Friday, October 31, 2014

The Toothbrush House

by Michael Seese

A little something to prepare you for trick-or-treating. This is a story I wrote as part of "Crazy October" and submitted to a (for now) unnamed anthology I found on HorrorTree.

I dare you. I double dare you.”

Fine. I’ll do it,” I said coolly, despite the fact that my insides were tumbling like tennis shoes in a clothes dryer.

It was Halloween night, the night every kid dreams of, second only to Christmas. And yet here I was, filled with more dread than even the thought of a lump of coal in my stocking—or worse, a sweater under the tree—could instill.

I, along with my friends, stood before “the haunted house.” Every town has one, as I have learned over the past…nine years and eight moves.

What are you waiting for?”

Dark, unkempt, and blanketed by a seemingly permanent, localized storm cloud. Of course, it’s never haunted. Just owned by some nice old lady who just can’t keep up with the maintenance since her husband passed.

Well, are you going to do it?”

Sure,” I said, anything but sure.

Watch out for crazy Mrs. Denton. She’s fast!” “Enjoy your toothbrush.”

Something else every town has. The “toothbrush house.” The house with an owner who feels it’s his civic duty to counter the damage inflicted by the rest of the neighborhood’s largess. As if a new toothbrush will override the effects of 20 pounds of sugar consumed in one night. It’s like applying a Band-aid to a severed limb.

I gulped. I wished I hadn’t thought up that analogy, here and now.

After focusing all my energies on stilling the shakes, I placed a hand on the iron gate. It swung open, even though I would have sworn I didn’t actually push it.

I stepped in.

The walkway elongated with an audible whoosh, pushing the dark porch back at least a mile. I began the longest walk of my life. Too soon, I found myself on the porch.

I knocked.

Hearing nothing, I prepared to turn and retreat. Slow and casual. Otherwise, I couldn’t save face. The footsteps within short-circuited my perfect plan of escape. Laborious and slow at first, the pace and volume swiftly increased exponentially.

The door swung open.

She didn’t look like a psycho. But she didn’t look like a regular grandma either. She started at me. My move.

Trick or treat.”

Enjoy your toothbrush,” she said, grinning a grin that seemed to feature too many teeth, as she dropped something heavy into my sack.

Thanks,” I managed. Behind me, I heard my friends’ screams recede into the distance.

What’s the big deal? I wondered.

I reached into the bag, and fished out my prize, a badge of honor which I planned to show off at school tomorrow.

It was a bone. A human bone. (A doctor might have specified, “It’s an ulna.”) Glued to it were teeth of various shapes and sizes. Some still bore the blood of their previous owners.

Not sure of what to say, I looked up at Mrs. Denton. I caught a glimpse of the pliers just before they clamped onto one of my molars and pulled.

What are you hoping to find in your trick-or-treat basket this year?

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