Sunday, November 6, 2016
By Daniel Skye
Jimmy Doyle wasn’t allowed to watch horror movies. Ever.
One night, he caught the end of Nightmare on Elm Street, and he couldn’t sleep for days. The concept of someone actually killing him in his dreams was terrifying. Every time he closed his eyes, he imagined Freddy Krueger was just waiting for him in his dreams.
Then Jimmy had walked in on his parents watching The Shining, during the scene where Jack Nicholson stalks Shelley Duvall with an axe. He didn’t sleep a wink that night. And the next day, when he saw his dad chopping firewood in the backyard, he said a prayer because he thought their days were numbered.
He went to his mother, crying hysterically, babbling on about how his dad was going to chop them all into coleslaw. She had to calm him down, explain that it was just a movie, and basically convince him that his father wasn’t an axe murderer. A perfectly normal conversation to have with a nine-year-old.
And that’s when his parents reached their decision. No more horror movies for little Jimmy Doyle. And on Halloween night, his mother forbade him from even turning on the television. And 2016 was no exception.
He was still allowed to go trick-or-treating, but Jimmy was timid, shy, and didn’t have too many friends his own age. He preferred to stay home every Halloween and hand out candy to the other children, just to get a glimpse of their cool costumes and feel like he was a part of the festivities.
His parents had been invited to a Halloween party that evening, but someone had to stay home and keep an eye on Jimmy. So of course this made his brother, Stephen, the unfortunate volunteer.
Stephen was furious about missing out on all the Halloween shenanigans. He had invitations to three different parties that put his parent’s gathering to shame. He assumed all adult Halloween parties were the same; a bunch of grown-ups stumbling around drunk, listening to outdated music, wearing half-finished costumes they threw together at the last second.
And while his parents were out getting plastered, Stephen was stuck at home, making sure his brother didn’t turn on the TV and accidentally see Jason Voorhees hacking someone up with a machete.
Stephen was sitting at the green Formica table in the kitchen, texting Megan Fuller. He was trying to persuade Megan to ditch her sister and come hang out with him, but so far he was striking out like a rookie at home plate.
Stephen, a soul-patched hipster who smoked electronic cigarettes and would only drink craft beer, didn’t have much luck with the ladies. But that didn’t stop him from trying. And that didn’t stop them from rejecting him.
After a while, Megan stopped responding to his “Netflix and chill” requests. But his phone was still blowing up with texts from his friends.
Mark: Dude, they’re showing The Exorcist on channel 6. It’s uncut!
Jason: Bro this party is off the hook. Where the fuck are you?
Chris: You coming to Pete’s house? He scored two kegs from his job.
Saul: Yo come to Craig’s house. Lots of single girls here.
Eventually, he turned off his phone because he couldn’t bear to read them. It was like being under house arrest. He couldn’t go anywhere. If he left Jimmy home alone, his parents would take away his car, his phone, his laptop, even his E-Cig.
He wanted to blame his little brother, but Jimmy was an innocent victim in all this. And it wasn’t like he had to take Jimmy door-to-door to get candy. He just had to babysit him for a few hours.
And Jimmy wasn’t much of a bother. All he really wanted to do was carve a pumpkin. He’d saved up his allowance for two weeks and bought the biggest one he could find after school that day.
Stephen got up to get a glass of milk when Jimmy came in. “Can we make a jack-o’-lantern?” Jimmy asked, his eyes gleaming with excitement. “Please. Please, please, please!”
Stephen sighed. I could be pounding beers or making out with a girl dressed up as a Playboy bunny right now.
“It’s Halloween, Jimbo,” he told his brother. “Kind of pointless now, isn’t it? If you wanted to make a jack-o’-lantern, you should’ve asked dad weeks ago. We don’t even have a pumpkin.”
“I bought one after school with my allowance. Dad said he’d help me carve it.”
“Well, that’s dad for you. He’s a weatherman for channel 14. Weathermen are notoriously unreliable. Tough break, Jimbo.”
Jimmy hated when Stephen called him Jimbo. It irritated him to no end. And once he made it clear that it irked him, Stephen never let up.
“Come on,” Jimmy said, practically begging. “I’ll give you the rest of my allowance.”
“I don’t want your piggybank change,” he scoffed. Stephen turned his phone back on to see if Megan Fuller ever responded to his last text. She had not.
He turned his attention away from his phone and saw the disappointment in his brother’s eyes. Stephen sighed again. “Alright, we can carve a jack-o’-lantern. Just give me half an hour. I need to call Megan and make sure everything is alright. I have a strange feeling something happened.”
“Can I read my comics while I wait?” Stephen hadn’t even noticed until then that Jimmy had brought a handful of comic books down from his room.
“You know that mom hates you reading those.”
“I know. That’s why I want to read them while she’s not home.”
Stephen grabbed the comics from Jimmy and started flipping through the covers. “Careful with those,” Jimmy moaned. “Some of them are worth money.”
“Laser man. Devil Man. Nuclear Man.” He stopped for a moment and looked at his brother disapprovingly. “Vampire Chicks from Hell,” he said, reading another title. “Seriously? You don’t understand why mom hates you reading this silly crap?”
“It’s not crap. It’s art.”
“You want art? Go to a museum. This is not art. These are children’s fantasies.” He handed the comics back to Jimmy. “But go ahead and read them, Jimbo. Whatever makes you happy.”
“And then we’ll carve the jack-o’-lantern?”
“Yes,” he said, exasperated. That’s when the light popped on in his head. I know how I can get him off my back, Stephen thought. “You know what? You want a story? I’ll give you a real story. I’ll tell you the story of The Carver.”
“Is he a superhero?” Jimmy said eagerly.
“Not exactly,” Stephen smirked. “The Carver was actually an escaped mental patient. Nobody knows his real name. Not even the doctors that treated him.”
“How is that possible?” Jimmy asked, already looking for flaws in his story. “Somebody had to know his real name? What about his job, his house?”
“He lived in an apartment, gave the landlord a fake name. He had a fake ID, fake social security number, fake birth certificate. And he seared off his fingertips so the police could never fingerprint him.”
“Seared?” Jimmy asked.
“He burned them off.”
“Ouch,” Jimmy said, wincing at the thought of the pain.
“Can I tell the damn story now?”
“Sorry, go ahead.”
“They say The Carver only comes out on Halloween. It’s his favorite holiday. He especially loves jack-o’-lanterns. He loves them so much that on Halloween night, he pays a visit to any house that has a jack-o’-lantern on their doorstep, so that he can add to the collection. The Carver makes his own…He carves them out of human heads.”
Stephen stopped there, let his last words sink in. For a moment, Jimmy found himself so terrified that he forgot to breathe. It was like someone had sucked all the air out of the room.
Stephen chuckled to break the silence. “Relax, Jimbo. It’s just an old campfire story.”
“But you said it was a real story,” Jimmy said, tripping over his own words.
“I was just yanking your chain, bud. Now go read your comics. We’ll carve the jack-o’-lantern in a little while. I promise. I’m going to go outside real quick and make a phone call. I’ll let you know when I’m ready.”
Jimmy walked to his room, comics in hand. Stephen's plan was effective, as Jimmy suddenly had no desire to make a jack-o'-lantern. Unable to shake Stephen’s story, he dismissed the comics and went straight to his computer desk. On his laptop, he did a quick Google search for The Carver. There was nothing on the first few pages except advertisements for low-budget horror movies bearing the same name. He also found carving knives for sale, and instructional videos on how to carve a Thanksgiving turkey.
But he found no evidence to support his brother’s bone-chilling story. He typed the name through every search engine he knew of: Google, Yahoo, Ask, Bing. And there wasn’t a single article to back up Stephen’s tale.
Then he tried Reddit. He found several interesting threads that were all started by the same person. The user claimed to be from Pittsburgh, not too far from Ravensville, where the Doyle family resided.
The threads yielded some disturbing results, as the user had included screenshots of newspaper articles that dated back to the nineties. And each article played out like Stephen’s twisted fantasy. Decapitated bodies, heads carved up to look like jack-o’-lanterns. It was all covered in the articles.
In most cases, the heads were left on the victims’ doorsteps, prominently displayed for their neighbors to see. Only one the articles had referred to the perpetrator as The Carver, and the killer had never been apprehended. They never even found a suspect in any of the cases.
Jimmy gasped at the sudden realization. That means The Carver’s still out there.
The rush of fear propelled Jimmy from his room to the kitchen in seconds, where he nearly slipped on the floor. He looked down and saw the blood, followed the trail with his wide, unblinking eyes. It ended where Stephen’s headless body was splayed out on the linoleum.
His head was placed at the center of the Formica table; his eyes scooped out, the sockets carved into triangles. A candle illuminated his hollow skull. His mouth was orange and glowing.
Jimmy covered his own mouth when he saw all of Stephen’s teeth were missing, and his lips had been carved into a jagged, zigzag-like pattern. Jimmy didn’t know whether to run, cry, faint, or void his bowels.
He wanted a jack-o’-lantern, and The Carver had granted his wish.
A chill filled the room, and Jimmy trembled when someone whispered in his ear, their breath so cold it stung the back of his neck.
“Happy Halloween,” The Carver whispered.