Happy Halloween, everyone!
What follows is my Halloween story. There is also an audio file at the bottom, if you’d prefer I read it to you.
I tried desperately not to let Elaine catch me glancing at her as the car wound up the road into the forest. Her dark hair fluttered on the pine-laced breeze that came in through the two inch gap in her window. It was a warm, autumn day and she was wearing a black tank top that accentuated some of her more obvious attributes and those cutoff shorts that did the same thing when she was standing.
As some Iron Maiden song ended on my mp3 player, a heavy guitar riff introduced Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” and I had to snap my eyes back to the road because Elaine turned to me grinning.
“This playlist rocks so fucking hard,” she said, nodding her head in time with Mr. Van Halen’s guitar as she reached for the stereo and turned it up just a little.
“Oh, yeah? It’s just on shuffle,” I lied.
I had spent an entire day carefully crafting the perfect playlist from songs by bands that I had either heard her talk about, or that she had ever mentioned on social media in the twelve years and two months that she had had a Facebook or the six years, two months that she had been on Twitter. I even went through every picture she had ever uploaded and analyzed each of her shirts to determine if it was a band shirt or not, to make sure that I didn’t miss one. I had almost missed Van Halen. She had seemed to be enjoying it, but until then she hadn’t said anything.
“Great collection, then. All over the place,” she said. I glanced away from the road and we made eye contact for a brief moment. She smiled. My heart palpitated and for an instant I was worried that I’d have a heart attack and kill us both – We’d never get to go on the date that I had worked so hard to plan.
Looking back to the road, I lied again, “Just a few of my favorites.”
I was enjoying the playlist, but I had never heard of half the bands before putting the list together. For example, what the fuck is a Thin Lizzy? Is it like an anorexic gecko? Whatever the name meant, she really liked that one, it was in the playlist a lot.
“So, Paul, how much further is this place? I need to make a tree into the ladies room.”
Knowing that she was into horror movies and ghost stories I had done some research and found a local ghost story that worked. Back in the ’50s, some professor at the university, Dr. Emery Benedikt, had a cabin way out in the woods where he, supposedly, did experiments with animals. Apparently he created what he called the perfect monster. The monster was called an enor. Legend stated that they could walk through walls and would sneak up right behind you before letting out a long, low, rumbling roar, just so you knew it was there before it killed and ate you. According to the story, a few got out and the professor moved to another state to get away from them. There were a few accounts of people having close calls, but nobody had ever seen one.
When I found the story of the enors, I knew it was my chance with Elaine. The plan was to go out to the abandoned cabin that had once, allegedly, belonged to old Dr. Benedikt. We would spend some time looking around the old cabin, freak ourselves out a bit while drinking a beer or two, then… who knew. I hoped that I knew. I hoped that it would be the perfect date, then she’d be in a frisky, playful mood and one thing would lead to another. Then we would date forever because she was the perfect woman, even if her interests were a little creepy.
“Not too far,” I said, looking at the GPS, “like, another 2 miles. Think you can make it?”
It had been an hour since we had left the apartment complex that we both lived in. That’s where we had met. One day that summer I had been using the communal barbecue with my buddy, Dave, when Elaine and her roommate Clair had come down to the pool. I never would have had the nerve to go talk to them, but Dave has never met a girl that he didn’t feel comfortable hitting on and offered them two of our beers. If it hadn’t been for Dave’s ridiculous spectacle of trying to get Clair to give him her number, I never would have had anything to talk to Elaine about. We had both agreed that he was an idiot.
We had seen each other a few times since then. She was always friendly and we became acquaintances. Then, one day, while I was reading through a bunch of her old tweets, I came across one that said, “I’d marry a guy that takes me monster hunting. #CuteDateIdeas.” So, that is precisely what I decided to do. How could she have possibly said no?
I pulled the car off the road into the pullout that I had marked on my GPS and we parked just after Rush’s “What You’re Doing” had replaced Van Halen not talking about love (though, to this day, I’m still not sure what they ARE talk’n ’bout). From there it was supposed to be a short hike down to the cabin.
As soon as the car was stopped, she hopped out, saying, “Don’t leave without me!”
I watched her jog into the bushes, her cute little cut-offs doing… well, what cute little cut-offs do. I got out of the car and pulled my day-pack out of the trunk. Then I stood there, awkwardly waiting for her to come back. I needed to urinate too, but I wasn’t about to go wander around in the bushes and chance it looking like I was watching her pee. If the other side of the road wasn’t a nearly vertical granite face, then perhaps I could have gone over there, but there was nowhere I could go. So I stood next to my car in the pullout, dancing back and forth slightly, that “Jailbreak” song from earlier ringing in my ears.
Just before she came back I realized the flaw in my plan. What was I going to do? Leave her standing bored in the pullout while I peed? I’d have to explain why I hadn’t just gone while she was going – it would seem so awkward. I didn’t want to be awkward.
I turned toward the car looking desperately for something that I could pretend I had been doing instead.
“Much better!” I heard her say behind me.
Making sure the cringe had left my face, I turned around, “Oh good.”
We made pretty good time on the trail, eventually coming out into a clearing with a small, decrepit cabin standing in the middle. It was perfect; straight out of a horror movie. While we had been walking, my need to pee had been manageable, but now that we had stopped, it felt like – if I were to hold it much longer – it would start squirting out of my eyes.
“Be right back,” I said shuffling back up the trail.
“Where are you-” she started to ask, following me, but I cut her off.
“Just gimme a sec!” I yelled over my shoulder, rushing into the bushes, already struggling with the fly on my pants.
I made it just fine and came back only moments later, feeling like a million bucks.
She had wandered to the front of the cabin and was peering into the dark through the open doorway.
“Sorry about that I had to-” I started.
“Yeah, whatever,” she interrupted, grinning and pointing at the door, “check this out.”
Someone had painted “Bewar the enormouse beest!” in crooked, angular letters across the door’s warped surface.
We both laughed for a moment, but then fell deathly silent when we heard it for the first time.
The roar seemed to come from everywhere at once. For all I knew it had. I hadn’t expected the stories to be real and, by the look of terror on Elaine’s face, she hadn’t either. We both stood in shocked silence for a long time, our eyes flicking around the clearing in front of the small cabin. I listened through the ringing silence for any hint as to where the beast might be. I analyzed the smell of the pine-laced air as I breathed, was it different from before? The trees that had been so beautiful and welcoming just moments before now looked like sinister, looming beasts.
“What the fuck was that?” she finally asked, her voice just above a raspy whisper.
“I think it was an enor,” I responded, turning to look behind me.
“Shut the fuck up. You put speakers out here or something, right?” Her tone was accusatory and amused, but when I turned back and looked her in the eye, the look I saw there was one of pleading. “That’s where you went just now, to turn them on?”
“I swear to god, Elaine,” I said, reaching out to take her hand; she gave it willingly. I wished that I had put speakers in the trees to scare her, that would have been brilliant. “I think we should go inside.”
It appeared the enor might actually exist and I – like some sort of dumb-ass horror movie cliché – had figured it was an urban legend and brought a girl out here on a date, so I, true to form, then made another classic mistake and decided to go into the creepy cabin.
“Aren’t they supposed to be able to walk through walls?” she asked. She was right, of course, but that didn’t slow either of us in our pace to get inside the cabin.
“Do you have a better idea?” I asked as we passed the threshold.
Somehow, even knowing that they could walk through walls, the musty, decaying cabin felt more comfortable than being out there, with all those trees peering down at us.
Fishing the flashlight out of my pack, she turned it on and slipped her hand out of mine then replaced it with the flashlight.
“Maybe we should just get out of here,” I said, “you know, make a run for the car?”
“Paul,” she said, “it’s like a mile, they’d get us before we made it twenty ste-” she was cut off by another roar. It was abrupt, sharp, near, but it was definitely outside.
She threw herself on the heavy, wooden door. The old hinges screeched in protest, but it closed with a solid thud, shaking the entire thin wall.
“Light!” she cried, “I need to see the lock!” It was still broad daylight outside, but all the windows were boarded over and, with the door closed, there was only a small amount of light streaming in through holes in the rotted wood and around the edges of the window boards.
I shot the flashlight up to the back of the door. There was a deadbolt there, which her hand had already found by the time I made it visible. It was rusted into place.
Another roar came from somewhere off to the right, immediately followed by one from the left. Again, they were both still definitely outside, but now there were two of them.
“If I find out that you,” she started pounding the palm of her hand on the lock, trying to make it move, “are fucking with me, Paul. I’m going to stab you, you understand that, right?”
Another shriek pierced the air from right outside the door, and she stopped pounding to look at me, “I’ll be impressed, but I’ll fucking stab you. I swear to god.”
“Got it,” I said, “here, let me try.” I placed my hand on the door, and she stepped back. The lock really wouldn’t move.
“Maybe if I,” I started, lifting the heavy flashlight and slamming it on the post for the deadbolt.
The light flickered off, and I heard her grumble, “Oh for fuck’s sake.”
A series of roars picked up just then from outside, one after another. I wasn’t counting, but there were quite a few of them, and they had the cabin surrounded.
I smacked the flashlight on my palm, and the light flickered to life for a brief moment, before turning off again.
“Leave the lock, Paul, they can walk through walls.”
“Right,” I said. It still felt wrong to not be barricading the door, or something, so I stood with one foot against its bottom edge.
“There’s got to be something in here we can use as a weapon,” she said. I could hear her moving around in the dark, but couldn’t imagine that her search would be very fruitful unless I got the flashlight up and running again.
My mind flashed back to that morning when I had been standing in my bedroom with an extra flashlight in my hand, debating if I should bring it. I had decided that if we only had one, she’d have to stand closer to me while we used it. Dumb-ass.
I unscrewed the battery cap, not sure what I expected to be able to do in there, and another series of roars rose up again, all around us, this time it was hard to tell if there were inside or out, it came from everywhere. I screwed the cap back on and smacked it again. The light flickered, then died just as quickly.
“Paul! Help me with this.”
I moved towards her voice. Her hand came up to rest on my shoulder to stop me from plowing into her. “There’s a table here maybe we can pull off a leg and use it as a-” she stopped when a single roar rose up from just behind me.
My heart freezing, mid beat, I spun on my heel and smacked the flashlight again on my palm. It flickered to life, but nothing was there. Then the flashlight died again.
“What the-” I panted.
“Paul, where are they?” she asked. I could feel her hand on my arms from behind.
“I don’t know,” I said, “but-”
Another roar shook the cabin, and I ducked, this one seemed to come from right near my head.
“Fuck this,” Elaine said, pushing past me. I could hear her feeling around on the door for the handle and moved to join her. A series of roars thundered through the darkness, from every corner at once, and I couldn’t breathe. I bound the two steps back to the door and clawed at it, the rational part of my brain gone: replaced by a puddle of useless terror. I was no longer looking for the handle, I was scratching at the door and screaming, needing so badly to be outside that I couldn’t focus long enough to make it happen. Elaine shoved me out of the way, then the hinges screamed as she tugged the door open. Bright light poured into the cabin and she tumbled outside. I scrambled after her. My eyes stung and I couldn’t breathe, but when we were outside, we ran a few steps then stopped to look back at the cabin.
What I saw there, took a long moment to process. There was a mouse standing in the doorway, which then stood up on its hind legs and let out a blood-curdling roar.
“Wait, what?” I asked.
Elaine started laughing. A relieved chuckle at first, which then cascaded into a deep fit. “Enor-Mouse Beest!” she managed with a gasp, then slumped to a seated position, clutching her stomach in hysterics.
It finally sunk in as another mouse joined the first in the doorway and they both roared together. Of course they could walk through walls, they were mice. Dr. Benedikt had created the perfect monster alright: it could walk through walls, sneak up right behind you, scare your pants right off, but you’d never see it, leaving your mind to fill in the worst details it could come up with.
I started to chuckle too, and sat down next to Elaine, my knees feeling weak.
When she finally got her laughter under control, she turned to me and let out a long sigh. “I thought we were just going to come out here and fool around a bit, this was way better.”
Another roar came up from the cabin, this one, much less sinister, now that I knew what it was.
My heart leapt into my throat, she had known those were my intentions and came anyway? Maybe I still had a chance. My eyes darted back and forth between hers, searching. Was this an invitation to kiss her? I started to lean in, and she pulled away a bit.
“No way in hell, Paul,” she said, standing up, “not after I just watched you scream like a little bitch.”
She dusted herself off, laughing again. I stood as well, not saying a word and looking back at the cabin.
“Let’s get outta here,” she said, walking back towards the trail.
I lingered for a moment, watching the cabin, then I noticed that five or six of the mice had made their ways out the door and were coming towards me.
“Wait up,” I yelled after Elaine, running to catch her.
Listen to me read it here:
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