Throwback to Halloween
Halloween is all about getting dressed up in spooky costumes and partying, decorating homes and offices, and going door to door in neighbourhoods to trick or treat. But this year, we all had to change the way we celebrate special occasions.
Our colleagues from across the world have come up with creative ways how to make Halloween remarkable even in these unusual times. We’ve challenged our colleagues to take part in the scariest Halloween costume contest on social media and the creepiest Halloween stories challenge.
People from all parts of the world took part in the challenge and to our surprise, we have received hundreds of amazing stories that will give you goosebumps. It was hard to choose the winning stories among so many creative entries, but here they are.
Thanks to each and every member of our team, we have made Halloween truly extraordinary and memorable this year!
And you dear reader, get ready to enter the world full of bizarre creatures – Mr. Skeleton, beasts at door, coffee-addicted zombies and many more. And here are our winning stories:
“Trick or treat?”
Mr Skeleton comes back home, counts the sweets in his chest and thinks “poor things, trapped inside me”. It’s funny, right?
WRONG. He is the one trapped inside any of US. Covered in flesh, skin and blood. A LOT OF BLOOD.”
Victoria, Tommy Y Tania
“One week. Three days. One month. I’m not able to remember, nor do I want to, the amount of time
I’ve been in this room. Thanks to the single bulb low-power hanging from the center of the ceiling, I sense that the room can’t be bigger than two meters long by one meter wide. And I am not alone. I wish I was. There must be at least 8 and a half people. Everybody pressed against each other, with our backs to the wall, and our knees almost colliding with the people sitting in front of us. I can’t see the actual color of the walls, because it seem to have been painted with layers of different shades: green above blue, and blue above yellow. None of the colors shines as they should, and it seems that time has worn them down.
Two days. Three weeks. One hour. I’m not able to say exactly how long we have been waiting for them to come back to take one of us. Then I remember the eight and a half people. The half. The last one was him. The dark-haired boy. I don’t know his name. Nobody knows anybody’s name, it’s no use. What little light there is reveals thin faces, pale from lack of food and water, eyes dull but glowing in the dark. I think we must be all the same age. The dark-haired boy came back alive. Which is why now I count him as half a person and not as a whole.
When you leave this room, you must have given up any hint of hope, of life. You know there is no escape. It would have been better to let himself get killed, but he says that he couldn’t, that he wanted to fight, that at the very last moment the desire for survival seized him and that he thought he could win the fight. And so he came back. Without half a leg. I think his right one. Apart from that, I think he must be bleeding internally from the scars on his chest. He doesn’t have long to live. In my old days as a doctor, before everything happened and losing my job, in these cases, we would isolate the patients in a room and we would notify the relatives so that they could process all the paperwork for the burial. Because death was imminent. Just as it is now for all present here. The infection in his amputated leg releases a smells stale and rotten. My long hours on call in the emergency room had allowed me to acquire a special filter for this type of smell over time, and I don’t know how others can bear it.
I hope they take him back. If he has to die, at least not here. And the moans that accompany his pain are unbearable. He hasn’t stopped since he came back, although between one and the next he gives us a few seconds of silence.
As I stare at his half-eaten leg trying to make out the bone and the muscles, my ears pick something up and immediately my body entire is put on high alert.
I hear them at a distance.
Someone else in the room notices and turns their head in search of the source of those steps.
They are coming towards us. The steps are slow, too slow. As if the person knew we were listening to him and wanted to play. The same way that I slowed my steps when playing hide-and-seek with my son Tommy, while I was slowly approaching his hiding place, as if warning him that would find him.
More steps. They have their own rhythm, the same rhythm that one would give to a few waltz steps extremely slow and graceful.
Again. Who will they take today? The dark-haired boy? Me? I hope they don’t get anyone willing to survive or fight.
A jingle of keys is added to the echo of the footsteps, each time closer. Yes, now there’s no doubt, it’s them. I quickly direct my eyes to the lock located on the door to my right.
Silence. We can only hear the echo of the footsteps. The boy’s moaning has stopped, and we all hold our breath and look expectantly in the same direction. The door.
We hope to see our executioners, kidnappers and, for some of us, saviours. Leaving this room implies dying. It already implies finally facing the monster, and lose the battle to win a liberating death from all suffering and agony.
Lately they have lengthen the time between one battle and the next, between one sacrifice and the next. Earlier, up to two people could be taken on the same day. They must be short of humans or they must have trouble getting over it.
What kind of monster would be lucky enough to devour the chosen one this time? The same beast that will devour us all?
The steps don’t stop, they continue towards us without hesitation.
My guts tells me no. It is not the same beast. The dark boy was not the only one who tried to win. Before him there was a man who returned from the battle with a sting on the cheek. It didn’t seem to be more dangerous than a bee sting, but little by little he suffered more and was in intense pain. Until he threw up everything right there in front of us. His intestines shot out from his mouth in something that was similar to a deep scarlet mush. Like baby food, similar to the one I used to prepare for my Tommy with carrots and more vegetables.
Either it’s a beast that is capable of stinging like a snake at the same time to tear off a leg with their teeth, or they are two different beings.
I notice how the bohemian boy with long hair sitting to my right, his shoulder touching the door frame, inhales and holds the air for a few seconds in his lungs, trying to hold on to the little oxygen that keeps him alive for the moment, and then slowly breathes out through his mouth.
We could see it coming. Nothing came suddenly, everything was premeditated. There’s too many of us, we no longer fit on this planet, much less now that we have visitors. It didn’t take long for world leaders to find a solution that could allow them to stay alive, with their privileged lives.
The steps stop on the other side of the door that separates us from death. I wish my heartbeat had also stopped with those steps.
The sound of the key slowly entering the lock seems rehearsed.
The turn of the key leaves a clicking noise in the air. That noise leaves us all speechless and without air. I enjoy this silence. For a moment, I feel fresh air caressing my upper lip as I take my morning stroll along the city boardwalk, enjoying the sun coming out behind that landscape that my eyes had already traced to perfection in my memory. The sand on the beach that seems gold dust, the rising sun rays bathe the bright blue waves. In the distance I see Tommy, sinking his feet in the cold sand. No neighbourhood child except him gets up at that time to go to the beach, although he thinks it’s the funniest time of the day.
The door creaks. I come back to reality. I’m not savouring the beach, nor am I walking, not even Tommy is with me, but I’m sitting here waiting for the final judgment.
The door opens slowly, as if a child were to appear behind it, a kid playing hide-and-seek, as if Tommy were going to appear shouting, “Caught! I got you!”
But it’s not a child who appears, and it’s not my son. It’s them. Masked as usual. Or so I imagine because the darkness is blinding. They stand at the entrance. I know because the steps stop.
And suddenly they do it again. They start up again. I close my eyes. My heart beats at a thousand beat an hour, as if I were falling in love with someone at first sight. Then that memory invades me. I hate to remember it because it doesn’t do me any good. They sacrificed her long before I did. But nothing was going to erase the first time my heart beat for her, that sweet girl who would later become my companion and the mother of my son. Tall, with skin whiter than snow, extremely elegant, with blonde hair that reached her waist. Her face, I hate not seeing her so clear in my memories, she had a freckle under her bottom lip and one above her left eyebrow. Her lips were thin and her eyes honey-colored. Orange was her favorite color.
The echo of the footsteps is much more intense inside the room, and it is difficult for me to identify where they are going. We all wrap our arms around our knees and hold them pressed against the chest trying to make room so they can walk and freely choose one of us. Again, the steps cease without prior notice. I squeeze my eyes shut trying to remember the smell of the perfume that she put on everyday. Tania, my dear Tania. It had a touch of orange mixed with another aroma that I don’t remember.
I suddenly open my eyes.
Two cold hands hold my right arm. I turn my face towards him, the boy who not long ago inhaled and exhaled air as if he were going to give birth. His eye are stuck on mine. He puts his hands to his face. No, it’s not he who has his hands on my arm. Two other robust and dry hands hold me by the other. They lift me up little by little.
It’s me. I’ve been chosen.
I am happy to see that despite not eating for days I can stand up, which I haven’t tried doing it since I got here, since I was taken here. After I was declared a “useless being” and sentenced me to be a mouthful for those monsters, or aliens, who had invaded us. That’s been the law for a year ago and the lives of many had changed with it. “He who does not work, study, or is part of the armed forces or state services, will be declared an individual expendable and will be delivered to our guests.” Guests, another way to call the invaders. We are the price to pay for an invasion that we did not plan, that we did not want.
Without any resistance while I let myself go, I try to put on a smile. The smile of true victory. At last everything was going to finish.”
Modern Day Nightmare
“It seemed just a like a regular October day, woke up at 7 and started my routine: shower, breakfast, a little bit of stretching. I looked at my watch, it was time to get the work started. When I opened my email, the phone started to ring.
– Hi, this is Lucian, how may I help you today?
– Please HELP me!!!
– That’s the reason I’m here for, so what’s the problem?
– You must come quickly!!! They… they’re going to tur…. BIP – BIP – BIP
The call suddenly ends.
– Hello? Who is this? Are you still there?
Well that was weird… Looks like someone is in the mood for morning pranks today. Anyway, I have plenty of work on my plate, I better get started.
As I was working, I kept thinking of this random phone call, something about it felt off, the voice was a bit to desperate for a prank call and somehow familiar. After a while I finally decided to trace the number and ring it back, but nobody was picking up my call.
Convinced that I was right all along and that someone was just messing with me, I go back to my business. Suddenly: RING – RING – RING
A cold shiver made its way down my spine as I picked up the phone.
– Hi… ahm. Hello, this is Lucian, who am I speaking with?
– Hi Luci, it’s me, your manager, you must come at the office immediately.
– Oh, hey there Cristian, what’s going on?
– No time to explain, just be here ASAP… BIP – BIP – BIP
What’s with all the fuss? This never happened before. Something seriously bad must have happened. I better hurry before he calls me again.
I don’t have a car, so I take the first buss to reach my destination. It’s only a 10 minutes ride, I should be there in no-time. As I’m sitting there quietly – masks, gloves and everything added – I started to ask myself: What could be the reason for this urgent meeting? Did I do something wrong? Am I getting fired?
All these thoughts in my head, made me miss the fact that some people around me had some bizarrely irregular movements. Some were grunting and even twitching but nobody seemed to make anything of it. Just your normal commute to work I guess.
A few minutes later, I can already see the offices through the windows, everything is made of glass here. But nobody in sight. This place is usually packed but now an eerie silence dominates the scene. Thousands of employees work here from all over the world. Where is everyone?
As I enter the courtyard, I start thinking out loud.
– What am I even doing here? Why is there nobody else here besides me? Was I the only one called in today? Anyway…
I enter the building, head to the elevator and press 8 – last floor, going up!
As I’m stepping out of the elevator, two people with masks grab me and pull me inside the office and start questioning me.
– WHY ARE YOU HERE? WHO ARE YOU?
– Who am I?! I work here! Who are you?!
My manager then enters the room and splits us apart.
– LET HIM GO, HE’S ONE OF US!!
– Thank you! Wait… what do you mean Cristian?
– We tried to contact you earlier. I asked your friend Jack to warn you about this situation, but…we lost him.
We had to lock him up with the others…
– Wait, wait, wait… Jack called me this morning? Locked where? What is happening?!
– Maybe it’s better if I show you.
We started our descent with the elevator, all the way down to the underground parking lot. Cristian then brought me to a huge metal door and made a small opening with a knife.
I started to look through the small crack in the door, hoping to see my friend Jack – and there he was, sitting there in the dark, not even blinking.
It was quite and dark, but I could notice silhouettes of other people, a lot of people, just standing there, murmuring something I could not understand.
– What is this Cristian? What am I looking at? What happened to Jack?
– You see… something happened… there is a new virus out there and I’m not talking about Covid.
– Something far, far more dangerous. This virus has the potential to take over the entire planet in a matter of days if we don’t do anything about it right now.
Your friend tried to reach his car in order to pick you up, that is when they caught him. He is one of them now.
– Jesus! What do we know about this virus? And since when do you know anything about viruses?
– We named the virus IWC-20 (I Want Coffee 2020) – it’s specifically targeting those who cannot live without coffee in their system.
– Sorry but this… this makes literally no sense…
– DAMN IT LUCIAN!! You think this is a joke? You saw all the people in there, listen carefully to their cries. The only reason the few of us are still here, is because we do not need coffee in our daily lives!
At first, I thought this is absurd, but I went ahead and pressed my head against the metal door, trying to understand what they are saying. Cristian punched the door alerting everyone inside.
That is when it started: horrible screeching and indescribable noises came from behind the door, like hell itself was unleashed.
I could only make up a couple of them, but they were enough to haunt my soul for the rest of my days:
– “Cofeeeeeee… I’m so tireeeed… I can’t focuuuuusss… I want to go hooooome”.
– Oh my God Cristian, you are right. I have never heard something so vile in my entire life. What should we do?
– We need to set up a camp here and search for other immune people like you, I mean us, they are the key.
– Can’t we just give these people some coffee?
– DAMN IT LUCIAN!! THERE IS NO TIME!
– Okay Boss….
We headed back to our base of operations, located on the last floor of the building, that way we could have a bird’s eye view of our surroundings.
As I was sitting there, looking outside the window, I heard some weird noises coming from the room next to ours. I peeked inside and all I could see is a glimpse of a woman, twitching and yelling “Cofeeee”.
We locked the door immediately and went to alert the manager of this situation. As I walked in, I noticed he was staring at an empty pack of coffee inside his room. He quickly put it away and pretended like nothing happened, but he knew, I knew.
– Lucian, please meet me in the parking lot, we need to pick-up something.
– But there is some lady-zombie-coffee-thing in the room next to us, we had to loc….
– We will deal with it later, come with me now!
Why wasn’t he concerned about this? Why was he looking at a pack of coffee? Nobody here drinks coffee, right? Right?
Something was just not adding up and I had to get to the bottom of it. I told Cristian I will join him shortly and I took the stairs, all the way down from the 8th floor.
Along the way I could see signs of struggle: scratches on the wall, clothes, warnings and then I saw Jack’s headphones. He never leaves them behind, he literally sleeps with them, it’s ridiculous, honestly – but moving on.
I decided to go to the underground parking lot, while my manager was waiting outside, to double check if Jack is really one of them. I went back at the metal door and tried to make the hole a bit wider to see better, but in the process, something grabbed my hand.
I panicked but I could not make any noises, or everyone would go haywire again, so I started to pull away as hard as I could. Using all my strength I managed to break free, but the door opened in front of me.
A sense of terror filled my heart. What did I just do?
A small echo of footsteps, slowly walking towards me, could be heard in the underground and before I could catch my breath, Jack showed himself from behind the dor.
– Lucian is that you? What are you doing here?
– I could ask you the same question…
– I was trying to warn you, to stay away!
Cristian has gone mad; he is trying to turn everyone into coffee-addicted-zombies in order to control us.
You must stop him!
– We will stop team together! Team work makes the dream work, right pal?
– I can’t help you, “I’m so tireeeeed”.
By the way, did you see my headphones?
Now I realized what has transpired here and it is painfully obvious. I have been played a fool all along, but no more, it’s time to end this. I rushed outside to face my manager.
I know what you are planning now.
I can’t let you go on with this madness.
Cristian smirks and slowly turns to face me, his eyes screamed murder, or coffee, can’t really tell right now.
THIS IS MAJOREL!!!”
The New Hire
“Maybe I should pay more attention to where I apply for a job. Too bad this thought only came to my mind after accepting enthusiastically a job offer that sounded, to be honest, too good to be true.
The offer was published in a Facebook group for recent graduates, and it read as follows:
Customer service representatives wanted. Good work time, good benefits. Requirements: people skills, good command of English, knowledge of the ancient arts recommended (but not required).
Apparently, the recruiter was delighted to hear that we spent a good semester in university reading the Necronomicon, so they made me an offer and here I am, sitting on a special bus (really, station lady? “Take the bus number 666 to Hel?”) and here I am, ready for my first day of the job.
And to be honest, so far it’s going pretty well. They haven’t exactly explained what we are going to support as of yet, but I can say that the trainer, a somehow….devil-ish? Looking guy is doing a great job in going through the script with us.
Oh yeah, the script. Admittedly, I’ve never worked in customer service before, but.. are they actually supposed to rhyme? Ours, apparently goes a bit like this.
Welcome to lotions and potions Devilish deals and concoctions
It’s a lovely day here in Hel,
Tell me, dear customer, How can I help?
But I have to admit that this company really has the best cutting-edge technology. When the trainer told us we would go and spend some time with some of their agents, I was expecting to find, you know, the usual equipment? Laptops, headphones, the works?
Apparently here they’re using some 3-d hologram technology that allows them to see the customers. The special effects are also pretty cool, since when they get a new customer the hologram appears as if emerging from an opalescent smoke cloud.
Sitting down next to one of the agents, we just chatted a bit while waiting for a customer to appear. The room was full of people, each busy with a hologram of a customer. This agent has been here for almost five full years, and is gunning for a promotion. She showed me a bit the ropes (the cards with the scripts, the numbers to get the managers) and how the breaks work (66 minutes of lunch and additional 6 for breakfast) when suddenly a thin cloud of smoke appeared, in the middle of it a lady with a very displeased expression.
The agent, credit where it’s due, didn’t miss a beat with her script, to which the customer immediately replied:
Don’t give me the usual about potions,
Neither the rest about your concoctions,
I’ve been trying forever to get my deal through
But the payment declined, the site says no can do
I waited and waited and finally managed to get to you!
The agent, always so polite and cheerful, showed me on the flow-chart stuck to her desk the rest of her script:
Apologies, ma’am for any delay We’ll do all we can to save the day
I can see from your details that you tried to get Our eternally young magical set
The deal was sealed and ready to go
But the payment page returned a no
So tell me, ma’am without further ado
What payment methods do you have with you?
We take credit cards, drops of blood and paypal Or your first born, but straight from the cradle.
The lady puffed, slightly annoyed, while I was trying to figure out when these new payment methods had been created. Man, I really need to catch up with these new technologies…
I’ve been buying here forever, you should know by now My credit card is empty, my paypal is locked down
My blood is on blood thinner, it’s not any good
I tried to upload my baby, exactly as I should.
But the website is picky, and the upload so bad
It refused to proceed because my baby is too large
The agent noted down the information, and asked the customer to wait a while. She took my hand and led me to whom (or to what, maybe) she referred as “the Supervisor”. The Supervisor was sitting on behind a desk covered in every inch with parchment bits, quills, a business phone and a water bottle. They seemed to have a ….tail? Like a komodo dragon (or a demon, if you want to be specific), but it had many different endings, and on each there was a random object stuck on it: post-its, a pair of headphones, a keyboard, a pack of gums…
The Supervisor took a sip from the bottle and asked:
Worry not, my agent, I already know what you seek The portal error, it seems, is back on its feet.
We already know, we’re running out of space
Just tell her to send us a scan of the baby’s face.
Should she protest, cry or complain
Come back to me, and I will take the reins
…and laughed manically. The agent nodded, and went back to the customer, relaying the information. She also offered to let her speak to the Supervisor but, weirdly enough, the customer was not very keen about it. She started to stutter:
Oh no, no complains, no questions and nothing more I know the supervisor from the tales of ancient gore Of their infinite wisdom and their bottle heavy as lead With tears of customers and souls of the undead.
That said, the customer disappeared in a small cloud of smoke. I looked at the agent, a bit puzzled, but she just shrugged and smiled.
-“Sooo”, she said, “did they already mention you our Pizza Fridays? You’ll LOVE IT!”
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