Kelly hated haunted houses. There were at the top of her phobic list. One unpleasant experience in a haunted house at Halloween when she was a child had scarred her for life. This was nothing new; all of her phobias started with just one unpleasant experience.
Her list of things she tried to avoid was longer than Santa’s good/bad list. It included, but was not limited to, baseball games, bumper cars, rabbits, canned biscuits, tomatoes, hairspray, printer ink, garbage cans, and thousands more.
She had tried explaining to her therapist why she had so many stationary phobias. The only rational treatment, her doctor counseled, was for her to confront her fears in order to live a life outside of her phobic box.
That Halloween night, she decided to face her fear. At the entrance to the haunted house, the usual ghoulish figures stood around making wicked gestures toward the nervous crowds. Screams could be heard coming from the inside.
Kelly watched as couples and groups emerged from the side exit. She smiled when she saw Dracula on break, smoking a cigarette.
Inside, Kelly and her friends walked, unguided, along the dimly lit trail. To the right, a headless corpse raised up from the coffin and to the left, a witch cast a spell on them. When Kelly looked back, the corpse was scratching under its arm and the witch was eating a candy bar.
Turning the first corner, Dracula accosted them with bloody fangs and cigarette breath. Turning the second corner, a werewolf grabbed for them and lost a bit of fake fur when Kelly’s friend grabbed back.
Kelly saw it when they turned the third corner. She had suspected it would be in the haunted house; there was no avoiding it. After all these years, her fear was still haunting the haunted houses.
Her friends screamed and then giggled when they saw it. As they cautiously stepped around the thing in the middle of the trail, it ignored their yelps and laughter. Instead, it fixated on its old friend Kelly and started easing toward her.
She had known this would happen, as all of her fears gravitated toward her. She could see them in a way others could not – some of her fears became solid and fleshy, while others talked to her, or, in the case of baseballs, screamed in agony. Sometimes others heard and saw them; sometimes, they did not. Some fears were just nuisances, like the babbling bunnies, while others were threatening.
The fear in the middle of the haunted house was mean. Kelly sensed its intent as its spiky arms reached out toward her. It thrashed its sinewy body in anticipation and let out a throaty squeal. Her friends thought this was all part of the act until Kelly took out the small gun she always carried and shot her fear point blank.
The screams became real. As her friends ran from her, Kelly continued to shoot her fear. When she ran out of bullets, she calmly walked through the deserted haunted house, out the side exit, and back toward town.
When the police arrived, they did not find anyone, shot or wounded, nor did they find anything the next day in full sunlight. A lone policeman stayed behind to write his report.
As he took photos of the six bullet holes in the wooden floor of the haunted house, he noticed something shining through one of the holes. Putting the camera on the floor, he bent down to get a closer look.
Taking out his pen, he poked at the shining thing, thinking it may have been a bullet casing. As he bent closer and closer to the hole in the floor, he thought he heard a rattling purr. He placed his eye almost level with the floor as he shined his flashlight down.
A sinewy arm rose behind him. As his face was pushed into the floor, his screams became muffled, and when the thing rose through the wooden floor, he came face to face with his own special fear.
J J Dare is the author of “False Positive,” the first novel in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy.
Have a Scary Halloween!