by Renee Alburn
Jack was not a clever fellow, and he knew it; his brains had been scooped out, after all, and made into soup and pie. But what he lacked in cognitive ability, he made up for in enthusiasm. He sat on the garden gatepost, his gap-toothed grin made all the more ghoulish whenever the wind plucked at his light and drew the shadows around him out into terrifying shapes on the path. It was only a matter of time…
One child after another stepped cautiously past him as he leered and gawked at them, sniggering to himself when they clasped harder to each other, their pirate boots and fairy slippers quickening as they ran for the doorbell.
“Trick or treat,” they called at the door, and the brain-eater sprinkled sweets into their outstretched bags and buckets.
“Trick! Trick! Trick!” murmured Jack to himself. “Let her say it this time, please…”
But each time, the brain-eater merely smiled, complimented their costumery, and handed out sweets. The sap.
The evening came and went, for the most part uneventful. Some older brats threw eggs at the door, but they never bothered to ask the question whose answer might set Jack free. His frustration grew as his light burned lower, and the smell of smouldering pumpkin reached his hollow triangular nose.
Just before midnight, when the brain-eater had finally turned out the porch light and the streets had gone quiet, two tall figures dressed all in black crept up the street towards Jack’s gate. Each held a large black bag, each wore a black balaclava over his face.
Jack gathered what was left of his light, and cast as eerie a silhouette as he could manage over them as they passed. One of them sniggered and gave him a shove. He landed, face-down on the garden path; a large crack split his features, and his light sputtered and faltered.
Boiling with rage, Jack watched with his one good eye as the two approached the door; the first rang the bell while the second brought a crowbar out of his bag and held it behind his back.
“Trick or treat,” the first said when the brain-eater opened the door wearing her robe and slippers, her eyes bleary.
She frowned. “Is this some sort of joke? Do you know what time it is?”
“Trick or treat,” he hissed again.
“This isn’t funny. Is this some sort of trick?” she asked.
The figures laughed as they advanced on her. The one in the rear raised the crowbar above his head, but just as he brought it down towards the brain-eater’s skull, a bright orange flash blinded all three of them.
The screams echoed throughout the neighbourhood. Porch lights up and down the street blinked on, one after another, but by the time the police arrived, they found nothing but three scooped-out pumpkins, one wearing a black balaclava, the second split in two, and a third, whose carved face was set in an expression so terrifying, the officers set to destroying it with their boot-heels.
When they rang the doorbell, Jack answered immediately.
“Nothing amiss here, officers. Sorry for your trouble.”
About the author:
Renee Alburn is originally from Johannesburg but now lives in London with her husband and two dogs. She has been published in a number of literary journals, magazines and newspapers, and is an active member of the Society of Authors.