It was a nervous time on campus. Halloween was coming. It was a taboo topic, and no one spoke of it. A serial killer that struck once a year, was remarkably hard to catch. The police gave a press conference, as they did every year:
- There was no need for anyone to panic - especially not the uni students.
- Every available police officer would be on duty and alert - all leave had been cancelled for the weekend.
- Although they had not caught the killer, they believed he had left the area for good.
- The profiler said he was most likely itinerant and also prone to partake in high risk activities.
- He was almost certainly gone from the area - otherwise he would have been in custody by now.
It always sounded remarkably optimistic to me; now it was becoming stale. And I had to deal with some certainties in the here and now.
The dorm manager had already generously overlooked that I was two months behind in board, but he could not slip a third month past the accountant. He was very sympathetic, but sympathy, like a press statement, was not very practical.
The only night job advertised that did not involve stripping or touching another person was as a bingo caller at the local club. I imagined befriending some old, lonely coot, watching them die in the hospital, sympathetically of course - and then reaping the benefits - a la inheritance.
Maybe it was sick, but I really needed the money to get through my studies, and I would be doing a service to the elderly. I tried not to think about it as I headed to the club for the interview.
They hired me, since I was the only one who turned up for an interview. Unlike my counterparts, I refused to give in to fear - what is the point of living if you stay indoors, even if only for one weekend a year.
It did seem poor taste to me that they were going to hold a Halloween Bingo night - seeing as the town did not even utter the word. But it was kept quiet, not advertised, and it was by popular demand from the regulars.
To me - it meant money.
* * *
I went along - all dressed in black. I don't know if it was to protect myself from the 'serial killer' while walking to work on Halloween, or if it was to get into the theme of the oldies' poor taste Bingo night.
It was a packed hall. I don't really know what I expected on my first Bingo calling night. But how hard could it be? Speak loudly. Speak clearly. Speak slowly.
I guessed the average age of the room to be about 65 years. I was way off.
There was a buzz in the room, an air almost like the feeling that exists just before a heavy metal band comes on stage.
I walked up to the podium where the numbered balls sat. I didn't feel like a heavy metal singer - but I felt like making the sign of Satan and publicly devoting my life to his service. I wondered what would happen if I did.
I must have stared into space for a moment or two longer than I should have, because the Manager pushed passed me, he smiled a little and took the shoddy microphone from me. Maybe I made him nervous.
He said to the audience, "Bingo shall commence shortly - but first, on this special occasion, we will of course be maintaining our uplifting tradition."
He pointed to the door to the left of the auditorium. A young guy was led into the room. He was vaguely familiar. He had a leash around his neck, and the woman leading him must have been at least 80 years old. She licked her lips.
The guy had been in my first year Economic lectures. It was two years ago since we went to our last class together. His eyes had been sharp and keen - the eyes of a future economist. But now, they were glazed over.
He was dressed in a sheer, white robe, and I could see that his body was fit and healthy. The audience shivered in unison. Was it anticipation? I could not think, I just watched.
The speakers crackled again: "Tonight is a special night for us..."
"I know.. I know..." the Manager answered the hisses of delight, "It's an extra special night - even for Halloween. For tonight - a new member joins our ranks."
A warm cheer went up.
I gulped. Reading numbers was one thing, but nobody had mentioned doing weird things to my colleagues. I was not sure if I would accept the Manager's offer. He did not even look my way.
He directed the audience's attention to the door on the right of the auditorium. Another cheer went up.
"I give you, Adam Wood. Bingo caller extraordinaire - and new initiate!" the MC continued.
The guy was in his late sixties and was escorted by a feisty 80 year old. She held his elbow, and giggled occasionally to the crowd.
The two couples met in front of the podium. I wanted to turn away, but fascination stopped me.
The lady with the leash touched the shoulder of her charge, and he fell to his knees. She removed the leash from his neck and held it aloft. The audience tittered.
All the while, their victim made no move. His eyes staring forward - no sign of struggle, no rebellion of youth - just sacrificial obedience.
The giggling 'girl' led her charge to the student, and she whispered into his ear. Their grey hair touched and intertwined, and she gently nibbled his lobe before moving away.
The two men left alone, old and young, the focal point of the evening. The old guy bent down, there was no doubt in his movements, but I could see his hands shaking. He began to nuzzle the student's neck. The economist-to-be did not flinch; his eyes did not move.
And then I saw it. A trickle of blood running down the doomed student's neck.
The old guy raised his head to the crowd - and they clapped. He turned to face the Manager, and I could see the red on his lips. His smile was now confident.
A queue formed in front of the victim. He stayed on his knees looking forward. In the next half hour, as each old person drank from him, he became paler and paler. Until the last drained him completely and his body slumped to the floor.
The Manager nudged me, "I'd start calling the numbers now, if I were you."
And I did. During the second game, the Manager unobtrusively removed the corpse. Many prizes were handed out that night - tea cozies, groceries, small household goods. By the end of the evening, I had nearly forgotten the death toll.
I will continue to call Bingo there. I guess for another 40 years or so - and maybe someone will witness my initiation night. I'll be amazed each year when the Police issue their assurances. And I'll go on as the town does, in the hope that they catch their serial killer.
This is an original work - devoted to the Everything Quests: Scary Stories.