Hello, Halloween!

Are you as excited for Friday as I am?! 😈

Sorry; I get a little giddy at Halloween time.  While I love the food at Thanksgiving and the gifts at Christmas and the fireworks on the Fourth of July, All Hallows’ Eve is, by far, my favorite holiday.

I even wrote a book about it!

I started working on Hello, Halloween last year.  The concept came to me in mid-October, when I was buying costumes and decorating the house and preparing to take my son Tyrion (then 9) on our annual candy gorge-a-thon.  It seemed a simple idea:

What if the trick-or-treaters turned out to be real monsters?

That’s all it took.  In three days I had the whole book outlined and had started writing the first chapter.  But that’s as far as I got before Halloween came and went, and I moved on to other projects.

So this year, I took it upon myself to finish this book.  And I did – just under the wire.

Here it is:

I hope you enjoy it!  I’ve posted the first chapter below for your reading pleasure.

Thanks all,

– Luke

P.S. If you want one of my favorite short story collections for free, and to hear about upcoming projects I’m working on, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter.

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Trick or Treat?

 Sam stared into the mirror, and a vampire stared back.

“Hello, Halloween,” Sam whispered.

The costume was perfect: slick black hair and eyebrows, ghostly white skin, blood-red lips, glowing fangs, suit and tie, long cape with high collar. He looked like a true vampire – not one of those sissy sparkling vampires.

“Trick or treat,” he said, in his best Transylvanian accent. He laughed his best evil laugh.

He was ready. Ready for the best Halloween ever.

“Sammy?” a voice called from downstairs.

Sam sighed. “Mom, don’t call me that,” he said.

“I have to drive Sarah to her Halloween party,” Mom said. “Will you man the door for trick-or-treaters?”

“Mooommm,” Sam groaned, “I’m about to go trick-or-treating myself.”

“Dad will be home in a few minutes; you can go then.” Her tone brooked no argument.

Fine,” he muttered, and shuffled downstairs.

His sister knelt in the front doorway, handing candy out to a dinosaur, a princess, and Batman. The kids’ parents stood on the sidewalk, eyeing Sarah with boredom and suspicion. She waved at them as the trick-or-treaters retreated.

Sarah turned to her brother. “You look like Bela Lugosi.”

“Stop pretending you’re smart,” said Sam.

She thrust the candy bowl into his hands. “Have fun,” she said. Her witch face gave him a wicked grin.

He scowled at her. “Dad better get home soon. You couldn’t wait ten more minutes?”

She shook her head. “I’m already late. They’ll be halfway through the first horror movie by now.”

A yellow SUV backed out of the driveway and onto the street. “Let’s go!” Mom hollered from its window. Sarah stuck her tongue out at Sam, grabbed her purse, and bolted out the door.

Sam shut the door behind her as Mom drove off. He left the bowl on the chair and went to get a drink.

It wasn’t fair. Sarah could go to a dumb old party anytime, but this might be Sam’s last year to trick-or-treat before he was too old. And he had friends waiting for him, too! (Only two friends, compared with Sarah’s fifteen, but still…)

Sam was in a bad mood now. That was no good. He couldn’t be in a bad mood on Halloween, when there were treats to be had and tricks to be played and demons and angels to scare.

To cheer himself up he practiced his laugh. He did this as he poured the apple cider, which spilled all over the counter. But he kept laughing as he cleaned the mess, and soon he felt better. Dad would be home any minute. Rob and Nick would hit his block in the next ten, he’d go meet them, and they’d tear up the neighborhood together one more time.

He’d just had his first sip of cider when the doorbell rang.

Sam set his cup down and walked to the foyer. At least I’ll get to scare some kids, he thought. His fangs came out. He picked up the bowl and opened the door.

“Trick or treat!”

Sam froze. These weren’t kids; they were way too big. And they were wearing the best costumes he’d ever seen.

A witch stood on the doorstep. She wore a tattered shawl and a pointed hat and she was covered with spider-webs. Her eyes were red and her skin was a pale, sickly green. She looked like the Wicked Witch of the West, but creepier.

Beside the witch a man leaned against the door jamb. He had cloudy white eyes, flaking gray skin, and he smelled. Sam would have plugged his nose, but he didn’t want to be rude. The man groaned a greeting. A zombie.

On the porch behind the two crouched a werewolf. Not a wolfman, but an actual, giant wolf – a wolf with human eyes.

“It was a question, dearie,” the witch said. Her voice rasped like nails on a chalkboard. “Trick… or treat?” She smiled, showing crooked, black-stained teeth.

Sam shivered. “H-here,” he said, holding out the candy bowl.

The witch cackled. “Oh, no,” she said, “we don’t want candy. We want to show you a trick… and give you a treat.”

“What do you mean?” Sam asked.

“I mean that there are things in the world that you have never seen – never even dreamed. And only we can show them to you.”

“What things?”

“Things we can’t show you here. We must travel to them.”

Sam narrowed his eyes. “Is this some kind of prank?”

The witch shook her head. “A trick, maybe. A treat, certainly. But the magic behind it is very real.”

“Magic.” Sam raised an eyebrow. “Show me.”

“Here, on your threshold?” The witch frowned. “No, it won’t do. You’ll have to come out here with us – or invite us in there.”

Sam felt fed up with scary grown-ups. He set the candy bowl down and crossed his arms. “No,” he said. “You’re not real trick-or-treaters; you’re too old. So show me what you have to show me, or go away. I have stuff to do.”

Fury crossed the witch’s face, and her eyes turned even redder. Sam stepped back, ready to slam the door. She didn’t approach him, though, and in a moment the ugly smile returned. “You want a demonstration,” she whispered. “Very well.” The witch raised her hands. Her fingernails were dark blue and razor-sharp. She poked one of them into the tip of her opposite forefinger. A drop of blood welled up, almost black against the green skin. Sam shuddered.

The witch crouched on the porch and fixed her eyes on Sam’s. “Watch carefully, boy.” She placed her fingertip on the wood at her feet and began to draw.

First she drew a circle. Inside of that she drew a line, and another, and then three more. A pentagram. When she finished her artwork she stood and sucked her bloody finger. She looked at Sam again.

“Now,” she said, holding her hand high. “Conflagratio!”

The bloody circle erupted in blue fire. Sam flinched, but the fire didn’t leave the circle. The witch reached out, whispered, and the fire disappeared, leaving the floor clean. “How – how’d you do that?” Sam asked.

The zombie and werewolf made inarticulate noises. The witch reeled on them. “Yes, yes, I’m getting to it,” she snapped. She turned back to Sam. “Why don’t you come see for yourself?”

“Where are you going?”

“To a place usually closed to mortals. A place you may only go one night of the year.”

Sam shifted uneasily. “I can’t,” he said, “I have to wait for my Dad.”

“We’ll be back before you know it,” said the witch. “Come now. It’s Halloween! Don’t you want to see a bit of magic?”

“Didn’t I just?”

“That?” The witch scoffed. “That was nothing. What we have to show you makes summoning hellfire look like a party trick.”

This intrigued Sam – but it didn’t sound quite right. It sounded too much like taking candy from strangers.

Still, it was Halloween…

But no. Not ’til Dad came home, anyway. He shook his head. “Maybe later.”

The werewolf growled, the zombie moaned, and the witch hissed. Her bony hand shot out to grab Sam. He leapt back with a yelp, but the witch stopped short in the doorway like she’d hit a wall.

The witch backed a step. Her sickening smile returned. “It appears we must be more… persuasive. Vlad?”

Smoke filled the porch, making Sam cough. When it cleared, the witch and her companions were gone. In their place stood a pale man who looked like everything Sam wanted to be. He was tall and thin, with high cheekbones and slick black hair. Like Sam, he wore a suit and cape – but he made it look natural.

“Good evening, Samuel,” said the man. He spoke in a deep voice with a European accent. “You know what I am, yes?”

Sam gulped and nodded.

“Excellent. I am honored that you chose to dress as one of my kind this evening.”

Sam gulped again. “What… what do you want?”

The man showed the whitest teeth Sam had ever seen. “To show you what it’s like to live as a true vampire. Would you like that?”

“I… I…” Sam shook his head to clear it. His brain was fogging. He couldn’t take his gaze from the man’s black eyes.

“All you have to do,” said the man, “is step out the door.”

Sam’s foot moved on its own, but he slammed his hand against the doorjamb before he crossed the threshold. He still couldn’t look away. “That’s all?”

The smile sharpened. “Nothing more.”

“And you won’t… you won’t hurt me?”

“Certainly not! You are far too valuable to risk coming to harm.”

Sam took a deep breath. He knew this wasn’t safe. His Mom would be mad if he abandoned his post. These were probably the creepy strangers his teacher had warned him about. But… a chance to trick-or-treat with a real vampire! “Can my friends come, too?”

The tall man’s face turned grave. “I’m afraid we haven’t time to wait for them. We must leave now, or we shall miss the opportunity this night affords us.”

Sam bit his lip. “Okay. Just let me leave a note for my Mom.”

The vampire’s smile returned. “Of course, young master.”

Sam meant to go into the house and leave a note – he really did – but instead he found his feet walking out the door. The tall man placed a pale hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Wise choice.”

“I knew you’d bring ‘im around,” a voice cackled. Sam started when he saw the witch in the walkway. The zombie and the werewolf appeared behind her. “Shall we be on our way, then?”

“You brought the guide?” the man asked.

“It’ll be here in a jif.”

The zombie picked its nose. The werewolf chased its tail. The witch cleaned her rotten teeth. The vampire’s hand tightened on Sam’s shoulder as a blanket of fog rose from the ground.

“Ah, there you are,” the vampire – Vlad – said.

Sam blinked. Before him the fog formed the shape of a human body and face. He couldn’t tell if it was male or female, but it looked sad. A ghost?

“Lead on, Aleria,” Vlad said with a wave. The ghost turned and drifted down the street. The motley crew followed. The vampire’s hand gently pushed Sam forward.

Something was wrong here. Sam wanted to run, but his feet felt like boulders. He turned to look at his house disappearing in the mist. The last he saw of it was his jack-o-lantern on the porch, grinning at him.

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