I want to break down what Hollow’s Eve is like when you’re living with a serial killer. It’s such an interesting experience that I seriously cannot bear not to let you in on it.
You might think it’s terrifying, but that’s just profiling. Just because they kill people in their spare time doesn’t mean that’s all they can talk about.
Our serial killer host, Tosya (better known as “Dad” by Grayson), stabbed a—wait. You think I’m going to say woman, trick-or-treater, baby, don’t you? You’re so close-minded, I cannot even. Tosya stabbed a pumpkin with a curved little knife he’d better working with all day. I leaned against Grayson and watched him, sipping at the apple cider he’d made earlier.
Tosya is a firm believer in cheery Halloweens. It’s not his objective to terrify the little kindergarteners that come knocking at his door. He refuses to even make scary pumpkins. For instance, the one that he was working on as Sonny and I sipped at our sider would soon be smiling cheerily at us.
Tosya rolled up his sleeve and plunged his hand into guts of the pumpkin. “God, I adore Halloween,” he said, slopping out a handful of seeds and orange mush onto the newspapers on the table. The headline of this one was RESIDENTS LIVE IN TERROR—KILLER HAS STRUCK AGAIN.
Grayson sneered. “Yeah, I can tell you do.” He gestured toward the Martha Stewart-esque construction paper bats hanging from the ceiling by transparent threads of fishing line and to the “creepy” red candles that flickered on the tabletop.
I nudged him playfully in the ribs with my elbow, sitting on the counter beside him. “Oh, you’re such a Nay-Saying Nelly. I really like it, Mr. Chechelnitsky. It’s precious.”
Tosya smiled at me, a strand of his rich, golden hair falling on his forehead as he grinned back at me, his cannibal-point canines catching the cheery autumn light. He nodded a little. “Thank you, Vonny. That was the goal.”
Grayson shrugged. “I don’t know, it just looks a little elementary to me.” He took a swig of his cider, Adam’s apple bouncing as he swallowed. I smiled absently and wrapped my scarf back around the lower half of my face.
Tosya waved him off with a hand covered in pumpkin entrails. “That’s the point, Gray. I’m aiming for a Casper the Friendly Ghost sort of feel. No point in scarring kids early.”
Grayson put his mug down. “I disagree.”
Tosya had picked up his little carving knife. He glanced back at Sonny, a brow raised. “Do you?”
“Please, enlighten me on why we should go out of our way to terrify children.”
Grayson smiled, a tinge of cruelty to it. “It’s the only night of the year where it’s justifiable.”
Tosya paused his cutting and straightened his back a little. He shot a look back at Grayson, a clever smile on his lips. “That is a good point. An excellent point. But scaring kids will arouse suspicion toward me and”—he gestured toward the pumpkin-stained newspaper—“I don’t think I need any more of that.”
I spoke up. “He has a point.”
Grayson groaned. “Please. It’s more suspicious that you housewife’d your whole house when you’re a single male in his thirties. You objective should be making kids have a memorable Halloween by messing their little costumes.”
Tosya thought that over. “That’s a good point. But I honestly like how it looks now.”
Grayson stood obstinately on a chair and yanked down a bat. “I’m not. This is the only Halloween I get to spend with you—we need to make it hella creepy.”
“I…” Tosya sighed, carving a face into the pumpkin that looked utterly insane. “Okay.”
Halloween night will always smell like candy wrappers, unidentified blood and fall leaves to me thanks to the Chechelnitsky boys. It’s not hard to believe that from the mind of a serial killer a terrifying haunted house comes. Tosya’s basement was already made up to be a perfect, soundproof torture room, complete with dangling restraints and dark stains on the concrete floor. There was a stainless steel table set in the corner that had worn leather hand and ankle cuffs on it that Tosya had made utterly perfect for the evening. Every facet of Tosya’s freaky house was accentuated by our three twisted minds.
Unlike most haunted houses you might go into, there was no soundtrack of the thud thud thud of a heartbeat, no “freaky” music pulsing through hidden speakers. No, no. That’s too “elementary” for a Chechelnitsky haunted house. All that was cranked up as the air conditioner. It went off—loudly—throughout the evening. It was so great, this one kid started to cry just because the air conditioner started blaring. He hadn’t even made it downstairs yet. It was literally the A/C that made him tuck tail out of all the horrors we’d placed around the house.
I was the tour guide. I was dressed rather simply, in normal daytime clothes with blotches of all too real blood, animal or human I do not know, splashed on my front. I’d done my makeup to make me look as dead as possible. So, in the end, I looked pretty dang dead.
The first group of kids Tosya deemed big enough came to the door at about eight-thirty. They were probably in middle school, dripping with that naïve bravado that middle schoolers are famed for. The biggest of the bunch, a brute who’d done himself up to look like a pirate, stepped forward first. He looked me over and sneered, saying in a puberty-wrecked voice, “You look stupid.”
I smiled at him placidly and nodded them into the house. The first things they saw were the TV, static buzz and ant races blaring from it, and the couch knocked just askew. Then they saw the kitchen. On the cutting board was a…red apple. You totally thought I was going to say hand or arm or whatever, didn’t you? You’re so intolerant.
The red apple was cut in half, a few of the slices pointlessly carved into random shapes, the slender knife that had done the deed lying beside the display casually. The air conditioner kicked in loudly and that one poor kid had to excuse himself. I stifled a laughed and cooed theatrically to them, “Follow me…IF YOU DARRRE.”
The brute scoffed and pushed by me, his hand pressing into my left boob. I clenched my fist. I wanted to see this kid piss himself.
He was talking loudly in young boy dialect I don’t understand. He waved forward and started toward the stairwell that led to the basement.
Now would be a good time to mention that we’d managed to get my dad, Tosya’s partner in totally literal crime, in on our little house idea. He was a scary man without the makeup I’d put on him. Not because he really looked scary, really—rather because he could stare at you with totally impassive eyes for the upwards of two hours and never even glance away. He was a grade-A sociopath and scaring, as he put it, “those snot-nosed, begging brats” would be a lucrative way to spend the evening.
So he waited, just beside the stairwell, crutched in darkness, staring straight forward. I’d done his makeup so he looked like plastic. Just a scary decoration.
The brute of the boy pointed at him and laughed shrilly, walking over to mess with him somehow. I couldn’t help but smile. He was in for a treat.
He walked over and knocked on Deacon’s head, as if it show it was hollow. Deacon looked up at him, zeroing in on him and—I’ll clean up his speech a little—said, “Screw off, kid, or I’ll tear you to bits.”
The brute shot away as Deacon straightened himself, strolling over to them with his slight limp. “You kids shouldn’t be in here,” he said, his voice thick. “Don’t you know what this house is?”
They shook their heads in unison.
Deacon grinned a little. “It’s a murder house. Or at least it will be by the end of tonight.” If nervous chuckles were currency, I’d be rich.
Deacon zeroed in on another kid, a random one from the pack, and licked his lips. “And you know what it will be tomorrow?”
The tiny girl shook her head.
“Probably the location for a smashing cookout. Nobody’ll know they’re eating their children.” And then he strolled down the darkened hall, back to us, murmuring things like, “a full rack of ribs, stewed flesh from the thigh, mm, spiced phalanges, baked cheeks, mm, mm” as he squatted back down and became a decoration again. We lost the tiny little girl then.
I opened the door to the basement. Grayson came bounding up, his clothes torn and cosmetic lacerations and bruises being the entirety of his costume. His look of terror seemed genuine. The soft, yellow light from downstairs highlighted him as he looked over us with concern and fear before he shoved by, darting toward the front door while panting heavily. He held his arm to his chest where a bloody “stub” was staining his shirtfront.
I led them downstairs, the group thinning a little on the first step, and took to humming Vivaldi. Subtlety was lost on the lower floor.
Tosya sat bent over the steel table in the back corner, humming disjointedly to himself, his back to us. With much gel and a surplus of time, I’d managed to get his hair to fray out randomly. The rest of the makeup was very basic. Bags under the eyes and that was all.
He’d told me he could handle the rest.
As soon as we hit the foot of the stairs, Tosya straightened. He took to chuckling, then laughing, then hushing himself. The brute decided to show he still had proverbial balls and strolled forward, making a show of moving his shoulders as he went. He touched Tosya’s back and sent the serial killer wheeling.
Now here’s where I’ll start accepting your accusations about Tosya’s possible lapse of sanity and/or humanity. His entire face was smeared in blood. The copper smell indicated that yes it was, indeed, real. Raw meat was hanging from his teeth on the table before him was a carcass so mangled that I couldn’t even tell the species anymore.
He leered over the boy, blood dripping from the curve of his nose down onto the boy’s shoulder. He got close to his face, the brute too scared to move and, in a harsh whisper, said, “Do you like candy, kiddo?”
The kid pissed himself and Tosya started to laugh. The kids started to cackle a little too. It all ended happily when Tosya brought out the candy corn and the kids left chuckling away their shivers, and heading out.
Tosya smiled after them, the meat reddening the whiteness of his grin a little. He looked down at me and said, “Isn’t it just sick to think that they don’t know who I am?”
I nodded, laughing a little.
He added softly, “And isn’t it sick to think that there are Mes next door all over the country, all smiles and gummy body parts for the kids, with bodies in the cellar for later?”
I paused a moment. They were all over. They were normal people, in houses like ours, in groups of parents chaperoning their children.
They were hidden and they were death.
Tosya noticed my sallowness and crooned blood-scent words in my ear. “Happy Halloween, Vonny m’dear.”