welcome, fans of horror and fright. halloween is coming and these terrifying tales are sure to get you in the spooky spirit.
Today’s post is from a local writer friend (bio below). Thank you, Kathi and Happy Halloween. Enjoy ‘The Date.’
Spider-Man scurries along the darkening street leaving a Tyrannosaurus Rex in his wake. My next-door neighbour, their mother, stands in a shiny black raincoat struggling to tame an oversized umbrella from the whipping wind. Over her other arm hangs a purple bag, likely laden with candy. I peer through the crack of the heavy curtains in my unlit living room, careful not to catch her eye.
It’s not that I don’t like children, nor Halloween for that matter, quite the opposite. Surely my neighbours will be all over me tomorrow, questioning my uncharacteristic lack of pumpkins, stark lawn, and blackened home. But that’s okay, I don’t need to explain myself.
Tonight, I have other priorities.
“Oh God, what the hell am I doing?” I return to the mirror that hangs in my hallway watching the devil staring back at me in the dim light.
On a whim, I had crammed my forty-year-old body into the devil costume I’d kept in the basement for over 15 years. Despite hitting the gym three times a week, nothing could deny that age and gravity played a part in the costume no longer fitting well. The tight, red satin bodice revealed new bulges at the back and the waistline gaped at the buttonhole beneath my uncontrolled muffin top. Thank God, the video chat will only show me from the front and waist up!
I reach for the hairband of horns on the hall table and place it on my head, chuckling at my look as my phone chimes the designated Face time ring of Terri.
“I must be out of my mind,” I answer without saying hello. “I mean, look at me? What am I, twenty?”
Terri’s face beams, filling the screen with a wide smile. “You’re fun and perky!” She laughs. “What time’s the date start? Are you nervous?”
I consider her answer, knowing Terri can read my every emotion. Faking is futile. “I am. I mean, what am I doing? He’s calling in half an hour!”
“I’d say it’s about time, ‘Mr. rugged hiker banker’ is all I’ve heard about for three weeks. Honestly, Danielle, I can’t believe you two have only texted so far.”
“I know, it’s just.”
“Uh-huh, your first exposure to online dating and what if, what if, what if?” Terri rolls her eyes.
“Well, yeah what if? I mean what if seeing each other on-screen ruins it all. What if he’s not what he seems? What if he takes one look at me and hangs up?” I hesitate, horrified. “The texting has been so great. What if? And, oh my God what was I thinking agreeing to dress up? It started as a joke because our ‘date’ is tonight, but honestly!”
“I think it’s cute and you look amazing! The Naughty Devil is a great costume, naughty but not toooo naughty!” Terri laughs. “Besides, who knows, I mean he’s what, a fifteen-minute drive away? Maybe one look at you in that suit and he’ll head right over.”
My stomach churns. “I’m not ready for that! Let’s get one simple video chat done first!”
“Well, I hope he looks as good as his pics.” Terri laughs and waves goodbye. “I’m proud of you for getting back out there. Love ya girl.”
I blow a kiss to my best friend as she disconnects. Staring back in the mirror, I close my eyes and take a deep, calming breath, as I learned in meditation, unaware that a second set of eyes in the reflection are staring back.
A huge bang erupts from the front porch, shattering my moment of silence.
I bolt to the foyer and stare through the door glass as dark shadows drift past.
Inhaling deeply again, I peer into the darkness and blink repeatedly. My eyes adjust to something unusual. A faint red mist hovers over the street. I blink and everything clears. Discounting it as fatigue, I relax, then Marty leaps in front of me and I scream.
I open the door a crack. Wind swooshes inside with the pressure change as my soaking wet cat skulks inside. I stroke his coat.
“You silly! You aren’t supposed to be out tonight, but I couldn’t find you! I’m glad you are back safe.”
The wind whistles against the door as I re-lock it, and I silently curse myself for not following up on the long list of fixes to this old house. I focus on the street as it once again appears normal. Rain pelts down in sheets as children scatter up to porches, drenched costumes flowing behind them like wilted kites.
I head to the kitchen to pour Marty a saucer of milk and myself a huge glass of wine.
It is almost nine, the time Jim agreed to chat. I gulp back my wine and sit down to watch my laptop clock flip forward minute by minute.
Exactly on time, a quality I admire, Jim appears on the screen donning a pirate hat and eye patch. Relief overtakes my racing heart. He matches his photos! He is not a fraud.
Behind him, a computer-generated background of jack-o’-lanterns and tombstones conceal his real home. I glance at my image in the smaller window on the screen, pleased. I look good, and my home looks warm and tidy.
Within a minute, he removes the eye patch to show those glimmering green eyes I had fallen for from his photos on the dating site. He raises his beer to the screen to clink against my wine glass in celebration of our first virtual encounter. Our uneasiness melts into deeper conversations. Captivated by his stories, I ignore my own image. Instead, I stare at the lines of his jaw and the curve of his smile.
“What the hell?” He interrupts his own story. “What’s that behind you?”
I spin around, wondering if Marty has climbed behind me on the sofa. “What?”
“What the hell is that?” He points with a look of shock in his eyes.
I turn again. “What?” There is nothing behind me. I watch his expression of horror as he says nothing. Then, my eyes move down to the image of myself in the corner of the screen.
I am not alone.
It stands there, just over my shoulder. A red mist pulsates, leaning into me and I feel the caress of a thousand tiny fingernails against my neck. I leap from the couch, spinning as I jump, finding nothing there.
“What the fuck?” I cry, my voice is unrecognizable.
I swallow. Hard.
“Danielle? Danielle, it’s gone.” He shouts, his voice escalating. “Danielle, I can’t see you.”
I reach behind my neck and feel only the smooth fabric of my devil costume and the wisp of my ponytail. Across the room, Marty lies undisturbed on a cushion.
I return to my laptop, my image on the screen is once again alone. I listen intently for any odd sounds in my house but hear only Jim’s voice which has an air of relief.
“What are you doing to me?” He smiles. “How, did you do that?”
I shake my head. “I didn’t.”
“Oh yeah, nice one. You scared the bejeebers out of me.” He laughs and takes a swig of his beer. “Some of these companies making the video backgrounds are getting clever.”
“No, I didn’t. I’m not …”
“My little devil.” he flirts. I am drawn to him. I sip my wine and try to calm down. I so want this date to go well.
But I cannot take my eyes off my image on the screen. My face is flushed, shoulders straight, and I repeatedly turn back to check over my shoulder. “Jim, that wasn’t a prank.” I force my body into a relaxed position hoping my mind will join in.
He nods, seemingly unsure of his next words before falling into the safety of his original story until …
“Fuck!” I scream as my front door bangs again. Marty leaps from his cushion with a hiss.
“Oh, oh sorry, it’s the wind I guess or late trick-or-treaters. Teenagers maybe? My front door banged. It’s been banging–a few times now tonight. The weather’s pretty nasty.” I strain to justify the noise, focusing on his friendly face. My God, he’s so cute. Unngh, those eyes!
And then, as I will myself to look at my image… it catches my attention … again.
This time more solid, the red mist morphs into human shape. A head and two arms loom over my shoulder. It has jagged, yet undefined edges, like the artwork of the angry.
“Help!” I scream and spin my head to look behind me once again. And again, there is nothing there.
I jump to my feet and run toward the fireplace. I stare at my reflection in the mirror that hangs above it and see only my reflection, my kitchen and dining room walls.
“What the hell is that?” I return to the screen to see the entity still behind me. “Do you see it?”
“Yeah, I see it!”
“But it’s not really here.” I reach back then, slicing my arm through the air to touch where the entity stands in the image. “What is this?”
I feel my throat tighten, my eyes moisten. Did he do this?
“Oh my God, Jim, is this you? Is this some kind of stupid internet thing? Did you rig this as a joke?”
“Danielle, I swear.”
As my arm continues to slice behind me, the entity crumbles, then rises again and again, each time taller and larger. And as I sway my arm, I realize that in the image my arm is not moving.
“My arm! Look, my arm is not moving.” I lift my hand above my head as the streaming image shows my arms folded at my chest. “What’s happening? What is this?” I pull my arms back in real life and watch as my on-screen left hand rises and extends my index finger to my lips.
Shhh, be quiet. I hear a voice inside my mind, but I ignore it. “Jim, look. Do you see my hand?” I lift my right hand to the camera.
“Yes, it’s on your shoulder.”
“No, it’s not! My hand is right here in front of my face!”
“Danielle, your hand is on your shoulder.”
“Hang up!” I scream. “Hang up!” I click the disconnect button and toss my laptop across the couch cushion. Paralyzed, I stare at Marty. Slowly gaining courage, I step toward him. He purrs and I inhale and then jump as the video call ring shrieks.
I grab the laptop, this time answering so that the camera is pointing to the mirror. “Jim. I don’t know what’s going on.” I cry, relieved to see only my tear-ridden face is showing on the screen.
“Do you want me to come over?” he asks.
“I know we’re just new at this,” he continues “but … I’d just come as a friend to see what’s going on.”
He lets out a gasp and I see his horrified face. He has lifted his hand and is pointing toward me in shock.
Behind me on the video screen but not reflected in the mirror, stands the entity, its jagged redness now sharper, darker. A long spike-covered arm protrudes from its body.
It drags its arm over my shoulder and down my arm.
“Jim, I swear, if this is some joke, we are done.”
Thick, red blood drips from my shoulder on the screen. “DONE!”
I scream and reach for the ‘End’ button as he utters, “I’ll be right there!”
“Fuck.” I throw the laptop down and stare, wide-eyed into the mirror, stroking my dry shoulder “What the fuck?”
Reaching for my phone, I dial Terri but get no answer. I text her and then throw the phone down in frustration when she does not respond. The shrill ring of my doorbell causes my body to spasm.
Regaining composure, I creep to the door. Through the window, Jim stands before me. I throw on the light.
“Let me explain. Please, Danielle, I’m so sorry.” He calls through the door. “Let me in. It’s freezing out here. It was just a prank and I’m so sorry. You said you liked Halloween and scary things. It was a crazy, dumb idea from a buddy of mine. I feel so stupid. Please. I want to make this up to you,” he hollers.
I stare at his pleading face. He has removed his pirate costume and stands before me, well-groomed in a long black coat. Those eyes. Those lips. I open the door a crack.
“You asshole, I was so scared!”
“I’m sorry. I scared you. I thought it would be fun, but it wasn’t. Let me buy you a coffee to make this up to you.”
He is so attractive, and our past few weeks have been so wonderful. I am angry but slowly forgiving.
“How’d you do it?” I ask. “Some kind of computer trick?”
He stares directly into my eyes and I open the door wider. “Yes.”
I let him in. “I’m not going for coffee dressed like this.” Flooded with excitement at meeting him in person, I flip my devil tail and wink. “Give me a couple of minutes to change.”
I head down the hallway to my bedroom and close the door. Oh my God, what am I doing? Why did I flick my tail like that? I roll my eyes and remove my costume. Naked, I stare at the clothes in my closet imagining our date progressing. I choose my favorite, purple, lacy top and skinny jeans then head to my dresser to find matching lingerie.
As I lift my arm to dress, I call out, “Hey, Jim, tell me more about how you did it? I mean, I get changing the background but how did get my arms to show different movements?”
I hear a throaty growl.
“Let me show you,” he whispers.
I hear a click and my doorknob slowly turns. A long, red finger slides through the opening.
Kathi Nidd is the author of numerous poems and short stories. Her first novel “Snowdrifts” was published in 2016 and she is currently working toward the publication of two additional mystery thrillers. As a student of Creative Writing and armed with a wealth of knowledge from numerous writing conferences and workshops, her ultimate goal is to mentor and promote upcoming authors.
With a career in healthcare informatics, Nidd pulls from the human side of medicine as well as extensive travel, providing a unique lens into strong and realistic characters. She grew up and continues to live in Ottawa alongside her loving spouse, a spirited mini schnauzer, and a pensive pug.
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