Ah! Another Halloween during the end days...

Yep, it's another day of pumpkins and candy for some, and trying to avoid volvanic eruptions, floods, forest fires, and a global pandemic for others.

Happy Halloween! I hope you enjoy it in a socially distanced, mask wearing, hand washing sort of way... 'cause it ain't over yet! ;)

Also: get the candy of your dreams, don’t meet anyone you shouldn’t, and keep your elders safe.

As always, a cheery and heartfelt thank you to The Dude, and to my editor, Mr. C.

Camy. Halloween 2021.



“We’re going out for a pint or two,” Josh said, poking his head through my office door. “Wanna come with?” Neil and Rob slid into view behind him as they waited for my reply.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” I said automatically, turning to shut down my laptop. “You guys have fun!”

“We always do,” Rob said, “and that’s a tenner you owe me, Neil.”

“Come on, Bryce. You’ll love it,” Neil wheedled. “They’re having a Halloween-themed night. You know, lots of vampires and ghouls and pretty young things with bolts through their necks.”

“Huh,” I said, as the laptop finished its shutdown. I closed the lid and slid the thing into my shoulder bag. “And will there be lots of goings on in the loos?”

“Bryce!” Josh sounded shocked.

”Probably…” Neil said, then grinned at Rob triumphantly and held out his hand. I let his anticipation mount, then stood up, slung the bag over my shoulder and walked out, closing the door behind me, joining them in the hallway.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “I like my goings on to be comfortable, fun, and end in a languorously calm fashion. Honestly, the loos in the Dog and Firkin don’t even vaguely fit the bill. Being chased down the alley by a plain-clothed copper might have been fun, once upon a time, but nowadays, not so much. Besides, I have an audit to finish for tomorrow.”

“Spoilsport,” Neil said.

“Don’t forget to give Rob his tenner, Neil,” I murmured, and left them discussing who else they should ask.

I fought through the traffic and made it to the quiet residential road that surrounded the park just as daylight was beginning to wane. I pulled up by the gates, put on the handbrake, unbuckled the seatbelt and turned the ignition off. The tick-tick-tick of the cooling engine and the susurration of the trees in the breeze were the only sounds to intrude on my thoughts.

I heard the park’s closing bell sound in the distance. A short time later a group of laughing schoolboys in soccer kit came through the gate, good naturedly pushing and shoving one another, their camaraderie obvious and strong.

One by one the streetlights started to come on which cast the park into gloom and eventual darkness as the remaining daylight fled. A short while later a small flatbed truck pulled up to the kerb in front of me. An elderly park keeper got out and was pulling the gates closed when another group of youngsters appeared from the darkness within.

They were dressed for trick-or-treating: there were two Werewolves, a Thor, three Vampires, an Iron Man, a Frankenstein, a Wonder Woman, an E.T., and two ghosts in sheets holding hands. Leading them was a tall, red headed cadaverous looking Zombie with a white face, oozing sores, long black cape and a scythe. Some of them carried bags, others small buckets, and they slid through the gates onto the pavement past the park keeper, who didn’t seem to see them. Carefully, looking right, then left, then right again, their leader ushered them across the road towards the well-to-do, well-lit houses, most decorated with Halloween lights and pumpkins.

On the opposite pavement the tall Zombie stopped, turned, looked directly at me, waved and smiled. Then they vanished, as they always did.

The park gates clanged shut. The park keeper locked them, got back into his truck and drove away, leaving me to my memories.

Twelve years earlier

Michael Swanson was a breath of fresh air and possibilities when he joined the sixth form at St. Ermes school for his A levels.

I wasn’t a prefect, per se, but occasionally the headmaster trusted me with some prefectorial duties if there was no one else available, or if the prefects just couldn’t be bothered. Consequently, on the first day of term I was sitting outside the school office waiting to show a new boy around.


I’d always considered ‘jumping out of your skin’ to be a ludicrous aphorism, but discovered it wasn’t as I dropped the book I was reading and yelped.

“Sorry, old bean. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

And there he was. Michael Swanson. Soon to be my best friend and lover, though I didn’t know it when I picked my book off the floor, stood, and in whispering tones — because the Headmaster’s door was open a crack — ripped him a new one.

I took him on the tour proscribed by the instructions and map the Headmaster had given me, which, ended at the theatre. The school was proud of its theatre. It had been built by donations from old boys and often hosted professional companies on tour, although the auditorium only seated six hundred. There was no one else about as we sat on the edge of the stage and swung our legs over the orchestra pit.

“So… what are you taking?” I asked, glancing at his perfect alabaster face, sparkling green eyes and ruby mouth, all ringed by gloriously unkempt flame-red hair.

“Hmm?” He was looking at me with a soft smile that creased his eyes. It was more than slightly disconcerting.

“What courses are you taking, Gloria?” I said without thinking, then clapped my hand over my mouth with embarrassment.

“Oh,” he snickered. “That didn’t take you long. I don’t mind, Bryce. Though Gloria Swanson is a bit of an obvious one. Why not Sunset, or Sunny Swanson? Still, as it’s you, Gloria’s fine.” He patted me on the knee, his hand remaining longer than propriety allowed. “I’m taking the usual. English Lit, Music and Theatre.”

Relived at getting away with my faux pas, I laughed. “I wish my parents were that liberal.”

“But I think you are, eh, Bryce?” he said, then leant over and kissed me lightly on the lips.

Another aphorism I considered trite and overused was ‘hard as a rock’, but fuck me if it wasn’t true. There, on the stage, I fell in love — or if it wasn’t love – and I was pretty sure it was – then it was definitely lust. I’d never felt anything like it. Thoughts of him consumed me.

It was lunchtime. We should have gone to the dining room; I should have introduced him to his teachers and classmates. Instead, he took me back to his house on the other side of the park where we ate and did other things best left to the imagination.

A week later it was Halloween.

With his skills in theatre, and access to the wardrobe department, Gloria got us outfitted and made up for trick-or-treating. We became Zombies from ‘World War Z’, a film Gloria thought was much better than its reviews.

“I must say, Swanson, that I’m very impressed,” Mr. Goddard, the drama teacher, said as he took several photos, checked them and then got us to pose as if we were attacking the camera. “Zombies, eh. Marvellous! Well, off you go. Have fun, and don’t eat too many sweets!”

It was almost full dark by the time we entered the park on the way to Gloria’s house.

Six weeks later I was woken from an induced coma.

Present time

I got out of the car, locked it, and, making sure I wasn’t observed, climbed the fence and jumped into the park, landing on a freshly turned flower bed. The redolent smell of loam and the darkness of the moonless night filled my senses as I found the path and started walking inwards towards the tree, the journey almost rote. And then there it was, the oak tree where death had come upon us, all those years before.

I not so much sat but collapsed with my back to the tree, the dew from the grass soaking through to my backside. I wrapped arms around legs, huddled down and wept for the paths never walked; the love never consummated. A great upwelling of emotion took me and I howled, giving voice to the hidden knot of grief I still carried, buried deep within.

Twelve years earlier

I was dry-mouthed and everything was fuzzy, but then being woken from an induced coma is always like that, so the kindly faced Dr. Ayoabba told me later.

It took me nearly a week to comprehend that the two tearful people, who were there every time I woke from sleep, were my parents. After that, I began to recover faster, but my memories were still patchy, and other than being told I had been in an awful accident — of which I had no memory at all — all I knew was that I had had a fractured skull which had caused a clot on the brain that had been surgically removed; a broken collar bone and ribs; a broken arm, including all three major bones as well as two of my fingers; a ruptured spleen; and various other contusions. Dr. Ayoabba told me the coma had been induced to give my body time to start recovering.

The morning routine was always the same. First, I was asked if I remembered my accident. Then came meds, breakfast, and a bed bath. The only difference was who did what. The nursing staff were mainly elderly and female, though there was one young male nurse who caused me a lot of worry, especially if he had bed bath duty.

Since I’d woken, and they were sure I was in no danger, my parents had been one on and one off visiting. Mother spent most of the days with me. She had a soothing voice which verged on the magical as she read aloud from the books she brought in. One day, after I had been moved out of the intensive care unit and into a small private room, she arrived looking a little flustered.

“Hi, Mum,” I said and smiled. “Guess what! Dr. Ayoabba told me the scan was good and it looks like my cast can come off soon, which means I can come home!”

She smiled broadly. “That’s wonderful news, sweetheart! It’s lucky I’ve just cleaned your room. Speaking of which,” she said, sitting down, putting her bag on the floor and pulling a book out of it, “I found this under your bed.”

I felt myself blushing. Embarrassed wasn’t the word for it; mortified seemed a better fit. ‘Midnight Dude’ was a collection of short stories by the authors at a gay fiction website I visited.


“We’re not cross, darling. In fact your father and I have been wondering for a while when you were going to tell us.” She put the book on the bedside table and awkwardly leant in to hug me. Hugging with an arm in a cast isn’t easy, but her acceptance and the smell of her perfume settled me, and the small knot of angst that I’d been carrying, seemingly forever, evaporated like mist in the sun. I felt free, and when she let me go and sat down, I beamed at her.

“Thanks, Mum!”

“No thanks needed, darling. I’ve read some of them, too. They’re really good. I’m surprised they had to self-publish.” She picked the book up and flipped a few pages. “I thought I could read it to you, today. Where would you like me to start?”

A week later came the day I was told the truth about my accident.

“You’re having some visitors today, Bryce,” Sister Abebe said as she toweled me dry. “You poor boy, you’ve been through such a lot.”

“I’m not a boy, I’m nearly seventeen, Rose,” I said, mildly incensed.

“That’s as may be, but you’re still a boy to me,” she said, her white-toothed smile radiant against her dark skin. Absently, I watched her leave and close the door. Minutes later my parents and Dr. Ayoabba came in followed by a young woman in a tweed suit and a stern looking man in a rumpled mackintosh.

My parents took their usual seats on either side of the bed and both picked up a hand and squeezed. I frowned. “Nice though this is, it’s a little worrying,” I said quietly, squeezing them back. “What’s with Miss Marple and Columbo?” My parents and Dr. Ayoabba laughed, and the tension I’d begun to feel faded.

“Any further memories of your accident, Bryce?” Dr. Ayoabba asked.

“Not since I was last asked this morning,” I said. “What’s going on?”

“Would you care to introduce yourselves?” Ayoabba asked the two at the back.

The woman stepped forward. “Hullo Bryce. I’m Francine Peters, a therapist. If there’s anything you want to talk about I’m always available for you.” She smiled, and I was pleased to see her eyes crease.

“And I am Detective Sergeant Jones, Timothy Jones, Bryce. I have been lead on the team investigating the mur…”

“DS Jones!” Ayoabba said, glowering at the man.

Jones coughed. “Apologies, Bryce. I have been investigating your accident, and I would like to ask you some questions.”

“Murder?” I whimpered, vague images of fists and boots, leers and ripping, screams and pain, flitting though my mind. “You said murder!” I screamed, and then I blacked out.

It was almost dark by the time I came back to my senses and opened my eyes. The shrink and policeman had gone, and I’d been re-wired to a monitoring system; I could hear my heart beat. My parents were still by my bedside and, with much love and trepidation and crying, they told me what had happened on Hallowmas, the day after Halloween.

“I was about to go and wake you for school when the phone rang.” Dad began. “It was the police. They said,” he paused, and his voice hitched, and he sniffed. “They said you’d been taken to hospital and we should get to you as soon as possible.”

“When we arrived you were already in surgery,” Mum continued, her eyes red in the light from the bedside lamp. “We thought we’d lost you, sweetheart.”

“So,” I said in a small voice, “who was murdered?”

“That policeman is a fucking idiot and should be struck off, or whatever it is they do to morons,” Dad said.

“Hush, honey.” Mum reached out and patted Dad’s hand. “Who were you with in the park, sweetheart?”

“I don’t remember!” I wailed, as I sank back into what Dr. Ayoabba told me later was a ‘perfectly normal fugue state, given the circumstances.’


I woke sitting in the armchair in Gloria’s room. I could hear him humming a show-tune somewhere behind me and smiled as I wondered what we’d be getting up to. I felt him approach rather than heard him, and his hands, smelling of strawberry soap, slid around my head and covered my face.

“You know the ‘L’ word, Bryce?”

“’Course I do. I’ve been wondering the same thing myself.”

“What, if you know the ‘L’ word...?” he chuckled.

“No, you dummy. Do you think it’s possible to fall in love at first sight?”

“Sure,” he said. “I have.”

“You have?” I was shocked. “Who with?”

“And you call me a dummy, silly boy. You, of course. Who else?”

“But I feel the same way,” I said. “That’s wonderful!”

Gloria took a deep, heartfelt breath, then his hands were gone from my face and he was kneeling on the floor in front of me, looking up into my eyes. But there were two of him, one superimposed on the other. In the background was my beloved, with his beautiful face and messy flame-red hair; in the foreground he wore the zombie makeup we’d put on for Halloween, but he was badly beaten and the fake blood we’d laughingly applied was nothing to that which pumped out of his slit throat.

“Gloria…” I whispered, “what’s going on?”

“Sorry to say I’m dead, my love. But you… well, you are alive and getting better. This thing we have between us is holding me together. I’m going to find the bastards that did this and change the aphorism to revenge is best served from beyond the grave.”

“I don’t think that’s an aphorism.”

“Fiddle dee dee, Bryce. It works for me. And in other news,” he said, as he took my hand and started stroking my palm, “I am told we can meet for a short time each anniversary.”


“Mmm… by the powers that be. It’s like an afterlife council. A bit weird, but you have to work with what you’ve got.”

“I’m dreaming, aren’t I?”

“Of course you are, Bryce, but what is life but a dream? I’ll see you next year, next Halloween, my love….”

Present time

Gloria arrived, as he always did, walking out of a bank of mist that hadn’t been there moments before. The first anniversary he’d come on his own, but in subsequent years he’d brought his droogs with him. First one, then three, until this year there were twelve surrounding us and the tree in a loose circle.

“Iron man’s new,” I observed as Gloria sat down next to me, leant in and kissed me hard on the lips. He pulled back and smiled.

“He is. Trafficked from South America, and…”

“I can tell my own story, thank you very much, Gloria,” Iron man said in a pipingly high unbroken voice.

I grinned, cheered up exponentially. “He’s a feisty one!”

Gloria returned the grin. “You’ve no idea, love. Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a guide.” His duality, the superimposition of Zombie over human, had reversed. Now he was more his old self, though the zombie with the slit throat still remained in the background.

“Any news?” I asked with trepidation.

He slid his arm around me and pulled me close. “I’ve been told that, one way or the other, there will be a resolution by next Hallowmas.”

“And then?” I pressed, not wanting to, but needing more.

“And then I have a choice,” he said. His droogs started walking back into the mist and vanishing.

I glanced at my watch. It was seconds to midnight. “Don’t go!” I tried to be strong, but couldn’t stop the tears. “I love you, Michael Gloria Swanson. I bloody love you!”

“And I love you, Bryce,” he said as the mist started to pull him away. “I love you, and…”

The mist rapidly dissipated, but before it had totally gone I found myself surrounded by an intense burst of pure unadulterated love. Then it too vanished.

The End...?


'Swanson' by Camy
written during October 2021 for the AwesomeDude.com Halloween thing.

Any mistakes are mine, and mine alone.


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You can email me at: camy.sussex[at]gmail.com


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