I did put some decorations up, but most of them still sit in the corner of the lawnmower shed (along with all those twelve inch Star Wars figures I foolishly bought from the Disney Store...sigh), but I didn't get into the Halloween spirit the way I wanted to. I did focus on getting my nephews good costumes, and trotted out my old Joker costume so I'd at least have something to wear on the 31st.
I spent the first half of October doing retakes on Abbie Hilton's book, finishing up another Dumarest of Terra paperback, and trying to write an audio drama. Then I spent the second half rushing to get thirteen Halloween episodes done of my podcast (That Gets My Goat, which I do with Big Anklevich fairly regularly). That left less time than I would've liked for fiction writing and blogging.
I did publish a short story ("Sleeptalkin' Gal"), start on a recording of a Dean Wesley Smith book (the man breaks his writing into refreshingly short chapters, which makes producing a bit less painful, especially as it gets later and later at night), and edited two episodes of my solo podcast, which will drop any day now. I had to work on Halloween, but got off early enough to take my nephews out trick or treating until they got tired and wanted to go home and eat all their candy.
While I was standing on the sidewalk, watching them approach door after door, I thought it would be fun to write a little story, which I ended up posting as my Facebook status for Halloween night. I'm not sure if it's any good, or if I ruined it by expanding it from its original four paragraphs, but here it is:
I had volunteered to take my daughter trick or treating tonight, leaving her mother to try to get some work done (which I knew would be impossible with all the knocks at the door). We had started out just as it got dark, admiring the lovely orange and pink sunset on the horizon. It had been fun to see Caitlyn approach houses, ring doorbells, then freeze when someone answered, only remembering to say "Trick or treat!" every third or fourth doorstep.
But now it was getting old, even though I had eaten two of her Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and a mini-Butterfingers. I just stayed on the sidewalk now, no longer listening to make sure she said "Thank you" at every house.
She came back to my side. "Those guys were giving out toothbrushes instead of candy," she complained.
"That's pretty funny," I said, taking her hand and heading down the block again.
"I don't want to go there," Caitlyn said, pointing at a house that had no lights on anyway. "It's haunted."
"Right, right," I said, humoring her. "Or worse, they don't celebrate Halloween."
She had no retort, which is how I like it. We kept walking.
There were other children wandering the streets, usually in little groups, and I recognized a couple of other parents as well, two of whom asked me where my costume was (apparently it was a new law that adults needed to dress up in support of their children, though I wouldn't have known how to match my kid's costume--Riley, the girl from Inside Out--even if I had wanted to. Which I didn't). There was also a house or two that insisted on giving me a piece of candy too, and I wasn't about to complain about that.
"Okay, only a few more doors, then we're done," I said to my daughter, expecting an argument.
I was pleased she didn't complain. Up ahead, the old bed and breakfast on the corner had decorated with a pirate theme. Maybe I should have decorated our house, or at least put in the blacklight bulb I knew I had in the closet somewhere.
It was not Caitlyn. The thing holding my hand was once a little girl, probably, but was now a mouldering, stinking corpse. Decay and cakelike dead skin covered her very-visible skull, and even though its eyes had long since rotted away, it turned its head in my direction and looked up at me.
"You'll be my daddy now," I heard it say as the stench of a shallow grave began to overpower me.
It doesn't shame me to admit that I began to shriek then, on the corner of Locust and Shinooginah Avenue, flailing and trying hysterically to get away from the thing that clutched me. It held on with the grip of a man, but my terror and revulsion enabled me to break free.
The creature looked at me again, its eaten-away nose stiffling as I took two steps back. It was not hard to read disappointment in its posture.
"Dad!" a small voice said from behind me. I turned to see Caitlyn stomping toward me, her white tennis shoes slapping the sidewalk in anger. "You left me there? What the hell?"
It should have been funny to hear a six year old talk like that, but I was no longer thinking clearly. "There was . . . it was . . . you were . . ." I babbled, aware it was babbling, but not able to do anything about it.
Behind me, a kid dressed as Ant-man chased after a bigger kid dressed as Spider-man, but there were no undead children, no reaching little girls. The smell of unburied corpse was gone too.
Caitlyn reached me and gave me a punch in the hip that might have floored me had she aimed just a little bit better. "Daddy? What's wrong with you?"
I didn't know what to say--wouldn't it seriously upset her to say what had just happened to me?--and held up my hand to her in surrender.
"Eww," my daughter said. There were two maggots clinging to my palm.