I shivered as I stepped over the threshold of my front door onto the porch, not from the chill in the late October air, but rather from a sense of foreboding which overcame me. Trying to shake the discomfort–reaching for normality–I asked my little brother, “Why aren’t you wearing a costume, Joey? No one’s going to give you candy if you’re not wearing a costume.”
“What do you mean, Bryan? I’m dressed up as a human, like you.”
Deciding not to respond, I walked in silence; my sense of foreboding increasing at each house we visited. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off as I watched other kids of varying ages pass by; none of them wearing a costume. And what was even stranger was that the people giving out candy didn’t seem to notice or care. No one asked why. They all merely smiled and handed out the candy as if everything were normal. Another odd thing was that all the people handing out candy were wearing horribly monstrous masks. Yet, none of the younger children seemed to be frightened in the least.
I questioned my brother again, searching for some rational explanation to what I was seeing; to what I was feeling. “Why is everyone trick-or-treating as a human this year?”
“What else would we all dress up as? What is scarier than a human?” My brother asked nonchalantly in response, as he pulled at his face, slipping it off like a mask; revealing something horrific beneath.
Fear. Frozen; transfixed in shock and terror. Heart racing. Hyperventilating.
“What is wrong with you, bro? You look like you’ve seen a human for real.”
Blinking, looking around, trying to get my bearings, trying to figure out what was going on, I kept shaking my head; not wanting to believe my eyes; searching for rationality. Grasping for some explanation, I reasoned that my brother was messing with me. He was wearing a monster mask under the human one. It had to be a mass prank that all the kids were playing this year. Testing my theory, I pulled at my brother’s monster mask, convinced that my theory was correct.
A feel of flesh, of bone, followed by a cry of pain and outrage. Not a mask! Real!
My eyes bugging, my adrenaline flowing, I ran for home; my foreboding turned into terror. I could hear Joey shouting behind for me to wait up.
Panic; I need to run faster. I need to get to the safety of home. I need to warn my parents.
Crashing into the house, breathless, I pointed behind me. “Something’s wrong with Joey! He’s a monster with a human mask on. All the kids are!” As if to confirm my accusations, Joey came in at that moment with his human mask in-hand. I backed away in alarm as he approached me. “Get away from me! I don’t know what you are. Get away!”
Feeling my father’s calming hand on my shoulder, his calming words–Calm down Bryan–I turned at his reassurance, feeling safe, knowing my father would handle this threat.
Betrayal. Shock. Terror; as I turned toward that reassurance, that safety, and saw that my father and mother both had slipped off their human masks. Backing away again, I stared between all three with me looking terrified and them looking confused. But my mother’s look of confusion turned to one of annoyance. “Enough already, Bryan. Take off your human costume. I don’t know what your game is but it’s not funny.”
The comment that I was wearing a costume served to momentarily knock me out of my terror and return my voice to me. “But I’m not wearing a cost…”, I began. My father reaching toward me, cut off my words as he pulled at my face, except that it didn’t hurt as it should have, but instead slid off like the other human masks.
Shaking my head. Not wanting to believe. Terrified again; I rushed to the bathroom to look in the mirror.