Fear Wager by D. Morgan Ballmer

Fear WagerOne contestant, once a year, these are the rules of the Fear Wager. October 31st you’ll find me sitting upon my ramshackle porch, rocking back and forth in my rickety chair. My mask amuses you. It always does.
“What are you supposed to be, a tree ornament?” you say.
“I wear the head of the Yule Goat,” I say, “Is my narrow wicker muzzle not terrifying? Are my ribbon strewn horns not glorious?”
You snort. No worries. You are of that age where snorts, sneers, and eye-rolls are exchanged like currency among your peers. It is not the mask that drew you in. Nor is it the quaint collection of candy resting at my feet in a plastic jack-o’-lantern bucket. You have detoured into my yard because of the sign. Your eyes glance at it even now.
GUESSING GOAT KNOWS
YOUR SCARIEST MOMENT
OR WIN $1000
“That for real?” you ask.
I nod my glorious horns.
“Then guess.”
“First you must pay the admission,” I say.
I point to the plastic jack-o-lantern.
You shrug, conveying utter disdain and boredom. Yet you fish through your pillow case selecting the most flavorless confection and toss it into my container.
No matter, the sweetness of this game comes not from the candy.
“When you were young your mother, drunk and enraged, shook your younger brother until he vomited. He fell to the floor, twitching with his eyes rolled up as she screamed hysterically for help that never came.”
I know this is true, though you are not aware that I know. The event impregnated your heart with the worm of fear, a worm that would grow and change with you. Yet a thousand dollars is a lot of money. So it is no surprise to either of us when your eyes shift from mine and you exclaim “Nope” a little too loudly.
Fair enough.
I remove a canvas satchel from behind my back and throw it at your feet. Your eyes widen at the stacks of twenty-dollar bills and photographs that spill from within.
Shock, greed, and glee cross your face. Then curiosity takes hold.
You lift the photos, realizing they chronicle your violent and miscreant behavior. It starts small. An over-the-shoulder shot of you keying a car, another of you smashing a window. Then the frames grow more disturbing; a blaze you set behind the garage, an image from last week when you bagged the kittens and worked them like a piƱata.
You wonder how it is I came by these photographs. Even more disturbing is the ghostly tube-like parasite visible in each picture; a twisted slug-like growth which occupies more of your chest cavity in each shot.
Enraged, you turn to abuse me but my mask is coming off. My snail-like eyestalks slide out from the cavities of the curling horns, my elongated sucker mouth oozes from the end of the wicker muzzle.
I know your scariest moment now.
I’ve pulled the trick, you must be the treat.

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D. Morgan Ballmer

D. Morgan Ballmer is a resident of Seattle and a lifelong fan of all things Halloween.He does not accept candy from strangers.

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