make the call on my mobile. A recorded voice told me to try again later. I tried again but with the same result. That was definitely weird but before I could give it any more thought I looked up and saw a crowd gathering around the scene of the accident; ghouls, I thought. Some were gesturing aggressively at the drivers while others dragged the occupants from the car. A brawl broke out and I decided that retreat was the better part of valour – things just felt wrong. With a vision of bright red blood splattered on the bonnet of one of the cars still burnt into our brains we made our way home quickly but carefully, dodging another couple of wildly driven cars. Sometimes there were just days like this.
Pulling into the drive even my wife sighed with relief.
“I’m glad that’s over,” she announced. She held her hand up and I saw that it was shaking.
“Me too,” I agreed and gave her a long hug. She was as upset as I was and I hated to see that.
Carrying the shopping in, I brushed off my earlier doubts and fears and pulled out the Halloween items to begin my annual ritual of setting up, all the while thinking about the shopping trip and how society was going to hell in a hand basket.
Outside I used the police tape to set up a pathway around the car and up to the front door. Sometimes I think I used the tape for its secondary purpose: to keep the kids away from the car. I love my car.
I set up the garden over the next hour not noticing that the sun had well and truly set by the time I was finished; looking around I was beginning to see people wandering around in the dusk, clearly getting into the mood by walking like zombie extras in The Walking Dead. What was it about zombies these days? What was the all-fire attraction of dressing up like one? If a zombie apocalypse actually happened I think I would want to be a survivor, not one of the undead. So far none of them had come close to the house but from a distance they looked pretty well made up, some looking very realistic. I shivered with enjoyment of the moment, wondering what they used to make such realistic blood.
At times like this I liked to pretend it was real, that the Zombie Apocalypse was upon us and I was a survivor. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a bit of a kid at heart, so my wife keeps reminding me, always with such maternal patience; I don’t think I ever heard her swear or show even a hint of frustration at the kid she had married. She was a saint, I reckon. As for me, I like to swear, it’s a great way of venting anger for me, sometimes I would do it without being told off – those times Ange was not within earshot. I loved her but sometimes I mentally begged for her to be a little less tightly wound.
I stood back to admire my handiwork; it looked great, especially the lanterns glimmering warmly, the spider-web effect dangling perfectly. I caught it all on my phone’s camera. Another year’s photos for my collection.
Going back inside I caught the delightful aroma of our dinner cooking. My wife may have abhorred swearing but she sure as hell knew how to cook. I walked into the kitchen and kissed her neck. Arching her back she leaned into me and we cuddled for a moment or two.
At that moment the doorbell rang.
“Already?” Angela complained, pulling away from me in irritation.
I sighed again. I always seemed to be sighing these days. Opening the front door I saw three kids and their mum standing there on the front porch, while behind them a line of others wound their way within the police tape confines towards our door. It was going to be a busy night.
At the front of the line the kids were done up as an assortment of witches and superheroes – how superheroes figured in Halloween I didn’t know. The mum was done up as a zombie. Shocked at her realistic outfit I stepped back in surprise.
“Nicely done,” I complimented her.
“Trick or treat!” the kids shouted excitedly. The mum remained in character and moaned, a little bloody drool escaping her mouth. That was a little over the top I reckoned, especially in front of the rugrats.
I held out the bucket of treats I had purchased and the children grabbed hands full of the sweets and dumped them into their collection bags, smiles on their made-up faces.
I offered an adult confection to the mum but she didn’t respond apart from giving a louder moan. Looking at her eyes I wondered with more than a little awe as to how she projected such absolute rage and ferocity through contact lenses. My wife arrived by my side at that very moment.
“Good Lord!” she exclaimed.
“Brilliant isn’t it?” I said, still mesmerised by the mother’s outfit and make-up.
Next moment the woman made to lunge at us, bowling her children aside. They squealed in surprise and terror and I was knocked out of the way as Angela reacted immediately to the threat. Reacting with a lightning speed I’d never imagined possible to the mother’s sudden aggression Angela threw herself at Zombie Mum. In response the mother focused her full attention on my wife and they grappled for a moment before the woman managed to bite deep into my beautiful wife’s shoulder, cutting her to the bone. Angela’s scream shocked me to the core, while blood spurted warm and metallic from the gaping hole and covered the mother’s face at the same time spraying the children and me with her ebbing life force.
With her dying breath my wife uttered her last words.
“Fuck! That hurts!” Relaxed Ange had finally spoken.
Copyright © 2016 David Kingsley Roberts