All along the shrouded path performers lurked in the shadows. Hidden by corn stalks they remained invisible until customers came too close. Then the haunters struck. Some lunged out snarling. Others strolled alongside patrons, growling and rasping before slipping back among the stalks. A few merely stood in the middle of the road, silently forcing maze walkers to go around them, anxiously uncertain what might happen. Paraphrased Shakespeare came to mind:
"What are these, so wicked and wildly attired; that look like nothing on Earth, yet are on it?"
Running through the labyrinth I passed the witch’s coven boiling babies, and stumbled beyond the densely fogged lair of the corn monsters – faux fog whiting out everything until the other side – before passing thru the bone orchard. Several posts planted in the ground allowed an assortment of bones to hang from an array of wires. In the dark it looked like the bones floated in midair. Meanwhile, a weeping angel shuffled through the bone orchard. Her broken wings dragging along the ground, getting filthier with each step, she avoided maze patrons rather than went after them.
Some folks took that as incentive to harass her, chasing the angel about the orchard. When they did she cried out, begging them to stop: “Why are you doing this?” And for most this caused a realization about their behavior that compelled them to leave quickly, ashamed and disgusted with themselves. The few contemptible enough to remain, taunting her further prompted skeletons to silently emerge from the shadows. Distracted by the advancing skeletal horde the assholes took their eyes off the angel long enough for her to jump up, grab the wiring, and seemingly floating she unleashed a demonic bellow that would've unsettled a dinosaur.
Aunt Daphne said, “Point there is to make customers the horror, sort of turn the tables on them. I get though some cunt-brain gonna be a dick, so alls I think is yay if it works, if no then won't do it next year."
Although I doubt the bone orchard worked on everyone, not all horror is gore. I’m sure, if nothing else, it provided a lasting memory. And what people said about, what they did when they saw it reveals more about themselves than they may intend to admit.
However, my destination lay beyond the orchard. I wanted to stake out the final corridor. Where the path finally led to the exit an alcove in the corn allowed a performer to hide. As maze goers breathed a sigh of relief, the exit in sight, that performer could come charging out wielding a roaring chainsaw, chasing them out on a final scare.
Unfortunately the chainsaw didn’t fully work. The mechanism had been disabled so that, though the engine rumbled the teeth didn’t rotate – all bark, no bite. Still, it’s hard not to get spooked when a six foot three inch screaming weirdo comes out of the dark swinging a snarling chainsaw.
Slipping into the alcove I turned off my flashlight.
Terry, the aforementioned giant screaming weirdo, said, “Sup?”
“Just looking to cause a few scares.”
“Cool.” Terry passed me the chainsaw, “I’m gonna get a soft pretzel. Have fun.”
She pulled off her mask, and handed it to me. I donned the leathery patchwork, supposedly human flesh, and tried to suppress a mad giggle. Terry disappeared, while I waited for victims.
The chainsaw softly puttered.
"I don't like the sound of that."
I tried not to snicker. When the nervous patrons neared the exit I revved the engine. Heads turned just in time to see me running at them. Those who ran I chased a short distance then hurried back into the maze, in thru the exit to once again hide and await victims.
I heard whispers:
"I think I saw someone."
"Another fucking loser." (This is why the chainsaw doesn't actually work.)
This time I didn't wait. I burst out swinging the chainsaw wildly. However, none of them ran. So at the exit I simply receded back into the darkness.
Such is life.
Some screamed. Some laughed. I couldn’t help smiling when I overheard a little girl tell her parents, “This is how you run from a psycho.” She made it to the other side of the pumpkin patch before realizing I'd stopped chasing her long ago.
At midnight the sound systems crackled as Aunt Daphne got on the P.A., “Well, folks seems another wicked night is behind ya. If ya like, come on back tomorrow, but for now, head on home… before our ghouls get hungry. Muh-hahahaha!”
And with that Wilson’s Pandemonium Pumpkin Patch closed for the night.
Around the campfire Allison, Frank, Glenn, and I swapped stories.
Allison said, “I caught three stoners trying to hide in the dollhouse. Someone always wants to stay her overnight.”
“I had to make some kids stop fake-fucking the pumpkins. We got li’l kids around. Can’t be humping the fucking pumpkins,” Frank said.
Glenn said, “I heard we got two shitters.”
I said, “Jessica told me the same.”
We all raised our glasses, “Spooked so bad they shit their pants.”
We laughed. We howled at the moon. We watched the fire die down just in time for dawn to take over. It felt like home. And that worried me a bit because I didn’t look forward to watching home dissolve simply because the season ended. Yet, it seemed inevitable. Nothing lasts, not even the best of times, so it seemed time to perhaps ride out on a high note.
The nomadic actors eventually retired to their RV, and I ventured to the concession stand to brew myself coffee. I wanted to be alone, but inside I discovered Aunt Daphne deep-frying candy bars.
Never knowing a reason to be gloomy around her, I bowed, “Hello pumpkin queen.”
She smiled, “You and them been up all night?”
I shrugged, “Work don’t start ‘til after dark.”
“True enough.” She pulled out the basket, and dumped sizzling deep-fried delights onto a plate. Talking aloud, though not necessarily to me, Aunt Daphne said, “Doc sez I’m not s’posed to eat this shit no more. Too chubby.”
“Then don’t eat it,” I said fumbling with the coffee maker.
She replied, “I’m your boss, I tell you what to do.”
She laughed. Aunt Daphne glowed brighter than the sun. She knew how to frown, but I suspect she never saw a need for one. Yet, this morning something in her eyes seemed off.
It compelled me to ask, “What’s on your mind?”
She shook her head, “Same dumbass shit every year. Parents get pissed cuz their kids get spooked. They bring their children to a scary place then get mad at me for building it. Can you believe that?”
She sighed, “Problem is – you hear about the shitters last night?”
Chuckling I said, “Yeah.”
“I guess Jessica really nailed some kid whose daddy is just too damn important to have a son who shit himself in the corn maze. He called me this morning making all kinds of noise.”
Hearing the coffee start to boil I felt a knot in my stomach. I got a feeling where this might be headed, and it seemed like dumb luck the bomb didn’t fall on me.
I said, “He wants you to fire someone.”
Aunt Daphne chomped on a bar. After chewing a moment she replied, “He wants Jessica, though he don’t know who to blame. We’re all the same bunch of fucking nuts to him.”
Sighing I said, “Then if it doesn’t matter who goes fire me. I’ve broken enough rules, putting hands on customers and such…”
“Sounded like they deserved it.”
“It should be me anyway.”
Finishing a bar Aunt Daphne said, “I don’t want to fire anyone who hasn’t done a damn thing wrong.”
Nodding I said, “Fine. Then I quit.”
Folding her arms across her chest Aunt Daphne said, “Oh, so you expect me to lie? Tell folks I fired someone I didn’t?”
“Then I guess I’m fired you fat old dumb bitch.”
She lightly slapped me, not even hard enough to kill a fly. Pulling me into a tight hug she whispered, “Don’t think I don’t know this is about something else.”
I squeezed her back then walked out. My pay would come in direct deposit, so no need to linger I went to my car. Climbing in I started the engine thinking, “At least I won’t have to say goodbye.”