Here it is, the Halloween story! Sorry, but it's gonna have to be in two parts. I've had a really bad day so far, and I don't think I could finish it tonight. Sorry. But I will have the next part up as soon as possible!
The jack-o-lantern's grin had turned out decidedly cheesy.
I'd spent a meticulous hour and a half on it the night before, cutting it open and pulling out slimy orange pumpkin guts and thunking them down on the newspaper-lined table, much to the delighted disgust of my little sister Jeanine.
"Make it scary!" she shrieked, clapping her hands together.
I'd tried my best, carving two triangle eyes, a square, lopsided nose and a mouth full of jagged teeth, but the end result had hinged more toward retarded than frightening. When I'd finished I'd turned it toward Jeanine.
Her face had fallen quite rapidly upon inspection.
"It looks stupid," she'd said. "Ashley's older sister carved a witch on their pumpkin!"
"I guess I just don't have the artistic flair of Ashley's older sister," I said, trying not to feel insulted. I didn't have a whole lot of experience in pumpkin carving. Mom had always done it when I'd been a kid, and her jack-o-lanterns had always been stunning--really magnificently evil looking. She didn't have time for things like that anymore. She had a business to run, a house to take care of, and a shiny new husband to keep in line.
"Are you sure you don't mind staying home and handing out the candy?" she asked me Halloween morning, when she was rushing Jeanine off to school.
I was sitting at the kitchen table, eating an oversized bowl full of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The Breakfast of Champions.
I shrugged. "I don't have any plans."
Mom gave me that look, the look that said, 'Oh, Peter, I wish you'd make some friends so your stepfather and I could have the house to ourselves sometimes.'
"It's fine," I reiterated, taking a healthy bite of cereal. "It's not like anyone Trick Or Treats here anyway."
I had friends. Or at least, I did during winter and summer vacation, when everyone came flocking home. I'd tried the whole college thing. It hadn't worked out. I don't really to say more than that. So now I was living at home, working at a Pizzeria, and eating my step dad's Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Not exactly what dreams were made of.
Just as the Weather Channel had predicted, the sky grew increasingly grayer as the day went on. By the time evening rolled around, the wind had picked up and a fine drizzle had come seeping down from the clouds, kicking up the sort of fog that people composed poems about. It was a perfect sort of night for ghost stories and strange happenings, but not the best sort of night for running around in a Power Ranger costume and banging on people's front doors. Still, I doubted that would stop anyone under the age of fourteen from doing it anyway.
I didn't work Fridays, so I spent the day doing what any nineteen year-old college drop out did when he had free time. I played video games, read my current Neil Gaiman novel, and jerked off.
That evening, after mom and Jeanine had departed for trick-or-treating, I sat in the living room, reading, a small bowl of candy sitting beside my knee. Mom had left some sort of spicy pumpkin incense burning, along with a few black and orange candles, and it left me feeling decidedly Halloween.
When it started to get dark, I walked outside, cheesy jack-o-lantern under my arm. The wood of the front porch felt damp and waterlogged beneath my bare feet. It was wet and windy, the sort of cold that was more mood-setting than uncomfortable. The leaves on the trees were at their most colorful, shaking and tossing in the wind.
I set the pumpkin down on the porch, away from the the wind. Opening the top, I stuck a little white tea candle inside, lighting it with my silver zippo with flames down the side. It wasn't very me. I replaced the stem back on the pumpkin, turning it to face me. Its grin looked slightly less retarded with flickering gold light shiny through it--more thoughtful than anything else. I turned it back to face the front path.
Now anyone who dared to brave our long driveway (which had more twists and turns than the yellow brick road) would know that at least their journey hadn't been in vain. I had candy, and I was prepared to hand it out. Every year there were at least a few stalwart kids in Darth Vadar and Disney princess costumes.
I stood on the porch and breathed in the smell of fall--rain, wet-decaying earth, woodsmoke from someone's fire. The cold felt good on my bare arms after the constant circulation of the heater inside. I felt feral, sort of, and wildly inspired to do...something. I wasn't sure what. If I had any kind of artistic talent at all I would have painted a masterpiece or written a poem, but I didn't.
My step dad's old Toyota Carrolla was in the driveway, propped up on one corner with two cement blocks. He'd gotten a flat tire a little over two weeks ago (swerving to avoid some hooligan in a Ferrari, as he'd put it) and had yet to get a new one. He'd been taking the Metro in to work, dropped of at the station by my increasingly exasperated mother.
As step dad's went, I guess Jeff was okay. I mean, he didn't beat me, or steal things, or make my life a living hell, but we'd never be friends. He was a forty-five year old conservative from southern Iowa, and I was young, lazy, and gay. In his opinion, not the greatest son. For awhile, he'd gone through a phase where he wouldn't allow me to bring any male friends into the house. I guess he was afraid we'd go into my room and do nasty things to each other, though I couldn't see how it was any of his business if we did.
I left Pumpkin McCheese (I decided that would be his name) out on the porch, heading back inside to the living room.
Around six-thirty I heard the first crack of thunder. It was impossibly loud, like a miniature explosion. I dropped my book, yelled "Shit!" to no one in particular, and went over to the window. The sky was a flat canvass grey, fading into deep black above the trees. It was much darker than it should have been this early, even this time of year.
It didn't bother me, I loved storms, but as the first rain drops spattered the driveway, I felt a twinge of sympathy for the eager trick-or-treaters who'd been waiting for this night for months. Most of their parents would probably drag them home. Jeanine wouldn't be too pleased.
I meandered back to the couch, putting my feet up on the arm, something I'd never dare do when my mother was around. There was an old, wooden antique mirror hanging opposite me, like a giant window in the wall. I hadn't bothered to turn any lights on, and the room reflected back looked sinister, the candles sending quivering shadows dancing up to the ceiling. My reflection looked like it always did, tired and mundane. I was the sort of person you didn't notice in a crowd, for better or for worse. My features--eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks--all added up to the most normal-looking thing you could imagine.
I went back to my book.
The knock on the front door startled me more than you would have thought. It was quick and frenzied, like whoever it was didn't really know how. I put my book down, pacing down the shadowy hallway and picking up the little bowl of Hershey's Kisses and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and, pasting what I hoped was a welcoming expression on my face, I opened the front door. My smile slid off and shattered around my feet.
The person outdoors was completely waterlogged, hair dripping into his eyes, mud spattered all over his high boots and pants. The pants were tight and clinging and they would have been really strange, if it hadn't been Halloween, and if they hadn't been paired with a sort of fantastic frock coat.
"Hi," the boy said. He was panting. "S-Sorry to bother you, but--." He staggered a bit, and my hand shot up out of reflex to catch him.
"Are you okay?" I asked, which was sort of a stupid question. He was shivering, and one hand was clutching at his neck, like he was trying to hold it on. He squeezed his eyes shut, taking a deep breath.
"I was crossing through the woods to go--," He swallowed, opening his eyes again. He looked like he was in pain. "Go to a party. S-Someone attacked me. I saw your lights, I'm sorry--."
"No," I said quickly. "No, come in...you look like you're gonna pass out."
He nodded tightly, lips pursed. He was very pale.
I shut the door on the storm, leading him through the hall to the kitchen, keeping a light grip on his upper arm in case he started to fall over again. His boots left muddy footprints on the tile.
He was shivering, water shaking loose from the sleeves of his coat. He stood in the center of the kitchen, clutching his neck, looking a little bit like a drowned puppy.
"Is there something wrong with your neck?" I asked hesitantly.
He drew his hand away. There was a dark, spreading stain on his coat, and his palm was streaked red.
My eyes widened. That definitely qualified under 'something wrong'.
"Fuck," I breathed. "Do you want me to call an ambulance?"
The boy started to shake his head, then thought better of it. He winced.
"No. I don't have health insurance."
I couldn't argue with that. Health insurance wasn't one of those things where you could say, "here, use mine."
"Here," I said. "Come into the bathroom. The light's better."
I sort of half took him by the arm, pulling him along into the little bathroom near the back of the house. The cheery pink and white candy-striped shower curtain was oddly jarring. I sat the boy on the edge of the toilet.
"I'm Peter," I said after a moment.
"Kristopher," he responded. "With a K."
He sat there on the toilet, arms hanging down by his sides now, no longer touching his neck. His eyes were a bit glazed over. I wondered if he was on anything.
"Can you take your coat off?"
Kristopher just stared at me for a few seconds, eyes unfocused. "Oh, yeah," he said at last, snapping back to himself. He shrugged the lacy frock coat off his shoulders. He was wearing a dark muscle tank underneath. It was wet with blood.
"This is nice," I said, holding up the coat, hanging it as neatly as I could on the edge of the tub. "Where did you get it?"
"I made it. Took forever."
I grabbed a hand towel from the rack across from the sink, sort of dabbing at the mess of blood on his neck. Kristopher angled his head out of my way. Along the curve of his shoulder, just missing his carotid artery, were two perfect puncture marks.
I let out a half-assed sort of laugh.
"It looks like someone's been getting a little too into the spirit."
He pushed himself to his feet, swaying over to the mirror. His eyes widened, and he mouthed, "What the fuck?" His eyes met mine in the mirror. "That crazy fucker bit me!"
"Did he actually bite you? I mean, it could have been a, I dunno, one of those barbaque fork things."
Kristopher looked at me like I was insane. "No. He bit me." His tone didn't leave any room for discussion.
"Oh." I didn't really know what to say. "Guess some people are freaks."
"It looks like it stopped bleeding," Kristopher said.
"That's good. Hey, do you want to take a shower?"
Kristopher stared at me.
"To was the blood off," I added swiftly. "Not, you know, together."
That got a little smile, just the slightest curl of the lips, but it made me notice how cute he'd be when he wasn't in shock and covered in blood.
"After all, we just met," I added.
The smile widened. "Thanks. That'd be good. Can I use this one? I'll try not to get any blood on it..."
I shook my head. "Don't worry about it," I said, though I had no idea why. Blood all over the shower would be a difficult thing to explain to my mother. Then again, it would probably be even harder to explain a bloody boy in the shower, if she were to come home anytime soon.
I found some rubbing alcohol and gauze stuffed toward the back of the medicine cabinet. Kristopher insisted on cleaning the cuts on his own. His winces had turned to a weird sort of shivering whenever he touched the two little punctures. I left him with a coil of waterproof medical tape and went back into the living room.
My book was still sitting open on the sofa, but I didn't sit back down. I stood in the center of the room, staring out the window and watching the wind through the trees, ripping away the last few leaves that had been clinging bravely on. This was the weirdest Halloween I had ever had, including the one where my friend Ian took a bunch of acid and ran around the neighborhood screaming the Grim Reaper was chasing him with a lawn mower.
There was a rattle of pipes in the wall, and the rush of the shower joined in with the rain pounding on the windows. I spent a moment trying to imagine how Kristopher would look naked. Pretty damn good, judging from the little glimpse of him I'd gotten when he took off the frock coat.
The incense on the coffee table had burned all the way down, leaving behind a long line of ash. I tapped the stand, the ash trembling and falling into the tray. I hesitated a moment, before pulling another stick out of the bag, holding the flame of my lighter to the tip until it began to glow red. The spicy pumpkin smell filled the room.
I went out onto the porch and brought Pumpkin McCheese back inside before he got too soggy. The candle inside was still lit, so I set him on the coffee table as well, admiring how he looked in the dark room. Not really so cheesy anymore--maybe I'd have to rename him.
I tried sitting down, but I jumped back up almost immediately. I felt keyed up and strange.
I probably would have stood there staring off into space for the next few minutes, if it hadn't occured to me that Kristopher wouldn't want to put on those bloody clothes when he climbed out of the shower. I paced down the hall to my room, switching on the light and wading through the mess of clothes and books strewn across the carpet. I delved deep into the reaches of my closet, where I kept all the things I never wore.
Kristopher was bigger than I was--broader across the shoulders, hips less thin, ass less flat. I finally emerged with a pair of navy blue sweatpants that slid down if I didn't sinch them tight, and an oversized T-shirt. Hopefully they would fit Kristopher.
I set them in front of the bathroom door, just as I heard the shower shut off. I knocked lightly. "Hey, I got you some clothes. I'll just leave them out here, okay?"
There was a pause, before Kristopher answered, "Okay, thanks!" He said it quickly, like he was nervous.
I went back to the living room and forced myself to sit down. Kristopher emerged a few minutes later, dressed in my sweatpants. He was carrying his old bloody clothes in one hand, my t-shirt in the other.
"Thanks for these," he said, motioning to his legs. "But the shirt irritates the cuts." I noticed he'd removed the bandage, and the wound stood out clear on his pale neck. I didn't comment. I was no doctor.
"That's cool," I said. "I mean, it's fine. Is there someone I could call for you...?" It wasn't as if I was trying to rush him off--he was absolutely gorgeous, naked from the waist up, still damp from the shower. His abs were well-sculpted, like he worked out. I myself had spent the last six months sitting on my ass, and I felt like a total loser next to him.
He shook his head slowly. "I don't think so. I live in the dorm at Hood College. This is my first semester, and I...I haven't really met any friends yet. I don't have anyone's number."
Strange, I would have thought that someone who looked like him would have people flocking to him in droves. So either he went out of his way to be a loner, or there was something else wrong with him, something not immediately visible. Maybe he had B.O.
"It looks like the storm's getting worse," he mused, staring out the window in almost exactly the same spot I had a quarter of an hour ago.
"Yeah," I agreed. "You can sit down if you want." He stared at me a few seconds, eyes swinging in and out of focused. I was really starting to think I should try to get him to hospital, regardless of health insurance.
"Oh, yeah. Thanks." He held up his bloody clothes. "What should I..."
"I'll hang them up...somewhere," I said.
"Thanks." He handed them over hesitantly, as if he was worried I might take them off and burn them.
"You want something to drink?" I called back over my shoulder as I strode down the hall to the kitchen.
I tossed his clothes on to the top of the washer in the corner of the kitchen, heading over to the fridge and pulling it open.
"I have bottled water," I said, giving the Peligrino a poke, clinking the little green bottles together. "Well, sort of. It's sort of fizzy and nasty, but--."
I turned and almost walked into Kristopher. I hadn't heard him follow me, but he was standing right there, in the middle of the kitchen, hand clasped to his neck again. He was doing that strange shuddering again, not quite pain but not quite cold either.
"Hey, man, you okay? You need something?"
Kristopher's eyes snapped to me. They looked crazed and unresponsive, like he was no longer behind them.
Suddenly, he lunged forward, pushing me back against the fridge, smashing it shut.
Oh shit, was my only thought. This is when it happens. The stranger you let into your house kills you and leaves your hacked up body in a ditch.
But Kristopher made no move to start hacking. He just leaned in close, breath warm on my cheek.
"I need..." his voice came out choked and small. "I need something...it hurts." I felt his hands feeling their way up my arms, hands moving up to cup my chin.
I foresaw what he was going to to do the instant before he did it. His lips pressed against mine, hard and insistent, tongue forcing my lips apart, pushing its way into my open mouth.
Yes, he was a complete stranger, but he was a gorgeous stranger. I was a gay college dropout living in a right wing town, and my prospects of getting laid were depressingly low. So I kissed him back.
He groaned into my mouth, licking at my tongue, sloppy and absolutely delicious. His mouth moved to my neck, and for one crazy moment I thought he was going to bite me, but he just licked along the tendons of my neck, making me shiver.
Before I could do anything else, he took me by the sleeve, pulling me back toward the living room.
Oh yes, part two is gonna be sexy.