The Penultimate Stop
He was now living in The Twilight Zone...
Not the classic Rod Serling television show featuring science fiction stories and tales of terror in the world of the occult, but what was called 'independent living'. It was the purgatory between the former heaven of your own family home and the future hell of being alone in a medical care facility; he owned his own home in a community of other oldies.
He often asked himself, how does one get to be 'old'? The one-word answer was 'fast'...
It seemed to have occurred as quickly as he could relate it. After university and finding a career, his girlfriend rose to fiancée, then bride, then his children's mother, then his ex-wife not long after the kids left the nest, then his children's children's grandmother. It happened as it happened to so many of his peers...as if they were trapped inside a toy train travelling on ironic tracks in an invisible circular miniature railway layout played with by a sadistic demigod.
Like Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, he had always wanted to see the world, but one damned financial thing came up after another, mostly medical expenses for their children and later their parents, then higher education fees for the children. When the day came when he finally had the freedom, the finances, and the time to do what he wanted, his wife announced that she was free as well; as the comedian said,
'Welcome to Dumpsville...Population...You.'
After obtaining her freedom, his ex-wife went to live with one of their children on the other side of the country as a live in granny nanny. They soon deemed it best that she buy her own nearby apartment. Then they deemed it better still that the breadwinner be transferred elsewhere, leaving his ex-wife alone in a city that she hated.
It was at last his time to travel around the world, but at his age he travelled by a traditional ocean liner with traditional older people like himself who wondered where their time had gone.
The experience was rather like being trapped in a small town club's annual masquerade ball, but one you couldn't leave and where no one unmasked at midnight, for they wore their masks for the entire voyage and for their entire lives.
There was one escape from the Idiot's Odyssey on the Ship of Fools...the liner featured a large morgue for those who died on the Voyage of the Damned. He witnessed one of the males having a fatal heart attack during the nightly ballroom dancing. His wife was asked what she wanted to be done with the remains. She replied that as he had been in the Navy, he desired a burial at sea. Permission granted.
She left the liner at its next port. At the port after that, the deceased's actual wife came aboard wondering where her husband was...
Now his home was in a fine community who seemed similar to his childhood schoolmates; they had fun, laughs and outings together. Unlike school or aged care facilities, they could go anywhere anytime they wanted.
The only bone of contention was that they were not allowed dogs or cats, only small pets that could be kept in a small container, such as a bird cage or a fish tank.
They were excellent conversationalists and supported each other; they loved parties and playing games.
Heaven ended abruptly at the end of October; they were being terrorised...
Trick or Terror
Mrs. Matthews was the first.
She came back heavily bruised and robbed, but bravely said that she was fine. The police said they would do all that they could, that to him meant they wouldn't do anything at all.
He offered his service as an escort to those who wanted to walk. One of them was the oldest one, the sweet dotty Mrs. MacArthur who always walked with her pet Pidey that she carried in a black mesh bag.
'Pidey gets lonely when I'm not with her...she likes the fresh air.'
They were stopped by three punks who wore the same street gang jackets that Mrs. Matthews said the ones who robbed her wore.
'Give us your money, and maybe you won't be hurt...', their leader laughed.
He pleaded to the gang,
'She's an old woman! All the money she has in the world is in that black bag! If you've any decency you'll go home!'
They laughed to the sound of being begged for mercy.
'Don't tell them...', Mrs. MacArthur cried.
Their leader laughed and grabbed her black mesh bag...
'I'll help myself! Trick or Treat!'
The street ganger reached in...then screamed like a banshee. Pulling his arm out there was a large hairy tarantula biting it.
'Trick for you, treat for us!', he laughed.
'Poor Pidey might get sick!', Mrs. MacArthur cried.
'Pidey's friends are coming for you!!!', he shouted.
The other two ran away like the wind.
He kicked the legs out from under the screaming man being bitten by the spider. Mrs. MacArthur gently pulled Pidey off and comforted her pet tarantula.
'Am I going to die...'
'Eventually, but you're going to wish you will be able to die when the pain starts...now...before we call an ambulance...tell us the names of every member of your gang and where we can find them or I'll unzip your trousers and let Pidey have another bite...'
It was a condemned house covered in graffiti blaring loud music.
He threw a brick through their window, ran as fast as he could, then turned to face the house.
'Come and get it!', he shouted.
The gang members came to the door where they saw him in his Halloween costume. He turned his back and showed him his old naked bottom.
The gang rushed out and found themselves tripped by strung ropes that were placed in their path. From the roof of their clubhouse, figures in various outlandish costumes threw plastic bags, containing not water, but urine and feces. One street ganger was hit in the head with a candlelit jack o'lantern that burst into pieces. The ones on the roof throwing things loudly laughed and giggled, it was the sound of the old...old jokes were the best ones...they loved to play games...their aim was perfect...
The gang screamed bloody vengeance and wondered how they could get on the roof in order to get to them.
'Come here if you want a fight!', he shouted after he pulled up his trousers. 'You're not afraid, are you?'
The street gang proved they weren't by running towards him.
The sound of loud motorcycles filled the air as a gang rode in; Hell had spawned its damned to rove the Earth. They formed a circle around the frightened street gang.
A panel van stopped in front of the clubhouse with the 'mamas' of the motorcycle gang producing the ladders they quietly used to help the old costumed revelers of revenge up on the roof. The girls now climbed up and carefully brought each one of the oldies down to watch the fun and games of the surprise Halloween Party.
On back of one of the Harley-Davidsons was Mrs. Matthews.
The gang leader dismounted, then gently helped the old woman off.
'Show me the one who robbed you and knocked you to the ground, Gran...'
Fear didn't have a smell, it was an atmosphere...
'Form a straight line for your last line up!...I said form up in a straight line!!!'
The grandson encouraged haste and efficiency by grabbing one of the gangbangers by his throat and punched his head in time to his voice,
'Now! Now! Now! Now!'
He hadn't seen a line form that quickly since the army...
The street gang shook like jackhammers as the leader and his grandmother slowly walked down the line before she paused in front of one of them...She looked him in the eye,
'I told you I'd see you again...you said you'd see me in Hell first...trick or treat...'
Her grandson wrapped a metal chain around his fist; the street ganger's groin dampened with his own urine.
'See my Gran in Hell?...You're going there soon...'
The frightened street ganger went to his knees and cried,
'I swear to God I was only kidding!!!'
'I swear to God I'm not...If you've got a grandmother, she's not going to recognise you...'
The result wasn't pretty.
The cycle gang leader didn't let him off merely because he was knocked down, he picked him up and repeated the process, over and over...The fear of the remaining street gang filled the air like an invisible fog of fear and dread...Hell had come to Earth...for them...
There was a sound of a police siren that stopped as an older sergeant and a young constable exited their police vehicle.
'What's all this, then?'
'Just helping the police with a job they should've done...'
The understanding sergeant looked at the scene, then nodded and replied,
'We'll return with some ambulances in fifteen minutes...'
'We'll only need ten...'
Author Notes: HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
I am the author of three Extra Dimensional/Ultraterrestial military science fiction novels MERCENARY EXOTIQUE, OPERATION CHUPACABRA and WORK IN OTHER WORLDS FROM YOUR OWN HOME! as well as two travel books THE MAN FROM WAUKEGAN and TWO AUSTRALIANS IN SCOTLAND (all from Lulu.com). I live happily ever after with my wife in paradise (coastal Kiama, NSW Australia).