It is colder than usual for Halloween. Smoke streams horizontally from chimneys into the waning orange afternoon light as chilling fingers of wind pluck at the nearly barren trees. Bending, they groan, and rattle huge, black skeleton branches with indiscernible rhythm. In other words, it’s a perfectly Bradbury-esque Hallow’s Evening, and we can’t wait to go trick-or-treating! Trick-or-Treat!
Nobody ever trick-or-treats at Ol’ Man Perkins’ house. It’s beat-up and creepy as heck. AND it’s right across the street from the cemetery! So why am I here tonight? I don’t know the person who lives here. No one does. Ol’ Man Perkins moved across the street when I was just a baby. Nobody’s ever sees who’s here now, but the lights go on and off, and dim silhouettes have been spotted moving across the drapes, so SOMEBODY lives here. And tonight, I’ll find out who it is. I’m not chicken! Besides, everybody dared me to–Runt and Jake and Mad Dog and Frankie--and you can’t back down from a dare! You’d never live it down! Trick-or-Treat?
The weathered siding of the dilapidated two-story quivers loosely in the stiff autumn blasts, tugging at creaking nails. The full moon casts the house’s long shadow over the boneyard –a ragged, dirty quilt to warm its frozen residents. A single large pumpkin with a devilish leer flickers on the porch. Trick-or-Treat?
Tonight is a night for feasting. It has been so very long since the inhabitant of the house has eaten well. Mice and voles, and the occasional garter snake, do very little to curb the gnawing hunger in her belly. Perhaps tonight, some brave soul... She checks the mechanism in the trap door. It is well-oiled and in perfect condition. The door at the pit’s bottom opens flawlessly into the basement. Perhaps tonight... Trick-or-Treat?
Everything about the house speaks of decrepitude. The paint has long-since peeled and chipped away. The yellowed lawn needed cutting a month ago. The upper story is ever-so-slightly twisted and concave, threatening to tear away from the rest of the dingy frame. Each step up to the porch sighs or grunts its own morbid note in the house’s funeral dirge. To the right of the porch, though, is one large window. The red translucent curtains part to reveal a large living room with a wrought iron staircase. It is all well-maintained, clean, lit yellow by a kerosene lantern on a small table. Further in can be seen the back of a large armchair and the back of a gray head peeking out to the left, watching television. Trick-or-Treat?
Why did I take that dare? Well, I’m here, now. Deep breath. Ring the doorbell. The old gray head doesn’t move. Maybe he doesn’t want to be disturbed? Ding-dong. Maybe he’s asleep. Yeah, Jake, I tried, but the old man didn’t wake up! But at least I did it! I’m not chicken! Trick-or--
The door swings open, revealing a small shriveled woman with an abundance of unkempt white hair and a dirty housecoat. Piercing eyes stare out at the boy. A hint of a grin, not unlike the jack-o-lantern, flits across pale withered lips. “Yes?” she creaks like one of her porch steps.
“T-Trick-or-Treat?” he quavers, holding out his paper sack.
“Trick!” she snarls in a voice like a record played too slowly. Too spryly for her apparent age, she reaches over and pulls a hidden lever on her right. The left and right halves of the porch opened down towards one another, but my feet are already planted in the doorway.
“Yes, Trick!” I smile. “AND Treat!” Her small, frail body slid easily down my esophagus–fewer bones than you’d think. Poor old Perkins! He’d hated “Wheel Of Fortune”!
Trick AND Treat! Trick AND Treat! Trick AND Treat!