Halloween has always been my least favorite holiday. It’s great for kids, don’t get me wrong. Kids love dressing up, pretending they’re monsters or super heroes or a sack of potatoes, but it’s the older ones that come out later that scare me. They’re the real monsters, and they don’t even have to dress up. I’m talking punks, Goths, and every other hooligan that uses this night as an excuse to wreak havoc on their neighbors. Apparently, because it’s Halloween, there aren’t any consequences.

Whenever I’m stuck going out trick-or-treating with my 7-year-old sister, Angie, I always insist that we’re back home before it’s dark. The last thing I want is to be out there when those morons come out to play. I don’t want to have to cower behind a tree as they steal my sister’s candy.

Let’s be honest. I’m a wimp. I’m picked on every day, and I’m even a senior in high school. Even the freshmen make fun of me! I just can’t wait before I can get out of this town. I just have to wait nine more months before graduation. That’s if I can make it through tonight. It’s Halloween, after all. My least favorite holiday.

Each year, I’m the one that “gets” to take my sister around from house to house, basically threatening people to give us candy. Isn’t that what “trick-or-treat” is all about? Knock on a door, inform them that if I don’t get a trick, something unpleasant will happen to them. Again, I’m not too fond of this holiday. My mom and dad don’t take Angie out because they’re too involved in the goings on at the house. My mom absolutely loves to hand out candy, and my dad’s favorite thing to do is scare the living daylights out of the kids that come to the door. How I came to be in this family is beyond me.

Angie loves Halloween, and in her seven years of life she never once dressed up as something cute, like a fairy or a ladybug or something. Nope, she loved the ghastly. This year, she was a zombie. She painted her face a pale white and added fake blood to her face and shirt, along with some deep-looking cuts and gashes in various parts of her skin. She was a master of Halloween makeup, and I could hardly look at her without cringing. Angie always talked me into dressing up, too, so this year I decided to be something legitimately scary: a gym teacher.

My costume was pretty easy to put together. I just borrowed a pair of my dad’s shorts, an athletic shirt, and the whistle he used to use when he coached the high school football team. I borrowed a sweatband from my mom, and I was ready to scare some kids.

As we walked around outside, people tended to steer away from us. I couldn’t blame them. My costume was pretty frightening.

As we walked towards the first house on our list –namely our next-door-neighbor – I caught Angie staring down a group of kids a little further ahead. She dropped her pillowcase and began staggering towards them, arms out, making a high-pitched groaning sound. The kids stared at her, eyes wide. Then they screamed and ran away.

Angie laughed and ran back to me, her bleach-white zombie face smiling its haunting grin.

“Did you see how scared they were?” she asked.

“Yup. You definitely are a scary kid.”

I meant what I said; she really was terrifying. She took it as the biggest compliment she’s ever heard. I averted my eyes from hers. I’d have nightmares if I looked at her much longer.

We went up and down our street, collecting candy from each house we visited. Being out with my younger sister did have its perks. Even though I was a senior in high school, I still got nearly just as much candy as Angie. If I had gone alone, there was little chance I’d come back with anything. I guess it really does pay to be nice.

We made our way down the next street, filling our pillowcases. I wasn’t huge into candy, but it did feel nice as my pillowcase grew heavier and heavier as the evening wore on.

We started down the third street and saw a long line of kids in front of a house four doors down. We made our way there, knocking at the other houses as we went. In no time we were queued up with everyone else. We happened to be behind some headless kid. Costumes these days were getting to be way too realistic and grotesque for me. There was quite a line to get to the front door. Whatever candy these guys were handing out, it must be good.

As we waited, my eyes scanned the front yard. It was decked out in all kinds of creepy decorations. The pumpkins were carved with precision and there were fake cobwebs everywhere. But when I saw the giant spider next to the grave that was sucking in a person, I was forced to stare down at my feet while we shuffled our way up to the door.

We finally made it. The man giving out candy was outside. With a crowd this big, there wasn’t any time to be going in and out. As we stepped up onto his front porch, Angie already had her pillowcase open so the man at the door could drop in her new spoils.

“Ooo, aren’t you a frightening one!” said the man, staring intently at Angie’s zombified face. His deep brown eyes twinkled. “Yes, you are a scary one indeed!” He dropped two full-sized candy bars into he pillowcase, orange and black wrappers disappearing into what will inevitably be their final resting place.

The man then turned to me and looked me over, the twinkle in his brown eyes long gone. He looked puzzled, as if trying to understand what on earth I could be. Sure enough, he voiced his concern.

“Is this supposed to be some sort of retro outfit?” he asked, looking me up and down, trying to figure out where the scare factor was in my costume.

“I’m a gym teacher,” I said, suddenly self conscious about my costume.

“Well, that’s not very scary,” said the man. I brought a pillowcase, too, because most people gave me candy just because I was with a cute kid in a scary outfit. This guy, however, didn’t seem to be interested in giving me any of his giant-sized candy bars. I decided to give up on the brown-eyed man giving me the goods and turned around before it got too awkward.

“One more thing!” called the man after us, nice as can be. Angie and I turned around. “Make sure you eat those candy bars soon. A scary zombie like you must be all kinds of hungry!”

Angie smiled, showing her pseudo-decaying teeth. “Thanks! I will!”

“And don’t share them with the gym teacher! They’re for scary ghouls only!”

Angie giggled and we made our way down his steps, past the others in line, and back to the street.

“Wasn’t that so cool?” said Angie, excitement practically dripping from every word.

I wouldn’t admit to my sister that I was totally jealous of her winnings, but I was. Why did she get two full-sized candy bars? I’ve never gotten even one in all my years of trick-or-treating. Apparently, my costume really wasn’t that scary after all.

“Yeah, that’s pretty awesome!” I said, trying to sound excited for her. Instead, all I wanted to do was go home. I couldn’t get the image of that giant spider out of my head. I hated spiders. They’re just so…unnatural. What kind of creature has eight legs and shoots string out of its butt to make a trap for other insects? And then, when its prey is caught, it mummifies the thing before sucking out its juices. Unnatural.

As we walked to the next house, Angie dug into her pillowcase and pulled out one of the full-sized candy bars. “Do you want one? He gave me two.”

The truth was, I did. I really did want it. But they were given to her, and she really did deserve both of them. I wanted to say yes, but I just couldn’t make myself.

“Nah,” I said. “You earned it. After all, an ugly zombie like yourself must be starving. I mean look at you! You’re all skin and bones!”

“Literally,” she said, her creepy smile splitting her face. Tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough. I wanted to see my cute little sister again, not this…thing.

“Come on,” I said. “Let’s keep going.” So we can be done and go home.

We went to house after house, continuing our ritualistic threatening to get candy. Halloween was such a weird holiday. My least favorite, too. Have I mentioned that yet?

My pillowcase kept filling up. What peeved me, however, was that the one house I wanted candy from – that brown-eyed man and his full-sized candy bars – was the one house I didn’t get anything from. Was it too much to ask for just one of those candy bars? I suppose my costume really didn’t deserve one, anyway. That’s just the way life is, I suppose.

I looked up at the sky, making sure the sun wouldn’t set on us anytime soon. I was shocked to see the sun falling dangerously close to the horizon.

“It’s time to go back,” I said. How had it gotten so late?

“Aw, already?” She tried to give me her best puppy eyes, but her cute tricks wouldn’t work on me this time. Not in a zombie body, at least.

“Yeah, let’s go. It’s getting dark.”

“But it’s not yet!”

“It will be by the time we get home,” I said. We were three blocks away, and it’s my personal experience that zombies don’t move very fast, especially when they can’t stop looking inside their pillowcase to examine all their loot.

“Just one more house?” she asked as sweetly as possible. Angie was endearing, that was for sure. Just not tonight. Somewhere, hidden underneath her tattered clothes, fake blood, and way-too-realistic lacerations, she was the most adorable kid around. I’d see that version of her soon enough. I really didn’t want to make anymore stops, but Halloween is just once a year, and it’s just one more house. I could do this.

“Fine. But then we leave.”

Angie squealed with joy and ran off across the street to one of the houses we hadn’t been to yet. Apparently zombies can run fast, when they have a good reason, which I figured to be exclusively brains and candy. I ran after her, feeling very winded before I made it even ten steps. Apparently, gym teachers aren’t always in pristine condition. I guess it took more than a simple costume to be suddenly in shape and able to run fast.

I caught up with Angie just as she was calling out her threat of “trick or treat!” at the door. Angie’s pillowcase was already open, expecting more candy to fall into it. When an old man answered the door, he chuckled at her disturbing costume and tossed in a mini-candy bar.

“You are a scary one!” said the old man. “If this wasn’t Halloween, I’m afraid I would have had a heart attack if I had seen you on my porch looking like that!” Then he looked at me. “Oh, but you! Yes, that’s a mighty scary one, yes indeed!”

“You know what I am?” I asked.

“Of course!” said the old man far too seriously. “You’re the dreaded gym teacher! Why, when I was your age, I was so gangly and awkward that all kinds of athletics were the worst kind of torture. I sure did hate learning to play sports. Bravo, young man. Bravo.”

And that’s when he threw in two mini-candy bars. Finally, someone recognized the horrific creature that I was. We thanked the old man, and Angie and I walked down his sidewalk and headed home.

“How come he gave you two?” asked Angie.

“Because I have a scary costume,” I said, grinning like an idiot.

“It’s not even that scary,” she said.

“Here.” I pulled out one of the bite-sized candy bars. “Take it. I only wanted one, anyway.”

She smiled as she graciously accepted my offering. She did love her candy, that was for sure.

We were still three blocks away from home, and the sun was sinking fast. We carefully weaved our way through the throng of children and adult companions that still went door-to-door asking for handouts.

As we reached our street, Angie slowed down. I looked back at her, and she was digging inside her pillowcase. Then she pulled out one of her full-sized candy bars. I was shocked when she offered one to me.

I had turned her down once before, but could I bring myself to do it again? After all, it was a full-sized candy bar!

“Just take it,” she said. “It’s only fair.”

“How is that fair? He gave it to you, not me.”

“Yeah…” she said slowly, thinking it over. “But you came with me. So you deserve it.”

“But he said it was only for scary people.”

“That old guy seemed to think you were pretty scary.”

Well, that was definitely true. “Alright, I’ll take it. Thanks.” How on earth could a super freaky zombie melt my heart like that?

Angie smiled. Then she reached inside her bag and pulled out the other one. “Let’s eat them!”

“Now? But we’re almost home!”

“I know, but I don’t want to share with Mom and Dad.”

I laughed. “Fair enough.” We both unwrapped our candy bars and devoured them. They were absolutely delicious. It’s a good thing she gave me one before she tasted them, or else she might not have given me her other one.

I didn’t want to ditch the wrapper on the ground, so I held on to it. The wrapper was black and orange with all kinds of pictures of ghosts, goblins, and other ghoulish things. The only writing on it was a large “M” faded into the background.

“It’s so good!” exclaimed Angie. “This is the best candy bar ever!”

It really was good. I was surprised, actually. I wondered why I’d never seen this brand around. But then again, I didn’t make a habit of buying candy at the store, so that answered that question.

We finally made it to our front walkway as the last ray of sun peaked out from behind the horizon. It was that awkward time of night when it’s not completely dark, but it’s not light enough to see well, either. I tried to avoid being out at dusk, and not just on Halloween.

As we walked up the sidewalk leading to our house, I noticed a large scarecrow sitting perfectly still in our porch swing. That would be my dad, waiting to scare trick-or-treaters. As we approached, I stared down the scarecrow. It didn’t move. My dad could sit still as a statue for hours if he wanted to. Even though I knew it was my dad, it was kind of unnerving, so I moved slightly closer to the bushes that were on the other side of the door.

Wait, bushes?

Just as I did a double take, my dad jumped out at me. I screamed a scream that would make Wilhelm proud.

My dad was covered in leaves, and as he stood up, he looked like a freaky tree person. He laughed a loud, obnoxious laugh.

“You should have seen your face, Tony! You must have jumped at least five feet!”

I picked up a few candies that had escaped my pillowcase in my frightened jump, mumbled about my extreme dislike towards this stupid holiday, and went inside. Angie stayed out with Dad for a bit, the two of them laughing at my inability to remain composed at my own house.

My mother was just inside the door, basket of candy at the ready. To her credit, she was doing an admirable job of holding in her laughter.

“That man,” she said, shaking her head. “When will he grow up?” Her serious face was failing miserably.

“Probably never,” I said, kicking off my sneakers and heading up to my room with my pillowcase full of candy. Despite being 17 years old and wearing a horrifically lame costume, I had come back with quite a haul. This would undoubtedly be my last year doing this, so I wrote the night off as a success, despite nearly wetting my pants on the way into my house.

I hopped on my bed, smoothed out my blanket, and dumped out my pillowcase in what was a cascade of colored delicacies that some kids could only dream of. And here they were, on my bed, just waiting to be eaten.

I quickly began sorting them. I needed to know what I had, so I could decide which candies I would eat first, and which I would save for last. The chocolate would have to go soon, or else it will get stale. The hard candies were already hard, so they could wait. The chewie ones, though, they’d probably need to go first.

That’s when my stomach started to churn. I doubled over myself, trying to smother the pain, but it persisted. I couldn’t figure it out. I hadn’t eaten nearly enough candy to have a stomach ache already! Maybe it was that chocolate bar. It was so rich and delicious…and probably full of more milk than I should have put inside my system. Being lactose intolerant is a pain, but usually I have my pills to help counter the adverse effects of milk, cheese, and other dairy products, which just so happens to include chocolate.

When I felt the pain subside a bit, I lay down on my bed, careful not to smother any chocolate. I just needed a moment. I hated the pain that came from dairy products. It hurt, and I didn’t like to hurt. So I closed my eyes, willing the pain to go away.

 

 

 

I jerked awake. My bedroom light was still on. I checked the clock. I’d been asleep for maybe ten minutes. I normally didn’t take naps because they made it harder for me to fall asleep at night, but I guess all that walking really tired me out. I hopped off my bed, feeling well rested, despite the short nap. I wasn’t even angry at my dad anymore.

I went down the stairs and was going to see how my mom was doing giving out candy when I heard a soft groan from the bathroom upstairs. Mom was too busy handing out candy, so I let her stay at it.

I went back upstairs, turned down the hall, and knocked on the bathroom door. “Angie?” All I could hear were her quiet sobs, so I knocked again, just a bit louder this time.

“Go away,” came her soft response.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. I really did want to help.

“It won’t come off,” she said. I could tell just from her voice she was distraught.

“If you open the door, maybe I can help.”

I waited for nearly a minute before she opened the door. The zombie face of my sister gave me the shivers, but I forced them down so I could help her. Besides, if I helped her get off her makeup, then I wouldn’t have to look at this face much longer. I stepped into the bathroom and picked up a bar of soap. I rubbed it all over her face. Then I took a wet cloth and scrubbed and scrubbed, trying my best to get that face paint off.

“Ow!” said Angie, backing away from me. “That hurts!”

“Sorry,” I said. “That paint of yours is made to stay on you through a hurricane. It’ll take some effort. But I can help, if you want.”

She sniffed back a tear, staring at me.

“Angie, I can help get this off your face. Do you want me to keep going?”

She didn’t say yes, but she didn’t say no. In fact, she didn’t say anything. She gave no sign that she even recognized my offer to help. Then she came at me in her zombie walk.

“Angie, stop it!” She had gotten way too good at pretending to be a zombie. Even inside my home, with all the lights on, it freaked me right out. “Angie!”

She reached out and grabbed my shirt. I smacked her hand away. It felt like a brittle branch, struggling to hang on to its tree in the dead of winter. That’s how her skin felt, too. Cold. Like an Arctic winter had frozen her body until she was nothing more than a corpse.

Angie stopped, but was back at it in a moment. She reached for me again. I couldn’t take it any longer. I ran out of the bathroom, down the stairs, and to the front door.

“Mom! Tell her to stop!”

My mother turned around, and she jumped just a hair when she saw Angie’s pale zombie body staggering slowly towards the top of the stairs.

“She’s quite the actress!” said my mom, approval mixed in thick.

I was getting very tired of this act my sister was putting on, but it was far too realistic for me. I couldn’t handle it, and she didn’t show any signs of stopping. Her pale white hand grasped the banister and she began her slow descent.

“I thought you told her not to paint her hands,” I said to my mom.

“I did,” she said, glaring at her daughter, hands on hips. “Angie! Go back upstairs right this instant and wash up, or I’m taking all your candy away!”

It was a good threat, and it would have definitely worked on me. Angie, however, kept on coming. The fear I felt flowed from her into my blood. I was cold. I was frightened. I wanted it to stop. Why wouldn’t she stop?

“Uh, dear?” It was my dad from outside. He was standing up, his tree-like self backing slowly towards us. “What’s going on?”

“Your daughter won’t go upstairs and—”

“No, I mean, what’s happening out here?”

I looked outside and my blood ran chill. I thought I was freaked out before, but this was the nail in the coffin, so to speak. A kid dressed up as a vampire walked towards who I assumed must be his father. The kid’s walk resembled that of a manikin…if manikin’s could walk. It was stiff, but it definitely wasn’t slow. The little vampire approached his dad, who picked him up to carry him off. Then the kid bit him in the neck. The man yellowed out in shock and pain, and in a few seconds, he dropped to the ground. It looked like he was dead. Did a little kid just murder his father in front of my house? I looked at Mom, just to make sure she was seeing what I was.

She wasn’t. She was looking the other way, and I followed her gaze. Another kid, dressed as a werewolf, was on all fours, sniffing at the ground. Then, he sat on his haunches and gave a long, piercing howl. His costume’s fake fur looked far too real in the growing moonlight. It gave me the shivers.

Something cold touched my arm. I screamed as I jumped, the hair on my neck acting as if they were just electrocuted. I spun around, just in time to bat away Angie’s hands as she reached out for me. I pushed her away, and she fell backwards on the floor.

“Tony!” shouted my mom.

“She grabbed me!”

“I don’t care what she did, you don’t—”

My dad burst into the house, shutting the door behind him. “Everyone’s gone crazy out there! This is way too much, even for me!”

“Honey…” said my mother, voice low, back turned to her husband.

“What?” he said, turning around. When he saw Angie, he let slip a curse. I had never actually heard my dad swear before, but I suppose if there was a good time to do so, now was it. “Angie, stop right there.”

His voice was stern, but it wavered. He was scared. My big, strong father was scared of his 7-year-old daughter. I couldn’t blame him. After all, I had just lost 10 years on my life all because she touched my arm.

“Go to your room,” my mom said to Angie.

“Something’s wrong,” I said. “She’s acting like those kids outside.”

“If this is some sort of sick flash mob…” my dad grew quiet as a patch of hair fell of my sister’s scalp.

Mom screamed. I managed to keep my terror to myself – probably because I was too freaked out to do anything – although it was all I could do to keep control of my bladder. This was weird. Too weird.

“Closet,” said my dad. My mother and I both looked at him, confused. “We’re going to lock her in the closet until we can figure out what’s going on.”

There wasn’t time to argue. The three of us backed up until we were right in front of the coat closet near the front door. Angie kept coming for us.

“On three, you two run to the side.” My dad didn’t look away from his undead daughter, his hand on the closet doorknob. “One…”

I breathed in deep.

“Two…”

I planted my feet, tilting slightly to the right.

“Three!”

I jumped to the side, faster than I’d ever jumped before. And further, too. My mother sprang away just as quickly. My father flung open the closet door, glided around Angie, and pushed her inside, closing the door behind her.

“Will somebody please tell me what is going on?” shrieked my mother. She looked directly at me, as if this was all somehow my fault.

“I don’t know!” I said. It was true. I had no idea, and it was freaking me out just as much as anyone else.

My dad stood in front of the door, holding it back. Angie thumped on the door slowly, trying to get out. Fortunately, Dad was strong, and he made sure she wasn’t about to get out.

Thump.

“Can somebody please bring me a chair?” he asked, voice calmer than I’ve ever heard him before. This was him trying his hardest to remain in control.

Thump.

I got him a chair from the kitchen, and he propped it up underneath the closet’s doorknob, locking his zombified daughter in the front closet. My dad wasn’t one to punish his children by locking them in closets, so this was a first for all of us. Of course, it was also uncommon to have your little sister turn into what appeared to be a zombie. There were going to be a bunch of firsts before this was all through, I decided.

Thump.

My dad inched away from the door, making sure it was held shut before completely trusting it to the chair. As soon as he was certain it would hold, he went over to my mom. She started crying. He gave her a hug, which wasn’t very effective in calming her down, but at this point, would anything calm her down?

“What are we going to do?” I asked.

My dad just shook his head, holding his wife.

Thump.

“We can’t just leave her in there, she’ll starve!” To be honest, I wasn’t sure if that was true or not. If she really was a zombie, she would probably be alright. Zombies don’t need to eat…do they?

“We need to figure out what happened to her,” said my dad. “And to the other kids.”

“Yeah…that was freaky.” I was proud of myself for my calm demeanor. I should have been cowering under my sheets, but here I was, in the front room with my sister held prisoner in her own front closet.

Thump.

This definitely wasn’t like her. If this was just some trick, she would be laughing her head off by now at how scared we all were. Something was seriously wrong. My dad was right. We needed to figure it out.

“Where did you two go trick-or-treating?” asked my dad.

Thump.

“Just this street and the next two over.”

“Then we’ll start with that,” said my dad, finally getting out of his leafy outfit. “Come on, let’s go.”

“Out there?” I asked. “Are you crazy? You’ve seen what’s happening out there to those kids!”

Thump.

“If you haven’t noticed, my kid is acting the same way.” My dad’s face was turning red, a sure sign that he was getting angry. “I can’t just sit here and wait for someone else to figure this out. I’m going to do something. You can stay here if you don’t want to leave.”

“I guess someone has to watch out for Mom,” I said. I really didn’t want to leave. It was a literal nightmare out there.

“I’ll be fine, honey.” My mother choked back some more tears, but more came as she looked at the closet which held my sister.

Thump.

“Tony,” said my dad, voice calm once more. “I’m sorry. I’m just scared. But I would like you to come. Your mother will be safe in here until we get back. But I need someone out there to watch my back. Like you said…it’s weird out there.”

He was right. He couldn’t go out there alone. He’d be a goner. But if we both go, maybe we’ll both be goners. I sighed. “Alright.”

My dad smiled at me and patted me on the back. “Good. I’m going to change into something a little more flexible and then we’ll leave.”

He ran upstairs to change. When he came back, he was wearing something that vaguely resembled my gym teacher costume. I wasn’t surprised, considering most of this stuff was his anyway.

“Ready?” he asked.

“Ready,” I said, although he and I both knew neither of us were ready to go out among those creepy kids.

“Wait,” said Mom. “Take a weapon or something.”

“We don’t have any weapons,” said Dad.

“We have a baseball bat,” I offered.

Dad nodded. “That’ll work. Where is it.”

“Uh…” I stared at the closet.

“It’s fine,” said Dad. “We’ll be alright.”

We went out the back door and risked some looks into the front street. It was full of kids, all scary looking, acting like they were the creatures they had dressed up as. The headless kid we stood behind earlier walked up and down the street, as if he wasn’t sure where he was going. I couldn’t blame him. After all, his noggin wasn’t attached. If that’s who he was destined to be until the day he died, then I feared for his future. The poor kid would never get ahead in life.

“What are we looking for?” I asked, careful to keep my voice low.

“Not sure yet,” said my dad. “Did you see anything unusual while you were out?”

I gave my dad a look that only a teenager can manage. “Dad, it’s Halloween. Everything is unusual.”

He nodded slowly. “Good point.”

“Wait,” I said, seeing movement down the street. “Something’s happening.”

As if on cue, all the kids in costume – ghosts, vampires, serial killers, you name it – all started to walk towards the end of the street. Even the vampire kid’s dad that got bit right in front of our house was walking that direction. At least he wasn’t dead. Maybe he would have been better off dead.

“Let’s go,” said my dad.

I wanted to argue, but he was already moving. We waited beside our house while the slowest of the ghoulish kids wandered by. It looked like a bunch of adults were joining up with them. Maybe they had all been bit by that vampire kid. Or some other monster, maybe? If I got bit, would I turn into one of them? The thought brought shivers down my spine. As soon as everyone had passed, my dad moved forward.

Then I heard something. I grabbed my dad and pulled him back. It was our front door. It had burst open. The night was quiet, and the full moon hung ominously in the air, as if it were the cause of all this madness. We waited a few moments, just in case something else was out there. Just before we were about to resume our pursuit of the kids, we saw Angie ambling down the street towards the group of kids and converted adults.

Now it was my turn be pulled back into our hiding spot. I hadn’t even realized I had jumped out. I wanted to run to Angie, to bring her back inside and to realize that it was all just a big trick. But my dad was right. We couldn’t let her see us. We had to follow.

Fortunately, Angie was a slow zombie, which gave me time to run back inside the house to check on Mom. She was sitting on the steps, halfway upstairs, crying, but she didn’t look hurt.

“You OK?” I asked.

My mom nodded. “Just scared.”

“It’ll be fine. I’m going to go back out to Dad. Lock yourself in.” After making sure the coast was clear, I snuck back outside and found my dad a couple houses ahead, following Angie.

“Thanks for waiting,” I whispered as I came up behind him. He jumped and nearly swore again, but managed to hold it in.

Due to Angie’s slow pace, we were able to sneak from shadow to shadow, all the while keeping her close in our sights. She turned down the next street, where even more kids and parents were wandering around in their possessed state. They were all heading in the same direction. I kept my eyes fixed on Angie. She went two more blocks before turning again. She was going back to the last street we had been on before heading home.

“Is that one of the streets you were on?” asked Dad.

I nodded, and then realized he wouldn’t be able to see that in the dark. “Yeah.”

Angie disappeared around the corner, and we were forced to wait until all the other creatures – because the were certainly no longer people – found their way to that same street. When it was safe to proceed, we moved quickly.

As we turned the corner to the street that was hosting what seemed like the entire neighborhood, I was quick to notice there was a large group gathered outside a home just a few doors away.

“I remember that house,” I said, half to myself.

“You went there?” asked my dad.

“Yeah. The man gave Angie two full-sized chocolate bars. He didn’t give me any.”

“And that’s all he did?”

“Well, the yard was super creepy. Lots of decorations.” I didn’t mention the giant spider. I didn’t want to think about it. But by not thinking about it, it was suddenly at the forefront of my mind. Great. Just what I needed.

“I don’t get it,” said my dad.

“I don’t either. I mean, he gave her two candy bars and me none. Why not just give both of us one?” My dad looked at me and I realized that’s not what he was talking about. “Sorry.”

“We need a clue,” said my dad. He was becoming a detective almost overnight.

“Like what?”

“Some similarity. Some common ground that brings this all together.”

“Let’s get closer,” I suggested. I didn’t want to get closer though. I wanted to stay as far away from that house as I could, along with the gathering of people. I didn’t want to become one of them. So why was I suggesting to get closer?

Because something was very wrong with my sister, and I intended to find out what.

For the first time in my life, I was doing something important. I was still scared to death, but I just had to do something. I couldn’t let whatever was happening continue. I needed to save my sister. It was invigorating. It was like…the beginning of a sports game, right before the starting whistle blew. I felt nervous, scared, and apprehensive. I didn’t know what would happen, but I knew that as long as I did my best, things would work out for me.

I’m not sure why I thought of this moment in that way. After all, I’ve never played in a sporting event in my life. Except in gym class, but even then things never seemed to go my way.

That was going to change tonight. I could feel it. I also realized that was just me giving myself a pep talk. Things could get bad any second now.

That’s when the whistle blew. I dropped to the ground, hiding behind a tree in a yard a few houses away from the gathered ghouls. I was afraid we’d been spotted. My dad was right there with me. After a moment, I poked my head up. Nobody was coming to get us, so that was a good sign.

It was a pretty large crowd of kids and adults . I didn’t expect to see so many creeps here. But, it was Halloween, and if every kid in a scary costume eventually ended up in front of that house, then I shouldn’t have been surprised.

I squinted, trying to make out each kid’s costume. There was Frankenstein’s monster. Vampires. That headless kid had even found his way here. Where were all the cute butterfly kids? Or kids in capes, dressed up as superheroes?

I kept searching the crowd, hoping to spot at least one. There! Near the back of the group. It’s a clown! Clowns aren’t scary. As if hearing my thoughts, the kid in the clown suit turned around. Actually, everyone turned around. But I was too focused on the clown. It was a hideously evil clown, with fangs in its mouth and scars across his face. What kind of parent dresses their kid like that, anyway? I wanted to scream. I wanted to turn and run. But most of all, I wanted to remain hidden.

Unfortunately, that option seemed to be fading. Fast.

The kids and adults spread out once again, only this time it seemed they were on a mission. They moved with purpose, and some of them were coming this way.

“Stay still,” whispered my dad.

“But they’re coming this way!”

“Maybe they’ll pass by us.”

“Maybe they’ll turn us into whatever they are!”

“Shh!”

I went quiet. If I argued any further, we’d both get caught.

I kept my eyes fixed on the group of zombies – because that’s what they all were, regardless of their costumes – that were coming towards us. There was no way we could hide from them. They were walking through the yard next door. There were more on the sidewalk, and even more on the street. They had all fanned out, as if combing the neighborhood for something.

Of course. They want everybody to be like them. Isn’t that what all monsters wanted?

“They’re looking for us,” I said with all the intensity I could muster while still remaining quiet.

“They don’t know we’re here!” said my dad.

“They’re looking for everyone! You, me, Mom, the neighbors…anyone not turned into one of them!”

My dad was silent for a moment. “Yeah…I think you’re right.”

“We gotta go.” I was itching to run. I needed to get out of there.

“Right.”

I examined the costumes of those approaching. A ghost, the evil clown, Angie, some sort of alien, a bloody butcher, and…crap. A werewolf.

My dad probably didn’t understand what was going on. Not that I did, but I felt that I was a little bit closer to figuring it out. I’d have to let him know fast.

“OK,” I said quickly, voice barely a whisper. “We’ve got a bunch of monsters coming towards us. Angie’s with them. Now, the ones we have to be careful of are the ghost and the werewolf.” My dad just looked at me like I was crazy. “How fast can you run?”

“Fast enough. I used to play football, you know.”

“In a past life, yeah. Now look, if you get bit, or I don’t know what by one of those things, you turn into one of them. Got it?”

“How do you know—”

“I just do.” I sure hoped I did. “But we gotta go. Now.”

“OK. On three.”

Three!

I didn’t give him time for his usual countdown. I pulled him up as I rose and we took off at a sprint. I risked a glance over my shoulder to see if we were being chased, and sure enough, the six monsters were after us. We must have startled them, because they were a little slow on the uptake. That was good. Now we just had to outrun them.

We reached the end of the street, and I bolted left. Fortunately my dad followed right behind me. I wanted to go the other way, but that would lead them closer to my house, and my mom was there all alone, and…

I wasn’t going to think of the possibilities.

We ran fast. Fortunately, like I assumed, most of the monsters had troubles keeping up. The only creature still following us was the werewolf kid, and he was still struggling because of his short legs.

“This way!” I called to my dad and we ducked between two houses and ran into their back yard. We could hop a fence or two and be free of the blasted werewolf.

That’s when the ghost kid materialized through the fence I was planning on scaling. I changed directions without missing a step. My father, however, slipped on the damp grass. He got up quickly, but the ghost was closing in on him. I stopped, ready to turn back and help him, but as soon as I did, the little werewolf came charging around the house and pounced on him. My dad raised his arm to block his face. The werewolf bit his fleshy forearm.

My dad was contaminated.

At least, that’s what I assumed was going on. It still wasn’t confirmed yet, but I wouldn’t be around to find out, either. If I went back to save him, the ghost or werewolf would get me, too.

I turned and ran.

I hated myself for it. Every step I took away from my dad was one stab of guilt after another. I came with him to protect him, and I had failed miserably. I wasn’t an athlete. I’d never played football like he had. I’d lose in a fight, guaranteed.

I attributed the fact that I was still running and not panting for breath in a gutter somewhere to my body being maxed out with adrenaline. I was running not only for my life, but for my sanity. If I became one of them…I didn’t know what would happen, but I really didn’t want to find out. Judging by the way the others moved, it didn’t look pleasant.

I practically flew back into the front yard of the house and kept running the direction opposite of my own home. I knew I couldn’t run forever. I needed a plan.

My mind was racing just as fast as my legs, if not faster. First, I needed to know what was going on. Then, there was a chance I could figure out how to stop it, whatever “it” was. But how would I figure this out? I knew what to do. Deep down I knew, and I did not like it one bit.

I had to go back to the source.

After a quick glance behind me, and seeing nobody nearby, I veered towards another back yard. The way to the back was fenced off, so I quickly found the gate, pulled the latch, and ducked inside. With any luck, nobody had seen me. I was safe, for now.

I gasped for breath, trying to recover what little strength I could. Then I’d hop this back fence. If my memory served me correctly, that would take me to the back yard of a home the next street over. I was pretty sure I was five houses in from the street, so that would put me right next to the house of the guy who gave Angie those two candy bars. Perfect. That would get me close enough to scope things out.

I couldn’t wait any longer. If that ghost came this way, I’d be caught off guard when he came through the side fence. I had to go over now.

That’s when I realized I had never climbed a fence before. How hard could it be? I approached the fence. It was smooth wood without a handhold its entire length. I could reach the top if I stretched my arms out. I’d have to try.

I backed up a few yards and took a running start. I jumped at the fence and put my hands up, grabbing on to the top. I used my arm muscles to pull myself up while my feet kicked furiously on the fence, trying desperately to help my ascent.

By some miracle I made it up and over. I landed on my hands and knees, but I was still in one piece. I felt a surge of pride at my accomplishment. Not only had my asthma not kicked in, but I had evaded my pursuers by actually climbing a fence. I smiled despite the situation I was in.

That smile faded just as quickly as it came when I saw which yard I had landed in. There were creepy decorations all over the place. A dim light emanated out from the back door of the house of whose yard I was in. Apparently my calculations were off one house. I had just jumped into the back yard of the person who was behind this madness.

Fortunately, it seemed that all his creations were off hunting people like me, so they were nowhere near. Still, though, I needed to be careful. I wouldn’t let lack of vigilance be the cause of my downfall.

I looked around, hoping to find a way out, but there didn’t seem to be a gate, and I didn’t want to go jumping into other random yards. Who knows what I would run into. So, despite my desperate desire to not be where I was, I stayed. If I was going to find any answers at all, this is where they would be.

I stalked around the yard, looking for any kind of clue, but I couldn’t find anything. Just creepy decorations. At least there weren’t any giant spiders back here. I inched closer to the house, careful to avoid line of sight from windows. The bright moon in the sky made hiding difficult. On the street it was fine because there were trees and bushes and whatnot. Here, it was just open space.

I finally made it to the house, and I pressed my body against the sharp stucco siding. I moved slowly towards the backdoor. It was raised up a bit, with three steps going up to a small patio. I was underneath a window, my head just barely staying below the glass. I kept moving, carefully watching for any ghosts or other unpleasantries entering the yard.

When I was just a foot or so away from the patio steps, I heard speaking from inside. It sounded like the man who was giving out the full-sized candy bars, the man with the deep brown eyes. I inched closer, holding my breath so my breathing didn’t block out whatever was being said.

“…no stopping it. If even one gets away, he could bring the entire town down on us.”

I heard a mumbled response and then footsteps. I heard the front door opened and shut, and then all was quiet again. Aside from my heavy breathing, of course. I was still amazed that I was actually still breathing, and not gasping for air. Usually my asthma stops me well before I get this far into exercising.

When I was confident the area was clear, I quickly climbed the steps up to the patio and peeked inside the sliding glass door. It looked into the kitchen, which appeared empty.

Here we go.

I slid the door open with all the intensity of a racing snail. If I made even one sound, I was sure I would be found out. I finally got the door open, and I slipped inside, careful to close it quietly behind me.

The house was dark. It smelled funny, too, like mold mixed with stagnant water and…death. I’d never smelled death before, and I wasn’t sure if it even had a distinct smell. But if it did, this place was the origin of it.

I poked around, hoping with all my heart and soul that this man kept his floorboards in good condition. Most scary movies I’d seen – all two of them, none of which were my idea – had squeaky floorboards. As I crept around the house, it appeared that squeaky floorboards didn’t happen in real life, for which I was eternally grateful.

I crouched next to the wall as I approached a hallway, and then inched my head around the corner. Not a soul in sight. Further down, however, I could see light coming from what looked to be the basement.

Of course. I’m in a creepy house, so it’s only natural what I’m looking for will be in the scary basement. It was so cliché that I didn’t want to believe it. But I didn’t appear to have any other choice. I made my way slowly down the hallway towards the ominous light. I just reached the top of the stairs when I heard something behind me.

I turned around, and there was Frankenstein’s monster, green-faced with a bolt through his head. He looked just like the real deal, only more miniature. He looked to be an older kid, judging by his size. The monster saw me instantly, and without hesitation came charging towards me.

My body worked on its own. Without thinking, I barreled towards the charging monster. It was a long hallway, by house standards, but still far too short for my liking. We were in front of each other in a matter of seconds.

I lowered my shoulder and slammed it into the chest of the bulky brute. The force of my momentum stopped him dead in his tracks, and as he began to fall backwards, my arms wrapped around his massive body and I slammed him into the ground.

It was my first ever tackle, and I daresay the football coach would be proud. To be honest, I didn’t know I had it in me. But, adrenaline and the fear of turning into a mindless creature made a person do strange things.

The green guy was down for the count, but I didn’t have time to celebrate my brilliant tackle. Two more creatures, one looking like some sort of goblin and the other like a deranged tiger, came around the same corner. They had heard the commotion and were here to check it out.

Two versus one was hardly fair, so I turned and ran. There was nowhere to go, so I raced to the stairs and took them as quickly as my awkward feet would allow me. I made it to the bottom in no time flat.

At the bottom, I had to turn a corner, which led into a large, open room. The light was brighter in here, and I got a good look at everything. The brown-eyed man, the owner of the house, was at a large table covered in all kinds of Halloween costumes. There was another, smaller table off in the corner with a large basket full of the candy bars he had given out. He was accompanied by four monsters. Two looked to be adults. One was wearing an old-school hockey mask and looked like he had blood leaking from his chest. Another was tall, dressed in a black suit, and had six arms, three coming off each side. The other two were just kids. They were both dressed as vampires.

The man looked up from his clothing stand, as did his cohorts. “Well, what do we have here?”

I heard the other two monsters that were chasing me running down the stairs. I moved out of the way, which meant moving further into the room.

“What have you done to my sister?” I demanded. Any fear I had was suddenly transformed into anger. The two monsters behind me burst into the room, but the man put his hand up, stopping them in their tracks.

“You’re going to have to remind me which one that is. You see, I have a lot of children working for me now.”

“The zombie.”

“Ah, yes. She was a scary little one, wasn’t she? I knew I wanted her from the moment she said ‘trick or treat.’”

I clenched my fists, but I knew if I wanted to survive this, I couldn’t just jump into it like a crazed lunatic. Besides, he had plenty of those already.

“Tell me how to change her back.”

The man laughed an evil, manic laugh. “I will tell you no such thing. But, if it would help, I could show you what she’s feeling at the moment.”

“You’re a monster.”

“I’m no monster,” said the man. He motioned to the four creatures in front of me, and then to the two behind me. “These are the monsters. I’m just the wrangler. They’re quite easy to control, once you understand them. Now, about my offer. Would you care to join your sister?”

“Never.”

The man made a clicking sound with his mouth. “Shame. We could use a new mummy,” he said, holding up a costume that matched his threat.

“Tell me how to change her back,” I said, ignoring the fear that went jolting through my body. “Now.”

“No.” He threw the mummy outfit down on the table like a child having a temper tantrum. The man’s good-natured demeanor was gone. He pointed at the two creatures behind me. “You two. Bring him to me. But do not bite him.” The tiger-thing made a sound that I interpreted to be disappointment. “Not yet, at least.”

The goblin and humanoid tiger reached out to grab me, but I moved faster. I kneed the goblin in the gut and punched the tiger in the face, knocking him back. Both the goblin and tiger-man got up and rushed me at the same time. I took a step back, grabbed both their heads, and smashed them into each other. They fell to the ground, unconscious.

The man looked surprised. “I’ll be honest, son. I didn’t think you had it in you.” He snapped his fingers on both hands. “Get him.” The four creatures at his side came at me. I knew this fight would be over as soon as it started, but I had to at least try.

The monsters moved around the table, but I jumped on top of it. I kicked the brown-eyed man in the face, and he fell backwards. He screamed at his monsters, anger exploding with every word coming from his vile mouth.

I kicked the mummy costume into the face of one of the vampires, temporarily disorienting him. It was enough. I leaped from the table into a flying tackle, forcing him backwards into his fellow bloodsucker. I didn’t want to hurt the kids, even if they were monsters. It just didn’t seem right. They were down for a moment, which left me to deal with the other two.

The six-armed freak reached out with all his hands, and one of them actually touched me. I felt instantly cold, terrified, and I wanted to curl up and die. But I grabbed that hand with both of mine and spun the creature into the hockey-masked man. The guy in the hockey mask sidestepped, and grabbed a hockey stick from off the wall. He swung.

I heard a loud crack as the wooden stick connected with my thick skull. Stars spun around me. Blackness darker than the furthest reaches of outer space threatened to overwhelm me. I stumbled, trying not to fall over.

It was too late. The damage was done. The guy in the mask grabbed me with one hand, threw down his stick, and grabbed me with his other hand. I was caught. He brought me to his master, the man who had destroyed my sister, my dad, and my entire neighborhood. The man glared at me like I was an infectious disease that he wanted to eradicate. The feeling was mutual.

“You are a problem,” he said. Each syllable was deliberate, as if he assumed I wouldn’t grasp the meaning of his words.

I met his glare, refusing to blink. Refusing to say even one word. He wouldn’t break me.

“You are strong, and you oppose me. This, we absolutely cannot have.” He snapped his fingers again, and the man in black picked up the mummy suit with one of his six hands.

“Relieve him of his outer garments,” said the man.

The hockey guy punched me in the gut, and I doubled over. Now that I was closer to their level, the short vampires removed my athletic shirt, headband, and whistle. Thankfully, they left my shorts on.

My gratitude was quickly replaced with fear and dread as the six-armed man forced the mummy costume over my head. I struggled with all my might, but my stamina had worn off. There was nothing I could do. I was helpless.

“Now,” said the man, tossing a candy bar to one of the vampires, “feed him.”

The vampire smiled, his fangs a terror all of their own. He unwrapped the candy bar and brought it to my mouth. I kept it closed, unwilling to eat. It was a shame, really, because from what I remembered from earlier this evening, it was the most delicious candy bar I had ever tasted. But if that man wanted me to eat it, there was no way I was going to.

That is, until the hockey mask guy punched me in the back. I opened my mouth to scream out, but the small, wicked vampire shoved the candy bar into my mouth. I tried to spit it out, but my mouth was quickly taped shut.

I let it melt in my mouth. I would not eat it. But as the chocolate melted and my mouth grew drier, I was forced to swallow. I swallowed once. Twice. Three times. I had eaten the candy bar. I sank to the ground in defeat, mummy costume pooling around my dejected body.

At a signal from the owner of the house, the vampire kid removed the tape from my mouth. I coughed. Nobody moved. Nobody said a word. We just sat there. The silence was so thick, so…loud, that I wanted to scream. I wanted whatever was going to happen to be over and done with. I looked at the creatures in the room. They were looking at me. So was the man. We waited for what seemed to be an eternity, nobody speaking, nobody moving.

Finally, the man walked up to me. “Why aren’t you changing?”

I said nothing.

“Why aren’t you changing!” shouted the man. I closed my eyes as his saliva sprayed across my face.

“Maybe you’re losing your touch,” I offered. If he was this irate, I wanted to help push him over the edge. Maybe he’d make a mistake.

The man began pacing the room, talking to himself. “I don’t understand. You’re dressed. You ate. You…”

He stopped suddenly and turned on me. “Did you eat one of those candy bars before now?”

“What’s it to you?”

“TELL ME!”

I decided to tell him. “Yeah. I did.”

The man screwed up his face and scratched his head. “But…it shouldn’t have worked.” He looked me square in the eyes. “You weren’t scary.” The man laughed. “You were the least scariest person that came to my door!”

“Sorry to disappoint you,” I said.

“Nobody’s scared of a gym teacher,” the man went on. “Not that scared, anyway.”

“Maybe you never were,” I said, suddenly remembering the last house we knocked on, “but some people were. Some people still are. I picked the scariest costume I could find for this night.”

“But you didn’t actually scare anyone with it, did you?” It didn’t sound like he was mocking me anymore. He was legitimately curious. I figured it couldn’t hurt to open up to him.

“Of course I did. Some old man nearly had a heart attack when he saw me.” The man’s face turned red. “Probably had some horrible memories of gym class back in the day.” My words were obviously making the man mad, so I kept it up. “In fact, some people are so scared of gym class, that they sit in the locker room and throw up for the first fifteen minutes. If that’s not downright fear, I don’t know what is.”

My head spun as my face received the flat side of the man’s hand. “I will not be mocked!” he yelled at me. “Bite him! Bleed him out! I don’t care what you do to him, just kill him!”

Without warning, one of the vampire kids jumped up on me and sunk his fangs into my neck. I cried out in pain. I tried to pull the little guy off me, but he was in good. I staggered backwards, and then finally fell into the table that had all the extra candy bars. Candy fell to the ground all around us. The vampire kid finally released me, and I pushed him off me.

I felt blood drip from my neck, and I watched it splash on the candy bar wrappers. The other vampire kid came at me now. I quickly grabbed a chocolate bar – this one happened to be covered in my blood – and shoved it into the kid’s open mouth. He gagged on it for a moment before coming after me again. I pushed him away easily, but it was the two larger fellows I was worried about.

I felt safe enough knowing now I couldn’t be turned into one of them, but at the same time, my extermination order still echoed through my mind. The six-armed man yelled a horrific shriek, obviously trying to scare me – it worked – and I threw a handful of candy bars at him. I just wanted to distract him so I could get up and get away. While I didn’t intend to, my aim was certainly on target, and one of the candy bars shot into his mouth. The creature chewed it up and swallowed it, wrapper and all. Then it lunged at me again.

I fought against it with all my might, which was dwindling fast, might I add. I was certain this was it. I was done for. I couldn’t hold him off for much longer. The guy in the hockey mask seemed to be enjoying this far too much. He stood nearby, chanting “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Hockey fans are just crazy.

Just as I was about to give way to the onslaught of the six-armed man, he fell limp. I pushed him off of me and stood up. One of the vampires bit my leg, but I kicked him off. From the corner of my eye, I saw something long and dangerous hurling towards me. I ducked, narrowly escaping having my head cut off by a flying hockey stick.

“Where’s my daddy?” came a child’s voice.

I looked around, and to my utmost surprise, one of the vampire kids – the one I fed a candy bar to – was looking around, confusion written all over his face.

The six-armed man was slowly coming to his senses, too. He sat up, holding his head. “Where am I?”

The candy bars. That’s it! They must be the key. But it didn’t make sense. Why would they turn someone into a monster the first time they ate it, but then turn them back to normal the second time? There must be something different about these ones.

My neck stung where I was bitten. I put my hand to it, and saw I was still bleeding pretty badly.

And that’s when it came to me. I had bled all over those candy bars. I hadn’t turned bad, so therefore I was good. Which means my blood must be the counter agent to whatever-it-is that’s in their system. And, since I had already eaten a candy bar in my “scary” costume, I had been changed from a gangly geek into something – someone – stronger.

No wonder I could run for so long and climb fences. My body thought I was a gym teacher! They do all kinds of athletic things I had never been able to do. And that tackle…it was perfect because that’s what football players do everyday. They practice technique. They practice until the whistle tells them to stop.

And to kids like me, that is absolutely terrifying.

If I ever got out of here alive, I was going to have to thank my parents profusely for their amazing contributions to my terrifying costume. As of now, however, I was still faced with one vampire, a freak in a hockey mask, and the brown-eyed man himself. Fortunately, the other two monsters were still unconscious on the floor by the stairs.

I took a big swipe of my neck, getting blood all over my hand, and then when the vampire kid came to bite me again, I shoved my hand into his mouth. The kid cried out in shock and pain before inserting his fangs into my hand. Despite him trying to kill me, I did feel bad for him. I just hoped my theory worked. I once again shoved the kid to the ground, and then turned on the guy in the mask.

This one would be difficult, considering what he was wearing on his face. I decided to let my instincts take over. If I was as athletic as I hoped I was, I should be able to beat this guy.

He was holding another hockey stick. He seemed to have a lot of them, but again, hockey players had a tendency of breaking sticks, so it made sense to have a few extras lying around. He raised it above his head, ready to crush my skull with a devastating blow. Before he got the chance, I lunged at him and tackled him to the ground. It wasn’t as good as my first tackle, probably because I over thought this one. But I was still able to bring him down. I brought one of my hands to his mask and tried to rip it off. The other hand I used to keep him from grabbing my throat.

His mask was on good and tight, and I couldn’t get it off. There was a small hole where his mouth was, though, and it was my only chance. I brought myself up closer to his face and leaned over him, my neck wound right over his mouth. By moving in this way, it left him wide open to attack.

He kneed me in the groin, and I went limp. Apparently even jocks feel pain down there. I guess that’s why they usually wear a cup. My face slide into his mask as I collapsed into myself, and he pulled himself free and stood up. He kicked me in the side once, twice, and…his third kick never came. Instead he just stood there, looking around.

I let myself relax on the floor and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then I remembered the man. I quickly stood up. I saw him in the middle of the room, moving slowly towards the door.

“Get him!” I shouted. The guy wearing the six-armed costume moved quickly, jumping on the man and pinning him to the floor. Interestingly enough, only two of his arms actually worked.

“Let me go!” shouted the man. “I order to you cease and desist!”

I picked up two unbloodied candy bars as I walked up to the man. “You turned everyone into monsters. Why shouldn’t we do the same to you?”

His eyes went wide. “No…You wouldn’t!”

“Wouldn’t I?” My threat was real. I had no problems doing it. After what he did to Angie, to my dad…he deserved a fate worse than death. I had already figured out the cure, so I didn’t need his help. I began to unwrap a candy bar.

“You can’t do this to me!” he spat. He certainly was an angry fellow. I never would have put that together from our first meeting.

I leaned in close to him, bringing the candy bar ever closer to his mouth. “You have no right to stop me, after what you did. Hockey guy, bring me that mummy costume.”

The guy in the hockey mask – well, who used to be in the hockey mask; he had taken it off now – brought me the costume.

“We’re going to put this on you, and then you’re going to eat this chocolate bar. If my assumptions are correct, you will become what this costume depicts you as: a brainless, soulless creature that has no thought of its own. I will own you, and you will have no choice but to follow my orders. And after what you did, you should be very worried about what my orders might be.”

Apparently, being granted a bunch of athletic powers also gave me a mean streak. But it felt good. Oh, but it felt good.

“Please don’t hurt him,” said a child’s voice.

I looked around at the vampire kids. They were looking at me, more terrified than before. “But he hurt you,” I said, trying to convince myself more than them.

“I think he’s sorry,” said the other kid.

“I am,” said the man. “I am very sorry. I won’t ever do this again.”

I turned back to the man, still being held down by the man in black. “You’re right. You won’t do it anymore. Because after you turn into a mindless creature, I will make sure your mummified self is unraveled and flushed down a thousand different toilets. You will never be able to hurt another person again.”

I brought the candy bar to the man’s mouth, but stopped before I could force it down his throat. I didn’t stop because I felt bad for the man. I stopped because one of the vampire kids started sobbing.

I looked at the kid, and he took a step back, eyes full of fear. He was scared of me.

What was I doing? All this time, I thought I was the hero. Maybe I really am the monster here. But he hurt Angie. He took my dad away from me. My poor mother…

He had to pay. He deserved to pay. And he would pay.

Just not by me. I wouldn’t be the monster he wanted me to be.

I wiped my neck wound with the open chocolate bar, then opened the other candy bar and did the same. I handed them to the hockey guy.

“Feed these to the goblin and tiger-thing.”

The hockey guy looked confused, but he followed my directions.

“Wait,” I said. “There will be a lot more of these creatures coming back here at any time. I only have so much blood. We need to see if your blood will work, too. I’m not too keen on being bled dry if I don’t have to.”

I quickly explained what had happened to everyone in the room before bleeding the hockey man. We made sure the tiger-man received enough, and then waited. When he finally came to, he was back to his regular self, albeit very confused.

We then revived the goblin, and made a plan to cure everyone else. As the night progressed, the possessed children and other infected people slowly made their way back to the house. We tied up and gagged the brown-eyed and hid him in a back closet. Then, when the others arrived, we pretended to still be possessed, and tricked them into eating our antidote blood.

When Angie arrived, I could barely contain my excitement. But I did, and she was eventually healed. I gave her the biggest hug I have ever given anybody. I took her into the bathroom that was downstairs and helped wash off her face paint. I wanted it off as soon as possible. When she was clean, she was back to her adorable seven-year-old self. It was good to have her back.

It took hours, but by dawn, everyone was back to their old selves. My dad was fine, my sister was fine, and everything was fine. Everything was back to normal. Once everyone was accounted for, Angie, my father, and I made our way back home.

We found my mother in her bedroom in near hysterics. Her face lit up when she saw the three of us, and she ran over and gave us all a giant hug.

Since that night, nobody in our neighborhood has ventured out trick-or-treating. Instead, we all sit at home, ignoring the doorbell and any knocks that come. We don’t want to be part of whatever it was that had happened that night.

We handed the man behind that horrific night over to the police, but since there was no evidence to support our claims – which must have sounded ridiculous – he was let go with a warning. The whole neighborhood met him at his house when he returned and demanded that he leave at once. He packed up and moved away the next day. I don’t know where he went, but I just hope he doesn’t try to create another monster army.

We never did find out why he did what he did. I assume it was the usual bad guy thing, to take over the world, or something to that effect. Maybe he just wanted a ton of minions. Whatever his reason, it made us all hate Halloween, and to this day we never participate.

It’s a stupid holiday anyway, if you ask me.