Feature Short Story
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                                          Fear The Living
                                                                 By Ray Floriani


 “I hate Halloween.  I don’t care!”  Following her outburst, Olivia Barrett, a bundle of adolescent energy not
all of it positive at this time, slammed the door to her room shut.  She threw herself on her bed.  She was
not reduced to a fit of crying.  She was thirteen and not given to child-like fits of that nature.  Rather, it was
a feeling of adolescent frustration.

 Dinner had gone not too well at her small town Pennsylvania home.  Her parents, Rose and Tom Barrett,
enjoyed delivered pizza.  It was Halloween and a night given to a ‘let’s not fuss’ menu.  During the
exchange of slices and soda the announcement was decreed.  Olivia’s middle school report card revealed
an ‘F’ in math and a ‘D’ in modern languages.  Other grades were acceptable but did not balance the
ledger.  As a result, Olivia’s parents decided she would stay in for Halloween.  Trick-or-treating wasn’t the
issue for Olivia.  Hanging out with her friends was.

 She was certain if older brother Joe was here, he could plead her case.  Problem was he was away in
his sophomore year at Ohio University and younger sister was fighting a losing battle.  At the conclusion of
dinner, she made her announcement ascending to her room on the third floor of a quaint Victorian.

 Olivia spent some time on her Iphone and watched a little TV.  The constant ringing of the doorbell did
little to alleviate this frustration.  Trick-or-treaters were having fun, filling their sacks with goodies and
having fun.  Olivia was under house arrest.  She exchanged texts with good friend Lauren over her fate.  
Out of all this frustration there was a proverbial light bulb went off.

 Dad would be going to the office tomorrow.  He was an IT professional who worked from home.  Twice
weekly he reported to the office.  By the luck of the draw, tomorrow was one such date.  On those nights
before going to the office, dad turned in for the night about 9:00 in preparation for a 7am start.  In that
case, mom would follow suit and turn in at a similar time.  This shouldn’t be too hard.  Wait for the two of
them to retire for the night then carefully sneak out.  The sugar rush of trick-or-treat candy was not the main
thing.  Hanging out with your friends was.  What would peers say in school if they found out she was
grounded for the night?  The plan would be in place.

 Mom said good night a little after 8:30.  Olivia was on her bed reading.  Moments later she was in action.  
She had planned to be a witch.  Her long black dress hung in the corner for the occasion.  The dress was
calf length and purchased online.  It needed no alteration.  She had a traditional witch hat.  Olivia thought of
wearing the old reliable leggings under the dress.  On second thought, she put the leggings in the drawer
and pulled out a pair of black tights.  It was not that chilly out.  The tights would perfectly accentuate her
petite and slender figure.  And hadn’t the magazine ‘fashionistas’ proclaimed black tights as going with
any outfit?  Real or supernatural.

 Next, a trip to the vanity.  What Halloween costume and/or teen age girl is ready without makeup?  She
started with white creamy theatrical makeup for the face.  Just to highlight.  Too much, she would look like
Bozo the Clown, not a witch.  Next the traditional black eye liner.  Applied with surgeon-like precision and
care.  Same with the eye shadow.  She chose purple as it blended with the horror theme and
complimented her deep blue eyes.  A touch of mascara and she was all glammed up for the night.  Olivia
carried her witch hat that would rest over her long dark hair.  Best put the hat on outside, not in the house,
where it could knock over an ornament or something else and arouse deep sleepers.  She also carried
her ankle length high heeled boots.  Again, good thinking.  Heels on a hardwood floor would definitely
constitute a racket.  Gingerly she made her way down the stairs.  She would exit and later enter via the
back door.  A little after 9:30, she was out of the house.  Free at last!

 Olivia texted Lauren and the meeting place would be Dexter Avenue about two blocks away.  Olivia
made haste.  Heels clacking in even cadence on the sidewalk as younger nearby trick-or-treaters were
starting to wind down the festivities.  En route, she passed a few trick-or-treaters around her age.  She
was flattered but tried not to notice getting looked over by a male or two.

 Olivia met up with her friends.  Her group were school mates.  They were not dating.  Just a group of
young teens hanging out enjoying each other’s company on a daily basis.  Lauren was dressed as a
Hogwarts school girl, wand included.  Lauren, at 5’2” an inch taller than Olivia, chose a uniform with a skirt
and knee socks, not pants, a good move as the mercury would dictate.  Tom was a clown.  Definitely an off
the rack costume from one of these Halloween specialty retailers.  Mike was a zombie.  Interesting get up
as Mike put it together.  Ripped fake blood stained jeans. A t-shirt with a flannel shirt on the outside.  He
wore work boots as well.  Mike’s used the theatrical make up on his face.  Around the eyes some black
eye shadow had been hastily applied.  That’s ok as it was not needed to be put on  with the same care as
that of Olivia’s make up.  The arms also were decked out in more theatrical blood.

 As they made their way around, crossing King Street, the street Olivia spotted a trick-ot-treat
crossdresser desperately trying to keep from falling and breaking his neck while walking in high heels.  
Olivia quietly nudged Lauren on the arm for her attention.  Her friend saw what Olivia was alluding to and
the two girls looked at each other with a giggle.  OMG, hey guy welcome to our world for a night.

 The four passed super heroes, witches, mummies, pirates. . .you name it.  Homes were decorated with
pumpkins outside.  Some had skeletons and assorted ghouls and ghosts in front of their homes.  Some
residents simply bought props at one of those Halloween outlets and slapped them on the lawn.  Others let
their creative juices flow.  Tom pointed out a favorite house-one with a group of skeletons seemingly
climbing the house making their way to a second floor window.  The kids under the direction of an adult
seemed to be having a genuinely good time.

 Olivia and her friends made out fine on their limited trick-or-treat trail.  They were very judicious, for Olivia’
s sake, to avoid houses where her parents were good friends with the occupants.  Those answering the
bell were impressed by their costumes.  Their bags filled with sugary delights.  On Pagecrest Avenue, a
favorite stop loomed.  Four sisters dressed as witches had cauldrons of candy and goodies.  Their
costumes so authentic, the trick-or-treaters en route couldn’t help but admire.  Hopefully no one who knows
my parents notices.  Once again good judgement prevailed as Olivia and friends opted not to ask to pose
for a picture.  Better to lay a little low and not get caught sneaking out by mom and dad.  Seeing another of
their ‘own’, namely Olivia.

 Getting close to 11 pm, trick-or-treat was winding down.  Before heading home on their way, the four
passed Loudin Cemetery.  “Let’s go inside,’ Olivia said.  The rest of the group hesitated a second.  Olivia
sensing apprehension played devil’s advocate.  She told of how her late grandmother Dorothy often eased
fears about going to wakes and burial by saying, “the dead cannot hurt you.  It is the living you should be
concerned about.”  Olivia emphasized Dorothy’s mantra and slowly the group bought in.

 The main entrance was on Collier Avenue.  Surely they would sneak through a hole in the fence around
the corner from Collier.  Suddenly they noticed the main gate was unlocked.  Lauren eased fears by saying
the historical society had a ghost tour tonight so the gates were probably left open for that reason.

 They entered and made their way around.  Tom was still spooked.  He said there were ghosts.  From a
distance they saw other trick-or-treaters around their age running through the cemetery in the name of fun
or mischief.  Tom’s ‘ghost’ was one of them garbed in a white sheet.  Then it happened.

 “What was that?” Lauren said, grabbing Olivia’s arm.  She heard crunching of leaves and twigs by a
nearby grave site.  The group slowly and cautiously proceeded under the guise of a witches’ moon and an
outline of head stones and crypts doting the surreal landscape.  The crunching started again.  They
stopped.  It seemed to be something, or someone, getting closer.  Olivia had a stone cold look on her
face.  Gee, this might not have been a good idea after all.  Then it happened.

 Behind a tall tombstone a figure came running at the group. They scattered and screamed.  Tom, a little
bit on the heavy side to be kind, slipped and fell.  Thankfully he wasn’t wearing those long circus style
clown shoes.  Mike helped his friend up and they were on their way.  Olivia looked back.  It looked like
some old guy, disheveled and in dire need of a good shower and shave in hot pursuit.  Olivia struggled
running.  Sure she played midfield in travel soccer and was a cheerleader for basketball but that type of
running was not done in high heel boots and a long dress.  Lauren, in flats, was equipped to run.  In her
haste she fell over a small head stone.  Thankfully she was not hurt.  Her wand went off to the side during
the fall and she made no attempt to find it.  Mike struggled to run in work boots.  The adrenaline kicked in
full force allowing him to get moving.

 The four of them must have run a quarter of a mile.  To them it felt like a 5K.  Interestingly, the old man did
not say anything.  The group did not turn to get a great look at him.  They were engulfed in fear.  The old
man proved to be territorial.  As they neared the cemetery entrance, and now their exit, he gave up the hot
pursuit.  The four literally ran another block before stopping to rest and sort this all in.

 Turns out Mike was familiar with the situation.  He had an uncle who worked for the town.  “That was old
man Phillips,” he said.  “He’s been the caretaker at the cemetery for about 100 years.  He’s harmless but
will try to scare the wits out of you if you trespass on his turf.”

 Scare the wits out of you.  That he did.  The group now took a seat on a nearby bench.  Heart rates slowly
got back to normal after their brief combination of exercise and fright.  Olivia then relaxed on the bench,
crossed her legs and sat back.

 “If that guy is the caretaker,” Lauren said breaking the silence, “maybe he should be reported for scaring
kids.  That is some harassment, right?” Lauren reached for her phone.  Olivia stopped her saying, “No way
we call the police.  We make a report and my parents find out.  I’ll be grounded for a year.”

 Mike added a good point, “We call the cops to report old man Phillips, then the police bring us up on
trespassing.” Cooler, now more composed, heads prevailed.  No call to 911 would be initiated.  Chalk it
up to a night of getting treats and an unexpected ‘trick’.

 It had been quite the night.  Wasn’t midnight yet but it was getting late.  Each of the four lived relatively
close in this small town.  They slowly walked together reflecting on their night out.  Thankfully no one was
hurt.  In the morning they could all rehash it at school and get a laugh about it.  Maybe.

 Tom, Mike and Lauren were the first three stops en route to home.  Olivia gave her friend Lauren a hug
as they parted and said good night.  Olivia’s house was last but she was only a block or so from Lauren,
no big deal.  Olivia approached her house and everything seemed normal.  Lights were off.  Everyone was
asleep.  She just had to quietly let herself in, quietly ascend the stairs and that was it.

 She made her way through the back door.  The drill was rehearsed mentally and simple, hat and boots off
to climb the two flights of stairs in a quiet manner.  It was close to midnight.  As Olivia approached her
room, the door was shut and a light on.  No big deal as she always slept with a night light on.  She opened
the door and entered her room.  Olivia looked in the mirror.  OMG are you kidding!  Running through the
cemetery induced a sweat that left her eye makeup a mess.  She took her clothes off, hung the dress
neatly on a closet door and slipped into her nightgown.  She took a seat at the vanity and got out the
makeup remover.  Without that remover, the process of washing away her makeup would take about a half
hour as opposed to a few brief minutes.  All part of the process.  Olivia was prompted to think back to the
guy she and Lauren saw struggling in heels earlier in the night.  Outside of a night in Halloween costume  
guys really don’t know what we girls deal with.

 It was late.  Olivia had the morning alarm set for 6:30 am.  No way she was opting out of school.  Not after
the report card that caught so much of her parent’s disapproval.

 Just before turning in, Olivia went to her window.  She wanted to open the curtains to take a look outside
and let some light in courtesy of the witch’s moon.  She drew back the curtains and her heart almost
stopped.  She hadn’t got a great look in the cemetery, but saw enough.  Now outside her window staring
straight at her was old man Phillips.  Don’t fear the dead, fear the living.

 Olivia let out a blood curdling scream.
About Ray Floriani

A basketball writer for over
four decades, Ray Floriani, is
a ‘rookie’ in the horror genre.
He was theNational Invitation
Tournament Media Man of
the Year in 1999. Ray has a
BA (History) and MS
(Guidance) from St.
Bonaventure University. He
still writes for several
basketball sites while reading
and getting inspiration from
horror fiction. Ray and his
wife Karen, an avid
artist/photographer, reside in
lyndhurst, NJ. Both horror
aficionados, their favorite
scary movie, naturally,
Halloween.