In some cases, the piece will also be a special commission, prompted by a particular buyer. Readers can still custom order their own quick short-short stories: details here.
This particular story is for my buddy Matt Strawbridge who wanted something that had a Halloween setting and featured some kind of nod to a Universal monster. This actually fits in with some research I've been doing lately; also, I might have a little of Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder's Halloween Eve on the brain.
Every family has heirlooms, and those heirlooms are usually different from clan to clan.
Vinnie Franklin always knew that the object passed down generation to generation in his family was uncommon, but sometimes it takes an outside perspective to see just how different something so familiar really is.
It was the late ’80s. Back when kids still walked the neighborhood freely on Halloween, scuttling from house to house in search of candy and good, scary pranks. Vinnie was living in the Midwest back then. Indiana. It was fall and the leaves had fallen from the trees, blanketing the ground in shifting brown and orange tiles. Vinnie and Elsa were newlyweds, and she looked at his family’s peculiar history with forgiving eyes. Still, it was probably for the best she had a hospital shift that night.
The sun was only just setting, and Vinnie had passed out half his candy. The children had been particularly pleased that he was handing out full-sized candy bars and not the miniatures. It was a perk of the job. Vinnie filled vending machines around town. He got the candy at cost.
He had noticed some shifting in the house. Subtle changes. Not an uneasiness so much as the kind of settling a home does as seasons change and temperatures drop. It got worse as the evening progressed, however, and Vinnie hoped it wasn’t what he thought it was. He hoped it wasn’t the heirloom.
Suspicions were confirmed when a boy of no more than six came to the door wearing the familiar green mask, complete with plastic hair and neck bolts. After “Trick or treat” the child said “Braiiiiins,” which was the wrong creature catchphrase, but it probably wasn’t so bad that someone his age didn’t know the difference.
Vinnie knew the heirloom could see the front walk from the basement window. It was a luxury they allowed him, lest he get bored and seek more unnatural pursuits. The noise wasn’t the house changing. The evening’s traffic, the comings and the goings of the odd-looking creatures, had unsettled him.
And now he was looking in a mirror. A tiny, miniaturized, funhouse mirror.
It was more than the heirloom could stand, and he came bursting through the wall, pushing his way through the small rectangular window, moaning and groaning, grasping for handholds in the earth to pull himself into the night air.
Vinnie’s family name had been changed to Franklin at Ellis Island. The traveling Frankensteins had brought their Monster with them.
The Monster got halfway out but then he lost his ability to leverage himself and he could go no further. Like Winnie the Pooh stuck in the rabbit hole, he lay there, one half in, one half out.
The child, recognizing the source of his own grotesque outer wear, perhaps thinking, just like the Monster, that he was looking in a distorted mirror, walked over to the stymied golem. “Neat trick!,” the boy said, laughing and pointing. “Do it again!”
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