WOULD YOU GIVE?
Charles M. Saplak
Halloween, and John Tabor hoped there wouldn't
be many trick-or-treaters coming to his door. "Celebrating" holidays
had been Carla's thing. He was ready for a quiet night.
There were a few things working in his favor
for that. Carden Court, where his house sat, was an isolated cul-de-sac.
The locust and beech trees kept the court in deep shade most of the year,
and now, stripped bare as they were, gave the neighborhood a skeletal,
otherworldly appearance. It didn't present an attractive prospect
for any trick-or-treaters.
Also, today had been chilly and overcast,
with an off-and-on drizzle. It was a much better evening for a party
indoors, for apple-bobbing and ghost stories, for cider and games, for
a walk around a shopping mall, than for an outdoor trek for candy.
Most important of all, Halloween this year
fell on a Wednesday. School age children would feel a few more restraints
on their revelry than they would on a Friday or Saturday night.
John had bought a plastic bag of snack-size
SnickersTM bars at Krogers on the way home from work
and he'd found a bag of Halloween candy he'd stashed away from last year's
collections that Mike and Chandra had made. Mostly awful stuff like
candy corn, waxy miniature pumpkins made from spun sugar, pastel skulls-and-crossbones
cast in rock candy. Look Ma, I'm recycling.
He hoped this meager amount would last the
night. A light turnout of trick-or-treaters would make sure he didn't
Of course, if he did run out he could just
turn off his porch light, and that was a fairly well-recognized signal
that he wasn't participating in the holiday.
Hell, he could just leave his porch light
off right now and not answer the door. That was what the majority
of people did anymore. Leave me alone, I'm not participating.
But no; that was utter defeat. It was
too tempting. Once he decided to do what he really felt like doing
-- shutting the damned door and not participating -- where would it stop?
He wondered what Mike and Chandra would be
Once he had the candy out of the bag and into
a glass bowl which he could keep in the foyer, John Tabor settled down
in his recliner before the television. Now who would be running a
good horror marathon?
American Movie Classics had an Abbott and
Costello clunker about Dracula and The Wolfman. Tabor had never warmed
to that particular slapstick treatment of the Universal monsters.
FX was presenting a marathon of 80's slasher
flicks. Disgusted, Tabor clicked on past.
The History Channel had a movie about Lizzie
Borden, an old made-for-TV thing with Elizabeth Montgomery. As gorgeous
as she was to look at, Tabor didn't feel like following something so psychologically
On The Discovery Channel, a documentary about
Vlad Tepes was spiced with snippets of interviews with Camille Paglia and
No, nothing caught John Tabor's eye this evening.
He was alone in his house. Somewhere people were having fun.
Perhaps a little bourbon?
He found some of Carla's old airline-size
bottles of George Dickel. Some ice, some Coke, some little touch
John settled back into the recliner.
No trick-or-treaters yet. He took a drink and got that sweet, warm
taste of the bourbon. Nothing could exorcise the chill of an Autumn
evening like bourbon.
John raised the remote and clicked into something
which looked a little interesting. An old movie with a man, woman,
and child living in a weird, disordered mansion, or castle. Crisp
black-and-white film work treated Tabor to screens full of massive furnishings,
jagged shadows, bizarrely angled walls, stairs, and ceilings.
"Son of Frankenstein," Tabor whispered
to no one.
He set down the remote and enjoyed a little
bit of the old film, sipping some bourbon as he did so. Even with
the Inspector scenes which no one could watch without giggling since Young
Frankenstein, Tabor enjoyed The Monster lumbering across the landscape.
Was that Karloff, or was that the same guy
who played the bartender on Gunsmoke?
The doorbell rang.
Tabor pushed his way forward out of the recliner,
tottering a bit as he stood. At the foyer he put down his half-empty
glass of bourbon and took up the glass bowl of candy.
He swung open the door, and expected to be
looking down at a group of waifs who'd braved the weather, done up as Barbie
Princesses, or Caspers, or Muppets.
Instead three figures stood at the entrance
to his house.
God, how elaborate! What costumes, what
makeup! The three formed a themed group, and they stood before him
in a dramatic tableau.
The central figure -- now was it a monster
(maybe even the Frankenstein Monster)? Was it a colossus, a cyborg,
some immense scarecrow?
The thing, in its costume at least, had to
be seven feet tall. Platform shoes? Stilts?
Its clothes were hard to distinguish.
A tunic, or tunic and trousers. It seemed to be wearing an elaborate
wrapping of numerous yards of filthy rags. From this ragtag garb
it extended two boney arms. One gnarled hand held the ends of two
leashes, and at the ends of each of these two leashes were each of the
On the monster's right side was a willowy
young girl, approximately Chandra's age. She wore a dirty, frayed
dress, and was tugging at the leash around her neck. Her eyes, which
she reluctantly raised to look at Tabor, were imploring. She kept
her lips tightly closed.
The girl wore a sign around her neck:
WOULD YOU GIVE
TO REPLACE THAT OF A GIRL WHO WOULDN'T STOP TALKING
On the monster's left was a boy somewhat smaller,
more like Mike's size. His costume was incredibly elaborate, some
kind of bodysuit which glistened in the wet weather, and which was painted
to look like raw muscles, nerves, veins, and arteries, and odd bits of
He, too, wore a sign around his neck:
WOULD YOU GIVE
A PIECE OF YOUR SKIN
TO REPLACE THAT OF A LITTLE BOY WHO WOULDN'T STOP
HE SHOULDN'T HAVE?
Tabor was dumbstruck, and looked from one child
to the other, and then looked back to the monster. Its face was deeply
shadowed, and he couldn't tell if it was made up to look like some skull,
or some metallic skinned thing, or some scaled creature. Its eyes
were inscrutable, beneath the ridges of its beetling brow.
And in the hand which didn't hold the leashes,
it held a crudely-lettered sign:
WOULD YOU GIVE
ME SOMETHING OF YOUR OWN FREE WILL IN ORDER TO NEVER
SEE ME AGAIN?
Tabor threw the glass candy bowl at the thing,
and as it struck the monster in the chest the glass shattered and the candy
And the monster smiled.
Tabor slammed the door behind him, and immediately
began to mutter.
"That did not happen. That was not there.
That did not happen."
And he realized just how quickly his heart
was racing, how loudly blood pounded in his ears. He realized how
heavily he panted, and how clammy he was with cold sweat.
Then Tabor had a succession of jumbled thoughts.
His first thought: How tasteless a practical
joke these people were playing. Just how sick and how ugly and mean-spirited,
for people to walk around in such garb.
His next thought: Why wouldn't demons
walk this night?
Perhaps their natural preference for this last night
in the moon cycle of late Autumn had given rise to the most ancient superstitions
and traditions. Or perhaps those in the Otherworld had one day realized
that when normal people pranced about in costumes, so could true demons
walk visibly about, sufficiently disguised.
And his last thought: Look at the glass
of bourbon on the foyer stand -- how similar was the color of the liquid
to the monster's color, just as the monster's substance was similar to
the bourbon's swirls and bubbles.
Without thinking about what he would do or
say, John backed away from the bourbon and threw open his front door.
No candy was on the porch or walkway.
The street was quiet and empty, deeply shadowed by the skeletal trees.
Cold drizzle sparkled as it fell on the numerous shards of broken glass
at John Tabor's feet.
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by Champagne Shivers