I told them I used a pig’s head but it wasn’t; it was Claudia’s. Every year it was the same, ‘why don’t you do something for Hallowe’en, Todd?’, ‘go out, have some fucking fun for once’, ‘don’t be a fucking pussy’. So I did.
She sat to the left of me in class, pulling grey over-chewed gum out in a stretch between tombstone teeth and nicotined nails, wrapping it round her fingertip like a miniature mummy, then sucking it off as she eyed our teacher lasciviously and hinted at her skills in giving head.
I couldn’t stand her. She stank of sweat and cigarette butts, sometimes she just stank of butt, and I hated her so much I used to pray for someone to go crazy here so she would die. I don’t know why it never occurred to me till now to just do it my goddamn self.
Better late than never, I guess.
Her neck was as grey as her gum with dirt and grit, but her face was a shocking streaky orange. She was going for the Hollywood Harlot look now. It didn’t suit her. But then, neither did the last one she’d tried.
She’d wanted to be a vampire for a while, but the paleness showed up her spots like the red dots in police show murder maps. The nearest she’d got to drinking the blood of the pure was licking her fingers after changing tampons, well, I was guessing there, but she looked the type.
Before home time, I stole into an empty science lab and stuffed what I needed into my bag. Then I asked her if she fancied coming to mine for a bite to eat before the Super Spooky Disco. Her eyes widened and I could see she hadn’t bothered wiping the sleep bogies from the corners this morning. No matter, I’d get them later.
Yes, she would come, but not quietly. Unfortunately she took it as a date and wittered on about her costume and shit like that as we walked along the tree lined avenue to my house, past the abandoned cars and soggy three piece suites that showed I had neighbours once upon a time. Before mum up and left me.
I’d put home-made jack o’ lanterns up on their steps already, and the empty eyes crawling with ants seemed to watch us as we kicked our way through piles of wet brown leaves and storm blown twigs to the house at the end of the street. It was a dead end, nothing but waste ground behind us, an old cemetery bordering the right, and a canal on the left. I watched for bodies, bags and suspicious suitcases from my window but the one time they found a child in there I’d been at school. Perhaps that was just as well…
She sat at the table in the kitchen, the warmest room in the house, and I got her a drink of lemonade from the fridge before checking the oven. I’d left it on low as I went out for school, and the great rounded stones were glowing red and white. Almost ready.
Claudia’s stomach rumbled and I gave her an apple, and a knife. She nearly bit deep till I steadied her sweaty hand and told her what to do. More eager for happy nonsense than food, she curved the knife round carefully, peeling its skin off in one long slender strip, then tossed it over her shoulder. I couldn’t remember the rhyme, so she whispered ‘Abracadabra’ instead. As if it mattered.
She squealed like an abattoir pig when she saw the peel had fallen into the approximate shape of a ‘T’, and grew bashful and coy. Sickeningly so, twisting her gum and sucking her finger while she looked up at me with eyes cunning with desire. I reckoned she must do the finger-suck thing a lot, given the feathering of peeling skin around the brown bitten nail.
Well, it gave me a place to start. I fended off her attentions with a wink and a hint of ‘later…’, and poured her another drink. Soon the lemonade took effect, and I laid her out on the floor. Lighting some incense I’d found at Number 32 the other week, just to cover the smell, I undressed her, leaving her clothes on the floor to soak up what inevitably came next. The skidmarks disgusted me but weren’t a surprise. The vajazzle was an interesting twist. I pitied the piercer. She wasn’t the most hygienic of girls, reminding me of those canapés with cottage cheese mum had served up at a party once.
It took a while, but I’d gotten good with practise, and the wider the strip, the quicker it went. Apples were for babies, for the real deal on info from the spirit world, skin was the way to go. Looping it loosely off my arm like when I used to tidy the garden hose into the shed, her skin surprisingly heavy for a petite girl, I got to the nape of her neck and stopped. Cut the strip loose. This was my favourite part. Hanging the slightly steaming strip off the back of a kitchen chair, I chose a knife, the one with a broad flat blade mum used to use for marrows, and made a start on her trachea. I think that’s when she died; it’s when she shat soft orange and sweetcorn on the floor anyway. Thank God for the incense, or I’d never have coped with the smell.
Following her natural parting, as mum’s hairdresser friends used to call it, with the tip of a paring knife, I was soon able to knot her greasy hair in my fist and peel the rest, wiping the drying crusts from the corners of her eyes with my sleeve before I did. She needed my knee on her chest, which was sticky-ing up nicely, just to give me some leverage. When I was done I gutted her like I did Mr Davidson’s cat, then grabbed the barbecue tongs from the drawer and lifted the hot stones out the oven. They fitted just nicely, and the kitchen soon smelled like some kind of spicy smoky barbecue. I was tempted to just stick an arm or something in the oven for later, but there wasn’t time to debone it properly, not with everything else I had to do.
Only an hour or so to go. I half expected a knock at the door any minute.
No point cleaning up, it was Hallowe’en; blood and guts are damn near mandatory on a night like this. I’d just call it my ‘costume’. Time to sort the rest of the entertainment, and fiddle with needle and thread.
Claudia greeted my callers at the door.
“Man, is that thing real?”
“Shit, Todd, did you make that?”
Chris and Oki seemed quite grossed out by the bloodied limbs arranged in an arrow, pointing their way to my house from the pavement outside where Claudia dangled by her hair from a bracket that used to support my mum’s hanging baskets of pink petunias and pansies. Claudia’s orange face hadn’t kept its artificial colour as well as I’d hoped it would, but with the vertical seams, and her eyelids, mouth, neck and nostrils sewn up she looked quite suitable for the pumpkin theme. I really should have shaved her scalp before I shrunk her head; maybe I’d singe it off later. Cook the whole sac of organs in the oven like a human haggis or tasty turducken. I had some gravy granules and dried potatoes in the cupboard, yeah, I’d do that to celebrate a Happy Hallowe’en after my big moment later.
They looked about with twitching eyes, and I wondered if it was me or the house making them so nervous. Shrugging their shoulders at each other, they came in.
“Fancy some ‘fuck me’ soup?” I said, walking them through to the lounge.
I winked, “You’ll soon find out…”
Using oven pads to protect my hands I manhandled the pot through to the coffee table beside the TV. Lifted off the lid, and voila-
“What the fuck is that?!”
I smiled, my cheeks tight with drying blood. All part of the fun. Claudia seemed to stare at me from the murky water, where she bobbed with the chopped carrots and onions, eyes bare of lids and lashes, even the irises boiled white. Her teeth still and free of gum, the lips that blew a hundred blokes blowing in the breeze outside, she was unrecognisable as the girl they used to know.
“Pig head I got from the butchers’.”
Chris paled a little. Oki just stared at the reddy brown thing bobbing in the broth.
“No, no thanks, we’ve just had our dinner, haven’t we Oki?”
Aye, so they had.
“Right, well, what’s next?”
At the cemetery we agreed to play hide and seek. Oki and I ran off and hid as Chris counted by the gate, and I watched from the cracked open crypt of Mrs Millicent Hayweather, 1782-1853, as Oki dithered then crouched behind one of the larger gravestones sprouting from the overlong grass, and Chris got to twenty then wandered about. They were best friends, always had been, and I couldn’t have invited one without the other. Not if I wanted him to come. I broke off one of Mrs Hayweather’s beef jerky hands, the nails long and satisfyingly scratchy, tendrils of tendon reminding me of the desiccated jellyfish I’d seen in an Asian supermarket, and stuck it in my back pocket then went after my companions, one at a time.
Sneaking through the abandoned graveyard, bushes and dripping wet trees helping me on my quest, I spied Chris by the ivy-clad mausoleum of the Marquedt family, one of the many who fell victim to TB in this area. The four year old’s hair was still quite soft, but his mother had crumbled to pieces so the little tableau I’d worked on inside had eventually come to naught. Still, it had been nice seeing just what the old bones could do. And the local dogs deserved a treat. Snail shells popped under my feet with a pleasing crunch, and seeing a thick pink worm slithering across the mossy path I picked it up for a quick snack, swallowing it whole so it would wiggle deliciously all the way down.
Ah, he’d spotted Claudia’s foot. Maybe it was the flies that confused him, or maybe the crows pecking shreds from her toes gave him a fright. Perhaps it was the toenails flipped up from the oozing nail-beds like tiny car hoods waiting for repair. I didn’t know, and by the time he’d quit struggling and I’d managed to punch the paring knife into his throat, I’d stopped caring. His leg juddered for a bit as he pissed himself and farted, but I liked his jeans and made a mental note to remove them and give them a wash before he went in the freezer. It’s a bastard getting clothes off them once they’re in there.
Oki next, saving the best till last. He was still behind the gravestone, and due a fright, so I snuck up behind him, slowly, slowly, till I could hear his breathing and smell his cheap deodorant. Till I, or rather, Mrs Hayweather, could run a finger down the back of his neck.
Wow, he could scream! Nothing wrong with that on Hallowe’en. When he turned to face me, eyes wide with fright, I plunged the knife in the left one, hard, fast, wet. Then palmed his nose so hard I could feel the bony bridge of his nose snap back into his brain. He dropped hard, but I managed to save the face.
Working fast, I stripped him of first his clothes – mercifully he’d barely wet his pants – then his beautiful brown skin, slitting him up the back for access. It was nearly dark, so I didn’t bother with the feet, legs or genitals, but the hands were necessary for the full effect so I took care to dig deeper under the nail-beds, making sure to keep the gloves of fingers intact. Then I took my clothes off.
Naked myself but for the sticky red of Claudia and Chris, and a little Oki too, I struggled into my classmate’s skin. Damn, it was itchy! The wetness helped it stick, and I made sure to smooth out the air bubbles, with the inevitable farty noises even funnier in the graveyard. I didn’t want to show up looking warty, for fuck’s sake. Not after all this. I clambered carefully into his clothes, not bothering with the undershorts or socks. The birds and flies joined me as I finished up, flicking the collar of his shirt up at the back, going 80s for the night. It helped hide the seeping join of flesh.
Walking in the rain back along the street, I saw nobody. And nobody, as ever, saw me.
The teacher at the door waved me inside, Oki was a good student, not one of the troublemakers she’d be frisking for booze before letting in. The dim lights and her cataracts worked in my favour. This was going to work, dammit!
And there she was, by the snack table. Joanna DeBon, the most beautiful girl in our year, if not the school. I only had eyes for her, and she only had eyes for me, or rather, Oki. Blonde like the palest of honeys, eyes green as a lime slice. I was sure her bush looked like spun sugar, and tasted just as nice. Shy smile I rarely saw, except when I caught her looking at him. I could be good, with her.
The gym hall was dark, except for the swirling flash of disco lights and the green glow of the emergency exit signs by the doors. I tried to mimic Oki’s confident gait, but forgot all about it when she turned to face me. Silently, I picked up a bowl of crisps, offering her first pick.
When she went to say something I held a finger to her lips, then moved in for the kiss. His lips, my tongue. A moment of warmth-
Then it all went black, and I couldn’t see.
Someone screamed, and I heard others laughing, enjoying Hallowe’en and the thrill of a good fright had by all. But it was Joanna, it was a real scream, and rough hands were thrusting me somewhere, out through a door.
“What’s going on?” I asked, and I could feel we were outside, the air cool in my nose, but since I hadn’t heard a teacher I could only think we’d gone out an emergency exit to the sports field behind the school. That wasn’t good.
“Teach you a lesson, boy.”
“She’s one of ours, you thieving prick.”
My hands, his hands, were thrust behind my back and something like a cable tie pinched them together, tight.
“I’m not-“ but the words stuck in my throat as they looped a rough necklace of rope round my neck, pulling that tight too.
And it only got tighter as they hoisted me till my feet lost touch with the ground, and all I could hear was Joanna weeping in the background and my classmates jeering, and I thought of the empty heads waiting on front steps all along my empty street, waiting for me to return, and the soup still bubbling away on the stove. The rooms waiting to be ransacked, the bodies in the freezers, and the fresh meat in the cemetery, now for the wildlife alone. The colossal fuck-up that was me.
My chest was too tight, my tongue pushing past my lips, and I could see the moon rising white in the sky. I twisted and writhed, and my pockets emptied, maybe my bladder did too. Mrs Hayweather’s hand fell to the ground, like I gave a shit at this point. Somebody vomited and it wasn’t me. I couldn’t see the moon any more.
Then I hit the ground, and rough hands pulled me free.
Now there were sirens, and handcuffs, and a blanket and lights. Shit, the lights! But I was too wobbly to run, too weak to flee, so I cowered under the blanket, using it like a shawl. As the paramedics came with their careful hands and gentle phrases, picking their way over the football pitch to the rugby post that had served as gallows tonight, I turned to Joanna and said:
“I’m not really feeling myself tonight…”
She’d stopped vomiting and sat crosslegged on the grass several metres away from me. She looked over at me, forehead furrowing, eyes red and wet and running with tears. I wanted to lick them away and make her love me.
One of the paramedics stopped abruptly, picked something up from the grass. Shouted something to the police.
I feasted my eyes on Joanna as they descended upon me.
“This is not a Hallowe’en prop. The police officer saw something fall from your pocket when you were… assaulted.” I guessed it wouldn’t be called a lynching unless somebody leaked it as such to the papers. I guessed that somebody wouldn’t be me. “What do you have to say, son?”
Joanna’s face quivered with disgust, and as she looked at the shrivelled old hand, the nails black and grey, I knew the spell was broken and I was back to being me.
Reaching for the back of my tender neck, I hooked Oki’s fingers under his skin. They looked at me, some sympathetic, some stern, some unsure what to be.
“For starters, it tastes kinda like chicken…”
Some of their mouths hung open. Most of their eyes widened. Joanna vomited again somewhere to the side. Shame, my voice sounded quite husky, sexy, even.
“But I guess what I really want to say is-“ and I ripped Oki right off my face, clutching the floppy red shell of his scalp under my sticky red chin.
“Boo! Happy Hallowe’en!”
I laughed even as they cuffed me, my second time that night, as I thought of these pricks finding my ‘fuck me’ soup and the food in the freezers. Perhaps some of the more adventurous officers would try some? I hoped they would, maybe they’d get lucky and find the vajazzle. Maybe he or she would crack a crown on it, or find themselves coughing on a hair. If one shows up at the station talking funny, then I’ll know for sure…
It’s not just weirdos like me who eat pussy.
By Gill Hoffs
Gill Hoffs lives in the north west of England with her husband and son, and giant spiders that only come out when she’s cleaning the shower late at night. She is extremely squeamish and shy in real life, though also prone to putting her foot in it and giggling at funerals. After studying Psychology, Biology and English Literature at University she worked with children with a variety of needs throughout Britain before having her son four years ago. Since she began writing in earnest just over a year ago she has won several competitions, had work included in six anthologies, and had over forty pieces accepted for publication. She used to get in trouble for her more Carnage-style writing at school, but since her other stories made the teachers cry, she really couldn’t win! Find her on facebook, email her for a chat at firstname.lastname@example.org, or see her site for more details about her work http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/.