Halloween Carnival Volume 2

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Glen Hirshberg, Lee Thomas, Holly Newstein, Del James, and Al Sarrantonio bring the ghouls of the most haunted night of the year to life in a chilling collection of stories curated by master of horror Brian James Freeman.
 
MR. DARK’S CARNIVAL by Glen Hirshberg
Halloween is more than just a holiday in Clarkson, Montana; it’s a tradition passed down through generations. Only this year, the ghosts of the past may just be a little closer than usual.
 
THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF MY SISTER by Lee Thomas
When David was young, he believed in magic. In fact, he wanted to become a magician himself. But meddling in the forces of the mind has consequences beyond what an eleven-year-old can see.
 
MISCHIEF NIGHT by Holly Newstein
Cabbage Night, Goose Night, Devil’s Night—they’re all the same. Before the treats come the tricks. It’s all in good fun . . . until someone gets hurt.
 
THE GHOST MAKER by Del James
When people need to disappear, I make them vanish. The catch? I’ve always got to be on guard—because that knock at the door may not just be a little monster looking for candy.
 
THE PUMPKIN BOY by Al Sarrantonio
When boys start going missing, Detective Len Schneider is determined to make it right. But his partner knows that there are worse things out there than a dead kid.

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Halloween Carnival Volume 2

Mr. Dark’s Carnival

Glen Hirshberg

“So the first question, really,” I said, leaning on my lectern and looking over the heads of my students at the twilight creeping off the plains into campus, “is, does anyone know anyone who has actually been there?”

Hands went up instantly, as they always do. For a few moments, I let the hands hang in the air, start to wilt under the fluorescent light, while I watched the seniors on the roof of Powell House dorm across the quad drape the traditional black bunting down the side of the building, covering all the windows. By the time I got outside, I knew there would be straw corpses strewn all over campus and papier-mâché skeletons swinging in the trees. Few, if any, of the students who hung them there would have any cognizance of the decidedly sinister historical resonance of their actions.

“Right,” I said, and returned my attention to my freshman seminar on eastern Montana history. It was the one undergraduate class I still taught each year. It was the one class I would never give up. “Primary source accounts only, please.”

“Meaning stuff written at the time?” said the perpetually confused Robert Hayright from the front row.

“That is indeed one correct definition of a primary source, Mr. Hayright. But in this case, I mean only interviews you have conducted or overheard yourself. No stories about third parties.”

Two-thirds of the hands drooped to their respective desktops.

“Right. Let’s eliminate parents and grandparents, now, who, over the centuries, have summoned and employed all sorts of bogeymen to keep their children careful as they exit the safeties of home.”

Most of the rest of the hands went down.

“High school chums, of course, because the whole game in high school, especially Eastern Montana High School, is to have been somewhere your classmates haven’t, isn’t it? To have seen and known the world?”

“I have a question, Professor R.,” said Tricia Corwyn from the front row, crossing her stockinged legs under her silky skirt and pursing her too-red mouth. Around her, helpless freshmen boys squirmed in their seats. The note of flirtation in her tone wasn’t for me, I knew. It was a habit, quite possibly permanent, and it made me sad. It has taken most of a century to excise most of the rote machismo from Montana’s sons. Maybe next century, we can go to work on the scars that machismo has left on its daughters.

“If we eliminate secondhand accounts, parents, and high school friends, who’s left who could tell us about it?”

“My dear,” I said, “you have the makings of a historian. That’s a terrific question.”

I watched Tricia trot out that string of studiously whitened teeth like a row of groomed show horses, and abruptly I stood up straight, allowing myself a single internal head shake. My dear. The most paternalistic and subtle weapon of diminishment in the Montana teacher’s arsenal.

Pushing off the lectern and standing up straight, I said, “In fact, that’s so good a question that I’m going to dodge it for the time being.” A few members of the class were still alert or polite enough to smile. I saw the astonishing white hair of Robin Mills, the Humanities Department secretary, form in the doorway of my classroom like a cumulus cloud, but I ignored her for the time being. “Let me ask this. How many of you know anyone—once again, primary sources only, please—who claims to have worked there?”

This time, a single hand went up. That’s one more than I’d ever had go up before.

“Mr. Hayright?” I said.

“My dog,” he said, and the class exploded into laughter. But Robert Hayright continued. “It’s true.”

“Your dog told you this?”

“My dog Droopy disappeared on Halloween night three years ago. The next morning, a neighbor brought him home and told my dad a man in a clown suit had brought her to their door at six in the morning and said, ‘Thank you for the dog, he’s been at Mr. Dark’s.’”

Mr. Hayright’s classmates erupted again, but I didn’t join them. The clown suit was interesting, I thought. A completely new addition to the myth.

“So, let’s see,” I said gently. “Counting your father, your neighbor, and the clown”—this brought on more laughter, though I was not mocking—“your story is, at best, thirdhand.”

“Not counting the dog,” said Robert Hayright, and he grinned, too. At least this time, I noted, everyone seemed to be laughing with him.

In the doorway, Robin Mills cleared her throat, and her mass of white hair rippled. “Professor Roemer?”

“Surely this can wait, Ms. Mills,” I said.

“Professor, it’s Brian Tidrow.”

I scowled. I couldn’t help it. “Whatever he’s got can definitely wait.”

Instead of speaking, Robin Mills mouthed the rest. She did it three times, although I understood her the second time.

“That f***er,” I muttered, but not quietly enough, and my students stopped laughing and stared. I ignored them.

“Does Kate know?” I asked Robin.

“No one’s seen her yet.”

“Find her. Find her now. Tell her I’ll be there soon.”

For a second, Robin lingered in the doorway. I don’t know if she expected comfort or company or just more reaction, but I wasn’t planning on giving her any. Brian Tidrow was a descendent of a Crow who’d married a white woman, scouted for Custer, and eventually died with him. He was also a third-generation alcoholic, arguably the brightest graduate student I’d ever taught, and almost certainly the one I had enjoyed least. Now he had finally committed the supreme act of havoc-wreaking he’d been threatening for years. He would get no more reaction from me, ever. I glared at Robin until she ducked her head and turned from the door.

“What was that about, Professor R.?” Tricia asked.
Del James is a meat-eating, pro-choice, sober atheist. He writes horror fiction, screenplays, and music. As a lyricist, James has cowritten songs with groups such as Testament, The Almighty, The Outpatience, and Guns N’ Roses, including two songs on GNR’s Grammy-nominated Use Your Illusion album. James has directed several music videos and written live television for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

More from Del James

Halloween Carnival Volume 2

Halloween Carnival Volume 2

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