The Opening Night Jitters – a Halloween story

The Opening Night Jitters

Billy put the last body in place and let out a long breath. It was done. At least his part in it. Beyond the zombies and the skeletons wasn’t his problem, that was Mark’s job, and if Mark was still making eyes at Dani, well, that sir, wasn’t his problem, now was it? Billy got up off his knees and walk to the entrance of the Zombie Walk, his sort of homage to old school horror and modern pop culture. It was the third to last room in the haunt and was a set up for the big finale, a scene where the guests went into a large room with what look like more dummies of dead people but ah, there was the rub, they were not dummies at all, well, most of them weren’t. No, they were people playing dead, or undead maybe, and just when the guests reached the mid-way point in the room and were bellyaching about how fake it was, that was when the dead woke up to play. Oh, it was gonna be great. It was going to be epic, it was going to…

“William, Bill. BILLY! Hey, hey, hey shut it down. Shut it all down. We’re done.”

Billy looked at Nate dumbfounded. Unsure he’d heard him right.

“Yeah, you heard me. We’re cooked. It’s over. There ain’t gonna be no haunt this year.”

Nate’s eyes fell to his cowboy boots and he let out a sigh that blew his mustache out in a puff. He was beat, and it was clear. Billy pushed his hands into his pockets and kicked at the sawdust on the floor of the vampire room. This was one of the last rooms left that needed some work but it looked like it would never…

“Well, what if I, hmm, what if I could, you know, fix things, make it work?”

“Whatcha mean Bill? How ya gonna fix things?”

“Well, Nate, you just gotta trust me. Open it for one night, say, next Friday, and if that night ain’t a success then, well sir, you can shut the haunt down for good.”

“Damn, Bill, that’s still a couple hundred bucks of pay I gotta give people. And what do you want out of it all?”

“See, the beauty is that I will take care of things. I will get, uh, I will make sure the haunt is running, has, uh, is, uh, well, that there are scares, and all for a very low price.”

“Crap, Bill, what do you want? Spit it out.”

“Well sir, I had my eye on a new snow blower, say that Magnum 600 PX they got in at Wanger’s Lawn Care, and well, that seems pretty fair to me.”

“Dammit that’s, well, that’s…”

“Trust me Nate, just trust me.”

And Nate stood looking at Bill and scratched at his beard, wondering if there were still some crackers from lunch left in there, then he realized he was supposed to be thinking about this proposition. He had known old Bill for some three years, and the fella had worked for him for two of those three and, while his work on the haunted house wasn’t that great, well, he was spirited when he scared people, and that went a long way. Heck, he knew old Wagner and could get the snow blower for cost, which was less than the two hundred it’d take to run the haunt for the night so, well, it seemed pretty clear.

“Well Bill, I think we’ll just stay closed, yeah, that’s it.”

“Dammit Nate. Ok, gimme a six pack of Proctor’s Finest and I’ll do it. If it works, you owe me that blower. Deal?”

“See ya next Friday, buddy. Remember to lock up at night.”

Billy spat as soon as Nate was gone, the old fella’s fingers digging in his beard again for forgotten foods. Billy was mad, sure was, but, a sixer of Proctor’s wasn’t anything to fart at and, after he had the locals wetting themselves over the haunted house next Friday, well, he’d be blowin’ snow in style. Yes. Sir. Satisfied, Billy went off to get himself a cool one and see what the local ladies of the evening were up to ‘round this time of night.

The week passed like this for our Billy. He’d wake up at noon, wander in to work at the convenience store, get hollered at by his aunt, the owner, then leave from work and head right to the bar and, if he was lucky, wake up in some strange woman’s bed. It wasn’t until Thursday night that he remembered he was supposed to be working on the haunted house.

Oops.

It was ten at night and Billy was more than a little buzzed as he stood in his aunt’s basement peeing into the corner. This certainly wasn’t how things were supposed to work out, no sir. He had planned, back when he was talkin’ all big thunder to Nate, that he was gonna pull out all the stops on the haunt and really do the place up, really put some work in to it, and sure, he might borrow and idea or two from some of the other haunted attractions in the area but, you know, finders keepers. Well, he let himself get distracted, like he always did, and, well, that was sorta that. Billy finished peeing and stood wobbling a moment, the room sort of spinning as he tried to focus and that was when he saw it. The book.

The book looked to be one of his aunt’s weird old photo albums she always had sitting around the house, or maybe it was one of the weirder cookbooks she said came from ‘the old country’, but which for him was code for something that came from a re-sale shop but this didn’t seem like the other smelly old books his aunt had around. No, the other ones didn’t really glow when you peed on them, not that he could tell at least. Billy hiked his pants back up and belted them and stumbled over to the book, which he kicked. Sparks flew from the book as soon as the kick landed and Billy laughed and kicked it again, which made more sparks fly from it as it opened to reveal its insides. Curious, Billy knelt and squinted to see what secrets the book held.

Would it tell him out to make gold?

Perhaps it’d tell him how to win the hearts of beautiful women.

Oh, maybe, just maybe it’d get him that awesome speed boat he wanted.

Nope.

The book told him none of that, only revealing, in a list that really did look like a recipe, how to summon the dead to do one’s bidding.

Bah, what good…

Billy tilted his head to the side.

Hmm.

It took a moment but it hit him all right, and hit him hard.

Oh yes, it hit him, and so he grabbed the book up, brushing the dampness onto his pants as he did, and stumbled towards the worktable his aunt kept beneath the giant pentagram and the jars of body parts.

Once Billy had gotten the lights on and the book open, he did something he only did when he was alone and unwatched – he read.

Billy had sobered up by the time he made it back to the haunted house but he felt pretty rough, a big part of that coming from the book he had found, which had turned out to be a sort of How To guide to getting up to mystical mischief. From the look of it, his aunt, or some other witchy lady had been up to lots of shenanigans, or at least had some planned, what with all the stick ’em notes littered through the thing. Billy knew the book was old because it had the same smell his grand dad had and, like pee and menthol cigarettes. Billy, still well into legally alcoholic, flipped through the book, not so much reading the passages as looking at the pictures, which sent shivers down his spine. That was when he got the idea – what if he could get some of these fellas into the haunted house that night. If he could figure out how to get these guys to show up, and could sort of command them then there still might be a chance he could get his snow blower.

Maybe he was drunk, but Billy smiled and started gathering supplies.

The easiest thing for him to have done would have been to just ask his aunt for some help but no one likes to do that, especially Bill, who thought his aunt might have some problem with conjuring up the minions of the abyss to do his bidding. She could be a bit of a bitch like that. So instead of asking, Billy just sort of, well, took her book, and most of her witch supplies, put them all into his duffel bag and headed towards The Gray Wizard’s Pirate Revenge, Mark’s haunt. It was a stupid name, to be sure, Billy just thought that wizards were never pirates, and didn’t think anyone else would buy it either. Oh well. Lugging the bag and its contents the three miles to the haunt was no fun, and was made less so with the downpour he had to walk through but it would be worth it in the end when he got that sweet snow blower. Billy bumbled his way into the haunted house and set the alarm off, which was luckily just a set of rusty wind-chimes that were set up in the back entry. The sound echoed in Billy’s head and started his guts churning so he sat heavily onto his but, and let the room stop spinning as he pulled the supplies out of the bag. He lined up the jars in a row and then pulled the book out last, which didn’t really smell that bad anymore; it had an odor that was sorta like spice or something. He looked at it and didn’t see any page markers. Well, that’s ok, they must have fallen out. He dropped the book onto the floor and opened the book. For some reason he was looking down at a picture of a meatloaf. He turned the page and it was a picture of chili. He turned twenty pages and it was a picture of guacamole. Billy closed the book and looked at the cover. Oh dear, sweet Lucifer’s corns, he’d grabbed his aunt’s cookbook. The book she’d written in the sixties when she had still wanted to be a famous chef and not a famous witch.

Oh god.

Billy’s heart sank.

He looked down at his watch, saw it was half past five in the morning, and it sank lower. He looked in the duffel bag and saw nothing but some old corn chip leavings and a dirty sock. His shoulders slumped and he felt like he wanted to cry. He looked at the jars lined up and saw the eyes were watching him, the ears were listening to his sobs, the noses were smelling the stink of his failure, and the, well, let’s not talk about what was in some of those others jars.

Ah, but Billy was not one to give up easily, not when a snow blower was on the line.

Billy stood up clumsily, hitting his head on a low hanging light as he did, and ran over to a mock work table that was in the room. He grabbed the plastic bucket that was on it, dumped out all the fake guts onto the floor, and ran back to where he’d left his supplies. He placed the bucket onto the floor and began dumping the contents of each jar into it, and when he’d emptied all seven jars, he threw in the corn chip dust, the dirty sock, and spit in the concoction for luck.

Now, for the secret, magic words that would create a horrible, evil creature to do his bidding.

“Shop…at…Salamander’s…for savings…and more…and…uh…uh…come forth…uh…evil spawn what does…my biddin’…to get me my snow blower….thanks”

Satisfied he sat back down onto the cement floor and waited.

Ten minutes passed and nothing happened.
Twenty.

Thirty.

DAMN!

Billy stood up and kicked the bucket over in a rage. What use was magic and evil if he couldn’t use it for personal gain? Ah, but when the bucket was kicked over, something started to happen. Thick, red smoke rose from the steaming pile of muck on the floor. The light in the room grew dim. And suddenly, Billy had to pee. Something moved in the goo on the floor, it moved again, and then it began to take shape and rise from the mess.  A small form rose from the floor, the concoction forming and taking shape until before him stood something four feet tall and gray. Features quickly formed on the thing and, as it took shape, he realized the horror he had summoned and sensed the evil that would be unleashed. He took a step away from it as it came into full focus and took its first infernal breath.

Standing before Billy was a ten year old girl with long blonde hair and wearing a fashionable dress and black paten leather shoes. She looked around the room, looked at Billy and then smiled.

“You smell weird. And you’re fat.”

Having said this the girl skipped away from him and off into the haunt. Just as he was letting his breath out, the girl stuck her head around the corner, smiled again, put a finger to her lips and shushed him before disappearing again.

Billy let out a scream and ran.

Twelve hours later he awoke and realized the terrible thing he’d done and ran to the haunted house.

There was a line outside the place, which opened at seven, which was only fifteen minutes away. As he passed   the people in line he caught the buzz – they had all heard something truly horrifying was going to be on store tonight and they were in. They had to see it. Had to experience it.

FOOLS!

Billy picked up his pace and, seeing Mark at the head of the line, broke into a run.

“Mark. MARK! Ya gotta shut it down. Bring it all down.”

“What’s going on Billy? What’s wrong?”

“I, I did a terrible thing. The haunt, the haunt it’s…”

Nate walked up on the two men, shaking his head at Billy.

“Look Bill, I knew when you talked me into that crazy scheme of yours that you wanted that snow blower bad. Real bad. I never realized though how far you’d go to get it.”

Billy’s heart sank. But at least he was in time.

“I am so sorry Nate, really, I am…”

“Sorry, hell, boy, you should be. That was the scariest damn thing I ever seen. Great goose gravy. I mean, you go in there, waiting for something to happen and nothing happens. Nothing happens in any of the rooms and the tension just builds and builds and builds until you can’t take it and then when you get to the very last room you find it. She’s sittin’ there, all crossed leg and nodding her head back and forth and humming to herself and you go into the room and she just looks up at you and tells you all your flaws and faults and tells ya, basically, what a big, fat, turd you are. And I heard that and ran out with tears in my eyes. It was the scariest thing I ever saw. You are a genius. A horrible, horrible genius. And you’re gonna make me…er, US rich.”

Nate smiled a wide smile, showing his bleeding gums.

“So, you, uh, liked it?” Billy asked.

“Like it, I LOVE it. It’s genius. And you can tell the kids are excited for it. Man. I wish you woulda thought of this sooner. Coulda had yourself TWO snow blowers.”

“You mean I still get the snow blowers?” Billy asked.

“Hell yes. And with all these customers, everyone gets to stay on to manage the line and sell concessions and crap. Hell, you saved the business, buddy.” Nate clapped Billy on the back, and as he did, so did Mark.

Billy smiled and felt a little wobbly. His head was full of possibilities now. A door had opened, a big, evil door, and the world was his. He could do anything now.

Anything.

“Whathca thinkin’ Bill?” Asked Dani, who had joined Mark and Nate.

Bill wickedly.

“I think…I think I am going to become…a snow blower this winter. Imagine all the loot I can make with that new blower I am getting. Man…I will be rich. RICH!”

Off in town the church bells rang and the crowd let out a cheer.

It was seven.

Haunting time.

And time for the screams to start.

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