Julie knew something was wrong the minute she entered the kitchen. Alice, her oldest, sat at the table staring out at the few leaves that had held on longer than most but now drifted to the ground.
“You seem troubled,” she said, trying to sound as cheery about it as she could.
“I don’t know what I want to be,” Alice complained.
“Well, you’re only thirteen, dear, you’ve got lots of time to choose a career.”
“I’m sorry, sweetie, just trying to cheer you up. That blue frock you wore two years ago was pretty big on you. I’ll bet it would still fit. And the white apron to go over it…”
Alice rolled her eyes at her mother as she turned away from the window. “I’m not going as Alice in Wonderland again. How lame would that be?”
“Well if you hadn’t waited until the last minute, I could have put together some kind of Katniss costume. Your little brother has that bow and arrow set.”
Alice repeated her eye roll but added a little sneer to her lips.
“Some tucking and sleeve ripping of that blue frock and a little glitter? I’ve got an old long blonde wig we could put into a braid…”
Alice’s jaw dropped. “Elsa? That is beyond lame.”
“I’ve got some red yarn we could tangle into a curly wig. With your brother’s bow and arrow, you could be Merida.”
Alice’s dad came into the kitchen and started rummaging through the cabinets. “Where’s that big bowl we always use?”
Julie gently pushed him aside and pulled out a huge green Tupperware bowl and placed it in her husband’s outstretched paws.
“Thanks, honey,” he said over his shoulder as he started to leave. He caught himself at the door and turned back. “Candy. That’s probably stashed in here, too, isn’t it?”
Julie got down on her knees and reached into the very back of a lower cupboard and pulled out five bags of miniature candy bars. Her husband helped her back to her feet and she plopped the bags of candy into the plastic bowl.
“Why do you always hide these in a different place every year?” he asked as he tore open the first bag
“Because, Larry, if you knew where they were, there wouldn’t still be five bags.”
“Jules. How can you say that?” Larry teased after opening a Snickers and popping it into his mouth.
Alice’s younger brother charged into the room. “Is it OK to put fake blood all over my shirt?”
Alice’s lips curled into a sneer as she assessed the pale face and bloody fangs. “Gross! What are you supposed to be?”
“A vampire, you dimwit,” he snarled.
“Good choice, Stevie,” she shot back. “Now everyone will know that you suck!”
“And everyone will know that you’re too stupid to think of a costume,” Stevie snarled.
“Still undecided about a costume?” Alice’s dad asked as he unwrapped another Snickers.
“Can I smear fake blood on my shirt or not?” Stevie interrupted.
“Yes!” Larry exclaimed, “Go take a bath in blood!”
“Awesome,” Stevie shouted as he ran from the room.
“Larry!” Julie protested.
“What? If it doesn’t wash out, I’ll buy him a new shirt. Let’s figure something out for Alice.”
“My favorite was when she was Snow White, four years ago,” Julie reminisced with a faraway look in her eyes.
“Muh-thur!!!” Alice turned pleading eyes to her father. “Dad?”
Larry shrugged. “Why not go as yourself?”
“Larry!” Julie protested.
“What? She’s thirteen, Jules, she doesn’t want to be a Disney Princess anymore. This might be her last year to Trick-or-Treat.”
“Really, Daddy?” Alice said, smiling for the first time. “Just be myself?”
“Sure. Run upstairs and change.”
Beaming, Alice sprinted from the kitchen.
“Larry, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”
“Something wrong with her being herself?” Larry growled.
Julie shrunk back and turned her gaze to the floor. “No, of course not.” She glanced back up. “But she’s going to be out with a bunch of her friends.”
“She’ll be fine,” he said as he dumped the last bag of candy into the bowl and mixed the different brands. He pulled out one more Snickers for himself.
The doorbell rang.
“I’m on!” he said with glee.
“Are you going to try to scare the kids at the door?”
“It’s Halloween, Jules. Kids like being scared. Besides, all the kids in this neighborhood know what to expect.”
He left the kitchen and crossed the living room to the front door. Slowly, he opened the door just enough to slip the bowl out and then he closed it back against his arm. He listened carefully and waited for just the right moment. The third time the candy rustled in the bowl he flung the door wide open. “RHAAARRRR!”
A cacophony of screams, shrieks, and yelps rushed away from the house, each kid trying to push ahead of the others.
“Larry!” Julie said as she came up behind her husband. “I thought you said you weren’t going to scare them!”
Larry closed the door and shrugged. “I guess they weren’t from this neighborhood. Serves ‘em right for trying to get candy from someone else’s neighborhood.”
“What if they tell their parents?”
“Tell them what? Come on, by now they’ve started laughing about it and kidding each other about who was the most scared. It’s Halloween, Jules. Scary stuff happens. Part of the gig.”
The doorbell rang again.
“Let me get it this time, Larry.”
Larry pulled back the edge of a curtain to look out to the porch area. “It’s OK. We know these girls.” He slammed the door open. “RHAAAARRRR!” The four girls stood stock still.
“Hi, Mr. Talbot,” one of the girls said. “Is Alice ready to go?”
Larry examined the quartet on his doorstep. One wore a yellow sweatshirt under blue overalls and a yellow ski mask with oversized goggles over the eyeholes. “Are you supposed to be a banana?”
The girls all laughed. “Come on, Mr. Talbot. I’m a minion.”
“OK. And by the voice, and since I can see the other 3 girls faces, you must be Jasmine.”
“Let me see if I can figure out the rest of you. Kaitlyn, you’re a convict. The black and white stripes are a giveaway.”
“Put your mask on with it, Kaitlyn,” Jasmine insisted with a giggle.
Kaitlyn slapped a mask over her face, then pulled it quickly back down. “I’m not wearing it. This was my dad’s idea. I’m not going to miss out on candy at any Democrats’ houses.”
“Was that a Hillary mask?” Larry asked.
“Isn’t it a scream,” a third girl dressed in a men’s business suit laughed.
“Well, Hailey, judging by that guinea pig sitting on your head, I guess you Trump Kaitlyn’s Hillary. Grace, I can see that you’re supposed to be Supergirl, but I’m surprised your parents let you buy that particular version of the costume.”
“No duh, Mr. T,” Grace replied. “My dad would crap a brick if he knew I was wearing this. I changed at my older sister’s apartment.
Julie assessed Grace from head to toe, tsking at the extremely short skirt over the thigh-high red stockings and low cut blue top. “Looks more like Super-tramp to me,” she mumbled.
Alice came trotting down the stairs. She wore tennis shoes, blue jeans, and a purple hoodie. Julie immediately pulled Alice’s hood up over her head. “You’ll want to keep your ears covered.”
Larry locked eyes with his daughter. “Call me if you have any problems,” he said solemnly.
“Be careful, Alice. Really careful,” Julie said with a slight tremor in her voice.
Alice slipped past her mother and rolled her eyes for her friends’ benefit. Larry closed the door as the girls headed down the sidewalk.
“Let me touch,” Grace said as she lifted her hand to Alice’s face.
Alice grabbed Grace’s hand before she could connect. “No,” she growled.
Grace’s attention shifted to Alice’s hand. “Claws, too. Cool. Your dad help you?”
“No,” Alice replied, “I did it all by myself.” She paused then added, “Well, I guess I couldn’t have done it without my dad.”
“How many years has he been rockin’ that werewolf look?” Grace commented. “I mean, it’s getting kind of lame to be the same thing every year. No one thinks it’s scary anymore.”
In an instant of fury, Alice pictured herself ripping Grace’s throat open, and was surprised how exciting the thought felt. She closed her eyes. My dad thinks I can handle this, she thought. He believes in me. I can do this.
“Not that it’s lame for you to go all wolfie,” Grace added. “I mean it’s an improvement over the Alice in Wonderland number, for sure.”
Alice looked at Grace’s neck. Her low-cut top left so much flesh exposed. She bit her lip to try to concentrate but discovered that the taste of her own blood only spurred her instincts. She would have to kill them all. There could be no witnesses.
The clouds parted to taunt her with a nearly round moon, waning only 4 days from full. She tilted her head back and howled.
Now head back to the Halloween Story Hop and see what the other 13 authors have for you!