The Reaper's Maze
A horror story
The doorbell rang, and a man dressed in a black robe, red and gold necktie, and round spectacles with a lightening-shaped scar on his forehead and a wand in his hand paused his television, jumped up from the couch, and skipped down the hall to the front door. He coughed to clear his throat then turned the knob, waving his wand as he proclaimed, “Wingardium Lev—”
A group of teenagers on the front porch broke out in mocking laughter.
The man in the homemade Harry Potter costume lowered his wand and shifted his tone from theatrical to more subdued, asking, “Can I help you?”
“Yeah,” said Troy, a seventeen-year-old boy in blue jeans and a letterman’s jacket with ‘QB’ on the sleeve. “You know the drill. We ring the doorbell, you give us candy.”
Rex, an offensive lineman twice Troy’s size, stood beside his quarterback wearing a matching letterman’s jacket. On Troy’s opposite side, wrapped around his arm, was a blonde with a ponytail tied in a scrunchie bearing their high school colors: blue and white. Lacy wore tight black leggings and a cheerleading windbreaker unzipped just enough to display the cleavage beneath her tank top. Behind them, sitting on the bottom step with their lips pressed together, were Marcus and Dana. Marcus was the star wide receiver and had his number (80) and ‘WR’ on the sleeves of his team jacket and wore a backwards Yankees cap atop his head. Dana had dark hair and a baggy hemp jacket. She wasn’t on any teams or in any clubs, though she was the only one of the group on the honor roll.
“Aren’t you a little old to be trick or treating?” asked the homeowner, eyeing cans of Natural Ice beer amid the candy inside Troy’s opened bag.
“Aren’t you a little old to be dressing up like a boy wizard?” Troy eyed the beer belly bulging from the man’s robe. “More like Fatty Potter,” he whispered under his breath to Rex, who laughed despite the fact he was larger than the man in question.
“Troyyy.” Lacy stretched her boyfriend’s name into two syllables as she nudged him disapprovingly.
“You’re not even wearing any costumes,” Mr. Potter said.
“Sure we are,” Troy said. “We’re dressed as high school jocks, but in real life we’re actually middle school nerds.”
“Ha.” Rex chuckled. “Nerds…”
Mr. Potter looked unconvinced.
“Are you gonna give us candy or what, bro?” Troy held out his backpack expectantly.
Mr. Potter grabbed a large bowl of candy and pulled out a grape Airhead.
“Purple?” Troy pulled his bag away. “No homo.”
“It’s just a piece of candy,” Mr. Potter said. “It has no sexuality or gender.”
“Let me pick my own.” Troy reached into the bowl and picked out a bag of Skittles.
“Oh, yes, ‘tasting the rainbow’ is quite masculine,” Mr. Potter muttered under his breath.
“What’d you say?!” Troy strutted his chest and got in the man’s face.
“Yeah.” Rex stepped beside Troy. “What’d you say?”
“Troyyy, don’t.” Lacy tried to pull her boyfriend away.
“N-nothing.” Mr. Potter nervously stuttered. He had always been intimidated by teenagers, and Troy reminded him of the type who stuffed him in lockers when he was their age.
“That’s what I thought,” Troy said.
“Yeah, that’s what we thought,” echoed Rex.
Troy dropped the Skittles into his bag then turned to Lacy. “What do you want, babe?”
“Does he have any organic vegan dark chocolate?” she asked.
Troy looked to Mr. Potter who shook his head and said, “Just what’s in the bowl.”
“Ugh.” Lacy sighed with disgust. “I’ll pass.”
“It’s the 2020s, bro,” Troy said. “You gotta have vegan options.”
“Yeah bro, respect the vegans.” Rex reached into the bowl
“Rex, you’ve never eaten a vegetable in your life,” Troy said.
“Yeah I have.” Rex pulled out a fistful of candy from the bowl. “French fries—they’re potatoes.”
“And don’t forget the ketchup,” Troy said. “They’re tomatoes.”
“Exactly.” Rex dropped two Snickers, a Milky Way, three Airheads, and a pack of Twizzlers into his bag.
“It’s a good thing you’re a lineman, Rex,” Troy said.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Wait. Why?”
“Because for linemen, size matters more than brains.” Troy slapped Rex’s gut.
“Better believe it.” Rex flexed his wide frame. “Nobody gets by me.”
“You know Skittles are vegan,” Mr. Potter said.
“What?” Troy looked at the man like he had two heads.
“Skittles…they don’t have any animal products in them.” He offered a bag to Lacy. “They’re vegan.”
Lacy groaned. “I don’t eat processed food, only organic plant-based.”
“Seriously, bro.” Troy glared at him. “Step up your treat game.”
“My apologies. I will next year.” Mr. Potter glanced at Marcus and Dana, mouth-in-mouth like their lives depended on it. “And would your other two friends like any of my pedestrian candy?”
“Don’t stare at them, you perv!” Troy shouted.
“Yeah, perv,” said Rex. “Don’t stare.”
“Sorry.” Mr. Potter glanced at the floor. “I just—”
“I’ll take some for them.” Troy grabbed two pieces of candy from the bowl and dropped them into his bag. “All right yo, let’s go.” He slung the bag over his shoulder and wrapped his other arm around Lacy.
“Yeah, let’s go, yo,” said Rex.
“Must you copy everything I say?” asked Troy, walking down the porch steps.
“I don’t always copy you.” Rex followed his quarterback down to the lawn.
“Yeah you do.”
“No I don’t.”
“Dana,” Lacy called back to her friend. “We’re leaving!”
Marcus and Dana reluctantly ceased kissing and walked arm in arm to join their friends. The five teens passed an assortment of Halloween decorations on the front lawn: tombstones, ghosts, zombie limbs, and skeletons. It was just past 8 PM and the sun had gone down, but street lamps and lights from houses provided pockets of brightness in the otherwise dark scene.
In a television sportscaster’s voice, Troy said, “He lines up for the fifty-yard field goal…” He ran toward a decomposing zombie arm sticking out of the grass and kicked it. “It soars toward the uprights, and…” He watched the zombie arm fly through the air, across the lawn, and into the street. “It’s good!” He raised both arms like a referee.
“Nice one, Troy!” Rex shouted. “And Rex, for the extra point…” He ran toward a skeleton arm sticking out of the ground then kicked it. “And it’s…” The arm failed to go airborne, dribbling a few yards across the lawn.
“No good!” Troy waved his arms. “Stick to blocking, Rex.” He slapped his back.
“Yeah…” Rex followed his quarterback. “Kicking’s for soccer fags anyway.”
“What did you say?!” Dana pulled her lips away from Marcus’ to chastise Rex.
“Nothing,” Rex said.
“He said ‘Kicking’s for soccer fags,’” Troy said.
Rex sharpened his eyes briefly, upset Troy gave him up—though he would never dare voice any discontent to his quarterback out loud.
“What’s wrong with you, Troy,” Dana said. “Don’t say that word. It’s homophobic.”
“I didn’t say it,” Troy said, “Rex did. I was just quoting him.”
“I didn’t mean nothing by it,” Rex said. “It’s just what we call them.”
“Well stop,” Dana said.
Once the group reached the street, Troy opened his backpack and pulled out a can of Natty Ice. “You want one, babe?” he asked Lacy.
“No, beer has gluten in it,” she said. “And it smells gross.”
“No it doesn’t.” Troy took a long chug then burped in her face.
“Ewww!” Lacy backed away in disgust while Troy cackled. “Don’t burp like that, it’s gross.”
“You think that’s gross?” Rex pulled a can of beer from his bag, chugged it, then let out a longer and louder belch.
“Jesus, Rex,” Troy said, “What species are you?”
“Tyrannosaurus.” Rex locked his elbows to his ribs, pretending to have short arms, then stomped around like a dinosaur as he let out a half burp/half roar.
“You guys are so disgusting,” Lacy said.
Marcus and Dana took the pause in action as an opportunity to resume making out. Troy chugged the rest of his beer then chucked the empty can onto the lawn behind them.
“Troyyy, don’t litter,” Lacy said. “It’s bad for the environment.”
“Relax, Lace,” Troy said, “Fatty Potter will pick it up.”
“Yeah, Lace.” Rex crushed his empty can on his forehead then tossed it onto the lawn. “He’ll use his magic wand to make the trash disappear.”
“Don’t call her Lace,” Troy said. “Only I call her that.”
“Right, sorry, Troy,” Rex said.
“Don’t apologize to me,” Troy said. “Apologize to her.”
“It’s okay,” Lacy said.
“Rex.” Troy eyed him sternly.
“Sorry Lacy,” Rex mumbled with his head lowered in embarrassment.
Troy shook his bag to assess the weight of its contents then determined: “I need some more candy.” He turned up the block and made a ‘first down’ signal, shouting, “Next house!”
“Next house!” Rex repeated, following his quarterback.
Marcus and Dana stayed in place on the sidewalk, distracted by their game of tongue hockey.
“Come on, Dana,” Lacy shouted back toward them.
The couple stopped kissing to see their friends walking toward the next house.
“Yo, why are we even trick or treating?” asked Marcus.
“Seriously,” Dana said. “What are we, six?”
“Who says no to free candy?” Troy said. “Plus I’ve got the munchies from that weed we smoked before.”
“Yeah, I’m so high right now,” Rex said. “I’ve got a real bad case of the munchies.”
“Rex, you’ve got the munchies even when you’re not high,” said Troy.
“Troyyy!” Lacy slapped his arm. “That’s so mean.”
Marcus laughed, but Dana gave him a disapproving glare.
“He knows I’m kidding,” Troy said. “Right, Rex?”
“Yeah.” Rex forced out some laughter. “That was a good one, Troy.”
“Let’s just go back to Dana’s house, smoke another joint, and watch a horror movie,” Marcus suggested.
“Sounds good to me,” Dana said.
“Yeah,” agreed Lacy, “except for the horror movie part.”
“Fine, but we gotta go to that house before we leave.” Troy pointed two lawns down.
“Why that house?” asked Dana. “It’s in the opposite direction we need to go.”
“Isn’t that one of the houses that we—” Rex started to say until Troy elbowed him in the ribs.
“I heard they give out gourmet candy, imported from Japan.” Troy grabbed Lacy’s hand and walked toward the house. “Come on, it’s right here. We might as well…”
“Yeah, might as well.” Rex followed the couple.
“Whatever,” Marcus said then he and Dana joined them.
The five teens approached the house where strands of toilet paper hung from branches of the trees on the front lawn. A dented mailbox was attached to its post with duct tape.
“Damn, they already cleaned most of it up,” Troy said, walking onto the driveway.
On the lawn were three tombstones for Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Shirley Jackson. Before Poe’s grave sat a stuffed black raven. Rising from the ground before Lovecraft’s tomb were inflatable green tentacles. A pile of rocks laid over Jackson’s grave. Each tombstone was covered in spray paint graffiti, however; changing the names to: “We get All da Pot,”, “H.P.V. Lovesdick”, and “Shurley Jacksoff”.
“Please don’t tell me you guys did this,” Dana said.
“You should have seen Dracula and Frankenstein last night.” Troy pointed to the life-size dummies standing on the lawn. “We had them 69-ing each other.”
“Sixty-nine!” Rex high-fived Troy.
“You’re so immature,” Lacy said.
“I’ll show you immature.” Troy grabbed her butt and pulled her close for a kiss.
“Ew!” Lacy leaned away. “Your breath smells like beer.”
“You know you like it.” Troy tried to kiss her.
“No!” Lacy half screamed and half laughed, pushing him away.
“At least he left that one up.” Rex pointed across the lawn at a large Headless Horseman figure sans his jack-o-lantern head. The smashed remains of a pumpkin laid on the grass below his plastic horse. Spray painted on the back of his cape was the phrase: ‘Give me head.’
“Marcus, I can’t believe you did this.” Dana scolded her boyfriend.
“It was just a harmless Mischief Night prank,” he said.
“Actually, it’s property damage,” Dana said. “You know you could be arrested for this and lose your scholarship.”
“Relax Danal,” Troy said.
“What’d you call me?!” she snapped.
“Day-na,” Troy enunciated slowly. “We wore masks…” He pulled the Jason Voorhees blood-stained hockey mask from his bag and placed it over his face. “So they can’t know it was us.”
“Yeah, relax.” Rex pulled a matching Jason mask from his bag. “They don’t know who we are.”
“They will if you wear the same masks,” Dana said.
Troy shoved his Jason mask back into his bag and Rex did the same. The five teens then ascended the steps of the front porch stained with pumpkin seeds from the other jack-o-lanterns they smashed the night before.
“Did you do that too?” Dana nodded at a broken flower pot. “That is so not cool, Marcus.”
He shrugged. “We were wasted…”
“That’s not an ex—” Dana yelped as Marcus swept her off her feet. “What are you doing?!” She laughed as he carried her around. “Put me down!”
Marcus placed Dana on a bench beside the front door. “I’m sorry.” He pouted, kneeling before her. “How about a kiss to forgive me?” He pulled a Hershey’s Kiss from his pocket.
“You can’t just kiss your way out of everything.” Dana continued scowling.
“Oh… That’s a shame.” Marcus unwrapped the silver foil and placed the chocolate between his lips, positioning them inches from hers.
Dana’s scowl softened as she stared at the Hershey’s Kiss between her boyfriend’s lush lips. “Be smart,” she said. “Think about your future.”
“I will,” Marcus mumbled through the chocolate in his mouth.
“Good.” Dana connected her lips to his, sucking the Kiss into her mouth.
Troy, Lacy, and Rex continued to the front door.
“Last night we did the tricks, now tonight we get the treats,” Troy said. “Double ownage.”
“Yeah.” Rex cackled. “Double ownage.”
Troy pressed the Ring smart doorbell while singing, “Ding-dong, suck my schl—”
The door swung open, and a figure in a black hooded robe stood before them holding a scythe with a sharp blade that looked eerily real. There was no face visible beneath the hood, just a figureless black shadow.
“Oh, hi.” Troy smirked.
The person dressed as the Grim Reaper silently stared at the teens—and kept staring for a solid ten seconds that felt much longer than that.
“Um…” Troy stared expectantly, not sure what this joker was waiting for. “Trick or treat?”
The Grim Reaper remained as motionless as the decorations on the lawn.
“This guy is creeping me out,” Lacy whispered from the side of her mouth, clutching Troy’s arm to hide behind him.
“Chill, babe.” Troy chuckled. “It’s just a costume.” He held his bag toward the Grim Reaper. “Come on, dude, we don’t have all night.”
“Yeah, you know the drill.” Rex held out his bag. “We ring the bell, you give us candy.”
The Grim Reaper’s head slowly turned to study each teen on the porch, as if judging their souls after death—or just wondering what their ‘costumes’ were.
“Like our high school jock costumes?” asked Rex. “In real life we’re middle school nerds.”
The Grim Reaper focused on Troy.
“Well?” Troy said, raising his brow.
The Grim Reaper slammed the door shut on them.
“What the hell?!” Troy shouted.
“Yeah, what the hell?!” added Rex.
“He probably thought we were too old for trick-or-treating.” Lacy pulled Troy away from the door. “Which we kind of are.”
“No.” Troy shook his arm free. “If you’re not old enough to drink alcohol, then you’re young enough to trick-or-treat.”
“But we are drinking,” Rex said.
“I know,” Troy groaned. “I meant legally, dumbass.”
“Oh, right,” Rex said. “I knew that.”
“Let’s just try another house,” Lacy said.
“No, screw that,” Troy said. “If they don’t give us a treat, we have to give them a trick.”
“I thought you already did trick them…” Lacy looked back at the dilapidated decorations on the lawn. “…last night.”
“Apparently they didn’t get the message.” Troy picked up a jack-o-lantern from the porch. “Looks like we forgot to smash one last—”
The door swung open again, and the Grim Reaper reappeared with his scythe.
“Oh, there you are.” Troy was caught red-handed—or orange-handed—holding the pumpkin with a ghoulish face. “I was just admiring your carving skills.” Troy gently placed the jack-o-lantern back down. “We thought you ditched us there for a second.” He stepped to the door and opened his backpack. “So you got our candy?”
The Grim Reaper held out a piece of paper and handed it to Troy.
“What’s this?” he asked.
Without uttering a word, the Grim Reaper slammed the door shut once again.
“Hey!” Troy slapped the door in anger. “What’s your problem, bro?”
Dana watched in amusement from the bench. “Like everyone else in the world, his problem is you.”
“Or maybe his problem is you, practically filming a porno on his porch,” Troy said.
“Everybody just chill out,” Marcus said.
“What does the note say?” asked Lacy.
“How should Troy know?” Dana said. “He can’t read.”
“Shut up, Dana,” Troy said.
“Are you going to let him talk to me like that?” Dana asked Marcus.
He shrugged. “That’s just Troy being Troy.” He tried to resume kissing her but she was not in the mood.
“Well maybe Troy needs to change Troy,” Dana said.
Troy studied the piece of paper, which had a message written in dripping red ink made to look like blood, then read the text aloud:
Traverse the tricks and turns of The Reaper’s Maze,
and at the end you will be rewarded with a treat.
Make a wrong turn, however;
and risk being lost forever.
Revenge is sweet.
An arrow at the bottom of the page pointed to the right. Troy looked across the porch where a sign reading ‘MAZE’ had an arrow directed toward the backyard.
“What does it mean?” asked Lacy.
“Who cares?” Troy crumbled up the note and tossed it away. “Let’s go to another house.”
“Yeah, forget this dump,” Rex said.
“They probably give out weak-ass candy corn anyway.” Troy trotted down the porch. “Yo Marcus, we out!”
“We’re leaving without candy?” asked Marcus.
“You have to go through some kiddie maze to get it,” Rex said.
“Ooh, I love mazes!” Dana grabbed Marcus’s hand. “Let’s do it!”
“Screw that,” Troy said. “It’s a waste of time.”
“What are you afraid you’ll get lost?” asked Dana.
“No,” Troy said with disdain. “I’m afraid I’ll get bored.”
“Come on.” Dana excitedly led Marcus around the side of the house. “It’ll be fun.”
Troy sighed then reluctantly followed them to the gated entrance. Tall cornstalks were stuffed around the black iron bars with a sign above reading: Enter if you dare: The Grim Reaper’s Maize.
Subscribe to Time Zone Weird to enter “The Reaper’s Maze” and read the rest of the story.