Baleful Bones
rating: -6+x

A cool breeze blew through the neighborhood streets, chasing the leaves over the ground. Children were walking down the street dressed up as ghosts and ghouls, giggling as they moved from one house to the next. This was to be expected, as is the case every October. So when Dale heard a knock on his door he was unsurprised.

He put the piece of candy he was about to unwrap back into his pocket, grabbed his candy bowl and opened the door. On his doorstep stood three children no older than ten. A pirate, princess, and pumpkin stared up at him excitedly. As he gave them their candy he noticed two men walking down the street. They were in full military get up, and they even had prop guns. “Those almost look real,” thought Dale. One of them carried a bag as they leisurely strolled down the sidewalk, presumably filled with candy. He wished the children well, and watched as the two men turned to walk across his yard, much to his annoyance. He had a pathway afterall, why trample the grass?

As they drew near he heard one say “You know candy’s not the goal tonight, we don’t have to go to every house.” The one with the bag in his hand chirped “Yea, but counterpoint– free candy!” The man stepped onto the porch and proudly said “Trick or treat.” Dale just looked at him and dropped one of those tiny snickers in the bag. “Much appreciated,” he said. Behind him, his friend bluntly asked “Sir, have you seen anything weird tonight?” Dale ticked his head to the side. “It’s halloween, everything is weird tonight.” The man with the candy bag asked, “Nothing SPoOoKy?” to which his friend audibly sighed. Dale just shrugged.

Suddenly there was a shout from across the street. The two men's heads whipped around, seeking the source. Dale peered between them and saw that at the house across the street were two men also in military garb. They were backing up and shouting things like “CONTACT!” and “GET BACK!” They must really be committed to the bit, thought Dale. That was until a giant skeletal hand reached out from inside the house and ripped open the door frame, making room for its giant rib cage as a giant mass of bones crawled out from the home. Slowly they began to restructure themselves and soon there was a twenty foot skeleton standing in the yard.

Dale was so transfixed on the insanity unfolding that he did not even notice that the two men left their bag and went to join the two others in the street. The four had taken defensive postures and began to shoot the thing with what he now realized were not mere props. The thing leaned back and let out a high pitched laugh despite having no organs. Soon there was a full firefight as the monstrosity attempted to crush anyone close to it. Dale, fearing what would happen if he stayed, ran out of his home and down the street. He was panicking, running as fast as his feet would take him, just trying to get clear of the rapidly occurring destruction.

As he ran away from the skeleton, others ran towards it armed with rifles and even a rocket he thought. He didn’t really know; he was too afraid to focus on that. When he made it to the corner he found his way blocked by more people armed to the teeth, and herding those trying to flee together. Dale turned and watched as dozens of people surrounded the thing and fired at it, to the extent that he couldn’t pick out individual shots. As one soldier fired a rocket the street lit up like day. The monster was unfazed and proceeded to bend down and try to grab the soldiers. It was slow enough that most were able to dodge, and the few who couldn’t were thrown towards their comrades.

It was a surreal sight; soldiers fighting a giant skeleton on a street decorated for halloween. Behind him he heard children crying, and suddenly he was being violently pulled back and shoved into a van. The last thing he saw was a helicopter overhead. It flew by and soon after there was an explosion, but the door was closed before he could see what happened.

In the van with him were two of the kids from earlier and various other adults. They tried to yell at the drivers but they either couldn’t hear or didn’t care. They tried to console the crying children, but they were frightened beyond their ability to remedy. There was nothing they could do but wait.

After a ride that felt like hours crammed shoulder to shoulder, they were taken and put into cells. Here, a person in a lab coat came and took the children, promising that they would be reunited with their parents. They did not take any questions and left them in a deafening silence.

Soon after another person in the same lab coat came. Before they could say anything a woman dressed as a witch shouted “What the fuck just happened! What was with the fucking skeleton and why are we–” The man in the coat cut her off, “We will explain it all to you later. For now we just need you in one spot so we can make sure everyone is safe and so we can collect statements. We will have you out and on your way as soon as we can.” With that he took one person with him and left. As the others began to discussed the whole ordeal Dale stared blankly still in shock.

One by one they were each taken out of the cell until finally a woman took Dale. She wore jeans and a blouse over which was the same lab coat all the other people wore. Dale felt detached, like his body was moving on its own. The woman in the lab coat and some kind of officer took him down various hallways, stopping here and there to take his picture or get his fingerprints. “I thought yall just wanted statements, why do you want my picture and prints?” He proclaimed as the sensation of the soft ink pad brought him back to his senses. “It’s just protocol, please hang on to your questions for the interview” the officer stated raggedly. Dale could tell she was not one he wanted to annoy and so he stayed quiet.

Another few minutes another set of hallways and he was quickly guided into a small room. He surveyed it briefly as the woman in the labcoat sat down. There was what he assumed to be a two-way mirror on his right with pumpkin stickers haphazardly applied. The table and chairs were cold and metallic, the only thing set upon it was the woman's notepad. She was writing something down quickly but soon finished and looked up at Dale.

“So, can we get you anything? I understand you’ve been through a lot in the past few hours.” She said sympathetically. Dale was anxious but tried to hide it. “ Uhhh… water? I guess.” The woman opened the door and said something to someone outside. “Alright, it will be here shortly. Now my name is Katelynn and I want to ask you some questions.” she said calmly. “About the giant goddamn skeleton!” Dale said, raising his voice. The numbness he felt was beginning to fade. Now he felt angry, indignation, fear. So many different emotions starting to flow back into his head now that this woman was prodding him.

“Yes… about the giant skeleton,” Katelynn repeated with a slight smile. “Did you notice anything unusual the past few days? Strange lights, odd people, a feeling of being watched? Anything ring a bell?” Dale shook his head. He had barely been home recently, work being what it is. Katelynn made a note and then asked “Have you seen children talking to anyone you don’t know or to no one in particular?” Again, Dale shook his head. “Ok…” She said, “have you seen candy like this being handed out?” She produced a paper from under her notepad. On it was a picture of a small round candy. The wrapper was black and orange with a skull in the center.

Dale’s face went white. Getting out of his car today when a woman in a bright purple suit tossed him something. He just shoved it into his pocket for later, thinking nothing of it. Until now that is. Slowly he reached in and pulled out a small round candy. Its package had come undone partially while in his pocket. Underneath it he could see a candy in the shape of a skull. Katelynn’s eyes went wide as quickly she reached over to take it.

“Ok” She said slowly and quietly. “I’m just going to take this and keep it safe.” She carefully went to the door and left. A few minutes later another person came in. He was older and carried himself more firmly. He asked him sternly where he got the “skip.” Dale just said some lady gave it to him. The man straightened his tie and looked him in the eye. “Did this woman say anything?” he asked expectantly. Dale thought back carefully. “This one is going to be one great Halloween, I can feel it in my bones” he recited back with his eyes closed.

The man smiled thinly and nodded. “And that’s all?” he said, seemingly content with Dale’s answer. “Yes,” he said. The man rose slowly. “Thank you for your help. In a few minutes someone will be along and we’ll get you on your way, though best not to go home tonight.”

Mr. Porter left the man in the interview room, he had extracted all pertinent information. The civilian would be amnesticized in short order and released. As for him he had a long night ahead, no fewer than two hundred people had seen the anomaly. Statements needed to be taken, a cover story created, a dispersal plan for the survivors enacted. Just thinking about it made him tired. And that was just the cover-up, this latest incident would mean a whole new investigation. Getting back to his office he sat down at his now chaotic desk. “Happy Halloween” he muttered to himself, and got to work.

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