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Halloween Writting Contest Entry 14

The following story was submitted as an entry in The Wanderer first annual Halloween Writing Contest.
The winner will be announced in the October 25, 2007 edition.
Stories will be posted on-line as they are available in print.

The Queen of the Spiders

The thirty-first day of October was looking to be a truly splendid day. Blue jays and chickadees were whistling sweetly in the trees and the weather outside was warm with the sun shining brightly in the cloudless sky overhead. There was just enough breeze to carry the smell of warm pumpkin pie throughout the village. One home which was the littlest of them all, stood just near the woods under three large oak trees with falling leaves of orange. Residing here, and working diligently to attach the final patch of fur to her fuzzy spider costume was a small child with a very extreme allergy to mint known as Kate.

Halloween was Kate's most favorite day of the whole year, so just as the final rays of sunlight vanished over the hills, she set out trick-or-treating with one hand clamped tightly around a large pillowcase to be filled to the very top with treats of all sorts by the end of the night. Following several hours of rapping upon the doors of neighbors and reciting "Trick-or-treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!" on each doorstep, Kate walked out of the village in search of more Halloween fun. Hearing footsteps behind her, Kate turned and saw Bartholomew and Steve, her two best friends.

"Happy Halloween Kate!" they said together.

"Same to you," Kate replied, "Come trick-or-treating with me!" So they all walked up to a grand estate on a hill and ascended the endless driveway which was darker than bats in the dark.

The children had to knock almost to the point of rudeness before the heavy wooden door slowly creaked open. There, beneath a long black cloak, stood a most elderly woman with long, twisted fingernails and greasy silver hair which hung down below her waist. She held a crooked staff in one hand that quivered slightly as the woman stood looking at the kids, until she began staring at the young girl before her. The friends, thinking of nothing else to do, stammered the three words that they had been repeating all night. Saying nothing, the old woman turned and walked away, leaving the door just slightly ajar. Moments later, she returned, carrying a few small candies in her hand, which she placed in those of Steve and Bartholomew. Then her expression changed from one of slight anger at being disturbed to a look of complete and utter sadness as she looked at Kate's face and then at the costume she was wearing. Finally, one small piece of taffy was placed in Kate's hand.

"T-thank y-you," the three replied, but as they began to leave, Kate looked up into the woman's cold grey eyes and could almost feel the true sadness behind them.

Though she hadn't the slightest idea of what she had done to upset her Kate managed a cheery, "Happy Halloween!"

The woman just nodded, biting her lip as her eyes filled with tears. Once back on the street, Kate, Bartholomew, and Steve, now a bit shaken up from their most previous call, gathered up all the confidence they could muster, and continued on, as their pillowcases were not yet filled. The next cottage they came upon looked very much like each of their own homes and like most of the other village houses: a thatched roof, shutters over the windows and wooden walls, painted red. Much unlike the last house, this one had many festive decorations and even spooky music.

"This is more like it!" Kate thought as she admired the inviting scene, wishing her house looked as brilliant as this one on Halloween.

Skeleton and ghost decorations hung from the trees and huge spider webs had been laid atop the bushes in the yard. Though the luminous decor and many carved jack-o-lanterns lit up the house with an orange glow, not one light could be seen on inside the house. As they drew nearer to the house, a large bowl lying on the doorstep came into view. It contained just a few candies as it was late in the night and most trick-or-treaters had finished collecting candy by now. A small scrap of paper had been left beside the bowl, and written on it in very messy handwriting it read:

"Please help yourselves ... but take only one ... Happy Halloween!"

"They must be away or just out trick-or-treating," Kate thought aloud as she reached for one of the small candies. On the green wrapper it read "Monster Mints." But as soon as she had picked it up, Kate threw the treat back into the bowl, knowing that mint made her eyes water severely and gave her hives. Bartholomew and Steve, dressed as a cowboy and astronaut, went up to the bowl to each get a Monster Mint, as they had no allergy to them. The three friends then journeyed on until they had come to every single house in the area, passing many other costumed folks along the way. Pillowcases stuffed to the seams, they headed back into their village and towards their homes. On the way, the children decided to eat some of their candy. Kate consumed a small bar of almond chocolate, and her friends were very curious to try the mysterious Monster Mints, as none of them had heard of them before. The two friends agreed that they tasted like not much more than your average breath mint, and then they all stuffed themselves with lollipops and peanut butter cups and all kinds of chocolate until they could eat no more.

By the time that they all arrived back at Kate's house it was just one minute to midnight. As Bartholomew and Steve said goodnight the large clock in the village center struck twelve, and they had barely made it past Kate's short driveway when they stopped suddenly. A bolt of lightning lit up the sky and Bartholomew got a very dazed look in his eyes as strips of cloth materialized out of thin air and wrapped themselves around and around him. They left space only for his eyes, which now glowed a blood red. While all this was happening, Steve's skin had changed to a nasty shade of green and his clothes tore themselves and became ragged and dirty, his eyes now a misty black. The two of them then let out a horrible moan, turned shakily, and walked off down the street, not looking back.

Kate, who was still standing in the doorway shrieked as more villagers transformed into mummies and zombies like her friends had as well as vampires, werewolves, and some were even ghosts. It appeared as though everyone in the village had turned into a monster except for Kate, who even looked at herself in the bathroom mirror to be sure she hadn't changed. Bewildered by the situation, Kate ran outside. She had to save her friends and bring them back to normal.

As she ran out the front door, she was trampled to the ground by two vampires who took no notice of her but laughed diabolically and Kate saw that all of the creatures were walking in the direction of the woods as though hypnotized. She wished dearly to go and try to find Bartholomew and Steve, but thought better of it. It would be near impossible to find them in the mob and it could be dangerous too. She walked to the end of her dirt driveway, where her friends had transformed and then tried to find a clue as to what had occurred. All that was left was their Halloween candy, half eaten.

"Could it have been something they ate?" Kate suggested to herself.

But wait, she had eaten those things, too. Then a little green wrapper blew out of Steve's bag and onto the ground.

"The Monster Mints!" Kate exclaimed aloud. As the only one in the village with a mint allergy, she must have been the only person in the village who hadn't taken one from the bowl. The name "Monster Mints" made sense now, they turned you into a monster! Kate could think of only one way to find out who was behind this cruel Halloween prank, and that was to go back to the mysterious house that they had come from. Kate had to dodge thousands of monsters, some furry, some with scales, and some who even had multiple eyeballs and appendages.

The house looked the same as it had before, except that the music had ceased playing and the lighted decorations had been extinguished, but not long ago because smoke still rose from the candles within the jack-o-lanterns and bright luminaria that lit the narrow path down the driveway, now creating an atmosphere far less welcoming. The bowl by the door had been removed too.

Traveling down the driveway this time, Kate took much closer notice of the yard in which she stood. It was quite overgrown and had several large trees lining the property's edge, blocking it almost completely from view of the main road. Big bushes blocked the driveway so it was almost completely hidden too. Kate was determined to save her friends and every one else from who- or what- ever was in the house so she kept going. She slunk towards the house staying close to the woods that surrounded the small yard incase she needed to hide.

"I could just lay down in the grass and be hidden!" she chuckled to herself.

The grass was indeed a few feet tall and yellowing; nowhere near the color and neatness of the lush green lawns down the street. One extremely pleasant feature of the yard however, was that even though it was mosquito season and many insects were about, not one could be found here. Kate decided that she would much prefer to sneak into the house rather than face the monster that could be lurking inside, so she crept around the house in search of a back door. But she didn't find one. The windows had all been boarded up as well, so seeing anything inside the house wasn't possible. The only remaining option was the front door. It was locked, but not well because after five minutes of meddling in the keyhole with a pin from her hair the door clicked open.

First, Kate listened. Hearing nothing, she cautiously swung the door into the house. Half-expecting something to leap out and grab her, she edged her way over the threshold. Her new surroundings were astonishing! Inside the house, there was absolutely nothing! There wasn't even a second floor; the ceiling stood as high as the roof outside. No other rooms where in the house either, just this one large one. And inside it was only some dust and old abandoned spider webs. This made the brave girl exceedingly confused. It seemed as though whoever had put out that bowl must live somewhere else. But she still wasn't ready to leave just yet. Kate walked around, feeling the walls and looking for a trap door or something else of interest when she tripped over a board in the floor. Feeling slightly foolish, she rose and dusted herself off.

Later in the search, she tripped once again and landed on the floor with her face in the dust. From the ground, Kate saw that the floorboard in front of the one she was lying upon was free of dust. She slipped her fingers under its edge and it lifted much to her excitement. Beneath the floor lay a tunnel lined with stone. It was about a five foot square Kate realized as she pushed the surrounding boards away. This chute obviously led underground, though how far it went was undeterminable because it was pitch dark. A silky rope led downward and because there appeared to be no other way down that was safer than jumping, Kate grasped the rope and descended the tunnel. The temperature change was quite extreme; below ground it was much colder than it had been in the house. Kate put the lantern she had been carrying with her in her mouth so that she would be able to see when she was getting closer to the ground. After at least one hundred feet of repelling off the wall, the stone ground came into view. It was just a small drop below her, so Kate let the rope go and landed on the solid ground.

With the light from the lantern, Kate could see about thirty feet in front of her. A stone corridor led north as far as she could see. Coming around the next bend, Kate had to clamp her hand over her mouth to keep from letting out an ear-piercing scream. There, splayed out on the floor were three dead people with faces of ghostly white. It looked like all of the blood had been drained out of them. These men were clad in leather armor, one bearing a small bow. Another had a sword lying beside him and the last, a dagger in its sheath. They all had perished fairly recently and with their eyes and mouths wide open as if they had been trying to scream but no sound had come out. They had obviously been attempting to destroy whatever evil lay down here, but had failed in a fight to the death.

Kate almost cried with fear and wanted more than anything to be back home, but her friends needed her. She could hardly lift the long sword on the ground so she picked up the dagger as a method of defense should that be necessary. Continuing down along the corridor, Kate grimaced as her eyes fell upon several other skeletons which appeared to be the remains of other happenings not unlike the situation faced by those first men she'd seen. Next she came up to a fork in the path off of which one could travel to the east or stay on the main path. The brave young adventurer decided to veer off to the left and find what lay down this side hallway first. So she held the lantern out before her and marched on.

However, only a few steps down this new route, Kate was brought to a halt by a spider web glinting in the lantern's light. Although, no ordinary arachnid could have constructed such a thing, for the web blocking Kate's path stretched from wall to wall and floor to ceiling of the corridor. Looking closer, the girl could see that this web had been created from the very same thread-like material as the rope that led down the tunnel. Kate knew that only a giant spider could have made this sort of web. Kate used her dagger to part the strands of silk so that she could see what lay beyond. Doing this proved no easy task because the material was sticky, so removing it from the dagger's blade was almost as challenging as removing a strand of it that had become tangled in her hair. Behind the web was about ten more feet of hallway and then a solid stone wall.

Although one more web-like structure still hung between Kate and that wall as well as one more of the giant spider's victims: though this time it was not human, but instead a small orange kitten was hanging from the ceiling as if wrapped in a cocoon of silk.

With the web material being semi-transparent, it could be seen that the cat too, had been sucked of its blood. Kate also noticed that this animal had white fur on the tip of her orange tail, marking her as Fluffy, Steve's pet kitten. Everyone had believed that Fluffy had run away last week, but the new truth was horrifying. Shaking uncontrollably, knowing that there was nothing that could be done for Fluffy now, Kate stepped over the spider web and dragged her feet back to the main path and continued on. Every few steps she shut her eyes as she passed another of the monster's meals, lying bloodless on the floor or hanging from the ceiling.

Some of the ghostly white figures were people, though many were not. Other cats, dogs, raccoons and even a deer had been captured. Suddenly, Kate heard movement behind her. She drew her dagger and whirled around, prepared to fight the beast. As the figure approached and moved into the light of the lantern, it could be seen that it had only two feet and was wearing a long black cloak. Once in the direct light this stranger was easily recognizable as the odd woman from the house on the hill. Not sure whether she was friend or foe, Kate did not strike nor lower the dagger until the woman began to speak.

After introducing herself as Lola, she looked up into Kate's innocent eyes and drew in a deep breath, then said,

"Many years ago, my own son walked by this house dressed as a spider just like you. No one ever saw him again after he trick-or-treated here. Later, I ventured into the house myself and found the passage under the floor. All I had a chance to see was a glimpse of the giant spider before I went running back home in fright. After seeing villagers turning into monsters I knew the spiders had to be involved so I came down here to find out what they had done. It has been a long time since they captured another human, though. The spiders are hungry Kate, they want fresh blood, lots of it, and they can only get that from humans."

Kate told Lola about the Monster Mints at the house and they both came to the conclusion that the spiders couldn't have done that alone. They knew that the only way to figure out who was really behind this was to follow the monsters to the woods and see what lay there. Without another word they turned and set back down the corridor in the direction they had come.

The monster-people needed to be saved. Kate and Lola reached the forest just in time to see the last of the monster-people enter it. They scurried along behind them, slowly making their way to the front of the pack. It then became clear where they were all headed: the big abandoned bear cave at the top of the hill. The white moon shone brightly overhead as most of the village climbed the winding path up the hill in a hypnotic gaze. The monster-people moved at a very slow pace, so Kate and Lola soon had a great lead on them, which was gradually becoming greater. When they reached the hilltop they slunk along the side of the cave and hid in its mammoth shadows where the moonlight wouldn't give them away. Kate heard a distinctive hissing sound from the inside of the cave and knew it must be the spiders.

There had to be at least ten giant spiders in the cave now because the noise had grown louder and louder as more of them joined in. Judging by the size of the webs underground, even one spider would be too big to fight with a dagger alone. Kate would need to find another way. The villagers were getting very close to the cave, so Kate and Lola needed to act now. Kate tugged on one of the legs of her spider costume as she tried to devise a plan.

Suddenly Lola said: "Go in there and use your costume to distract the spiders!"

"Are you mad?" Kate replied, a look of horror on her face. "I'll have the blood sucked out of me!"

"Please try," Lola reassured her, "You're our only hope."

Kate was still in no position to give up and though she wouldn't admit it, she could think of no other solution. The terrified girl edged her way through the cave's entrance, more scared than she'd been in her life. Once inside, Kate saw about eighty eyes looking at her hungrily. Then, using the best spider act she could come up with, crawled across the cave floor, once again shaking with fear. The shaking worked to her advantage because it gave the illusion that the eight legs on her costume were crawling. Then she let out a long slow hiss, trying to sound as Fluffy had upon seeing her neighbor's black lab. At first the spiders only stared, but then they crept towards Kate a little, but no longer with any intention of eating her, but now because they thought Kate was their leader.

And then from the shadows came another person ... dressed as a spider, a grown man with the same grey eyes as Lola. He was dirty and unshaven, his costume tattered and worn and now only consisting of six and a half legs. He then tore off his spider costume and ran from the cave, yelling with joy. The spiders fixed their glare on Kate now, as if waiting for instructions. Unsure of the right thing to do, Kate began to back up, and the spiders followed. They didn't stop following her all the way down the back of the hill to the swamp that lay below, where no one went much because of the infinite number of mosquitoes that lived there.

But the hungry beasts were thrilled to have insects to eat and they ran into the swamp and began to spin webs at once. Kate, however, ran the other way. As soon as she moved, the spiders looked up and began to hiss most unkindly. When Kate began to retreat back up the hill, one of the spiders pounced on her, showing that there was no way she was leaving alive. So, Kate waited with the spiders as they spun their webs and ate their flies.

As the first rays of sunlight touched the crowd of monsters, they began to transform back into their original human state. Of course, none of them remembered anything from the moment they had all begun to transform, so waking in the middle of the woods was a great shock. So, thinking of nothing else logical to do, the villagers walked home, chattering endlessly.

Back on the hilltop, Lola and her son had been reunited. Her son had been freed from the spiders, but it would be some time before Kate realized that she was the new Queen of the Spiders ...