By Sean Cochrane
Halloween isn’t just my favorite holiday, it’s the greatest holiday in the greatest month. I have the privilege of being an October baby.
Being born five days before Halloween is awesome for a kid, especially one that loves all the creepy spooky stuff. I’d imagine it made things pretty easy on my parents, too. They didn’t have to put too much thought or effort into birthday party themes. Another year, another costume party. I’m not complaining at all. I loved it.
All my favorite people gathered in costume and celebrating my favorite days of the year. Vampires and ninjas and cheerleaders and superheroes all gathered for me, playing games, and eating cake decorated with candy corn and pumpkins.
And let’s not forget the gifts. A new Huffy one year. More LEGOs than a boy could wish for. I’ll never forget the year I got Rhythm Nation: 1814, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, Vanilla Ice’s To The Extreme, and Step By Step by New Kids On The Block. I was in pop music cassette heaven.
Along the lines, though, things change. We get older and costume parties with themed cakes stop being cool. We want to hang out with our friends, but beer replaces party favors. Even gifts grow fewer and more expensive… then eventually stop coming in at all except from a few close people. Now I’m here, it’s my birthday again, and I miss the old days.
So this year I planned my own costume party and I’m going to make sure it’s the best one ever.
The preparations were simple enough. I sent a Zoom invite to everyone and asked them all to be on camera and in costume. Since it was happening virtually, there was no out-of-pocket expense for me. Well, almost none. I had to purchase my own costume, which was easy enough. A bit of time and facepaint and I became Jack O’ the Halloween revenge monster. I also had to spring the cash for a few extras I needed for the festivities: some various herbs and roots, some candles, some human teeth, a newborn lamb. But we’ll get back to that.
I waited until my wife and kids had gone to bed to get the party started. For one, if Shelley had the slightest inkling of what I had planned she’d shut the entire thing down before it even got started. Plus, she had to be up early for work.
Once my makeup was applied and the Zoom meeting had started, my friends began popping up online. Jack, a cabaret mime plucked from a Clive Barker fever dream. Andrew, a long-haired Jason Voorhees. Jason showed up as a cop wearing a kids’ Hulk mask; I’d call him a cheater, but he had to go to work after wishing me a happy birthday. I had expected Dillon to show up as Moloch or something equally as scary, but instead he opted for a slutty devil costume designed for a twenty-something swimsuit model. Maybe my favorite of the group was the accidental Silver Shamrock trio created by Brent, Logan, and Cory. My friends are amazing.
We spent the next half hour or so complimenting costumes and chatting about horror, music, and whatever else came to mind. Multiple people shared stories of our adventures and exploits throughout the years. Once I was assured that everyone was present and in good spirits, the time had come for me to take the spotlight.
I picked up the laptop and brought the party out into the garage. I had prepared the area ahead of time by clearing a large space. I’d stolen a stick of my children’s sidewalk chalk to draw a large pentagram and lit candles at the points. In the center was a stone bowl smoldering with the herbs–witch hazel, bogwort, mugwort, and nettle–as well as the human teeth. Unless you’ve Googled it, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to buy human teeth.
My friends showed no hint of surprise or alarm. This sort of occult theatre isn’t out of the ordinary for me. Plus, they had no clue as to what was in the bowl or what was coming. They carried on with jokes and playful jabs at the somber facade I’d adopted as I set the laptop down and walked to the other side of the ritual area.
“Quiet!” I demanded loudly.
This, predictably, gave way to hysterical laughter. It wasn’t just that they couldn’t take directions from an anthropomorphic pumpkin overseeing a Satanic ritual, it was that they knew full well I was full of shit.
Until I disappeared behind a stack of cardboard boxes and came back with the baby lamb in my arms.
Then their voices dropped.
“I’ve gathered you here tonight, virtually, for a reason. It’s not just about my birthday. It’s not just about Halloween. It’s about giving a gift back to you all for being such great friends for so long.”
Jason, who’s been by my side through my darkest times and has witnessed the bulk of the outrageous stunts I’ve pulled, was more concerned than others. “Dude, what’s with the sheep? You’re not serious are you?”
“My little friend here? She’s part of the gift! Just wait a minute.”
I knelt at the border of the ritual circle and laid the lamb inside.
“Don’t you ever miss being kids? When you could dress up and play pretend any day you wanted? You could stuff your face with candy and not worry about blood pressure and cholesterol? Remember when the biggest decision you had to make was what to wear for Halloween?”
“What are you getting at?” Jack asked uneasily.
“What I’m getting at is that a major reason Halloween is so big for us as adults is it lets us be kids again. We get to strip away all the stresses and pressure and expectations, put on a costume, and be free.”
“What are you doing with the lamb, Sean?” Jason pressed again.
“Remember the Evil Dead movies?” I asked, “Man, I’ve seen those movies more times than I can count. You know how you can quote every line in Top Gun, Jay? I can do that with those flicks. Almost. I’ve memorized the important parts though.”
I reached one hand to the black sheath hanging from my belt and brandished a large hunting knife.
All my friends spoke at once. I couldn’t make out exactly who said what, but it was all varying versions of, “Oh no! What the fuck? Put that away! Don’t do this!” It was too late, though. We were in way too far to turn back at this point.
Drawing a slow, deep breath, I clutched the scruff of the innocent lamb’s neck and exposed the soft skin of it’s throat to the laptop camera.
“Khandar Estrada khandos thrus indactu nosfrandus khandar dematos khandar!” I bellowed.
My friends continued their protest, and I continued the incantation.
“Khandar Estrada khandos thrus indactu nosfrandus khandar dematos khandar!”
Over and over.
Louder and louder.
“Khandar Estrada khandos thrus indactu nosfrandus khandar dematos khandar”
Their pleas for me to stop ended on the thirteenth repetition. They just stared as me aghast.
Without another word, I plunged the point of the knife through the frightened lamb’s esophagus and commenced to saw back and forth. At first only the lamb’s pristine white wool was dyed with the deep red blood, but with each movement of the blade a new torrent of warm crimson gushed forward. Soon my hand was covered and a large pool was forming within the ritual circle. Once my knife sliced through the final layer of esophageal tissue and tender skin, the last pulses of the lambs heart forced what was left into the puddle. I dropped the red and white corpse, splashing the blood to the border of the pentagram.
“It is done.”
“What is?” Dillon asked.
“Five more days ’til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween,” I sang in response, “Five more days ’til Halloween! Then forever!”
“Oh. Shit.” Dillon knew what my intentions were and what I’d done.
That’s when the screaming started.
For those with masks on, it started as a stinging sensation along the edge of the mask where it met skin. The sting quickly rose to an excruciating burn as the rubber fused to their flesh. They wailed and grasped a their costumes, only to find that their nerve endings had fused with the with the disguises.
Jack’s mime facepaint seared and sizzled, permanently etching the black tear-like spikes below his eyes and red cheek accents into his pallid skin.
For some blood flowed from their tear ducts, and an ugly greenish pus leaked from the ears of others.
I felt it too, but there were no tears or screaming from me. It would be such a waste of good suffering. Instead, I clapped excitedly and cheered. It was all going exactly as I’d planned.
Again, it was likely watching the accidental Silver Shamrock trio go through the ordeal in realty that warmed my heart the most.
“Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me!”
It was only after clawing at their costumes and finding it only hurt more and made them bleed from their new skin that the entire group resigned to woeful sobs and questions of, “Why?”
“Why!?” I replied, my voice striking a fever pitch, “Why!? Because Halloween is amazing! So we can all be free!”
I wiped my sleeve across my forehead then scrubbed at my cheek with my palm to show that my makeup, like theirs, was permanent.
“Why should I have all the birthday fun? Why should it only be once a year? Why should every other day get to rip the guts out of our souls and shit in our bowls of Count Chocula?”
My arms raised triumphantly.
“No longer, my friends! Halloween is everyday now! Forever! Best fucking birthday ever!”
Find out more about Sean on his Amazon Author page.