“Knock it off, Arthur!” screeched the disgruntled girl, turning around quickly and glaring at the boy. She tried to pull the fake spider from her head, but its plastic legs were stuck in knots of her long, wavy brown hair. She untangled the fake arachnid, picked up a handful of pumpkin guts from the pumpkin she had just been carving and then hurled them at her brother.
There was a loud, squishy SMACK as the pumpkin guts and seeds hit Arthur in the middle of his face. He wiped himself off, pulling bits and pieces out of his messy black hair, and stared at his sister, who was laughing. “Chill out Morgan. It was just a small little plastic spider.”
“Yes . . . but you have been doing it for the past half hour. It wasn’t funny the first time you did it and it isn’t funny now,” she snapped. “You are two years older than me and I’m a hundred times more mature than you.”
“Both of you stop it right now,” shrieked their mother as she walked into the kitchen; her eyes were heavy with exhaustion. “Now both of you, help bring the jack-o-lanterns outside. Your brother is all in a rush to go trick-or-treating and the faster you set up outside, the faster we can all go.”
“But mom,” moaned Arthur, “we agreed that you would allow me and Morgan to go by ourselves this year.”
His mother looked at him with stern eyes, as if X-raying him. She sighed heavily, “Fine. I guess you two can go by yourselves. But don’t stay out too long and don’t cause any trouble.” The last bit was shouted to the two as they hurried out with the pumpkins, hastily plopping them onto the front porch, and haring off down the street.
It was a brisk autumn night as the people of Little Winthrop ambled about the streets, going door-to-door and ringing doorbells for candy. Children ran about in their various costumes—dressed up like superheroes and zombies and ghosts and vampires. Jack-o-lanterns lit up the many porches up and down the streets. Tree branches were colored red, brown, yellow and orange; the sidewalks were littered with leaves of the same color and it looked as if paint had been splattered against the concrete; the grass was dead, with a hue of crunchy orange. A faint breeze picked up and blew through Morgan’s hair as the two siblings surveyed the street, trying to choose where to start.
Finally deciding on a house, Arthur—who was dressed as a wizard—ran over toward it, leaving Morgan behind. She ran after him, shouting at him about how dare he leave her behind while brandishing her knight’s sword.
They ran door to door to door, ringing doorbells and shouting “trick-or-treat!” They saw some of their friends as they ran from house to house: Lance was dressed as vampire, Merl was dressed as doctor and Tristan was dressed as a zombie.
All of the houses were covered in lights and cobwebs and all different kinds of scary things; Halloween was a big holiday around Little Winthrop. They went all out for Halloween every year and it was usually a competition between houses to see whose house was scariest.
After a few hours of trick-or-treating with their friends, Morgan and Arthur broke off from the group to go on their own. This was when Arthur came up with an idea: “Hey, Morgan, d’you wanna go down to Cadbury Lane?”
Everyone in the neighborhood knew about Cadbury Lane: it was a small, dark hollow completely separate from the rest of Little Winthrop by a large forest and creek that had been abandoned since the siblings could remember. It was a spooky area and there were many scary stories about it. But Morgan wanted to prove she was no chicken. “Sure,” she said.
They came to a crumbling cobblestone bridge over the creek; as they crossed over the bridge, pieces of stone fell into the rapid dark waters below. They could see a rusty wrought iron fence with an arch over it. Hanging from the arch was an equally rusty sign that said “Cadbury Lane.” The gates swung loosely open back and forth, clanging against each other. Arthur pushed open the gates and they walked through; the dirt road curved and branched off in several spots, leading to the abandoned houses.
At the end of the street was an old church with a large, dead white tree in the front of it. In the middle of the hollow a stone angel surmounted a now barren fountain and had cracks up and down it, leaving its face fissured and horrifying. The sky was now a violent purple. They walked up to the church and read the rotting wooden sign: “St. Sorrows Cathedral.”
“What do you think you children are doing?” said a croaking, angry voice. The old man came out of nowhere. He limped up to them with his cane, his pale grey eyes staring at the children. They stared back at his white hair and almost see-through skin, but they were not afraid of this frail old man.
Arthur spoke up. “We were just exploring a bit,” he said.
“Don’t you children know that church is haunted?” said the old man. “The church used to be beautiful,” speaking to no one in particular. “Back in the day the bell in that tower rang with a sweet resonance and there used to be stain glass windows that would shimmer in the sunlight. Now everything is all rusted and grimy.” He looked back down at the children and said, angrily, “You children stay out of there.”
But Arthur took the old man’s warning as a challenge: “Come on Morgan, let’s go in.”
Morgan looked at the old man and then back at her brother. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. Now let’s go,” he demanded.
Morgan glanced at the eerie church, loudly gulped, and then said, “O-okay. Let’s go in.” Somewhere along the way she had lost her bravado.
The two children left the old man where he was standing as they ran into the derelict church. The doors slammed shut behind them on their own; the only light left in the building came from holes in the stained glass windows. There was a bowl of candy placed on a table at the front—just sitting there, staring at the children. Arthur went up to it. “How old do you think this candy is?”
Morgan looked at him with disgust, “I’m sure that candy is ancient. I would not touch it if I were you.”
Arthur ignored his sister and greedily took some of the old candy. He unwrapped a piece and tried it, only to spit it out moments later with a forceful “yeuch!”
“I told you not to touch it Arthur!” yelled Morgan.
“Would you calm down, jeez. I’m not dead, am I?”
“Not yet you’re not,” she said, threateningly. “Come over and look at this,” she said.
Arthur walked to the right of the pews where Morgan was standing. It was stone coffin and resting on the lid was a skeleton sculpture with a sword clutched in its hands. Morgan read the sign, “‘Effigy to a Knight’ . . . spooky.” She went over to pick out one of the antique torches off the wall, but she found she could not budge it.
She pulled with more force, but again to no avail. However, she was able to turn the torch upside down like a lever.
The square tile that Arthur was standing on went out from under his feet and he fell through the hole and onto a slide that took him all the way down to a dark maze of tunnels. Morgan quickly followed him, paying no attention to her fear. There were cobwebs all around in the tunnels, as well as large spiders that crawled around on the walls.
“EW EW EW!” shouted Morgan as she got up off the ground and kicked the huge spiders off her.
Arthur looked around the dark crypt, unsure which tunnel he should take. “What do you think this is?” he asked, full of amazement.
But Morgan was not as astonished or excited. In fact, she was rather terrified now and really just wanted to get out. “I—I don’t know. Let’s just . . . find a way out of here quickly.” She looked around but had no idea which tunnel led them out of the spider-infested maze.
There was a noise emanating from the tunnel to their right. It was soft, but it became louder with each second. It was a clanging noise—the noise of chains clanking against each other, accompanied by the shuffle of feet.
The noise grew louder and louder. Something carrying clanking chains was shuffling towards the two children, and they did not want to stick around to find out what it was.
A white dog appeared to the left of the children, barking at them and wagging its tail; it was as if the dog was calling to them. The white dog seemed less of a threat than the eerie clanking chains coming from the other direction, so the children sprinted after the dog. He led the way as though he knew the maze of tunnels inside and out.
The dog was full of energy and outran the children easily. He led them up tall underground hills and through twists and turns, and before they knew it, he had guided them out to a courtyard in the middle of the woods. A white marble coffin lay in the center of the courtyard. Crows were perched on the branches of the surrounding trees, and the sky was a deep violent purple-black color. Stars faintly twinkled above the children.
Their mother was going to kill them if they did not get back soon.
Sitting on the coffin was a silver chalice encrusted with sapphire—it glimmered in the setting sun. Arthur looked at it, the shimmer catching his eye. Morgan spoke up. “Arthur! Don’t touch that, it isn’t yours—you’re so greedy.”
Arthur ignored his sister and picked up the chalice to examine it. The sapphires were so deep and dark blue—they were beautiful, and probably worth a great deal.
The wind started to pick up: the crows fled from their branches as gusts swept up the red and yellow leaves from the ground. There was a loud banging noise that came from the coffin, as though somebody was trying to get out. Arthur fell to the ground, scared. He scrambled to his feet and ran back to his sister, who was disapprovingly nodding her head. “I told you not to touch that thing.”
“Shut up and let’s go,” he said.
“Okay, let’s go. Put it back!”
“Okay. Okay. Jeez, you don’t have to yell all the time.”
“Well apparently I do!” she snarled.
The two ran for the small swinging gate—it led out onto a path in the woods. The little dog followed them, barking. The trail was long and twisting—it opened up back at the church, behind the large white tree. The two children just wanted to get out of the little hollow as fast as they could. The wind was picking up; the tree branches of the white tree creaked and moaned. Then at once, the tree shivered to life. It bent down, and its branches wrapped around Arthur’s limbs, neck, and torso before lifting him up into the sky. His screams rent the air.
Morgan froze with fright. What could she possibly do to help her brother? But before the tree could get to her as well, she ran away.
She darted through the old iron gates and across the bridge as fast as her legs could carry her without ever looking back to see if her brother was alive. Only the dog followed after her, stopping just at the threshold of Cadbury Lane and staring after her, sadly wagging his tale.
Brendon Zatirka is a teacher of college writing and a writer for tuneage.com, a popular music blog. He is really good at eating carrot cake and cluttering his desk with coffee mugs. He has written for Potluck before.