It's All In the Telling

By E. Marks

Disclaimer: The only thing to fear is fear itself ... and I am the biggest chicken you can find. This story is in tribute to my ghoulish sister and her disciples, my nieces, those traitors who succumbed to Jason, Chuckie, Freddie and all other things that I prefer to avoid. This harkens back to a time before they became the ghouls they are today but well on their way.


"It was a time when things crept along in the dark. It was a time when the moon hung low, golden in the sky and clouds rushed angrily across its face. It was a time when a long howl pierced the air and dry leaves whirled in the air casting eerie whispers onto the wind. It was a time for ..."

"HALLOWEEN!!" shouted two very young and eager voices.

Carol took in the rounded eyes of her two little nieces who each clutched a Halloween lightstick in their hands, their faces barely visible in the dim light. Behind them on the windowsill was the flickering face of the pumpkin whose evil visage dripped blood... actually red food coloring, another of her ideas and heartily endorsed by the older of the two girls, Katie. She was 7 and her sister Sarah was 3. Together they'd helped their aunt scoop out the 'icky guts' of the 'mumpkin', as Sarah referred to it. Once hollowed, she had carefully cut out the grim visage followed by the bloody drippings trailing from its teeth. The seeds had been washed, salted and baked in the oven becoming a treat for the youngest though she vowed to save some for their finicky and plump guinea pig to gnaw on. If the guinea pig was lucky she'd get a handful.

The two nieces were staying overnight at their aunt's house as mom had to work today and part of the next day. Tomorrow was Trick or Treat night and the two little girls were already squirming in anticipation without the benefit of a sugar high. They'd dined at McDonalds and were now ready to begin the ghostly tale their aunt had promised. Ensconced in a bed of pillows and blankets lumped together on the living room floor, the lights had been turned off to properly create the perfect atmosphere for scaring the crap out of children with a tale of horrific adventure ... needless to say they were excited at the prospect.

"C'mon Aunt Carol ... you promised" whined Katie as she leaned forward waving her hand in front of her aunt's face.

"Uhhh ... yeah where was I?" Carol cleared her mind and let go of her reverie of earlier in the day.

"Howling in the night."

"Right. I continued to drive along the deserted country road sure I had made a wrong turn on the way to my friend's Halloween party. "

"I'm scared." piped up the younger of the two nieces, now somewhat uncertain if she really wanted to emulate her big sister.

"Shut up Sarah, she hasn't even got to the good parts yet."

"No it's alright, scoot over here and sit next to your auntie."

Sarah pressed herself next to her aunt.

"I slowed the car when I noticed what looked to be a gravel driveway up ahead on my right. Turning onto the drive, my headlights lit up the scene in front of me and I gasped in shock."

"Oooh... was it a monster?"

"No, much worse, it was gravestones ... I had found a country cemetery, an old and neglected one. Some of the headstones were tilted and a few were face down. Big ol' trees had branches that hung down so low that they nearly touched the ground. A small stone fence surrounded the graveyard."

"That isn't scary." Stated a miffed Katie.

"Hey who's telling the story, me or you. Thought so. Anyways, I didn't like the looks of the place, so I put the car into reverse and started to back up when it happened..."

Carol deliberately paused to heighten the moment as she set the stage.

".... the engine stuttered and died. I tried to start the car, but all I got was grinding. Okay give it a few minutes I told myself. But I made sure I locked the car doors just in case."

Sarah squirmed closer to aunt leaving not a hairs-width of space between them.

"Several more attempts at starting the car failed. I was gonna have to walk back along the road to find help."

"Why didn't you just use your cell phone?" asked Katie.

"Because, back then they weren't invented yet ... after all I am old as dirt."

Both girls giggled at that comment, they so loved teasing their aunt about her age. To them, anyone over 20 was old.

"I checked the glove compartment for my flashlight, made sure it was working and turned off the lights. Slowly I opened the door and left the car. It was then I heard it..."

Another effective pause, after all part of telling ghost tales was building the suspense.

"scrrrrritch ... tap .... scrrrritch ... tap. It was coming from the graveyard."

A pull on her shirtsleeve brought her face towards Sarah. "Run Aunt Carol ... run!"

"I couldn't ... I was frozen in fear, my eyes glued to the entrance of the cemetery."

"yeah yeah .... the sounds were the branches on a gravestone .... right?"

"No Katie it wasn't ... you see at the entrance stood a ghoul ... and he was dragging a skeletal arm that was making the noise."

"So get back in the car and lock the doors."

"Uhhhh ... couldn't... locked the keys in the car to my dismay. I was trapped there and as I slowly backed away the ghoul came towards me." Carol had quickly improvised musing to herself that she almost blew the story. "But I wasn't paying attention and instead of backing up the driveway, I backed into a big tree. My knees gave way and I slumped to ground, my free hand groping for a stick to use as a weapon. It was then I found it."


"A pocket knife. It was rusty, but I pulled out the blade and it shone big and bright in the light of my flashlight. I could smell the rotten breath of the ghoul as he lumbered towards me, his tortured moan creating goosebumps on my arms."

Sarah jumped up at that moment, "Turn on the light, I'm scared."

"Weenie ... it's just a ghost story, it's not real."

Carol got up to turn on one of the lamps. "Ha, don't be so sure about that. It was real enough that night. I had no choice now but to defend myself. I leapt up and ran for the front of the car. I figured all I needed was to put some distance between me and it. But I was wrong. It turned and followed. I yelled at it that I was armed, but still it came. I shone the light directly into its eyes hoping to blind it, but it was then I found out the true horror ... it had no eyes, only empty holes and worms were crawling in and out of them." Sarah was now in her lap, her head against her chest. Katie was leaning forward, eyes large and unblinking, completely entranced in the tale.

"I screwed up my courage and ran full tilt towards the monster, tackling it to the ground. Whipping out my trusty rusty knife, I grasped its rotted tongue and cut it out. I yelled at the ghoul .... 'so what do you say now!' 'Mmmppphlffhggg' it replied."

Katie chuckled at the idea of her aunt cutting out the tongue of a monster and asking it a question when it obviously couldn't reply.

Carol cackled evilly, "'Ehhh .... what was that? Got nothing to say'. I threw away the tongue and pierced its chest with my blade, slitting it open to reveal a still beating heart. I ripped out the heart and held it as it thumped away in my hand. Squeezing it, the blood flowed down my hand, I told the monster, 'now you die.' But still the monster writhed beneath me. I reached my bloodied hand into its chest and cut out its lungs. But still the monster moved. So I reached inside once again and pulled out its stomach, the guts trailing behind and cut those out with my trusty rusty knife. I wrapped them around its neck, strangling it and still it breathed. I picked up the skeletal arm and beat the ghoul's head, but still it moved. What would kill this ghoul?"

"I know, I know... a wooden stake through its heart."

"Nope wasn't a vampire ... just a common everyday ordinary ghoul."

"So what did you do?"

"I jumped up, ran back to the car and used the trusty rusty knife to pick the lock. Praying, I turned the key and the engine roared to life. I rolled the car back and forth over that ghoul, squishing it into the gravel until all the remained was a puddle of goo."

At this point Sarah added her two cents, "Ewwwww that's disgusting."

"Yep sure was, but the monster was dead and I was safe thanks to the trusty rusty knife I had found."

Katie thought about that for a moment and then asked, "I wonder who owned that knife?"

Her aunt replied leaning forward to be nose to nose with her oldest niece, "Not sure, but I think that maybe, some other kid had found that ghoul and dropped it before they could use it.... in fact the skeleton arm could've belonged to that kid." Katie shivered at the thought.

"Okay, time for bed the story's over."

"Aunt Carol, can I sleep with you, I don't want monsters to get me."

"Sure Sarah."

"And you leave the light on too?"

"Yep... I will put the nightlight on."

"Hey what about me?" asked Katie. "No way am I sleeping by myself."

"Well you wanted a ghost story!"

"So! if Sarah gets to sleep with you so do I."

"There isn't room enough for three of us." Carol was now regretting having told the tale if her sleep was going to be interrupted by her heat-seeking missiles nieces that slept plastered to her side no matter how much she moved them. "Okay, how about we all camp out in the living room. We can sleep together on the floor." More like you fall asleep and I head to the couch, she thought.

"Okay" the nieces agreed and happily went about rearranging the blankets. They went to the bathroom, brushed their teeth and settled in on either side of their aunt. It wasn't long before tiny snores filled the air and Aunt Carol carefully extracted herself from the twosome's grasp. She carefully drew the blanket up around the two girls and then settled herself on the couch. As much as she would've liked to head for her bedroom, she knew that the two would be irate if they awoke alone in the living room. Besides, she adored the two girls and a little discomfort was better than grumpy nieces. Turning slightly she felt the lump in her pants pocket. Reaching in, she withdrew a pocketknife ... a bit rusty, but the blade still shone bright and sharp. Smiling to herself, she carefully placed the knife on the nearby coffee table close at hand if needed. Still my trusty rusty knife after all these years.

Perhaps she always carried it with her every Halloween out of tradition, but perhaps out of suspicion and a need for a good luck charm. You never really know what goes bump in the night, now do you, until you find yourself on a dark and isolated country road one Halloween night.

Doo dee doo doo.

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