Once upon a time, I didn’t like spooky stuff. I was a skittish little kid and I avoided everything that scared me. Unfortunately, everything scared me. It wasn’t just horror movies or novels, although I kept away from those. Fucking E.T. made me lose my shit when I was six. Why didn’t anyone else realized that tubby, squealing, waddling brown thing was a monster? Jesus.
Fireworks. I definitely didn’t like fireworks. They were airborne catastrophes happening right over our heads. There was no reason to be standing around watching those massive, loud explosions tearing open the sky. We needed to be running for cover.
But I was really terrified of anything in a suit. I don’t mean like a coat and tie, I mean a costume. It didn’t matter if it was Scooby Doo or Michael Myers, they might as well have been a life-sized Godzilla. Also, fuck Godzilla, because that was obviously a guy in a suit.
Seriously, it was bad. My parents quickly learned that once I hit a mall Santa’s lap they had about ten seconds before I detonated into full hysteria. Ditto the Easter Bunny. They wisely kept me away from Disney World until I was older because that would have been my Armageddon.
For some reason though, I loved Halloween. Not the scary parts, mind you; that was some horseshit. But I dug everything else: the cooling weather; colorful, earthbound leaves; that unique autumn smell in the air. There’s just an inexplicable feeling that permeates October for some of us. It folds us up in its chilly arms and tickles all our happy places. I’ve always been one of those people.
I also liked dressing up and trick or treating, though my costumes were usually super heroes rather than ghosts or vampires. I was Batman or Superman or Spider-Man, who gets a hyphen for some reason. From behind my shoddy, no-doubt toxic mask, things weren’t quite as intimidating. I could mingle with the hordes of other kids – blithe and comfortable in their own costumes – and be just another fearless, frozen plastic face in the crowd.
The magic of the mask was an easily-forgotten placebo. Whatever dilapidated factory in China that forced ten-year-olds to produce those masks wasn’t much concerned with ventilation. The eye-holes were just big enough to barely see out of; the nose-holes were pin pricks and the mouth had just a tiny slit. You know…for air. Trick or treating in those things was like slowly suffocating to death in your own little breath-powered sauna.
So in between houses I would push it up onto the top of my head and get a few decent breaths in. Sometimes I forgot to slide it back into place and my dad would remind me. Occasionally, he forgot too and I would just happily ring doorbells mask-free. People were like “Oh, how cute. It’s Batman. Mostly.”
One Halloween, my parents drove me to my aunt and uncle’s house so they could ooh and aah at me. I don’t remember what cheaply-fabricated junior hazmat suit I was wearing that year and I also don’t remember just how old I was. Maybe four or five. Many of my memories from that night have been modified or erased by terror.
When the car stopped in my aunt and uncle’s driveway, I hopped out and toddled up to the front door. My folks hung back so I could feel like a big boy going up there alone. I rang the bell like any self-respecting trick or treater and stepped back politely, my orange plastic pumpkin held out and ready for candy.
The door swung open and a fucking monster lunged out. Its face and head were covered in tangled fur and about a thousand fangs stuck out of its misshapen, snarling mouth. A roar of delight tore from its throat. Delight, no doubt, at finding such a tasty kid-morsel on its front porch. Handy that dinner was being delivered to it this evening.
I might as well have been wearing a Flash costume because I tore out of there so fast I broke the sound barrier. The only things left on the porch were a me-shaped puff of smoke, my abandoned plastic pumpkin, and one surprised monster about to go hungry.
My parents didn’t seem concerned when I got to them in .2 seconds. Why weren’t they starting the car? I hid behind them and screamed like a banshee in case they hadn’t noticed the danger yet.
Eventually I had to pause for a breath so I could keep screaming. In that interval I heard my name being called from the porch amid snorts of laughter. There were no treats up there. This was a trick. No fucking way I was falling for that.
My dad had to carry my dumb ass back to the porch. I didn’t fight much because I figured he knew what he was doing but I wasn’t happy about it. I pressed my face against his shoulder and considered wetting both our pants.
When he finally pried me loose and made me look, I saw my dipshit uncle standing on the porch with a rubber monster mask in his hand. Son of a bitch. I’d been had. Who thought that was funny?
Everyone else, apparently. My dad still tells the story. However, my aunt divorced that guy soon after so who’s laughing now, motherfucker?