One in Every Bag
“Just a minute longer,” Jason’s mother said.
He looked from her to the pumpkin-shaped bag of candy on the table before him and then back to her for a second time. “How much longer now?”
His mother, an orange Xweetok much as he himself was, fidgeted with the watch on her wrist and counted the seconds hand. “Fifteen, fourteen, no, thirteen now—”
Jason had stopped listening, eyes intent upon the bag of candy once again. He licked his lips and his mouth began to water. An uncontrollable surge of longing shot through him and his hands shot outwards—
Jason lurched onto the bag of candy, tearing it apart and scattering the single-serve mini candy bars, cookie bags, and sweet treats all about the room with feverish delight. He grabbed a small sack of candy corn and ripped it open with his teeth—
But this is where the story ends. Allow me to elaborate.
* * *
The time was approximately 7:36pm, give or take a few seconds. Jason rocked from side to side in the dwindling sunlight as he waited for his friends to arrive. He was dressed as the Chia Clown and held a pumpkin-shaped bag in his right hand.
“Hey, Jason.” A dark-blue bedsheet walked up to him and waved. “What’s up? Is Sandri here yet?”
Jason blinked a couple times and stared at the walking, talking bedsheet. “That you, Patrick?”
“Yep, ‘tis me.” The bedsheet lifted itself and revealed an equally blue Lenny underneath. “I’m the Pant Devil, whattayou think?”
“I think—hey, there’s Sandri!”
And indeed it was. The petit red Lutari was fitted with iridescent plates that sparkled and shone and stuck out at odd angles.
“Heya, Sandri,” Pat said.
“You... you can see me?” she asked.
“Yeah, we can,” Pat said. “What’re you supposed to be?”
“This suit is supposed to make me invisible...” She shrugged rather casually. “Well, the man I bought it from said it only works after dark, and the sun hasn’t yet set yet, so...”
“Anyways,” Jason said, “what’re we doing first? South Street or East Avenue?”
“Hmm...” Sandri smiled. “Let’s head up East Avenue, curve around Midroad to West Way, and then hit the north end of South. That way, we’ll all end up back here.”
“Sounds good,” Pat said.
“Works for me, too,” Jason said.
Ten minutes and thirty-eight and a half seconds later, the already conglomerating crowd had grown into a bustling mob. Twilight quickly became darkness and the race was on: If the trick-or-treaters knew one thing, it was that candy was distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. And since everyone wanted to be served, everyone wanted to be first.
Jason, Pat, and Sandri—still visible, to her dismay—started up East and approached the first house. The yard was decorated with faux Spyder-webs and skeletal remains, likely made of discarded tubing and papier-mâché, which was “a distasteful use of Neopia’s one and only multinational newspaper,” Sandri had said to the annoyed homeowner, who rather reluctantly gave them only small bits of candy for their bags.
And so they rushed to the second house on East Avenue. This yard happened to be decorated with pumpkins, some lively, some not, some bright-orange, some full of rot. Some were round, and some were square, and some were blue, and others had hair. Some were carved, and others chiseled, a few of them screamed, while the others just giggled.
Almost needless to say, this homeowner, who happened to be an orange Jubjub with a swirly green cap on that made her blend in rather well with her lawn, handed them freshly-made and securely-wrapped single-serving mini pumpkin pies.
“It’s a shame they don’t have whipped cream,” Sandri said. “Pumpkin pie might as well be just pie or cobbler if it doesn’t have any whipped cream.”
And so they went on to the third house. This yard was covered in lush autumn leaves, which proved to be neither lush nor even leaves at all, but instead were colorful clippings of paper in the brightest shades of orange and yellow and red and brown. And whenever they walked past certain points on their way to the front door, Petpets of half a dozen species jumped up to startle them.
When they finally reached the door, Jason and Pat were clinging to each other while Sandri just nodded and said, “They seemed a bit hungry, don’t you think?”
None of them were thrilled when the homeowner gave them Petpet supplies and miniature fruit baskets full of broccoli and asparagus.
And so it went on all night. Houses decorated with ghouls and goblins, rolled fabric and fabric carved into ghastly capes that hung from leafless trees, to houses decorated with blues and green, and greens and blues, and one house in particular which was painted entirely pink, even the grass. It was no surprise, then, when this homeowner handed them bags of poison pink popcorn, and expected them to like it. Needless to say, they refused.
After a while, they turned onto Midroad, and a short time later they turned down West Way, and then some time after that they turned onto the north end of South Street. Then at last, when they were nearing where they had begun, they came across a house they hadn’t noticed before, a rather conspicuous house indeed, a house with no decorations at all.
Slowly but surely, their bags full of goods, they walked to the front gate and looked on. The yard was plain and rather lackluster; some weeds poked up by a tree, but at least the yard had been raked free of leaves. Some patches of bare ground littered it, too, and they wondered if perhaps the homeowner was simply phobic of leaves, or if the tree had been dead for so long it hadn’t shed any leaves in years.
“Do you think it’s safe?” Pat asked.
“Do you think any of this is safe?” Sandri said. “We’re dozens of children wandering around after dark, asking for candy from strangers. Seems perfectly unsafe to me.” She yawned and pointed out a constellation that had previously been covered by clouds.
“Look, his light’s on," Jason said, and, indeed, the porch light had been left on, a lone beacon across the malnourished and shady front lawn. “And if the light’s on, they’ve still got candy.”
“True, so very true,” Sandri said. “I once read that before porch lights were invented, small fires were lit outside the front door to signal for children to come to gather candy. Unfortunately, this often led to many villages burning down.”
“Really?” Pat said.
“Oh, yes,” Sandri said, “it was simply dreadful. With all the houses on fire, much of the candy was lost. Those poor children missed out on candy for the entire year.”
Pat had stopped listened, and he and Jason were staring towards the distant door again. They had learned long ago not to trust all of Sandri’s tales, but nevertheless, on rainy days, she provided great entertainment. But unfortunately, tonight was neither rainy nor day, and instead of entertainment, they wanted answers.
“To go, or not to go?” Jason whispered.
“Wherefore art thou candy?” Pat said.
“I’m just going to go knock now,” Sandri said and stepped beyond the threshold of the fence. Jason and Pat jumped after her and kept huddled close together again until, at last, the three had arrived at the front door.
Sandri lifted her paw and knocked.
A portly figure opened the door a crack and stuck his eye out. “What do you want?”
“Trick or treat!” they all shouted in unison.
“Candy, eh?” The man retired inside and closed the door.
“Seems like he’s run out,” Sandri said and shrugged rather nonchalantly.
But just then the door opened again and the man, who sported a rather lifelike rendition of Hubrid Nox, held out his hands and handed each of them a small bag of candy corn, yellow, orange, white and all.
“Thank you, sir,” Sandri said.
“Yeah, thanks,” Jason added, and Pat nodded in agreement.
“No need to thank me,” the man said, “now scram!”
The door slammed shut and practically blew them across the yard.
* * *
Once at home, Jason poured the entire contents of his bag onto the table and began rummaging through it all. He found a mini chocolate bar and went to tear off its wrapper—
“Not so fast, young man,” his mother said. “You know well we don’t eat any Halloween candy for three days.”
“I really don’t see why not,” Jason mumbled as he dropped the candy bar.
His mother frowned, certain she’d told him this the year before, too. “We wait three days to make sure none of it’s poisoned.”
“So, like, after three days, the poison dies?”
“No, not exactly...”
“Then what, exactly?”
His mother smiled weakly. “Well, if after three days we haven’t heard of any children getting ill, we’ll know it’s all safe.”
“Right,” Jason said slowly, “like everybody else’s mother won't make them wait three days, too.”
“Then we’ll wait five.”
* * *
We now return to our featured presentation, already in progress.
The time was approximately 6:47pm and thirteen seconds. Jason had his teeth wrapped around the small bag of candy corn and tugged at it one last time before the plastic tore and all the little candy corns flew outwards all over the room.
“Rwar, rwar, rwar!”
One of them had feet and arms, eyes and teeth—a Candy Vampire! It jumped onto Jason’s face and began clawing at his nose, biting at his cheeks, kicking at his eyes.
Jason stumbled backwards and screamed. Then he slipped on a candy bar and fell to the floor.
His mother grabbed the broom and swung it over his face—the small yellow, orange, and white thing got tossed across the room. But it quickly got to its feet again, barking and snarling like mad. It narrowed in on its target and started running towards Jason with a vengeance.
And then his mother swung the broom overhead and smashed the poor thing.
“Well, gosh darn it,” she said, “there’s one in every bag.”