This is dedicated to my daughter Luci. I promised to read her a spooky bedtime story tonight, so I wrote one to read.
Eleanor crossed her arms and made a sour smile as she stomped through frosted leaves, causing a crackling crispiness, much like she felt inside, beneath her feet. Her friends had tricked her into going to the door of the empty house, only to run off while she knocked in futility. The empty streets of Halloween curfew had arrived, and she had about a mile to walk to sit at the candy-counting fire her mom was probably making. Her candy bag was heavy but not as heavy as her mind.
Eleanor wondered if she should appreciate the quiet that her abandonment produced. Her so-called friends had taunted her all night, ridiculing her witch costume, ignoring her painstaking efforts to make it. She had sewn black pearlescent beads by hand along the cuffs and hem. In the quiet, she no longer faced their mean spirits and judgment. The only problem with the solitude was that everyone knew better than to remain on the streets of Glennie Springs after 9 PM, especially on Halloween. The night was rumored to be unkind and dangerous in their otherwise sleepy Midwestern suburb.
Eleanor doubled her steps, causing a swoosh of her midnight blue crinoline skirt on top of the crunching leaves. Even through her ruckus, she could hear a crunch and crackle coming from behind her. It moved faster with her as if caught in her streetlight shadow, panting heavily now in contrast to her held breath. She felt air closing in around her right upper arm, and she prepared to scream, kick, and scratch the night that was about to swallow her until she heard the familiar double puffs.
Eleanor swung around, freeing her arm, to land eyes on Arthur inhaling his asthma medication.
“What are you doing sneaking up on me after curfew like that? I want nothing to do with you right now.”
Arthur’s eyes were wide, and he was paler than normal. “There is something else out here, Eleanor. I had to come back for you.” He pressed his index finger to his lips.
Eleanor lowered her voice in case Arthur was telling the truth versus extending her suffering with the ill-tempered prank. “If you didn’t leave me in the first place, I would have caught a ride with Sarah’s mom like the rest of you…and, we wouldn’t be out here after curfew.”
“I told them we should pick you up. You know how Sarah can be.”
“I do, but that doesn’t mean the rest of you have to follow her.” Arthur let his head slump, but quickly snapped it back to attention as a sickening thump followed by female screams telegraphed from behind them. He grabbed Eleanor’s hand to pull her off the sidewalk into a stand of unkempt bushes. Eleanor gave in without resistance knowing they needed to be on the move unless they wanted to scream next.
Eleanor dropped down into the bushes, pulling Arthur down with her, and found a way to lay flat on her belly in the dirt. She motioned with her head for Arthur to follow her along the line of bushes in a belly crawl. She did not cause this predicament, but she was committed to not getting thumped and torn by a Glennie Springs monster.
While there were no more screams, Eleanor could hear what sounded like gnashing and snarling closing in on them. The monster might not be able to see them, but the musk of teen years and fear combined would surely give them away.
The line of bushes led to the porch of a house. The porch light was off, a curfew standard, but this would hide them in the shadow of night so they could get to the door and hopefully find shelter. There were lights and motion on the inside according to the film-covered windows, a dirty lighthouse beckoning them out of the horror.
Eleanor pushed herself up into a slump as they emerged from the bushes, Arthur following, his front attached to her back. Eleanor reached for the door, placing three gentle raps on it while looking through the front window and catching the eyes of a woman who looked to be in her forties. The woman was angrily motioning two kids away as she locked onto Eleanor’s still hopeful eyes.
Eleanor mouthed, “Help us. Let us in,” hoping the woman’s motherly instinct would extend to them.
As their eyes remained locked, a heavy breathing, brooding shadow found some light to reflect in the window and on the porch, a hideous scepter.
Eleanor knew it was too late for safety as the woman shook her head and mouthed, “Run.”
Eleanor grabbed Arthur’s hand again, and they jumped off the porch, and ran in the direction of the sidewalk with Eleanor secretly wishing the streetlamps had the power to make the doom shadow disappear.
Eleanor knew better than to look back, but she could feel the weight of Arthur pulling on her. He was heaving and fussing with his free hand, probably reaching for his inhaler.
Eleanor screamed, “Arthur, not now.”
He was trying to push words through his erratic breaths, the monster’s towering body and foul breath of garbage and rot now on top of them, arms and claws extending over their heads at least ten feet up.
“Don’t look back, Arthur. Keep running,” Eleanor commanded, hot sweat droplets now streaming down her face.
Suddenly, Arthur was no longer behind her. The monster ripped him away, slicing Eleanor’s arm in the process, a fresh stream of blood gurgling from her. The force of the snatch and tear caused Eleanor to stumble, but she had enough momentum to keep running, her eyes locked forward knowing that you never turn into the terror. You keep running from it.
She would have been gone, like her cruel peers were gone earlier that night, if not for Arthur’s sickening cry, following by roaring growls from the monster.
“Eleanor! Eleanor, please!”
She stopped so hard, her body snapped back, something flooding into her core as her blood flooded out of her. There was a burning heat in her body, and words formed in her mouth. She could hear the words in her head, and they sounded like Latin words, only heavier on the tongue and more ancient. Eleanor felt wicked powerful as they formed, and a light now blasted from her body, releasing the heat with it. She felt her feet leave the ground, and she floated up about two feet up as her body rotated without her help to face the monster, Arthur now limp in its possession.
The creature was an indiscernible mass of matted fur and rotting skin with no recognizable eyes or shred of a face except for what looked to be a circular jaw full of mismatched razor teeth jutting in many directions. While it had large stumps that looked like arms and legs with swords sticking out at the ends, the four limbs were crooked in their alignment, only approximating the structure of a bipedal body.
It was about to reach for Eleanor with a free limb while it lifted Arthur to its jaw, when Eleanor released the words that continued to build on her tongue, freeing her of fear and lifting her body higher from the ground.
“Aximus, lunicus, domincus. Aximus, lunicus, DOMINICUS. AXIMUS, LUNICUS, DOMINICUS.” Eleanor’s voice built like thunder in a storm’s approach. Her body glowed brighter, and without reason, she reached her arms forward, the light extending from them, causing the monster to screech and howl in agony and drop Arthur. Eleanor involuntary flung her arm to the side, stopping the free fall of Arthur’s body. He was now suspended in air on his back next to her.
Eleanor floated towards the creature now flailing its upper limbs, unable to even howl anymore. More words built on her tongue, and before Eleanor could think, her voice boomed as if amplified with a distortion effect, “Exican, mortimax. Exican, MORTIMAX. EXICAN, MORTIMAX.”
With those words, the monster fell to the ground writhing, nearly striking Eleanor again with its sword claws. A black circle opened in the ground around it, and it made a sick wailing sound that pierced Eleanor’s ears, causing her to drop suddenly to the ground with Arthur. As the monster sunk into the hole closing around it, Eleanor thought she saw two neon green eyes, circled in black clumps of fur, staring back at her until the ground reappeared.
Eleanor could feel the searing pain from her wound now, and her body felt burnt in general, but they were alive. Arthur was now sitting up, shaking from the shock of it all. She saw his inhaler on the ground between them and crawled over to him with it, sticking it in his mouth and delivering two puffs. Within a few minutes, he was breathing in a slightly more controlled manner.
He looked at Eleanor as if she was a stranger to him.
“What was that?”
“I don’t know.”
“And what are you?”
Eleanor shrugged and rolled her eyes, “I don’t know, but maybe a thank you might be in order as I just saved your life.”
“Thank you, Eleanor. I didn’t deserve you risking your life for me after what I did earlier.”
“Well, you did come back for me after curfew. That’s kind of brave in a dumb way. And, apparently, I’m some bad ass, spell-casting monster killer.”
They smiled, temporarily forgetting they were almost torn to pieces by a furry, razor-mouthed demon of Glennie Springs.
“Do you think it will come back?”
“No, but it’s still night in Glennie Springs, my arm is ripped open, and your breathing still sounds stupid bad.”
“What are you, Eleanor?”
“Again, I don’t know, but I might be the solution to Glennie Springs’s monster problem.”
Arthur smiled as he pulled Eleanor up by her good arm. He removed the scarf from his Sherlock costume and wrapped it around her arm creating a makeshift tourniquet. He pulled his phone from his pocket to call for help. Eleanor knew she would never have to worry about being left behind again.