Enjoy “Insecurity Complex”: A Halloween short story
Being the verbose type, I rarely write short stories, but this Halloween, I wrote up a 600-word short story for Linell Jeppsen’s Halloween Short Story competition. Enjoy!
She lives in the most haunted house in the most haunted town in America, and tonight, Halloween, is the most haunted night of the year. You’d think that one of these three facts would carry some weight. Unfortunately, they don’t, not with Alicia Morrow.
Her husband is out trick-or-treating with their young daughter. Alicia, home alone, settles down in the family room with a novel. I wait until she gets comfortable, and then focus my incorporeal energy to flick the light switch. The scones of light brighten and dim repeatedly. Alicia looks up and mutters. “Damn circuits. Stupid old house.”
I take offense. This “stupid old house” is mine, and I’ve deigned to share it with humans, most recently the Morrows. Eternity grows dull if there is no one to enjoy it with. Humans, however transient, are fun—so fragile and vulnerable with their fears and imagined horrors. Alicia, though, has been aggravating.
The good news is that I’m not the only one she has annoyed with her pedantic ways. A month ago, she wrinkled her aristocratic nose with disgust when a zombie shambled too close. “There’s a homeless shelter on Twenty-third Street.” She tossed him a ten-dollar bill and sprayed him with perfume. Chanel No. 5 did what pepper spray couldn’t do; the zombie ran from the toxic fumes.
Last week, a vampire tried to get a bite out of her. He leaned in to nuzzle her neck but got no further. She shoved him away and held her left hand up to his face, pointing to her ring. “I’m married, and you’re not cute or rich enough for me to risk it.” He stalked away in high dudgeon, so insulted that he lost his appetite.
Last night, a werewolf prowled through her yard, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. She called Animal Control and told them to take that “Irish Greyhound” to the pound. The werewolf was miffed. He’s British, not Irish.
Still, they’re lucky. They don’t have to live with her indifference. I do. The other ghosts in the house have given up trying to make their presence felt. Most of them have taken to moping in the attic or basement, occasionally making the floorboards squeak out of spite. Once a week, Alicia calls the pest control company—she has them on speed dial. The pest control folks have sprayed down the attic and basement so many times that there isn’t anything alive in there anymore.
Me, I’m the persistent type. Tonight is my last chance to make a difference; it’s Halloween, after all. I rattle the windows; she checks the weather report on her iPhone. Apparently rain is on the horizon. I glide against her, ghostly tendrils of chill in my wake. She stalks to the thermostat and turns it up. “Probably broken.” She scowls. “This whole damn house is falling apart.”
The front door opens, and her husband strides in with an excited toddler. Snickers and M&Ms spill out of a gigantic bag of candy. “Uh, honey,” he says. “Jenna ate sunscreen.”
“Oh, my God, she’s poisoned! What was the damned bottle of sunscreen doing in the car?” Alicia Morrow, the bane of our supernatural existence, is consumed by fear at the smidgen of sunscreen that passed through her daughter’s lips. The woman’s heart is racing, her hair actually standing on end.
The radiant and absolutely healthy child is bundled up for a ride to the emergency room.
Sunscreen is more terrifying than I am. Fuck it. I quit.