From the author: Some pranks go too far. Trick or... (Free for Halloween)
Dressed in a cheap costume of a popular fashion doll, our first trick-or-treater for the night shambled like a zombie up the sidewalk toward our gate. She looked my age, so I wondered if I knew her from my fourth grade class. I hoped none of my friends would wear such a lame costume.
Daddy, dressed as a ghoul, had already settled into the coffin propped up on the lawn. Spooky groans and screams echoed from hidden speakers. My big brother Duane crouched in the shadows of the withering lilac bush, his finger on the switch of the flashlight under his chin. Behind the screen door, Momma stood beside me, dressed in a big-hair fright wig, full Bride of Frankenstein Goth makeup, and a slinky black gown that showed the kind of cleavage that made Preacher Joe turn a devilish red. She cradled a basket of candy eyeballs on one pale arm. I was a pirate girl, with an eye patch, blacked-out teeth and a fake hook on my left hand. Behind my back my right hand palmed one of the water balloons that I planned to heave at trick-or-treaters as they left our porch.
My family had celebrated Halloween for as long as I could remember. We had a family photograph album that recorded all the way back to Daddy's boyhood obsession with elaborate pranks: starting with tie-dyed toilet paperings, eggings with day-glo paint injected eggs, and goofy pictures of his high school friends after what he called "acid in the party punch." Scaring people was in our blood. All good clean fun.
Well, until that stupid girl died. Some random stranger had been hit by a car last Halloween running in fear from my family's harmless pranks. Everyone blamed us and now no one wanted to come to our house. The whole neighborhood had asked us not to celebrate Halloween this year. "Out of respect for that poor child." Fat chance. Daddy had told everyone to "Get over it," and "Lighten up." What a bunch of losers. It wasn't our fault.
When the doll girl walked through the gate I couldn't wait until she reached Daddy. Despite our neighbors' boycott, we had decorated the yard in advance anyway. We weren't going to let a little accident spoil our fun. The coffin had been on the lawn for two weeks with a stuffed dummy ghoul, but now Daddy rested in peace dressed in the same dingy clothes waiting for an unsuspecting victim. The chilly evening air whispered a wisp of ground fog while a full moon stared down like a spook.
I studied doll girl's cheesy costume because it looked familiar. We're snobs for details. Maybe Duane didn't change his clothes to be a teenage zombie, but he had the right makeup -- all gaping wounds and dripping eyeballs. This girl's costume was off-the-rack. Probably from an everything-for-a-dollar store. A knock-off of that famous high-fashion doll, the cheap plastic mask looked more like the inflatable party doll Duane kept hidden in his closet. One side of it was crushed in. How lame was that? The rest of her costume was a dirty pink sack dress. Made in China. Probably flammable. I glanced at the guardian jack-o-lanterns, their wax candles scenting the porch with scorched pumpkin innards.
As she passed the coffin, Daddy sat up and yelled. With his back to us we had a good view when the victims were frightened, but Doll Girl didn't scream. She reached out with a pale thin hand and pushed him back into the coffin. He didn't pop back up, but continued to yell as if he was hurt. That confused me. It wasn't his style to play along. She tossed something red and squirmy onto the grass, then she poked at his face before dropping two white objects into her plastic pumpkin candy bucket.
That's when I remembered that the girl who had died last year had worn the same costume.
"Momma..." I said, but she shushed me to be quiet.
Groaning his best zombie groan, Duane leapt out of the shadows and flicked on the flashlight under his chin. Doll Girl didn't flinch. She kicked him. He played along as well, falling to the ground, holding his leg, screaming, writhing in pain as if her little girl kick had really hurt him. My family had gone crazy.
She snatched at his face and dropped his fake eyes into her bucket.
Then Doll Girl marched right up the porch steps as if she'd been invited to my birthday party. She smelled like a cross between fresh dog poop and roadkill squirrel after a day in the hot summer sun. Momma opened the door and was about to recite her vampire greeting, flashing her fake canines, when the girl giggled. I shivered. With a red-smeared boney finger Doll Girl snagged Momma by her plunging neckline, tugged her down, and plucked out her eyes. I screamed. Momma screamed, her plastic teeth projected into the night.
Doll Girl turned, giggling, and showed me her candy bucket full of my family's bloody eyeballs.
I pushed her away before she could touch me. She grabbed my fake pirate hook as she fell, pulling us both against the jack-o-lanterns. Flames from her torched costume exploded in my face, burned my flesh. My clothes caught fire. I tried to douse the flames with my water balloon. She kept giggling as her boney little fingers pressed into my eye sockets. I died.
I awoke in the hospital. Aunt Gladys, Momma's sister, sat next to my bed. She calmed me down after I started screaming about my murdered family. She explained that no one was dead, but it was a miracle we were alive. Daddy was in intensive care recovering from a heart attack, Duane's legs were paralyzed, and Momma was blind. The burns would leave my face disfigured for life. When I asked about Doll Girl, Aunt Gladys patted my hand and said, "Now shush. You're all groggy from the pain medicine, honey. That was last year. Don't you fret any more about that poor child." When I think about it now, after writing this story, I have to admire the dead girl's perfect revenge prank. None of us will ever celebrate Halloween again.
I awoke in the hospital. Aunt Gladys, Momma's sister, sat next to my bed. She calmed me down after I started screaming about my murdered family. She explained that no one was dead, but it was a miracle we were alive. Daddy was in intensive care recovering from a heart attack, Duane's legs were paralyzed, and Momma was blind. The burns would leave my face disfigured for life.
When I asked about Doll Girl, Aunt Gladys patted my hand and said, "Now shush. You're all groggy from the pain medicine, honey. That was last year. Don't you fret any more about that poor child."
When I think about it now, after writing this story, I have to admire the dead girl's perfect revenge prank.
None of us will ever celebrate Halloween again.