Halloween Horror: Farewell, Spring-Heeled Jack

The night blazes with the orange incandescence of the suburbs. The perpetual colour conceals the features of the terraced housing on either side more than darkness would, and the residences are transformed into towering, featureless walls, which funnel travelers endlessly along the street. A group storms uphill against a wind that growls intermittently, blasting them with red and brown leaves that bluster down from the churchyard trees at the top, by the crossroads. Ellie, a woman in a twee pink fairy costume, trails as the others continue at speed. None of them notice her falling behind, as they propose and counter propose plans to make her night raucous.

“Then she has to get off with him in front of Toby,” asserts the willowy Amber; a vampire.

“What? Why?” argues Lisa, a shivering cat with an enormous apple-bottom.

“Well, clearly it’s because he’s going to be gorgeous,” interjects the the third: Jennifer. She is wearing an unfortunate ghostly sheet that Ellie is certain will be confused for a K.K.K. hood. Amber laughs raucously at the comment, accidentally spitting a fang into her quicksilver palm as she does.

Lisa ignores the other two as she continues, “I mean, why the fuck would she get off with another guy in front of Toby? Like, I know he’s been an…”

“That shit-head deserves everything he gets! She’s got to make him pay,” Jennifer interrupts, viciously. Ellie thinks that she might be able to carry the bigot costume off after all.

As she listens to the sordid argument, Ellie vibrates, then suddenly clenches her jaw, pulls a plain band of gold off her finger and throws it down the street. She cringes, then smiles and then almost jogs on her stilt-heels to catch up with her escaping friends. The ring bounces from a lamp-post, and rolls off into the road, coming to a stop with a series of tiny jangles that become muted by another gust.

“Why is he even meeting us later?” asks Lisa, still sounding confounded.

“He thinks Ellie doesn’t know about Kim,” replies Amber, between attempts to replace the missing tooth.

“No! I mean: why isn’t he already with us? Ellie is.”

“He’s coming from work” Ellie spits out as she catches up to the rest, drooling sarcasm as she does. The inside of her mouth drips like a cave. “He’s even getting dressed up there. It seems sensible, given that he was probably undressed already.”

“Damn girl, you’re cold!” cries Amber.

“Yeah, it’s fucking freezing” Ellie replies. Her chest feels entirely motionless.

A zombie wanders out of a pub door as they pass. The shambling silhouette moans into the night, and spews viciously into a huddle of witches. They scream; an unearthly wailing at the horror of their defled dresses, whilst an unscientifc looking man in a lab-coat punches the zombie. In moments he is swarmed by the clawing, bloody, greenish hands of undead reinforcements from inside the blighted pub.

“Shit, it’s like an actual apocalypse,” Amber chuckles, having given up on her tooth.

Lisa’s response is disturbingly serious, “Yeah, can you imagine? Halloween is like, the worst time of the year for if actual zombies were actually, you know, like… Real.”

Ellie groans to herself, then turns a little to properly view the violent scene. She slows down, then stops; mystified by the bizarre brawl. If she lets herself just watch, without rationalising, she can almost believe that the men fighting there are real monsters. The thug scientist curls fetal on the floor, and his red splattered lab coat has become more cardinal than it’s original lurid scarlet splotches. From her distance, Ellie concludes that the men are probably real monsters, in their own mundane way. Strangely, she feels the most calm that she has in weeks. One of the witches is screaming into her mobile phone. Ellie wanders, keen not to be questioned as a witness. Her friends are gone.

Still calm, she heads in the direction of the crossroads at the top of the hill, where Toby said he would meet the group. The wind batters against her fairy wings as she trots, and the straps cut into her shoulders. She feels as though she could fly, painfully though. The hill is long, and most of the places to go at night are downhill, so the streets are empty. As Ellie reaches the crossroads, her friends remain absent.

The crossroads are just a mini roundabout flanked by a derelict church, a community centre and a pair of dark-windowed houses, each separated by a road. A lone slender figure leaps from the top of the high church wall, landing elegantly next to the painted white pad of the roundabout. Ellie stares blankly at him in the dark, but takes a quick step back. She is instantly filled with a hatred for the man, still just a dark shape silhouetted in the monochrome amber. Almost overwhelmed, she wants him to die, to be struck down by some unearthly power. Just; anything to stop him staring at her with his invisible beady eyes.

She takes another step back as he walks toward her. His face is warped: a mask of wicked grin, sharply hooked nose, and eyebrows like knots in thick, tarred rope. A small pair of fleshy horns protrude awkwardly from beneath a misaligned top hat. The nauseating creature stops just short of Ellie as she slowly retreats, then raises a hand as if to draw attention to his malevolent teeth. With this dramatic gesture, he spits real fire high into the air. Ellie feels the heat on her cheeks.

Any other time she might have clapped, but as Ellie takes in the eyes, she steps back. She recognises the mutant beast from an antiquated penny dreadful that she had always treasured: it is Spring-Heeled Jack, a 19th century bogeyman. At least, it is a costume of Spring Heeled Jack, she thinks. Even in the tension, she wonders at the coincidence. The horrifying punch style mask cocks to one side, and the figure lunges at her in a single fantastic bound. She is caught by clammy hands, cold even in the autumnal air, grasping roughly at her bared skin. She can feel heavy breath in her ear. Her skin crawls. She wants this man dead.

“Get off me, you bastard!” Ellie yells, and twists free in a surge of adrenaline. He lets go for a moment, and she runs, keeping desperate balance with each step onto her point-sharp heels. She aims for a street to the side, and turns down the first of a series of narrow alleys. The back door from a house offers respite from the straight walls, and she ducks in just moments before the creature bounds up to the alleyway.

“Where are you, Ellie?” a thin voice floats from the end of the alley. The sound makes her skin crawl. She hugs the doorway tightly as a dark shape shuffles warily past. He does not notice her as she waits, breath held tightly. Ellie’s face is empty in the shadows as she pulls a medium kitchen knife from deep in her handbag, where it had sat in a wad of rags tied with string. It is a broad thing, meticulously sharp but slightly notched in places. It is familiar, and warm. As the silhouette floats by, she steps out behind it on tiptoes, careful to stop her heels from clacking. Without another second of pause, she takes one noisy full step forward, holding the knife under her hand like a dagger, and plunges the point into the man. It slides in at the base of his neck, to the left of his shoulder blade, and nearly snags against bone as she pulls it out again. The crippled shape staggers, screaming, and Ellie drives the knife into his back, using both hands and all of her bodyweight. Her fairy wings brush the wall either side, as the two go down.

The shape beneath Ellie stops twitching, and she lets go of the knife. Delving back into her capacious handbag, she finds a clean linen handkerchief and wipes the handle that still protrudes from her victim’s torso. She puts the handkerchief back, and rummages again. This time, she gropes around until she finds a larger, gauzy feeling cloth. She retreats back into her slot in the wall, and swiftly changes into the new dress, pushing her old, hot and wet one into a zip pocket inside the bag.

Once she is finished changing, and brushing her hair back with her hands, Ellie reaches down to the left hand of the monstrous corpse and, feeling her way in the dark, she pulls at one of the fingers. Without further ceremony, she turns and tap- tap-taps her way to the end of the ally, her footsteps light and energetic. Ellie emerges into the street, checking thoroughly along for anyone watching. She nods, satisfied, then turns in the direction of the high-street at the bottom of the hill, where earlier, she had told her friends that Toby would meet them. As she walks, she examines the plain gold band in her hands, smiles broadly, then slips it into her handbag.

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