Room for One More

This is a submission for Jixemitri’s 2009 Halloween Writing Challenge, which is Jixemitri Circle Writing Challenge #21.  I like the way Thomas Jefferson referred to New York City—he always capitalized “City” even when not preceded by “New York”.  Just warning ya'. *g*  The story is too short to bother with a pdf file.  Thanks to Susan for the super speedy edit!!!!

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Blackness gradually descended on Glen Road, until the moon rose in the sky, shedding its light across the dwellings situated along the curving country road—Crabapple Farm, Manor House, the ruins of Ten Acres. The night was peaceful, almost eerily so. No breeze rustled the few leaves left on the trees. The chatter of nocturnal animals was conspicuously absent. A hush fell over the sleepy little town and its surroundings.

Most of the inhabitants of Glen Road slept peacefully, their dreams innocuous and pleasant. Bobby Belden was dreaming of all of the candy that he was going to collect the following evening, Halloween. His older sister was dreaming of the money that her club was going to collect trick-or-treating for UNICEF. His two older brothers’ dreams involved the women that they loved. And so it went, everyone enjoying a tranquil slumber.

Almost everyone, that is.

Honey Wheeler could not sleep. The lack of normal sounds coming from outside of her room disturbed her. The air, despite the October chill, felt oppressive. She tossed and turned until she heard the grandfather clock in the hall striking the ominous hour of midnight. Midnight on All Hallow’s Eve. Honey wasn’t sure why that thought would suddenly come to mind, but it did, and it only increased her restlessness.

At the twelfth stroke, she threw her covers aside and stood. Something compelled her to move toward her windows, and she lifted the curtain and stared out into the desolate night. Again, she noted how still it was. Nothing stirred. Something wasn’t right.

But, as she stared at the winding driveway below, she realized that something was stirring. There was movement, something long and sleek moving up the driveway.

A limo? Honey thought. Who would be visiting us at this hour?

The Wheelers were not expecting any guests, but Honey thought that perhaps one of her father’s business associates had decided to unexpectedly stop by, not caring about the hour, knowing that he would be welcomed.

The long black car rolled slowly onward, and Honey wished that it would move a little faster. She was eager to see who could be calling on them this late.

As it moved out of the shadows and into the full moonlight, Honey gasped. This was not a limousine. It was a…hearse.

Why was a hearse casually rolling up the winding driveway to the Manor House as if it belonged there? This made even less sense than a limousine. Honey stared, unable to comprehend the vision before her. The long black car made its way around the circle drive directly below her window and finally stopped, its rear end facing her. The young woman stood transfixed, unable to move as the door on the driver’s side opened.

A tall, thin man emerged from the car. Honey strained to see in the relative darkness, but the moonlight was strong enough that she was able to determine that his head was crowned with a very thick shock of unruly dark hair. In contrast to his tresses, his body was gaunt, his clothes hanging on his skeletal frame. He turned and moved toward the rear of the car, and Honey was able to see his face a little better. Large eyes looked almost hollow in their sockets, and pale skin pulled tautly on sharp cheekbones. Thin lips stretched over unusually large teeth. When the man reached the rear door of the hearse, his head swiveled upward. Honey’s terrified hazel eyes were glued to the scene unfolding before her, and she could not tear them away, even when the horrible figure smiled the most unsettling, chilling smile that Honey had ever seen.

But still, she did not scream. She did not turn away. She watched as the man opened the rear door of the hearse. Honey expected to see a coffin, but she did not. Instead, the back of the hearse was crowded with people. Many sets of lifeless eyes stared up at her. Honey knew that she would never forget the look of desolation and despair that graced the face of each and every person in the back of that hearse.

The driver continued to stare up at her as he held the door.

"There’s room for one more, miss," he said politely.

At that, the spell was broken, and Honey let the curtain that her icy hands were clenching drop. She hurried back to bed and tried desperately to forget the terrifying sight she had just witnessed. She did not know how long she lay there replaying the strange scene in her mind, but when morning came she could almost convince herself that it had been a dream. How many times had she had realistic nightmares when she was a child? It wasn’t inconceivable that she would have a nightmare every now and then, remnants from an unhappy childhood lingering in her subconscious. It was Halloween—what better time for her imagination to be running rampant?

But it had been so real.

Honey shook off the unease of the night before. The Bob-Whites had a busy day ahead of them, and it wouldn’t do to dwell on the impossible. She and her friends were going to head to the City and trick-or-treat for UNICEF in her parents’ apartment building and then have a slumber party in the penthouse suite. Miss Trask had already agreed to chaperone. Everyone was looking forward to it.

The young woman thought that she and her friends had outdone themselves with their costumes this year. Trixie, in an effort to impress Jim, had decided to go all girly and dress as a young German maiden, complete with platform shoes that didn’t really fit the costume but looked cute nonetheless. Jim, in return, was dressing up in traditional German garb, complete with Lederhosen. Diana had talked a very-willing Mart into dressing up as Romeo to her Juliet. Dan’s gangster costume perfectly matched the flapper outfit that Ruthie Kettner had donned to join the group in their fundraising efforts. Brian and Honey had gone for more cerebral costumes. She was going to dress as the buried maiden in "The Fall of the House of Usher" to Brian’s Edgar Allen Poe.

Trying to cheer herself with thoughts of the costumes they would wear and the money they would make for UNICEF, the young woman slipped out of bed, quickly dressed, and hurried downstairs to breakfast.

The morning passed quickly, and soon the Bob-Whites were on the train into the City with Miss Trask, their costumes carefully packed. All of them were excited. Anytime the group could get together for a "house party" was a cause for delight, but adding costumes, Halloween, a charity, and the exoticness of the City made for an extra special occasion.

After a day spent sightseeing, the penthouse apartment was a happy jumble of chaos as the young men and women prepared themselves for an evening of trick-or-treating. Honey smiled at Brian, dashing in his Poe get-up. As happy as she was, though, the young woman could not forget her experience of the night before. The face of the driver would appear before her eyes at odd moments. The lifeless stares of the hearse occupants would cross her mind every so often. Honey told herself that it had to have been a dream, as real as it had seemed at the time. Honey had thought that she was restless and awake when in reality she had been sleeping the entire time.

After Miss Trask had taken numerous pictures of the group as a whole and of each separate couple, the Bob-Whites and Ruthie were ready to commence their evening of fundraising. There was a small Halloween gathering occurring in the lobby, so the group decided to start there and rode the elevator down to the first floor. It was when they arrived in the lobby lounge that Honey realized that she had forgotten her UNICEF box.

"I’ll go get it and be right down," she promised as she hurried toward the elevators.

"I’ll go with you," Brian said as he tried to catch up with her.

"No, that’s okay," Honey called, already near the elevator bank. "Stay here and get money," she ordered with a grin.

She rode the elevator to the top floor, noting how crowded it seemed, but she decided that it was Halloween that was bringing out the crowds. She smiled at the elevator operator as she exited and hurried toward the apartment, greatly amused that her parents’ building still clung to its image of the privileged past with tenacity. She breathlessly grabbed her box and headed back down the hallway to the bank of elevators.

She had to wait quit a long time for the elevator car this time, and she reflected again how busy it was on Halloween.

Finally, the elevator arrived at her floor, and the door opened, revealing a crowded car. Honey hurried toward the elevator, eager to rejoin her friends in the lobby, and then stopped in horror as the elevator operator turned his large eyes toward her. He was tall and thin, almost skeleton-like, with a thick mane of dark hair. He smiled, his thin lips revealing overly large teeth.

Honey gasped. It was the hearse driver.

"There’s room for one more, miss," he said politely.

"N-no, thank you," she stammered. "I’ll take the next one." She knew it was ridiculous, but the sight of this man before her repeating the words he had said last night startled her so much that she was unable to take a step forward and enter the elevator car.

"As you wish," he said, and the door shut.

Honey stood there, once again rooted to the spot as she had been the night before. It was then that she heard loud clanking sounds coming from the elevator shaft followed by a loud snap and a whoosh. The last thing she heard before she fainted was the screams of everyone in that elevator, each one plunging to their death 32 stories below.

 

Additional notes:  This is an urban legend I found at Snopes.com, the ultimate urban legend reference!

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Trixie Belden® is a registered trademark of Random House Books. These pages are not affiliated with Random House Books in any way. These pages are not for profit.

Title image was obtained from Joe Penniston via a Creative Commons License.  I did not alter the actual image, just added a border and the title.  Anyone recognize the elevator?  It's from a famous spot!

Story and graphics copyright © GSDana