The substitute teacher is writing as fast as he can on the chalkboard. The bell for the end of the period will be ringing soon. He has a very specific lesson plan that needs to be covered before that happens, and he is determined to do just that.
He completes the final word just as the bell rings. He sighs in satisfaction and sets the chalk down before turning to the class and pointing at the board.
“And that,” he tells the students with a satisfied smile, “is how you’re going to murder your parents tonight.”
They all nod eagerly.
The little girl moves back and forth on the swing slowly, her hands wrapped around the chains and the points of her feet barely touching the dirt. She is alone on the playground; there aren’t many children remaining in the neighborhood, and those that are haven’t come out to play today.
She looks up as she hears the bushes nearby rustle. A monstrous creature, pale white and nearly translucent, steps out of them and slowly approaches. It stares at the little girl as it breathes heavily.
After a moment, it sits down next to her and begins to swing.
The retirement home is quiet for the night. A lone nurse walks the hallways, going from room to room to check on each of the residents as they sleep.
She comes to the room of one of the oldest residents, a man that has been at the facility since before she was hired. His body is thin and frail, and each breath that he draws is ragged. She has often wondered how he has managed to make it this long.
She glances at his chart. He’s close to the end now. The Doctor has him scheduled for dissection on Tuesday.
The girl walks into the restaurant, a carving knife in her hand.
She is the head of the cheerleading team. She receives the highest grades in her class. She is the lead in the school play. All of her friends defer to her.
She is a leader, and others are followers.
The girl raises the knife to her throat and makes a slashing motion without breaking her skin. The patrons in the restaurant, unaware of what they are doing, pick up their own knives and cut open their own throats. As they bleed to death, she smiles.
A leader indeed.
The street performer stands motionless on the sidewalk near the library steps. He is dressed in a black suit with long tails, and a matching tophat adorns his head. His hands are covered by white silk gloves. His left hand is frozen in the middle of a wave, while the right is pointed towards a glass jar filled with money from passerbyers.
He has been still for over a day. Everyone that has seen him agrees it is an amazing feat.
It would be several more days before anyone notices the smell of death coming from him.
The woman stares into the mirror, not understanding exactly what she’s seeing. The image reflected back at her is her own, but it is distorted. The flesh on her face hangs low like melting rubber, revealing the bone of her eye sockets and the pink of her lower gums. Most of her hair is missing. The bits that remain are clumped together in small scraggly patches. Her eyes are yellowed and unhealthy.
She puts a hand to her face, wondering who would create such a vile trick mirror. As she does so, she feels her skin droop over her fingertips.
The boy dressed in the skeleton costume leans in to examine the white pumpkin sitting on the doorstep. He has never seen one quite this color before, and it is almost perfectly round. Two triangular eyes and a jagged mouth have been drawn on it in marker.
He sets down his bag of candy and reaches out to touch it. It is cool and smooth.
The boy quickly backs away as the white pumpkin begins to hatch.
A red light shines out from the nearby lighthouse. It barely manages to pierce through the heavy storm, and the captain of the haggard ship nearly misses seeing it. With a sigh of relief, he turns the vessel away from the rocks and back into open water.
Less than a minute later, the ship lurches to a stop with the sound of metal shredding from the hull. It has been gutted, and saltwater rapidly pours inside. As the captain orders the crew to abandon ship, he looks back at the light.
It has grown larger, and it is drawing closer.
The madman splashes paint on to the canvas, his hand guided by the roiling madness in his mind. He works with a frenzy that he has never experienced before, and the grin on his face grows wider and wider with each stroke of the brush. The image he is crafting begins to take shape. It is a portrait of darkness and despair the likes of which the world has never seen.
Finished, he throws back his head and laughs wildly, the brush and paint pallet falling from his hands to the floor. A moment later, the painting joins in.
The sound of the movie projector fills the room as the old film strip runs through it. The elderly man sits in his tall leather chair and stares at the images being shown on the screen. He sees himself during his younger days, so vibrant and alive with promise. Those days are long behind him.
A masked figure appears on the screen. The old man sighs. The debt from all those years ago has come due. He sits back in the chair and closes his eyes.
The figure reaches out from the screen and wraps its hands around his throat.