October 31st, 1905.
The air was crisp as one might expect of an autumn evening. Wind stirred through the dead oranges and browns and yellows of the fallen leaves littering the ground; a reminder that nature was dying only to be born anew with the coming of spring in the next year.
Some danced away on the breeze, some merely shivered and shook, only to be crunched beneath the shoes of little children and adult guardians alike. Trick-or-treaters donning their homemade costumes. Tiny witches with their black, pointed hats and long dresses to match, sleeves swallowing up their dainty hands that clutched at broomsticks and bags of candy.
Ghosts followed along with the white of their sheets flowing behind them like elegant gowns sweeping the floors of a mansion done-up for extravagant parties, holes poked out over where eyes peeked out.
Clowns in their dunce hats or their jesters outfits, and small figures adorned with simple cloaks draped over their bodies and masks carved and painted to resemble animals. Pigs, rabbits, cats and dogs.
And then there were the vampires with their capes and collars turned up around their necks, red drawn down from corners of lips in lipstick and marker to mimic the drip of blood.
It was one vampire in particular who’d strayed from his group whilst the guardians had their heads turned. With him, a few stragglers struggling to keep up as he fled from sight to where children were forbidden to go on their own.
“Come on, keep up!” he shouted to them over his shoulder, grinning maddeningly wide and only halting when the lights of the town had begun to fade to mere glows in the distance. The waxing crescent moon hanging in the sky provided little light, of which clearly unsettled the other three children. They panted for air upon arrival to-- wherever they had been led.
At first glance, in whatever dim lighting they did have, they saw naught but trees half-consumed by the blackness of night and hiding whatever else might have waited for them in the shadows ahead. Around them. Suddenly, unsettled couldn’t quite match the terror slowly blossoming in their little hearts.
“Why are we here, Tommy?” A young girl by the name of Mary, no more than seven, was the first to ask what had been plaguing their minds since they broke away from the beacon of safety and comfort that was their little town. She had been dressed as one of the witches, insisting upon it the entire year leading up to this night after having overheard the adults conversing about the Salem Witch Trials. She wanted to be one of them. A woman cloaked in black, able to do as she pleased - despite the awful things foisted upon them. A naive child is all she was.
All eyes fell on Tommy, silence bestowed upon them as they held their breath in wait.
He laughed, he grinned; a budding madman at the mere age of six! How he loved to scare and spook his friends, acting as though things such as the dark and tales of the bogeyman did not frighten him.
Nothing frightened him, he claimed.
Nothing but the legend of Count Edward Gluskin.
The murderer of Salem’s woods.
The very woods where the witches of past Salem would strip naked and dance ‘round the fire in the name of the Devil, daring to writhe and twirl too close ‘til the flames nearly licked along their bare bodies.
“Haven’t you heard the tale of Count Gluskin?” he asked, eyes wide and brimming with as much morbid curiosity as they did excitement.
WIth his pillow case of candy fisted in one hand, he pointed with the other towards the grove of red maples just barely providing enough space to squeeze through. “He lives in there. They say that he’s a taaaall, ugly man with scars all over his face who hasn’t left his house in years . Some say he’s as old as the witches. And they say on Halloween night if you go to his house, you can hear the screams of his victims trapped down in his basement where he keeps them chained up, and if you get close enough, you can see him standing at one of the windows. But if you do… no one will ever see you again.”
A gasp. Leaves crushed against awkward shifting where the children stood and huddled closer together as though it would keep them safe. The youngest one, Matthew, the ghost, made a quiet noise of despair.
Tommy paid no mind.
“So… we’re not going, right…?” came the trembling voice of Mary. “It’s too dangerous! What if it’s true? What if he takes us and no one can ever find us?”
At this, Tommy scoffed and dramatically rolled his eyes. Surely, she couldn’t be serious. The one night of the year when children were allowed to roam the streets after dark, and she was too frightened to go into the woods chasing after an urban legend -- though he believed it as well as anyone else. Even the oldest or bravest of the town refrained from going out into the woods, or stayed out there too long. Not unless someone went missing.
And every few years, someone did.
“If he’s really as old as the stories say, then we can outrun him! And if he’s big and tall, there’s no way he can squeeze through all those trees like we can.” He held high his bag of candy and shook it once, twice. “I’ll give you each a lollipop if you come with me.”
Three (four, five?) pairs of eyes fell to Matthew, who clutched at the costumes of his friends and shook where he stood.
“I wanna go home!”
Not another word was uttered and never a single word from the second ghost who’d offered his hand to the youngest to hold, though they all knew the decision was unanimous. Despite it, Mary stayed behind out of fear of what would happen to her friend if he’d ventured out by himself. Hand in hand, they wove through the trees and crept down the path of dirt opened up beyond where they had entered.
Several minutes went by of walking in silence and occasionally jumping at the sounds of crickets and twigs snapping against the startled scurry of rabbits and foxes alike.
“There’s nothing out here, Tommy, we should just go back before our parents get mad.”
But he wouldn’t have it. Not until they came upon the house of legend itself. A massive building closer to a mansion than it was a humble home, built of stone and covered by a roof that looked as though it would collapse at any moment. Built in front of it looked to be a driveway and, in it, a single car.
The idea of coming face to face with the man, the Devil himself, as they called him, had their blood running cold.
It was said he was a man far too sadistic and evil to be considered anything close to human -- a demon, a vampire. Something akin to Vlad the Impaler, in which he would sever the heads of his victims and impale them high on stakes to warn those who tread too close to his territory. Drank the blood that spurted from the necks and strung them up to bleed out only to use what filled the tubs to bathe himself. Another legend, that of Elizabeth Bathory, having been molded to his.
Others said he killed his entire family and eventually went mad in that house all on his own.
Too baffled by the sight of possibly the biggest house she had ever seen, and perhaps too frightened, Mary said nothing as Tommy moved ahead. Closer and closer to the mansion until he stood before a large, sixteen-pane window with curtains hanging at the other side. There was just enough of a part for him to look into the house, where he swore he could see the flicker of a lit candle. He dropped his pillowcase and pressed his palms to the glass, his trembling breath fogging it as he peered in and angled his head to and fro in attempts at getting a better look. It was indeed candlelight he saw, for he noticed a shadow moving on the wall behind where the light of it shone and recoiled with a sharp gasp and wide eyes.
“Tommy, let’s go!” Mary shouted pitifully, looking as if she was on the verge of tears. Before he could move, could blink, the sound of heavy locks coming undone came just before the front door swung open and there, in the doorway--
Stood a tall man, with ice-cold eyes that glowed the way those of an animal would, and a scar marring the cupids bow of his upper lip. He exuded a wrathful terror that speared the hearts of the children and shook them to the core and each of them, as if in perfect sync, opened their mouths wide and let loose a blood-curdling shriek.
October 31st, 2019
It’d been a few weeks since Waylon moved. From Colorado to Massachusetts was a relatively quiet trip, considering he had to drive the moving van with his car hooked behind it. No one bothered him when he was exhausted and driving a little too far under the speed limit on the slow lanes of the highway. Some of them must have understood the pain of toting all your belongings hundreds upon hundreds of miles to a new state. Foreign territory where still felt like an outcast. Out of place. Homesick.
Having lived closer to the mountains all his life ensured he was used to the less-than-tropical climates, but Salem was different and he’d arrived right at the beginning of October, when the entire town was bustling in preparation for Halloween.
The supposed best night of the year to attract tourists.
Or, rather, the best month. Everyone from around the state as well as others wanted to roam the streets and explore the shops owned by witches or supposed descendants of such, with their handcrafted candles and various herbs and incenses alongside the more modern novelties, such as bath bombs and face masks. There were the bakeries with their apple cider and pumpkin spice flavored everything, from teas and coffees to doughnuts. The wax figure museums and tours led by native residents.
Waylon would be a lying bastard if he said he wasn’t at least excited to see what the fall season would bring in this new place. Seemed like an excellent start to welcome him to his new home.
Though he lacked that excitement and invigoration today on his way to work: A relatively busy security firm where he’d been employed to display the skills listed on his resume. Coding, hacking, rewiring, amongst others. Yes, great interest was taken in him and such was the reason for his move, but the moment he met the man in charge… Well.
Jeremy Blaire was a very particular man. Your average big corporation hotshot with the ego and income to match. In their first meeting, he shook Waylon’s hand a little too tightly. Allowed himself the liberty to press his palm to the small of Waylon’s back as he showed him around the massive building, floor to floor, room to room, always keeping that uncomfortable pressure there.
There was something about Blaire that he didn’t like, but the job pays well and he suddenly has the luxury of splurging on himself rather than simply getting by.
He’d stopped at a gas station on the long stretch of road leading to work, shifting from foot to foot to keep himself warm as he waited for the tank to fill up and looking out into the cluster of trees crowding one another across the road. Tall maples and oaks shedding their leaves with the change of season, the grounds around them a blanket of color from what had fallen.
The click of the pump is what withdrew him from his thoughts, and he returned the nozzle to its place before huddling into his car and blasting the heat.
His lungs swelled with the deep breath he inhaled, remaining inflated for what felt like a few minutes too long before he finally exhaled steadily. Prepared himself for the next eight hours of inappropriate comments, glances, and touches alike, and all from a single man.
The drive to the firm would take at least another twenty minutes, but Waylon followed the road as slow as he could, hiding it behind the excuse that he wanted to sightsee. But what was there to look at? This particular stretch of road was especially crowded by the foliage of trees and bushes lining each side, save for the piece of land where they stretched further apart enough to look into the woods and spot a rather old-fashioned house.
The house of horrors. Oh, he’d already heard the folklore and horror stories about the place and simply brushed it off as an old wives tale. Nothing more. Although one of the townsfolk stuck out from the rest -- an older man who’d looked near ancient seated at one of the tables outside a local cafe, sipping at his drink and staring Waylon down the moment he entered the shop and the moment he left before addressing him.
‘You new here?’
‘Do yourself a favor and stay away from that house.’
At the time, Waylon had to physically force himself to keep from rolling his eyes by blinking a few times, feigning confusion though he knew exactly which house the man referred to. And without further explanation, he muttered a low ‘Don’t let him see you’ and that was that.
There was this chilling tone to his voice that had shudders running through his body even now that he thought about it. In the back of his mind, he could almost hear the warning repeated over and over as he approached said house. Don’t let him see you. Don’t let him see you. Don’t let him see you.
His eyes remained straight ahead on the road, knuckles blanching white where they clutched the steering wheel. Why was he so afraid? To be shaken up like this by a ridiculous story… it made him feel stupid.
But Waylon swore he saw a tall figure standing at one of the massive windows of the second floor when he dared to glance over and, finally, he was going past the speed limit.