Being poor is tough, but it hits especially hard during the holidays. Halloween is the first reminder that you don’t have the disposable income for your kid’s happiness.
I took Austin down to a local thrift store we visited frequently. They had a rack of reject costumes from supermarkets, a few cheap latex masks, corny novelty party hats and one very well made green and yellow-bellied dragon costume that looked like it could fit Austin and Austin only, sitting alone next to a golf bag full of hockey sticks.
It was painstakingly detailed – it had scales that actually shimmered, interlocked in tiny emerald shields, each with their own special symbol. Hard like crystal, lighter than glass or even plastic. It was cute enough to make adults smile and remarkable enough to finally make my poor son the envy of all the rich kids at his school.
My son jumped into it without waiting. I appreciated the workmanship on the rubber-soled feet, individual fingers with claws and lifelike tail and jaw. No stitches, no tag. Custom hand-made. Austin took the head of the dragon and slid it over his own, his bright smile eclipsed by the black mesh inside the dragon’s open mouth. He begged me to get it. It wasn’t cheap, at least for us, but well worth it for Austin.
Austin wore the costume all day from then on. That was the… 27th, when he went to his first friend’s costume party of many. He was the hit of everyone, so it was no wonder why he loved the dragon so much that he wanted to sleep in it. Seeing as how it was one giant plush and armored sleeping bag, we agreed. It seemed like we kinda had to- the kid did all his chores and homework in that costume as if he was trying to buy favor with us before he asked if he could keep the costume on. We said yes, even at school he could wear it until Halloween.
Austin’s school is very open-minded. The students loved the costume as much as everybody else; even the teacher was fine with letting Austin keep it on during school hours. It was the first week where Austin the Dragon didn’t get in trouble; Austin even got a rare “A” on his spelling test during the week before Halloween. He ate his veggies and brushed his teeth through a slot in the mesh that was hard to see at times, and it sounded like he was showering every night without us needing to tell him to. Why not let the kid have some fun?
Austin’s last Halloween is my bet for the best Halloween nights any kid has ever had. Every house was its own little amusement park of treats and decorations, almost all of them for Austin the Dragon, a legend that every kid spread at school. It seemed that every adult played along as knights or maidens or queens and even some of the other kids copied his costume, leading a band of dragons to terrorize the neighborhoods looking for chocolate late into the weekday night.
What we feared would happen came true on the 1st of November- Austin refused to get out of the costume.
He was never a shrieker or a kicker before, but he was when my wife or I tried to unzip the back or reach for the head of the dragon. After an hour of arguing and tears, we finally caved and sent our kid out to school looking like a fool.
When my wife called me that afternoon saying it was the school and that it was an emergency, all I could imagine was a group of bullies beating up my son in his costume. I rushed all the way to the school nurse’s room, where I saw my son on his stomach, laying on the reclined bed, still in the dragon. The nurse told us that a kickball had flown over the fence and bounced off a truck’s bumper, launching the ball onto a lamp post and then to the back on my son’s head as he was walking out of lunch. A strange event, a stroke of back luck. Path of the storm and all that. The nurse did have good news- said the helmet inside the costume may have saved his life, as she could still feel a pulse even with the costume on. Austin was unconscious and may have been hemorrhaging. We needed to get it off of him.
The helmet was stuck tight. So were the side and bottom zippers. The nurse had to ask a custodian for a pair of pliers to get a better grip on the zipper tabs. The nurse clamped onto it and tugged. My wife helped her. I should have left it alone, but I helped the two of them. With all three of us straining, the zipper peeled down slowly like an embedded knife drawing through a torso with a sound that reminded me of wet wood splitting. The space above the zipper split open to a deep crimson gash flashing bones, muscles and organs. My wife screamed as the nurse yanked up the zipper up alone, closing the oozing, bleeding zippers as best she could as we picked him up.
We followed our son in the facility school van / emergency ambulance to the nearest E.R and waited until dark, until two women and two men entered our son’s E.R wearing medical scrubs that were bright white while the others wore powder green. They each carried an off, official kind of walk, kind of a march with matching bright blue soled nurses shoes. They looked…odd. Like actors in a play. But as out of place as they seemed, this new crew gave my wife and I new hope. 10 minutes later, two of them walked out, one carrying the costume of the dragon, the other the head. One said to the other “Just a little more time and his meal would have been done. Shame. Still, I can’t believe they let one of us get all the way to a thrift store…” as they walked off down the hall, ignoring us. My wife followed them while I waited by the door for the other two. When the 3 of them left, a man exited the E.R in a hurry. The last women spoke in a strange accent to the man that left, like she learned English from a speech-bot.
“You can’t. Do that. Here.” The man’s voice was quick and sleek.
“Rules don’t apply here, maneater. This is just the cattle pen.” I physically stopped the man with my arm. His brown eyes ruffled and shot down at me in indignant fury as I asked: “Do you know anything about my son Austin..?”
“Why would I know anything about your son?” The “doctor” wore one of those metal reflective disks on his head and a stethoscope that belonged on a TV set. His mask hid everything but those angry eyes. He smelled like gasoline made out of limes. I asked him what he was doing in the E.R with that group, and who he was.
“Do you think I wear this mask just to advertise who I am?” he broke the contact with my hand and walked out of sight. I was so pissed I almost followed him before my wife running came back to me, breathless. She said those “doctors” stole the costume by walking out of the hospital, getting into a parked car and driving away. We came back to E.R and found the group standing outside, waiting for us. The doctors tried to explain that they didn’t know what to do, as the costume appeared to be fused with Austin’s skin, and no matter where they cut, they cut into Austin. Nobody knew who the group of strange 4 were or how they got the costume off. My wife and I pushed our way in past the barricade of bodies to see the half-digested bloody mess from Hell all over the operating table and room. In the mess was Austin’s watch, pickled and shriveled, like it had been sitting in a stomach for nearly a week.
I ran from the E.R so quickly that my shoes slipped off halfway through the sprint. The first thing my eyes landed on was the blue bathroom symbol, and I bolted there to throw up and have my breakdown.
The men’s room door was propped open, and I had no shoes left to make a sound. That’s why the arrogant doctor who blew past me didn’t stop pissing- he didn’t hear me or see me. He was standing at one of the toilet stalls with his bright blue soled shoes at one of the stalls, standing half in and out between an open door, the front of his head out of view. I saw what looked like his deflated face and neck resting on his shoulders like a coat hood not in use. He then grabbed his own face with fake lips and empty eye holes and pulled it out of view into the stall as he put it on. I heard what might have been a zipper closing up, and I swore I saw his body jerk up a bit, like he just noticed I was standing there, watching everything. I bolted out, back to the arms of my crying wife. We called the staff and we waited for the man in the men’s room to exit. When no one did, we searched the place and found nothing but the toilet he was using, filled with blood and half-digested chunks of bone.
Check out Howard Moxley’s chilling compendium, REPORT 50: Summary of the Most Supernaturally Active Objects, Places and Entities Located in the United States of America, now available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback formats.
The Secured Bureau of Reclamation, or SBR, is a formally undisclosed scientific research bureau that utilizes the most advanced methodologies and technology currently available to reclaim, ascertain and research the various aberrations of human knowledge encountered within the United States. The Bureau is considered to be the sole authority of locations, objects, people, creatures, entities and constructs that contradict our current understanding of the known universe, and our place as humanity within it. Herein contains what the SBR considers to be the most powerful aberrations localized within each American state, referred to hereafter as REPORT 50.
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