Horror in the Fog — Halloween for Henry, Day 7
The morning of October 7 was foggy in Glenn Hollow, and that normally would have made Henry Garber nervous about walking out to the end of his driveway to wait for the school bus.
Not on this day.
His mother had told him to wait inside until the bus came around the bend down by the Jaspers’ house, when he should be able to see the fog light flashing through the gloom. But Henry wasn’t taking any chances.
He knew Joanne, the bus driver, too well. She wasn’t mean, exactly, but she certainly wasn’t nice, either. And she had NO tolerance whatsoever for tardiness, as Henry had found out on another occasion.
Why, if Joanne even thought you weren’t standing where you should be when you should be, not only would she NOT stop, she would accelerate!
Henry could still remember the awful feeling of the bus whooshing by him one morning last spring when he had become distracted by a spider crawling on the mailbox. He had stepped away from his spot in the driveway just long enough to fall out of Joanne’s tunnel vision, and he missed his ride.
He couldn’t let that happen again today, not after the big game last night.
Because last night, nerdy Henry Garber had made the play of the game, of the season, for his Pop Warner football team. Sure, the Bears had lost by a score of 30-10, but it would have been 30-3 without Henry’s spectacular catch at the end of the game.
He would probably never be a great athlete, and he likely would not make the team when he was in middle school next year — if he even tried out — but he was the hero right now. And there was no way he was going to miss out on any of the adoration that might be coming his way when the kids at school found out about his gridiron exploits.
So there he stood, in a veil of fog so thick that he could barely even make out the porch light that his mother left on for him, just 50 feet behind. The light was just a faint smudge of pumpkin orange in a sea of brown-black-gray mist.
Henry was out there early, too. The bus usually showed up right at 7 am, but he figured that, with the lousy weather, Joanne might not come by until 7:05 or maybe even 7:10.
To be safe, Henry made sure he was planted at the end of the driveway by 6:45.
He had been standing there reveling in his football stardom for about five minutes, when a faint, high-pitched groan coming from the edge of the yard caught his attention. He looked to his right, straining his eyes to see what might have made the noise.
The fog was just too thick for him to make anything out, and it dampened all of the sounds around him to such an extent that he felt like he was wrapped up in a bag of cotton balls.
It was probably nothing.
Henry’s mind began to wander to what was left of the week. It was Wednesday, and he had a math quiz that day, and then a spelling test on Friday. On Saturday, Henry and his family were going to pick out their Halloween pumpkins.
It was one of his favorite days of the whole year, and he couldn’t wait to start carving.
Once again, Henry’s daydream was broken by a croaking noise at the edge of the woods, where the tree line met the grass of their yard. He was sure he heard something this time, and it was definitely louder than before.
Henry looked around nervously as his heart began to beat faster and harder. He craning his neck and eyes to see down the road, hoping that Joanne would be early.
The bus was nowhere in sight.
Suddenly, a breeze began to stir and bounce off the moisture that had closed around him, and Henry wished that it would blow away the fog.
“ROOOAAAARRRRRRR!” screamed the unseen beast in the woods just 100 feet to his right.
Henry jumped straight into the air and let out a shrill shriek.
He was really scared now, but he couldn’t leave, or Joanne wouldn’t stop for him. And he HAD to be at school that day, no two ways about it.
He took a couple deep breaths and tried to tell himself that there was nothing out there beyond the shroud, even though he knew SOMEthing was there.
He decided that just one more growl would be enough to send him back inside. Football accolades weren’t worth being eaten alive!
Just then, the wind picked up again, and Henry was able to see leaves glimmering in the boughs above his head, and then something caught his eye.
It was the fog light on the bus!
Joanne would be there to pick him up in less than a minute.
“GRRRRRREEEWAAWTAA!” screeched the hideous creature hiding in the darkness.
Henry bounced up and down, moving in a small circle as he tried to maintain his position and keep his wits about him. He had promised himself he would go inside, the bus was almost there!
Finally, Joanne roared to a stop just in front of him and threw open the doors, right as the monster let out its most enormous roar yet.
Henry dove through the yawning yellow portal and ran for the cover of a seat near the back of the bus. When he sat down and looked up, he could see Joanne’s disapproving eyes staring at him through the mirror perched above her driver’s seat.
She screeched the doors closed and then started grinding through low gears to get the bus moving forward again.
Biting his fingernails, Henry dared to look out the side window as they passed the point where his yard faded into the woods. Even through the glass and over the roar of the bus, he could hear the moaning and growling of the beast that had tried to devour him as he waited.
In the faint morning glow and under the lifting fog, Henry was horrified to see the open jaws of an ancient chain-link gate chomping down on its imaginary prey as it swung to and fro on its rusty hinges, powered by the October breeze.