It was Halloween! With all the excitement of the previous day and night, it had completely slipped William’s mind. Usually he went trick-or-treating around his neighborhood with Mike, but this year he wasn’t feeling up to it. On the way home from the hospital, they stopped by the store and bought a bunch of candy. His father suggested that this Halloween, they could all just stay home and eat candy while watching scary movies. William liked that idea.
When they got home, they went inside and ate some lunch. Then they all sat on the couch, with William in the middle, and watched movie after movie. Both his parents loved scary movies, even though his father scared very easily, and his mother would always give him a hard time about it. It was always funny to watch scary movies with him, and William always enjoyed their back and forth.
When night rolled around, they put out a bowl of candy for trick-or-treaters to take from.
“You’re sure you don’t want to go out? The three of us could go. It might be fun,” his mother asked.
“No ma’am. I’d rather just stay in if that’s alright.”
“Sure thing hon.”
Halfway through a movie about an alien monster that could disguise itself as humans to get the drop on them, the doorbell rang. They paused the movie, and his father got up to go answer it.
“Hey William, it’s Mike!” his father called to him.
William’s heart sank and fear came over him. Mike walked into the room dressed as a skeleton, how original, with his mom behind him dressed as a witch.
“Hey William. I want to apologize to you for the way me and the other kids have been treating you. It isn’t right, and you’re my best friend. I should have been nicer to you. We have trick-or-treated together every Halloween, and it wouldn’t be the same without you. Will you forgive me and come with us?”
William’s parents smirked at William as if to encourage him to forgive his friend and go be a kid and trick-or-treat. William looked at Mike’s face. He looked sincere enough. Then he looked up at Mrs. Hutchinson, who gave William a friendly and encouraging nod. He looked back at Mike. Oh, how he wanted Mike to be telling the truth. He wanted everything to go back to how it was before Fumplestink came. Maybe this was how it happened. Maybe this was how he repaired his friendship with Mike.
“Okay. Just let me go get ready.”
William ran upstairs and threw on the red sweatshirt and sweatpants that he wore the previous year. He grabbed an old Santa Claus hat from their holiday supplies and came back downstairs.
“Well ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas,” his father chuckled when William came into the room, “You look great buddy.”
William smiled, “Thanks Dad.”
“Now do you want one of us to come with you pal?”
William looked back around at Mrs. Hutchinson who stood with Mike by the front door. She gave him a friendly and reassuring smile.
“I will be okay.”
He hugged his parents and grabbed an old pillowcase to carry his treats in. The three left the house to begin the hunt for candy.
It was just like old times again. Mike and William were cracking jokes about this and that. They were competing to see who could get the best and biggest candy. It seemed every house they went to, Mrs. Hutchinson would stop and spend forever chatting with whoever answered the door. William and Mike would then run down the street to see how far they could get before she would notice and run after them, calling their names. They would break down with laughter and wait for her to catch up.
William’s spirits were high when they circled back to the beginning of their neighborhood. They approached a house with a particularly menacing inflatable spider in the front yard. They rang the doorbell, and a woman opened the door.
“Trick-or-treat!” The boys said it together and reached out their bags to receive a sugary prize. Mike helped hold William’s bad open, since it was hard for him to do with one hand.
“Vanessa?!” they heard Mrs. Hutchinson from behind them, “Oh my God have you lost weight?”
William and Mike looked at each other and started laughing.
“I bet we can make it through the Tree Tunnel before she notices we are gone,” Mike said.
“Let’s do it!” William hollered, and the two boys ran off toward the dark tunnel of naked trees.
No one was in the tunnel, so the boys ran in the middle street, down the dark pathway of twisted trees as fast as they could. William was faster than Mike, and he kept gaining ground on him. About halfway through the tunnel William noticed a figure coming towards them from the other end. It was the pale and misshapen form of Wimbelwoan. Fear returned to William.
“Hey Mike, maybe we should turn back. It’s getting awful late,” William turned around to see his friend standing about ten feet away from him. William froze. Behind Mike, a large figure cast a haunting shadow over William. The figure was a tall man with a top hat and a purple tailcoat. It was Mister Fumplestink. The buzzing and nausea hit William like a brick wall.
At that point William knew he had been betrayed. He heard sounds from all around him and saw the other children from his class emerging from behind the trees that made up the tunnel. They were all dressed in various Halloween costumes. They slowly moved closer to him, surrounding him in a circle. He was trapped. At one end of the tunnel stood Mister Fumplestink; at the other, crept Wimbelwoan.
“You still do not want to join me in Dreamland William, but the other children do. Because of you, they cannot. I wish it could end differently. I wish we could have played together forever. You asked for this William. You wanted this, so you shall have it. Goodbye,” the shrill voice of Mister Fumplestink echoed through the Tree Tunnel. William was paralyzed. He could only stare into the great black eyes of the creature that loomed over him. Red light from those eyes illuminated the Tree Tunnel, but William was too focused on Fumplestink’s pale, round face to notice anything else.
The children slowly moved closer to him, closing the circle around him. He could hear the whimpering of Wimbelwoan behind him also drawing nearer. As the children reached him, they began to claw and bite at his flesh. Tearing his cast off of his arm, all the pain shot back through his body, freeing him from the trance that Fumplestink had cast upon him.
William began fighting off his attackers. He punched and kicked at them, but it was no use. He only had one arm to fight with, and they outnumbered him greatly. He felt nails clawing at his face and body. Feet were kicking his legs, trying to knock him down. Warm blood began to run down his face and arms as their nails tore through his skin. He let out a scream, and someone stuffed their fist in his mouth to grab onto his jaw and pull. William ferociously bit down on the hand and felt it pull away. He also felt four objects in his mouth and tasted blood. He spit them out and began screaming again. Another hand shot into his mouth and successfully pulled on his jaw until it popped out of place. The hand did not let go. It just kept pulling as others punched and clawed and tore.
William was on his back now. He lay helplessly on the cold asphalt, looking up at the sky, through the branches of the trees above him while his classmates mutilated him. A purple top hat with a yellow band crept into his view, blocking out the sky and branches. The hat was followed by the round, pale, smiling face of Mister Finnegan Fumplestink. That face would be the last thing William ever saw. Two fingers sunk into his eyes like hooks and began pulling his face.
William could not scream. He could not see. He could only smell blood. He could only hear tearing and ripping and dripping and an approaching whimpering. The only thing he could feel was the buzzing in his head, and he was thankful for that. William’s final thought was a line in the excerpt from Thomas Culbreath’s journal: It won’t be long now. The buzzing became overpowering and took over his thoughts completely. Then nothing.
All that was found in the Tree Tunnel was a severely ripped up red sweatshirt, an equally torn up pair of red sweatpants, an old Santa Claus hat, pieces of a cast, and many piles of a white powdery substance. A neighbor said they thought they saw two men wearing black suits leaving the Tree Tunnel, but no hard evidence was ever found. The only student from Mr. Rupert’s fourth grade class at St. Michael the Archangel Elementary School who showed up for school the following day was Carl Harris. There weren’t any more dreams involving Mister Fumplestink or his Fun Emporium, but no one in the entire town of Rempstone could manage anything other than somber sleep.
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