Halloween Contest 2023

The Neighborhood by Mark Paul

Welcome to my dysfunctional family. You won’t recognize us. We are not what you’ve come to expect when you hear the word dysfunctional. We celebrate halloween all year ‘round but we don’t advertise. We don’t need fake tombstones and skeletons–stupid glow-in-the-dark ghosts. WE, are the real deal. You have no idea! “Home sweet home.” “The burbs.” “Life is good” t-shirts. Real cute. You want a pillowcase full of candy? Follow me. 

“What are you talking about? Where is my brother? How did I get here?” 

You really don’t appreciate how special this day is. You think it’s all about feeding your sweet tooth. Stuffing your pudgy, putrid face. Eating. Buying. Eating. Buying. Take a selfie. I’ve got some selfies to show you. 

“Where is my brother?!” 

“He’s waiting for you.” 


“This way, but be careful, the stairs are old and slippery.” 

“I’m Not going down there.” 

“Why? You knocked on my door. You came begging.” 

“All I said was trick or treat.” 

“A little old for this aren’t you?” 

“I’m 15, I was taking care of my brother.” 

“I guess you’re not a very good babysitter.” 

The large, hairy man licked something white and foamy from his shabby mustache then started down the creaky stairs, his blue work pants falling well below the crack in his ass. Elliot turned to run but there was no place to go. The hallway had disappeared. He was engulfed in darkness. Then he heard his brother laughing, and some other children. It was coming from the basement. 

Reluctantly he followed the oaf. The smell of damp earth and gasoline wafted up from the cellar–and a peculiar odor he didn’t recognize. The temperature dropped. The cellar was piled high with junk. Old engines, shelves with old coffee cans, a pinball machine, TV’s, radios, every kind of tool imaginable, and

taxidermy: a racoon, beaver, deer, black bear, and even a squirrel. Elliot thought for sure the faces, covered in dust and cobwebs, were smiling. 

The man was no longer in front of him. Elliot made his way through a narrow path, still following the sound of children. Suddenly there was something over his head. He was cold and warm at the same time. Elliot struggled to breathe. He couldn’t move. His mouth was dry, his thirst intense. No more sound. 

Elliot’s mother was crying when she saw his eyes flicker and open. Elliot looked around, disoriented. Eventually he asked, “where am I?” 

“You’re at home sweetie. You ate too much candy and forgot to take your insulin.” 

“Where is Malcolm?” 

“Don’t worry about your little brother, he’s with a new friend.” 

“But where?” 

“You know that black house on the corner, the one we always comment on because it seems like no one is ever home? Well, turns out there is a boy there his age.” 

Elliot felt a burst of adrenaline, tried to jump out of bed, but passed out before he could move.