Trick or Treat

by Evelyn Floyd

Jacob watched as a small group of younger kids went by, dressed in store bought super hero costumes. There were at least two boys dressed as Superman and a handful of girls garbed as various Disney princesses. There were also other costumes based on comic book heroes, and a few that he didn't recognize. He snorted his disapproval, because to him, Halloween was about monsters, not heroes. They hurried past him, intent on scoring more candy, not seeing him in the shadows near the entrance to the cemetery. They spoke in excited and rapid tones, and it was obvious that they'd already been eating the candy that they carried in the plastic pumpkin buckets in their hands. Soon they were gone, and he was alone again.

It seemed as if every kid in town was going from house to house in search of sweets. All along the side streets and main thoroughfares, every porch light was on, and the shrill cry of 'trick or treat' rang out from the sidewalks. It was Halloween, and the streets were full of pint-sized revelers. Overhead, a ominous full moon stared down, as if in mute judgment. Jacob nodded to the moon in affirmation. Trick or Treat was for children.

Jacob pulled his jacket a little tighter around his shoulders. It was a chilly night, mostly because the weather had been clear all week, and the incoming cold front had pushed the heat of Indian summer ahead of it, giving everyone a taste of the coming chill of winter. There was no frost yet, but it was coming soon. Winter was when the world became cold and dead.

Jacob watched as his breath exhaled from his nostrils, and he shivered involuntarily. He swore at his hesitation to wear warmer clothes for the tenth time. He was tired of waiting, and considered going home. Just then he noticed a figure walking towards him. He recognized the gait; it was Garth.

"It's about time," Jacob called out, "I'm freezing my balls off out here." Garth nodded and once he was close to his friend, he smiled, replying, "If your balls are that cold, I can warm them up for you." Jacob frowned, ignoring the other's sarcastic comment. Garth kept walking, waving for Jacob to follow him, and the two set off between the rusted iron gates of the cemetery. The gates were set in crumbling mortar in the ancient stone pillars, each pillar capped with a bronze eagle. The bronze birds were heavily tarnished, and looked on without any perceptible expression as the boys passed beneath their unblinking gaze. If the boys noticed the silent guardians, they showed no indication of it.

Garth led Jacob past the shiny modern stones at the front of the cemetery, moving at a brisk pace, and soon they were among the towering cedars near the center. It was a large cemetery, and to Jacob it seemed they had been walking for miles. He was becoming winded and he asked Garth to wait up. Garth paid him no attention, and Jacob set his jaw and tried to keep up, swearing softly under his breath. He had expected Garth to find a place where they could have a little fun and make out, but it seemed Garth had something else in mind tonight.

Eventually they were at the far end of the cemetery, back where the encroaching forest was making it's slow, relentless invasion into the open park-like land. The wind was less noticeable here, and Jacob wasn't as cold as before, as all the walking had warmed him. It was also much darker here in amongst the trees, and he stumbled over obstacles on the rough ground more than once.

Eventually Garth ceased his brisk pace, shining his flashlight at the stones that surrounded them. Jacob noticed that the stones here were old, some tilting crazily and a few of them were broken. He knew the broken ones wasn't the work of vandals; these stones had crumbled from extreme age and the swell of tree trunks crowding into the cemetery. Jacob noticed that the grass was overgrown and unkempt in this part of the cemetery and he made a joke about the laziness of the park employees. Garth said nothing, continuing to study the crumbling stones, and then he said "Aha!" as he'd found what he'd been looking for.

Jacob moved closer, trying to make out the name chiseled in the face of the weather beaten limestone. It was illegible to his eyes. He asked Garth who was buried here. Garth didn't reply right away, still looking at a couple of neighboring stones, as if they were clues. Then he moved back next to Jacob and said, "This is the one we want, he's buried right here."

"Who?" Jacob asked. Garth shined the light on the face of the stone and traced his finger in the worn lettering carved on it, chuckling softly to himself. Jacob snorted in frustration, asking his question again. Garth looked up, as if suddenly realizing Jacob was there, and snapped, "Caleb Fensterbush."

Normally Jacob would have found such an unusual name hilarious, but not this time. The name Caleb Fensterbush had a history in the town. There were stories about old man Fensterbush, and none of them were very nice. He'd done things, terrible things to his family and to his neighbors back when this town was first settled. The fact that such a monster was buried with an identifying headstone spoke of his power, even after his death. Even three hundred years after his life was abruptly ended, no one mentioned Caleb Fensterbush without shuddering.

"What… what do you want with that old motherfucker?" Jacob asked, and shivered. It wasn't from the cold, and he looked around nervously, as if they were being watched. Garth moved closer to Jacob and whispered, "Careful, this is All Hallows Eve, when the ghosts walk among the living and he might hear you." Jacob laughed derisively, but it seemed forced, "Oh bullshit, that old bastard is dust by now. Is this why you dragged me all the way out here, to show me the headstone of some old settler dude?"

Garth moved off behind a large tree, and when he came back, he held two shovels. "No," he replied, "I didn't drag you out here to show you Caleb's tombstone, I dragged you out here to help me dig him up." He threw the shovels down and the sound of the metal clanging against the hard ground was loud and strident. Jacob peered at the shovels lying in the long grass in the moonlight, and took a step backwards.

"Fuck that, I ain't gonna help you dig up nothing, and I sure as fuck ain't gonna help you dig up that old coot. You must be crazy." Garth reached out and grasped Jacob's shoulder with his hand, digging his fingers into the other boy's flesh. "You'll help me when I tell you why." Jacob jerked his arm out of the other boy's grasp and turned to leave, but he stopped. He turned back to face Garth. "Well?" he said, "Why do you want to dig up that grave?"

Garth picked up a shovel and stabbed the blade into the soil. The sound of the metal scraping into the hard ground was like fingernails on a chalkboard. As he worked out the first lump of sod, he replied, "You do know the tale of Caleb Fensterbush, don't you?" Jacob nodded. Everybody knew it, it was the basis for every spooky story that was told around campfires and at Halloween parties in this part of the country. He knew the story, and so did everyone else in town.

Caleb Fensterbush had founded this town back in the late 1700s, and he build a house here for himself and his young bride up on the hill. She'd gotten pregnant, but the baby died shortly after it was born. Other people moved into the town below the hill, a town that Fensterbush had started, and soon there were twenty or so families living there. Some of them brought their kids with them, and others brought their wives and had children after moving here. Soon there was a mill and a lumberyard, and even a church. The town was growing, but Caleb's family remained at two. Caleb remained childless because his wife kept losing her babies, either from sickness or being stillborn. Fensterbush sent for a doctor and even the medic couldn't find any reason why Mrs. Fensterbush had trouble getting her babies to live. Caleb, in his frustration at his failure to become a father, became a very unpleasant person to be around, and those people who met him on the street gave him a wide berth.

Caleb began to drink heavily after the death of his second child and by the time the seventh child died, his drinking was constant. The child had not only been still born, but it also bore some unusual deformities. Caleb accused his wife of all sorts of unnatural infidelity and one night, the townspeople heard screams coming from his house on the hill. No one dared go up there, because Caleb was a mean drunk, and his eccentric and violent ways had most of the people in town spooked. The next morning the people in town saw something hanging and flapping from the limb of the tree outside his front door. There was no sheriff in town, but a few of the menfolk finally screwed up their courage and went up the hill to check it out. What they found was Mrs. Fensterbush, and she'd been flayed from her neck to her feet, the skin hanging off her corpse in long bloody sheets. Only the area above her throat was untouched, and the look on her face was one of utter horror. Her eyes stared out accusingly at the gathered townsfolk.

No one dared to confront Caleb about his wife's obvious murder, other than to suggest he take the body down and bury the poor unfortunate woman. He ignored their request, chasing them off his property with a scattergun and then things got worse. Soon other people's kids began to disappear, and while many of them were never seen again, some were found down by the creek. What had been done to them was unspeakable. Eventually, the townspeople screwed up the courage to confront Caleb about the murdered children, and there was a stand off. He stood on his front porch and threatened to shoot anyone who set foot in his yard. A couple men snuck into his house through the back and captured him, tying his hands and dragging him out into the street. They accused him of murdering their children, and after a very brief trial, he was sentenced to death and the town butcher was chosen to slit his throat as punishment for his crimes. It was vigilante justice, but it was the only form of justice available at the time.

He was placed on a low scaffold in the middle of the street, and the butcher sliced his neck from ear to ear. It took him a long time to die, and that spooked the townspeople too. As he lay dying, the blood bubbling from his neck, he swore that he would curse them and the land as well if they didn't give him a proper burial in the cemetery of the town he had built. Of course, they buried him at the farthest edge of the cemetery, giving him a full Christian burial, even though he didn't deserve it. After many years, people forgot about him.

Of course, as the years passed, every time something terrible happened, or someone's kid disappeared, the older folks would whisper that old man Fensterbush was responsible, and that he'd come back from the dead to haunt them again.

The old Fensterbush place sat vacant for years until it finally burned to the ground about twenty years later, and even now, the hill sat as a stark and barren reminder of those dark days. The kids in town swore the hill was haunted, and no one went there, even on a dare. It was just too dangerous, and eventually, the townspeople had a high fence erected around the base of the hill to keep anyone from wandering among the fire blackened ruins by accident.

Jacob had heard the story many times, and while it had frightened him as a child, now that he was in high school, he found the whole thing silly. It It couldn't be true, and it hardly made any sense. It was just another boogeyman story.

"So why do you want to dig him up, Garth?" Jacob asked. Garth set the shovel down, and he lit a cigarette. He glanced around, as if he might be overheard, and replied, "When they buried old man Fensterbush, they threw in a small metal box that they had found in his room. It was locked and no one could find the key, so they tossed it in with him. Do you know what was in that box?" Jacob wanted to be cool and he wanted to make a joke about his friend's obsession with the old Fensterbush tale, but he felt as if they were being watched, and it was starting to freak him out. He asked what Garth thought was in the box.

Garth swallowed hard and replied, "When they found those dead kids down by the creek, do you know what had been done to them?" Jacob shook his head no. None of the stories gave any details of that, they just said that the things were unspeakable.

"I know what he did." Garth said with a grin. Jacob frowned at him and replied, "Bullshit. No one knows, because no one had the nerve to say what it was he'd done to them." Garth continued to grin, smoking his cigarette and he asked if Jacob had been to the library lately. Jacob shook his head, the library was the last place he'd ever want to be.

"Well I have," Garth replied, "And I was searching among the stacks when I found the historical records of this town. Someone had hidden them very well, but I found them, and I learned a lot about old man Fensterbush that no one else knows." Jacob half believed him, because Garth was the type to spend his free time in the library, reading dusty old books about history. Jacob had no interest in such things, he preferred video games to books. Jacob shivered again, and it was partly from the temperature and partly because of where they were.

He was curious, against his better wishes, so he asked Garth, "Like what? What do you know about old Fucknuts Fensterbush?" Garth grinned wider, seeing that he had a live one on the line. He knelt down and stubbed out his cigarette in the small hole he had dug, and picked up his shovel. "Help me dig, and I'll tell you as we work." Jacob found himself reaching for the other shovel and as he worked, Garth told him what he had learned in the town records.

Caleb Fensterbush wasn't just the town's founder, he was also a preacher. He'd been ordained at a large church out east, and had moved west to start a new town and to build a congregation. His wife had been a pretty young thing from a fine family, and Caleb married her not only for her looks, but because she came from a long line of wealthy and very fertile folks. Caleb wanted children more than anything, because in his mind, a man was judged not by his deeds or his words, but by the size of his family. He expected his wife Sarah to give him at least a half a dozen sons and daughters.

When her inability to produce healthy children became apparent, Caleb accused her of consorting with the Devil. She of course denied such allegations, but he was insistent that her inability to produce him with healthy offspring was no fault of his. He soon locked her in a small room and began to treat her poorly. Later, after the stillborn death of her seventh child, a boy, Caleb had gotten angry, and had killed her, skinning her alive as she screamed for mercy. He'd dragged her outside afterwards and strung her up in the old oak tree by the front door. Then he went inside and drank himself into a stupor.

Later, after the brief trial and his execution, the townspeople searched his house for evidence of the weapons he used to kill Sarah and to mutilate the children he kidnapped. They found a few kitchen knives, but none of them were blood stained. Under his bed they found a steel strong box, but despite their best attempts, no one could get it open. They assumed that whatever was inside should remain with him, so they tossed it into his casket and buried him. Garth explained that the box was covered with ornate carvings and precious stones, and there was a bible verse carved across the top. The bible verse was from the Old Testament, and it read, "For he that soweth the wind shall reap the whirlwind." Jacob thought it was a strange thing to have written on a metal box, but said nothing, and Garth didn't bother to explain what it meant. Jacob didn't ask because he didn't want Garth to think he was stupid.

"Do you know what's in that box?" Garth asked, "Do you, Jacob?" Jacob shook his head, saying that he had no idea. Garth chucked another shovelful of dirt out of the hole and replied, "A long dagger-like knife made of pure black obsidian. It had been seen in Caleb's house back before he killed Sarah, but after the woman's death and the death of the area children, no one ever found it or saw it again. Do you know what obsidian is, Jacob?" Jacob shook his head no again, and waited for Garth to tell him. Garth said that obsidian was a form of lava that was very hard and brittle, and that it could be knapped like flint, making an edge on it so sharp as to cut through just about anything. "If you were to cut yourself with an obsidian knife, you wouldn't even feel it until you had half bled to death. I want that knife. It would be the pride of my knife collection to have one made of obsidian. That box would be cool to own, too."

Jacob listened as Garth related the story, and he found himself mesmerized by the tale. Suddenly his shovel hit something hard and the sound it made was an odd thump. He stopped digging, looking down into the hole where they both stood. Garth had tossed his shovel out of the hole and was down on his knees, his hands wiping frantically at the fine dry dirt. Jacob saw that they were standing on something made of wood. He knew that it was the coffin of old man Fensterbush. Jacob felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up and he climbed up out of the hole, brushing his hands against his jeans after he tossed the shovel into the weeds. He was suddenly very frightened, and he wasn't sure why.

"Come on Garth, let's go, we should get out of here." Jacob said and Garth ignored him, continuing to brush the dirt away from the solid wooden planks. He repeated his request and Garth suddenly looked up at him, a strange eerie glow in his eyes and replied sharply, "Leave if you want, you wussy, but I am going to stay. I want that fucking knife and I am going to get it even if I have to pry it out of old man Fensterbush's hand."

Jacob was really scared, and he backed away from the hole and the mounded dirt, walking backwards as he told Garth that he was crazy, and that they'd be in trouble for desecrating the grave. Garth ignored him, and Jacob heard his friend chopping at the wooden planks of the coffin with the blade of his shovel. Suddenly Jacob tripped over something hidden in the long grass and he fell over backwards, crying out in alarm as he did so. He hit the ground hard and he just lay there, the wind knocked out of him, trying to catch his breath. As he lay there gasping and his heart pounding in his chest, he heard Garth cry out in triumph, the sound of splintering wood echoing among the trees. Jacob thought he heard another sound, but attributed it to the wind in the tops of the barren trees. He finally caught his breath and sat up, and he could see Garth clearly in the moonlight. He was holding an oblong rectangular thing about a foot long and half as wide, much like a box.

Garth scrambled out of the hole, calling out to Jacob, "I got it, I got the box and look, it opened right up in my hands. Look at this knife, oh God, it is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." Jacob could see the knife as Garth held it up and it glittered in the moonlight in the most unnatural way.

Suddenly, the ground began to shake, and there were strange guttural sounds coming from all around. The wind, which had died off earlier, suddenly began to blow with a vengeance. The trees creaked and cracked overhead and there was a crash as one of them fell over in the forest down by the creek. Jacob scrambled to his feet, suddenly more scared than he had ever been and took off at a dead run back towards the safety of town. He thought he heard Garth call out to him, but the sound was cut off by the roll of thunder in a cloudless sky. As Jacob ran, the wind tore at his clothes and it felt like the hands of the dead, trying to drag him down. He shrugged them off, his legs pumping wildly as he ran. Jacob thought he heard something that sounded like screaming, and it reminded him of Garth's voice, but he was too frightened to even look back. He ran until he got to the gates at the front of the cemetery, and then he was out in the street.

When he got home, he went straight up to his room and climbed into bed, hiding under the covers. It was a long time before he went to sleep, and when he awoke in the morning, it all seemed like a bad dream. He climbed out of bed and noticed that his clothes were covered with dirt and there were blisters on his palms. When his parents asked about all the dirt, he told them some lie, saying that he'd fallen down at the edge of town where the construction crews were building the new bridge. Later, he went over to Garth's house, but no one was there. Jacob remembered that Garth's parents had gone out of town for the week to celebrate their wedding anniversary in Vegas. He let himself into the house, and checked his friends' room, but Garth wasn't there, and hadn't been there since the day before. He knew where Garth was, but he was scared to go to the cemetery and check. Jacob went home instead, and refused to answer any questions about where he'd been the night before.

Later that week, someone from the park department had been mowing the grass at the back of the cemetery and noticed some piles of dirt among the trees. He went into the trees to investigate and that was where they found what remained of Garth. The sheriff had been called in and he and his deputies reported that Garth had been murdered, his throat cut and his body nailed to a very large oak tree, his arms spread out in a Jesus Christ pose. He was nude. His body had been mutilated in the most unspeakable way, and the only evidence besides the body that the authorities found was a metal box in the broken open casket of Caleb Fensterbush. The box and the casket were empty, and carved across the bent up lid of the box were the words, "For he that soweth the wind shall reap the whirlwind."

The End

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead