It was a cold night at the very tail end of October, and while in most towns the streets were full of children, there were still places like Evergreen, Oregon where you weren't likely to see more than two groups of trick or treaters for the entire evening. It was a funny sort of place that was too big to be a small town, and too small to be a big city, and so settled for something just in between the two that had none of the perks of either. It wasn't a bad sort of town, though, just an uneventful one. You weren't likely to be mugged in a back alley, but people were nonetheless careful not to go out walking too late after dark.
Perhaps that's why so few children go out on Halloween night, and even if they do, it's always in packs, and their parents aren't more than two or three feet away from them at all times. Which made it all the more strange to see a little boy wandering around the suburbs all alone in a bright red and yellow clown suit. This suit, though bright and cheerful enough, was paired disjointedly with an eerily realistic demon mask with fangs that looked ready to take a bite out of anyone. What's stranger, is that if you got close enough, you might have heard him talking to himself in terrified pleading tones.
"I... I recognize this place!" the boy said, distraught.
"Do you now? Good! You'll know the very best houses, won't you?"
"But... but my friends live here! You promised-"
"I promised only what I have already given you, Billy! Now keep moving!"
He marched towards a familiar house with all the cheer of a inmate on death row. The house had nothing more than a token jack-o-lantern on display for the season and was just large enough for two people to live comfortably. Two people he knew well.
"I don't want to do this anymore..." Billy said.
"You had a choice, Billy." said the mask in his head, "You could have said no, refused my offer, and gone about your life. Now we're a team, you and I. Partners in crime. Together forever."
"No! Tracey's my sister! And Mike is my best friend! I won't do it!"
Cold laughter echoed throughout the boy's head, followed by a colder voice. "Then stop me." it said, "Stop me from pushing this doorbell. Save the wretched souls who live here, and stop me from doing again what I've been doing all night." The mask laughed again and put on a mockery of distress, "Oh, Billy, please! Please don't let me ring that doorbell! Please don't let me kill again!"
"Haunted Halloween masks? Are you kidding me?" asked Tracey in a state of complete disbelief.
Her live-in boyfriend Mike, who sat next to her on the couch stuffed a handful of popcorn in his mouth before mumbling through a few dozen puffy kernels, "Cmmun! Ish the greatesht."
"No, the first one was the greatest." she said angrily, "Right now I'd even take the fourth one! At least that one actually had Meyers in it!"
Mark had chewed his way through enough to speak clearly and said, "Oh, come on, Tracey! They were trying something different, and I respect them for that!"
"Different would be if the killer went to outer space, or something, not when he just doesn't show up at all! It'd be like Dracula without vampires, or a Bloodsaw sequel without a chainsaw!"
Mark chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then said, "Didn't that happen, though?"
Tracey glared at him, and was about to tell him that they don't talk about Bloodsaw VII, when suddenly the doorbell rang. Both their eyes went wide with surprise.
"Did you turn off the porch light?"
"I thought you did!" she hissed
"Damn! What're we gonna do?"
"Answer it of course! There's some poor kid out there expecting candy!"
"But we don't have any candy!"
DING DONG! went the bell again.
"Do we have any soda?" Tracey asked
"There might be some in the fridge."
"Well, give 'em that!"
"Soda? For Halloween?"
"It's got sugar in it!"
"Damn, those brats are impatient!" Mike hissed back.
"Oh, Billy, my boy, my baby boy, this is going to be fun!" echoed the voice that only Billy could hear, "I hear them in there... They think they don't have anything for us! Ha! How charming... if only they knew what was about to happen. If only there was some way you could warn them. If only you'd just run away and leave this house behind, poor Tracey and Mike could live to see the sun rise just one more time! What are you waiting for, Billy? Run! Save their lives and run away! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
Billy heard it all, and he wanted to do just that. With all of his might, he struggled to move his feet, to turn away from this horrible scene, to stop it from happening again. He remembered the looks on their faces... all of them. He'd seen more than enough death tonight, and he didn't want to see anymore.
"Of course you do, Billy." the mask said again, "Think about it! If you really wanted this to stop, you could have done it by now. No, Billy, deep down you love to see the look in their eyes as they slowly realize what's happening to them! You love to see their bodies twist and fold in on themselves, becoming smaller and smaller until there's nothing left at all! You love to see them beg for mercy as I drain every last day of their lives away! As I- as WE feast on their very existence! You, Billy, are no better than me!"
The door swung open then, and instead of screaming at the young man in front of him to run away as fast as he could, his lips defied his every command and formed the familiar chant of "Trick or treat!"
"Umm, hi." Mike said, "What are you supposed to be? A demon clown?"
"Yep." The mask said through Billy.
"Huh... well, I don't have anymore candy, but would you like a Dr Pepper instead?" he said, trying to shake off any flashbacks to the first scene in Halloween, little realizing how prophetic they would turn out to be.
He held out the chilly can to the kid who reached right past it and grabbed his wrist with an unnatural vice like grip. Mike dropped the can in shock and cried out in pain as the child's hand gripped tighter and tighter. The pain was profound, and nearly overpowered another feeling emanating from his wrist that was slowly spreading across his whole body.
The night sky seemed to turn a blinding white and soon everything else followed as he fell to his knees. The only distinguished object in this vast expanse of white light was the solid black shape of a child with terrible red eyes that stood holding his wrist.
He couldn't say how long he knelt there struggling, desperately fighting to free himself from this strange creature, before the figure was suddenly snatched away, and Mike seemed to feel at least a part of himself slipping back into the real world. He could still barely see anything, but the blinding white light was gone, and he could start to hear something, as though he were on the other side of a wall. He heard his girlfriend screaming something... something to the effect of "Get away from him, you bitch!"
Aliens. He knew there was a reason he loved her.
"What," she screamed at the child shaped creature in front of her, "have you done," she grabbed him by the big white clown collar and pinned him against the lawn, "to my boyfriend?"
The creature reached up and grabbed both her wrists at once, causing her to seize up, as though she were in some sort of a fit. The mask seemed alive as it laughed at her pain.
Mike's vision, though blurry, was enough that he could see it all happening and could see something else too. As she twitched and spasmed and cried out in pain and terror in the boy's grip, Tracey's clothes slowly started hanging more and more loosely off of her. He defied his aching body and swirling head as he stood up to charge the thing. As he did, though, he tripped over his pants which had fallen down by his ankles.
That thing, whatever it was, had made him smaller... no, it had done more than that. His hairless legs, his impossibly smooth skin... he was a little boy again, and as he looked back at the horror going on in his front yard, he realized that if he didn't act soon, Tracey might very well shrink away into nothing.
He stepped out of the pants and charged again, this time successfully reaching the two, but despite his best efforts, he couldn't separate them.
"HA! HA! HA! HA!" the mask cackled, "I'll finish with you later, boy! Just as soon as I've finished with her!"
Wait... of course! The mask!
"You're finished, alright!" Mike shouted in a high, girlish voice that sounded more like Tracey's than his own, as he grabbed the mask and pulled with all his might.
"WHAT?" The creature screamed, "You can't do that! I'll kill her! Believe me! I'll kill her if you don't stop! I'll make her suffer!"
"Shut up!" He shouted once more as he pulled the mask clean off the screaming boy beneath him, throwing it as far away as he could.
The screaming stopped. Tracey, now no more than twelve years old, fell to her side as the cute little blond haired boy in the clown costume let go of her. His eyes were glassy and his breathing shallow. His hands hung suspended in the air where they once held Tracey, now empty and trembling.
"Tracey!" Mike called, climbing over the catatonic boy to get to the woman he loved, "Tracey, wake up! Tracey!"
"Uhh... Mike...Mike is that you..." the girl's eyes slowly opened, just enough to take in the sight of a little boy in an oversized sweater, "Sorry, kid... no candy here... we got a soda if you like..."
She drifted for a moment before she started to remember what she'd just been through.
"The kid! Where is he?"
"He's here, Tracey. Don't worry. He's not gonna hurt us anymore."
"My God," Tracey said, "look what he did to you."
"You should see the other guy." he joked, or tried to anyway.
Mike nodded. Tracey nearly burst out crying as the full weight of what had just happened to them fell down on her. Mike would have certainly do e the same were it not for the fresh adrenaline pumping through his blood and anger he felt at the monster that had taken their lives away from them. Mike turned to the boy in the clown suit and grabbed him by the collar shaking him, "Wake up! Wake up, you bastard!" he shouted, his rage playing out more like a tantrum in his new body, "What have you done to us, you little shit? What is this!?"
The boy snapped out of his shocked state and looked Mike in the eyes, "Mm... Mike?"
Mike was surprised to say the least, but then surprise turned to wonder when he realized how familiar this boy looked. If it were twelve years ago, he'd have said he was Billy Loomis, his best friend since kindergarten. But Billy was in his twenties now, and this boy was only... Mike stopped himself when he realized that he was only a child too now.
"Billy? What the hell just happened here?"
Billy's expression turned to one of horror. "The mask!" he said, "It's the mask! I tried to stop it! I tried to fight it! Please, Mike!" he begged, "It has to be destroyed!"
Mike looked at the mask lying crumpled on the lawn.
"Mike," Billy said, tears in his eyes, "I'm sorry, Mike... All I wanted was to go trick or treating... just to be a kid again, I... I didn't know it would be like this."
On the television screen, the least popular Halloween movie was playing as the background to a solemn scene. Three children, two boys and one girl, gathered around a burning fireplace wearing oversized t shirts which hung so loosely on them, they may as well have been robes. On the floor next to them sat a small pile of large clothing, topped off with a bright red and yellow clown suit. In Mike's hands was an incredibly detailed blue green demon mask with teeth that looked ready to take a bite out of anyone.
"Happy happy Halloween!" the television chanted to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down, "Halloween! Halloween!"
Mike looked at the mask, then back at the flame.
"Happy happy Halloween!"
"What are you waiting for?" asked Billy.
"If I do this... there might not be any way for us to change back." Mike said slowly, "And then... I don't know what we'll do."
"I do." said Tracey, "We'll forget about this awful night, except to remind ourselves that no matter what happens next, we did the right thing."
"But if there is a way," Mike started.
"There isn't." said Billy, "This thing is pure evil, Mike. Trust me, I know. All it knows how to do is take. It doesn't give back."
"Happy happy Halloween!" the movie chimed again.
Mike looked at the mask's empty eye holes, staring deep inside of it, feeling it gazing back at him.
There, on the edge of hearing, in the corner of his mind's eye, Mike thought he heard that voice again.
"Happy happy Halloween!"
He had a whole life before this, he had it all figured out, he was happy. Could he really throw away his only chance at getting that back? Could he throw away his family, his friends, his identity... his love?
Tracey put her small soft hand in Mike's, squeezing gently, "It's not worth it, Mikey."
"What if we get separated, Tracey?" he asked, tears in his eyes, "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me... I can't lose you."
"I love you, Mike, so I'm gonna tell it to you straight. Wesley and Buttercup have got nothing on us. Let them just try to separate us. I don't care if we end up on opposite sides of the world, I will do whatever it takes to find you. Sooner or later, we will be together again. That much, I know, is meant to be."
The far away voice of the mask grew farther away, and as he looked in Tracey's eyes, that lump of latex in his lap become just that and nothing more. Looking at it now, the fangs looked a little more shiny and rubbery, the edges just a little bit duller, and the mask, on the whole, just a little bit cheaper.
With one quick, decisive toss, the lump of rubber spun in the air and landed in the fireplace, entering the warm embrace of the bright golden flames. The air grew a little lighter, the stars shone a little brighter, and the tv gently slid into a commercial for laundry detergent.
Billy got up from his spot and walked over to the pile to grab his clown suit.
"What are you doing with that?" Mike asked.
"The only thing I can do." he answered as he tossed it on the fire too, "I don't want anything to remind me of tonight... least of all that... thing. I'm sorry for what happened, Mike. I never-"
Mike held up his hand to stop him, "It's okay, Billy. It's not your fault."
Billy looked down at his toes, "I just wish I could believe that." he said sullenly, "I wished for a chance to be a little kid again, and to go door to door on Halloween night. It gave me everything I asked for, and I gave it everything it needed."
"You didn't know, Bill. I can't think of anybody who wouldn't have done the same thing in your shoes."
"Speaking of shoes," said Tracey, "we're gonna need something other than your old t shirts to wear."
"Oh," Mike said, "right. I guess we could buy some online, then try to make whatever we've got in the house last as long as we can."
"And after that?" Billy said, "What happens if we can't take care of ourselves anymore?"
Tracey sighed and said, "We find our families, and close relatives and see if any of them will believe our story."
The room was quiet except for the crackle of the fire and the sound of a campaign ad quietly playing.
"I'm feeling kind of tired." said Billy, "You mind if I take the couch tonight?"
"That's fine. For the next couple weeks, me casa es su casa."
Tracey scowled, "Could you have gone for a more tired cliché?"
"Well, everybody else is tired. Why not the cliches?" he said smiling, "You know, Tracey, you were kind of a badass back there."
"And I've got the bruises to prove it." Billy added, smiling again.
"Get away from him, you bitch!" Mike quoted laughing.
"I've waited my whole life for a chance to use that line."
"Well, I for one am still waiting for my chance. I'm kinda jealous, you know."
Tracey saw an all too familiar look in his eyes, a look she would have welcomed any other night, but tonight she only looked sadly into his. She was so used to him being the tall one that it threw her to have to look down to meet his gaze. "I know where you're going with this, Mikey, and I'm sorry, but I just can't do it like this."
Mike's face took on a serious, but compassionate expression, "I understand." he said, "I suppose I could sleep on the floor, or..."
"It's okay, Mikey. Just because we're not... you know, doesn't mean we can't stay close. This has been a hard night, and... I still want to be close to someone tonight."
The boy who was once Mike smiled warmly and hugged the girl he once called his girlfriend. "I love you, Tracey." he said.
They held that embrace for a few moments, until Bill coughed lightly and said in a voice that hadn't sounded that scratchy for years before this night, "I'll just go turn off the tv, then."
"Oh," said Tracey as she and Mike separated, "sorry, Billy, I-"
"It's fine." he said, "Like I said, tv." and with that, he gently walked to the far side of the room to turn off the large flat screen just as it was about to fade into that monologue about the festival of Samhain. Why they were watching the third movie, Billy could never claim to understand.
Meanwhile, Mike took Tracey's hand, and together they walked to their shared bedroom down the hall. "You know something?" said Tracey, "I really hate Halloween."
Mike smiled saying, "Me too."
And with that, he shut the door behind them, leaving Billy alone in the living room. He laid himself out on the sofa which he'd positioned in front of the fire place for warmth. It wasn't easy with his smaller body, but he didn't feel right now as though he had any right to complain. With one stupid decision, he had ruined his life, and the lives of his friends. And then, there were the others who'd answered their doors tonight. At least Mike and Tracey would get to grow up again. The others... the others...
Billy pushed these thoughts far away as he watched the fire burning. He watched that horrible clown suit he'd worn all night slowly curl away into dust and embers. He watched the fire eating away at its cheap colorful fabric, leaving the seams for last, like the decaying skeleton of some horrible creature.
It was over. The creature was dead.
Billy tried to sleep then, but something didn't seem right. As the clown suit burned, he saw something else underneath it. Something that wouldn't burn, or melt, or warp, or fuse. Something made of cheap latex and rubber, but that looked almost real. It's blue green skin caught the light of the fire surrounding it, which in turn painted an orange hue on the mask's sharp teeth.
In the distance, on the edge of hearing, from somewhere in the corner of his mind's eye, Billy heard an all too familiar voice calling his name.