another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory
10 Degrees at Random by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | OCT 2016
10 Degrees at Random
by Mike Bozart
© 2016 Mike Bozart
It was back in 2010. A mild Sunday autumn evening. Halloween in east Charlotte (USA). I, Agent 33, was taking my 7-year-old son, who liked to be known at the time as Agent 666 (but has since shed a 6 – now Agent 66), trick-or-treating in our Windsor Park neighborhood.
We started out around 7:00 PM, a few minutes after sundown. He quickly started to fill up his plastic jack-o’-lantern with various candies. I noticed that his haul was mostly the only-seen-at-Halloween types like Dots, Smarties, Bit-O-Honey, Mike and Ike, Charleston Chew, candy corn, and Mary Jane briquettes. Wow! Mary Jane. Why do they still make that? Does anyone really like it?
After walking a few blocks, we arrived at Somerdale Lane.
“Well, which way do you want to go, son?” I asked, wondering if he was ready to go back home and call it a night.
“Which way to that house with the scary front yard, dad?”
“Which one, son?” How could he forget?!
“Oh, you know the one, dad! It’s like a haunted jungle. The one that is all overgrown.”
“Oh, yes! That one. It’s to the left.”
“How far away is it?”
“About a quarter-mile, [402 meters] son.”
My son paused for a few seconds to think about the distance. “Ok, let’s go to it.”
“Are you sure that you won’t be frightened?”
“No, not with you with me, dad.” That sure was nice to hear.
We then proceeded to march down the curvy street, stopping at lighted houses to take in more sweets. Then we climbed up a slight rise, and there it was: the house with the spooky front yard.
There were a plethora of half-size, motionless Halloween creatures – werewolves, vampires, goblins and witches – along the walkway to the front door of the house that had an orange porch light. Some eerie music was playing, but the source was nowhere to be seen.
Once on the black-matted front porch, my son looked at me. “Dad, can you push the doorbell?” I can tell that he’s afraid.
“Sure, son,” I said as I pressed the yellow-lighted circle.
Five seconds later, a 40-something Caucasian man in zombie makeup answered the door, and then laughed maniacally. “Well, what do you say?” he asked menacingly, sounding a bit like a drugged Vincent Price.
“Trick or treat?” my son stammered.
Zombie-man then put a handful of small candies in my son’s faux pumpkin pail.
“Thank you,” my son said as we turned to leave.
Suddenly, another man in ragged clothes wearing a black ski mask came charging out of the front woods with a red chainsaw! It was on. He lunged at us and revved the engine.
We ran back down the walk to the street. When we looked back, he was gone. Where did he go?
My son was genuinely scared. “Was that a real chainsaw, dad?”
I saw his eyes through the two holes in his gold skull mask. He was freaked. “It was son, but it had no chain on the bar. So, it couldn’t have really cut us. Remember that haunted house that we went to last week?”
“It’s a common Halloween scare-prop.”
I then looked to the left side of the front yard before proceeding to the next house. There was what appeared to be a life-size female mannequin in a long black dress standing in front of a dim floodlight. How did I miss that before? Did that light just come on?
“Did you notice that before, son?” I asked as I pointed at the ghoulish silhouette.
“No, I didn’t. That’s creepy. Let’s get out of here! I’m ready to go back now.”
“Ok, you’ve got candy aplenty, and you’ve got school tomorrow,” I said as I looked back before we started to walk away. The mannequin’s head appeared to have turned oh-so-slightly towards us. However, I didn’t say anything to my son, as he was already scared enough.
Seven minutes later we were back inside our house. My son was soon chomping down on some Milk Duds as I scanned the TV channels. Then the doorbell rang. It would turn out to be the last batch of trick-or-treaters.
“It’s eight o’clock. Let’s watch a horror movie, dad.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want you to have nightmares, son.”
“If it’s on TV, it’s not super-scary.”
“But, you have to go back to your mom at nine, right?”
“No, she said that I can come back late tonight, since it’s Halloween. Ten-fifteen is fine.”
“Ok, then. Will you be able to get up in the morning?”
“Dad, I have a late-starting school. Remember?” Oh, yes.
“Just checking.” Just checking?
We settled on an edited-for-television version of the first Halloween movie. We watched it in silence.
I took my son back to his mom after the movie. We talked about who the scariest Halloween character was. He thought that nothing topped the dude in Hellraiser. Of course I asked him where and when he saw that movie. He said something like ‘all the kids have seen it’.
When I picked up my son 12 days later (typical dad custody: every other weekend), he had an interesting question about the recent Halloween evening.
“Dad, how did the head of that woman-statue in that scary yard move?” So, he noticed it, too.
“There was most likely a small motor inside the chest of that mannequin, son. An axle probably went up through the neck to the head, onto which it was fastened.”
“But, it barely moved, dad.”
“Yeah, it probably just nudged it every once in a while.”
“Yes, maybe so, son. Perhaps at random intervals. Maybe an RNG dictated the frequency of the head movements.”
“An RNG? What is that, dad?”
“A random number generator. The guy probably had the limits set between one and ten minutes.”
“So, it picked a number between one and ten at random?”
“Or, maybe between 60 and 600.” Huh?
“Oh, I got it – down to the second.” He caught that fast.
“Perhaps, my keen son.”
“Well, I thought it was the scariest thing in the yard, because you weren’t totally sure if it moved or not.”
“Me, too, son. He’s probably a computer geek. Random time intervals between 10-degree head movements is ingenious.”
“Exactly ten degrees, dad?” How does he know?
“Just my guesstimate, son. Certainly less than 20 degrees.”
“So, about ten degrees of arc at random time intervals, dad?”
“Yep, ten degrees at random, son.”