The is the final installment, part four of four. To read them in order, start with part one in the Blog Archive at the right.
* * * * *
The sound of footsteps reached them from the open front door. No time, said the apparition, gliding toward the house.
Just then Sam’s mother stepped to the porch in her long coat and slippers, latching the door behind her. She entered the garage and flipped on the light. The ghost hissed his dismay—he had no desire to haunt a garage.
Listen, said Jack. Sam won’t scare easily—he’s an imaginative one; I’m sure he’s daydreamed worse than you.
The ghost hissed again, swooping close to Jack’s one eye. Jack stared, unflinching.
You saw who did this, he continued. That one deserves a good haunting, don’t you think? Do you know which house is his?
The ghost grinned hideously.
Gather my remains and take me there, and I will get you into his very bedroom, Jack said.
Swear it! said the ghost.
By my Mother Vine and the black earth, you’ll be his waking nightmare before dawn, swore Jack. Here’s the plan …
* * * * *
Moments later the ghost swooped low over Jack’s shattered remains, this time spreading like a deep shadow on the driveway until nothing could be seen. When it flew skyward, no trace of Jack remained. Sam’s mother emerged from the garage with a wide push-broom and battered snow shovel and stared at the driveway.
She was so surprised to find the pumpkin and glass shards gone that she barely registered the chill as the ghost passed quickly through her and into the garage. When at last she re-entered the garage, shaking her head, she didn’t notice the missing stapler.
* * * * *
Four houses down, soft snoring emanated from a tangle of blankets, candy wrappers, and dirty tube socks. A pale and skinny boy lay sprawled and sleeping, his blue eyes half hidden under half-closed lids. The clock on the nightstand flashed 11:53. Just then, there came a tap at the window.
The boy groaned, sat halfway up, then collapsed back on the bed.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The boy rubbed his eyes and sat up. Who’s there?
He looked to see a dark, ill-defined shape in the window, and the lights of town shining beyond. In fact, the lights seemed to shine through the object, through a three-sided hole that was strangely familiar.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
He untangled himself from his bedding and walked to the window, still half-asleep. What’s tapping on the window? he thought. A cat? A rat? A bird?
It was none of those things. He opened the window to see what it was.
* * * * *
The boy’s mother woke to a cold draft in the morning and assumed her son had been sneaking out of the house—on a school night, no less. “Anthony?” she called as she walked down the hall. “Are you there?” She knocked on his door. No answer. She gave an exasperated sigh and slowly opened the door. Then she screamed
The bed was empty; the window was open; and her son was gone. The bed sheets, the floor, and the window sill were smeared in sticky orange goo. Trembling uncontrollably, she stuck her head out the window and saw a trail of pumpkin remains, broken glass, and melted candle wax leading from the back to the front of the house. She rushed to the front door and threw it open. “Anthony!” she shrieked.
* * * * *
Sam’s mom broke the news about Jack to him as soon as he woke the next morning. He took it better than expected. He asked if she saw who did it, though he felt sure he knew.
Sam left for the bus stop to see blue and red lights flashing further up the street. Bryce came at a run from the same direction.
“Did you hear about Anthony?” he asked Sam breathlessly.
Sam shook his head and thought of Jack.
“They found him this morning,” said Bryce, “in his front yard.”
“Found him?” asked Sam. “What, dead?!”
Bryce shook his head. “Way better than that!” he said. “Someone stapled his pajamas to a tree with him still in them!”
Sam stopped cold. “His mom found him and screamed,” said Bryce. “There must’ve been a thousand staples! He frostbit his feet—couldn’t call for help because they stuffed a stump of candle in his mouth. He was shivering and crying and going on and on about a giant eye peering in his window. Can you imagine?”
Sam could imagine. Jack! he thought, and smiled.
* * * * *
For Bren, Gabe, Rose and Trevvy, who bring out the best (and worst!) in me.
Photo: Another of the old man’s jack-o-lanterns, 2007
2 thoughts on “The Sticky Revenge of One-Eyed Jack, Part IV”
Good story, Tho' I wasn't liking the 3rd part. Way to go. Beats the hell out of steven King!
Thanks, man! I tweaked it a bit this morning; fixed typos and stuff. I felt asleep multiple times while writing last night — and ordinarily, I don't share the first draft of stories, but I promised the kids …