Our town was settled behind the pumpkin-shaped door deep in Holiday’s forest. It was always Halloween there. Our neighbors wore disguises all the time and kept in character even when the parades weren’t happening. They slept in their masks and cared for them as if they were their actual faces. It was always night, and it was always Fall. Most people wanted to craft their own candy. This was done in their basements and the steam from boiling sugars was constantly pouring out over our heads and made a pleasant smell and a foggy atmosphere. This and everything else was just something you get used to.
Now before I continue with my story I have a question for you. If you were in hell do you think you’d know it?
My oldest brother, Justin, was 18 when he took on his disguise and like a rash it covered his face. It was very hard for my mom to look at it. She was from a very religious family and we weren’t allowed to celebrate halloween as kids. There were healthy reasons to pass the chocolate but we all knew it was her beliefs that held us locked indoors on all those fall evenings. By the time we were teenagers the whole village celebrated it every night and called it the devil’s sabbath. Justin’s new look was like a rite of passage and proof to how far things had changed from past conservative days. We were all ecstatic for him except for her. While my sister Julie held up a Skittles candy wrapper comparing the red of his skin to it my mom left the room shielding her face from us. That’s just how it was for us but we were not a usual family there.
The forest that surrounded our village was horrific. Even as daring little kids we wouldn’t venture into it. In town people only pretended to be monsters but we all knew out in the somber darkness were the real devils. One night my neighbors gave me and Julie a home batch of chocolate marshmallows sweetened and laced with a syrup they had designed themselves. It was like a drug and we lost all our inhibitions. To this day I don’t remember how it happened but we ended up in those woods lost and torn by the thorny bushes. The parents of our neighborhood set out in a search party and when they found us we were out of our minds and desperately trying to convince them that we were all in hell and needed to get out. To further my despair they didn’t believe me. My parents, trying not to escalate my psychosis, didn’t give any attention to my frantic crying and led Julie and I home holding our arms tight to their sides.
While we were led away the the men and women consumed our leftovers wanting to see if the candy would affect them too. On that night the seductive Venus was out hunting. The men caught a glimpse of her walking through the trees glimmering and half nude with her bow and arrows strapped across her bare breasts and over her shoulder. She gently withdrew an arrow and they went scrambling after her shouting excitedly through thorns and slipping down the muddy banks, “Venus, hunts me! She hunts me!” Almost begging her to fire the arrow through their hearts. The whole while their wives sat in the mud wrapped in gnarled branches laughing at their husbands’ idiocy as if they were drunk.
My mind was still a bit delirious when we returned to our street and I was furious at our neighbor for giving us such potent candy. I went banging on his door but no one answered so I got my brothers to sneak in with me through an unlocked window. We found their chocolate brewery steaming in the basement and I took a jar of some sugary sludge hoping it would be enough to accuse them. We were almost to the front door when their son stopped us and took the jar out of my hands then smashed it against the wall exploding it in a black mess. I pushed him down and in a fit of rage we all beat on him.
When we were brought out the whole village was standing in the street. All of them were breathing hard with hungry eyes and smiling so malevolently to see us in trouble, like a night parade of a hundred monsters. Even the mayor had come out from his slumber to see us judged! I was kneeling before them as a simple human wearing no disguise. Though I called for some reason and wanted justice we only looked like maniacs with bloody fists, delighting the devils in our shame, and only appearing before our friends and family as violent burglars. Beyond their grins I saw my mom looking ashamedly away from me and my eyes fell heavy to the ground.
Not long afterwards my mom returned to the convent she grew up in to escape the reproach of our neighbors and to let things settle down. Her sisters lived there still and they were together weaving fabric in a cooperative loom as daylight flowed in through the windows. They were talking about this past event while pressing their peddles in constant rhythm and letting the blue thread escape gently past their fingertips. As they talked their eyes never left their work.
“I don’t know what to do anymore,” my mom said while pulling the threads together, “It’s become so awful there. I feel so lost and the whole time my children are turning into demons.”
“Do you remember what we were taught here? Asked Aunt Jude.
“Oh, I remember,” My mom said tiredly, “I’ve tried everything.”
“Not everything,” said all her sisters in unison and they all laughed. When they spoke together like this it was because God’s spirit was in them, and my mom was suddenly awakened to the supernatural. The threads were being pulled together and began forming a pattern. She was amazed to realize she had forgotten to ask God for guidance, and had unconsciously taken it upon herself to deal with the situation, even laying the burden of all those emotions on herself. She got up immediately and moved to the corner where there was more light. The sisters also stopped their weaving. The tapestry was complete; a blazing blue star of David. They followed her to the corner and draped it over her as she knelt. Tugging at its corners and with her eyes closed she asked, “God, what do you want me to do?” His voice was soft and steady:
“Return to your children and let my light shine.”
At home we were all getting ready for Halloween again. For this year I had picked a costume to look like our neighbors’ so we could all start laughing about the still recent fiasco and the madness of that night. I was just adjusting my ears in the mirror when Mom walked up to me with a secret-knowing smile. My mouth was wide open to see her downstairs during the celebrations. “Mom!” I exclaimed, “You’re with us on Halloween!”
She only kept smiling and said, “I believe you.” Then, like a revelation, I felt justified and a heavy burden was lifted from off my soul. We both looked to the wall and saw an old light switch that had once been used for Christmas decorations outside. We hadn’t used it in years but we knew they were still set up because Dad was too lazy to bring them down every year. As I walked over to it an intense joy came sweeping over me. This was ultimate justice, I thought to myself, how wonderful upon their ‘sabbath!’ as I flicked it on.
From down the hall we could see out the screen door that along the trim of our house white lights had erupted into the night, and there in the center of the yard a full nativity scene sat softly aglow. All of our neighbors outside began screaming in pain and terror. The great commotion brought all my siblings to the windows and we all saw in horror the nightmare happening to them. Their disguises were flung off of them as if they were only shadows that had been made real in the night, and underneath their true skin was blackened and wrinkly as if they were corpses from a great fire. The night was thunderous with their moaning and wailing and they covered their eyes with their arms as they desperately went fleeing from our house. My brothers and sisters were watching in awe as the light dawned on them too feeling secure within our home. Then I saw Justin’s mask fall from his face and his skin returning to normal. It was peeling away at the edges as if it had just been a bad sunburn. He turned to Mom and said with a large smile, “It looks like we’re Christians tonight,” and we all started laughing as hell fled away.
Copyright 2015 Jason S Cooper