A Scary Story for Halloween
by Cassie King
The year is 2056. The place is Berkeley California in the abandoned Channing Durant mall. The restaurants have closed their doors, postal services have become obsolete, and the Berkeley Animal Rights Center now occupies City Hall.
For Halloween this year, Mana and her friends have dressed as the famous animal rights activists they've heard about in all their textbooks. They're wearing blue shirts and sugary fake blood which they keep licking off their lips and fingers. As the friends stop beneath the arch of the old abandoned mall, they count the fruits that they've collected so far.
"Wow," says Mana. "This is enough fruit for a week of school lunches."
"Not for me," says Waller. "Well yeah," says Jing-Fu laughing. "Because you only eat fruit." "Not after 4," Waller defends himself. "Then I eat other things."
Pandarus takes out their phone to get a Tuber back home, but as the tube descends from the sky outside of the mall, Jing-Fu tells his friends to wait. "We're not going home yet. At least not our house."
"Oh no no no." Mana shakes her head violently. "We are NOT going to Casa Especista. No. Nunca."
"Oh yeah," agrees Pandarus. "Last year we promised we would go this year." Mana laughs dryly. "I never agreed to that."
Waller, however, presents the voice of logic and reminds her that everyone had voted and the majority vote won. And so the group cancels their Tuber and heads to the house at the corner of Dwight and Ellsworth where "Grandma" lives... At least that's what people call her. No one knows her name. She hasn't left her house in decades. She gets huge boxes delivered from Amazon drones so she never has to go out, and the size of the boxes and their alleged contents are the talk of the city. As they walk, the friends speculate.
"They're probably full of weapons," says Mana. "They're probably full of children. Dead, rotting bodies," says Jing-Fu ominously. "Stop!" yells Mana, but Waller concludes Jing-Fu is probably right. A breeze passes over the group, chilling their skin as Waller reminds them all, "People say she-" He pulls his jacket tighter around himself. "People say she eats animals. Eats their flesh like its food."
Pandarus joins in, "Puts flesh slices between bread and calls it a sandwich."
"Stop," says Mana again. Her teeth are chattering as they approach the house and peer up the stairs. Pandarus stares like they can see right through the house to the back lot where rumor has it Grandma keeps the animals she enslaves. "Maybe this isn't such a good idea," they say.
Mana seizes the opportunity, "If you change your vote, we won't have a majority."
But Waller shakes his head. "No revotes."
So the friends move around the side of the house, linking arms to bolster their courage. The chill in the air picks up and right then they hear a scream. It sounds like a cow, a cow screaming in pain. It's a sound they have never heard, and it stops them in their tracks.
But then Mana speaks up, "If someone is suffering in there," her voice quivers, "then we can't turn around."
Still no one moves. "You're the ones who wanted to see what was back there! What, was that just for curiosity but now that it might matter, you don't want to go?"
Mana looks her friends in their eyes.
"Think about who we are dressed as," she implores. "What would they do?"
And slowly, their feet begin moving again, four pairs of feet creeping along the side of the house until a shed comes into view.
From the shed they hear moaning and a voice saying, "It's time." The friends look at each other in horror.
A drop of blood on Jing-Fu's eyebrow falls in front of his face. He isn't sure if he can stand to see real blood, but he feels powerful with his friends behind him.
"The door is right there," he says.
Together, the four friends put their hands on the closed door, they look from one to another, they shiver in the cold, and their hearts race.
"One," says Mana. Her hand shakes against the door.
"Two." Their fingers flex, ready.
"Three," say all the friends together and they push the door open.
Blood. Blood is everywhere! The woman is there right in front of them and so is a cow who is drenched in blood, and leaning over the cow is a larger cow nuzzling the smaller one and licking them clean.
The friends are stunned but as their eyes adjust to the darkness, they see huge cardboard boxes filled with hay and food for animals. The woman turns around startled but manages a smile.
"It's been a long time since I've had visitors," she says. "I keep so busy here taking care of my friends. This girl here came to me pregnant, and she needed help delivering her baby."
And then the friends understand. Grandma doesn't keep animals in a slaughterhouse. She offers them a sanctuary where she gives them all the love and help they need.