When presented a box of bonbons, has it ever crossed your mind that the center might not be what you expect? Of course, it's anybody's guess what hides inside a mixed assortment of chocolates! Who hasn't been afraid? An innocent-seeming sampler could harbor unspeakable terrors! But isn't the soul-shuddering suspense worth the quaking fear? And isn't that blood rush, the jolt of adrenaline we experience in fear better than a piece of chocolate?
I happen to think it is.
The vein-chilling howl of a banshee; the macabre lilt of a monster's lullaby; the flitter-flutter of a vampire butterfly . . . these sounds are always welcome, and never more so than the month of October when leaves turn and air bites and most folks — even the normal ones — start to look and act weird like the rest of us do most of the time! Yes, some people (I won't mention names but they know who they are) carry Horror in their hearts and walk on the wicked side. Half of them are actually wicked. The other half? Perfectly fine. Perhaps a touch evil at times for the fun of it. A tad insane yet who's complaining? Peculiar maybe, or just plain weird. If that describes you then you, like me, are a Horror Fanatic.
We tend to stand out in a crowd when we give in to our impulses and dress the part. We might express ourselves differently: walk funny, talk in an odd tone, balk at sunlight, giggle in a graveyard, grin while surrounded by coffins and cobwebs and monstrous effigies. We are at home in a mausoleum or crypt, amused by a shriek of alarm and phantom organ strains. Our pulse races with elation at the creak of a door. We are just that way: smiling when it storms, laughing at our fears, tiptoeing through a dungeon or dark forest with delight.
We speak to the spiders and spooks who inhabit our houses, greet each day with a welcoming grimace, go bat watching and cave creeping. We are the harmless eccentrics who flock like pilgrims to horror conventions, who collect the trappings and wrappings and gewgawgery of the occult and grotesque.
We love mad scientists and witchcraft and Tarot and ominous elevator music. We savor a gruesome ending in fiction, a shocking twist in film. We find comfort in the knowledge that nobody lives happily ever after, everybody suffers the same fate as us — mere mortals, humans, with flaws and frailties and insecurities. We revel in sharing for a moment similar fears and goals, common torments and frustrations, however awkward and different and apart we may feel at least some of the time.
But we are not so different inside. Though on the exterior we might look or act like freaks, like borderline psychotics. We are not so very out of the ordinary. In fact, all of us — irregular or not — might carry a trace of fascination for the darkness in our hearts. For what lurks within the shadows. For the electric surge of feeling afraid. Perhaps that is as much a part of being human as creative thought. We enjoy a good fright.
Which is why Halloween is still celebrated. And why scary stories will always be told.
Consider this the next time you're afraid. Relax and enjoy it. But if a butterfly should hover, lingering too long about your neck, check closely for fangs. And if a stranger offers candy . . . be sure it doesn't wink.
from the collection "Chocolate-Covered Eyes", a sampler of horror
Coarse bitter wind swirled around my form
As I crunched toward the end of a leafened lane,
Where mournful specters could screech and swarm
Like banshee breeze o'er a desolate plain.
But this was no realm to which spirits might flock.
I had less than the ghost of a chance to survive.
Angry and sullen, near lifeless as rock,
Like a tomb the gray manor left no one alive.
For there on cursed ground could the brave die of fright,
Midst a plot of land where the sun feared to shine
And daylight beheld as the darkest of night.
Upon entering that door I had crossed every line.
No more could I breathe without feeling a hitch
In my chest and my pulse like a quickening sob.
No more would my innocent gaze lack a twitch.
I had forfeited youth with a turn of the knob.
Friends begged me "Don't go!" but I always knew best.
I thought the trespassing would prove to be fun.
Instead I'm a wreck from a foolhardy quest.
Let my epitaph read I surrendered to none.
Pride can be folly in the course of disaster.
Beyond the threshold was too late to change.
That abandoned abode urged my heart to beat faster,
Then I came face to face with the tall Mister Strange -
Whose black beady orbs and thick brows made me gasp.
His hair was white tendrils, his nose like a pick.
Stoop-shouldered and spindly, he spoke in a rasp:
"Step into my parlor, you look a bit sick!"
He walked with a lurch and stood seven feet high,
With taloned fingers, a mouthful of rippers.
Despite his politeness, he was one scary guy
Who could seriously use heavy-duty nail clippers!
"Please have a seat, I am not going to bite!"
He bade with a chortle that caused hopes to sink.
I parked myself timidly, poised to take flight.
"Name's Romulus Strange! Can I get you a blink?"
I assumed I heard wrong, that he offered a beverage,
For he spoke kinda weird with a sharp cluttered grin.
Every nerve was alert and I needed some leverage,
Accepting whatever, such a bind I was in!
There were candles that scarcely dented the gloom.
I sat stiffly, eyes wide, while he reached for a box.
It was red and looked faded, as old as the room.
The man carried it gently, unfastened its locks.
From within to my horror, he plucked out an eye
The size of a grapefruit then gave it a squeeze.
It was clear that he meant to make the thing cry,
Splashing tears in two goblets with an elated wheeze.
The eye was alive! It still blinked in his hand!
"Have a sip!" he invited, one chalice extended.
Can't say why I did, so you might understand.
All I know is the taste left me very offended.
I spat it in fact, as if absent of manners,
Spewed right at his face, the reaction impassive;
My brain like a wedding with too many planners,
In a state of confusion, a headache quite massive.
It was then I would notice an eyeball-shaped clock.
Every shelf and ledge boasted a gaud of eye candy . . .
That was literally eyes! I was plunged into shock.
The blinking and winking! The stares so outlandy!
His nose and chin dripping, my host simply goggled,
Blinking in unison with the roomful of peepers!
I was ready to scream, my mind truly boggled.
I had had it with frights, was through with all creepers.
I was always too fearless, too bold and too daring.
At times how I scorned the misgivings of others.
I would never again be unkind or uncaring,
But I'd rather undo this, if I had my druthers.
"I don't get many visitors," regretted the louse.
"Not even the mailman will venture near.
Folks seem to think the worst of my house.
I am really so happy to have you here."
"I know what you'd like!" hoarsed the oddly nice gent
And proceeded to extract a box out of a drawer.
"I bet you've a sweet tooth!" is what the man meant
And uncovered rows of treats that'd make a tooth sore.
Despite glaring qualms, there was no time to waste.
It should come as no mystery or colossal surprise,
When selecting and biting gooey morsels in haste,
That I'd gobbled an array of chocolate-covered eyes!
To this day I still shudder on spying a sampler
Of chocolates in cavities, their centers unknown,
For I nibbled them blind like some foraging trampler.
Now my belly convulses, emitting a moan.
I discovered the truth in one blink of an orb,
As the rich coating shrugged being raised to my lips.
Wiping off the eye's mantle, I was inclined to absorb
What I'll never forget however long the heart skips.
Visions gleaned can sear the mind
Burn an impression by sixth degree
Like the wrinkled face of a witch's spawn
Named Callous Alice, so cruel was she
The night sky wept upon her birth
Released a deluge of pent-up anguish
For witness was taken of so many foul deeds
As to cause the heavens to languish
This babe would howl and spit sour milk
All but driving the crone well past her brink
A mother so vile, so unfit was she
The sorceress concocted a hideous drink
Bat livers, goat tongues, whole kittens were added
Fish guts, hog spleens, and ripe skunk oil
Bird brains, fried lice, pureed intestines
A drop of blood and the pus of a boil
No kid was ever as devilish-tempered
An attitude festerant like toxic dew
The disposition of a rumpled tiger
With a permanent scowl from that awful brew
The child-thing yearned for untold treats
Without a mask on Halloween
Commanding handfuls on each doorstep
For she was the scariest they had seen
Beyond bizarre, she had no friends
The company of fiends was conversely sought
Unearthly thrills, spine-tickling chills
A soulless coldness she had caught
And thence the wee demented girl
Disdained to wane a stooped old bat
A crinkled, gnarled and twisted harpy
What was the fun of that?
She bubbled a potion late one eve
A whisperous rapturous spell did cast
Forever freezing herself in youth
To fondly relive a despicable past
But Callous would be no Peter Pan
Expression cunning, eyes bleak and mean
Her face was ghostly, round and pale
Teeth sharkish, wicked, razor-keen
Her nose was humped like an ocean monster
Henna hair slumped, her eyebrows too thin
A smile as deadly as her heart
Pure evil lurked in that wolfish grin
Three witches dwelt within a cottage
Away from the public's scrutiny
A trio of plotting vicious connivers
The younger by far the worst of the three
Gruetilla's mother Sulphura was ancient
No granny-figure, but a monstrous maven
Layered by creases and cracks galore
Her throne of wicker shared by a raven
This bird would wing o'er the countryside
He snooped and snatched at her behest
Then swooped back home to preen on his roost
Clutching a scrap of those laid to rest
But the Witch Queen's dominance must cease at last
One Callous glare was all it took
The relic slunk to a stool in the corner
The raven stayed perched on the chair like a rook
While Alice confronted the next hag in line
And pierced Gruetilla with a baneful glance
The stony demeanor could make a sun freeze
Skewered, her mum never stood a chance
Both elder brujas became her minions
Subservient toadies to order about
The small girl occupied the seat of honor
A demonic darling, there was no doubt
Upon her lingered the stench of decay
A malignant aura black as soot
She cursed the town and all within it
By dismembering a mandrake root
Disastrous tidings, wrack and ruin
Beset the village with random strokes
Pure waves of madness, strife and sadness
Would fall upon the nicest folks
True chaos ravaged as malevolence ruled
Her laughter gouging like shards of glass
No life would be spared, just a matter of time
Until every death comes to pass
The moppet's weakness, her singular vice
Was Halloween memories, an ache at her core
The belly did rumble, her appetite flourish
For candy demanded from door to door
Alas, in the village no confections availed
The beldams groveled at their daughter's feet
"Don't smite them all or who shall we plunder?
Be practical, child, lest there's naught to eat!"
Witches they were, yet on spells they relied
"Potions need ingredients, along with grave chants!"
The girl was impractical, imprudent, unwise
They couldn't subsist on the strength of her rants
Thus the two conspired and designed to hatch
A scheme to regain the reins of power
They orchestrated to poison Callous
Precisely at Midnight: The Witching Hour
Little Miss Dickens set off with a purpose
She hissed and frowned and brutally harangued
Callous Alice insisted on visiting each cottage
Yelling and pounding as thunderbolts banged
At last she came to an enchanted cabin
Where chocolates were piled like a treasure trove
The mothers pretended to be humble peasants
With a hoarding problem, and soup on the stove
They crooned a verse as if but singing
A silly rhyme to entertain
Then handed Alice a gleaming candy
A tainted chocolate that seemed so plain
"Bite the bud and rip the petal.
Strip the leaf, the bush will cry.
Every season has its nettle.
A turnip bleeds but can never die!"
The callous girl chewed and stiffened promptly
A lethal toxin would take its toll
And Alice keel over rigid, lifeless
Her lips stained chocolate; straight as a pole
The old brujas pranced and jigged for joy
As lightning flashed from pitch-black clouds
The girl in a trance would never wake
Lying cold within her burial shrouds.
October 2011, by Lori R. Lopez and Aline S. Iniestra
A bilious darkness came, out of a billowous cloud obscuring the sky
A cold breeze was felt on his face, it was freezing his soul inside
Touched by the inky depth, gripped by the night that should be day
Terror that built worlds in his head, worlds of distress.
How could he feel so alone, walking what seemed an endless road?
What was now to come? He couldn't do but spill his blood
For in his path lay sacrifice, and blood-filled footsteps in his wake
There, he had no choice but to breathe death and swallow souls
It was the black-veined consequence of what he in his torment had become
Forever he'd be the shadow of what he's hated for so long
But aren't we all on the outside less visible to ourselves than within?
Dark monsters were slashing his soul, they were coming for him.
Out of the raven cumulous, pouring from the blinded eyes of wrath
He screamed as he was losing his mind . . . he was dying. No escape this time.
Far back into the folds of eternity, his thoughts traveled to make sense of madness
But madness was creeping inside, and he had no more control over his senses.
Once upon a lifetime there was love, carefree laughter, his heart illuminated
Heartbeats with the rhythm of joy. Now it's a dry heart turning into stone
A silent heart devoid of words and feelings. Cold, unmoving as a block of marble
But don't marvel at this darkened creature. It is evil, charming, and he'll kill you.
Her life transformed him to a fragile giving man. Her death created a monstrous void
Nothing could fill his tattered soul, but the blood of innocents that believed in love
An abominable thirst which would not be sated. Like a desert, his arid emotionless core
And indeed he parted to accomplish his chore, and drink his first victim . . . Charlotte.
For her he raged as he glutted and gorged, yet even this blood could not satisfy
But she was to blame for his hate towards love. It was his mother he was eager to find.
The woman who raised him to be special: half human, the other half depraved
It was her who had this thought of "oh, he'll live happy from the dead".
He had only wanted to be himself, no more, no less, and spurned that creature's lessons
It was time to feed again. Gabriel, his companion, was a lady already dead
He came across her body, discarded by the road, the victim of another fiend
Her corpse he cut into pieces. This crooked cold woman would feed him till the end.
How he fought to restrain the impulses rising within, towards she who killed his love
He couldn't take it anymore, insane urges started to unleash
Instinct, the bond of blood, led him to a mother who had never been sweet
Screaming and howling her name through the night, he would find that mad woman at last.
The creature stood with her back turned, yet all of her senses aware of his approach
Step by step and breathing like a beast, he started to run frenzied, ready to kill
"I asked for one thing!" he screeched. "To love Charlotte! And you took her away!"
All of a sudden, her throat was pierced by a knife. "You'll suffer for the scars I have!"
The crimson blade clattered. With bare hands he tore her apart, succumbing at last
But he didn't feel relieved. His rage still had so much to be revealed
A storm of emotions released, a dire burden he had borne from childhood
A growing pain made of him a haunting shadow. Rotten souls had to be swallowed
Now there was no sanity or reality, only a trace of a man who must do one thing right
If killing was right, he had more bodies to leave dry. So on his gory journey, he stopped at a dreamy park
Innocent specters watched, lining the fringes, while he chose victims — the worst of humanity
A trembling boy, a crying girl, the twins screaming, the two-year-old fainting . . . it all was ready.
They had been shorn of life, fed to sustain his dreadful existence. This was for their sake!
One by one he smelled the dark ones, who left the children to die again, bite by bite
Responsible for their deaths by indifference or intent, and their second demises at his teeth
Bones cracking, blood scattered, screams echoing. The killing was for justice, but was his soul at peace?