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Halloween.

Halloween Halloween Halloween Halloween HalloweenHalloweenHalloweenHalloween

"Will you be quiet?" snapped Bossman. "I'm trying to drive."

I hadn't realized I'd been chanting under my breath.

"But it's-"

"I heard you the first twenty-seven times. And stop squirming, will you?"

I stopped wiggling around in my seat and instead settled for buzzing with enthusiasm.

So it was Halloween.

I love Halloween.

Maybe it's the free candy. Maybe it's the running-around-unsupervised at night. Maybe it's because in a weird Stockholm kind of way I need to give myself something to look forward too every year, and it might as well be the one night where the whole world is reminding me of home.

I had a costume. I was a ghost this year, just like last year. Only this year I was a floral ghost since I'd used up all the blank white sheets on Halloweens past and Faust never bothered getting some new ones. Why the costume at all? Because despite the teachings of Disney cartoons, people actually can tell the difference between an actual hellspawn and some kid in a cool costume.

This year we were trying something new. I'd convinced Faust to drop me off in some fancy neighborhood because I'd heard it from some reliable sources that they gave out the best candy. Also, teepeeing fancier houses is more fun, but Bossman didn't know that reason or else he probably wouldn't let me go. He's such a killjoy sometimes.

We parked in the parkinglot of a small park and he killed the engine. I reached for the handle, but he locked the door from his side.

"Okay," he said, turning in his seat to look at me better. "Tell me again, what are the rules?"

"We've been over this-"

"For my peace of mind."

"No fires, murders, mutilations, or general mayhem. Be home by ten."

He nodded, satisfied.

"Are your little. . . friends. . . will they be coming?"

"No." I crossed my arms and allowed myself a quick grump. "Gaz is off doing some family shit or something and Klonkor's volunteering at a shelter for underprivileged Ravens."

"Right." He sounded relieved. I think he's under the impression that those two are bad influences on me. The doors unlocked. "Have fun," he said.

"Will do." I unbuckled and grabbed my mostly-empty pillowcase.If Faust noticed the two suspiciously toilet paper-ly shaped lumps, he didn't say anything.

"Not too much fun, though."

"Whatever you say." This conversation was cutting into candy time. Faust looked like he was about to say something else, so I slammed the door shut and waved goodbye. He took the hint and pulled out.

I walked to the end of sidewalk and took a deep breath. The night smelled like promise- which is totally an actual smell, guys, take my word for it. The park was surrounded by residentials, most of which were quite fancy and had things like verandas and little fountains out front. I remembered the last time I'd been in a neighborhood similar to this one and tried to stay positive.

Klonkor and Gaz can be annoying sometimes but not having them around this Halloween was bumming me out way more than it should have. So to compensate for that I was going to ramp up everything this year. A bag of candy? Try two or three pillowcases worth of candy. Egg people's houses? Soak the whole street in whites and yolks and then launch off a few rounds of carefully controlled hellfire so the place was one big omelet. Teepee a neighborhood? Teepee the entire city. Provided I did it all before my ten o clock curfew.

I hurried off to the first house.

* * * * *

I was not disappointed. The people here were crazy, giving out not only whole candy bars, but in some cases king size ones as well. I didn't even have the heart to teepee them.

Ah well I thought. You only have a few rolls of toilet paper anyways. might as well save it for some real assholes.

I brightened up. It was never too hard to find assholes on Halloween.

Several blocks away from where Faust had dropped me off, I got a tugging feeling in the back of my head.

You know that feeling you get when you're pretty sure someone just called your name, but when you look, nobody's looking at you and then you're suddenly not sure if you heard it or not? Yeah, like that, only moreso.

I looked around. It was dark out already, even though it was probably only around eight. The streets here were flooded with trick or treaters- about an even mix of small children and their parents and highschoolers wanting free stuff. Despite two hours of non-stop candy hoarding, my pillowcase wasn't even half full.

The tugging was insistent, and it was pulling me down the street.

"Fine," I said, heaving the bag over my shoulder. "I'll bite."

I started off towards the source of the tugging, making sure to hit up every house along the way.

* * * * *

I found the offending house down the street, up the road, and on top of a hill. A big Victorian looking thing that had a lot more yard and therefore a lot more elbowroom than its neighbors. Whatever was inside pulled and yanked and would not allow itself to be ignored. So even though all the lights were off, I went up the porch and knocked on the door.

"Trick or Treat," I said, figuring that if I was going to go the investigative route, I might as well get some free candy while I was at it.

The door didn't open. Inside, frantic voices whispered and giggled and somebody said, "shut up!"

Ugh, I thought. Teenagers. I kicked the door. "Trick or treat!"

They continued to ignore me. I almost left right there, but that tugging feeling got ten times worse, pulling at my chest-throat-heart-ish area like it was yanking at my soul.

"Let me in you asshats!"

I dropped the bag of candy and started beating the door. They weren't opening that way. I made an angry noise and jumped off the porch, going to the window and tromping on all the flowers I could along the way. I was in luck, the window was unlocked. I picked up a rock and smashed open the window anyways. For form's sake. Several people inside screamed.

"Trick or fucking treat!"

I slid open the window and, after tossing in my candy bag, crawled inside, my ghost costume protecting me from all the slivers of glass. The inside of the house was dark save for a smattering of lit candles placed around the rather spacious livingroom. Not real candles, the fireless plastic kind, which was the only reason why the house wasn’t on fire right now since a bunch of them had toppled over.

Teenagers, a whole sulk of them, sitting around a pentacle with a Ouija board inside it. The whole horror movie crew was here: the jock-y looking guy, the skimpily outfitted girl, the nerds of both gender (you can tell they would have been the nerds because they were wearing glasses), a goth kid, and one guy who looked too normal to be in the movie and therefore must probably die in the first act, plus his twin brother asleep on the couch, apparently unconcerned with the screaming and break in.

They were frozen stiff for the moment, but any second now one of them was going to scream again and then they'd all be screaming and, frankly, I didn't have time for that. I had a pillowcase to fill.

"Well?" I said.

"Well what?" said the football player. The normal guy went and turned on the lights and suddenly they all could see me and I could see them about the same, only now with more colors.

"You were trying to summon a demon. And a piss-poor job of it, might I add. Look at that thing!" I went over to the pentacle. All the kids closest by scurried back, some getting to their feet, others staying firmly planted on the floor.

"No protective runes, no command sigils, no automatic dispellers in case things got wacky. You stupid kids could've been in a lot of trouble if you hadn't got little old me instead."

"You're a demon?" said the nerdy girl. She had an overly long gray sweater, crinkly black hair, and now that I noticed it, a small gold cross around her neck. She immediately relabeled herself in my head as Religo-Girl.

I also realized that I was still wearing the sheet. I pulled that off and waited for the gasps of surprise. Instead, they started looking less afraid and more confused.

"Uhm," said the boy nerd. He was a type A scrawny guy with a heaping helping of acne and a Marvel Comics shirt. He tilted his head at me and I remembered that I still had my glamor on, too.

"Oh for the love of-" I let that slip off and they all screamed and tried running through the door. And yeesh, I must've really had them going because they could not for the life of them figure out how to undo the lock. To my surprise the only ones not panicking were the girls.

The one I assumed to be the cheerleader in this horror show was looking at me the same way you look at a car you're debating whether or not to buy, the other one was staring wide-eyed at me and mouthing a little prayer. I could tell it was a prayer because of that annoying white-noise and the sudden itchy feeling on my skin. Any moment now I was going to break out into a rash.

"Will you cut that out?" I said to her. "All of you, in fact. Calm the fuck down." I let the glamor pop back into place and waited.

"What do you want?" said Goth Guy.

"Snickers, mostly, though Resees are my second favorite. Just none of that fruit crap like laffy taffy or sweet tarts. Chocolate or bust, I say."

"What?"

"You guys are the one who summoned me here. Blindingly stupid thing to do, if you ask me. You're lucky you got me instead of someone with a bad temper."

This did not appear to sink in. They were still looking pretty horrified. I rolled my eyes and hefted up my pillowcase so they could see.

"I'm not here to hurt you. I'm just getting candy."

"Then why did you lock us in?" said Jock Guy.

I swear the air dropped a few degrees.

"What?"

Nerd Guy pointed to the door. "It’s locked, and we can't get it open."

"I didn't do that."

And of course the lights went out.

Now they screamed.

I immediately went for the window, only to have it vanish. Poof- gone. Nothing but solid wall.

"Okay," I said loudly. "No need to panic. Hey, whoever's here, I just wanna let you know that my name's Bri, third tier imp, and the succubus Khoress and Cacodaemons Galzeekebull, Klonkor, and Hastofur can totally vouch for me-"

A door off to the side leading into some other room splintered inward as somebody in a hockey mask and chainsaw came in. The kids were already scrambling away, so I decided I may as well play hero. I conjured up some handy-dandy hellfire and hurled it at the chainsaw wielder. It passed right through him and hit the wall behind him, scattering uselessly and vanishing.

"Oh fucknuggets."

I followed the kids in their mad dash through the house. And damn, if I thought the outside of the house was big, that was nothing to the inside. Room after room we passed and each one of them had something terribly wrong.

The walls were bleeding in the kitchen. They moved like they were breathing, inhale-exhale-inhale-exhale, and the air was too warm and moist.

In the hallway, tentacles were crawling out of the a hole in the floor that, judging by the depth, size, and fucking tentacles, I'm guessing wasn't there that morning, trying to catch us as we ran by. Goth Guy got his arm caught and was almost dragged away, but Nerd Guy and Cheerleader Girl dragged him back while Jock Guy beat at the tentacles with a fireplace poker.

I caught a glimpse of one room with an open door- I don't even know where it led- and there was nothing but fire inside.

Nope, not goin' anywhere that way.

Cheerleader girl almost made the mistake of going upstairs when we passed by a staircase, but Goth Guy dragged her back down.

"Nique, don't go up!" he said, holding on to her and running to keep up with the rest of us. “Then we'll just be stuck upstairs."

We found solace in the diningroom, and all piled in. Nothing was bleeding, or on fire, or coming at us with a chainsaw. Cheerleader girl put a chair under one doorknob while Bland Normal Guy did the same on the one across the room.

"So," I said as casually as I could. "How long has your house been haunted?"

"My house isn't haunted!" said Cheerleader Girl.

"You coulda fooled me!" said Jock Guy, leaning against the wall. He had the poker up and ready like he was just waiting for something to hit.

“Are we going to die?” said Nerdy Guy.

“All the windows are gone,” said Goth Guy. He was walking along the wall, running his hand over the paint. “There were windows in here earlier, weren’t there?”

Religo-Girl just sat in a dining chair and looked shocked.

“Okeedokee,” I said. For some reason, right then, I was in a really good mood. “Way I figure it, you stupid little pukes accidentally called up something else and I just caught the aftershocks that, I feel I must remind you, do not normally happen when you do the damn thing the right way.”

Bland Guy was looking pretty pale. “Are we going to die?”

“Aaron, don’t talk like that!” snapped Religo-Girl.

“I dunno,” I said. “Usually by now I’m pretty sure at least two of you are supposed to be dead already, but I’ll admit, it’s been a while since I’ve seen this movie.”

“What are you talking about?” said Nerd Guy.

I gave him the most level stare I could manage. “I’ve eaten half my weight in sugar tonight. For every one in the bag one went into my belly. This body metabolizes things different than your guys’s does. Doos. Do. Whatever. I am two mini-bags of M&Ms away from seeing smells and incidentally will you please stop praying it’s giving me a headache.

Religo-Girl stopped, but not without giving me the wide-eyed doe look.

“Please,” said Goth Guy, his voice shaky. “Just tell us. What is it? What’s out there?”

“I don’t know for certain,” I said, “but whatever it is is letting us talk right now, meaning it wants us to get worked up, so it’s probably some kind of fear eater. That narrows down the list. I know a few fear eaters. Can you believe Gaz couldn’t come out tonight? Even after I asked- I actually asked! I mean I didn’t say please, but I still asked. But wait, no, you don’t know who Gaz is. Probably just as well he didn’t come, though, because I’m pretty sure he would’ve stopped me from eating all that candy in one go. Real health nut and also I like what you’ve done with the color scheme in here, classy as fuck.”

It was a classy as fuck room with cream carpets and walls and dark furniture. For some reason I was reminded of chocolate. Like white chocolate and dark and milk-

“Wait,” said Jock Guy. “It’s letting us talk?”

“Oh yeah,” I said. “It could totally come in here any time it wants.”

And then the all the furniture lifted from the ground and started flying around the room.

Religo-Girl screamed and jumped off as her chair flew off. Books flew off the shelves, only to be followed a moment later by the book case itself. All I could think was, It’s a good thing they have such a high ceiling..

All the kids huddled up and watched the show instead of doing the smart thing and bolting for the door.

“Don’t look!” I said. “That’ll just encourage it!” A particularly thick book hit me upside the back of the head.

“Real mature!” I shouted to the air.

“Why are you helping us?” said Goth Guy.

“Because you’re pathetic and I'm in a good mood because of the candy."

And since of course the universe loves to dick around with me, my bag of loot started floating away.

"Hey!" I jumped onto the sack and tried to pull it back down. It followed a long-standing tradition of things in my life and ignored me, meaning we both joined the furniture flying around the joint.

Jock Guy, who was the tallest out of them all, reached up and pulled me down when I floated by.

“My loot!”

“We’ll get you more later if you get us out of here.”

“I’m going to hold you to that.”

And just because the party wasn’t fun enough with the furniture having an opinion on matters, the door we had come in through earlier was sawed down as Chainsaw Guy made a reappearance.

“Alrighty, folks, let’s run like rats!”

We went through another mad run though the house, this time with Chainsaw Guy hot on our heels, slashing up every whole piece of furniture in his way and in some cases going out of his way in order to slash at stuff. At one point he just ran the saw against the wall, cutting though plaster for the hell of it.

“Now that was uncalled for,” I said.

Nerdy guy didn’t answer and instead grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the way before Chainsaw Guy could lop off my head.

The boggart- I had decided sometime between the dining room and the den that the thing in the house now was probably a boggart, just because they’re the sort of spook who like to copycat other people’s ideas instead of coming up with new things themselves. Laziest fear eaters ever- decided that just having us run around like headless chickens wasn’t enough so it also decided to start randomly locking and unlocking doors on us. Twice we wound up having to go back down a hallway we’d just come in through because the doors were all locked, only to find them unlocked a minute later, and then we’d run away back down the hall again anyways because the room wound up being full of spiders.

I miss Klonkor I thought. He would’ve just eaten Chainsaw Guy’s eyes and have been done with the matter.

Eventually we passed through the livingroom where we first started, and Bland Guy’s twin was still asleep on the fucking couch. I guess it was no fun tormenting somebody who was asleep when there were properly worked up live targets to go after.

We went into a den right next to the livingroom, only at the last minute holes spontaneously appeared in the floor. Just as the last of us were piling into the den, Nerdy Guy got his foot caught by tentacles and they dragged him down into what was either the netherworld or possibly the cellar. The door slammed immediately shut behind us without any of us touching it.

“Huh,” I said. “I figured it would’ve been Bland Guy.”

Nobody listened to me and all of them immediately started boarding up the door except for Religo-girl and Jock Guy, who were having an argument.

"We can't leave Alex out there!"

"We can't go out there or it'll get us too! Maybe this way it’ll leave us alone long enough for us to find a way out of here."

I was impressed. Religo-girl looked like such a sweet thing. It'd been a while since I'd heard that kind of ruthless pragmatism come out of the mouth of someone so small.

"It's okay," I said. "That thing out there is probably just going to scare the shit out of him until he keels over of a heart attack. If it wanted to kill us outright, we’d all be dead. Hell, if it just wanted to kill us, it probably would’ve started with Bland Guy’s brother."

"Huh?" said Jock Guy and Religo-Girl.

"I mean the thing would probably go after the easy target, and who's easier than a fucking coma patient?"

"Who's bland guy?" said Bland Guy.

"You. And dang, was that cold. I mean, I understand the importance of fleeing as well as the next person, but I was under the impression you guys frowned on just leaving someone behind like a sack of potatoes-"

"Brother?" said Bland Guy. "I don't have a brother."

"Sure you do. Your twin or whatever. Guy on the sofa. Guys, help me out here."

I turned to the others for help. Blank looks all around.

"He doesn't have a brother," said Monique.

"But then who- oh. Oh shit."

I shooed the ones still packing stuff away from the door and started undoing all their hard work. "Give me a hand with this."

"Are you insane?"

"Possibly." A chair fell off and lost a leg. Monique shrieked. "My parents are gonna kill me!"

"Well then help me."

She did, and Religo-Girl and Jock Guy came over to help.

"Do you know what you're doing?" said Goth Guy.

"Yeah, I got an idea. Fuckin' oneroimancers," I spat.

"What?" said Monique.

"Dream magic," said Jock Guy. "What does that have to do with-?”

The door flew open and tables and chairs started flying around again. The tentacles had all gone though, so that was something. Instead, now the livingroom was full of crazy-assed winds.

"Yo, normal guy."

"Aaron," said normal guy.

"Whatever. Get over here."

I grabbed his wrist and led him through the gale storm into the livingroom, to the couch where his exact double was sleeping.

"Is that me?" he said.

"Yep."

The winds stopped.

"Are you okay out there?" said Goth Guy.

"Alex?" Jock guy poked out his head.

One by one, they all came out to see what was going on.

“Aaron!” said Goth Guy. “That’s you!”

“What’s going on?” said Religo-Girl.

"Are we're all inside Aaron’s head?"

"Sorta. Maybe. I'm guessing you accidentally summoned the boggart right before I got here, and since Bland Guy-"

"I'm not bland!"

"Keep telling yourself that, kiddo. Since this guy was asleep, the boggart just used whatever was lying around in his head to fuck with you all. Wake him up and we should be all clear. The boggart won’t stick around after that."

Religo-Girl acted first and shook Sleeping Bland Guy's shoulders. "Aaron, wake up!"

And then with an anticlimactic snap, the world was back to normal. We were just a bunch of people standing around in a fancy-assed livingroom. A livingroom that did not look like it had been torn apart by the monstrous mental machinations of a guy who watched too much TV. A second later, and the door to the kitchen opened and a very confused looking Nerdy Guy crept out.

All of them started with the victory hugging and back slapping and high-fiving and when Jock Guy got his hands on Nerdy Guy, he engulfed Nerdy Guy in a hug.

"Don't scare me like that again!"

"Jason, I'm fine-"

Jock Guy shut him up by planting a big one mouth-to-mouth.

Well okeedokee then.

"Alrighty," I said, figuring it was high time I was out of there now that crisis had been averted. "Everybody alive in here? Think carefully before you answer."

There were some tentative affirmations, like they themselves weren't quite sure.

"Good. Anybody here ever going to try and summon the forces of hell without proper precautions again?"

There was a more emphatic round of negatories.

"Hey, maybe you all aren't so thick after all. Now, to business." I held out my pillowcase.

"Trick or treat."

* * * * *

It was hard work walking under the weight of all the candy, but it was the kind of hard work I didn't mind. The kids actually hadn’t had that much in the house, but Jock Guy owned a car, so one quick trip to the grocery store later and I had not one, not two, but three pillowcases full of enough chocolate to last me the year. Normally I would consider outright buying the candy to be cheating, but this year I'd earned it. Besides, it's not like I was the one paying for it.

Was a real bitch to lug around, though. I’d turned down a ride on the grounds that I'd had enough of their ugly mugs for one night, but now, too far to go back and still forever to go, that was seeming like a very bad idea.

I looked up. It was dark-dark out now. The streets were totally devoid of trick-or-treaters. I was totally missing curfew.

"HELLO, IMP!" boomed a familiar voice behind me. I dropped my candy sacks in shock.

"Klonkor?"

"IN THE FLESH."

He was walking up the sidewalk, uncostumed, in all his Klonkor-ish glory. Perched on every available bit of him were big black lumps of bird.

"I thought you were volunteering at the shelter tonight!"

"I AM. THE RAVENS AND I DECIDED THAT IT WOULD BE A GOOD TIME FOR A STROLL."

"Klonkor, ravens aren't nocturnal."

One of the birds on his ample shoulders ruffled its feathers and put its head by Klonkor's ear.

"UH-HUH. YES. ALRIGHT, I WILL TELL HER. SUSANETTA SAYS THAT YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO MAKE SUCH BROAD ASSUMPTIONS, AND THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW HER PERSONALLY."

"But she's a bird-" It occurred to me that if I kept this conversation headed the way it was headed, I would be arguing by-proxy with a bird and frankly that would've been too much for one night.

"Yeah, right. Sorry."

"SHE SAYS YOUR APOLOGY IS ACCEPTED."

I deigned not to comment and instead dug out a few pieces of something special from my bag.

“Yo,” I said, tossing him the candy. “Eyeballs.”

He caught the eyeballs, mildly annoying the ravens on his arms in the process, and plopped them into his mouth without even unwrapping the foil. He chewed, then frowned.

THAT WAS A CRUEL TRICK.”

I tossed him another. “Try unwrapping it first. It’ll taste better.”

He did and plopped a chocolate ball into his mouth.

ACCEPTABLE,” he proclaimed.

“Glad you approve. Take as many as you like. Hey, you wanna help me carry this stuff home?”

To the loud disapproval of the ravens on his shoulders, he one-handedly picked up two of the bags and swung them over his back. A bunch of the ravens flew up, only to land again, this time on me as well as Klonkor.

“Thanks, dude.” The raven sitting on top of my head craned its head down at me so it was looking at me upside-down in the eyes. I picked out a shiny wrapper from the bag and gave it to the raven to play with.

DID YOU ENJOY YOUR HALLOWEEN?” said Klonkor.

“Meh. I’ve had worse.”

A ROUSING ENDORSEMENT.”

And we started the long walk back to my place.

Oogie boogie boo