Matthew and Angela
(Disclaimer: Names have been changed, locations omitted, to protect the identities of the innocent.)
Once upon a time there was a monster. It was lurking, hunting in the park at night. A light mist fell upon the scene. Low fog obscured the ground below the ankles.
"Fresh meat!" the call of evil intentions echoed through the trees, pricking up many a demonic ear. Stomachs growled, werewolves howled, screams of the innocent followed. The monster smiled.
Sheltered from the moonlight by the luscious canopy, I watched.
A set of teens walked, cautiously, through the dimly lit park. Shouts of the damned preceeded them, drifting back their way from groups of "food" that went before. This added to their trepidation, as they tried to look in every direction at once, laughing nervously. So far, the strategy had worked, though it was impossible for them to actually see everything.
The monster nodded, sniffed the air, and wrinkled a nose. These were ripe for the picking, indeed. Silencing the binding chains once again, the night-stalker slithered through the darkness, scanning the tiny crowd for a likely target.
In the distance, a chainsaw elicited blood-curdling sounds from what bore an incredible aural resemblance to a tortured piglet. The group froze, whimpering in response. Urgent whispers hushed each other from within the huddle.* They listened. When nothing else seemed to happen, they tried to sneak, failing miserably, past a tree, anticipating something horrible to bounce at them from behind it.
The monster grinned, creeping, safely in their wake. Glee filled the veins at the "hushed" voices.* Silent feet ran up a nearby hill to signal the waiting demons at the "Gates of Hell". Anticipation nearly coaxed a whoop of enthusiasm, but I painfully squelched it, as I returned to the deceitful stillness of the trees.
A half-dozen expectant necks craned to look around the trunk. Its shadow gaped at them without benefit of giant spiders, or the like. Relief mingled with confusion for a split-second before the whisper of a name tickled the nape of an already too anxious neck.
The scream was heard by dogs in the next town. The owner of the name sprinted into the night, leading the rest of the group, in record-time, through the final scenes of the haunted attraction, bypassing unprepared demons entirely.
The monster slunk after them, only slightly disappointed that someone else got there first. Recognition, however, filled me with unholy joy. I knew that growl. Target lost to the fragrant winds, I was content to bide my time. The hunt was on.
One member had grabbed the hand next to her, presumably dragging her boyfriend with her. Not looking back, she shouted for him to hurry, before the monster could catch up. But Matthew's answer - a lot less cocky than in the whisper-shouts a few moments ago, and a bit...soggy - came from further down the path. For some moist, yellow reason, he was a lot faster than the girls who were no longer in his company.**
After recognition dawned, she risked a glance at what was attached to the hand she was holding. Eyes of a stranger flashed a reflection of her own fear at her. She dropped his hand. Four members of the group were lost to the unknown ahead - including her cowardly (pretty sure at this point EX) boyfriend - but at least she wasn't alone in this godforsaken place.
The monster suppressed a rueful chuckle. I returned to take my place. The noisome Matthew was no longer interesting. I lowered my mask to hide the smirk, and froze, watching my new goal head my way.
The man had fashioned a clear trash-bag into a makeshift poncho to keep dry in the pseudo drizzle. She would likely think twice about wearing white to a venue in the park again. The girl - a bit more angry than scared - turned to walk straight into a prop she hadn't noticed stand in the path before. She bounced off the dummy, and would have landed in
the mud, if the last member of her group hadn't caught her.
"Thanks!" she straightened her skirt, and turned to kick the thing in the shin. "Whoever put that thing there should be sued," she grumbled.
"Right!" the guy agreed as she walked around it. "Stupid --"
A rush of movement, the sound of chains, and a strangled cry got her full attention. The dummy had the man in a choke-hold, stared straight at her with the hollow eye-holes of the blank mask it wore, and nodded amiably to her as its victim dropped, limply to the floor.
She stared, mouth open. A step backward brought her in contact with another obstacle that had not been there a moment ago. "You shouldn't kick the set, Angela," the demon's voice whispered. She spun around, saw nothing, and turned again. The dummy was gone.
The guy in the poncho slowly got up, she screamed when she saw his face covered on blood. He grinned. More of the goo dribbled from his chin as he moved toward her in unnatural spurts.
Angela tripped, falling backward onto something, trying to get away without taking her eyes off the apparent zombie. He stopped, cocked his head to one side, lifted a hand, and beckoned her to him with one outstretched finger. She shook her head vehemently.
The ground, however, seemed to obey him, because Angela was lifted closer to the zombie. She whimpered.
I was rubbing my shin where she'd kicked me, trying so hard not to laugh when I peered around the tree. It was a painful, dirty, ungrateful job to scare the wits out of people. I still don't understand why anyone would pay you to do so, but there we were. The hilarity still outweighed the inevitable concussions from people not watching where they went. Seeing double at this point only added to my amusement when the thing Angela had fallen onto, slowly straightened up to bring her face to bloody face with the plant***.
My beastly colleague was making faces at me all the while. This wasn't helping the pain of swallowed laughter. She was so transfixed by the zombie's apparent magical powers that 'fight or flight' took a backseat to 'deer in headlights' until she was once again standing on her own two feet.
The beast behind her turned to face the zombie in front of her. He hissed in her ear. Angela bolted.
I belched my bottled guffaws into my mask while the masters of illusion dissolved into a muddy, laughing heap of demonic accomplishment. That's not something you see every day - even in our line of work.
*Fear speaks to us - usually in urgent little whispers, like "I'm gonna lose it.", "Shut up, Angela!", "Dude, you're such a scaredy ca-- What was that?!", "Man, you guys'll jump at anything", "Damn it, Matthew! Stop that!", "Shh! I thought I saw..", "Shh!", "SHHH!!!"
Don't underestimate the ears of the dead, or the powerful spy we keep in your own voice..
**There is a reason this park is haunted by a certain Au de Sewer, come All Hallow's Eve. I have learned, through observation that the ghost of many a would-be "macho" male, more interested in making fun of the girls than protecting them, is to blame for the odiferous cloud that seeks vengeance for this behavior. (It sticks to the demons as well, but not nearly as long, and we keep a color-coded scoreboard behind the scenes.)