TRICK OR TREAT • by Patrick Perkins

The full moon casts its pale light through the branches of the maple trees. It is Hallowe’en night and almost every house in the neighborhood participates. Glowing pumpkins rest on porches, cobwebs flutter in the breeze, and skeletons dangle from trees.

Behind his blood-stained mask, Jimmy grins. It is his first year trick-or-treating without his parents and he is enjoying his freedom. Pulling his mask back he checks his bag and his grin widens. The bag is almost full.

Jimmy turns to make his way back to the street then freezes. Standing in front of him is a witch. A witch named Alexia.

“Hey Jimmy,” she says with a smile. “Great night. Think I make a good witch?” She spins around, long black hair flowing with the folds of her black robe. Laughing, she completes her turn and is facing Jimmy once again.

Alexia does not know that Jimmy has a massive crush on her. Such is the nature of crushes.

Jimmy nods, heart racing, desperately thinking of something good to say. “You look awesome!” he blurts out, then winces, not impressed with his words.

“Thanks,” she says. She thinks his words are fine. Then turns to find that her friends have moved on to the next house. Jimmy’s friends have moved on as well.

There is a brief moment of silence that threatens to become awkward. “Hey, would you like to do a few houses?” Jimmy asks. He holds his breath until she speaks.

“Sure,” Alexia replies, “I can always catch up to them later.”

They make their way to the next house and Jimmy begins to relax. Somewhat. Intricately carved pumpkins line the walkway leading up to the front door. The large oak tree in the front yard supports dozens of small white tissue paper ghosts that fly in the breeze.

“Check out these pumpkins! It must have taken days to carve them!” Alexia kneels in front of the largest pumpkin, which has been transformed into the face of a leering goblin. The light from the pumpkin casts an orange glow over Alexia’s face.

“Cool,” Jimmy says. He kneels down in front of the next pumpkin, a perfect likeness of Frankenstein’s monster.

Alexia and Jimmy stop to inspect each of the pumpkins then eventually arrive at the house. On the porch beside the front door is a scarecrow reclining on a weathered rocking chair. The head of the scarecrow is a pumpkin, carved simply with triangular eyes and a huge gap-toothed grin.

“Wow,” Alexia says, “this is the best house yet!” A sudden gust of wind makes the rocking chair creak loudly and jerk forward. Alexia and Jimmy jump back then laugh. Jimmy walks up to the door and presses the doorbell. A loud shriek comes out of a speaker placed above the scarecrow and both Jimmy and Alexia scream. The shriek ends and they laugh again.

The front door opens to reveal an elderly man wearing a bright orange sweater with a grinning pumpkin face stitched on the front. He is smiling and holds a bowl filled with candy.

“Trick or treat!” Jimmy and Alexia shout, holding out their bags.

The man smiles. “Did my doorbell scare you?” he asks as he drops handfuls of candy into their bags.

“It was great!” Alexia replies with a grin. “Your scarecrow is…” she begins, then suddenly stops smiling. She stares at the man and her eyes narrow. Reaching forward she grabs his hand.

At Alexia’s touch the man’s body stiffens and he tries to pull his hand back. Alexia tightens her grip and the man winces. His eyes water and his lips begin to tremble. “Please stop,” he whispers, “it hurts.” Alexia ignores the man’s pleas and closes her eyes. She appears to go into a trance. When she opens her eyes again she is angry. Very angry.

“Your wife didn’t fall down the stairs, did she?” Alexia says quietly. “You pushed her. And when you looked at her broken body at the bottom of the stairs you were happy.” She shakes her head in disgust and continues. “She pleaded for help and you just let her die. And everyone believed that it was an accident.”

Behind Jimmy’s mask his eyes are wide.

The man becomes very pale then reaches for his heart. His lips tremble and he tries to speak but only whimpers. Alexia releases her grip and the man collapses. He lies on the floor then raises an arm toward Alexia in a gesture for help. “How does it feel?” she says coldly. The man’s eyes water and he tries to catch his breath.

Alexia stares at the man. It is quiet except for the rasping of the old man’s breath; the bag of candy slips from Jimmy’s hand and hits the floor.

The sound startles Alexia and she turns around. She looks down the street and sees a group of trick-or-treaters making their way toward the house. The children are younger and a group of adults follows close behind.

Alexia gently pulls Jimmy’s mask up. He looks at the man lying on the floor then back at Alexia.  “How did you…” he begins to ask but Alexia places her finger on his lips and he stops talking.

“There’s a group of parents coming up the walkway. We have to tell them to get help.” She glances over at the man then looks back to Jimmy. “He just collapsed when he came to the door. Right?” Jimmy nods. He is very pale. “I’ll talk to the parents, okay?” Alexia says.

Jimmy nods again.

“I make a VERY good witch,” she says with a smile.

Jimmy stares at her for a moment as the color returns to his face. And then he begins to smile. “No, you are an awesome witch,” he says. His smile turns into a grin.

Alexia laughs softly, takes Jimmy’s hand and leads him up the walkway towards the group of parents.

During scenic drives through beautiful British Columbia, Patrick Perkins collects random thoughts which sometimes meet later on the page as short stories. He hopes that one day a short story will become ambitious enough to grow into a novel.

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