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Stories

The Man Who Was Hook

Nothing says Halloween like a gutted teenager, or some other urban legend told around the candy bag. But hasn’t everyone already heard the ending? THE WRITERS band together for a dozen new ways to finish your story.

One night a year American children are actually encouraged to ask strangers for candy, so obviously scary stories are a part of our culture, something we begin hearing from the cradle. But most are stock from the barrel: Who doesn’t know the one about the guy with a hook for a hand, slaughtering teenagers post-coitus? New stories are needed, or at least, new endings.

Or maybe, a dozen new endings? To celebrate Halloween, we asked all our available Contributing Writers and Editors to complete the following urban legend/horror story. The first half is provided, and then follows each writer’s ending.

The Beginning

A teenage boy drove his date out to the dark and deserted Lookout Point. He turned on the radio.

“Oh, I love this song!” his date purred.

He edged across the seat and leaned over to kiss her.

“Oh…,” she said, “I don’t know about this, Charlie.”

“It’s OK…I won’t hurt you…I promise.”

She relented and began kissing him back. Suddenly the music stopped, and a radio announcer cut in: “We interrupt this broadcast to inform you that a serial killer has just escaped from the state insane asylum! If you see a man around town who fits his description, you should alert the police immediately! You will be able to identify him because he has a hook in place of his right hand!”

“Oh, Charlie, I want to go home now!” the date exclaimed.

“There’s nothing to be scared of,” he assured her, and leaned in to kiss her again. She pushed him away. “No, Charlie! I want to go home now!”

“Fine, if that’s the way you want it.” He slid back across the seat, jerked the car into gear and sped away from Lookout Point. When they arrived at her house, he got out of the car, slammed his door, and went around to her side of the car to let her out…

The End by Joshua Allen

…Unnamed Date got out of the car and hurried to her house, still choking on Charlie’s musk-infused pheromones. She ran to her room and slammed the door behind her. Dabbed at tears.

“Did it work?” said a high, pinched voice. Unnamed Date turned and saw her midget friend Pepe, bedecked in headphones and broadcasting equipment, looking at her hungrily. Unnamed Date nodded, cast her eyes downward.

“It sounded like a real radio announcement?” Pepe asked. Unnamed Date said, “It was perfect.”

Pepe cheered and danced in the way of the wee folk. Unnamed Date flung herself onto the bed. “C’mon baby, don’t be like that,” Pepe said, caressing her ankle.

“Thank you for getting me out of there, Pepe,” Unnamed Date said into her pillow, her voice muffled. “I mean, I do want sex, I do, but I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

She sat up, removed the prosthetic hand from the gleaming steel hook embedded in her wrist. “And I would hurt him,” Unnamed Date said, a hint of a smile at her lips. “Real bad.”

The End by Choire Sicha

…Sheila had already opened the car door herself, unwilling to wait for his fake-chivalrous gesture. When men open doors for you, she knew, it’s only because they want to wear your panties as a ski mask.

She breezed past him without a word, up the short concrete walk and into the storm porch. The pack of dogs inside the house let out a tornado of woofings as she ripped off her puffy coat.

Shoeless and coatless and warm, Sheila peeled back the fruit roll-up of vinyl curtains in the living room. Outside, she could see Charlie flick his Vietnam Zippo in the dark—“Fighting for freedom was like fucking for virginity,” she knew it was engraved—and he pulled on a Marlboro, jacket-less in the cool evening, sleeves all rolled up. She plunked herself into the couch and lit a Parliament of her own. The cigarette of Jackie O, she thought.

She felt rather than heard Charlie slam his car door but the engine never started.

The dogs rioted around the house, a root-smelling blur of fur, sliding in and out of the warren of rooms like a dirty movie, skidding sometimes on their long clicking nails. Upstairs, her parents woke up.

“Shut the fuck up,” her father yelled. “You fucking shut it,” her mother moaned back. “You fucking cunt,” her father said low. “Take a rest for it,” grunted her mother, and then a thunk to the floor reverberated through Sheila’s couch. The dresser, Sheila thought, sure.

She sat there smoking in the dark. After a bit, the white flash of her mother came rolling rectangularly down the stairs, elbows and knees. As the cube of her mother lengthened and hit the floor, the whirling dog pack disintegrated into individuals, brown, baffled, gray, molting, all sniffing at her still mother.

Sheila put her cigarette out in a big metal box and didn’t stand up. She thought that her father had gone back to bed, and she was fairly sure that Charlie was still outside. I’m getting fat here, she thought to herself, fuckety. Then she made her way around the worried dogs and straight through the kitchen, went for the back door and down the trampled backyard path and then squeezing through and following along the chainlink fence of the ravine behind all the other houses. The peppercorn trees dropped their little red pebbles and they stuck in her socks. At the far end where the quiet residential blocks petered out, Sheila could only choose one way. The ravine emptied in a stupid little dark pool and roads took up to the left and the right, at their ends big buildings with lit-up windows, but far away and a little hazy like an imagined success.

The End by Paul Ford

…“Did you get one?” she asked.

The familiar smile spread across his face. Then came a sound of creaking metal. After a long moment he held up the hook.

She squealed in excitement, and ran around the car to see him. “A big one.”

“There’s even still some skin on it.”

She kissed him full on the lips, and he dropped the hook to kiss her back. It clanged on the asphalt. She pulled away and picked it up, turning it under the sodium light. They went inside.

In her house was a glass case, lit by fluorescent lights, lined with velvet. Upon it: a dozen hooks, lovingly shined. She brought a key from her purse, and opened the back of the case.

“We’re a good team,” she said. “Can we convince your brother to let another one out next week?” As she spoke, she turned her head back to the insane asylum, a mile above Lookout Point, where Michael’s brother worked as an orderly.

“He says they just got a new one in. He lost his right hand in a tractor accident and killed his own son with the hook.”

“So good,” she said. She placed the hook onto the velvet. There was room for at least five more. “We must complete the collection before we graduate.”

The End by Sarah Hepola

…“Thanks for a lovely evening,” she said, smoothing her skirt nervously. She pecked him on the cheek and scurried to the lit front porch.

“The guys were right about you,” he yelled behind her. “You’re nothing but a crazy cocktease!” The light flicked on inside, and Charlie saw the flutter of a hand behind the curtains.

The blood drained from her face. “Excuse me?’

Charlie shrugged. “I’m outta here.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “I think you’d be surprised at how far I’d go,” she said, arching one eyebrow. “Why don’t you come inside for a bit?’

This chick was crazy, Charlie thought, but he couldn’t help liking her. He padded his jean pocket for a condom and eyed the shadow in the window. “You sure your folks won’t mind?’

“My dad will be thrilled to meet you,” she said, winking at him.

Charlie squeezed her left butt cheek. “Oh, yeah?’

Just then, the door flew open. Charlie saw the bald man in a housecoat and slippers. He saw the wild look in his eye. And he saw the glint of a metal hook just a moment too late.

“No one talks to my baby like that!” the man said, stabbing the hook of his right hand deep into the tender flesh of Charlie’s throat. There was a sick, popping sound as the hook ripped through veins and flesh. Charlie tried to scream, but it came out a gurgle of blood. His legs twitched madly beneath him, and he slumped to the ground, dead.

“That’s enough, Dad. I think you’ve made your point,” she said.

“What did I tell you about that guy?” he asked, wiping his hook on the side of his housecoat.

“I didn’t expect you home so early.”

She grabbed both of Charlie’s feet and dragged him inside the house.

“Hey, how could I miss my little girl’s favorite holiday?’

“Dad, I’m not a little girl,” she said, blushing.

“Ooh, I almost forgot. I brought you a present.” He fished inside his pocket and extracted a candy bar.

She clapped her hands. “Ooh, Snickers, my favorite!” She stepped over Charlie’s dead body to give him a hug. “Welcome home, Dad!”

The End by Dennis Mahoney

…They went inside and made sweet love until the break of dawn.

The End by Kevin Guilfoile

…Charlie and his girlfriend shared a dry kiss before she ran to the front porch of her parents’ house. He leaned against the passenger door until it clicked shut and made sure she was safely in the foyer before returning to the driver’s side. Tomorrow in homeroom, staring at her as he did every morning, unbuttoning her sweater with his lusty eyes, he’d have to listen carefully to what name she answered “here” to.

Charlie never noticed the shiny hook swinging from the car door.

Meanwhile, back at Lookout Point, Crazy Homicidal Killer Man stared down the road in disbelief, the scent of teenage exhaust still lingering in the misty air. He held up his arm and looked at the scarred stump sticking out from his cuff.

“Aw, crap!” he muttered to himself. “Crap! Crap! Crap! Do you have any idea what a good hook costs? It’s not even the hook, really, so much as the plastic cup that holds it to your arm. If you don’t have a quality fit, the thing will just go flying off on your backswing. This is such bullshit!” He began walking down the road. “What am I going to do now? I can’t even strangle people.” The Insane Murderer’s remaining hand was small and delicate, just like the one he lost years ago after he fell asleep in a train yard in the “Starfish Position.” In group, Dr. French said that people who sleep in the Starfish make good friends and good listeners and always offer help to others when needed. They also tend to stab people a lot. Dr. French had been a good man before he and the others filleted him.

“I suppose I could pick up women in bars and the next morning slip out of their apartment after writing on the bathroom mirror with lipstick: Welcome to the Wonderful World of AIDS,” the Lunatic Dismemberer of Teens said hopefully. “But I’d have to get AIDS first, and that’s not as easy as it used to be. Besides, who am I fooling? No one’s going to bed on the first date with a one-handed madman who doesn’t even have enough cash to buy a nice hook-holding stump cup.” He scanned the pavement as he walked, hoping the sinister prosthetic had shaken loose from the car as the kids sped away. “I don’t believe this shit!”

When he got to the main road he started to hitchhike. Seven cars of potential victims passed him by before he realized he had no thumb to stick out.

“Fuck!” He screamed. No one heard him.

Maniacal-Stump-Waving-Would-Be-Slasher-Man worked briefly as a procurer of black market kidneys before retiring last June. He is currently seeking an agent for his children’s book inspired by something he once read in Page Six about Woody Harrelson’s superficial fascination with Shamanism. He also reviews fiction for The New Republic.

The End by Andrew Womack

…As he reached down to grab the handle on her car door, he saw that the passenger’s door handle had been stolen, along with both of the hubcaps on that side of his car, the antenna, the side mirror, the thin white detail stripe his dad had applied just last weekend.

“What the—” he gasped, as his date opened the car door into his shin and got out.

“Well, thanks for a wonderful time,” she said, and trotted away, the sway of her legs making a loud clink-clank sound beneath her dress. The mirror from his car fell out of the back of her dress.

“Wait! What about my car!” he called after her.

She kept walking and called back, “I SAID: THANKS FOR A WONDERFUL TIME.”

Helplessly, he turned back around and walked to the driver’s side of his car. He paused, looked wistfully into the night air, and got into the vehicle. He thought for a moment, then reached over, opened the glove compartment, and realized: “Fuck. She stole my hook, too!”

The End by Kevin Fanning

…As the girl got up out of the car, she let out a shrill scream of terror.

“What? What is it?” cried the boy, rushing to her side.

The girl, stricken with terror, could only lift her finger to point at the rear door of the car. From the door handle there dangled a curved metal hook.

“What?” said the boy. “I have no idea what’s scaring you. You’ll have to be more specific.”

The girl gave her boyfriend an exasperated look. “Duh, the creepy hook? Hello?’

The boy looked at the hook, then back at the girl.

“It’s not creepy, it’s an automotive accessory. God! I go antiquing with you like every other Saturday, you could at least feign an interest in my car modification hobby.”

“Car modification?” the girl asked.

“Please,” the boy said. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the chainsaw sticking into the hood of James Raftery’s Mustang? Or how Billy McManus modified the roof of his RX-7 to make it look like there are knives sticking down into the interior? The battle ax embedded in the passenger seat of Rob Hanson’s Corolla? Is none of this ringing a bell?’

The girl shook her head.

“That hook has been there for like, four months. Since before prom.”

“I’m sorry,” the girl said. “I guess I’ve been distracted.”

“Well, you’re always distracted,” the boy said. “Sometimes I feel like you don’t really even know me. And quite frankly, that scares me.”

The End by Tobias Seamon

…The lunatic, who’d clung to the rear axle with his ghastly hook in a frenzy of bloodlust, waited. He could see the boy’s sneakers cross to the other side of the car, could hear the scuff of the gravel, could smell the blood beating in the boy’s aroused heart, or was the smell more like leaf mold mixed with engine coolant? The madman in his rank madness couldn’t tell.

Longing to sink his hook into the boy’s neck, into the girl’s neck, and then into his own armpit where he itched horribly, the craven beast began to slither out from beneath the car. The boy, trying to undo the broken passenger side lock and hide his erection at the same time, didn’t notice as the ghastly killer rose up behind him, bottomless evil in his eyes, an itch in his armpit.

At that moment, somewhere in the distance, an old woman barked. The killer paused, awash suddenly in distant memories. He remembered his own childhood and how he’d been abandoned by his mother in the forest when she saw that her infant son was born with a hook instead of a hand and would undoubtedly grow up to be a madman. He remembered how he’d been rescued and raised by wolves, who didn’t care if he was crazy and thought the hook was an especially clever form of fang. He remembered the long jaunts through the forest at night, him and the pack playfully rolling in droppings and peeing on trees. Indeed, for a moment, he even remembered his first love…

Hearing a strange sob, the boy turned and stared at the freak with the hook above his head. “Dude, what the fuck?” said the boy. The lunatic knew not what to say. Instead, he lowered his beastly claw and jimmied the car door open. “Cool,” said the boy, and in the car, the girl watched the stranger walk away slowly into the night. When he paused at the edge of the darkness to raise his leg against a tree, she felt something in her heart flutter and awaken. Nothing would ever be the same again.

The End by Matthew Baldwin

…But as he pulled the car door open he was overwhelmed with vertigo. The world snapped into preternatural focus: the boundaries between objects became abruptly distinct, and colors blazed with incandescence.

His date tumbled from the vehicle. “Oh my God,” the boy cried, kneeling by the crumpled form at his feet. “Are you all right?’

He surveyed the nude and disheveled body, examining the knife wounds on her chest and abdomen. They were no longer bleeding, he noted with interest. In fact, they looked to be several hours old…

He vigorously shook his head, and helped the girl to her feet as fog crept back into his mind.

“I’m OK,” she told him, and added, “I’m sorry I got scared.” The boy smiled forgivingly. They briefly kissed, and strolled to the front door hand in hook.

The End by Leslie Harpold

…The boy opens the door for his date. As the girl is getting up out of the car, she trips and falls flat on her face. The boy starts laughing hysterically and says, “Oh man I am totally blogging this!”

The girl screams in terror and runs home, locking and bolting the door behind her.

She then calls her best friend.

“Can you come over and spend the night? I’m too scared to be alone.”

“Why?” her friend says, hearing the fear in her friends voice. “What happened?’

“I almost lost my virginity to a blogger!”

“Oh dear god,” her friend says. “I’ll be right over.”

The End by Rosecrans Baldwin

…“The door swung out quickly: Charlie’s lifeless hand dragged it back as his body fell, a big open hole in his chest. His fingers let go when his head hit the pavement. It made a sound like a hard serve in tennis.”

Uh, duh? Like I haven’t heard the story? Like I don’t know the Pledge to Our Tory. But I can’t tell this geezer that, can I? I have to sit here and listen on my own f-in’ birthday. Initiation, oh boy I’m like a total adult now. Awesome. Eat me.

“A voice from inside the car suggested it was the appropriate time to buckle a seatbelt.”

16th birthday with a fucking Counter. Maybe he’ll have a point sometime? Like why I’m here?

“Our Tory screamed and jumped out of the car. Charlie was dead, Our Tory knew this for sure. Then out of nowhere a man in a white coat grabbed her shoulders and pulled her close to him, used what she thought was a prosthetic hook on his right arm to carve three letters in her neck—DBC—then left her for dead. Of course it hadn’t been a hook—’

Uh, duh.

“But it was too late. Our Tory collapsed. Traffic went by but didn’t stop. Later Our Tory came to and called an ambulance from her cellphone. Two days passed and Our Tory was released from the hospital, picked up by her parents who were worried enough for her sanity they brought two teddy-bears, bought separately. Our Tory ignored them, ignored everyone. Her eyes were different, more clear. She walked purposefully to the car and buckled her seatbelt; gone was any gawkiness or hestitation. In the hospitals the doctors hadn’t known what to do with her, and none of them dared mention the black letters on her neck. She had already scratched the scabs off twice, to no avail. The letters stayed.”

Twice? She only scratched twice, in two days? Dude that’s like as much as I scratch in two seconds.

“After college Our Tory married and in two years had children, first identical twin girls, the Lauries One as you have doubtlessly read in your history books, then quickly another pair of twins, two boys, the Jories One, also identical. Her husband began working weekends, then nights. The children grew fast, Our Tory was pregnant again, this time triplets, three girls. Identical. The Lauries Two. All seven children with the same letters on their necks, same place as Our Tory. And of course, she never looked a day older than her age at the accident; of course, she never was a day older. Her husband asked for a divorce when she was pregnant for the fourth time—quadruplets—though they hadn’t been ‘intimate’ for a year.”

Pfffft—he’s totally talking about sex.

“In two generations there were 57 identical twins marked DBC. Four generations, 329. Our Tory herself bore 26 pairs. Of course until the Mark Registry was formed, we could only look to the newspapers for numbers but we do know that in 160 years more than 6,000 people were identified DBCers. Another century, now, 400,000-plus. At this point Our Tory has given birth to over 300 sets of identical twins.”

Yeah, brag brag brag, typical Counter talk. It’s my fucking birthday—how about some cake or like, at least a Diet Coke?

“And now we come to you, 537824. Shortly after a brief recess, I will take you to meet Our Tory, so you may be counted. Please then, if you’re chosen, return to this conference room. We will have presents.”

Whatever. Wait, what does he mean if I’m “chosen’? No, whatever, fuck it.

“Thank you,” you say politely, and get up to leave.

“But wait,” the counter says. “For your best interests, listen. Do not—and I mean this in nicest possible way—do not scratch in front of Our Tory.”

“Whatever.”

“Little girl…” He laughs. He’s seen this a million times before—they all scratch—but at least he has to try. Plus he would be damned if the Counter next door had better luck convincing his Laurie-537824 not to scratch.

“Be smart. Listen to me. It would be unwise to scratch in front of Our Tory. There is a better chance you might be picked. By law I can’t tell you anything more, but let’s just say scratching might make you seem a bit ungrateful. And she is, after all, the one who chooses, and trust me, there is a better choice between the two options.”

“Yeah, well, fine.” But now you’re scared.

He smiles, genuinely—Wednesday meant meatball subs in the caf. “Don’t worry, I know you won’t scratch. I believe in you. We all do. Whether it’s you who ends up in the mines or your sister, on behalf of the stockholders at the DeBeers Corporation, let me wish you both a very happy birthday, Laurie 14-to-the-fifth.”

“Wait a second—my sister? You mean it’s between us, who’s chosen for what? The mines? Or what, like, making babies?’

He smiles again. You want to throw up. The rumors at school, why half the class went on sabbatical for junior year. He leads you out to the hall and points to a garden, a woman in her twenties waits in a chair, fingers hovering by her neck. She looks exactly like all the posters in school, the paintings that hang in every customs office, every town hall. Suddenly your own adopted mother saying that morning, You know that I will always love you both equally, no matter what she says, begins to make sense.

He tells you before closing the door, “And for birthdays, my dear, may your immortality be blessed with many happy more. For the ageless, birthdays can be a girl’s best friend.”

TMN’s Contributing Writers know where to find the purple couch. Long live the pan flute, mini mafia, and Michael Jackson. More by The Writers