TALES OF GLENFORD FALLS

I Dare You

I was the new kid in town. I guess that's why I went along with it. Moving during your Senior year of High School is hard enough; I was just trying to make friends and get along and not be an outcast.

I first met the guys-Daryl Shannon, Mike O'Bannon, and Larry Lloyd-during my second week of school. In an attempt to fit in I decided to try out for the football team. I hadn't really been into sports in my last school, but I thought I'd give it a shot here. In small towns sports was the gateway to popularity and a way of life.

I still remember walking onto the field and hearing the voice call out to my left. "Yo, new kid." I turned and saw the three guys standing a few yards away from me.

They were all big, muscular, jock-type guys; bred for football. About the only difference in them was their hair: Daryl had close-cropped black hair, Mike had shaggy brown hair, and Larry had curly blonde hair.

"Yeah?" I answered.

"Come here." Daryl waved me over to their group. I was a little afraid at first. I thought for sure they were calling me over to play some embarrassing prank or hurt me somehow. That's how jocks worked at my last school. I hesitantly took a few steps towards them.

"Yeah?" I asked again.

"What's your name?"

"Danny," I answered.

Mike's arm flew out; I cringed awaiting the blow, but none came. It wasn't a fist he was throwing at me, but a football. I caught it and stood there not knowing what to do. "Come on, we're gonna toss the ball around. Need a fourth." He and Daryl jogged down the field leaving me and Larry standing where we were.

"So, how you liking it here?" Larry asked after a little while.

"So far, so good," I said and tossed the ball to Mike.

"It's a nice place to live." Larry caught a pass from Daryl. "Probably a lot different than the city, huh?" He threw the ball back.

"Yeah, it is," I said. "It's good though."

"Just wait till Halloween."

I didn't quite understand that comment. "Halloween? What do you mean?"

"It's kind of a big deal here."

"It was pretty big back home."

"Oh-ho," Larry chuckled. "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Nothing more was said about Halloween after that. Larry talked some more about nothing in particular and soon actual practice started. It went pretty good; I made the team and formed a pretty good friendship with the guys.

That was a few months ago. Soon October rolled around and Larry's words echoed through my mind: Just wait till Halloween. He wasn't kidding.

As soon as October 1st rolled around there were pumpkins on doorsteps, ghosts hanging from trees, and witches filling the skies on their brooms. Halloween was bigger than Christmas around here. The real kicker came when Daryl asked what I was going to dress up as.

"Dress up?" I asked. "For what?"

"What do you mean for what?" Daryl looked at me like I was an idiot. "Halloween. Trick-or-treating."

It was my turn to look at him like he was an idiot. "Dude, we're in High School. We don't trick-or-treat anymore."

"What are you talking about? Everyone trick-or-treats." Mike and Larry chuckled. You'd think I'd just told them I didn't know who are president was.

I figured they were just trying to trick me into getting a costume and making a fool of myself, but the next week the guys showed me their costumes. They were going to be zombie football players; with letterman jackets and their faces painted deathly blue with cuts and bruises marring their faces. I couldn't believe kids in High School would actually still dress up and trick-or-treat, but it seemed that everyone was doing it; the talk in the school hallways was about costume choices for weeks. I decided to go with the flow and have some fun. My costume of choice was Jason from the Friday the 13th movies.

It was while shopping for bits and pieces for my costume that the story of Jasper Jenkins emerged.

"So, for a town obsessed with Halloween there's got to be plenty of local legends, right?" I asked while picking out the best hockey mask from Yogo Sport's.

"Oh, man," Larry chuckled. "There's tons of legends."

"Tons," Mike agreed.

"Yeah? Any of them true?"

"Until proven otherwise they all are."

"What do you expect from a town founded by a witch?" Daryl said.

"What are some of them?" I asked.

"There's the lady in white," Mike started. "The werewolf out at Silver Creek."

"The hook-man," Larry joined in.

"Witches-"

"-vampires-"

"-cannibal demons-"

"-the axe murder-"

"I get it, I get it," I said. "Sounds like pretty much all the urban legends rolled into one. Have any of you guys actually seen any of these things? Checked any of them out yourselves?" I grabbed the perfect mask off the peg hook and started for the counter.

"Not really," Larry confessed.

"No," Mike said.

"Well…" Daryl stopped and exchanged glances with the other two guys. "There is one that we kind of checked out."

Larry and Mike exchanged a worried, knowing look. I could see the terror in their eyes.

"What's that?" I asked, a little afraid to hear the answer after seeing the guys' reaction to the mention of it.

"Jasper Jenkins." Daryl's voice was barely more than a whisper.

"Who's that?" I pressed.

"He's an old man that lives out on Yukon Drive." Yukon Drive was a road on the outskirts of town considered to be the "wrong side of the tracks".

"What's so scary about an old man?" I asked.

"The fact that he kidnaps and tortures kids," Mike said.

"And eats them," Larry added.

I laughed. "Right," I said. If looks could kill I would have been dead three times over at that moment.

"It's true," Daryl said. "We saw it a few years ago.

"It was Halloween and we were trick-or-treating with some people. One of them was Randy Harvey. We had been all around town, but wanted more candy so we went over to Yukon Drive. When we passed Jasper Jenkins' house some of the kids with us stopped. They started daring Randy to knock on Jasper's door. The kid was terrified, but he did it. We all stayed on the sidewalk as he walked up to the porch. He knocked on the door and I can still remember the sound of it creaking open." Larry and Mike shuddered. They evidently remembered it too. "Randy was shaking, we could see him from the road, but he still said 'Trick-or-treat'. Before we knew what was happening Randy was dragged into the house and the door was slammed shut behind him.

"We all ran. Ran for our lives. That was the last time most people saw Randy."

"Most people?" I asked. "So people have seen him since." It was a statement more than a question. I couldn't show these guys that I was giving in to anything they were saying. I stopped believing in these kind of stories when I was nine.

Daryl, Larry, and Mike exchanged another glance. "We saw him," Daryl confessed. "We'd gotten a few blocks before we stopped and decided to turn around. Everyone else kept running, but the three of us couldn't just run away from Randy.

"We went back to the house and crept up to a window." He fell silent.

I let the silence hang for a moment before I pressed on. "And?"

"That's when we saw him," Larry said gravely. His face was a sickly pale white. All of the guys' faces were. I had to admit, these guys were good actors. If I were a gullible person I might have believed them.

"We were looking into the kitchen," Daryl said. "Jenkins was hacking up a slab of meat with a meat cleaver. It was fresh."

"Maybe he liked to make his own steaks," I offered.

"No," Mike said, shaking his head. "This wasn't steak. It was Randy."

"How do you know?"

"His mask. His mask was laying on the kitchen table. A big bloody gash was sliced into the forehead of it."

"I see," I said. The only thing that kept me from laughing was the serious look on their faces. I didn't say any more; I just paid for my hockey mask and we left the store.

Halloween came around and I met up with the guys at Daryl's house. They were already in their costumes – bloody scares and all – so I went to his bathroom and changed into mine. Then we set out for something I thought I would never do again in my life…trick-or-treating.

As we went around town I noticed plenty of other high schoolers out also. The whole thing seemed surreal, but I just laid back and enjoyed the ride (and the candy).

It was starting to get late and most of the younger trick-or-treaters had returned to their homes to enjoy their stash. The guys and I, though, still drifted the streets.

"Is there anywhere else we haven't been?" Mike asked.

"Not that I can think of," Larry said.

"I think we've been everywhere," Daryl said. He suddenly stopped and his eyes lit up with an idea. "Well," he said, "there is one place." Mike and Larry looked at him curiously. Daryl turned to me. "Jasper Jenkins."

I could tell he was trying to scare me. I wasn't going to let him. "Let's go," I said defiantly.

"Hey-uh-I don't think that's such a great idea," Larry said nervously.

"Yeah, me neither," Mike agreed.

"Come on guys. Why not?" I asked.

"You're not serious, are you?" Larry acted like he couldn't believe was he was hearing.

I ignored him. "Lead the way," I said to Daryl. Daryl turned west and we started walking. Larry and Mike fell in beside us after a moment's hesitation.

Half-an-hour later we stood before the house of Jasper Jenkins. I could tell why kids would be afraid of the place. The yard looked like it hadn't been mowed in years; weeds and gnarled trees dominated the landscape. Even in the dark I could tell all but a few patches of paint had chipped off the two-story house. Shutters hung limply from their hinges, windows were broken, and the roof was collapsing. I wouldn't even have believed anyone lived there had it not been for the light emanating from a downstairs window.

"Jenkins is in there." Daryl pointed to the lit window.

"Well," I said. "Aren't you going?"

Daryl turned to me. "Are you kidding? I'm not going up there."

"Why did you want to come here then?"

"I came here for you to go up there," he said.

I turned to the dark house. My courage from earlier was waning. "Me?"

"Yeah. You were the one asking about local legends and you didn't believe us about Jenkins. If you don't believe in it you should have no problem going up there."

He had a point there. The guys were just trying to scare me after all. Without a word to them I turned and walked up the dark walkway leading to the front door.

I know it sounds strange, but I could swear the temperature in the air dropped almost ten degrees as so as I passed the threshold onto Jasper Jenkins' property. Still, I pressed on; my footfalls issuing a hollow echo as I marched to the door. The boards under my feet creaked dangerously as I stepped up the porch. I stood before the doorbell and drew a deep breath, released it, and pressed the button. Inside the house an uncharacteristically merry chime ding-donged throughout the rooms.

Seconds that felt like hours passed before the doorknob slowly turned. I wanted to turn and run, but I stood my ground. The door swung open and an old, withered man stood before me. His body was thin and frail, his back hunched, his fingers twig thin and fragile, the few hairs on his liverspotted head were shock-white. I was washed over with pity more than fear.

"Trick-or-treat," I said, holding out my Wal-Mart bag for candy.

His already wrinkled brow wrinkled even more as he looked from me to the bag in my hands then back to me. "Trick-or-treat?" His voice was like grinding gravel. After a moment's hesitation the old man's eyes lit up knowingly. "Trick-or-treat," he said again. "Of course, of course." He took a step back and held the door open with his right hand while waving me in with his left. "Come in, come in. I'll find a treat for you."

I glanced over my shoulder back at the guys. The ridiculous look of fear at this decrepit old man is what pushed me to step into the house. That should finally show them I hadn't fallen for the trick.

"I am not used to visitors," Jasper said. "Especially on Halloween."

"Yeah?" I said simply. The inside of the house wasn't any better than the outside. Through the door I'd stepped into the living room which was furnished with only a tatter rug, a broken armchair, and a stained couch that had to have dated back to the twenties. My sinuses were instantly attacked by the decades of dust and mold floating in the air. How could anyone live like this? "Please," he indicated the chair, "sit."

I sat.

The old man chuckled. "Like I said, I'm not much used to visitors. I'm afraid I don't have any candy ready. But you just sit tight. I'll try to rummage up something from the kitchen."

I couldn't tell if the creaking sound was from the floor or the old man's joints as he shuffled through the kitchen door. I sat in silence, gazing about the house. The more I sat the more I saw that it could really be a nice place. It would just need a lot of work. That's when something caught my eye; something out of place. The crumbling fireplace mantel was lined with pictures. While that may not sound weird, it was weird that there was not a speck of dust on the frames.

I stood up and walked over to look at them, picking them up and leaning them toward the failing light from the lamp. The pictures were old and I could tell them man in them was a younger version of Jasper Jenkins along with what I took to be a wife and kids. I wondered to myself what had become of them.

A tumbling/bumping noise from the kitchen drew my attention to the door behind me. "Mr. Jenkins?" I called out; afraid the old man had had a heart attack or something. When there was no answer I put the picture back on the mantel and approached the kitchen door. "Mr. Jenkins?" I call again. Still no answer.

I pushed the door open. It swung inward to the kitchen and caught something on the floor that scraped around the hardwood. I looked down and froze. The object was a butcher knife caked in a reddish-black liquid. I bent and picked it up to examine it more closely. As much as I tried to tell myself otherwise it sure looked like blood.

Mr. Jenkins wasn't in the small kitchen. I walked to the door along the wall to the right, butcher knife in hand for protection. With a shaky hand I pressed the door open.

My stomach threatened to explode as my knees turned to jelly. Never in my worst nightmares had I seen anything remotely close to the horror before me now. I would have welcomed the comforting darkness of unconsciousness or even the blissful ignorance of insanity, but I would have none of it.

The door opened to a small pantry lined with cans and jars of food. Jasper Jenkins was laying on the floor in a pool of blood. His chest had been torn open, most likely by the very knife I now held in my hands. His eyes and mouth were frozen open in a moment of shock and fear.

As bad as the sight of Jasper's body was, that wasn't what threatened to drive me over the brink of sanity. Daryl, Mike, and Larry peered up at me when I opened the door; their mouths smeared with blood and entrails. In their hands were pieces of the old man's flesh that had been ripped from his body.

"Hey, Danny." Daryl looked at me and smiled. There were guts and skin stuck between his teeth. "Boo!" Maniacal laughter burst from the guys' bloody mouths.

"Wha-wha-" I could only stammer. I couldn't comprehend what was going on in front of me.

"Lighten up, Danny," Mike said.

"Yeah." Larry bit off a piece of the flesh he held. "We're just having a snack."

I backed away on numb legs.

Daryl stood up and started to approach me. "We have to thank you, Danny. Thank you for taking the wrap for this."

"What?"

"Your fingerprints are all over the place now. The pictures, the murder weapon," he pointed at the knife, "and there's even of bit of your shirt on the window we broke to get in here." He pulled a wad of cloth from inside his letterman's jacket that I recognized as a shirt of mine.

I stared at him dumbfounded.

"Sorry, man, but we couldn't risk being found out. We got close last year with Randy, but we used this guy as our cover." He looked back at Jasper's corpse. "Hey! Save me some."

"Sorry," Mike and Larry said in unison.

Daryl turned back to me. "Now then," he said. "I know you're probably thinking of running off and turning us in, but I would have to advise against that.

"We're good at what we do, Danny. The police would find absolutely nothing tying us to this so it's pointless even to try. We don't leave fingerprints and we know how to wash the evidence off of us."

"You should feel lucky actually," Larry looked at me. "If we hadn't liked you so much this would be you."

Feeling was starting to come back to my body. I had to get out of here. I had to get to the police. I couldn't let these guys get away with this. I turned and ran.

"Forget it Danny!" I heard behind me as I dashed from the house. "We tried to tell you Glenford Falls had its monsters."

The words echoed in my head as my feet pounded on the pavement. Even as I ran to the police I knew in my heart that what Daryl had said was true. They wouldn't be caught. I would be blamed.

My calm world had dissolved into a nightmare.