Shifty

A few weeks ago, part of this story came to me. I wanted to write it and publish it on Halloween, because it seemed appropriate. There wasn’t much time left, with everything else going on, but we did it. I wrote it and Raven edited it into a better story. We had fun creating this little gem, I hope you do too. Enjoy!

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“Dad, have you seen my wings?” Charlotte ran from the living room to the kitchen on bare feet. Mark was making a quick dinner so Charlotte and Kevin could start trick or treating before night fell. Sara had already helped Charlotte into her faerie costume and she was now helping Kevin with his. His son had been bugging them for a werewolf costume since last year and Sara had worked on it in secret since the beginning of the year as a surprise.

A half transformed werewolf came down, with only his head still human.

“Kevin, take off your gloves. You can’t eat with them,” Mark said.

“They’re claws. And wolves don’t eat with fork and knife,” Kevin grumbled.

“But werewolves do when they’re in human form. Take them off.” Mark held out his hands to receive the fur covered gloves that posed as claws and put them in the hallway.
Sara came down carrying the head and put it next to the gloves.

“Just in time for dinner,” Mark kissed Sara.

“Mommy, my wings are gone.” Charlotte still hadn’t found her wings.

“They’re on your coat, sweetie. I’ll get them after dinner,” Sara said. “Wash your hands and come sit.”

Mark gave the kids their own plate with a smaller portion than his own. Charlotte ate even less than she normally did, talking excitedly. It was her first time trick or treating, and her friends from school had invited her to join their group. Her mother thought it was a good idea and had decided to join them with another parent. Kevin, a few years older, would join his usual group where the boys voted on which of the dads was the coolest and allowed to come. Mark wasn’t even close to winning this year, so he was stuck at home handing out candy

He didn’t mind it as much as he had the previous years. This year he would have time alone, something he hadn’t had since Charlotte was born.

Mark cleared the table and helped Kevin with his gloves. Sara would drop him off at his friend’s house before she went to Charlotte’s friend. Sara had been grateful when he volunteered to cook and clean, and he liked to see her happy. It was her big night too, after all. It was the first year she had made the costumes and she was clearly proud of the results. Her kids were happy with them as well, but he knew she secretly hoped to impress the other parents as well.

Mark was usually the one who baked cakes and cookies for school events, or prepared delicious but healthy snacks for parties. The other parents were impressed by his skills, but Sara felt lacking. Mark knew this was her time to show that she could do something as well.

Sara ushered her kids out the door, carrying Kevin’s head. She gave Mark a quick kiss before stepping into the car.

Mark waved goodbye and sighed. What was he going to do with his free time? He turned on the TV to surf until he found something interesting. Most channels still had their children’s programming since it was still early, but then he dropped halfway into an old black and white Frankenstein movie. That was something he could enjoy. Sara didn’t care for old movies while he used to watch them all the time in the cheap cinema near college.

A knock on the door woke Mark from his near slumber in the half dark room. He opened the door and saw a young girl standing on the porch, alone, looking at him expectantly. Her costume looked like a mix of a bear, rabbit and a wolf.

“That’s a very scary looking costume you have. Did your mother make it?”

The girl just smiled and said “Twick o’ twee’.” Her smile was a big one. Mark could’ve counted her teeth if they weren’t all crooked. He noticed her hair was also greasy and uncombed, and more alarmingly she was alone. For a girl her age, that was odd. Charlotte was around her age and he insisted that at least two parents accompanied the group of five girls.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“An,” she answered enthusiastically.

“Could you do a little trick for me and show off your costume? Then I’ll get the candy.”

Her face went sour. Tears began to glisten in her eyes before her expression changed to a grimace. Mark was taken aback, having never seen a child make such a face.

“I- I’ll get you candy, just wait right here.” He stepped back.

The girl’s face turned red and her teeth seemed larger. She hunched forward and dropped her bag of candy on the ground. He couldn’t see her hands due to her costume, but he did notice something sticking out of the gloves. Large claws, and he couldn’t tell if it was part of the costume or not. He quickly turned to grab the bowl his wife had prepared and in doing so lost sight of An for just a second.

That second was enough. No longer was there a little girl on his porch. When he turned back, Mark saw a beast.

It had the same colour hair as the girl and it had the same ears as the costume, almost like those of a demented easter bunny. Its body was scrawny, covered in dirt patches, the ribs visible through its fur and he noticed a long tail swaying behind it. The beast’s eyes were red. Its muzzle lined with sharp, asymmetric teeth. And it wore the same grimace the girl had.

Fear kept Mark from moving forward. His feet were frozen, his heart beating hard. He threw the basket with candy forward as a distraction, thinking to run, but a low growl had him frozen in terror once again. The basket landed neatly between the two front claws of the monster, which looked down at the candy and then back up to Mark. The grimace grew wider. Mark closed his eyes, expecting a bloody end.

Nothing happened.

Finally, when he dared to open his eyes again, he saw the little girl looking through the basket. She picked one piece of candy, curtsied, and thanked him. The costume’s tail swung behind her as the girl skipped towards the pavement and onto the next house. Thoroughly shaken in disbelief, he slowly walked out, hiding behind the banister, to watch her as his neighbour opened the door. Mrs. Williams thought she was adorable as well and gave her extra candy. The girl didn’t turn into a beast. No claws. No teeth. Nothing but a little girl. Maybe it was his imagination, the vibe of the movie and Halloween. Little girls didn’t turn into monsters. That sort of thing just didn’t happen. He would ask Charlotte if she knew the girl. If she was alone, he reasoned that she must live nearby and maybe even attend the same school.

Kids had stopped coming when the sun had set, and the movie had ended shortly after that. Mark had to admit he was grateful for both, since every knock on the door made him jump. He had finished the last of the dishes and was drying his hands when he heard a door slam shut. He whirled, moving quickly from room to room in his search. No one. Even the garden was clear.

“I’m never staying home alone on Halloween again,” Mark said aloud, forcing his breathing to slow down.

In response, he heard laughter behind him, muffled, like that of a small girl. The same terror as before paralyzed him, and he found himself unable to turn around. A heavy claw landed on his shoulder and he screamed.

Turning in a desperate, panicked rush, he found his wife with the claw of Kevin’s costume in her hand. Kevin and Charlotte were behind the counter, unable to contain their laughter any longer.

“Gotcha!” Sara said. “I never expected you to be such a scaredy cat.” Relief drowned his fear, and Mark forced a smile onto his face.

It was late when Sara came down from tucking the children in and sat next to Mark on the couch. She’d always been able to read him, and it didn’t take much coaxing for her to convince him to explain what had rattled him so. “I thought the girl turned into a beast when I didn’t give her candy, but she didn’t turn when Mrs. Williams did?” He shook his head. “You must think I’m crazy.”

“You’re right,” Sara said with a patient smile on her face, poking him playfully when he looked at her. “You’re right when you say you’re not staying home alone on Halloween anymore.” He managed to smile back at her. “I hope you can sleep without nightmares tonight, but wake me up if you do.” She squeezed his arm and kissed him. “I know how to get rid of them.”

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