In the middle of the night, a loud noise that sounded like two pots striking each other awakened Gary from a deep sleep. Sitting up, he peered through the open door of the master bedroom into the landing on the second floor.
“Gwen, I heard something,” he whispered, nudging her under a mountain of covers. “I think someone’s in the house.”
He waited for a response, but only received an uninterested groan and continued heavy breathing.
“Remember,” he said softly as he rolled out of bed, “you don’t know the passwords to the bank accounts if anything happens to me.”
When Gwen, still submerged in heavy blankets, answered with a snort and started to snore even more loudly, Gary crept silently to the doorway. Looking both ways down the length of the hallway, he listened for more sounds.
Momentarily, he heard the rattle of glasses in the china cabinet in the dining room. Sliding to the floor, he crawled to the railing and peered down into the black living room. He heard the refrigerator door open, then the sound of ice falling and liquid filling a glass. Apparently, whoever was creeping around in the dark on the first level was making no attempt to be silent.
Had Gwen allowed someone to spend the night without telling him? He didn’t think she would do something like that, but someone robbing the house wouldn’t be so brazen to thrash around like a bull in a china shop.
Gathering his nerve, he took a deep breath and rising to a standing position shouted, “Who’s there?”
After a pause, an unfamiliar voice answered from below, “My name is Randolph.”
“Randolph?” Gary repeated, searching his memory bank for a connection. Finding none, he replied, “I don’t know any Randolph. What the hell are you doing in my house in the middle of the night?”
“I used to live here many years ago with my mother and sister. It was a quiet night in the cemetery. A perfect night for a walk, and I thought I’d stop by for old times sake.”
“Was this some kind of sick joke?” he thought. “Did some lunatic escape from a loony bin?”
“How did you get in my house?”
“I used the key under the flower pot on the porch.”
Suddenly, Gary heard something fall and break in the den. “Is someone else here with you?” he inquired meekly.
“Yes, Donald, my brother, and Francene, my sister, came with me,” said the peculiar voice from the kitchen.”
“Why are you walking around in the dark? You’re making enough noise to wake the dead.” He paused not believing he made this remark. “ Why not turn on the lights?”
“We like the dark,” Randolph said eerily.
“Look, enough of this nonsense. I don’t know what planet you came from. But you can’t just barge into someone’s home in the middle of the night. You need to leave right now, or I’ll call the police. You’re scaring my wife.”
Randolph, unperturbed by the threat, chanted in a whimsical voice, “Liar, liar, pants on fire, hang them from a telephone wire. Your wife is here with me, Gary, and she’s not scared. At least, not anymore.“
“Now, who’s lying?” Gary shouted. “Gwen is sleeping in our bed in the master bedroom. I can hear her heavy breathing through the doorway as we speak. Enough of this, Randolph, or whatever your name is, gather your friends and leave immediately, or you’ll be spending the rest of the night in jail. This is your last chance.”
“That’s not your wife you hear snoring,” Randolph declared boldly, “it’s my sister, Francene. Your bedroom was hers when she lived here twenty years ago. I’m surprised you didn’t smell her.”
Gary turned on the light in the upstairs hall with the wall switch. He saw three pale women in hospital gowns shambling into the living room from the kitchen craning their necks upward toward him and smacking their lips chillingly.
“Where was his cell?” he thought. Then he remembered starting to charge it on the kitchen counter just before bedtime.
Three more figures shambled into the living room and joined the others ogling him with their malevolent, ravenous stares.
“What do you want?” Gary screamed.” Whatever it is, take it and leave. Please!”
At this remark, Randolph and his friends began to snicker, and then burst into a fit of maniacal laughter. The six drooling women with hungry eyes and slobbering jaws lumbered single file up the staircase toward him.
Gary shuddered in terror at the grisly fate that would befall him if they got their hands, or should he say claws on him. He turned to flee into the master bedroom, but moving toward him from the doorway was something that was surely from the grave with a hideous pocked face, rotten teeth, and a long tattered gown clotted with damp, wormy earth.
Recoiling backwards from the horror, his flight catapulted him headlong over the rail of the balcony. His piercing scream drowned out the uproarious Happy Birthday greeting from his wife, friends, and neighbors flooding into the hallway and the living room to begin the celebration. In midflight, someone turned on the lights in the dining room, and Gary saw the monster from the master bedroom pulling off her rubber mask and looking down at him from the railing with sad eyes. It was Janine, his next-door neighbor.
In the seconds before Gary lost consciousness after breaking his neck on the ceramic tile floor, he saw the entire room fill with balloons and confetti, his wife in a cocktail dress blowing a noisemaker and tossing a streamer into the air, and a huge banner with the words, “Happy Halloween, Gary on Your 40th Birthday… A Night To Remember” affixed to the bottom of the landing all the way across the hallway.
It was truly a memorable birthday party no one in attendance would ever forget. Gary died on the same day he was born, October 31.