The Ghost of Easel Isle
2 Days Before Halloween
The wind howled ominously through the trees as James pulled the Halloween decorations out of his storage unit. It was his daughter’s favorite holiday, so, he wanted to go as big as his budget would allow him to. Some cheap plastic pumpkins simply wouldn’t cut it.
He settled on checking out the thrift shop on his way home, hoping he would find some tattered material he could repurpose into cobwebs or a mummy decoration. But, on his drive home, he spotted an estate sale that had just finished setting up. He pulled over and decided to peek inside.
James walked from room to room and found everything he expected to see at an estate sale: old china, dusty tables, and rusty lamps. The garage was taped off, so he assumed that all the best stuff must be in there. He looked around to see if anyone was looking and snuck in.
The light didn’t work, so, he used his phone to illuminate the darkness. He immediately regretted his decision to pick through the garage. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust, dirt, and grease - and it seemed to be a hoarder’s dream. Knick-knacks were stacked to the ceiling and overstuffed cardboard boxes barely managed to stay upright.
James was certain he’d find a creepy doll or a taxidermy dog somewhere in here, but he would be digging through everything until Christmas. Just as he gave up and turned around, a tall skeleton fell from the ceiling, right on top of him!
He jumped back, just barely in time, or so he thought. The skeleton hung there, draped in tattered cloth, just barely above his head. James inspected the skeleton a bit closer. There had been a lot of detail work done to it to make it look weathered, and even real. He imagined someone who enjoyed making realistic crafts must have spent a lot of time on this - and it was terrifying. Terrifyingly perfect for his Halloween decorations!
He grabbed the skeleton and brought it to the estate sale manager. He imagined setting up a little jump-scare in the backyard, just on the other side of the shed. His party would be a hit and he could be his daughter’s hero - if he was lucky.
“How much for this?” James asked excitedly. The estate sale manager cringed at the sight of the decoration as James held it up. After a few moments, he realized that it was shockingly heavy for a simple decoration.
“Where on earth did you find that?” he asked, disgusted.
“In the…” James trailed off as he remembered that he went into a restricted area.
“Oh, nevermind. You want the hanging skeleton-ghost thing?” he said accusingly. “I’ll pay you twenty dollars to get it out of my sight immediately.” James laughed and handed the manager a five dollar bill and walked away happily with his new decoration.
He placed it gently in the back seat of his car and even buckled it in.
“Can never be too careful, my man,” James said jokingly before climbing into the driver’s seat and starting the car. He pulled out of the driveway and started heading home. He imagined how he could set up the jump-scare beside the shed.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of chattering teeth. He checked the review mirror to see if the skeleton’s jaw was loose enough to chatter when they hit bumps in the road. He adjusted the mirror until he could clearly see the skeleton head. But he was greeted by two, piercingly red eyes staring back at him from the hollow sockets.
“What the-!” James slammed on his breaks and the car skid to a stop on the side of the road. He looked in the rearview mirror again, and the two eye sockets were empty once again. James laughed to himself. “You are working me up, bud!” he said to the buckled skeleton.
James got back on the road and readjusted his mirror to its original position, vowing he wouldn’t do that again.
1 Day Before Halloween
“I’m sorry Jim, but she can’t come to your party,” Beth said angrily while pacing in the backyard.
“Beth, it’s her favorite holiday and I just got some amazing decorations that she is going to love,” James argued.
“I’m sorry, but, no. She is going trick-or-treating and then she is going to bed. She has school the next day for crying out loud!” Beth retorted. “Besides, it’s an adult party. You are serving beer and wine and playing games that are boring to kids.” Jim sighed in agreement.
“Well, can we do a small Halloween party this weekend for her and her friends?” James begged. Beth rolled her eyes.
“Fine, but she has to come home right after,” Beth relented. Moira, their daughter, was living with Beth primarily, but James had her every other weekend. This weekend, the weekend after Halloween, was Beth’s weekend, so, she would be doing James a favor by letting Moira spend a day of it with James.
“Deal,” James said with a smile. “But she’s coming home jacked up on sugar!”
“Ugh, Jim, will you ever grow up?” Beth pleaded. “Okay, what is this creepy decoration you wanted to show me?” James couldn’t help but smile.
“Oh, I hung it up on the other side of the shed to dry. I had to wash all of the dirt off of it from the estate sale,” James said excitedly. “Go take a look, I have to finish putting together these trick-or-treater bags.”
Beth rolled her eyes again and walked over to the shed. As she got just past the corner, she let out a blood-curdling scream.
“Oh my God!” she shouted. James couldn’t help but laugh as the skeleton dropped from the tree and swung inches from Beth’s face.
“Motion-activated sensor!” James shouted from the deck as he filled bags with candy.
“You are such a dork!” Beth cried out. “Grow up!”
Beth stormed out of the backyard, back to her car. James tried to control his laughter.
Dressed in his best Dexter Morgan outfit, James headed downstairs to rejoin his party. It was already pretty wild (for a 35-year-old) and he couldn’t wait to unleash the skeleton on his guests, one by one. He would have to reset the skeleton every time, but it would be totally worth it.
His co-worker JoAnne was at the food table double dipping her pretzels into the ranch. This act volunteered her as the first victim.
“JoAnne!” James shouted gleefully at unsuspecting victim number one. “Bumblebee costume, I love it!” JoAnne pushed up her glasses and grimaced at James.
“Honeybee, actually,” she corrected. “I wanted to raise awareness about-”
“Of course! Of course!” James interrupted her to avoid an hour-long lecture about the importance of honeybees. “I actually have a honeybee apiary just on the other side of my shed now,” he lied.
“Really?” JoAnne asked excitedly.
“Yeah, you should go check it out!” he urged. “I have to go refill the ice bucket, but if you want to go now, I’ll join you in a few minutes and I’ll tell you all about my set up.”
“Okay! See you in a few!” JoAnne zipped off and James pumped his fist with excitement. He walked over to the window to listen for the scream.
Silence. Silence. Silence. Blood-curdling scream. Right on cue!
James waited a few moments before going to the scene of the crime to reset the skeleton. As he waited, he looked around the party to see who he should prey on next. He spotted his friend Joey putting his condensation-covered beer down directly on the coffee table, right next to a perfectly good coaster. Oh, Joey, that’s it.
Eager to scare Joey, James strolled outside and hung the skeleton back up on the trigger hook. He ran back inside and made a beeline for Joey.
“Joe-man, what’s good, I love the costume,” James said, cooly.
“Yeah? Who do you think I’m dressed as?” Joey challenged James. James looked at the costume and it looked an awful lot like Harry Potter, but no scar.
“You are either a young Merlin or a young Dumbledore,” James replied firmly. Joey thought for a moment and then frowned.
“Yes,” Joey replied quickly.
“Well, which is it?” James demanded.
“It’s fine nevermind,” Joey said hurriedly. James realized he hadn’t come up with a plan for how to lure Joey out to the shed on false pretenses as he had with JoAnne. Then he remembered that Joey had a crush on JoAnne.
“Hey, so, you know how you have been into JoAnne since I started working at the firm?” James said quietly as he leaned down to Joey.
“Dude,” Joey said defensively.
“The music is loud, no one is looking, no one heard me,” James teased. “Besides, she sent me over here because she has decided that she is into you.” Joey’s eyes widened. “It’s cool, I told her you feel the same way, and now she is behind the shed waiting to talk to you.”
“Um,” Joey said with hesitation. “Why the shed?”
“Sorry, that was actually my suggestion,” James lied. “She wanted to talk to you somewhere quiet and private, without drawing too much attention, you know?” Joey smiled.
“Thanks, man,” Joey said happily before heading out to the backyard. James scurried up to the window to listen for James’ scream.
Silence. Silence. Silence. Girly scream. Right on cue.
James pumped his fist and surveyed the room for his next challenge.
This went on for two hours before James realized his party was thinning out. He spotted his friend Gina and decided to see if she knew anything.
“Gina, hey, love that you aren’t wearing a costume at all,” James said with a laugh. Gina barely cracked a smile.
“Nice party,” she said dryly.
“Yeah,” James began. “There were a lot more people here earlier. Do you know if there is another party going on?”
“No, not that I’m aware of,” Gina replied. “It seems everyone you are sending to the jump-scare you have set up leave right after.”
“The what-scare?” James said, hiding a smile.
“Cut the act. I know you. I caught on to your game after you sent Joey out to talk to JoAnne. JoAnne doesn’t even know Joey is alive,” Gina said firmly. “You know, I don’t even think they come back inside to get their stuff, they just leave.”
“What?” James said confused.
“JoAnne, Joey, Tyra, Harriet, Thomas, Pete, Wrangler…” Gina listed everyone off. “They haven’t been back into the party since they went out to the backyard for your jump-scare game.” James thought for a moment and realized that she could be right.
“Let’s see if their cars are still here,” James suggested. Gina walked with James to the front yard, where the make-shift parking lot James had created was still tightly packed.
“So whatever it is that you scare them with, spooks them so bad that they call an Uber?” Gina said confused. “Okay I have to see this.” Gina stormed off to the backyard. James trailed behind her.
“It’s just-” James tried to explain the decoration.
“I want to see it for myself,” Gina said, putting her hand up to silence him. James stopped halfway to the shed, so as not to spook himself as the skeleton drops.
Gina rounded the corner, as Beth had done the day before, and her scream rang out into the night. James started laughing until he realized that he couldn’t see Gina from where he was standing. He wanted to see her face, knowing it was probably intense anger from being scared by something she was expecting.
But as James rounded the corner, Gina was gone.
So was the skeleton.
“Gina?” James called out. “Gina, this isn’t funny”
James heard the teeth chattering on the other side of the shed.
“Gina…” James said softly. “Okay, you’ve had your fun, where is everyone?” James slowly crept around the corner of the shed, expecting Gina and everyone to be standing on the other side, laughing. But as he turned the corner…
The skeleton was hanging in midair, the tattered cloth flowing in the wind that was not there. Glowing red eyes stared down at him as the jaw chattered. The skeleton raised its bone arms and lunged at James. He ducked, just in time, and the skeleton floated right over him.
James stood up and turned around to see where the skeleton went, but it was gone again.
“AHHHHH!” a scream rang out from inside the house. James fearfully cast his eyes on the house. He could see clearly through all of the windows. The bay window in the dining room, the window on the back door, and the window in the kitchen. James’ guests were running frightfully through the house. Several were trying to open the back door, which seemed to be cemented shut.
The skeleton chased the guests through the house, with his arms extended. James could see the person running in fear, but once they were out of his line of sight from the yard, they were gone and their screams turned to silence.
Jessica. Harold. Becky. Richard. Steph. Paul. Kitty.
One by one, they were all chased into the dark recesses of the house, never to return. James was frozen with fear as the skeleton chased the last guest, Dominic.
James thought he should run. He knew how to hotwire a car and there were about 15 in his front yard. He just had to pick an older one and go. But his feet suddenly felt heavy and impossible to lift.
His legs suddenly tighten, no longer allowing him free movement of his knees. James is sure that he’s read about this somewhere… Something about temporary paralysis. He tries to remember what the article suggested to get rid of fear-stricken paralysis. But, Dominic’s screams suddenly stop. James is surrounded by deafening silence.
He doesn’t want to, but, James looks up. The house is now dark. He can see a pair of glowing red eyes peering at him through the bay window. The light from the moon catches the skeletons teeth and James could swear it was smiling.
At least I’m outside and it is trapped inside, right? James thinks to himself, desperately trying to free his legs and feet from their frozen state. He doesn’t break eye contact with the skeleton. He doesn’t want to lose track of where it is until he can run away. The skeleton raises one hand and points a finger at James.
In a blink, the skeleton has floated right through the bay window as if there was nothing there. James feels a knot in his throat, trying desparately to breathe or move. He will gladly accept either.
For several moments, the skeleton floats there, just past the bay window. The moon illuminates its tattered cloth cover as it appears to be whipped in the fierce wind. James looks at the trees, which are as still and steady as the moon.
Is it going to leave? James wondered to himself.
The skeleton’s eyes suddenly glowed more intensely and the skeleton let out a shrill cackle. It raised its arms as it lunged through the air toward James. Unable to move, James closed his eyes as he felt the skeletons bony fingers close around his neck.