The Danger of Being a Ghost

On Halloween night I ran into the street without looking and fell after being hit by a truck. The bumper hit my head and knocked me unconscious. When I came to, I was in the arms of a police officer. I was eleven years old.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t taken to a hospital and only seen by a small-town doctor. There was never any follow-up or brain scans, ever.

I’m able to blame the accident for my eccentricities.

Last year I wrote a short story about it for a contest, but failed to note a rule it must be fictional. I did however read the story in a writer workshop before Halloween, and it was critiqued juvenile yet in the spirit of the holiday.

I hope you enjoy reading The Danger of Being a Ghost, based on the adventures of yours truly.

Summer was over for the small group of friends on Sixth Street. No more running around barefoot in shorts or playing late under the street lights. Fall meant wearing a jacket, staying indoors, doing homework.

Halloween would be their first opportunity to rekindle the fun. The goal of the night: to accumulate as much candy as possible, even if it meant having to trick-or-treat at every house in the small town of Rio Vista.

“Mom, watch out!” Robby screamed as his mother slammed on the brakes to avoid a black cat crossing the street. A superstition so strong she would always turn the car around and go another direction. “There it is,” she pointed, as the mysterious feline ran onto a porch, disappearing behind a jack-o’-lantern bearing a sinister smile.

The dark omen would foretell a night they’d never forget.

October was always cold and dreary in the town along the Sacramento River. “It’s getting foggy,” his mother said, as he looked out the window at the eerie mist.

But, Robby was preoccupied, wondering what costume she had in store for him. He wanted to be Batman, or a fireman, or G.I. Joe. He didn’t want to be a ghoul or anything scary, he wanted to be a hero.

“Here, put this on!” his mother shouted, throwing a white sheet with two holes cut out for eyes.

“But I can’t see very good,” he cried.

“Too bad, I already ruined a sheet!”

“What am I going to put my candy in?” he whined as she threw him a pillowcase.

Into the night he ventured, unable to see well, but determined to fill the sack. Struggling to not stumble, he managed to collect quite a bit of candy.

“Hey Robby!” he heard someone shout from across the street, and without looking ran towards the voices, into the headlights of an oncoming vehicle.

Someone shouted “Get his candy!” as he lay on the pavement, watching kids grab his loot before losing consciousness.

“He’s coming to!” a police officer told onlookers, while placing Robby into a patrol car, rushing him to the local doctor’s office.

“I didn’t see him. I didn’t see him.” An old man kept repeating from a chair in the corner of an examination room. The doctor assured the driver of the pickup that the boy he hit would be okay.

“Now I’m not going to get any candy,” Robby sulked later, at home while watching classic Frankenstein on television.

But before the night was over, a knock at the door and he’d hear “Hey Robby!” again. “We brought you some candy.”

The small group of friends heard he’d been hit by a truck and started trick-or-treating for him.

Enough to fill a pillowcase!

So there you have it, my most-memorable Halloween.

The contest required use of certain words, such as jack-o’-lantern.

Before writing the story, I read an article in Writer’s Digest titled Seven Tricks for Writing Terrifying Horror Fiction & Monsters (excerpted from Bullies, Bastards and Bitches by Jessica Page Morrell, 2008).

The article instructs writers how to “introduce the frightening elements early; use delay tactics to elevate tension; turn-up the heat with plot twists, surprises, reversals; use the story as a test of character; make setting atmospheric; provide the reader with an extra dose of catharsis.”