I love the sights and sounds of fall in general, and they all seem to come together in October. The skies are a more vivid blue, the air is crisper, and I love the changing leaves. As a kid, I loved walking through them to hear them crunch, loved looking at them fluttering from the trees, and absolutely hated raking them. In my teens, we had a big yard, and that was always one of the things that I absolutely dreaded. Though I think the kid in this story dreads it more, heh.
Very little got Dennis Johnson to move quickly – his son screaming was one of those things. He was out the door and in the large front yard in under a minute. It was hard to miss his son’s tall, lanky frame, especially since he was hopping around, kicking up dead leaves in a vivid autumnal spray. For just the slightest moment he thought maybe the kid was having him on, but up close Kevin was pale and babbling. “Kevin, what is it?”
The leaves crunched under his son’s sneakers with every frantic step. “Call the cops! Holy shit, Oh my God, Dad, it…holy-”
He barely dodged the flailing rake and quickly yanked it from his son’s shaking hand. “Calm down! What’s going on?”
He pointed and turned away, muttered curses turning to whimpers. Kevin was fourteen and already a smartass who usually didn’t care about anything. The lifeless arm sticking out of a leaf pile definitely was more incentive than any advice he’d ever tried to give. It would be a shock to anyone’s system, something so grotesque sitting in the middle of something so pleasant, though he supposed, in reality, it was death on death.
Dennis stared at the limb, the gnarled fingers, the flecks of blood under the nails. Some of the skin on the wrist looked to be wasting away, and the cloth of the sleeve was torn and moldy. His stomach clenched in shock – not like you saw an arm on your lawn every day – but sanity took over. “Really, Kev? I can’t believe you fell for that.”
“What?” His son’s disbelief was almost comical.
“You think it’s gonna jump out at ya? Come on, dude. It’s October!” He rolled his eyes and poked the arm with the end of the rake for emphasis. “What, you think your old man’s too old to have some fun? I just haven’t gotten the other stuff out of the basement yet.”
The poor kid shook his head as he tried to come back to himself. “What?”
“I thought I’d get started on the decorating early this year.” He shrugged as if it explained everything in the universe. “I didn’t think you’d freak out about it.”
His son stared at him in disbelief. “This was a joke? You think this is funny? Dad, holy shit, what the actual hell?” The teen shook his arms out, ran his hands through his dark hair, and started cursing for a whole other reason. For a minute he looked like he was ready to grab the rake and bludgeon him with it.
Dennis moved the object to his far hand and stepped back, gauging his son’s reaction carefully. “Don’t let your mom hear you talking like that. Geez, Kev, you about gave me a heart attack screaming like that! What’re you doing out here so early, anyway?”
The kid had gone from scared to defensive in a heartbeat. “I thought if I got it over with I could-”
“Play video games all weekend. Uh-huh. You’ve gotta study, too, kid.” As it was, bags were scattered across the lawn and it looked like he’d spread the leaves out more than he’d added to the piles he’d started a few afternoons ago. “Go on, you’re making a mess out here. I’ll finish up. Go do your homework.”
Kevin’s face scrunched and he shook with unreleased adrenaline. “I…fine, whatever. You’re a sick man, Dad,” he grumbled and stomped up toward the house.
“You have no idea,” he shot back automatically. Kevin grumbled something and slammed the front door, the typical end note to most of their conversations these days.
Dennis took a few deep breaths of his own, giving himself a few moments to gather his calm and get over his disappointment. When he was sure the teen had gone inside he walked to where a leaf bag was already partly filled and dragged it over to the offending object. Grumbling, he grabbed the lifeless arm and dragged the attached body out from among the golds and oranges that hid it. “How the hell did you get out of the basement…I thought I finished you.” With a quick glance to make sure the neighbors weren’t out on a Saturday morning, he bent and felt the neck. “Well, you didn’t make it far and you’re gone now, so no harm was done.” It took some doing to shove the body into the bag on his own, but he wasn’t going to call Caroline out here for something so trivial and upset Kevin even more. His reactions alone made it obvious he wasn’t ready to help with Halloween decorating yet. “Dumb kid. Everyone knows skeletons are scarier than bodies.” He grunted at the effort it took to drag the bag back to the basement’s outside door. He had to pause three times across the large, sprawling yard before he made it to the concrete steps. “Must be gettin’ old,” he sighed. Back in the day acquiring, storing, and maintaining their decorations had been so much easier. It made it all the more disappointing that Kevin just wasn’t ready to have that talk yet. Dennis braced himself as he dragged the bag back down the steps and inside, making a mental note to tell Caroline their boy wasn’t ready for extra responsibility just yet. While he was at it, he also made a mental note to check the lock on both the outside door and the door to the upstairs. First, though, he’d make sure to poke around all the other piles Kevin hadn’t gotten to yet.
Selah Janel loves Halloween, but writes horror and dark fantasy all year round. She has stories in several anthologies and magazines and co-wrote the collection Lost in the Shadows. Her fantasy/cross-genre novel Olde School combines a lot of fantasy and horror elements together (along with fairy tales and the just plain strange), and her shorter e-book only titles explore a range of genres and ideas. Catch up with her and see a full list of her titles at http://www.selahjanel.wordpress.com http://www.facebook.com/authorSJ or follow her on Twitter @SelahJanel