Discover more from Barbarian Grunge
Fiction: Yellow Eyes—A Halloween Story
A Short Halloween Story
Slater grinned and said, “I’m down if we’re playing witches and gremlins or whatever. I love that stuff. Let’s break out some Ouija boards; get weird. I’m ready.”
Slater then waited for a reaction, either from his nerdy cousin Max (who was being rather intense), or from either of his other cousins, Maron or Samantha. After getting none, he shrugged, then shifted Dandelion in his arms and scratched under the orange cat’s chin while it purred.
“No? In that case, I don’t really get what’s going on here,” Slater began, addressing Max. “I get that you’re mad, but you’re being a little crazy. We could have this discussion without you threatening us all with your invisible friend for one.”
Slater looked around the room, trying to find somebody to agree with him. Nobody spoke up.
He stood in the kitchen near the cabin’s entrance and the bedrooms. The others were in a living room of sorts, which was positioned a step-down from the kitchen and without a wall separating the two areas.
The living room had a large fireplace, and in front of that rested a glass coffee table, which was covered with strange objects that Slater didn’t recognize. Around this table, a few leather couches were arranged in a circle.
There were also sliding glass doors leading outside, which were being pelted by rain. The dark room was lit only by candles, firelight, and the occasional flash of lightning.
Slater tried again: “Okay, all at once. Say it with me. Your invisible friend isn’t real. Someone? He’s having a breakdown, he needs help. Look, let’s turn the lights back on. Let’s make some food. Let’s talk about this.”
Slater still got no reply. He began to pace, looking over the scene before him with a mix of humour and worry.
Somehow, Max Robert had the other cousins cowering in the living room while he stood in front of the fireplace, lording over them as if he had guns to their heads. They all looked haggard. Even Sam, the badass who used to be in the army, was looking down at her feet and shaking. And yet… there was no weapon or other visible cause for their worry.
Slater continued to pace, trying to work out what to say next. While he did, the room lit up with a flash of lightning, and he paused to wait for the thunder, listening to the rain pitter-patter on the windows until…
The world rumbled.
That was pretty close.
Dandelion stopped purring for just a moment, but then resumed.
Slater saw something move outside the window. He dismissed it: probably just a tree branch blowing in the wind.
What had happened was this:
The group of them were all cousins — “The Ginger Club,” they called themselves, due to them all having orange hair. They had arranged to spend Halloween together in a nifty log cabin on a hill overlooking a lake, spending the night telling spooky stories and drinking. To this end, Slater had ducked out to visit the liquor store in the nearby town.
When Slater got back from this trip (and had picked up his meowing cat), he came upon this unusual scene.
The really weird and scary part of this wasn’t exactly the nonsense that Max had said, although that had indeed been weird…
What Max had explained, matter-of-factly, was that he had summoned an entity. He said that this entity had left for the moment, but it would return soon. If it got back, and it didn’t have an offering – something to eat – then it would likely kill them all. Then he said that the offering should probably be Dandelion.
The weird and scary part was this: Slater concluded that his cousin Max, caught up in self loathing, was coming unhinged and was scaring everybody with how unstable he was. Slater didn’t believe in demons. But he did believe in the frailty of his pushover cousin’s self-esteem.
Slater was not aware of the yellow eyes that watched the cabin from among the wet trees outside the window.
Maron finally looked up at Slater and glared into his eyes, her face contorted with anger. She said, “Give him the stupid cat.”
Slater was incredulous that she was buying into this, and replied, “No, I don’t think that’s quite how this will work. Dandelion may be a bit old, and a little senile, but he’s a good kitty. Aren’t you boy? He’s going to stay here with me. We can keep talking this out, though.”
Maron stood. She took a deep breath and marched over to Slater, eyes red from crying earlier but bulging with anger now. “I…” she tried, then she bit her lip. After a moment, unbelievably, she yelled, “It’s not bullshit! That thing he’s talking about is out there. We all saw it. If you don’t want to believe him, fine, he’s being ridiculous right now, but give me that cat.”
Slater looked at her at first uncomprehending, but then he realized what was going on.
“Holy crap,” Slater said.
“Holy crap is right,” Maron replied.
“This is a prank. You’re all in on it!” Slater exclaimed.
Maron stared dumbly.
The scene went silent for a moment until Max quietly said, “This isn’t ridiculous to me.”
Sam’s face contorted, as if she was trying to keep her mouth shut while she searched for the right words. “Didn’t you say it would come back and kill all of us? Doesn’t that include you?” she finally snapped.
“I don’t know. I think I’m fine with that, if it comes down to it. This is going to make it right between us, and as for afterwards, I haven’t thought about that much.”
Slater rolled his eyes and turned away, headed to the dark kitchen to check if there was any popcorn left. He noticed that there was no hum from the fridge, as if the power was out.
Everybody was being so dramatic. It was nuts!
“You worthless-” Sam began, staring at Max.
Slater turned back to look at the living room just as Sam began to speak. Then, suddenly, there was an explosion of breaking glass after Max hurled some object at the coffee table. Now, candles were laying on hardwood next to a scattering of tarot cards, weird arcane implements like bowls and wands and shining coins, as well as sharp glass triangles that glistened in the firelight. The table still stood, but the surface was destroyed. In the corner of the room, a baseball-sized black stone orb stopped rolling and came to a standstill, apparently unblemished.
Slater hadn’t noticed the strange items until now. For that matter, the candles were not emergency candles – they were thick, fancy items with a strange, oily smell to them. Max must have set it all out while Slater was away.
“Don’t call me worthless,” Max said quietly. “Don’t. Every time you all have to feel better about yourselves, or have to feel powerful, you turn on me. That’s not what’s happening tonight.”
Dandelion’s claws were digging into Slater’s shoulder. The loud noise had terrified the frail cat. Slater held him tightly.
Slater tried his best to restrain himself. “That glass could have cut somebody,” he managed quietly. “You’re expecting me to pay for that? This place is on my card. But go ahead, trash the freaking place!”
The liquor bottles Slater brought back not long ago were still in a plastic bag on a table nearby, thankfully unreachable by everybody. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath to steady himself.
Sam continued, “You want to talk so much about how we mistreated you, how we pushed you around, fine, but let's take a moment and also talk about all the nice things we did for you – stuff that obviously doesn’t count, because that would get in the way of your little sob story, and your tragic little pity party will have to end. Take some responsibility for what happens to you, because bad things happen to everybody, and that’s just part of life!”
“Don’t, just don’t!” Max retorted. “You are always going off about how much I owe you! I don’t owe you anything! You all treated me like crap, and now you’re all acting like it never affected me!”
Slater opened his mouth but stopped himself.
Sam continued, “That’s not an answer. I asked about the nice things we do for you. I’m talking about the – hey, listen to me! — I’m talking about the crap that every one of us has to put up with every day and how everyone — you, me, Maron, Slater, this freaking cat – we all just have to learn to take it! For years, I’ve had my own problems to deal with, including having to deal with your tantrums and complaints, but you don’t see me having a breakdown over it!”
Just then, Slater caught a hint of something outside one of the windows. He turned to look at it, and it looked for just a moment like…
“Yellow eyes,” he said.
The eyes blinked, then disappeared.
Sam, still seated in the living room, started to breathe heavily and Maron hurried over to sit next to her, her own breath coming out fast and laboured.
“Okay,” Slater began, “I didn't understand why you were all buying into this until now. That was a fancy trick. I can’t believe Max has somebody out there in that rain helping him prank you all.”
Just then, lightning flashed and lit up the cabin with white light; shortly afterwards, the world rumbled once again.
“This isn’t funny any more, though. This is getting messed up,” Slater said.
“Hey, if you’re all so scared, why don’t we just feed Max to it?” Slater suggested jokingly, but with an edge of nastiness as he tried to hide his growing tension over the situation.
Max glared, eyes shining in the candlelight. “You can give up that cat, or we can all sit here and wait. But I’m not going to get thrown under the bus again.”
Max had always been dramatic, but he’d never threatened anybody before. Tonight, he seemed capable of violence.
“What’s with the cat, man?” Slater asked. “What do you have against Dandelion? This guy’s as old as you are, almost. Why do you have to drag him into it? That’s what really freaks me out.”
“Remember the cliff jumping last summer?” Max asked, refusing to answer Slater’s question directly. He gestured at Sam and continued, “How you swore at those old people because you were trashed? Do you remember what you did when I pointed out the blue and red lights in the distance?”
Slater went cold. He had been there for that.
What happened was that Sam had put an open beer into Max’s hand and sent him on the trail to walk towards the cops. She sent him to distract them so that the others could pack up and go hide somewhere.
Admittedly, Slater had also urged him to do it.
“You used me as bait,” Max said.
Sam sneered, “You agreed to it! You didn’t have to do that!”
“What was I going to do, let all of you get records? Of course I did it. But I shouldn’t have.”
“You’re right, you shouldn’t have,” Sam agreed.
“But you guys didn’t even help me with my community service. Safe from all the possession charges, but me with my summer gone.”
Sam, her eyes red from crying, said, “For crying out loud, we -”
Max talked over her and said, “I think that, for once, one of you should find out what it’s like to get thrown under the bus. It doesn’t have to be the cat, I’m okay if you want to put a person out there. I wasn’t certain whether I would be or not, but I think… I mean, that would be fitting, wouldn’t it? Either way, tonight, somebody is going to pay the bill for everyone else, and it will not be me!”
Maron glared at Slater, her voice harsh, and she yelled, “He wants to feed Dandelion to that thing, and you’re going to give him up. I know you love him, but I’m not going to die for some stupid cat that probably doesn’t even have a year to live anyway!”
Why is everybody acting like this?!
Dandelion was scratching him now, trying frantically to get away, but Slater held him close.
“That’s insane, and no, we’re not doing that. There is no ‘thing’ out there.”
Sam glared at Max coldly. Mournfully.
She asked, “Max, are you sure you can’t stop that thing? There’s no other way?”
“There is no ‘thing’ out there!” Slater repeated.
“There is no other way,” Max replied.
Wet lines ran down Sam’s cheeks. “You asshole.”
Sam stood up and faced Max. She held out her arms helplessly. He shook his head. She took a deep breath.
Suddenly, there was a gasping or a choking sound. Slater hadn’t caught what exactly happened, but Max’s head hit the fireplace behind him, Sam’s hand pressed against his neck. Blood spurted out from his neck like a short squirt from a water pistol. Sam let him go, and he slid down to the ground, a bloody triangle of glass sticking out of his Adam’s apple.
Slater couldn’t breathe. He was so stunned that he dropped Dandelion, who scampered away to hide in one of the bedrooms.
Sam slid open the glass doors that led outside to the porch and the forest; she then took Max by the hair and dragged him outside into the darkness while he gasped and struggled.
There was blood all over the place.
Outside, there was the wet sound of something hitting something, and then Sam came inside.
It felt wet all of a sudden. Slater smelled something and looked down.
I just pissed my pants.
“Why did you do that?” Slater exclaimed. “Is — is he okay?”
Sam collapsed onto the floor and looked numbly at the ground, hands shaking.
“Why? Oh my god, Max -“
Slater began rushing towards the door, but then he froze.
Outside, he couldn’t see anything, but he could hear. He heard ripping and tearing and a wet gasping sound, and finally a deep, echoing, primal roar like something from myth, and he felt tiny, like prey, and he shook so badly that he fell to the ground, his legs too wobbly to support him. He couldn’t breathe.
Then he saw yellow eyes through the glass sliding door. They looked right at him, and he cried out.
Slater can’t remember clearly what happened next, except that they fled.
He had seen something, but he couldn’t bring himself to recall it.
He remembered running to grab Dandelion. He remembered the sound of breaking glass as something entered the cabin. Finally, he remembered running through trees and rain towards the car, and he remembered coming to his senses hours later in his car, having driven somewhere, the car at that moment being in a ditch on the side of a highway he didn’t recognize while a stream of cars rolled by.
His two cousins were with him. Maron was sobbing in Sam’s arms.
He remembered saying, “The bear. The bear got Max!”
And he remembered Maron saying, “It wasn’t a bear. You know what it was.”
He remembered blaming Sam for killing him, saying that they had imagined the part at the very end, and that there had never been any ‘thing’ out there at all. He insisted that they were all just doctoring their memories so that they wouldn’t have to face the truth — that Sam had killed their cousin. That Sam was a killer.
“Max didn’t die because of Sam,” Maron said, her voice cracking. “Leave her alone. Max died because he wanted to get revenge on us with his special Ouija board. And he thought we would just take it.”