Chapter One: Sam Goes Trick-or-Treating
Sam Montgomery was too old to trick-or-treat. He'd begged his parents to let him skip out on this year; but, they were adamant. He may not enjoy trick-or-treating; but, he wasn't the only one in the house. His five year brother old adored it and he would be escorting him through the neighborhood tonight, no questions asked. His little brother, Michael, had already picked out a costume and everything. He'd paraded his power ranger costume through the hallways of their two-story house since the day his parents handed him the wrapped package earlier this month. Sam couldn't bring it to himself to ruin his brother's evening nor wipe the smile from his face. He swallowed his pride and shoved his hands in his pockets. His parents could tell him to enjoy it; but, there was a new episode of his favorite show airing tonight and he would be the only one who wouldn't be able to talk about it during school tomorrow.
"You don't have to come, Sam." Michael whispered, tugging on his older brother's sleeve, his voice slightly muffled by the mask. "I know momma and daddy made you."
Sam reached down to ruffle his brother's sandy-colored hair, causing his brother to groan and squirm at his touch. "If I didn't take you, then you wouldn't get to go, do you want that?"
"Noooo." His younger brother whined and he could imagine the tears beginning to form.
"Don't worry," Sam hastily replied, crouching on a knee to look his brother in the eyeslits of his mask, squeezing his shoulders gently. "We're going to make sure you get all of the best candy."
"Would I lie to you?"
"No," His brother replied, visibly perking up as his posture straightened as he lifted his mask to smile at his older sibling before lunging forward and wrapping his short arms around the larger, athletic frame of his brother. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me yet, tiger. We haven't gotten any candy yet."
The sky was beginning to darken as the sun slowly crested the ridge on the horizon and the street lights began to flicker on, illuminating the street, as countless children emerged from their houses, a majority clad in simple, homemade costumes and others wearing the popular store bought. He thought he even caught one or two wearing a simple sheet, holes cut for eyes. He chuckled, ruffled his brother's hair again and took his hand before setting out down the street. They lived on a slight hill, their house halfway to the end of the cul-de-sac that butted up against the local cemetery. The houses along both sides of the street were adorned with countless Halloween decorations, many with jack-o-lanterns sitting on porches, caricatures of cats, witches and even ghosts etched into their sides.
"Where should we go first, Michael?"
Chapter Two: Cemeteries, Ghosts and Candy, Oh My!
"Down there," Michael responded diligently, his pudgy finger pointing down the street toward the cemetery and the Robinsons' place. "Looks like fun."
Sam shook his head in curious wonder. "You have a strange idea of fun, little man."
Like the dutiful brother, Sam slid his hand into his brothers and slowly turned and began walking, away from the sounds of the other trick-or-treaters and the comfort of the illumination provided by the streetlamps. He felt a slight shiver crawl across his skin, goosebumps beginning to dot his arms and neck. There was something seriously creepy about this direction and he couldn't decide what. He glanced down to see if his brother was feeling the same eerie sensation and frowned when he noticed his brother was nearly skipping, swinging his basket back and forth at his side, the sound of the candy his parents gave him already sloshing around inside. He glanced to his left as they made their way down the sidewalk. The cemetery was cast in the faint glow of the moon and a slight fog carpeted the ground and visible tombstones, casting the names carved into the stone in shadow. He heard the sound of an owl hooting and picked up the pace, groaning when he realized he was walking by himself.
Turning back, he noticed his younger brother paused and staring through the iron bars of the cemetery at something. He closed the distance between them, pausing and slipping his hand back into his brother's, feeling him squeeze his hand reassuringly. He attempted to tug his brother along behind him; but, stopped when he realized his brother refused to budge, his feet planted like stone. He slowly raised a finger and pointed through the bars. "Look."
"What is it?" Sam replied hesitantly, following his brother's fingers to spot a faint, golden glow bobbing through the cemetery. "Is that someone? Hello?!?"
He waited a few moments and tried again. "Hello! Can you hear me?"
The golden light bobbed behind a few tombstones and then disappeared over a hill. Shrugging, Sam tugged his brother along behind him again. He felt the urge to return home, put his feet up on the recliner and watch his favorite show growing stronger. They walked to the end of the cul-de-sac, turning to go up the long, winding driveway toward the mansion. He noticed it weird that no one else seemed to be following or had the same idea about the large house. They found themselves climbing the porch and standing awkwardly before the large, ornately decorated pair of doors. There was a large, brass knocker on each, at about chest height, in the shape of a dragon's head, the ring running through their mouths. There was what appeared to be a doorbell to the right, below the porch lantern and he pushed it, listening intently.
He pushed the button again.
The silence unnerved him and he wanted to turn around; but, didn't want to look a wuss in front of his brother so he reached out, curling his fingers over the smooth brass and lifted the ring, letting it fall back against the door...once, twice and a third time. Still, silence echoed from inside. Sam muttered about this being a stupid idea and began to turn to go back down the steps when the doors swung slowly open.
Chapter Three: Lights, Lanterns and Shadows
The house was beautiful. There were statues of knights wearing armor, posed in various states of combat, many wielding lethal, realistic looking weapons. The vibes coming inside that Sam picked up told him that they should do anything but go inside. He was just about to continue down the steps when he turned to realize that his younger sibling was currently examining one of the statues.
“Michael!” Sam cried out, running inside and grabbing his brother’s small hand. “Let’s go! I don’t think we should come inside without the owner’s permission.”
Michael stamped his foot and Sam knew a tantrum was coming. “Sam! The door opened on its own! This place is really cool! I wanna explore!”
As if to emphasize his point, his younger brother wandered over to another statue, running small fingers over the surface of the cool metal. Sam followed along until he couldn’t stand the feel of the place, the eerie silence. He grabbed his brother, ignored his screams of protest and half-dragged, half-carried him back out the doors and down the front steps. The two brothers had no sooner exited the house and reached the bottom step when the doors slammed shut with a resounding boom. Sam set Michael down, who proceeded to show his displeasure by crossing his arms and giving his best pouting face, and went up to look in the windows next to the doors.
He only found more of what he expected, silence. There wasn’t a single person inside on the other side who could have closed the doors in such a hurry. He knew he wouldn’t hear the end of his brother’s rant to their parents if he didn’t find some way to make it up to the little guy.
“Tell you what,” Sam cooed, approaching his younger sibling and crouching on his knees before him. “Let’s see if we can find that guy you saw in the cemetery. Maybe he can tell us who owns this place or even better, maybe he’s the owner. Then we can see about getting you some candy, what do you say?”
He could see the gears turning in his brother’s head and knew that his argument was sound. His brother seemed to ponder the offer for an extremely prolonged time before smiling and saying , ‘okay’. He extended his hand expectantly and Sam slid his into the gap and squeezed tightly. Sam angled them toward the cemetery, following the black, iron fence around until he found an entrance. The cemetery was creepy any other time of the year; but, it seemed to exude an aura of suspense and mystery this Halloween. A thick, heavy fog seemed to carpet and cling to the tombstones, limiting visibility to the nearest five feet or so.
“Hello?” Sam called out, walking across the gate. “Anyone here?”
The two followed the worn, tire tracks leading deeper into the cemetery. The vegetation seemed dead or dying, the trees’ bare branches extended toward the sky in seeming agony. Sam pulled Michael closer to him, his hand squeezing tighter and he was surprised to feel Michael squeeze tighter in return. Sam continued to call out into the lengthening darkness for what seemed like hours and couldn’t have been more than half an hour or more and was about to give up when he spotted the bobbing, yellow glow again. He picked up the pace, nearly jogging until the glow grew brighter and began to bring definition to the nearby area. They had somehow made their way into the mausoleum section. The glow was cast by a lantern held by a tall male-like figure wearing dark overalls and a thick, overhanging hat that covered his ears and face. The figure seemed to be on a mission as he ignored the calls of the brothers and descended into the depths of one of the mausoleums.
“Wait up!” Sam called out, nearly dragging poor Michael along behind him as they came to a stop before the steps, glancing down toward the fading glow of the lantern and the retreating back of the figure. “We just wanted to ask…”
Sam turned to look at Michael. “Now what?”
Chapter Four: Why is there always two?
Michael glanced up at him, flashed a big smile and tugged on his hand. "We follow him, duh."
"You know sometimes I wonder if you're really a little kid," Sam replies, ruffling his younger brother's hair, knowing full well how much he hates it and chuckling when he gets a displeased grunt in return. "Stick close to me, okay?"
Michael nodded, biting his lower lip. "Okay."
The two brothers descended the steps into the mausoleum, immediately reaching up to pinch their nostrils closed as the smell hit them. There was a nearly phosphorus smell in the air that reminded Sam very much of rotten eggs. He squeezed his brother's, small hand and tugged him forward, his footfalls echoing through the silent crypt. He could see the faint outline of the lantern bobbing ahead as they ducked beneath a low-hanging stone archway and came into a widened area. Sam took a moment to pause and spin, examining the walls where pieces of stone had fallen off to crumble against the corners. The place looked in the serious state of disrepair and Sam began to question his thought process on coming in here. He felt his brother tug on his hand and he followed Michael's pointed finger to see the lantern ducking around a corner and he scurried to catch up. The two brothers entered another narrow hallway, this one stretching as far as the lantern's illumination could allow and the shadows hinted it stretched further still.
"Do you see where he went?" Sam asked breathlessly, his fear of tight spaces beginning to kick in. "I don't see his lantern anymore."
Michael glanced up at his brother, shrugged and pointed at a faint, gold aura around a corner up ahead in the path. Sam squeezed Michael's hand and pulled him along as he ran to catch up, turning to follow the bobbing, gold light. The gait of the man seemed nearly inhuman and no matter how quickly they walked, they couldn't seem to catch up to him. Sam could feel his breath beginning to come in short, quick pants and he had to stop to rest for a minute, hearing similar sounds coming from Michael beside him.
"You...ok?" Sam panted. 'We can go slower?"
Michael didn't bother replying, too busy grasping his knees and trying to catch his breath. Sam took that as an affirmative and they began to move at a more leisurely pace. They sped up only when they feared they would lose sight of the man and his lantern. The man seemed to take that as a challenge and his pace quickened again till they were forced to move at a really slow jog. They noticed the man disappear around a corner, his light fading from view and they scurried after him to catch up.
They rounded the corner to find a split in the passageway. Two trails leading into the darkness, one going north and one going east. There was no visible signs of the man's lantern or hints of the path he'd chosen.
"Now what," Sam groaned, running his hands through his hair. "Which way do we go?"