P.S. Feel free to comment and let me know if there are any characters you'd like to hear from. You never know, they might need your help to get my attention! ;)
PART 5: Super Powers
I woke up, screaming at the top of my lungs. Only, there wasn't a sound escaping my throat. The screams existed only in my nightmare, and in the real world, I only lie with my eyes wide open, gasping for air.
I kicked at my bed sheets, almost descending into panic when I couldn't break free. The blankets had become twisted around me like a straight jacket. Somehow, I managed to free myself and roll over in bed, curling up into a ball. I was shaking and cold sweat coated my skin. My eyes darted around the room, seeking out the dark corners made darker by the eerie light cast by Jack and Joey’s fish tank. I expected ghoulies to come leaping out of the closet or from behind the dresser or from under my bed. Gradually, my breathing slowed along with my heart rate and the acrid fear of the dream fizzled out with it. The grey light of dawn was just beginning to peek through the blinds and I could hear Logan and Bradley, speaking in what they thought were whispers, arguing from their room.
Glad of the distraction, I crawled out of bed and snuck down the hallway, pushing their door open without even bothering to knock.
They both stopped their discussion and turned to look at me, Bradley scowling as usual.
"Haven't you ever heard of knocking?" Logan hissed.
Apparently, his brotherly concern from yesterday was all gone. I shrugged and said, "Loud."
Bradley turned his nasty look onto our other brother. "I told you you were making too much noise!"
"Me?!" Logan replied in exasperation.
And then they started arguing again. Figuring I was safe for the moment, I scuttled over to get a closer look at what they had piled up in the middle of their room. A few small cans of what might have been spray paint, some random Halloween decorations, lots of candy and a large, hand-made card. That's when it dawned upon me. Today was Halloween and Meghan's birthday. They were getting ready to surprise her. If anything good ever came out of Halloween, it was that Meggy was born on this day. Smiling and deciding I was going to help, I knelt onto the ground and pulled the card toward me. My brothers had snatched it away earlier that week before I could finish the picture I was drawing.
"Aiden!" Logan complained.
"Let him finish! We need to wrap the candy anyway. Meghan will be up soon."
For the next several minutes, we worked in relative silence, only the occasional disagreement rising up between my brothers every now and again. At some point in time the door cracked open and Mom poked her head in.
"Oh, there you are! I've started the breakfast, so be ready to go get your sister in fifteen minutes or so."
We worked for ten more minutes, Bradley and Logan doing a passable job of wrapping up the candy they'd picked out and me cleaning up the crayons and markers. When we finally spilled out into the hallway, we were greeted with the delightful smell of French toast. I breathed in deeply and smiled. The nightmare from before was already a dim memory and I couldn't wait to wish my sister a happy birthday.
Dad was busy getting the twins fastened into their high chairs and Mom had started depositing freshly cooked slices of French toast onto a waiting plate. Strings of black plastic cut-out bats and orange jack-o-lanterns hung between the cabinets, and Mom had to duck so she wouldn't become entangled in them. Ghosts made of white tissue paper wrapped around lollipops dangled from the chandelier above the dining room table, one of them missing a googly eye.
"Logan, go yell downstairs for your sister," Mom said as she slid one final piece of toast onto the others.
Logan darted across the living room and Bradley started shaking the can he held in his hand. Silly string, I realized, not spray paint. When Logan was done yelling at Meghan, he replaced the trap door that marked the entrance to her basement room and then nodded in Bradley's direction. Bradley took that as a sign and quickly made his way to the other side of Meghan's door, tossing a can of silly string to Logan on the way.
Before Meggy even reached the top of the stairs, Bradley and Logan pulled the trap door open and she emerged, blinking in surprise at all the decorations. Two seconds later, she was ambushed by my brothers, silly string flying everywhere.
"Logan!" Meghan complained, "You totally set me up for that!"
She didn't seem too annoyed, however, because she was smiling even as she picked the sticky mess of black and orange from her hair and clothes. I managed to weave my way through the chaos, walking up to Meggy and throwing my arms around her legs. She was so tall I could never give her a real hug, not unless she was sitting on the couch with me. She placed her hand on the back of my head and for a few seconds I let the comforting presence of my sister flood over me. Tonight we would go trick-or-treating, and I would have given anything to have Meggy go with us, but she was going to a school dance with her friends. I would just have to be brave.
After breakfast, Dad left for work and Mom got the rest of us ready for school. She dropped the twins off at the daycare down the street before taking Bradley and Logan to school. As we pulled into the drop off area of their school, I pressed my face up against the cold glass and gazed out across the parking lot. Kids dressed as zombies, fairies, witches and superheroes made their way into class. I was wearing my costume as well, but it wasn't nearly as fancy as some of the ones I was studying at the moment.
"See you after school!" Mom called out to my brothers before pulling out onto the main road.
After that, she brought me to my school, kissing me goodbye and telling me she'd be back later to pick me up. I entered the classroom to find my schoolmates in the Halloween spirit as well. Mrs. Warren and Miss Rodriguez were dressed up as a cat and mouse. Maddie and Bella were wearing princess costumes, and Mira looked like an over-sized teddy bear. Jake and Russell were dressed as the same superhero, one from a popular cartoon and not featured in the comic books I read. We didn't do much that day besides play games, watch a movie and have a small party before our moms and dads picked us up.
I was ready to go home, even though going home meant trick-or-treating later. Everyone was always trying to make Halloween fun for kids, as if the holiday didn't really hide creepy things in the shadows. I knew better. There were no friendly ghosts or sad monsters who just wanted to be your friend. The ghoulies were real and they would hurt you if they got the chance.
Once Mom had made all the stops to pick up my brothers, we headed home. We had an early dinner and then waited for Dad to get home. Bradley and Logan couldn't keep still and they started chasing each other around the living room. They looked a little ridiculous, especially Logan who had a hard time getting away from Bradley in his bulky cheeseburger costume. Dad showed up ten minutes later, begging us to give him a half an hour of peace before he took us out trick-or-treating. I felt my stomach tense up. Thirty short minutes from now, I would be going out into the dark world where the ghoulies waited for me, and maybe even those really big scary ones I'd seen in my dream.
"Zap!" Bradley screeched, jumping out from behind the couch, his over-sized alien eyes looking demonic. He had a fake laser gun pointed at me, the light on the end flashing red.
When my heartbeat returned to normal, I took a step back, holding up my hands. Best to play along.
"I'll save you, Aiden!" Logan bellowed, jumping from the back of the couch and crashing into Bradley.
My brothers collapsed in a pile of sesame seed bun and shiny green alien skin. In the next second Dad was yelling at them to stop rough housing and I took the opportunity to make my escape. I glanced across the living room only to see Meghan heading toward the door. She was dressed like a butterfly and wore a black dress for the dance. Part of me wanted to rush toward her and beg her to change her mind; to convince her to go trick-or-treating with us, but she was already closing the door behind her. I would have to make it on my own.
"Alright, that's it!" Dad proclaimed. "I'm going to go change and then we'll get going."
Ten minutes later, Dad came striding down the hallway dressed as the Grim Reaper.
"Ready boys?" he asked in a fake, spooky voice.
"Yeah!" everyone but me exclaimed.
Mom helped Dad with the twins. They were a pair of sock monkeys and their tails were long enough for Dad to keep wrapped around his hand. I thought it was pretty funny. So did Bradley and Logan. But since Mom insisted on staying home, Dad insisted on these little tricks to keep an eye on all us boys, especially on Halloween night. If that meant treating my rowdy twin brothers like a pair of hyper puppies on leashes, then so be it.
Finally, everyone was gathered with their bags for collecting treats and Mom was shooing us along. She didn't like us to be out too late, so the sooner we left the sooner we could come home. I was happy with that.
By the time we were all outside and making our way down the street, the sun had just set and twilight was staining the sky indigo and ink-blue. Bradley and Logan ran ahead of us, continuing their mock battle from inside, and although Jack and Joey tried to join them, Dad's tight hold on their tails kept them always within reach.
"I don't think so, you two," he said through the black screen taking up the front of his hood.
I opted to stick as close to Dad as possible, gripping a section of his black cloak in my fist. As we made our way down the block, I watched the shrubs along the side of the road and the bushes clogging people's yards. For a while, nothing out of the ordinary stirred in the dark.
Each house on our street had a long driveway and the homeowners had done a good job of creating a spooky atmosphere by stringing fake spider webs everywhere or wedging foam headstones into their lawns. Spooky music floated from cracked windows and jack-o-lanterns stood guard on front porches, the yellow candle flames in their throats flickering and making them look as if they were laughing silently at us kids as we scuttled past in slight fear.
If I didn't know the truth behind Halloween, that it was the one day of the year the ghoulies came out in hordes, I would have loved it all. Despite that fact, however, I had yet to see a single ghoulie. Just as we rounded the corner of our street and headed out onto the wider road toward the next block, I noticed something odd. In the distance I could see the tops of the trees that clogged the swamp behind our house. I had to blink several times to clear my vision, thinking maybe I was seeing things. But I wasn't. A strange red haze was rising up from the depths of the swamp, like the weird glow I'd seen surrounding the ghoulies. Immediately my skin began to prickle.
"Bradley, Logan! Let's go. We still have three more streets to hit before turning back," Dad called out to my brothers, snapping me back to reality.
Shivering, I moved closer to him and the twins. Something wasn't right about that strange mist. Five houses later and we had moved closer to the swamp once again. Bradley and Logan ran down the pathway of the next house, Jack and Joey close behind. I stayed right where I was. There was a gap between this house and the next one, and I could almost see down into the bog through the space.
"Don't you want anymore candy?" Dad asked me.
I shook my head. My bag was half full, and that would last me long enough.
"Alright, you can wait with me here then," Dad replied, putting his arm around me and pulling me close.
For a few moments I enjoyed the comfort of being nestled up next to Dad. But when he released me, I inched closer to the edge of the road so I could see down into the swamp. What I noticed next made my stomach turn. The red mist had grown thicker and rose higher, almost as tall as me now, and I could see things churning along the edge of it: ghoulies.
"Dude! That lady gave us whole candy bars!"
Logan's voice made me jump and I hurried back next to Dad.
Before long we were moving once again, visiting two more houses before finishing up with the cul-de-sac. We were halfway done with our night. I could do this. I could make it through without letting the ghoulies get the better of me.
I spotted the first monster on our way down the next street. It was as big as a house cat with long, batwing ears that looked half-rotted and long, yellow teeth that did not fit in its mouth. Its dark skin hung from a bony body and it limped as it walked. I grabbed Dad's hand and held on tight, reaching for a long eucalyptus branch protruding from a pile of yard clippings on the dirt shoulder of the road.
"Are you okay, Aiden?" Dad asked, turning to look at me.
I nodded and proceeded to use the branch as a walking stick. After that, the streets practically crawled with the horrible little monsters. Some resembled squirrels, others small dogs and raccoons. They darted back and forth between the thicker landscaping of the yards, crossing the street like rats chased out into the open. They mostly avoided the other kids in costume and their parents, and I felt myself cringing every time one came close to getting stepped on, or moved in to sniff at the hem of someone's costume. I had never seen so many ghoulies before, even during past Halloweens.
As the night dragged on, more and more of the nasty things came out of the shadows like spiders hatching from an egg sac. The soft glow of the street lamps cast them in tones of peach and orange and I could hear their low growls as they fought with one another under the cover of darkness.
"Last street boys!" Dad called out, tugging on the tails of my brothers and rounding Bradley and Logan up with his scythe.
"Oh, come on Dad!" Bradley groaned. "Can't we stay out a little later tonight?"
"Nope. We've been out long enough, and something's got your little brother spooked."
I blinked up at Dad in surprise. I couldn't see his expression, but I could tell he was trying to study me through his mesh mask. He couldn't see the ghoulies. No one could but me. Yet, he knew something was bothering me. Feeling relieved, I scooted closer to him and wrapped my arms around his leg, burying my face in his cloak.
Logan and Bradley groaned again and shot me acidic looks, but I didn't care. No one could see the ghoulies, and so far they hadn't hurt anyone, but that didn't mean they wouldn't. The sooner we got home and were safe inside our house, the better.
We were lucky for most of the next street, but as we turned the corner to start making our way back up our own road, the old dog that lived across the street from Tully's house started barking wildly. I glanced up as Dad moved us across the street and blanched. The dog was surrounded by a pack of ghoulies, their ugly teeth bared and their skinny tails snapping back and forth. I remembered the dog's owner calling him Bruno once, and I knew he was blind in one eye.
"Come on, boys. He'll stop barking once we get past him," Dad reassured us.
I knew better. He wasn't just barking, but whining as well. The ghoulies were moving in closer and a few of them darted in to bite him on the heels. He yelped and flattened his ears to his head. My heart tightened and I stopped walking, staring across the dark street at the old dog. Although the front yard wasn't fenced, Bruno always stayed in the yard. Right now, I wished there was a fence. A fence might have kept the ghoulies out.
One of the small monsters shrunk down on its haunches and then launched itself at the dog, landing on his back and sinking its teeth into his fur. Bruno yelped again, his tail tucked between his legs.
Without even thinking, I moved, running across the street as fast as my feet would take me. I wasn't able to move as quickly or as gracefully as I had in my dream, but before I knew it I was on the lawn. What I planned to do I had no idea. All I knew was that a rage had begun boiling inside me. I still had the eucalyptus branch, so I lifted it up, hoping to use it to hit the ghoulies. When I had it raised above my head I noticed something strange. The blue glow covering my skin had grown brighter and was crawling up the stick, bright sparks shooting out like magic from a wand.
A loud snarl snapped my attention away from the stick. Some of the ghoulies had noticed me and now had their black-pit eyes pointed in my direction. Swallowing back my fear, I swung the stick, hitting the first one upside the head. It screamed in pain as that strange blue stuff jumped from the stick and onto the ghoulie, sizzling over its skin and making it collapse to the ground into a fit of spasms before turning it to ash. Shocked, I blinked at the stick for a few moments, watching the blue sparks dance some more. Whatever this stuff was, it killed the ghoulies.
Setting my jaw, I went after the others, now backing the poor dog into a corner. I swung my stick like a sword, smacking one after the other, sending them to the ground, screaming and twitching in agony before disintegrating. Eventually, I got to all of them and Bruno was free. He looked terrified and had a few bite marks on him but other than that, he seemed okay. I dropped the arm holding the stick, my breath coming in sharp gasps. The dog looked at me with his good eye, his ears still flat in fear but his tail wagging slowly.
"Good dog," I managed in a shaky voice, holding up my other hand. The blue glow was gone and my hand shook a little. Suddenly, I was very tired.
Bruno licked my fingers and I smiled.
"Aiden! Aiden, get over here before that dog bites you!"
I shook my head, Dad's voice cutting through the ringing in my ears. Funny, I hadn't noticed the buzzing sound until now. I turned and looked at my dad. He was standing on the edge of the yard, his hood thrown back and his face looking serious. He still held onto my twin brothers by their tails, and Logan and Bradley were standing next to him, gawking at me as if I had grown my own tail. And then I stiffened. Had they seen what happened? Did they see the strange blue glow on my skin?
With no other options, I shuffled over to them.
"Let's get home," was all Dad said, turning us all in the right direction.
"Dude, Aiden," Logan murmured as we headed up the street. "What were you doing?"
"I can't believe you did that. You know Mom and Dad always tell us not to tease dogs, especially ones that are barking at us!" Bradley put in, taking a hold of my stick and tossing it aside.
"Were you trying to get him to play fetch or something?" Logan asked.
So, they hadn't seen after all. I shrugged, feeling that was the safest answer for the time being.
Ten minutes later we were all piling into the living room. Mom greeted us all in her witch costume, asking us if we saw any ghosts or goblins on our nightly adventure. Bradley and Logan got busy telling her everything, which gave me time to gather my thoughts. Despite how terrified I was at seeing the strange red mist and then the armies of ghoulies, I was very proud of myself for helping Bruno.
"Okay, okay, you can tell me the rest in the morning. You guys stayed out later than usual and it's time for bed."
My brothers groaned again but didn't argue with Mom. Personally, I was more than happy to comply. Fifteen minutes later my teeth were brushed, my pajamas were on, and I was tucked safe and sound in my bed. As I lay there, waiting for sleep to come to me, I thought about that strange blue glow to my skin that had traveled along the stick I'd used to hit the ghoulies. Below the sheets, I lifted my hand and splayed the fingers in front of my face. The blue glow had returned, and small tendrils of brighter turquoise crackled along my fingertips. I didn't know what this strange stuff was, but I knew that from now on, I wouldn't be so afraid of the ghoulies anymore. With a self-satisfied smile, I let out a long sigh and closed my eyes, content in knowing my dreams would not be haunted again for a long while.
Thank you for reading this third installment from Aiden's point of view! Hopefully I'll have the next installment up soon. In the meantime, discover the Otherworld with the first book in the series, Faelorehn. The ebook is free on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo and Smashwords! The audio book edition is also available from Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.