Halloween Hotel by Dan Crawford

The boards of the back porch creaked under me, and the door slammed shut.  I looked back, not ready yet to believe it.  Everyone else had run away. But I had made it past all the features which had made the house’s reputation.

The taps on the window, so oddly irregular, had, of course, been that long branch of the cedar tree so close to the house.  An intermittent wind had made the taps and scratches sound almost like a message, but it was nothing of the kind.  Jody claimed she understood the code, but she was running too fast to tell anybody what it was.

The wind had also sent clouds scudding across the full moon, sometimes lighting sometimes hiding those odd face-seeming features behind the moonlit furniture in the cobwebbed rooms.  And cobwebs, of course, are merely cobwebs.

The other lights had been a distraction, but the flickering could be traced to a loose cord at the fusebox.  The dented old refrigerator, switched on and off by the same wobbly wire, had been the source of the odd “moaning”.  That shriek had been the cat.  (And everyone’s always singing about who let the DOGS out!)

The dark patch on the floor–perhaps a bloodstain!–was where Zack wet himself when the shriek tore at the night.  No one realized that until later.

The organ music was probably a radio also coming on at odd times as the wiring occasionally did its duty.  But I had no one to discuss that with because by that time Penny, the last of the kids who had eased in through the front door, had run back to it and out again, cursing and praying at the top of her lungs.

I alone had traversed the entire old house on a night lit by the treacherous moon.  Somehow I felt no sense of accomplishment.  On the next night of dread darkness, I would be doing it again.

I wish I’d died somewhere else.

Three of Dan’s fantasy/mystery/horror novels were published in the 1990s; he now blogs, posts poetry on YouTube, and waits for calls from the Pulitzer Committee.

Published 10/31/18