I made a last-minute decision to challenge myself (because I’m impulsive like that) and asked my friends to contribute 3 words each that I would put together into a short story for Halloween. I’d overestimated my ability to write that fast but I still managed to finish it. Here it is! Hope you’ll like it! (Skip the typos please!)
The spirit of Mr. Jones stood in the corner, watching me as I pulled down the zipper of the body bag. I’d prepared myself for a gruesome sight but my face still scrunched up when I saw the state of his corpse.
The right side of his skull was bashed in, face all bloody and swollen. His left collarbone was broken and there were whip marks all over his body. He must have really pissed off the person who’d murdered him.
I transported his corpse with my magic onto the mortuary table and started washing the blood off his body with the showerhead. His family had opted for the “SPA” treatment before the embalming process, so I grabbed a handful of chrysanthemum petals and scrubbed the more stubborn bloodstains off instead of using my regular dishwashing sponge.
“I don’t feel anything,” he commented as I rubbed. “This is just a waste of money. You’re a cheat.”
No shit, Sherlock. Of course, you can’t feel anything, I thought, but I reined in my snarky tongue and replied as calmly as I could. “It’s a good thing you’re not feeling anything. I’d use my regular scrub pad on you just to prove my point, but your family is going to see the skin damage and sue me,” I lied as I lathered the lavender-infused shampoo onto his bald head.
Mr. Jones was a pompous racist. He was one of the first few people in the neighborhood who’d made my life hell when I first moved in. My late husband and I tried to look for other places to live, but it was difficult because of his funeral parlor business. I know my fae kind didn’t have the best reputation to begin with, but Dickhead Jones didn’t need to go to the extent of blaming everything that went wrong on me. The Joneses spread vicious rumors about me, and his children bullied mine all the way in school until I married my current husband, Chual. They decided it was best not to mess with a grim reaper’s step-daughters, whether they were half-fae or not.
It wasn’t as if Dickhead Jones was of any noble character. He came from old money, whose family made a fortune after patenting their cure for lymphoma cancer. They sold their drugs at astronomical prices, and I’d never forget the fake look of sympathy they gave me when we ran out of money to afford the drugs for my late husband.
Despite my disdain for this man and his family, I didn’t think he’d deserved to die such a horrible death. No one knew who had murdered him. His body was found in an abandoned warehouse, naked and hanging from a ceiling with a chain tied to his wrists. The strange thing was, he didn’t remember being tortured at all. He had no idea how or when he’d died.
When Chual went to collect his soul, which was bound for hell despite him having attended church every Sunday, he bribed Chual with an obscene amount of money to give him more time to find his murderer. Turned out Dickhead Jones had kept a secret stash of money in an offshore account without his wife’s knowledge. After withdrawing almost half a million dollars, Chual not only delayed the delivery of Mr. Jones’s soul, but also roped in the entire family to help him with the investigation.
My eldest daughter, Sophie, and her boyfriend, Titus, had been scrutinizing Mr. Jones’s schedule for the entire week and found nothing out of the ordinary. On the day of his murder, he’d left his office slightly earlier to meet his wife at a swanky restaurant for their anniversary dinner, but he never made it. She waited at the restaurant, thinking he was late, and left in a huff two hours later. She must had been so used to him being an asshole that it didn’t worry her when he didn’t answer any of her calls or return home that night. It was only when his secretary called to ask why he wasn’t at work when she started to get worried and made a police report.
She was first to be eliminated as a suspect because she had solid alibis. The staff at the restaurant saw her there waiting for her husband for two hours, and her security guards and housekeepers verified that she was at home the whole time after returning from the restaurant.
Despite all that, my fae instincts kept pointing me to her. Sophie felt the same, too. She and Titus were currently trailing her everywhere, hoping to get some leads.
I poured scented gel wash all over Mr. Jones’s body and made an exaggerated motion of massaging his limbs for the camera. Grandma Jones had demanded the entire embalming process to be recorded because she did not trust me to deliver what they had ordered for him. No problem, I just charged them for it. I asked if she wanted sound to be included because that would mean I had to purchase a microphone for it. She glared at me and stormed out of my office.
After I rinsed the soap off, I towel-dried his body and used a levitation spell to move him to a dry mortuary table. “Are you sure you want to watch the whole process?” I asked as I arranged my tools neatly on a trolley.
He floated towards his body and looked at it sadly. “Yes. Do the other spirits choose not to see the process?”
“You’re the first to witness the process, actually. Either Chual had shipped them to wherever they were heading, or I would have cast them out with my magic.” I held up the cosmetic glue and warned him. “I’m going to start.”
I had to glue his lids shut because the swelling had made it hard for them to close completely. Next, I sewed his lower jaw with transparent nylon string wire to close his mouth. He bent over and watched in horror as my long needle went through his gums, up to one of his nostrils and back down to the mouth. Since he had a naturally down-turned mouth, I had to put in a few more stitches to his inner cheek to get rid of his resting-bitch expression.
When his face was set, I injected an arterial tube into his right common carotid and started the centrifugal pump to drain his blood. While that was happening, I injected some chemicals into the turgid parts of his face and body and massaged them to break up the blood clots.
“I’m pretty sure if I could feel anything, I would be throwing up by now. How could you stand it?” he asked.
“I couldn’t. I threw up every time I watched Gareth do it. But when he was down with cancer, I knew I had to just grit my teeth through and learn. After a while, I just got used to it. I guess the motivation comes when my bills get paid.”
“You endured the whole process with admirable fortitude.”
I blinked as I tried to process what he’d just said. Did he just praise me?
“I’m sorry I didn’t help Gareth.”
What? An apology? What in the world was happening?
“I didn’t want to set a precedent where friends or relatives could just come up to us and ask for free medicine.”
There you go. Dickhead Jones was back. My jaw dropped in outrage, and I was about to retort when he quickly added, “I’m not saying you were asking for free medicine. That’s why I’m apologizing. Looking back, I could have worked out some payment scheme for you and Gareth instead of dismissing you so quickly.”
The anger in me simmered as quickly as it rose. No need to hold on to the grudge since he’d apologized, and Gareth was already long gone. I bit my tongue and turned my focus back to the embalming process.
“I’m glad your second marriage is working out for you. Can’t say the same for mine,” he confessed.
FINALLY! Some dirty laundry! Everyone in the neighborhood knew he’d divorced his first wife for this current one. The hot, young Tiktok influencer decided one day that she’d had enough of being his mistress, so she started leaking their intimate photos and videos to his ex-wife and got more brazen with being seen in public with him to embarrass her. Wedding preparations were already ongoing while Mr. Jones was still fighting over alimony with his ex-wife in court and within a week of getting the divorce papers, they got married with a huge fanfare. She’d made sure she showed off the huge jewel on her wedding ring on every social media platform.
“She seemed pretty distraught when your body was discovered.” I feigned sympathy, hoping to fish more juicy details out of him.
“She’s a good actress. I’m pretty sure she’s sleeping with that black gardener behind my back.”
I scowled internally. He may be dead, but he’s still as racist as fuck. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t seeing that “black gardener” because I know him. Augustine offered to look after my garden for free when I was all stressed out after Gareth’s death and had been doing so ever since. When my finances were finally stabilized, I insisted on paying him and even then, he only charged a meagre amount. He and his lovely wife were regulars at my place for dinners.
“What made you think so?” I asked anyway, despite being 100% sure Augustine wasn’t having an affair with Mrs. Jones.
“Ever since we hired him, she became tepid in bed. She was always distracted when we were together…”
As he rattled on, I tried to memorize as many details as possible so that I could share them with Sophie and Titus later.
When I was done with the embalming, I sprayed some flesh-tone paint onto his skin and touched up his face with a natural pink tone. Then, I removed his brand-new burgundy Tom Ford suit from the box and dressed him up. I couldn’t believe they were going to cremate that expensive suit together with him.
“Thank you.” His voice trembled. “You make me look better than when I was alive.”
“You’re welcome. It’s my job.” I levitated his body and moved him into the luxurious casket filled with fresh white roses.
“Could you remove my wristwatch before you cremate me?” he asked. “This is such a blatant waste of money.”
“Who should I give it to?”
“Keep it. It’s my favorite watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre, worth at least four hundred grand if you sell it.”
I whistled. Never heard of the name but I wasn’t going to say ‘no’ to four hundred grand. I was about to take another look at his watch when my phone rang.
It was Sophie.
“Mom!” she whispered loudly. “You’re not going to believe this.”
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t have all day.”
“Mrs. Jones is having an affair with her stepson!”
“I told you you’re not going to believe this!”
I looked at Mr. Jones. “Which son?”
“The eldest one!”
Oh. My. God. Wasn’t his eldest son away in college? “Send me the evidence,” I demanded.
“Yes mam! Right away!” She hung up.
My heart pounded as I thought about how to break this news to Mr. Jones. He’d overheard me and was looking at me expectantly for an explanation. “It’s not confirmed. You know, young people are easily excitable and jump to conclusions easily. Give me more time,” I tried to pacify him.
Chual suddenly materialized in the room, causing me and Mr. Jones to jump. He was in his full grim reaper glory; his black cloak billowing dramatically around him like smoke, holding his gigantic scythe in his left hand, and a black cat in his right.
Wait, what? What was he doing with a cat?
“Chups, darling.” I closed my eyes. “I’m about to piss in my pants.”
He might be my husband, but I was still adjusting to his new image. He’d just had a promotion not too long ago and got upgraded. Instead of just the original skeletal form, he’d developed a waxy layer of pallid, grey skin over his bones. The sight of him triggered a sense of despair in anyone who’d laid eyes on him.
“Sorry. You can open your eyes now.”
Much better. In his human form, he was a supermodel hunk with a chiseled face and sculpted body.
“I found the witness!” He strode excitedly towards me and held out the black cat.
I took the cat from him and cradled it in my arms, scratching its chin. “Hi baby,” I cooed. It looked like a young cat. Judging from its size, it probably just turned one not too long ago.
“I went back to the warehouse to look for soul imprints and found him hiding. I thought I’d try my luck to see if it could show me anything, and it ended up showing me everything,” Chual said.
I gave the cat a kiss and walked to the nearest chair. “Sorry baby, I’ll have to look again. I’ll give you a treat after this.” Settling him on my lap, I stroked his head a few times before finally holding its head still so that I could look into its eyes.
I entered its mind and saw the heinous crime.
Mr. Jones was hanging from a chain tied around his wrists, naked and unconscious. His eldest son, Jackson, was flogging him with a whip, crying and shouting hysterically at the same time.
“This is for Mom! For the shit she’s been putting up with (whip), for humiliating her (whip), for denying her alimony (whip), and for ditching her for that slut (whip). This is for me (whip), for stealing my girlfriend (whip), marrying her (whip), fucking her (whip) and not feeling an ounce of guilt for all that you’ve done (whip).” Then, he crumbled onto the floor and wept.
I didn’t watch any further as it was enough for me. There was also no need to make the poor cat relive the horrible nightmare it’d witnessed. I thanked the cat and snuggled it. “Would you like to stay with me?” I asked, even though I already have five other black cats at home.
It climbed onto me and rubbed its head against my collarbone.
“Chups, introduce this baby to the rest.” I handed him the cat. “Give it a treat and ask the girls to think of a name. I’ll talk to Mr. Jones.”
He nodded and disappeared with the cat.
“It’s Jack?” Mr. Jones asked with a pained expression.
I nodded and told him what Jackson had said.
Mr. Jones clutched his chest and let out a heart-wrenching wail. “This is karma.” He choked in a hoarse voice. “My karma.”
I let him grieve for a moment before asking to confirm, “Was Mrs. Jones really Jackson’s girlfriend before she became your wife?”
He sighed. “They were dating, but they had already broken up before we got together. I met Evaline again at an event and we started chatting more after that. When Jackson found out later I was seeing her, he was adamant that we were having an affair behind his back while they were dating. Are they together again?”
I shrugged. “It doesn’t sound like he was planning to win her back. I mean, he did call her a ‘slut’. Maybe it was just a ploy.”
“Don’t tell the police about this, I beg you. This was all my fault,” he sobbed and floated to me. He tried to go on his knees but he was still floating.
“I won’t.” I promised him. “We’ll respect your decision. Besides, I don’t plan to announce my ability to communicate with animals. I’m busy enough.”
He clasped his hands and kept bowing, thanking me profusely.
“What do you plan to do now?” I asked, seeing his forlorn expression.
“If Chual would allow, I’d like to stay for my funeral and see my family for the last time. I know they can’t hear me, but I would like to apologize to all of them before I head to Hell.”
The Jones’s had opted to hold Mr Jones’s funeral at my funeral parlor, which was surprising because I thought they would want it to be a grand affair. Grandma and Grandpa Jones came to inspect their son’s body the day before and both broke down, sobbing inconsolably. After almost two hours, I ran out of patience and tried to get Mrs Jones to pick them up but she refused. I ended up calling Jackson to come get them, but he sent his driver to get them instead.
Mr. Jones was heartbroken. He could only watch his aged parents helplessly as they mourned. He’d begged me to help him communicate with them but I refused. The lesser the people knew about my abilities, the better.
On the day of his funeral, only his family, ex-wife and closest friends were in attendance. While they were waiting for service to start, Mr. Jones went up to every one of them and apologized for everything he’d done wrong in the past. He was exceptionally emotional towards his ex-wife, lamenting that he was blinded by lust then and it was too late for him to amend his will.
He apologized to Jackson for not being a better father, forgave him for the murder and prayed for his soul.
Evaline Jones was strangely absent. No one informed me that she wasn’t coming so I kept waiting, until Grandma Jones told me to start without her.
Titus entered the hall in his seraph form, his three pairs of huge wings with blinding white feathers on full display. He would be delivering the sermon.
I’d only added the option of having Titus preaching in his seraph form as a thoughtless, facetious remark after Grandpa and Grandma Jones kept demanding extra services that were outside of my usual packages. To my surprise, they took me seriously and paid a hefty amount for it.
Titus had been staying with us after he fell out with his parents and I hadn’t meant to exploit him for my funeral business. When I told him about the predicament and apologized for giving the Joneses the idea, he was not only receptive, but happy and eager to contribute because he felt that he was freeloading at our place. In fact, he told me to put that down permanently as one of the premium add-ons to the regular packages.
As his father was a pastor, Titus knew how to officiate and carry out funeral rites. He was in the middle of reading Psalm 23 when Mr. Jones stood over his own body and wept. To everyone’s surprise, Titus started choking up. His face turned pink, and his eyes glistened with tears. He stopped his reading and bowed his head, overcome with emotion. His feathers started glowing brighter and brighter until the luminance exploded like a flash of lightning.
We were all blinded for a few seconds, but we regained our vision before anyone could scream in panic.
“He has ascended,” Titus said in a quivering voice. “Our Lord has forgiven him and opened the gates of Heaven to him.”
I caught myself in time before anyone could catch my widened eyes and my frown, and froze my facial expression into a blank one. I would have words with this boy later. While I had no qualms about selling unnecessary services to profit from the living, I draw the line at lying about the dead. I’d meant for Titus to show his wings for ornamental purposes, and not to lie about his powers.
He took a deep breath and continued with the service until the body was lowered into the ground to be transported to our furnace for cremation. I hurried to the basement to remove Mr. Jones’s wristwatch and slipped it into my pocket before the casket entered the viewing gallery for the family to witness the cremation.
As everyone was wailing their last goodbyes, the lid of the casket closed and it entered the blazing furnace. I channelled my magic to power up the heat because the Joneses had opted for an express cremation, meaning the entire process would be over in fifteen minutes instead of four hours.
When it was done, Sophie assisted me in directing the Joneses to collect the ashes while I rested in the office with a tub of Häagen-Dazs rum and raisin ice-cream. It always felt incredibly hot for hours after I used my fire magic so I made sure I charged enough for a two-week supply.
Titus burst into my office just as I was shoving the fifth spoonful into my mouth. “I think I’d just discovered one of my abilities,” he said excitedly, barely fitting into the small room with all his wings. He tried his best to fold them as much as he could so that he wouldn’t knock anything over.
“You mean that wasn’t bullshit?” I asked, feeling surprised.
“No. I don’t know what got to me but I felt his remorse so deeply that my sympathy for him just flowed and flowed from my heart,” he added the hand gestures to show the literal waves of emotions that were pouring out of his chest, “like a broken tap. It was a scary feeling because I knew what was happening to me at that time but I had no control over my body.
“Then a really bright ray of light shone on Mr. Jones and beamed him up, like in those shows where you get abducted by an alien ship.”
It took a while for me to process all that before I could ask, “How did you know it was God who had taken him and not aliens?”
He shrugged. “Maybe it was aliens, but I genuinely felt all his remorse, his regret and his despair from the bottom of his heart. In fact, I heard him praying to God for mercy for his son, and that he was willing to suffer Hell twice over if he could to pay the sins for his son. I mean, I’m a seraph after all, so I think the likelihood of me being a vessel of God at that moment is higher than witnessing an alien abduction.”
I shoved another big spoonful of ice-cream into my mouth. This could spell trouble. If word got out that Titus could deliver souls to Heaven, he would be expected to that every time he officiated a funeral. I’m not a Christian but I know for sure it was not in Titus’s power to pardon souls. The Christian God doesn’t work that way. I’d have to think carefully about how to solve this issue, but I’ve had enough for the last few days. All I wanted to do was to climb into a cool, aromatic bubble bath and read the final instalment of the spider alien romance trilogy. It’d been sitting in my kindle for the last two days and I had no time to read it all thanks to the Jones’s saga.
I texted my husband and asked him to withdraw the remaining money from Mr. Jones’s secret account as our final payment. Mr. Jones must have been preparing for the day he needed to go into hiding urgently because he enabled the option to withdraw all the money and close the account with just a password.
However, on my end, I would have to buy a giant safe soon just to store all his cash because banking them would cause us to be investigated. His money was currently sitting in all my spare caskets and urns in the store room. Maybe I could hire people to build me a vault instead. That would arouse less suspicion than buying a giant safe.
Titus and Sophie helped me lock up while I walked back to the house first. Undertakers often had to work late into the night so Gareth’s ancestors had built their home just a stone’s throw away from the funeral parlor to reduce travelling time. I was still debating whether I should order delivery or cook some instant meals for dinner when the smell of pumpkin spice and apple butter wafted into my nose.
I opened the door and found my three younger daughters all dressed up in their Halloween costumes, helping to set the table for dinner. Augustine and his wife, Elise, had been cooking up a storm in my kitchen while I was busy at the funeral.
“It’s Halloween? Today?” I checked my phone for the date. Shoots. I had completely forgotten about it and I’d promised to take the girls trick or treating.
“Yesh,” my third daughter, Ely, replied, with her fake vampire fangs sticking out of her mouth.
“We have time for a good dinner before we all head out together later,” Elise announced as she brought out a large casserole pan.
“Thank you so much, dear,” I said gratefully, stomach rumbling from the aroma of the food.
Elise waved me off. “Sit,” she ordered me and strode back to the kitchen to bring out more food.
Augustine grinned at me as he brought out two pitchers of iced tea. “You look like you’re already dressed up for Halloween.”
“Shut up,” I scowled at him and poured myself a glass.
“Oh my God! Food!” Sophie exclaimed as she entered the house. “I thought it was going to be frozen pizzas.”
“I thought so too,” I commented, watching her run over and plant a big kiss on Elise’s cheeks.
Titus stepped into the house with Chual, both in their human forms, deep in conversation. Chual reached out to squeeze Titus’s shoulder before turning around to greet his step-daughters with a warm smile and a hug each.
As we all sat down and had dinner, I thought about the Joneses. We may not be swimming in money like the rest of the people in our neighborhood, but I was pretty sure we were happier than all of them. We’d overcome adversities together and no matter what happened, we held onto our bonds tightly. Regardless of how much we squabble everyday, we stood by each other when it came to the crunch.
This was what it meant to be a family, and for that, we were already richer than most.
Untitled Halloween Story, Copyright 2021 by Evangeline Rain
Actually, I have a story for this, but I haven’t found the pre-made cover for it yet. I did manage to snag a pretty YA cover for Titus and Sophie but I haven’t had solid ideas on how to go abut writing it yet. So I guess I’ll sit on it for a while.
You can see that this beautiful cover is still in its raw state because I haven’t thought of a title for it yet. I’ll get to it when the inspiration strikes. Hopefully, I can snag a beautiful (and affordable) for my character (haven’t settled on a name) and Chual.
See how messy my brain is? Heh. Oh well, time to hit the sack.