William walked slowly through the streets of his home town. The terrible events of the night had calmed down somewhat, as some of the creatures feared the sunlight, which was ample this cold autumn day. Others were still out and terrorizing the local populace. The creatures from the cemetery were still out and about, clawing at people's houses, pounding on their doors, overturning cars.
William had expected zombies, but these were something different. They were vicious, agile, able to leap huge distances. They had superhuman strength, and he had seen some levitate in place, drooling blood all the while. They were more like demons than anything else.
“William! I say!”
It was the scarecrow. He appeared bounding around a corner. He trampled dead leaves underfoot as he cross the street toward his friend.
“This isn't like I thought it would be,” William told him.
“Nor myself,” the scarecrow said. “Scratch has unleashed some terrible magic on this town. These monsters should be nothing more than shambling corpses, but they've been possessed by the demonic companions of that old creature. The fearful things even make me nervous.”
“How's your plan coming?” William asked him.
The scarecrow had no words.
“Come to the church later. Maybe Jack's plan will work after all.”
“William. . .”
“I don't have any choice, scarecrow. Scratch is going to get me.”
“I'm going to keep trying, but I promise I'll see you there. Be careful, dear friend!” With that, the scarecrow was off once again. William continued on toward the old church. He reached the old church before sunset. Inside, he walked through the nave and came to a staircase. At the top of the stairs were a ladder, which lead up to the belfry. He would have to wait here for whatever Jack had planned.
The sun went down, and hours passed. He heard horrible sounds coming from all around. Things howled in the night. Far below, he saw one of the ghouls being chased by some huge loping creature. They had disappeared into darkness, then there was a loud cry and the loping thing returned with half a ghoul dangling from its jaws.
A huge spider had climbed the bell tower while William huddled nervously below the bell. It had begun encasing the entire thing in webbing, when, impossibly, something even bigger grabbed the spider up and carried it off into the sky. Whatever had grabbed it was accompanied by a horde of flying witches on broomsticks, cackling.
“All manner of things. . .” it was Jack, at last. “Have ye ever seen anything like it?”
“Have you?” asked William.
“It's rare ye see a Halloween like this one. All manner of beast are out there. On the way here I seen spirits, thousands of them, rising up from the ground like mist after the rain on a hot day. They're out there now, spooks, darting every which way. I seen your friend too-- Old Scratch-- He's out there, pluckin 'em out of the air with his pitchfork. He's on his way here, now. He's only got a few more hours.”
“So what are you going to do to protect me, exactly?”
“It ain't up to me any more.”
“I told ye last night, I dispatched a letter. Yer protector had better be on his way. It's out of me hands now. We can only wait and see if he shows.”
“Well did he answer you? Do you know if he's coming?”
“Only one coming for sure is Old Scratch.”
The there was a sound in the abandoned church below. The doors had banged open. Now someone was making their way across the church floor. The sound echoed up the bell tower.
“I'll be outside,” Jack said, then abruptly disappeared down the ladder into the bowels of the church.
He made no sound as he left, but another could be heard momentarily-- that of footsteps ascending the staircase. William pressed his back to the windowed wall. Part of him wanted to leap out to freedom, but several of the witches were still circling the belfry on their brooms. Despite already being dead, the old women scared him almost as much as Scratch.
He stood in place instead and watched as 2 hands appeared on the top rung of the ladder. They groped inward toward the wooden floor, and then a familiar face appeared.
“Dad!” William shouted.
Michael stared at his son in shock. “Will, are you okay?” He quickly clambered up the rest of the ladder and dashed toward William.
The boy backed out of his reach. It was such an impossible question he had just been asked. “Dad, I'm dead.”
Michael tried to smile, but his eyes expressed that he hadn't been hoping for the best. “That's crazy. You're right in front of me.”
“It's Halloween, dad. You can only see ghosts like me on Halloween. I'm dead. . . I've been dead for a while now. I've been dead since everyone was looking for me. I'm sorry I caused trouble. I. . .” he had no idea how to communicate the thousands of things he needed to tell his father.
“It's okay, William, you don't have to—” His father leaned in for a hug, but his arms came away with empty air and goosebumps. His fearful expression changed to one of shock.
“I told you, dad.”
Michael slumped to the floor in front of his son. “I'm sorry. . . I'm sorry I couldn't-- I was supposed to protect you. I was never there.”
“I need you to protect me now, dad.”
“What? It's too late.”
“Dad! I don't have time to explain but. . . this guy, well he's not a guy, but, he's like a demon, or the devil or some kind of thing. He's Old Scratch. He's coming to get me.”
“He's got a pitchfork, and there's this place called the abyss, but, like, I mean it's Hell or something, and he says he wants to get me and burn me there forever. You have to find a way to stop him.”
“You gotta be lucky to do that,” said a voice from the shadows, “And no one's that lucky.” The shape of Old Scratch appeared in the rear of the belfry. “You're my special project, little child. I told that old witch, either I could take her or she could deliver me up something special. I never thought she could do it. She's a has-been, an ancient relic from the early days of this great nation, but wouldn't you know she cooked up something special.”
Michael got to his feet and stood between the boy and the demon.
“You were mine before your body cooled, boy,” Old Scratch said. “Get this ugly human out of my way before I take the both of you.”
He touched his pitchfork to the base of Michael's sternum and pressed ever so lightly. The points penetrated his shirt, but would go no further.
“Go ahead and try,” Michael warned the devil.
Scratch grimaced with effort, but the pitchfork wouldn't progress. “I see you haven't partaken of the witch's brew, but I have other ways to deal with you. Step aside before I start.” Scratch trailed the points of the pitchfork up Michael's body until the center tine rested just below his right eye. “Might be I can't kill you, but I can cause pain. Pain's always free.”
“You're just a ghost story, old man. I'm not afrai--” Michael suddenly screamed as the pitchfork pierced his eye.