My first story in Nov. ’17 was looking back at Halloween. This story looks forward to it—-
She Ate Crayons
The bar and grill was noisy and busy that night, some people in Halloween costumes and some not. Donnie didn’t care what they wore as long as they ate, drank, and spent freely.
But now he could hardly believe his eyes. It was the new girl, Sheila, on break in the next room. Did she just put two Crayolas in her mouth? He surreptitiously watched her out of the corners of his eyes. There was no doubt about it. She was chewing now, pausing to lick a little crumb of green wax off her lower lip. Donnie kept his head down and pretended to be busy with the time cards, while he continued to watch her from beneath his eye lids. Sheila swallowed, then reached into her small red purse again, quickly glanced at him and, satisfied that he was not looking at her, pulled out two more crayons, one yellow, one purple, and palmed them. Then, without peeling off the paper, she popped the crayons whole into her mouth and bit down on them with a soft crunch, before calmly beginning to chew as if there was nothing more than gum between her teeth.
What the hell is going on, he thought? Eating crayons? The colors don’t even match. Too weird. She’s a good waitress and we’ve had some fun, but I can’t have someone around the restaurant doing that kind of shit. What would the customers think if they saw her? Be real bad for business. Now she put another couple in her mouth. I gotta let her go.
At closing that night, Donnie waited until Sheila was the only one left in the restaurant. It was past two and winter was coming early. He came up to her as she was putting on her coat.
“Hey Sheila, can I talk to you in the office?”
“Sure, Donnie,” she smiled as if she could read his mind. “What about? It’s late and I’m kind of tired tonight though.”
He led the way to the back office and waited, standing, until she entered, then shut the door. She took a seat on the small couch and smiled invitingly.
Damn, what a waste, he thought. She must be pushing 40, but she’s not bad looking and built the way I like ‘em with some padding. Passed the ‘couch test’ at the interview real good too. But I gotta think of the business first. I hope she doesn’t cry a lot when I kick her ass out the door.
“Look Sheila, it’s nothing personal. In fact I like you and you’re a good waitress. But I seen what you done with them crayons today. I don’t know what’s going on with you, but eating crayons is way too weird. I can’t have one of my girls doing that. What if the customers saw you? Be real bad for business. You can pick up your check tomorrow.”
“Ah Donnie,” she whined, “Give me a break. I need the job. I’ll be careful. No one will see me. I promise.”
He felt a thrill of power as she pleaded. “Well, I saw you,” he said with firm satisfaction. “Look, we had some fun together and maybe we can still get together afterwards, you know? And if anyone asks I’ll give you a good rec. But business is business. You’re gone, girl. I gotta fire you.”
“Donnie please, you’re not going to change your mind?” she asked plaintively, shoulders slumped, head down.
“No Sheila,” he said firmly.
“You’re firing me? Even after all those times…?” Her voice trailed off. Oh geez, he thought, here comes the flood.
Then she looked up slowly and smiled, surprising him. “So you’re firing me?” She asked, voice stronger, amused, then rose to her feet, and took two steps towards him. “Firing me? Donald you don’t know the meaning of fired.”
Donnie was startled. Her green eyes seemed to be turning orange. And her nose and chin looked more angular. I’m seeing things. I’ve been working too hard, he thought. No, her eyes were definitely orange. In fact they were turning red and the pupils seemed to flicker. He felt an icy-sick fear in the pit of his stomach and he retreated until the backs of his thighs ran into the hard edge of his desk; the hairs on the back of his neck and his forearms were tingling and standing up. “What the hell. . . ?”
“That’s right, Donald, what the Hell,” said Sheila, as she moved towards him until they almost touched. “I eat crayons because I need fuel for my fire,” She had a most unpleasant smile. She brought her face close to Donnie’s and opened her mouth, exhaling a little puff of smoke into his face. It smelled like diesel exhaust. He leaned backwards, as far away from her as the desk would allow.
“Crayons are made of paraffin, and they’re so much easier for a girl to carry around for a snack than a pint of oil or kerosene, don’t you think?” She raised her right hand as if to stroke his face as she had done lovingly just a few days ago. He watched numbly as the red polished nails became hard brown talons with thorn-sharp black tips.
“I—I—I,” began Donnie, then Sheila’s hand swiftly clamped across his face, the talons digging deep into his cheeks and chin, the pain excruciating. He couldn’t open his mouth or even move his head. Christ, she’s strong. He felt lightheaded and the room began to spin.
Sheila’s blond hair had turned flame red and stood up spikily from her scalp. She brought her face up to his and, through the pain, he was conscious of her burnt, oily breath. “Twenty Halloweens ago, you were desperate and made a pact with my Master when you thought the Family was going to whack you for ratting. He even set you up with this place. Like you said, ‘Business is business.’ Now it’s time to pay up, and I was sent to collect. Let me show you how to really fire someone. Baby, I am going to light your fire.”
Donnie watched helplessly as her mouth and nose extended into an elongated snout. Then she exhaled a great jet of orange flame that washed over his face and chest, burning off his eyebrows and hair, charring and blistering, and setting fire to his shirt. His scream was stifled in his throat by the claws squeezing his face, and he could only flail about at the end of her stiffly extended arm, writhing in silent agony, unable to lose consciousness.
“That’s just a sample of what you have ahead of you for eternity, Donnie. And now it’s time to go.” It released its grip on his face, and seized him by the right arm, and he began to scream silently as he saw his body lying face up at their feet. I look quite peaceful, he thought incongruously. They’ll think I died of natural causes. Then the demon pulled him down through the concrete office floor.
Halloween in ten days so here’s a second story …
The Third Time
Roger fumed as he waited very impatiently in the short business class check-in line, fidgeting from one foot to the other. Roger was often angry and didn’t bother to hide it.
Lousy airline, he thought. Could only book me on a late flight. Me, a premier gold member! If I ran it I’d shake things up.
At last it was his turn. “And how are you on this Halloween?” asked the agent, smiling.
He tossed his ticket and driver’s license onto the counter. “’Bout time,” he grunted with a scowl.
She busied herself with his ticket, looking up to ask, “Did you pack the briefcase yourself and has it ever been out of your possession?”
“That’s a ridiculous question. My secretary did of course. Are they now on the terrorist watch list?”
“I’m sorry sir, but we have to ask. It’s the law.”
“It’s a stupid law and your service stinks.”
“I take it that’s a no, sir?”
“Damn right it’s a no.” Roger’s eyes narrowed. Just try me, he thought, ready with an angry shot.
The agent worked her keyboard and didn’t reply.
“Here. You’re all set, sir,” the agent said evenly without a smile, placing his ticket on the counter. “Flight 26, Gate 39-B.”
“Took you long enough!” He seized his boarding pass, snatched up his brief case, and strode away.
“You’re welcome sir,” the agent called after his retreating back. What a jerk, she thought. I wish you could choke on your own nasty words.
Too damn sarcastic, he thought. Fire her too.
He was still irritated when his boarding call came.
“Welcome aboard.” said the flight attendant. The clip-on antennae protruded from her graying hair jiggled. “Happy Halloween.”
“Non-regulation,” he said, eying the antennae. Pitiful, he thought, they put all the old hags on these late flights.
“No,” she said smiling, “But if we must work instead of partying, we might as well have a little fun.”
“Aren’t you a little old to think about partying?” said Roger. “Let me sleep, okay? And don’t wake me for any of your lousy snacks or drinks.”
Business class was only half full. Roger settled into his seat, placed his briefcase on the empty seat next to him, reclined the seat back, and began to doze. It was nearing midnight.
He was wakened from his drowsy half-sleep by the same attendant. “Sir,” she said. “We’re about to take off. You’ll need to stow your briefcase, and bring your seat back to full upright.”
Roger growled angrily, “Your airline couldn’t give me an earlier flight, and now you won’t let me sleep. Hey, maybe you can get out your broom and fly me to LA without all this fuss, grandma.”
She stiffened and moved away, muttering under her breath, “Idiot, may you choke on your own words.”
“I heard that. You got a lot of nerve. What’s your name? I’m reporting you.”
“Okay, Doris Law. Let’s see how smart you feel when you’re fired. You look like you should have retired a long time ago anyway.”
He took an inflatable neck cushion from his briefcase. The engines revved and the plane began to move.
Wishing that I choke, Roger thought angrily as he blew into the cushion. ‘On your own words’ she had the nerve to say—old witch! A karmic click, somewhere. It was the third time. What insolence! Thought that I wouldn’t hear. He finished, closed the valve, settled the cushion around his neck, and lowered his seat back again. That bitch better not bother me again.
The plane rushed down the runway, left the ground, and tilted upwards. As it rose higher, he felt the air in the neck cushion expand and press on his neck.
Over-inflated, he thought annoyed. He reached up to remove the cushion.
Tight. Can’t get fingers around it. He pulled as hard as he could. It was stiff and unyielding. Can’t get it off! The cushion swelled, tightening ever more on his neck, squeezing, on his blood vessels, pressing on his windpipe. He began to panic. Sweat beaded his forehead. He tried to call out, but managed only a guttural grunt. Roger fumbled for the call-button. His head felt swollen. His vision darkened.
Doris Law saw where the call was from. “Oh terrific, it’s that bad-tempered jerk.”
Roger faintly heard her ask, “Did you call, sir?” He pulled as hard as he could at the cushion, legs thrashing about.
“That’s not funny,” she said disapprovingly. Wait a minute, she thought, his face looks awfully dark–eyes bulging. She turned on the seat light.
Her scream brought the other attendant running. “He’s choking—must have been eating something when we took off. Got to do Heimlich.”
By now Roger was limp, and the two struggled to get him out of his seat and into the aisle.
“Get his neck cushion off first.”
“I can’t budge it. It’s so hard and tight. I think that’s what’s choking him.” The two attendants pulled at it frantically, but couldn’t budge it.
“We don’t have anything sharp on board.”
“He’s not breathing!”
The attendants tried CPR. They paged for a doctor, but there was no answer. As the plane turned back and descended, the neck cushion began to soften. The paramedics who met the plane removed it easily.