by Greg Sisco
Loraine took her hands out of her pockets just long enough to zip up her leather jacket before plunging them back in. Jesus, it was brisk. Good brisk. Been too long brisk. Finally feels like fall at the end of a long summer brisk. But still, Jesus.
She would’ve driven, but chances of adult beverages seemed high, and she didn’t have the funds to justify an Uber, especially when the bus stop was only a quarter mile from the house, but damn, she’d have brought a hat and scarf if she realized it was going to be like this. The fake blood was freezing to her skin, the stop sign she’d cut to look like it was lodged in her neck felt like ice, and wind pierced the jacket where she’d torn it to look like the stop sign went through. Here on Elm Springs Parkway—colloquially Bloodlust Boulevard—it always seemed colder than it was in the rest of the city.
Loraine smirked. Of course it was colder on Bloodlust Boulevard. It was only right.
She took a deep breath and exhaled hard, trying to let the cold out of her as she took in the decorations. What a place to walk alone. Ominous lights, cobwebs, carved pumpkins with red lights for eyes, bloody axes stuck in tree stumps, entrails hanging from gutters. She’d wanted to come to a party on this street ever since trick-or-treating here as a little girl. Even driving or walking the street each year put a smile on her face. Every town had a Candy Cane Lane, it seemed to Loraine, but she thought herself blessed to live in a town with Bloodlust Boulevard.
Cold though. Always cold. Some anomaly in its placement among the hills? A trick of the mind brought on by the creepy atmosphere? A little of both?
She shivered, shrugged, and walked up the driveway to Megan’s house.
“Did you see the one with the heads on the fenceposts?” asked a man with a pair of scissors stuck in one eye like he tripped while running with them.
“No, was that out this way?” a woman in a burnt blouse asked, pointing with a crispy, disfigured hand.
“Other way,” said Megan, a half dozen knives sticking out of her back. “We’ll go look after dark. It’s even better. There are lights on the fenceposts that shine through the eyes and mouths.”
Loraine listened, hoping a few beers would build up her tolerance to the cold enough to go out with them.
The costume theme was “Recently Deceased” and not one guest disappointed. Everybody put in thought, worked hard, and appeared authentic, some to the point that it was hard to even look at them. Megan had stressed the message that this was a party on Bloodlust Boulevard, that everybody would get into the spirit, and anyone who didn’t put in their best effort was sure to be the weak link. Loraine was glad she’d listened.
Her phone vibrated.
Loraine told herself, after she woke up with the hangover to end all hangovers, that she’d get around to this unpleasant conversation before the party, but apparently she’d gotten carried away. She thought of ghosting Mom but decided it was cruel under the circumstances and would only serve to weigh on her mind. She pounded the rest of her beer, grabbed another, and stepped out on the back porch.
“Where are you? Are you okay?” Mom was asking frantically. Loraine could hear her hyperventilating.
“I’m fine. I got home late. I went to sleep.” That was technically true, though last night was a blur. Loraine remembered she’d had dinner with a Tinder date, then they’d gone for what was supposed to be a couple drinks but turned into way too many, and her memory went blank somewhere between then and morning.
“You promised me you’d call when you got home. Do not pretend I’m overreacting.”
“Mom, I’m almost thirty. You can’t have a panic attack over every little thing.”
“You are twenty-four, and even if you were almost thirty, there’s no age limit on getting killed by a stranger you met on the internet.”
“Well, I lived. I’m sorry I forgot to text you.” she thought of a lie. “I lost my phone in the couch cushions and it took all day to find it.”
“Honey… When you say you’ll text, I need you to do it. I freak out if you don’t.”
Mom breathed for a minute, then asked, “Are you still going to that Halloween party?”
“Yep. On my way. Already late.”
“You absolutely promise to text me when you get home safe, right?”
“Yes, Mom. I promise.”
She shuddered in the cold, drank the rest of her beer, and went in for another.
By her sixth beer, she’d forgotten the unpleasantness with Mom. By her eighth, she was having a good time. By her tenth, even better.
They went out and marveled at the realistic heads stuck on the neighbor’s fenceposts, the eyes and mouths lit up like jack-o-lanterns. She had the stomach to touch one just long enough to gross herself out at how realistic it felt. People trickled back into Megan’s house and so did she.
“Holy shit! Loraine? I thought that was you!” said someone from behind her on the driveway. She turned to see a tall man with a tire tread across his face.
“Um… Hi,” she said, unable to recognize him through the makeup.
“It’s Mason. From Tinder? We went out last night?”
“Oh! Oh…” she gave him a hug, but she had a strange feeling for some reason. “Weird.”
“Double weird,” he said. “We both came as road deaths.”
That was it. That was the strange feeling.
“Well, should we go in for a—?” Loraine started, but the question was cut short by screams, lots of them, from the backyard.
By the time anyone found the fire extinguisher and put out the flames, much of the flesh had been taken off the woman’s upper body and she was convulsing in the grass. People shouted orders over one another. “Call 911!” “Give her space!” “Roll her on her back!”
Loraine called 911 from her phone, running into the house to get away from the screams and commotion so she could hear.
“We need a wet rag,” someone in the house was saying. He was digging through materials at a sewing table.
“I’m calling the paramedics,” Loraine told him.
“Here!” said the man, picking up a pair of scissors. “We can strip some of these materials and—” he stumbled and fell forward, the scissors plunging deep into his right eye socket.
Then someone in the kitchen screamed.
Loraine dropped her phone and turned. Megan was face down on the floor. A crazed man was sticking knives in her back and others were trying to pull him off.
Loraine couldn’t breathe. She had the peculiar realization that she couldn’t remember how she knew Megan, where they’d met, why she was at this party.
“Something’s wrong!” said Mason, grabbing her hand. “We’ve got to get out of here.”
“Wait…” she whispered, but he was already dragging her.
The drunk haze that hung over last night lifted. She could see it in pieces now. The date. The bar. The motorcycle.
“Get on!” said Mason in the front yard, kickstarting his Harley.
Loraine tried to protest.
“Come on!” He shoved her onto the seat behind him.
She was shaking, freezing, paralyzed. Not just from the cold. From the fear. From the deja vu.
“Hold on!” said Mason, twisting the throttle.
They’d barely been riding thirty seconds when when she saw it approaching. The stop sign. The headlights. The truck.
“Stop…” she choked out in a whimper, then louder, “Stop!!”
Mason hit the front brakes hard. They both went over the handlebars—him toward the truck, and her toward the stop sign.
Lucy crossed her arms hard. It was freezing, and in a few minutes the sun would go down and it would be even colder. She should’ve gotten a ride. It was never this cold on Halloween. Then again, it always seemed cold on Bloodlust Boulevard.
Her shark bite makeup was freezing to her and the bikini offered no warmth. What the hell was she thinking coming out here half-naked?
She checked the address on her phone, then looked at the houses nearby. Hay bails with body parts in them. Human heads on fence posts. Great decorations. No goddamn street numbers.
She whimpered. She had to find this place, to get in, get a drink, and warm up.
“You looking for Megan’s party?” a voice called from up the street.
Lucy turned in relief to where a woman about her age was standing in a leather jacket with a stop sign lodged between her shoulder and neck. It was gruesome, violent, very real. As she ran up the driveway to meet her, Lucy was thankful she’d worked so hard on her shark bite.