Nancy lifted the final bag from her shopping cart before carefully placing it in the trunk of her car. “Let’s see,” she said reviewing the contents jamming the space. “Pumpkins for carving… check. Candy… check. Decorations… check. Apple cider… oh, where is it? I know I bought—” She released a sigh of relief when she unburied the gallon jug. “There you are,” she said triumphantly. “Okay, looks like I got everything on my list.” She turned back to the cart. “And one thing that wasn’t,” she said with a grin bending over the cart to remove the last of her purchases. “You will have to sit up front with me,” she told the item shifting it to one arm in order to close the trunk lid. Then she set it down on the trunk to push the cart to the nearest return corral.
Walking back to her car, Nancy studied the one item that had not been on her list and she now wondered why she had impulsively purchased it from a second hand store in the mall. She had had no plan to even visit the small shop; yet, before leaving the mall, she had felt compelled to do so. After wandering around for several minutes, she had discovered the dusty figure tucked back into a dark corner.
Dark gray and black in color, the figure stood approximately three feet high. It wasn’t standing but squatting with skin pulled taunt over muscular arms and legs. It had a dog-like face with a long snout and horns growing out from behind its ears to wrap themselves into full big horn sheep-type curls at the sides of its head. Fangs could be seen peaking out from beneath lips curving up into a sinister smile and razor sharp claws grew from each of its fingers and toes. Arching bat-like wings protruded from its upper back giving the creature the appearance of preparing to take flight. But it’s most striking feature were a pair of piercing eyes that seemed to look right through her.
A spontaneous shiver traveled up Nancy’s spine when she lifted the gargoyle off the trunk. She placed it on the passenger seat then wrapped the seat belt around it to prevent it from slipping forward on the drive home. “That thing is really creepy,” she muttered walking around the front of the car. “Sure hope it’s not too scary for the trick-or-treaters.”
Frowning, Nancy stood looking out through the sheer curtain covering the large window overlooking the yard at the front of the house. The lights inside were turned off so she had no trouble seeing the activity at the end of her lit driveway.
A group of four children stood nervously on the sidewalk. By the costumes they wore, Nancy guessed there were two boys and two girls in the group. Two of the children, a boy and girl, were pointing at her porch and shaking their heads. After a short exchange between them and the other pair, one of the girl’s starting a hesitate walk up the driveway. After a few steps, she paused to say something to the others then continued her cautious movement forward while peering intently at the porch. One of the other children called out in fright before breaking from the group to sprint down the sidewalk and away from the house. Instantly, the other two children at the end of the driveway followed. Left alone, the adventurous girl spun around to chase after her retreating companions.
“Not again!” Nancy snapped watching the children disappear from sight. She stomped to the front door and yanked it open. “Not a single trick-or-treater has made it to the porch,” she shrieked at the silent gargoyle perched prominently on the top step. “Well, I didn’t go to all the trouble of decorating just to have the kids too afraid of you to come to the door,” she avowed snatching the figure up. Marching down the steps, she carried the gargoyle into the yard where several orange bags with smiling pumpkin faces sat. The bags, filled with fallen leaves, were of varying sizes to create a happy family group.
Nancy shoved the gargoyle in amongst the pumpkins then walked around to the front of the group to make sure it would not be visible from the sidewalk. Satisfied, she marched back to the porch and re-entered her house. Just as she was about to push the door shut, a peculiar sound floated to her ears. She paused, cocking her head to the side to listen more closely in order to identify the unusual noise. “That can’t be,” she muttered in confusion. “Wings flapping?” she commented, thinking the sound was similar to the beating of very large, very powerful wings. What kind of bird would be flying around here at night? she contemplated.
Nancy’s unspoken question was answered by a laugh… not the light-hearted joyful laugh of a child but a low, almost guttural, raspy laugh.
“Who’s there?” Nancy shouted rushing back out onto the porch. “Is someone out there?” she demanded as her eyes searched the yard for any movement. “Okay, I know someone is out here,” she called into the darkness after noticing the pumpkins, so recently neatly arranged, were now scattered about the lawn. Walking down the steps, her eyes continued searching for any pranksters. Nearing the pumpkins, she saw that the leaf-filled bags hadn’t just been tossed around but had been ripped open. “Why did you do this?” she shouted in distress then knelt onto the grass to attempt to reform the damaged pumpkins.
Finally, she gave up on the impossible task. Pushing up off the ground, she glared into the dark shadows surrounding her yard. “Halloween is for the younger kids, not you hooligans,” she declared to those she believed must be neighborhood teenagers hiding in the shadows. “Damn you! Why do you have to ruin what is supposed to be a fun night?” she added with a disappointed shake of her head. The happy cries of “trick-or-treat” at a nearby house immediately erased her anger. Maybe they won’t notice, she told herself hurrying back across the yard.
It wasn’t until she saw children walking up her driveway that she realized something else had been amiss with the pumpkins. The gargoyle was missing. “Well, good riddance to it,” she muttered picking up the, as yet, unutilized bowl of candy. “I hope it give the brats that took it as much trouble as it gave me.” She put the spiteful thoughts behind her when her doorbell rang. Pulling the door open, she was greeted by a loud chorus of TRICK OR TREAT.
“My, aren’t you cute,” Nancy exclaimed recognizing the group standing on her porch as the same children who had run away earlier. She quickly filled each of the Halloween decorated buckets with several pieces of candy.
“Thank you,” the children cheerfully exclaimed before rushing off the porch.
Nancy was surprised when one of the girls lingered behind. “Where’s that thing?” she asked pointing to the spot the gargoyle had once occupied.
“Somebody took it,” Nancy explained.
“Why?” the girl asked in amazement shifting her gaze up at Nancy. “It was really scary,” she noted seriously.
“I know,” Nancy replied apologetically. “It seemed to freak out everyone.”
“Then why did you have it?”
“I don’t know,” Nancy answered honestly.
The girl looked around. “Are you sure it’s gone?”
“Good,” the girl commented as she turned to leave.
Nancy waited until the girl rejoined her friends and they continued down the sidewalk talking and laughing. Just as she was about to shut the door, she heard heavy footsteps on the roof. “Now what?” she asked setting the bowl of candy back on the table. She had barely taken a step out onto her porch when she again heard the raspy laugh—this time coming from above her. “Get off my roof,” she bellowed. Reaching the edge of the porch, she spun around and looked up over the eaves to confront the unseen source of the laugh.
Instead of finding one of the neighborhood teenagers tying to scare her, Nancy was stunned to see two piercing eyes staring back at her. The gargoyle’s lips opened and released a menacing laugh then it spread its wings and slowly lifted off from the roof.
Frozen in fear and unable to move, her mind shouted that she was not seeing the beast come to life even as her eyes tracked the creature’s path across the sky. When it passed in front of the full moon, the gargoyle twisted its head back to look at her.
“Oh, no, you are NOT real,” Nancy screamed at the creature after it winked at her.
A deep, menacing laugh floated back to her followed by a gruff, “Wanna bet?”
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