Halloween sucks for grown-ups. Faceless streets in the crepuscular gloom. Supermarket-dressed monsters chasing treats from one jack o’lanterned porch to the next. I remember when zombies were scary, when witches were creatures of possibility, when the smile of the stranger hid the fangs of a vampire. But then I grew up.
Nothing frightens me anymore.
The creature is oblivious to the cold. Icy fingers tug at my ears, snot dribbles from my nose, and my breath blooms like bubbles of ectoplasm. The creature refused to wear a coat because it would spoil his glow-in-the-dark skeleton onesie. I told him he would freeze to death but he wears the weather with youthful indifference.
Halloween sucks because this is supposed to be my wife’s job. She’s abandoned us for an emergency stocktake, whatever that is. Up ahead, the creature’s counting his booty again. No prizes for guessing who he takes after.
My trousers vibrate. My wife wants a picture of the creature in his costume. I slip the phone back in my pocket and say it’s time to go home, but he’s vanished. The pavement is deserted. There are cars lurking on both sides of the road, street lights illuminating nothing but themselves, hungry doorways waiting to seduce the innocent – but my son is gone, stolen by the darkness or something worse.
I imagine never being able to hold him again, never hearing him squeal as I tickle his ribs or blow raspberries on his belly. The adventures we won’t have. The memories we won’t make. The shadow falling across my wife’s face as I explain how our happiness came to an end. I’m consumed by the demons of my worst nightmares.
And then I hear a voice behind me, wet with slobber, the sounds barely recognisable as words.
“I’m going to eat you next.”
I turn. So slowly. And there he is.
My son, the creature, sitting at my feet with one hand buried in his bucket and the other one picking a half-chewed sweet out of his teeth.
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