Although it was a chilly night on Crabtree St, Andy had bundled up in blankets and curled into himself more out of a dull, mounting sense of apprehension than against the dangers of the night air. He could not sleep, but rather kept a watchful eye on the stuffed animals
neatly organized into regiments on his dresser. In the half-light, Poudy Bear looked menacing and sinister, and not one bit like a dirty, bedraggled lamb
patched and sewed up countless times. Andy watched the shadows creep along the far wall of his bedroom and told himself that they were cast by headlights of late night drivers trying to see through the unseasonable fog. But there were no cars on the street outside his window. Also, shadows do not have teeth. The darkness had thickened and became viscous like cane syrup
and shaped itself into, roughly, the form of a man. At that moment, the clock radio glowed a sickly green and hideous gibbering came from its one tinny speaker. From the radio Screamin' Jay Hawkins
intoned deeply, "I put a spell on you, because you're mine".
The blackness grinned broadly, it had a singular smile with very white, even teeth. It put one in mind of those little skull candies that children eat on the Dia de los Muertos. Andy moaned and pulled the covers up to his chin as the shadow-man bowed deeply at the waist with mock gallantry. Andy threw his pillow with all the force he could muster at this interloper and shouted, "Go away, Saturday!"
The pillow passed through the figure harmlessly. The clock radio shut off. There was an apologetic chuckle. The shadow-man began to speak in a low, melodic baritone, "Now Andy, m'boy, that anyway to treat an old friend? And, all things being proper, you know I like you t'call me MISTER Saturday. Naming's important. If not, I guess I could call you...," Mr. Saturday's voice trailed off and he spread his hands out in supplication.
"Why are you back, Mr. Saturday? I did what you asked."
"Oh yes. Yes indeedy. He'ped me out mightily. Much appreciate it," Mr. Saturday doffed an imaginary hat and leaned in close, close enough that Andy could make out his slightly elongated canines in that hideous smile, "But, thing is, y'ain't quite done he'ping me. I figure you owe me a bit more for favors rendered than you been payin'. But seein' as we're friends and all, I don't really see the problem with you helpin' me out a few times and me forgetting about debts owed. We are friends, ain't we?"
Andy seemed to mull over this question before responding, "What do you need me to help you with?"
"I knew you'd say that. Always been a ver' reasonable young man. I bet you're wonderin' what I'm up to. I bet you're sayin' to your self, 'self? what sort of mischief and foolishness is that ol' Mr. Saturday up to?' I'll tell you true, Andrew, m'boy. What I need, is a body."
Andy recoiled in horror at the suggestion and Mr. Saturday waited a beat before continuing, "I didn't say I needed your body, although last time, ain't we had fun? Fact, the body don't need to be alive at all."
"What do you need me for, then? There's a funeral home just up the block."
"And that is precisely what I need you for. See, me bein' a haunt and all means I don't got no heart to pump that great, gooey red stuff. Need blood to make the mojo work."
"You want my blood? NO way! I don't even like getting my blood drawn at the doctor's office."
"Oh, don't be that way. It ain't gonna be nothing more than a little prick. Then it'll all be over. Mebbe I won't require anymore of your services."
"Why do you need my blood?" Andy whined, "Can't you get a packet of chicken or something?"
"No, gotta be human blood. An' it helps if the human got the sight and can conjure, both things that are second nature to you. Come on down with me to the Paradise Funeral Home, and I'll show you sights to see."
"Well, I'm not allowed out this late, so I don't think I can come with you."
Mr. Saturday produced a cracked pair of dark glasses and slid them over the place where his eyes should be, and extended a hand to Andy, "Now, who would mind if you took a little jaunt down the street with your old friend, Mr. Saturday? Besides, how old are you, fourteen, fifteen?"
"That's practically a man. You gonna hide behind your mama's apron just because the streetlamps are on?" Saturday snapped his fingers and the lights on Crabtree st. went out one by one, "That ain't a problem anymore, now is it?"
Andy sighed, "Let's just get this over with."
Andy pulled a pair of blue corduroys over his pajama bottoms and slid on a windbreaker. Mr. Saturday gestured at his bedroom door which opened soundlessly. Andy crept out into the hall, listened for snores from his parents' bedroom then tiptoed to the front door. Saturday gestured at the door and the chain wiggled out and the deadbolt turned. Andy opened the door just wide enough for him to slip through, crept outside then shut the door behind him. Saturday walked through the door, still grinning, "Ain't nobody taught you to hold the door open for your elders? Lovely night out."
Andy scowled, the fog was thick and without the illumination of the streetlights it was difficult to see. He had trouble making out the hedge that separated his yard from his neighbor, mean, sour old Mrs. Crepe. Andy walked with slow deliberation across the front yard, taking care not to stumble over the old croquet set that his father had purchased weeks ago in his enthusiasm for "games of the world" and subsequently abandoned. The pavement was cracked and uneven and Andy shuffled his feet along so as not to trip and fall. They walked past silent, sleeping houses whose muted colors seemed cheerless and somber in the fog. A yellowish light pierced the fog as the neared the corner. The Paradise Funeral Home's sign illuminated the gables and garrets of the building's Victorian facade. Andy hated the building, it seemed to loom over the street; its heavy velvet curtains serving to hide something terrible from the outside world. Two stone lions flanked the steps leading up to the front doors. As he passed them, Andy expected one of them to growl or lunge for him. Saturday gestured at the doors, then turned to Andy and said, sotto voce, "Undertaker's still here. Halfway passed out from drink, though. Won't do to have him meddlin', though. Keep yourself mouse-like until I give the word."
Andy nodded, the doors opened and they walked into the foyer. Although the recessed lighting in the small antechamber and main parlor was dim, Andy blinked and squinted. Mahogany wainscoting and cracking ornamental plaster moulding lent the place a somber, slightly derelict air. The heavy velvet drapes were moth-eaten and faded in some spots. In the main parlor was an open coffin on a dais, surrounded by tasteful arrangements of lillies and tuberoses. With trepidation Andy tiptoed forward and peered into the shadowed cavity. It was empty.
"Funeral ain't till tomorrow," Mr. Saturday whispered from behind Andy, "No point in putting the guest of honor on display with no one to weep and carry on over her. Ol' Undertaker's out. Let's you and me go downstairs and do a little visitin'"
Mr. Saturday made a sweeping gesture at the far wall and a wooden panel swept open, revealing a wrought iron staircase that spiraled downwards. Andy's shoes clanked against the steps as he cautiously made his way down into the basement. The fluorescent lights in the basement flickered and buzzed. Lying on the embalming table was the body of an old woman. She was naked, except for a cloth covering her crotch, and her eyes and moth were closed to give the semblance of rest. The embalmer had done a good job; the old woman looked almost ready to stretch and stand up. Andy crept towards the dead woman. Mr. Saturday nodded towards the woman and said, "Almost time. First, we got to open up her mouth. Don't see why they need t'sew it all up," Mr. Saturday passed a hand over the mouth and there was a ripping sound. The mouth gaped open. Ragged ends of thread were visible behind the lips.
Mr. Saturday grabbed Andy's hand and held it over the corpse's mouth, "Now, from you, I need three drops of blood."
"Ow!" cried Andy after Mr. Saturday jabbed the meaty part of his thumb with a silver hatpin. Three drops of bood fell into the open mouth. Mr. Saturday let Andy's hand go and began to clap in time. He sang in a low, rumbling voice:
"Go to bed. Jes go to sleep.
Close your eyes and don't you peep!
Say your prayers or he jes mooooooans
RAW HEAD and Bloody Bones.. "
The corpse began to twitch on the embalming table. The eyes snapped open and plastic eyecaps popped out and flew across the room. Cloudy, discolored eyes rolled senselessly in the dead woman's head and her gray, thick tongue licked across her lips, removing traces of the makeup covering them. The dead woman lurched upright, turned her milky, colorless eyes towards Andy and said, "Hungry."
The voice was raspy and scratchy and undeniably male. Andy stumbled backwards, bumbing into a stainless steel cart covered in surgical instruments. The corpse reached towards him again and repeated, "Hungry"
Mr. Saturday glided in between the dead woman and Andy and said, "Raw Head! Good t'see you up and about. I can imagine you'd want somethin' wet, especially since all the juice been sucked out of the dry ol' bird you in."
The dead woman swivelled her head towards Mr. Saturday and said, "Saturday?"
"In the ectoplasm. Now, as I was sayin', you provenance is evil doers. And as tender as young Andrew here may appear, a good boy like him ain't gonna do nothin' but give you a tummy ache."
The dead woman pointed a long, bony finger at Saturday and said, "You... you owe me."
"And I have never been one to let an outstanding obligation slide," Mr. Saturday lied, "But look what I have done for you so far! Brought you back from the dusty ol' realm of the forgotten with the blood of a genuine conjuror. Poor Ol' Raw Head, Bloody Bones, ain't no one remember how you used to terrify the righteous and tear apart the wicked. No one tells stories about you no more. But they will..."
"Hungry!" insisted the corpse.
Andy heard the sound of heavy feet clunking down the wrought iron staircase that led to the basement. Mr. Saturday grinned broadly, "Oh yes, they will. Andy, you might want to cover your eyes."
Andy hid his face behind his hands, but not before seeing a fat man clamber down the staircase and gesture inarticulately at the two things holding court in the center of the room. Through the slits between his fingers, Andy could see a whirl of motion as the dead woman moved unnaturally fast towards the fat man. Andy squeezed his eyes shut. There was a high-pitched, horrible scream and a wet, meaty sound. Then, mercifully the screams ended and there was a sound like someone slurping an especially juicy peach.
"Better," came the gravelly voice of the corpse-woman. It sounded as if she was talking with her mouth full. Andy shuddered at this, but the voice continued, "You brought me back. Should I thank you or curse you?"
"Aww, don't be that way Raw Head. I was doing you a favor. Plenty of wicked folk for you to dine on in these days. Plenty of folk ready to feed you the purest, goodest terror."
Andy heard the dead woman walk nearer, could smell the formaldehyde and baby powder on her.
"And the boy?" a cold, dry finger ran lovingly over Andy' cheek.
"Mine," said Mr. Saturday, "And like I said, not wicked enough for the likes of you."
"The company he keeps will fix that soon enough."
"Maybe. Maybe he find a way t'keep hisself pure. That ain't up to me. But you ain't havin' him."
The dead woman's voice came from farther off, "Very well. I suppose this means your debt's discharged."
Andy heard again the clanking of the spiral staircase, this time with steps ascending out of the basement.
"You can open your eyes, Andy m'boy. Ol' grim and gruesome's gone."
Andy opened his eyes. In the shadows near the doorway lay the body of the fat man, a pool of blood slowly spreading out from him. Bits of meaty gristle were splattered against the wall. Andy made his way out of the basement, careful not to step in any of the dead man's nasty bits. Bloody footsteps glistened on the staircase. Hot tears fell down Andy's cheeks. Once more Mr. Saturday had used him as a piece in horrible game that he did not understand. Mr. Saturday whistled as they left the funeral parlor and walked home in the gloom. Andy said nothing. Mr. Saturday turned to the boy and said, "Why so glum, chum? You done ol' Mr. Saturday a favor, and I won't be forgetting that."
"What we did was wrong. That thing is a monster."
Mr. Saturday leaned over and gave Andy a surprisingly gentle kiss on the forehead. He tousled the boy's hair and said, "Many worse monsters out there than Ol' Raw Head."
Andy said nothing. Mr. Saturday went back to whistling as they walked up the stoop to Andy's front door. As he turned the doorknob, Andy could hear the sound of screaming from far off.