Michael had come.
He sits on a pew the count of colors of his favorite candy, what he had when he was home, the Halloween of 1963, Haddonfield. What’s more, his grandmother prays for him as the clouds had burned themselves to soot, and snuff out the sun. And all the monastery had swollen with the empty night.
The days had seemed different now, without a hard sense of time or reality. And though the sun wasn’t any dimmer, the air had seemed more dense and pervasive. Sister Mary Margaret Myers, she stares at her clock until she’d grown irritable — the slowness of the minutes. She rolls out of bed at 3:47am.
Thursday morning, October 29th, two days before Halloween, she shuffles in the sitting room and kneels to pray and clutches at her robe. There are two bottles of wine that sit in a pail of water, and three empty bottles next to the pail. One had fallen and broken. She stares at the glass and weeps.
But she hadn’t had it in her to pray anymore. Where she finds herself in the next hour, as the first fingers of the morning stream through the stained glass and break into blues and greens – oranges and yellows and reds – and one of beams of white had fallen on the loose papers that’d been wet with wine. For a while she wonders if she’ll ever get up again for anything.
Her writing desk is covered in mini-cassette tapes and packs of wafers that’d she’d half eaten and lost with the dozens of other papers and tapes – stray staples and paperclips, so she’d opened other packs that she didn’t finish. And some of them wound up on the floor and she’d stepped on these and kicked them around as she listened to the tapes, one after the other.
This is how Sister Carietta finds her. And she prays quietly to herself, and picks up her sister and carries her out of the sitting room and closes the great, heavy, oak door. She comes back after she’s sat with Mary, runs her a bath and leaves her to soak. She takes the bottles of wine that remain and hides them. Then she sits down to gather herself.
Here, where Sister Carietta had served her God for the last twenty something years, she smokes the first Virginia Slim cigarette she’d had since she’d dropped out of college in the 1940’s. The taste of the tobacco has changed since then. It lost the grit and throaty texture, or maybe it’d been that her throat was less smooth and slim, like it’d been in her youth.
She doesn’t finish the cigarette. But as she puts it out in a glass of water, she half-heartedly imagines the sitting room is swallowed in thick, black smoke and fire: the melting plastic of the mini-cassette tapes – the black soot that climbs on channels of heat, up through the silver and golden cascades and across the walls and through the old vents and ducts.
She looks at the picture of little Michael Myers, a picture she’d taken herself on his first birthday, a day after his christening. He’s held by his sister, Judith. And the both of them are in the arms of their parents, Donald and Edith. That was Sister Mary’s daughter on the right. She wore the same red cardigan she always wore, the one with the gray stitching and the little buttons that’d been like burnt black melon-seeds.
The boy’s eyes were like those buttons. And the cake was yellow with black buttercream. You couldn’t tell by this portrait, but those had been jack-o-lanterns on the far corners. One of them had been badly drawn. And Sister Carietta had remembered, because she’d told Mary it wasn’t the proper shape or texture. Mary, naturally, told her she was being silly.
Carietta got up and went to the kitchen, which had been directly below the sitting room, and joined by a rusted trash-chute, the first floor of three of what is St Johns Monastery. This place, it had been one of the oldest pieces of architecture on this side of Pontiac; the pews were its youngest features, hammered together with hunks of redwood, pine, and white ash.
St Johns Monastery, it loomed through the great sequoias in the swampy outskirts of Livingston County, and to the west was Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. And to the east was Fort Augustus, and then Laramie, and then Haddonfield. The roads between here and Laramie were rough with broken pavement and dirt and hard roots.
She shook her head. The roads would be murder on the tires of her black, soft-top Seville. She checked them yester-evening, after she’d finished changing the oil. Then, she topped off the radiator. The used oil had went in empty milk jugs and was tucked against the side of the woodshed and taped shut around the mouths. They were no longer her concern.
To the north of the kitchen was the infirmary – then the grand dining hall on the right — tucked aside a library swollen with old paperbacks and the loose pages of magazines: old, yellowed newspapers, broken typewriters, some Archie comics that’d been missing their front or back covers, a single playboy magazine that’d been rolled up and secured with an orange rubber-band.
She stops and runs her fingers over the shelves. She takes a handful of R.L. Stine books for her grandson, the ones with the goosebumps, and some old hand-recorders and double-a batteries – a handful of mini-cassette tapes, some small packs of number-two pencils, and a new pink eraser, whose packaging label had been surprisingly wet when she touched it. She wishes she would have finished her Virginia Slim, since now her hands are cold and fidgety and stiff. She goes on, tries to sift through the other stuff on the dusty tables and bins. She takes some bottles of aspirin from the infirmary. Then she goes back upstairs to check on Sister Mary. Her old friend had fallen asleep in the tub, her mouth parted open and snoring.
The water in Sister Mary’s bathtub is foggy. And where her gristly knees had broken the surface are gatherings of white-lavender bubbles. Carietta runs her own bath and washes off quickly. She covers herself in a towel and lifts open a couple of the windows facing the tubs – the tired glow of the morn fills the room to its capacity and evens itself out. It’d been like crystals of sugar in a pitcher of water, the way the sun had peeked through the clouds and heated them, making them its own, and poured the mixture on the low grasslands. And what was left had been watered down and lifted, over the brick and cobbles and window sills.
The walls of the old monastery, she remembered, had always commanded a great presence, hardened partitions, great slabs of finely cut and carved molding – layers of cinder and stucco, the coldness of the concrete floors that’d been so solid they seemed to push back on the pads of her swollen toes and arches.
Carietta padded through the great passageways in silence, carrying her slippers in her hands. She wore a towel. And the halls were chilled as if they’d been open – nude to the surrounding moisture, the lingering marshes, the cold mud. She crept through the now long-empty dormitories, and found the quiet steely and unsettling.
But these rooms had been empty for months. It was only her and Sister Mary, after all. And the cottage was worse for wear, the commitment to charity, their living arrangement. She went to her quarters and drew the curtains – and the sun had been cut in lattice patterns which broke through the wooden gates outside like the golden crusts of apple or cherry pie.
She stares at her hands for a good while, then she makes washing motions with her palms – and beside her, the song of fall leaves and trees-swallow and goldfinch, such a peaceful and warm concerto. She feels less alone than she does at night, when there is only a haze of black-gray fog, balanced on the delicate outer membrane of tranquility.
In Carietta’s wardrobe are her blacks and whites, her cotton cowls and tunics. She takes these out and folds them, leaves them on her cot, which is cool to the touch. In an old wooden breadbox behind her wardrobe is a medium-length, onyx, peplum dress. It has a flare of silk in the hip to cancel out the broad, roundness of her shoulders. She drops the towel and puts it on, unsure as to why she’s so driven – the nervous energy in her arms, an energy she recognized from her youth, that same fervor that undid zippers and belt buckles and her own bra-straps, and that harried them back on at the sudden return of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Strickland. She laughs and shakes her head. Was she too old to be homesick? too far gone to miss the cool rigidity of her father, the fruity-splash of the perfume her mother always wore on Sundays? She sits on a footstool, takes her hand-mirror from the dresser, puts on blush and powder, red lipstick.
By the time Carietta finishes, takes the odds and ends she’d stuffed in her breadbox, the totes of tapes and pencils, some hair gel and tooth paste she kept in small mason jars, a velvet box of silver half-mark coins her father had given her after World War I — she’s worked up a moderate sweat. So she sits down and fans herself with the funny section of the Haddonfield Tribune, the rest of which was balled up loosely in a metal wastebasket.
She feels good, ready even. But a sudden dread wraps its fingers around her, the pit of her stomach, and she gets up and ambles towards the panes. Then she’s reaching along the glass, a passing sensation of worry or guilt. She sees shadows of her own gray irises, floating, as if they’d drift away. When she’d been upstairs with Sister Mary, the sun had bursts through and liquefied the clouds, turning them to sap. But that had changed in the passing minutes. The sun had been different: a smudge of orange that’d been smothered behind gray and blackening billows of smoke. The shadows had flew and stuck to the trees, like monstrous birds covered in crude oil.
Carietta is suddenly ignited. And somewhere close, some place hovering below the surface of reason, she knows she should stay put, weather the storm. She’d never been one to check the weather report, though she did have a radio she’d ordered in the Sears catalog, an old Magnavox. And she still had the beaten to hell, white flower-box it was delivered in.
Sister Mary checked the weather report, the first thing she did before coffee and morning prayer. But they hadn’t exchanged words in months – a time that dragged its bottom from one side of the monastery to the other. It had been a time of silence and worry, a time where the air they’d shared for so long had grown thick and hot, radiating through the pipes, hardening into dense deposits of calcium and lime.
It had been this way ever since —
ever since Sister Mary Margaret Myers’s decision: a fluke of words that almost seemed to sweep by on so many brooms and bad omens. This had been a few days after Halloween – when the Sisterhood of St Johns Monastery had been charged with spiritual intervention and charity. This had been after the Haddonfield Massacre of 1978.
Many of the sisterhood had been so appalled that they packed what little they could carry and left, making calls to children, siblings and parents, before sundown. Those who’d been touched the deepest by the atrocities had broken the oath of sisterly silence as they crowded the phones. They’d told their loved ones about Sister Mary’s plans – to hold a funeral for her only grandson, Michael Audrey Myers.
One last look at Sister Mary – she’d been padding along in the altar with a white, paint-crusted wheel-barrow. Or maybe, that’d been concrete – hardened, caked-on leftovers from a past that seemed like it’d been drawn on black and white stencil, what hadn’t made it to the great floors of the monastery. Either way, the tool had been there longer than any of the sisters could remember. Maybe it’d been left by the late laborers and their foremen, donated to St Johns as a keepsake, a reminder of faith in meager things. It reminded Carietta of the little wagon her father kicked her around in when she was a girl. It’s why she hobbles the way she does.
Sister Mary Margaret Myers, perhaps, riding the same nervous energy, worked quickly, pacing to and fro from the wheel-barrow. And in its bed are wreaths and sprays. She takes them, two at once. And they burst with white roses and lilies, waving carnations and snapdragons, and leaves with smooth, blade-like edges. One of tapes had been playing then, the haggard, if not aloof voice of Dr. Samuel Loomis. He’d been a voice that Carietta knew well – one she’d been able to recognize through the seemingly insubstantial wood-works. She wasn’t the only sister that could.
Forty-Five Lampkin Lane — Halloween had return to Haddonfield with a chilled rain that lightly flooded the narrow streets and driveways — the autumn leaves that coated the pavement. And at the foot of the low shrubs runs rivers of black water that emptied out into the main thoroughfare. Because it’d been the hour of preparation, final applications of colorful makeup, fake blood, awkward talks about the bogeyman — basins of water filled with apples and bowls of caramel with more of the same — the streets were desolate. The rain beat on to its own drum.
A figure of a woman is standing at the Myers house. She hums a tune that’s written dryly on her tongue. She’s so caked with mud that the rain does little to make her likeness legible. She is still. And every so often packs of raw, black earth shake loose from their crevice. They make slopping sounds on the pavement. The night is painted over with swathes of floating silver.
She moves, but when she does it’s like she’s learning to walk for the first time. The sky is screaming, the great bands of clouds that’d been beaten purple and sobbing. Like chipped and rusted hinges, the ball and joints in the knees, scraping toes. The marionette jerks forward on drunkenly pulled strings.
Giddy, Carrietta jumps straight down from the top step, nana’s porch. She doesn’t want the bogey-man to grab her feet. She knows he hides in the shadows, that he’s probably watching for her through the gaps between the dirt-worn wooden steps. And that there’s rats. She hates rats.
Her father comes behind her, carrying her wagon the way he’d carried his own baby girl from the hospital. He puts it down and oils the wheels. She hops in. And then he’s crouching and making motor sounds with his mouth, and asking her if she’s ready in his official racing announcer’s voice. He gives it a kick from the steel toe of his work boot.
Then they’re laughing together – Friday morning. It’s humid. She doesn’t like the way she smells, or maybe that’s the oil daddy had put on the wagon’s wheels —
Now he’s yelling at her, calling her name “Carrie, sweetheart”.
“Carrie,” lesser now.
But now she can’t move
then she sees herself standing, the wind pushing at the yellow daisies on her dress, her shortly cropped, brown hair and the white frills on her socks. Daddy sounds scared. Carietta is scared to look behind her. The lady driving the post-truck she’s approaching, she looks scared too.
Then the faraway ringing, at least it started that way in her dreaming mind. But it wasn’t ringing at all. It was a full-throated scream, on and on. She whimpers – forces her eyes open and touches her face through the covers. The covers had been damp. She’d been sweating through them and shaking.
All these years – and the scars are still so deep and ugly to touch. She covers her face with her pillow and cries, pushes down so it’s hard to breathe. She holds her breath until it hurts her lungs. Then she’s laughing. She’s a little girl and she peeks over at the door, then she’s hiding under the covers.
But it hadn’t been her voice, the screaming voice. That had been outside: with the din of smashed windows, from a throat that’d been overflowing with blood. It’d been from the Myer’s house across the street. And Carietta staggers and wipes at her eyes. She’s making her way to the front door frantically. It’s already open when she gets there.
Laurie Strode, who’s birth name had been Cynthia Evelyn Myers, was among those persons found dead in Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. Her severed head was recovered in the lobby, one of the places that went miraculously unburned. Her other remains…
Mary stops the tape.
She strikes a line through it in red and takes it anxiously from the player. She gnaws on her pencil – takes the next tape and plays it.
The boy, little Michael – (Dr. Loomis coughs into something, maybe his sleeve. It sounds far away from the recorder) I’ve seen the devil in his eyes – all these days – and it pisses me off, frankly, that he’s moved in so easily.
(A commotion, other’s talking – a popping sound, noise) Yes, you. (The doctor has called on someone) You talk so much of this “devil”, Dr. Loomis – maybe you’ve considered exorcism, or is that just (The woman’s voice trails off. The quiet after it is covered in noise like falling grains of uncooked rice)
She stops the tape. For a while she holds the marker like she’s going to use it. She caps it and puts it down, puts the recorder aside her face. Her fingers are small; and so she’s wrapping all of them around the recorder, all except the thumb. She squeezes the button slowly – play.
It took Mary longer than she’d anticipated, to be swallowed by Haddonfield’s city limits. It’d been drizzling all the day so that the firmament was gray and hazy. The maple, those trees that’d been the shade of both her brothers and sisters, her friends, those who’d wandered through their little town from one side to the other, from when she were a little girl – they were so much bigger now. And they reached over Davison Street and University and thickened into a mossed mass of what looked like red-green fur.
She cracks her window. And some of the rain had crawled over the glass and made its way in. But it always got so hot in the Lincoln. And she’d been driving for so long she didn’t care.
Halloween — and with her is a tote bag of wafers and chicken salad, a copy of the old King James bible that she’d been given by the previous abbess, Sister Hilde. She saunters under the trees, so it was like the rain had abated altogether. And the avenue had been so dead and black it seemed like a pocket of outer space.
But she doesn’t know where she is. And she hits what feels like the crushing armpit of a waterfall, the way the rain had come down again on the Lincoln. She shrieks and lets off the gas and lets her coast — holds the clicker in place for her high-beams, since the mechanism itself is broken and Carietta never got around to fixing it.
She starts praying for two reasons: because it’s all she’s ever had — two, because the Lincoln’s motor starts to miss. The rain is freezing cold. And she knows this because it’s made its way into the cabin and it sloshes around her feet and the pedals. Further, the left side of her habit and coat is soaked and sticking to her skin, the cold works its way across her hips and shoulders. All she can see is water, the sea as it empties onto her and beats on the roof and doors, knocking. And its voice is deafening and crying.
The Lincoln coughs and dies.
Sister Mary remembers the old Chevelle that’d belonged to Buck Johnson. She makes the turn on Lampkin, drives through the roaring silver diamonds, the peeking slivers of night. And all at once, the rain is swept away behind her like the snapping covers of bed-sheets. The air is hot in its pot and melts. The other side of it, it’s quiet and dank and the trees had thinned out and took to their own streets – the simple brick bungalows and their flat colored skins.
It’s too much for her to see the boys and girls in their costumes. She throws the shifter in park and holds it, rests her head on the cold, thin steering wheel. She couldn’t say how long that’d been, how long she sniveled, soaked and cold, parked in middle of the boulevard along the side of Buck’s R.V. – but it felt good and soothing and her tears were warming on her face and neck. And at first, it seemed like the boy would walk on by. But he stops and says “excuse me” a few times and comes closer. Though Mary is far from stopping herself she does when she sees him.
It’s because he looks too much like Michael: the same dirty blonde hair, the same pudgy, cream-soaked features – too much like Michael, indeed. But there was no way it could be Michael. The boy was too young, and alive. Her little Michael was dead. He died a man, and without God.
That’s what she had said then, by the empty brass urn as she prays.
Everyone was dead.
“Everyone,” she says.
The boy opens her car door and she’s so stricken and swallowed by fear she slaps at his hands and kicks. And she can only hear her own screaming. She works her way over the partition, to the passenger seat and flings open the door. She’s out and running. The other children have stopped and watch her.
She tries not to see them but she does, each flat and passing face. Were they Michael too? She shields the sides of her eyes with her hands.
Then she stops.
She stops because she can’t run anymore – nor can she see anything around her. It’d been like she ran off the edge of the earth. A single street lamp burns ahead. And the boy is waiting for her there, Michael, her grandson. He was waiting, the whole time.
Michael takes her hand, and they go. The old brass door is shaky and dull. They go inside. A woman is at the kitchen counter washing dishes. She wears a badly stained apron and a red cardigan. Her face is painted in white and blue, a big, red spongy nose. She cries like she’s cried for years and it’s much too frightening to stop. The kitchen floor is flooded with water and the faucet whines with such a noise that makes Mary’s stomach turn. Michael leads Mary through the kitchen and by the woman. But the woman takes no heed. They step through the water, one after the other; and rising from it is the coppery, sour odor of blood.
A man crawls on his hands and knees barking. He’s nude, save for a collar with spiked studs and tassels. He wears a red bonnet and a mask with bucked teeth, the same red, ridiculous nose. A woman the width of a loveseat chases him and tosses wafers which he pushes around with his mask and the side of his head. Every now and then he gets too excited, shakes his leg at the knee and pees. And the woman kicks him. His right ear is torn and bleeding.
Sister Carietta taught her that song, the tune that Judith hums in the vanity: every stroke of the comb, and the great clumps of long and broken hair – thin, golden-blonde locks that’d come off and covered her naked breasts and shoulders: gathered at her lap, taken to the floor and collected in dry, wiry heaps. It takes her another look but Mary does: see’s the mirror is not really a mirror, but a finely cut hole that’d been ringed with bulbs that burned bleakly in the room. Judith wears a mask too: but Mary knows her Judith’s voice. Mary makes a hurtful convulsing sound. Michael pulls her.
On they go.
From this side of vanity had been nothing, but a hole so solid and black it seemed to mark the end of things: the universe as god had seen it – the beginning of things before the first fruits, the first skies and salt-water oceans, the first sun, all that she hadn’t seen in so long — the things that felt more like distant memories. And the next room had been filled with children, stacked on top of each other and plastered against the door-frame. Michael opens the door and they’re pressed against it like clumsily affixed wooden planks, nooses around their throats. One of the girls, she looks like Cynthia.
There are tears in Cynthia’s eyes. And suddenly she falls loose and tumbles through the other children – crashes to the floor at Mary’s feet. Then she looks at Michael and runs. The withered rope lengthens behind her. She doesn’t make it far before it goes taut, then retracts. By the time she’s sucked back her face is blue and she’s not moving. The rope pulls her through the other children until she’s gone.
Mary sees this.
Michael lets go of Mary’s hand and looks around him. The harmless, boyish way in which it tousles, he almost seems normal. She can’t get her mouth to move: hands and feet that hadn’t belonged to her anymore. Mary watches him as he watches her. Then he lifts and presses his foot on a freckled boy’s head who’d been face down against the floor. A terrible pop from the freckled boy’s face, and a thick bead of blood pushes from under it. She can hear as he struggles to breathe against his own blood. Michael climbs up and through and disappears.
Mary feels everything as she prays. She can close her eyes, so she prays.
It hurts to think, hurts to see.
There’d been another door, the farthest down the hall that opens and falls loose on its hinges. A man comes through it, a tall man wearing overalls that he fills in broadly in the neck and arms. And Dr. Loomis is out behind him. The sponge-nose the doctor wears, its black and lumpy like a badly trimmed bush.
He walks into the wall as if it isn’t there. And the man lumbers on ahead. Blood runs down the Dr’s cheeks, he steps backward then forward mindlessly, into the wall again, with more force each time so that the plaster wisps out in powdery gusts that settle on the Dr’s sport-coat. The man in the coveralls is holding something Mary can’t see.
Most odd about him though is the mask: the pallid, blank face and the rough texture, like it’d been dragged through mud and sharp rocks and rusted, red fish-hooks. The eyes had been cut out wide so that the wrinkles of skin show underneath. His eyes had been deep and black, a gaze that searched through rather than at.
One step and then the next. Mary turns and looks at the children. And for the first time since she’d been in the house she feels afraid. And like they’d felt this they whine and jerk, trying to free themselves as the man looms closer. They grab at their necks and legs until the ropes nip them and draw blood. One of the girls, one with frazzled red hair and a sharp beak-like nose bites an unidentified rosy leg to get it to move. There’d been a muffled sound from the mound of little bodies, some of them saying “fuck me” and “you’re too old for trick-or-treating”. Ultimately though, there’d been very little progress.
There faces were soaked with tears.
And it finally hits her then, as he’s this close. She fancies she can still smell the baby on him, beneath the rotten and sour odor: she can taste him on her lips, the way she kissed him after his christening. Then she hands him over to Carietta, his god-mother. And she rocks him and smiles. She’d been so happy that day, the both of them actually. She weeps in her heart for Carietta.
“Oh Carrie” she says. It’s first a sob and she chokes it back. “Oh my dear, dear Carrie.” She’s losing herself.
“Oh God,” she chokes. And she wails into her hands and shakes. The rosary bites into her breast and she stops. She looks at him.
“Michael” she says.
The man watches her. And as he does she looks for the slightest sign of movement in his black eyes — but there’s none.
“Michael, baby?” she says again.
She takes a step back, water — a thin finger of it had worked its way from the front kitchen.
Michael turns and to the children.
He raises his knife and it comes down. The blood from a girl with a slightly yellow and squared face, it bursts from her cheek and onto Mary. It’s heavy as it hits her, the weight of bricks. It works its way through her habit, onto her own skin. And the knife is up and down and Michael is stabbing them and taking them in his hands and throwing them to the side. The blood forms its own body and dances with the water.
It goes on like this for a while. And the blood spurts across the door and on the far wall and falls down to the baseboards and crawls over the molding and collects. When it gets heavy enough it jumps the baseboard and makes a dense film on the floor. Then she sees nothing else, all the light is sucked away, as if through a straw. Then, there is nothing else. She can barely hear her own breathing. The darkness is so thick she can’t tell the difference whether her eyes are opened are closed.
“Michael,” she says.
Then a smaller hand, the little boy’s.
“Shhhhhh,” he whispers, “Cynthia’s trying to sleep.
He squeezes her hand. “Welcome home,” he says.