Halloween Carnival Volume 4

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Kealan Patrick Burke, Ray Garton, Bev Vincent, C. A. Suleiman, and Paul Melniczek treat readers to some spooky tricks with a hair-raising assemblage of tales gathered together by author, editor, and master of the macabre Brian James Freeman.

THE MANNEQUIN CHALLENGE by Kealan Patrick Burke
For some, office parties are the highlight of the season. For others, they can paralyze with dread. Theo is determined not to let his anxiety stop him from attending—though maybe he’s right to be afraid.

ACROSS THE TRACKS by Ray Garton
The candy’s always better on the other side of town, even if it means crossing paths with bullies. But a rich house with an unlocked door might just be too good to be true. . . .

THE HALLOWEEN TREE by Bev Vincent
Every town has one: a house or a field or an old tree that just gives off a bad vibe. Of course, those feelings are just silly superstition, nothing to take seriously. Right?

PUMPKIN EATER by C. A. Suleiman
Peter loves Halloween—almost as much as he hates his wife. Luckily, his favorite holiday presents an opportunity to fix his problem. After all, putting his wife in her place should be as easy as pie.

WHEN THE LEAVES FALL by Paul Melniczek
Haverville always seemed like a typical town to me: a place where people work hard, and no one ever really leaves. Until the night I went to Graver’s Farm—and discovered what Haverwille was really hiding.

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Halloween Carnival Volume 4

The Mannequin Challenge

Kealan Patrick Burke

Theo sat in his car brooding for close to twenty minutes before killing the engine. There was still time to leave, still time to concede to the voice inside his head that told him this was a bad idea. He didn’t do parties, festive or otherwise. To him, it was all a bunch of small talk and big expense with no reward at all. Thus, the notion of standing in a room off the clock with a bunch of people he could barely stand to be around during work hours made the muscles in his shoulders tense up until he felt like he’d forgotten to remove the hanger when he’d put on his coat.

He looked out across the dark parking lot to the block of lights on the second floor of the building in which he had worked for the past eleven years. In honor of the season, orange blinds had been installed in place of the customary Venetians. They were shut, but through them he could see the silhouettes of people dancing, guffawing, or swilling drinks. Multicolored spots of light flashed against the windows, presumably from some kind of disco machine. Theo rolled down his window and heard the faint rhythmic thump of the bass, as if the building had developed a heartbeat in the three hours since he’d gone home. A pair of scarecrows flanked the entrance, arms spread in idiot welcome. Black vinyl silhouettes of witches, bats, and haunted houses had been stuck all over the glass double doors. Those were going to be a nightmare to remove, and Theo didn’t intend to be the one to do it. No, sir. Let whoever put them there be responsible for their removal.

Squat pumpkins grinned toothily at him from the steps to the front doors, the candles in their heads flickering in the slight autumnal breeze.

Theo pictured the faces of the people in the office, many of whom would be drunk by now, some of them obnoxiously so. He imagined trying to navigate a room full of gyrating hips and flailing limbs, hooded eyes and insincere cheer, spilled drinks and dropped finger food, and shook his head. Keying the ignition, he felt reassured by the hum of the engine, which represented one of his most critical tenets: forward momentum. Always be moving forward to the next place, the next goal, the next objective. No, he was not the partying type. It represented stalled motion with no legitimate benefit. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d gone out in the afternoon to anything more exciting than a movie at the dollar theater (he’d be damned if he was going to suffer the exorbitant costs imposed by the bigger chains) or to walk his Labrador, Freddy, around the neighborhood. Thinking of his beloved pet—dear, uncomplicated, and quiet Freddy—made him yearn for the warmth and familiarity of home, and he started to put the car in gear. Started, then stopped, his hands on the wheel at ten and two, eyes on the empty cars around his own, foot poised above the gas pedal.

Nothing about this idea appealed to him.

Nothing at all.

And yet . . .
Bev Vincent has been a contributing editor with Cemetery Dance magazine since 2001, writing the News from the Dead Zone column that appears in every issue. He is the author of The Road to the Dark Tower, the Bram Stoker Award-nominated com­panion to Stephen King's Dark Tower series, The Dark Tower Companion, and The Stephen King Illustrated Companion.  His short fiction has appeared in places like Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, From the Borderlands, and The Blue Religion. He is a member of the Storytellers Unplugged blogging community. He also writes book reviews for Onyx Reviews. Vincent lives in Texas with his wife.

More from Bev Vincent

Halloween Carnival Volume 4

Halloween Carnival Volume 4

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