Free Fiction: A Halloween Tale


I slid into the booth opposite Deirdre, my hands still trembling, sweat cooling on my forehead.

She looked up from her menu. “You look like hell,” she said.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Everything all right?” She put down the menu, reached across the table for my hand. “Your hands are cold. And you’re sweating. Are you feeling okay?”

I started to nod, then stopped myself. “Not sure really. Something strange happened on the way here.”

“Strange how?”

“I was–”

A waiter put a place setting in front of me, filled my water glass.

“Would you like something to drink, sir?”

“Um. No, water’s fine.”

“Are you ready to order?”

Deirdre shook her head. “Give us a minute.”

The waiter left. I sipped my water, barely managing to lift the glass to my lips and return it to the table without spilling it.

“Tell me,” she said.

It occurred to me that I had been about to start the story in the wrong place. “It started yesterday, actually,” I said. “First thing in the morning. I was at the gym, on one of the rowing machines. There was another guy there, two machines down. I’ve seen him there before but . . .” I shook my head. “I’ve never learned his name. I guess it’s not important anymore.”  I shuddered.

“Anyway, I’d been there about fifteen minutes, when another guy came and started working on the machine between us. Me and the other guy hadn’t been saying much, but the new guy was pretty chatty. Started asking our names, what we did, where we lived. Normal stuff.

“But then he started getting a little weird. Creepy, you know? Talking about these accidents. Horrible stuff. Guns going off in kids’ hands, families dying in car wrecks, plane crashes, stuff like that.”

“Just talking about it?” Deirdre asked.  “For no reason?”

“Well, that’s the thing. At first it seemed that way, like he was repeating things he’d heard on the news or read somewhere. But after a while I realized that he wasn’t talking about stuff that had happened he was . . .” I shook my head. “It sounds crazy, I know, but he seemed to be talking about things he had done.”

“Plane crashes?” she said, frowning.

“I know. Crazy, right?” I reached for my water again, but didn’t pick up the glass. It just felt good against my skin; smooth, cold, slightly damp.

“At this point the other guy left,” I said. “And then it was just me and the newcomer. He follows the guy with his eyes, and then turns to me, calm as can be, and says ‘He’s not going to make it.’

“I said, ‘Excuse me?’ and he points to the guy as he’s walking away and says, ‘That one. He’s not going to make it.’ And then he gets this little smile on his face and says, ‘You I’m not so sure about. We’ll just have to see.’

“Well, at this point, I’ve had enough, you know? So I stop rowing, gather my things and say goodbye to the guy. To be honest, I couldn’t get away from him fast enough.”

“I would think,” Deirdre said. “How bizarre.”

“Right. But that’s not the end of it.”

She sat back, watching me.

“I tried to put him out of my mind. I had a full day yesterday — meetings, a presentation, a couple of calls to Zurich. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the guy and the stuff he was talking about. All day long it stayed with me. And then I was up half the night, running through it all in my head.”

“I don’t blame you. I would have been the same way.”

“Yeah, well when I woke up this morning, I felt better. I finally got some sleep, and I managed not to dream about the guy or the stuff he was describing. I skipped the gym, but . . . well, I had some things to take care of this morning and so I might have done that anyway.

“But as I was driving here, something happened. I was on the interstate, taking that curve near the downtown exit, and all of a sudden the car in front of me — its rear axle breaks. One minute it’s going along fine, and the next minute its left rear tire is splayed out to the side and the car is swerving all over the place. There are cars and trucks on either side of me, a semi right behind me, and the guy in front of me is barely hanging on.

“And then his rear wheel comes off completely and bounds back toward my windshield. He’s riding on his axle now, sending a shower of sparks back at me, and I’m half-expecting his gas tank to explode.”

“My God!” she said, eyes wide. “So what happened?”

I shrugged. “I got through. To be honest with you, I don’t know how. But I managed to dodge the tire and make my way past the guy without getting hit by the other traffic.”

“Well, thank goodness.”

“I know. The thing is, though, as I drove on I saw someone walking along the side of the road. Some guy in jeans and a t-shirt. And as I passed him . . . well, I’m almost sure it was the weird guy from the gym. And — God, I feel like an idiot even saying this — but he had a lug wrench slung over his shoulder and I thought I saw him give me a little wave. But when I looked back for him in the rearview mirror, he was gone.”


[The part with the car breaking its axle and losing its rear wheel is true. I was on my way home from the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop, and it happened to the car directly in front of me while I was surrounded by traffic. I have no idea how I managed to avoid an accident. Lucky, I guess. And I got a story out of it.

Happy Halloween, everyone!]

David B. Coe

16 comments to Free Fiction: A Halloween Tale

  • Vyton

    David, great story! I’m glad you saved the *the accident part is true* until the end of the post. The image of the weird guy on the shoulder with a lug wrench is AWEsome. Glad you made it home. Happy *trick or treatin’*.

  • Creepy. Very Creepy. Cool!

    (and I’m glad you made it home safe. I had a car blow a tire near me once. Thankfully I was a bit a head of it, and just kept driving–but it was scary. And it was at the end of a 5+ day road trip, so I was pretty bleary.)

  • I was totally entranced, loving the story. Great piece of work!
    Then —
    O.M.Gosh, David. I am glad you are all right!
    Happy Great Pumpkin Day!

  • Vyton, Emily, Faith — thank you. Glad you all liked the story. And I appreciate the good wishes. I was pretty freaked out for a while after I got passed the car; it’s not often that we have brushes with fate.

  • Razziecat

    Wow, way to creep me out! I’m so glad you’re okay. And as for brushes with fate – I think we have them all the time. We just don’t always recognize them. Blessed Samhain, everyone!

  • Very cool. Glad you made it back OK. I had a bad car wreck six months ago and I think of it constantly.

  • Thanks, Razz. I agree with you entirely (re the brushes with fate). Happy Halloween to you, too.

    A.J., thanks. I had forgotten about your wreck; hope this didn’t bring up bad memories.

  • Good creepy fun–with a happy ending: you’re okay! Knowing that it really happened (some of it, anyway) was scary. When reality and fiction mix, watch out!

  • Great story, David! Thanks for sharing, and thank the Powers That Be that you came through unharmed!
    Last year, I was in the process of passing a semi on a two-lane highway in the middle of nowhere (Texas) when one of the truck’s rear tires blew and shredded, spraying chunks or retread right in front of me. I’m not sure how I managed to stay on the road nor how all those ‘gator eggs’ managed not to hit my car, but I was shaking all the way to Austin!

  • >>When reality and fiction mix, watch out!<< Right, Edmund — that's always the scariest. Thanks.

    Thank you, Lyn. I've had trucks blow out tires near me, too. Very scary and it will take me miles to get my pulse back to a normal rate.

  • Unicorn

    Thanks for the story, David. Glad you’re okay. Between your lug-wrench-wielding terror and Edmund’s twitchy piece of string last year, Hallowe’en is always creepy on Magical Words!

  • Thank you, David. This was a lovely way to end Halloween. 🙂

  • Unicorn

    This is off topic, I know, but I’ve just seen THIEFTAKER’s jacket art on your website for the first time and it is AWESOME!!!! Congratulations David!

  • Thanks, Unicorn. And thanks as well for the kind words about the Thieftaker jacket art. I’m very excited about it.

    Laura, thank you. Hope you had a great evening.

  • Great Story! Glad you made it to WFC last weekend!

  • Suitably creepy story for Halloween. Glad you swerved in real life and made it away from the accident.

    The new MW looks sleek and clean.