Some of the houses that we passed by were totally dark. This might have meant that they were submerged beneath the spell that had given rise to so many horrors this night. On the other hand, it might have meant that the owners of the houses were simply gone for the evening, or had turned off the lights in an effort to discourage trick-or-treaters.
Speaking of trick-or-treaters—we saw no more of them at this stage. I half suspected that we might have stayed out past the allotted time for trick-or-treat; but I knew better. We hadn’t been out that long. There should still have been some late stragglers, at any rate.
Other houses had lights in the windows. Theoretically, we could have stopped at any one of them; but we had no way of knowing who and what would be behind any given door.
And besides, that wasn't the point. This was a journey that we had to finish. Taking refuge in someone’s house would only delay the inevitable.
I had a crude game plan for getting us home, too: We were about halfway through our normal Halloween route, maybe a little more.
I was daring to trust that this would all work out. We had made it this far; and we would make it the rest of the way home, if only we could evade these things out here for a little longer. While these forces were formidable, they were clearly not all-powerful.
I was walking evenly with Leah and Bobby now. As inconspicuously as possible, I raised the ax in my hand, appreciating its heft. (I did not want to appear to be showing off or grandstanding.) When I got home, where the world would hopefully be normal again, I would stow the ax somewhere—probably in my father’s woodpile. Then I would find a way to return it. Yes, that would be a good thing: to have the time and the space to worry about a mundane problem like the return of a pilfered ax.
“Oh, man,” Bobby said suddenly. “Get a look at that, will you?”
We all saw the forest green ’74 Chevrolet Nova—or rather, what was left of it.
Jimmy Wilson had loved that car, and it had been the object of much envy around the neighborhood. No one, however, would ever drive this car again.
The damage was so vast, it was difficult to take it all in at once.
The windshield had been smashed into a thousand tiny fragments. Shards of glass still clung to the frame, of course, but most of the windshield was scattered all about the pavement. All four tires had been slashed. There were dents all around the body: not shallow dents, but the deep sort of dents that could only be made with a sledgehammer or another heavy bludgeoning tool. The hood was a mess of scratches, and, I saw, some deep punctures that went clear through the metal.
Obscenities were spray-painted on the hood as well, along with a crude drawing of both male and female genitalia. Ronald, Jerry, and Larry would be in middle age if they had been alive today; they had been dead for twenty years. But they were still teenage hoodlums. For some reason, that made them all the more terrifying. Supernatural versions of Matt Stefano, I thought.
The front driver’s side door had been left open, and looked to be askew on its hinges. The upholstery of the front seat had been torn as with a boxcutter or butcher knife.
“That car might possibly be drivable,” Bobby said, appraising the destruction. “But it’s totaled for all intents and purposes. Jimmy Wilson’s pride and joy is good for nothing but the scrap heap now.”
Leah wasn't as interested in the car as she was in the perpetrators of the damage. She wrapped her arms around herself and said, “Are they still around, do you think—the boys who did this damage?”
They aren’t boys, I thought. If they ever were boys, they aren’t boys anymore.
“It doesn't look like it,” Bobby offered. “If they were around, I think that they would have shown themselves by now. They don’t exactly seem like a shy bunch, do they?
“They’re gone, I think,” I said. I involuntarily raised the ax again. If the long-dead vandals were to show up, would the ax be of any use against them? I had no idea. “We should just keep moving. It isn’t safe for us to stay here, and there’s nothing for us to do here, anyway. Jimmy Wilson deserted us, after all. The car is his problem.”
“Damn right,” Bobby said, nodding.
“Okay,” Leah said. “But I have a bad feeling about this.”
“I have a bad feeling about the entire night,” I agreed. “But we can’t stop moving. Let’s go.”