This post is a response to October 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.
“Dale! Dale, hurry up!” yelled Marty.
“I’ll just be a few more minutes!” Dale shouted back.
“Dale, come on,” said Marty as he floated through the living room towards Dale’s bedroom. “It’s the busiest night of the year for haunts and you’re spending hours getting ready. The Spectral Turnpike is going to be crammed with spirits trying to get to Earth tonight.”
“I know,” Dale replied. “It’ll just be a few minutes.”
“It’s not like there’s going to be press there. All the celebrity ghosts are going to the party Frieda Kahlo is throwing. The spookarazzi will have its hands full. No need to bust out the couture.”
Dale cracked his door open and poked his head out.
“Spookarazzi?” Dale said. “Really? You know they’re still called paparazzi in the spirit realm.”
“I’m just trying to be festive,” Marty countered.
“Yeah, well if you want to be festive, go finish putting up your lights. Our block won’t win any awards if your only decorations are some fake spiders sprinkled in your shrubs.”
“Fine,” said Marty as he floated to the door. “I’ll be back in ten minutes. If you’re not ready, I’m leaving without you. Last Halloween we hit the thick of traffic and it took six whole minutes to get to Earth. It’s a thirty second trip! I’m not dealing with that again.”
Marty shut the door behind him, leaving Dale to dress in silence. He smashed together a sparkling dark blue powder with a wispy black mass, forming a midnight blue amalgamation on the dresser in front of him. Dale slathered the concoction on his black sleeves, the powder fading quickly into the fabric. He finished rubbing the powder into his top, grabbed a sheathed katana from beside his dresser, and made his was out of the house.
“Took you long enough!” shouted Marty as he dangled lights from his roof.
Marty floated down to the ground and gave Dale a look over before uttering a disapproving scoff.
“A ninja? Again?” said Marty.
“It’s tradition,” replied Dale.
“Tradition for what? You go, scare a bunch of kids for a few hours, then come back and go get blitzed off your supernatural ass with me and the misses. We’ve been doing this for ten years! Try something new.”
Marty pointed across the street at twelve of their neighbors who were organizing themselves into a six by six formation.
“You see that, Dale?” said Marty. “They’re going as a hung jury. Complete with nooses and everything!”
“I don’t do group costumes,” replied Dale.
“It’s not about a group costume. Yeah, you could be the cat to my rat. I just want to make sure don’t get stuck doing the same thing every Halloween forever.”
Dale and Marty arrived on Earth at Midland Cemetery in the town of Norton Mills, Indiana. For ten years, Marty and Dale had chosen this cemetery as the start of their Halloween haunts. Cemeteries provided easy portals between the spectral world and Earth, which was particularly useful as spirits couldn’t move as freely on Earth as they could away from it. Though this was a source of frustration for Marty, Dale accepted it as the reality of his circumstances.
“See you back here at 10pm?” Marty asked.
“Yeah. Same as every other year.”
“If you make the Jenkins kid piss himself again this year, be sure to remember every detail.”
“I will, Marty. I always do.”
Marty floated off into the woods behind the cemetery, while Dale ducked behind trees, dancing through the shadows as he made his way towards a suburban neighborhood. Trick or treating was nearing its end, parents and small children making their way back into their homes as teens began to take over the streets.
Dale ducked into a nearby oak tree as teenage twin boys dressed as Freddie Kruger chased their unicorn-clad younger sister down the street. Dale closed his eyes and summoned up a strong gust of wind, blowing leaves up into the face of the twins, slowing them down briefly and allowing the girl to get away. Though Dale disliked using his supernatural powers to control earthly things (even during a haunt), it did provide him a surprising amount of joy to mess with people who were acting like assholes.
As Dale rounded the corner, he floated up to the roof of a small yellow house, allowing him to overlook a similarly designed blue house next door. 38 Carmody Lane. Though Dale participated in occasional haunts wherever he (or Marty) felt like throughout the year, this was the location for his Halloween haunt for the last ten years. It would remain that way for the foreseeable future, if Dale had any choice in the matter.
Dale floated off of the roof of the yellow house, taking care to make sure no living human noticed him doing so. He drifted through a closed second floor window of the blue home, entering a room lit by a small desk lamp by the wall to his left. Dale made his way back into the shadows of the corner, trying to stay as far away from the light as possible. After twenty minutes, a boy — around sixteen years of age — entered the room and sat down at the desk. He fiddled with the lamp, pointing it away from the corner Dale hid in.
“Are you there, dad?” the boy asked, staring into the corner.
“Yeah,” replied Dale.
“Thanks for coming again.”
“I can’t miss Halloween, Kenny. I wish I could come more, but this is the only time there’s enough paranormal activity that I can show up and ghost hunters won’t be tipped off to the consistency.”
“I know,” replied Kenny.
“How’s your sister?” asked Dale.
“Marci’s good. Just started eighth grade.”
“Is she here?”
“Nah,” said Kenny, “her and mom went to Grandma Engle’s house. They should be back late tonight. But you probably can’t stay that long.”
“Do you think she’ll ever want a visit one of these years?” Dale asked.
“She was three when you died, dad. I don’t know how much she even remembers you anymore.”
Kenny sighed and put his head to his chest.
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I know,” replied Dale. “You’re probably right though. You at least had me around for six years.”
Dale examined Kenny, looking him up and down from a distance.
“How tall are you now?”
“Six one,” Kenny said.
“Are you swimming again?” asked Dale. “Or are you trying basketball?”
“Neither. Lifting in the offseason for baseball.”
“I guess that’s good.”
“Can I see you?” asked Kenny. “Not in costume, I mean.”
“You know I can’t do that, son.”
“I know. But I have more memories of my dad dressed as a ghost ninja than I do of you alive. All I can see is your eyes.”
“It’s not my rule,” said Dale. “If I could change how I looked, this wouldn’t be an issue.”
“It just sucks,” stated Kenny.
“Yeah. It does.”
The sound of the doorbell ringing downstairs put an abrupt end to the conversation.
“Gerald going to get that?” asked Dale.
“Mom and Gerald are separated,” replied Kenny. “Have been a few months. Besides, it’s probably Olivia.”
“Well,” said Dale. “I’ll leave you two be. Just be safe.”
“I will. I love you, dad.”
“I love you too.”
Dale made his way back through the window and down Carmody Lane and back towards the cemetery. He sat for three hours atop a fading tombstone belonging to someone named Thomas Dickinson. Dale never met the man, but he clearly had comfortable taste in burial decor. As the occasional passerby would walk near the cemetery gates, Dale would make the wind howl lightly, just enough to make the person walk with a bit more purpose in their step, but not enough to frighten them.
“Are you sure you want to change costumes before you come to the party?” asked Marty. “It’s kind of tradition you come as a ninja at this point.”
“I’m sure,” replied Dale. “Tell Courtney I’ll be over shortly.”
“Don’t be too long. All the good spirits will be gone. Or, wait a really long time and then it will only be us bad spirits.”
“I see what you did there.”
Dale entered his home and made his way into the bedroom, shutting the door behind him. He placed the katana down by the dresser, then made his way to the wardrobe where he kept his haunting attire. Behind a pair of ragged suits, he pulled out a box with a new outfit he had bought a few years prior. Dusting off the container, he opened it, revealing a new sport coat and dress trousers. Dale placed the box on the dresser, shoving the bronze centerpiece atop the dresser out of the way, and stared at mirror on his wall.
Through the ninja mask, he could see his own eyes — blue as they had been in life, though hollow and absent of being. His eyes were one of the few features in his life that Dale liked, so he was happy they crossed over with him, at least partially.
The unfortunate reality was that in addition to his striking blue eyes crossing over to the spirit world with him, so did the rest of the physical features that Dale possessed when he died. He removed the mask from his ninja costume, revealing a bloodied exit wound from his suicide. While such a feature wouldn’t get a second look in the spirit realm, Dale could never bring himself to go to Earth with it uncovered. Even beyond the stigmatization he knew suicide held on Earth, he didn’t want Kenny or Marci to see him like this. He removed the ninja costume’s top and began to change for the party. Maybe next year his routine would be different.