The Old Shop
Daniel and Katie were biking home from school when Daniel suddenly exclaimed, “Oh man!” Katie rolled her eyes. That was the kind of thing Daniel was always saying.
But then she noticed Daniel was suddenly nowhere to be seen.
Because he had stopped a few feet earlier, an ashen look upon his face. He pointed downward, to his bicycle tire. Flat.
As Katie circled back to help him out, Daniel’s eyes travelled back upward to take in something strange. They had stopped in front of a dusty old store window.
Katie shivered with bewilderment: “How can a mom-and-pop store even afford rent in this chain-store neighborhood?” Something didn’t add up — specifically, the financials.
Daniel didn’t answer, because he was about to enter the darkened shop, through the grimy window of which they could make out the shadowy shapes of ancient talismans, daggers, and in one corner, a weirdly grinning skull.
And that’s when an icy hand grabbed at Daniel’s arm.
It was Katie’s. She said, “Remember? We have to fix your bike tire?”
Daniel said, “Oh yeah, right.”
They did so, and then biked home for a nutritious dinner.
It was Halloween, and everyone knew what that meant: Children, sent out into the street after dark, among unknown grownups with their identities concealed, to beg strangers for potentially toxic things to pop in their mouth.
But not Roger. He had like a million pages of trigonometry homework.
The Baseball Cap of Evil
“Don’t touch it!” Andrea squealed, as Ricardo reached down to pick up the old, wrinkled Astros cap lying on the blanket behind the hand-torn piece of cardboard that read, in blood-red letters, “YARD SALE.”
“Come on! It would look great on me!” Ricardo protested, “Let me just try it on.”
Andrea stepped in front of Ricardo, arms crossed as if to block him.
“You know what’s going to happen,” she frowned. “You’re going to fall in love with it, then spend the rest of your allowance on it. Did you forget our plans to invest it in municipal bonds?”
Ricardo stepped around his friend, grabbed the hat, and flipped it into the air, catching it on his head. “Ta-da!” he grinned.
But then his smile started to fade. Something was happening. Inside the hat. Something was moving. Something… alive.
“Yechhh!” Ricardo screamed, tossing the hat back onto the blanket and walking away.
The shadows fell long and dark across the old, faded sign in front of the old amusement park.
Suddenly lightning flashed, revealing its one word: “SCARYWORLD.”
And then beneath it, a smaller, slime-green sign, rattled in the chill wind. It said, “CLOSED.”
Donny shrugged at Denise. “Oh well. Another time maybe.”
“CARNIVAL — TODAY ONLY” Candice read aloud from the morning’s International Herald-Tribune.
“That’s odd,” said her father, Father. “An international paper with a local event listing?”
“You’re right, Father,” Candice said, for probably the ninth time that day. He had always taught her to read the news with a critical eye.
But that didn’t stop Candice from walking by the site of the old carnival. Strictly speaking, it didn’t cause it either. She had no choice, as the carnival was located in an alley that — due to construction — she had to pass through on her way to her afterschool job at Quizno’s.
Candice peered in through the open doorway and saw something unsettling. A grinning ventriloquist’s dummy seemed to look her right in the eye — no wait, it seemed to follow her as she moved.
And then, those wooden jaws opened, and an unnervingly high-pitched voice came out. “What’s the hurry… CANDICE?”
Candice backed away, brain shocked into disbelief, until she looked closer at the dummy — and the creepy, hair-raising spectacle of a giant, monstrous human body, arm inside the dummy, puppeteering it.
“B-b-but how did you know my…?” she uttered in a hoarse whisper.
“You’re wearing a nametag,” the ventriloquist explained.