Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Living Masks, intro

I had an idea for a great short horror story last week and decided to get out the first few paragraphs. I love the idea of Halloween masks alive and killing people in a small town. I'm thinking about relating the masks to the store owners by the masks returning to the store, vomiting up the human remains and the old couple turning that into more masks and halloween props. Fucking evil!

Two weeks ago an old two story brick building on the edge of town opened for business. It's a makeshift sort of Halloween prop store, the kind that close once the Halloween season is over. It's a fitting place to sell creepy props and costumes out of considering how spooky the building is to begin with. It had been abandoned for about 10 years, a drugstore being the last place of business to open its doors. Over the past century there'd been many different stores filling its walls. Back in the 70's it was a restaurant serving the average burger and fries. In the 60's it was a clothing store. Long before that back in the 30's, when the building first opened, it was a book store. But now it was host to the grotesque props of Halloween decorations and all manner of bizarre costumes and masks.

Some friends and I went into the store a few days after it had opened. There was an old couple running the register and helping customers out, I suppose they're the ones responsible for all the terrible things that have happened since then. The week the store opened was when the disappearances started. This being a small town of about six or seven thousand, just about nobody goes missing. But two weeks ago the local paper started filling up with stories and police reports of half a dozen locals who seemed to vanish into thin air. There was a three year old girl who disappeared at the grocery store, a teenage boy last seen at the movie theater, a husband and wife who had left their three children alone at home with a babysitter for a night out that they never returned from. Then there was Rob and Jason, two guys I knew from High school. If it hadn't been for the police finding Josh's car abandoned on the side of the road and Mike's cellphone on the passenger seat, their disappearance would likely have never been reported.

And then there were the strange rumors going around town. Some of these peculiar stories were coming from people I wouldn't trust, like the town nut always riding his bicycle and writing fake parking tickets on cars. His police report about seeing a Halloween mask moving by itself across the road late at night would be funny if some other folks hadn't reported seeing similar things. An old retired school teacher named Nancy had gone outside to call for her missing cat when she saw a pale white mask of a skull slowly moving across her back lawn and attack the cat, eating it whole.

Other stories around town vary wildly but all mention the strange masks, the idea was too absurd to be real. It was mentioned by the wife of an officer that police were on the look out for pranksters pulling Halloween masks with strings. I thought it was some local kids with nothing better to do as well until two days ago. I was walking down a dimly lit street at dusk a few blocks from home when I saw what at first looked like a raccoon or possum scuttling along the curb. As I got a closer I could hear an unusual mix of human like gasps and grunts. Looking down I could clearly make out the witch faced features of a Halloween mask lying face up with black knotted hair that appeared to help it move by acting like tentacles that reached forward. It was bending its rubbery head up and down in an almost maggot like motion of pulling and stretching. The eyes were black slits oozing a dark liquid. It was leaving a long trail along the edge of the curb like the tracks of a snail. Seeing this thing in front of me and realizing at that moment all those ridiculous stories must be true, I felt paralyzed. Both fascinated and terrified, I couldn't take my eyes off the mask as I stood watching it crawl away. I don't know how long I stood on that sidewalk before noticing the mask was gone. I would have thought I'd imagined it but for the slimy trail of black liquid still on the edge of the street. I couldn't bring myself to follow the trail and hurried home, making sure all the doors and windows were locked shut.

edit - I think conjuring up this story in my head gave me nightmares. After writing it I dreamed of trespassing into a pumpkin patch to steal pumpkins. I found dozens of the big orange pumpkins on the ground that had already been carved into jack-o-lanterns with intricately carved demonic faces. As I bent down to pick one up I noticed it was stuck to the ground. Then all of the carved pumpkins seemed to come to life, with thick root like claws digging out of the ground and scratching at me as I fell backwards. It was similar to the scene from Jason and the Argonauts with the skeletons, except these were giant pumpkin headed monsters with bodies made of tangled roots and dirt. They stood over 10 feet tall, circling around me. Before waking up I remember ripping off one of their claws and holding it in my hand. It felt light and dried out. I think that would make for another good story.


SEAN said...

awesome! Draw it!

Paleo said...

Yeah, and actually, i think the story works better with the pumpkin nightmare as an epilogue, you only need to have the narrator having the nightmare after locking his house.

I sure wish i had the time, i'll draw this one in a second, the imagery is so great, not only the fantastic parts but the small town vignettes, the cycling nut giving fake parking tickets!

Aeron said...

Thanks David, the nut is actually based on a real guy who lived in my hometown. He had the nickname "Catfish Willy" not sure where the nickname came from but he rode a bicycle around town that had a lot of weird radio gear, antennas,etc attached to it. I think it had a weird fake or real radio connection to a police transmitter? And he always wore a large belt with a flashlight and random weird things that I think made him think he had some official capacity to enforce the law without technically trying to look like a police officier. Anyway, he would always be found in parking lots, sometimes harrasing random people for parking violations or whatever bizarre criminal misconduct that he saw happening around him. Apparently when he was younger he was a normal kid who sniffed a lot of paint fumes with his brother, both of which became... ehh.. just really weird afterwards. He actually died last year, something related to a seizure. My hometown of Crawfordsville Indiana is filled with a lot of really weird people like that, always great inspiration for characters in stories!

Aeron said...

And thanks Sean, man I wish I could have all my other projects finished up so I could draw this! So many ideas, so little time!

At the very least, I'd like to go through and really clean up a lot of these early drafts of short stories, fix some of the wording, edit certain things, and maybe publish a book of short horror fiction.

Dan "kuranes" Nordquist said...

I've long had an image ( not really a story idea ) of someone being forced to wear a mask, that was called "the living mask", and it would be held before the person about it to wear it, like a platter that sagged, full of little wriggling tendrils on the inside of it. Upon contact, it is inferred, the tendrils integrate the "old face" with the new one. In my "HPL / CAS " category.... A high priest of something being the person approaching with the mask..