“Let’s knock on Dominic’s house,” the girl said.
“No way!” shouted her friends in unison.
The girl glowered at the rag-tag group of fake monsters before her. There was a ghost, a reaper, a spider queen, and a guy dressed as a banana. The girl was wearing a red hood and rubber fangs in her mouth. It was Halloween.
“You don’t actually believe that stupid story, do you?” she sneered.
“It’s not a story,” the banana said, “He’s a vampire and you know it.”
“So? I’m a vampire too, see?” She flashed her fake fangs at him and hissed. He clutched his bucket of candy closer to himself. She snorted.
The girl had seen Dominic once before at a party at a friend’s house. He was tall, with dark blue eyes and hair dyed a brilliant orange. She’d tried flirting. He wasn’t the least bit interested.
“Come on guys,” the girl pleaded. “You have me, what’s the worst that could happen?”
“He could turn us into actual monsters!” the spider queen squeaked.
“That’s awesome!” the girl said. “Don’t you want to be an actual spider queen and not some nerd in a flimsy, overrated costume?”
When the spider queen didn’t answer, the girl added self consciously, “Well, I want you to.”
She tapped her foot and glared at her group, daring them to argue any further. The spider queen was staring at the ground, her fingers gripped tightly around her bag of sweets.
The girl smiled triumphantly. “Good. Let’s go then.”
They shuffled through the nighttime neighborhood, sometimes calling out to familiar trick-or-treaters they passed by, trading pieces of candy, commenting on each other’s costumes. The girl was always tapping her foot impatiently and urging them to move on.
At one point, they passed a group of seven Narutos who performed their Shadow Clone Jutsu to anyone who would listen. One of them asked the group where they were going.
“To Dominic’s,” the girl replied haughtily.
All seven Narutos gasped. “The bloodsucker’s place? For real?”
“He’s worse than Orochimaru!” one of them shouted.
The girl looked down her nose at them. “I don’t know who this Roach-maru is, but he’s not stopping me from my trick or treating.” Then she leaned her face closer to the Narutos and they all leaned back and she said, in a low voice, “Are you?”
“Look, I think I see someone in a Sasuke costume!” one Naruto shouted and they all ran off as fast as they could.
Several minutes later, the girl and her group stood in the shadow of the house. Everyone knew that the house was painted white but when the sun set and the sky became dark, the house seemed to turn black. It did not turn pale when the moonlight hit it; rather, it gave off a kind of dark, polished gleam. The girl noticed a faint glow through the curtains in one of the windows on the second floor. Her heartbeat quickened.
She started up the front steps. The ghost followed after her. The banana and the reaper exchanged a glance, hesitating, but shrugged in their manly way, and did the same. The spider queen was the last to move.
The girl approached the door. It looked ordinary enough, no bloodstains or gore dripping off the doorknob. She found the ordinary doorbell and pressed it like she had so many times before.
The house was still. Behind the girl, the banana was holding his breath, watching the door with the spider queen behind him, blocking herself from the house. The reaper looked around at nothing in particular while the ghost rummaged through his bag of candy, categorizing them and determining which ones he was missing.
The girl began tapping her foot impatiently. No sound came from inside the house. She leaned in and put her ear to the door.
It opened. The banana screamed.
“Trick or treat!” he hollered, squeezing his eyes shut.
The whole street seemed to echo with the sound of his voice. Slowly, he opened one eye. The girl rolled her eyes at him. The reaper elbowed his friend and snickered.
A tall figure stood at the doorway, draped in a long, ragged, pure white cloth. Her hair was silver and white and though she had wrinkles in her face, she was still strikingly beautiful. She smiled sweetly at the banana.
“Sorry if I startled you. Ghosts aren’t supposed to make much noise,” she said.
“N-no problem!” stammered the banana, then he stopped. “Ghost?”
The woman nodded. “Yes. I’m a ghost.”
“She means her costume, idiot,” the girl snorted at him. “Trick or treat!” she added nicely to the woman.
The woman seemed surprised. “Oh of course! I don’t have the candy with me right now- not many people knocked- I’ll go get it. Why don’t you kids come inside? It’s chilly out there.”
“Go inside?” the spider queen repeated but the woman was already heading into the living room.
The girl took off her shoes and stepped into the house. The ghost was reaching for his own shoes when the reaper stopped him.
“Shouldn’t we think about this?” he said uncertainly. “We’re going into a stranger’s house.”
The girl turned. “It’s Dominic’s house,” she whispered. “Who get’s invited into Dominic’s house? That woman must’ve been his relative or something.”
“Still,” the reaper insisted. “Stranger danger.”
“You’re such an L.”
Without waiting for a reply, the girl followed the woman inside with the ghost at her heels. The reaper stared helplessly after them.
“Those two are crazy,” said the banana. He slipped off his sneakers.
“Have you gone crazy too?” said the reaper as the banana stepped through the doorway.
“We walked this far,” he shrugged. “I’m not leaving without some candy.”
Sighing, the reaper turned to the spider queen. She stood at the edge of the steps, staring into space with wide eyes.
“We might as well. I guess it is cold out here,” he said.
The spider queen was silent.
There was a fire burning in the living room and a sweet smell drifted from the kitchen. The woman told them to wait a moment and headed up the stairs to find the candy.
The girl sat by the fire and stretched out her hands, enjoying the heat. She glanced at her friends.
“Don’t look so tense, guys,” she said. “It’s only Dominic’s house.”
“That is precisely why I’m eager to leave as soon as possible,” said the reaper. He did not go near the fire.
They waited silently in the living room, listening to the ticking of the clock, the sweet smell from the kitchen wafting between them. It smelled like muffins but not quite. The banana’s mouth watered.
Finally, the girl stood and grumbled, “What’s taking this woman so long?”
She marched to the bottom of the flight of stairs. The steps led up to the second floor but were engulfed in shadow before she could see to the top.
“Hello?” she called, tapping her foot again.
No one answered. The girl waited a moment but there was no sound from the second floor.
She turned to her friends and announced, “I’m going up there. Anyone else want to come with me?”
The reaper threw up his hands. “Yep, she’s lost it.”
The ghost, to no one’s surprise, rose from his seat on the floor and shuffled forward, ignoring the glare from the reaper.
“You can’t be serious,” he said. “We’ve already entered a stranger’s house. Now you’re going to go upstairs?”
“What if Dominic’s up there?” the banana said unsteadily.
“If you want to leave, go ahead,” the girl retorted. “But I’m going to find that woman.”
She and the ghost climbed the stairs two by two. As the banana watched them disappear into the shadows, he felt something twitch inside him.
“Wait for me!” he yelped and ran up the stairs.
There was not a single light on the second floor. The banana reached the top of the stairs and looked around desperately, straining his eyes for any movement. The girl and the ghost were just here a moment ago. He thought about going back downstairs, but without the girl’s confidence, he was just too afraid.
“Where are you guys?” he called and headed blindly into the darkness.
The girl and the ghost had been walking for some time. They groped along the wall of a corridor that seemed too long to be possible. There were no windows in the hallway and no doors. The only noise in the house was the sound of their quiet footsteps shuffling down the hall.
“This house can’t be that big,” the girl whispered. The ghost didn’t reply.
After a few more minutes of walking, the girl was beginning to feel uneasy.
“Maybe we should go back,” she said, turning to the ghost.
He wasn’t there.
“Hey!” The girl looked around frantically but there was no way she could see through the dark.
“This is no time to be playing hide and seek!” she said crossly. “Let’s go home.”
No answer. The girl hesitated, then, with a deep breath, stretched out her hands and left the comfort of the wall.
She walked forward cautiously, feeling around for any objects in her way. Her fingers brushed against a desk and she crouched down to look behind it.
Something cold brushed her back and the girl straightened and whirled around.
Then a soft light caught her eye.
A shape stood at one end of the corridor, glowing and pulsing, standing- no, floating– there. It’s light illuminated the hall and when the girl looked back, there was no desk.
The shape had legs and arms and seemed oddly familiar.
“Oh, Miss, there you are!” the girl called to the woman.
But when she focused on its face, her breath caught in her throat. For face of the ghost was still and pale and three bleeding black holes had replaced his eyes and his mouth. It was not the woman; it was the ghost.
He drifted forward, slowly. The girl took a step back, then another, unable to tear her gaze away from the deep punctures in his face.
“What happened to you,” she whispered. The ghost kept drifting towards her.
“Billy?” she said the ghost’s name. “Billy, it’s me. Stop it, it’s not funny!”
The ghost drew nearer.
“Stop! I mean it!”
He only moved faster.
The girl ran. She tore down the hall. The ghost’s faint eerie light illuminating a corner and she turned down the next hallway and kept running. The girl sprinted with all her might but the soft light remained in the corner of her eye and the chill sent shivers through her neck. She made a right and a left and a curious thought flashed in her mind; how could the house fit so many corridors? She answered herself; it was not an ordinary house.
Then the girl spotted a door and yanked it open. It looked like a closet and she squeezed herself behind a stack of boxes and shut the door.
She waited. There was no movement outside. The darkness pressed against her and she huddled in a tight ball.
Gradually, an eerie light came into view and seeped through the crack underneath the door. The girl hugged her knees closer to herself as the light passed the closet and grew fainter, until she was thrown into darkness again.
She stayed still for a few long seconds before exhaling with a sigh. For several minutes, the girl sat there, in the closet, waiting for her heart to calm down, clenching her hands into fists to keep them from shaking. She lowered her face into her arms and began to cry.
The girl sobbed and tried to muffle it as much as she could with her hands for fear something in the dark would hear her. She sobbed and buried her face in her arms, letting all the terror and regret out through her tears. She did not know how long she sat there; she kept sobbing until her eyes were too dry to cry anymore. Then she wiped her cheeks with the cape of her red hood.
Staring at the door of the closet, the girl swallowed and straightened. Calming herself with deep breaths, she opened the door an inch and peered outside.
Dark. No sign of the ghost.
The girl crept through the house, staying close to the wall, her eyes wide and all her senses awake. Twice, she thought she stepped on something and nearly cried out. It was far too quiet.
Her eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness as she turned corner after corner in the endless maze of hallways. There was a smell in the air, something she’d smelled before and recently.
“The muffins,” she breathed.
The girl followed the scent, quickening her pace as it grew stronger, keeping one hand trailing along the wall. If she followed the smell of the muffins, it would lead her downstairs to the kitchen and she could escape. Soon she broke into a run and felt something crunch under her feet. The girl slowed down, wondering how old the house must be for the floorboards to crack.
She sniffed the air. It still smelled like muffins and something else too. The girl frowned. It couldn’t be.
She heard a soft thud in front of her. The girl squinted through the darkness and saw something flop into view. Then another flopped down next to it and another and the sweet smell of bananas hit her nose.
The thing reached a tentacle at her and, once again, she ran.
A few turns later, she came at a crossroads. Two hallways intersected each other and ended in shadow. The smell of bananas was faint behind her- she’d outrun it- but it was still there. She imagined the thing crawling closer to her by the second.
Without thinking, the girl took the left hallway and ran on, her heart pounding in her chest. She silently thanked her cross country coach for all those practice laps he’d made her do. If she was going to escape, she’d have to keep running.
She turned a corner and slammed into something hard.
“Hey!” a voice yelped and the object stumbled backwards.
The girl narrowed her eyes and backed away in surprise. It was the reaper.
He blinked at her. “Oh, it’s you! I’ve been walking around for hours trying to find you guys!”
He was holding a staff with a curved blade at the end in one hand. The reaper held it out to show her.
“Look! I found this scythe in a storage room and it fits perfectly with my costume. Don’t you think?” He tilted his head and smiled at the girl.
Something wasn’t right about him.
“Stay away,” the girl warned.
The reaper’s smile didn’t change. “Is there something wrong?”
She stepped back. “I don’t know who you are or what exactly is happening, but stay away.”
The reaper raised his scythe. “What are you talking about?”
A faint glow was coming from around the corner behind him. The girl peered past the reaper and her heart skipped a beat when she saw an eerie shape drift into view. The ghost was back.
The reaper saw the expression on her face and turned to look. In that split second, the girl turned and sprinted in the opposite direction. The ghost’s light filled the hallway. She reached the intersection in record time and saw, from the corner of her eye, a dark tentacle from the corridor she had first come from. She ran past without hesitation, leaving the sweet banana smell behind.
All her friends were gone. The house had turned them into monsters, real monsters who would not hesitate to gut her and turn her into one of them. The girl shuddered as she ran. She wasn’t going to let the house catch her. If she escaped, she could still get help and maybe save her friends.
She remembered the spider queen. There was no way she could’ve followed them upstairs, she was too timid. What if she was still alive, waiting for them in the kitchen? But the house would’ve gotten her by now. It was unlikely she put up much resistance.
The girl shook her head. There had been light in the kitchen. There was still hope that the spider queen was her normal self.
The girl ran on, kept running until she could run no longer. Her lungs stung and her legs were so sore, she could barely stand. She hadn’t heard any pursuing footsteps and slowed to a walk, keeping one hand on the wall like before. She sniffed the air. No bananas.
At one point she walked past a door and halted, frowning. It was the door of the closet she’d hid in when escaping the ghost. The girl thought for a moment. If a zombie were to attack her in her current state, she would barely be able to outrun it. She rubbed her eyes. Her legs were shaking.
The girl opened the closet and stepped inside. Something crunched under her foot.
Suddenly, voice hissed at her from the darkness.
“You killed it,” it whispered. The girl jumped at the sound. It was a soft, distant voice, echoing in her ears. It was coming from the closet.
“You killed so many,” it said. “I will make you pay.”
Something itched on her foot and she shook it frantically, dislodging the small black shape of a spider from her leg. The girl’s eyes widened as the spider hit the floor. And a black sea of crawling legs poured from the closet and pounced at her.
She staggered backwards, tripping on her cape, as the writhing mass seethed around her feet. She leaped as far away as she could, feeling bodies crunch as she landed and ran. The spiders followed, crawling along the walls, giving chase until they were on either side of the girl.
The spiders rained down on her; in her hair, on her face, all over the girl. She fought, she smashed, she stomped on them but there were too many. At the last minute, she reached out a hand in a desperate attempt to get away before she was buried in a twisting, black mob.
“Why can’t we just eat her?”
“She’s your friend, is she not?” Dominic said, glancing briefly at the banana.
The giant banana peel drooped a little. “Well, not exactly.”
Dominic gave him a quizzical look and turned to the spider queen. “When will she wake up?”
The spider queen was stroking the black widow perched on her shoulder. “Any moment know,” she said in her quiet, whispery voice. “She killed so many,” she added softly.
“Humans panic easily,” Dominic reasoned. He watched the girl curled asleep on the ground.
Her eyes fluttered. Groaning, the girl sat up, rubbing her head, wincing a little. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and blinked.
The girl saw Dominic and scrambled backwards.
“You!” she shrieked. She saw the spider queen standing next to him and her eyes grew wide. “Oh no.”
The reaper was sitting in a chair with his scythe leaned on a table. The ghost drifted lazily around the room, lost in thought, his hollow eyes staring. The girl’s gaze rested on the banana. In the place of the boy she’d known before was a mutant banana peel. What she had originally thought of as tentacles were actually the individual peels. The banana stood of four of these peels like an octopus. He did not have a face.
“Oh no, no, no,” the girl breathed. She glared at Dominic. “What did you do.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Dominic answered calmly. “The house did.”
The girl stared at him.
“Well, I have to admit we got a pretty nice turnout this year,” he shrugged. “Now then. What do you say we turn those rubber fangs of yours into real ones?”