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My mother and father feared Halloween. Not for the ghouls and goblins, not for the toothaches and cavities, but for the devil’s spawn their daughter became as soon as Thanksgiving decorations began disappearing from store shelves.
This child was a terror. She believed costuming was of the utmost importance, and if blood needed to be shed and tears needed to be cried, so be it.
Weeks before a pumpkin had even entered her parents’ minds, this menace had picked out a costume, then picked a new one, then another and another. Each one would live and die in just a day. All that remained by sunset were fragments of devil horns, red slippers, cardboard tiaras and ballet shoes strewn across the basement floor.
She loved each one until she found its vital flaw. That flaw would send her spiralling, screaming, shouting. She would pound her fists and clench her jaw, leaving her parents powerless.
A day or two before the 31st, the creature would at last have decided upon her costumes. I say costumes because they were, indeed, multiple.
She had one for school, usually a simpler, peer-approved affair that she could assemble herself in the bathroom after lunch.
A second was for the night’s trick-or-treating, usually much more complex and requiring a matching goody bag. She would even carry a smaller-than-average trick-or-treat bag if it matched her costume better. (Dorothy would, under no circumstances, carry a pillowcase to Oz; clearly she could only collect a wicker basket full of candy.)
The final costume was a backup just in case – in the worst of all scenarios on Earth – people couldn’t guess what she was supposed to be. This happened only once, in 2004. No one knew that she was a spy. The friendly faces behind each door kept guessing detective. Hours of planning had gone to waste: The perfect tilt of the hat, the multipurpose belt-buckle, the shiny black briefcase all went unnoticed.
Her parents tried to convince her that no self-respecting spy would have had a guessable costume, but she was unwavering, letting out a burst of flames from her eyes and mouth. The true spirit of the holiday had been awoken.
Some years, the snow would arrive prematurely and wreak havoc on the child’s plan. She was forced to wear her dreaded winter coat when she went out to solicit candy. Like a flasher, she would walk up to pumpkin-adorned porches, unzip her jacket and stand, arms spread wide, revealing her alien costume. This apparition in electric-blue fleece, light-up headpiece and blue-tinged pallor was only slightly less supernatural with the faux fur overcoat.
At the end of the night, when the little monster returned home with bounty in hand, the real business began: sorting. She’d dump the chocolates, candies and toys on the living room floor and sit cross-legged for hours, systematically classifying them by genre.
The classic chocolate bars would be stacked in piles on one corner of the rug, organized by brand name. (The Coffee Crisp pile was always significantly smaller than the rest, for most hadn’t even made it through the door before being secretly devoured.)
The bedraggled, unsealed candies were immediately discarded by her mother. Obviously, they had been poisoned.
The rejected offerings, mainly caramels, were passed on to her eager father.
The plastic spider rings and well-meant toothbrushes followed the toxic confiscated candies into the trash.
After everything had been arranged, counted and recorded, the loot would reenter its bag and be placed in the kitchen, where the girl was allowed to pick out two favourites (Coffee Crisps, always) for her lunchbox the next day.
Needless to say, when all the candy had been collected and the pumpkin candles blown out, my mother and father could breathe a sigh of relief. They had made it through yet another night of the living dead, physically unscathed but mentally scarred, already dreading the next Halloween.
As November dragged on, the candy would mysteriously dwindle. By the time the raccoons had eaten the pumpkins, the bag was gone – yet the child had only eaten a quarter of the goods. Oddly enough, she never seemed to notice. And even if she had, she probably wouldn’t have cared. For her, Halloween wasn’t about the candy – it was about dressing up. She loved wearing her mother’s clip-on earrings, her sister’s clothes, her father’s tie. She loved gathering all the pieces separately and watching her idea materialize.
And then one year the devil-spawn soul vanished entirely, and my parents, terrified to reawaken it, never did ask why Halloween had suddenly become so pleasant.
Three intricate costumes were no longer needed; just one haphazard outfit. The demon had morphed back into me.
Now I’m 17 and I stand at the door on Halloween giving out the candy (Coffee Crisps, obviously).
I’m careful only to guess costumes out loud if there is a definite Buzz Lightyear or ghost standing at my door. I know that one of my nocturnal visitors could be a fellow demon, and do not want to be the one to unleash her wrath.
But I have hope for that child, and the parents who cower in the shadows on the sidewalk. The days of terror are numbered, and one day they’ll have quite a story to tell.
Eve Kraicer lives in Toronto.