The Trick is His Treat

📅 Published on July 20, 2022

“The Trick is His Treat”

Written by Chisto Healy
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Sebastian’s hand adjusted on the gun. His palms were sweating. A year ago he wouldn’t have even imagined things like this were real. A year ago the whole world seemed different. It was different. Horrors like the thing in front of him were the stuff of movies, tales told to frighten people on a night just like tonight. His eyes flicked to the window as the gleeful sounds of laughing children and parents commanding them to slow down drifted up from the street below. Then he looked back at the person in front of him, the person that was staring at him, their face a mask of terror as their fingers traced the blank wall behind them, all too aware they had nowhere to go, the person that looked just like him.

“It’s over,” Sebastian said.

It wasn’t the fact that the frightened thing before him wore his face that led Sebastian to this point. It was the unspeakable horrors it committed while doing it. The children, those poor children. Sebastian twitched, the images of their remains flashing like a macabre slideshow behind his eyes. He jabbed the gun aggressively towards his living reflection. “You’re not leaving this room.”

The creature stopped its nervous fidgeting then and glared at him. “You mean you’re not leaving this room,” it said through his own lips, pulled back into a sneer. It started to change then, its flesh stretching and pulling like it was made of putty. Sebastian watched with disgust as his own face disfigured itself, his eyes bulging, ears falling away, hair dropping out in clumps and cascading to the floor.

“Why don’t you just pull the trigger?” a voice said from Sebastian’s right. He turned and stared at the man who had spoken, the man who had taken this surreal journey into madness with him, Elliot. “That thing took my Elsa. You saw what it did to her. Shoot it.”

“It’s not that easy to shoot yourself in the face,” Sebastian barked. He twisted the gun in his hand and offered it to Elliot, handle first. “You do it.”

When he looked back at the thing that wore his face, it was no longer his own reflection looking back. The person that raised its hands to them defensively was now Elliot’s mirror image. “I can pick someone new,” the thing said, “walk past a camera, look right into it, give hard evidence to the police that you’re innocent. If I die though, they’ll go on believing you a monster, a cannibal.” It laughed nervously.

“The court of public opinion already does,” Sebastian said. A wolf howled loudly from outside as a trap door banged open and a girl shrieked in terror. Sebastian jumped as the sound was followed by laughter and the trampling sound of running feet. “But no one has died in this city yet. These children are safe and they’re going to stay that way. Do it.” Sebastian glanced over at Elliot. “Elliot, do it.”

Elliot pounded his palm against his head. “I just keep seeing my Elsa, what it did to her, what it left of her. I keep thinking of the way she must have suffered and I don’t want to just kill this thing. I don’t want it to get off that easily. I want it to suffer like Elsa suffered.”

“The head or the heart, it’s the only way,” Sebastian said. “If you fail to kill it and this thing gets away, it will change, blend in and disappear until next Halloween when it comes back out to feed again. More children will die. You know this.”

Elliot violently smacked himself in the head again. The thing across from them was just watching intently through its own version of Elliot’s eyes. “I do know that,” Elliot said, thrusting the gun out towards the thing that wore his face. “I do know that. But just because we have to shoot it in the head or the heart doesn’t mean we can’t shoot it in the arms and legs first.”

The false Elliot’s eyes widened as the muzzle flashed. It dove forward but the bullet hit it in the shoulder and spun its body around. Blue blood sprayed the wall and the thing shrieked, a shrill sound that wasn’t human in nature, a sound that would be dismissed as part of the holiday atmosphere. Elliot’s doppelganger’s face twitched and spasmed. Then the flesh bubbled and spilled like liquid only to be sucked back towards the off white bones that showed through in its absence. The shoulder and arm reacted the same, tearing right through the shirt that housed it and reaching towards the ceiling like a fleshy serpent. The snake took on Sebastian’s face for a moment and stared at him before it withdrew and was vacuumed back to the waiting bones. The bullet fell from the liquid flesh to jingle on the floor.

Then it was little Elsa that stood before them, intact and whole as she was before the monster got to her. “Daddy,” she pleaded.

“It’s not her,” Sebastian said. “You know it’s not her.” Elliot screamed in agony and fury as the little girl across from them smiled. “Give it to me, I’ll do it. I can do it,” Sebastian said, reaching for the gun. Elliot screamed again but held the gun firmly. Sebastian tried to wrestle it away from him before it was too late.

Then the Elsa look-alike hissed and  bared its teeth, rough and stained with the blood of innocents like the face it now wore. It shot past them and dove head first out the window. “No!” Sebastian screamed.

He pulled away from Elliot and ran to the window in time to see the thing smack the pavement below. Costumed teens walking by yelled in fright and then laughed at themselves when the child got up. They looked up at Sebastian staring down from the window above and called out, “Cool effects bro!”

Sebastian watched in horror as the teens mosied away and the thing behind them that had been Elsa morphed, stretched and changed to mimic one of them flawlessly. Sebastian sucked in a breath when he noticed the bone. It was broken and jagged and jutted from the thing’s leg. “Come on!” Sebastian shouted to Elliot as he pulled himself away from the window. “It’s hurt. We can still catch it before it grabs any of the kids out there.”

He glanced at Elliot who was still clutching the gun and trembling with tears rolling from his eyes to wet his stubbled face. He jammed an index finger in his mouth and bit down on the knuckle, growling through his teeth as Sebastian stood by watching. “I couldn’t shoot my Elsa after everything she’d already been through. I couldn’t. That fucking thing knew that.”

“We need to make sure no other children end up like Elsa,” Sebastian said. “This is why you came with me, Elliot. You saw that there was two of me, that there was something terrible at work here. You wanted to kill it, to make sure no other children suffered like yours did. Focus on that, because every second we waste, that thing gets further out of reach.”

Elliot nodded. He took a deep breath and wiped his eyes. “Go,” he said. “I’m with you. Go.”

Together they ran down the stairs and out the door into the chaos of the booming Halloween night. They stopped and scanned the street. There were running teens, little kids with candy bags and costumed parents everywhere. Sebastian realized that the thing must have changed again because the teen he saw it become wasn’t among the crowd.

“It could be anyone,” Elliot said, stuffing the gun in his jacket pocket.

“Watch the legs,” Sebastian said. “There’s a broken bone. I don’t think it will right itself with the changes. I think it’s truly injured.”

“I hope it hurts,” Elliot said bitterly. “I hope it hurts like hell.”

“Me too,” Sebastian admitted. He could feel someone staring at him. Looking to his left he saw one of the parents, the father of a miniature Frankenstein, eyeing him with curiosity. Sebastian flashed a quick smile and gave a friendly wave, then turned away. He realized they might recognize him from the news and he wanted to seem as non-threatening as possible. If he got made as the child killer from TV, it would ruin everything. Sebastian no longer cared if he was thrown in jail or beaten to death or both, but he wanted to make sure that it didn’t happen until the real killer was dead. It was the only thing that mattered anymore. He couldn’t trust Elliot to do it on his own. He was too unpredictable.

Sebastian looked around for a disguise that would help him go unnoticed. On the ground by a tree he spotted a hard plastic witch mask with an elastic strap. He hurried over and scooped it up. Sebastian frowned when he saw that it was discarded because it had cracked. Still, it was better than nothing. He pulled the elastic strap over his head and grumbled when the broken plastic pinched the skin of his face. He adjusted it only to be scratched by the broken mask. Cussing quietly, he looked back at the stranger who was now holding his child close to him, and he waved again before quickly moving along to get lost in the crowd just like the man he was hunting. Was it even a man? He didn’t give a damn what it was. It was evil and needed to die.

Elliot caught up with him and said, “Witch is a good look for you. Someone was bound to recognize you. Your face has been plastered all over the television for days, even if it wasn’t you wearing it.”

“I know,” Sebastian said as he scanned the crowd through the small eye holes in the broken mask. “I was so focused on catching the monster that I stopped thinking about getting caught myself. It was careless and stupid. We need to be smarter if we’re going to win.”

“I don’t see any jutting leg bones. Damned thing could be anywhere.”

“It’s here,” Sebastian said with certainty. He just wished he knew where, what face it was wearing, what costume. Would it bother with a mask? It’s very face was a mask. “Watch the children. It’s bound to be hungry. It might try to grab one. If it does, we can nab it.”

“Do people actually say ‘nab’? It seems like such an unnatural word.”

“Seriously?” Sebastian glared at him through the broken witch mask.

Elliot shrugged. “When the monster took Elsa, it took everything. My heart and soul are gone. If I’m going to stay sane long enough to finish this, I need to have conversation, humor, connection, you know.”

“Sorry,” Sebastian said, realizing too late that Elliot couldn’t see his frown through the mask. A scream rang out in the distance and both Sebastian and Elliot whirled around to look in that direction. When they did, a horde of laughing teens went running past them. Sebastian sighed and turned back. When he did, he saw one of the teens in the group, a boy in a skull mask, look back at him with recognition.

“You see that?” Elliot said from beside him. “Has to be him right?”

“I don’t know,” Sebastian admitted. “They were moving fast. I didn’t see any leg injury.”

“Maybe it healed.”


Sebastian wished he knew more about the thing they were chasing. He wished he knew the rules, what it could do and couldn’t, what they were truly up against. He knew that the body could change at will, the flesh could mold to become what it wanted. He and Elliot agreed that they needed to destroy the brain or the heart to take it down but now that he thought about it, it was all just theory. They didn’t truly know anything. They didn’t even know if the damned thing had a heart or a brain. Maybe it was just full of blue blood and maggots. Anything was possible. He knew that the moment he saw someone else wearing his face.

Sebastian watched Elliot run off in pursuit of the teen in the skull mask. He didn’t hurry to follow. Something about it just didn’t sit right with him. The shapeshifter was full of tricks. Its entire existence was a trick. He turned back to view the crowd again, then kicked himself when he realized that Elliot still had the gun. He still didn’t go after his partner. Gun or no gun, he had to find this thing and stop it, make sure it didn’t hurt anyone else. He adjusted his mask and moved into the middle of the street to stand among the passing crowd, his gaze dancing over all of them, flickering from person to person, searching for any sign of the monster hiding in plain sight.

Sebastian didn’t know why the thing chose him or when. It could have been completely random. Perhaps they just passed each other in a 7/11 and Sebastian was just unlucky enough to be picked. Maybe he had done something to piss it off, cut it off on the highway or took its parking space at the mall. He often thought through his entire life, all the odd moments, the times people were angry or aggressive with him, the times he hurt someone’s feelings, intentional or not. Any one of them could have been him, could have been it. The thing had probably gone through countless faces by now. It blended in. Maybe it even lived a normal life as someone’s child. Maybe Sebastian had pissed it off on the playground, a grudge that would never die. Maybe he dated the girl the thing had a crush on in highschool. It literally could have been anything and it was enough to drive him insane incessantly thinking about it.

As his eyes moved over the costumed partygoers, behind them he relived the moment he’d found out he had been chosen as the face of evil. It was so strange, surreal. Sebastian had been at a gas station, a gas station close to his house that he’d used on an almost daily basis. The card reader was down and there was a sign to pay inside. Sighing, he walked across the lot, frustrated that he was going to be late for work. When he got inside, he grabbed a Mountain Dew for a caffeine boost and stood in the slow moving line. He was fidgeting and trying not to think about the time, his foot tapping as he silently begged the line to move so he could go.

“Hey! That’s him,” some guy in a hoodie with a black eye yelled, pointing right at him. It seemed to Sebastian to be such a strange thing to say so he repeated it. “That’s him?”

“Son of a bitch!” someone else practically snarled at him. Sebastian looked at them with confusion. “Me?”

“Get him!” yelled a haggard woman in a crop top that had the nerve to bring a cigarette with her into the gas station.

“Why?” Sebastian asked quietly. Then louder when they closed in and he realized that they meant it. He ran out the door, bell jingling behind him, the angry mob in hot pursuit. When he got to his car and slammed the door, the gas station clerk banged into it and pounded on his window. Sebastian was shaking as he fumbled with the keys. He had no idea what was happening or why. “Leave me alone!” he screamed. “You’re all insane.”

When he drove away, he realized he wasn’t going to get far since he didn’t actually get the gas he went there for. He also realized that in his fear for his life, he had accidentally stolen the Mountain Dew. He would have gone back and paid for it if he didn’t believe they would rip him to pieces for doing so. Sebastian couldn’t figure out what was going on. He drove to work, deciding to get gas later. When he entered, the woman at the front desk looked at him like he was wielding an axe. She trembled and took out her phone.

“Are you serious?” Jack said to him. Jack and Sebastian had worked together for the better part of a decade. They even hung out outside of work from time to time.

“Serious?” Sebastian questioned.

“You’re just gonna show up here?” Jack asked harshly. “It’s all over the news, you freak. We know what you’ve done.”

Someone came charging at him, madness and violence written all over them. Sebastian turned and ran. “What have I done?” he said out loud as he ran.

“Murderer!” a woman screamed before throwing her fountain drink at him. It crashed into the car door as he slammed it shut after clambering in. As Sebastian drove away he heard the sirens. He knew he couldn’t go home. They would be looking for him there even if he had no idea why. He couldn’t go anywhere he normally went, anywhere they would expect him to go. They would be looking for his car as well, probably already had an APB on it. He was almost out of gas anyway. Sebastian drove onto the parkway and ditched the car, rolling it off of an embankment. He stuck to the hiking trails, terrified and confused. He stole a backpack from some campers and put on clothes and a hat that he would never have worn before. He had grown a beard and hoped it would be enough.

When Sebastian rejoined society, it was for food. He was standing in line when he saw the TV, the news report, the tales of the terrible things done to those children and the picture of the killer, the picture of him. Sebastian felt nauseous. He ran to the bathroom and vomited what little he’d had to eat in the past few days. The thing that everyone thought he did was the worst thing he could ever imagine, and the worst part was, he saw the report himself, the surveillance footage, the screenshot, and it was definitely him. He didn’t understand how it was possible. He knew it wasn’t him. It couldn’t be him. He didn’t have any blackouts or lost time. He wasn’t capable of violence, certainly not violence upon children, but no one was going to believe that. Why would they? The TV was showing them all his face and saying he did it. They were giving horrible sickening details. If Sebastian didn’t know better, he would chase him down with a pitchfork too. Somehow, for some reason, someone had set him up, and he needed to know who, to know why they chose him, what he had done. His life was over. He was never going to get it back. He needed to understand why. It was that need to understand that drove him to this very moment where he stared at trick-or-treaters through a broken witch mask prepared to commit the type of violence they all already believed him capable of.

When he’d left the gas station, Sebastian knew he had to get away, and he had to be careful, consider every single move he made, or he was going to get caught and killed before he could discover the truth. The man who had only accidentally stolen a Mountain Dew when people were attacking him, now stole a car and another car’s license plates to put on it. He used a library computer to find out everything he could about the crimes he supposedly committed. The details sent him running back to the bathroom. He found some pictures online and wished he didn’t. How anyone could do that to a child was beyond his comprehension. How anyone could think him capable of such atrocities…

Sebastian tried to find out if anything like this had happened before and discovered that it had, with a different killer each time. It was always at Halloween, children stolen and eaten like a lamb that a wolf had gotten a hold of. Copycats of the original that went all the way back to 1978. Sebastian knew it was more though. It was something else, because he knew that he didn’t do this, but there was no denying that the still frames and footage was of him. It could be a deep fake but that technology was pretty new. What if none of the people caught and sentenced to death had committed the crimes? They weren’t using deep fakes in 1978. What the hell was going on then?

Sebastian realized that the killer was on the move, going from city to city, state to state leaving open carcasses in their wake. It helped him to realize where it was going to go next. He traced his finger across the map on the screen following their path. The police could do the same thing, but they were looking for him and he had been seen here. He had to hunt the killer while the whole world hunted for him. It shouldn’t be hard to find him. He was looking for himself.

Sebastian finally did find the thing when it found Elsa. He got to see up close and personal what it did to its victims then, to its food. He had never seen so much blood and from someone so small. It was the sheer shock of it that kept the bile down. Sebastian chased it, chased himself, or the demon or whatever that thing was that wore his face and looked up at him over the mutilated body, blood running in rivers from the corners of its mouth. It chewed violently like it didn’t have the teeth for it. Sebastian tried to shoot it. It was bizarre, like a bad dream, shooting at yourself. He missed and to this moment wondered if it had truly been an accident, even after the terrible things he witnessed.

Elliot was a wild man. He thought there was some kind of alien invasion, a clone army that massacred his daughter. He joined the hunt trying to kill both the Sebastians, screaming like an animal. It was primal agonizing grief turned into rage. Sebastian understood him and accepted that he might die there that day. He didn’t give up the chase for the other him, even  as the heartbroken father slashed at him with a kitchen knife and bellowed promises of murder.

Sebastian was forced to flee when the police came. He watched from the trees as the copy of him changed to look identical to one of the officers at the scene. It evaded Elliot and walked right by everyone. Elliot had seen it change too and as Sebastian listened from the trees, he tried to tell the other cops that one of them wasn’t real, that there was an imposter among them, but he just sounded like a crazy person. They chalked it up to grief. They tried to take him to the hospital, to help him deal with the trauma but he refused to go. They threatened to take him by force and the sickened father sobered quickly. “I’ll go myself when I’m ready,” he told them. “For now I just need to be here. Please. I need to be here.”

Sebastian waited until the cops were long gone before he came out of hiding, only to discover that Elliot was waiting on him, butcher knife in hand. Sebastian raised his arms defensively. “I tried to stop it, to kill it. You saw me. You saw it change into the cop. I know you did. It stole your daughter and it stole my face and with it, my entire life. I’ve got nothing left.”

“Then let’s go,” Elliot said, his eyes blazing with the fire of vengeance. “Let’s kill it. I want it to suffer, to feel pain as terrible as the pain it left me with. Help me do it.”

They tracked it for days, caught up to it twice and still had yet to bring it down. Judging by what Sebastian had read, the killings happened the whole week leading up to Halloween, the final murders being Halloween night. That meant if they didn’t find this thing tonight, they would have to wait another year. Sebastian didn’t know if he could evade the authorities that long. He would end up on death row just like the people before him, people whose lives this thing stole in order to continue feeding itself gluttonously on the meat of the innocent. Sebastian couldn’t stand the thought. He couldn’t let it get away again. So many years, so many children, so many lives ruined. No. It had to end tonight.

Sebastian was still in his mind, following the walking families and running kids, listening to the screams of terror and the laughter of people having fun getting scared, when something caught his attention. A three foot tall Spiderman was yelling that someone stole his candy. When Sebastian looked that way, he saw a bigger kid in full medieval regalia laughing at the smaller child and waving his bag of candy at him as he slowly backed onto the dark side street behind him, shrouded by trees.

It could have been just ordinary run of the mill bullying but the way he seemed to be intentionally luring the other child away from the crowd struck fear into Sebastian. He had to be sure. Sebastian moved between people, weaved through the ever moving bustle and flow of Halloween night partiers, and hurried over to where he saw the children arguing. As he was drawing near, Spiderman followed the warrior into the darkness and disappeared from sight. Sebastian practically shoved people out of his way as he raced to make sure the pint sized super hero didn’t wind up like Elsa and the others. “Move!” he shouted. “Move, dammit!”

When he got to the side street he’d seen the boys go down, Sebastian found nothing but dark houses unwilling to participate in the holiday, not a decoration in sight. Aside from the gloom of the occasional street lamp everything was bathed in shadow. It was like stepping into a different world after fighting his way through the festive crowd on the main road. The contrast alone was enough to take Sebastian’s breath away and make his heart beat faster.

He saw something on the ground up ahead but he couldn’t tell what it was in the dark. He approached it with caution., his eyes watching the shadows nervously as he went. When he reached it and bent down for closer inspection, Sebastian sighed. His chest felt tight as he grabbed the Spiderman mask in his fist and stood back up. “Where are you?” he said quietly as he took a step further, then another. He looked at the houses for some sign of where the child had gone. As he walked he silently prayed for the kid, hoping to God that he wasn’t being ingested.

Sebastian took two more steps and froze. He heard a gunshot. It came from the other direction, the way Elliot had run. Sebastian looked back that way and then looked once again at the dark houses, neither child anywhere that he could see. “Shit,” he said, kicking a nearby tree. “Dammit.”

He said another silent prayer as he turned and ran back the way he’d come. As he hurried between the costumed partygoers screams pierced the night that didn’t sound like kids having fun. They were blood curdling, filled with real terror. Then people were shouting. As Sebastian drew closer he heard people crying. Sebastian slowed down. He walked between the monsters, ghouls, ghosts, and heroes. Someone was lying on the ground. People were squatting nearby. Others were pacing. Some were hugging, sobbing. There were sirens in the distance.

Time seemed to slow, the sound of the howling holiday night being sucked away into a vacuum. Sebastian grabbed a vampire’s shoulder and moved them out of his way. Instinctively he put his hand over his mouth, covering the witch mask. On the ground before him was the boy in the skull mask, his chest pumping crimson like a gimmick Halloween fountain. Beside him, Elliot was on his knees. The gun was on the ground by his leg.

“He just walked up and shot him,’ a crying woman in a Wonder Woman costume said. “He just shot that boy for no reason.”

Sebastian looked at her and then glanced back down at Elliot who was crying and pressing his hands over the young man’s blood pumping chest, trying his best to put pressure and staunch the flow. Elliot must have felt his gaze. He looked up at Sebastian. “I – I thought it was him,” he said. “Oh God, I thought it was him.”

Sebastian said nothing. He didn’t know what to say and he wanted to be careful. If he spoke like he knew the shooter, he could be seen as an accomplice. Before long they would recognize him. The real monster would escape if he hadn’t already. As he stood there in silence though, tears fell from his eyes and disappeared into his beard behind the green plastic mask.

“This was somebody’s kid, like my Elsa,” Elliot sobbed as he pushed on the teenager’s chest with all his might. “I took somebody’s kid.”

Sebastian stepped backwards and let the vampire fall back into place, comforting a nearby mummy. He felt for Elliot but there was nothing he could do for him now. He should have gone to the hospital the first night when the police wanted him to. Sebastian should never have let him come. For that, he felt responsible. If the guy wasn’t completely lost before, he would be now for sure. Elliot didn’t deserve to go to prison, but Sebastian didn’t see any way he would end up anywhere else. Sebastian didn’t want to join him, and he would if he hung around. He reached a hand under the cracked plastic mask and wiped his eyes. Then he hurried back the other direction.

I should have stayed, Sebastian thought. He knew he was on the shapeshifter’s trail, but he left to see what the gunshot was and now two boys were probably dead instead of just one. He turned the corner onto the dark sidestreet he had  been on minutes ago and there was no more sound or action than there had been when he left. He walked swiftly this time despite the fear that tugged at his heart. His eyes traced the shadows as he moved. He wondered if he should have tried to get the gun before coming back here. There were too many watching eyes though. Someone would have probably tackled him or grabbed him or at least screamed that he was trying to get the gun. There’s no way it would have ended well. Unfortunately, now he was unarmed and if he found the thing he sought, he had no idea how he planned to stop it. He would have to figure it out, but first he had to find it.

There was one house with a light on. Was that a sign of where the thing was or where it wasn’t? Sebastian chewed on his lip. He took a deep breath and headed that way. He was standing at the bottom of the porch when something crashed behind him. He whirled around to see an overturned garbage can and a raccoon that hissed in anger at him before scampering away.

From behind him a voice said, “We’re not giving out candy and aren’t you too old for trick or treating anyway?”

Sebastian turned to face them, staring through his witch mask. “Yeah. Sorry. I’m looking for my little brother. He came down this way. He’s in a Spiderman costume. Have you seen him?”

“Nope. Just you.” Before Sebastian could say anything else, the guy went back into his house and shut the door, surely locking it. Sebastian sighed in frustration. The broken mask was still scratching and pinching him. It was starting to drive him crazy. He wanted to scream, to call out for the boy, but it would probably just draw more angry people from their houses to question him. One might even call the police. Sebastian didn’t know what to do.

He didn’t know for sure the thing was even here. It had been doing this a long time. Surely it had a plan. Maybe there was a car and it took the boy somewhere else. Maybe it had access to one of these houses. It could have killed the person that lived there or maybe even lived there himself during the offseason. Sebastian had no idea. It could have been… wait…what was that?

Sebastian spotted something out of the corner of his eye. He ran over to the sewer grate and grabbed the tiny superhero’s still-full bag of candy, cussing as he lifted it. There were spots of blood decorating the plastic. Wherever the thing was, it definitely had the boy. Sebastian let out an exasperated sigh as he dropped the candy bag back to the blacktop. Where the hell are you? He thought, looking around in every direction. He turned in a slow circle. Come on. I know you’re here somewhere.

Sebastian took a step and stopped. He felt something crush under his foot. Stepping backwards, he looked down and saw a spot of orange on the shadow covered pavement. Looking around nervously, he squatted down to inspect it more closely. It looked to be a piece of taffy. He was still holding it, rubbing it between thumb and forefinger when he saw a Tootsie Roll up ahead. Sebastian dropped the taffy. He tore the witch mask off. He didn’t think he needed it on this street, the small eye holes were making it hard to see in the dim light, and the cracked plastic pinching him was beginning to drive him mad.

Staying low, he inched over to the other piece of candy. He was never fond of them, too chewy, but they used to be his brother’s favorite when they were kids.Sebastian wondered if his brother had seen the reports on TV. What was he thinking right now? How fast would he turn if Sebastian showed up looking for help. As fast as everyone else, he thought. No matter how close people were, there were lines you couldn’t cross and hurting children was one of them. If the roles were reversed, Sebastian knew that he would never give anyone the time of day if they tried to explain themselves either. If they came with some insane story of a shape shifting monster, he would probably just punch them in the face. The images of the grisly crime scenes returned to his mind and he closed his eyes against them, grimacing. He turned his head and squeezed his hands into tight fists until the nausea subsided.

When Sebastian opened his eyes he took a deep breath. No. There were no allies to be found. After what they said he did, what the thing he was chasing actually did, there wasn’t a soul in the entire world that would allow him two minutes to speak. Elliot was the best he could hope for, someone who had seen the truth with their own eyes, and he was most likely already on his way to jail or the hospital. It was suddenly clear to Sebastian just how alone he was, and would always be from this point on. Focus, he told himself.

Was the candy dropped before the bag landed where he found it or could the kid have kept some? Maybe it was a trail. That would be smart. Sebastian’s mom used to tell him things like that when he was young. She was terrified of him being taken and always had all these safety measures and plans in place. To this day, he tended to hold his key between his fingers when he walked alone at night, just in case. He was doing it now. He supposed this kid could have had a similar experience, or maybe even seen something on TV. A trail of breadcrumbs. That was a thing, he was sure of it.

Sebastian looked ahead, squinting through the dark for another piece of candy. He grinned when he saw one and moved quicker now. Maybe it wasn’t too late and he could still find the kid. There was a roll of Smarties that looked like they’d already been stepped on and up a head was a Mr. Goodbar. They had always been one of his favorites. He remembered being a kid and dumping his bag out and feeling like he’d found a gold bullion when he saw the familiar yellow wrapping.

The candy kept going and so did Sebastian. He was so focused on it that he didn’t even think about the fact that he was going off the road. He followed the trail through grass and dirt around the side of a dull green house before he realized what he was doing. He tensed and slowed down as he neared the backyard. He couldn’t see anything back there. The street light didn’t reach and it was impossibly dark. Leafless trees caught in the autumn breeze swung at him like skeletal arms. Sebastian wanted to call out to the kid, but he feared it wasn’t the boy that would answer.

Also he had already encountered one less than friendly person on this street and didn’t need to wake another. Just because the house was dark didn’t mean that no one was home. His eyes were on the ground, pinned to the candy. He hadn’t noticed if there was a car in the driveway. His fingers toyed with the witch mask in his pocket for a moment. Then he took it out and put it over his head, letting it hang around his neck and rest on his chest. That way it was off of his face but he could put it on quickly if he needed to. Then he took a deep breath and holding his keys between his fingers, he surged forward into the darkness that was the backyard.

He was holding his breath, taking one step at a time. His eyes were now glued on the darkness before him, the candy forgotten. He saw nothing but shapes, what he imagined was a shed, and a nearby tree, a large propane grill, all ordinary things. He wished he could see the details.

Then he heard it, the chewing and slurping, the swallowing and coughing, spitting and tearing of the monster feeding. Sebastian looked down towards the sounds and two golden eyes like bright high beams shined at him in the dark. The light from those terrible eyes gave him the image of those awful rotting teeth spilling blood. The meal itself was shrouded in darkness and Sebastian was now incredibly thankful that he couldn’t see the details. The smell alone was enough to turn his stomach. He thought of the boy in the Spiderman mask and found himself quickly wiping his eyes.

The monster didn’t stop for him. It continued to eat, on all fours like a dog. Sebastian was suddenly overcome with anger. It overpowered his revulsion or was empowered by it, he wasn’t sure, but before he even realized what he was doing he was launching himself at the creature, car keys jutting out from between the fingers of his fist. The thing finally left its meal and rose up to meet him. They fell into the dark, a tangle of limbs. Sebastian was trying to stab the thing and it was trying to throw him off. They hit the grass, still struggling. Sebastian’s back landed in something sticky and he couldn’t hold back his scream. A light flicked on in one of the upstairs windows of the house.

Sebastian’s keys found flesh and the thing that ruined his life cried out. It was high pitched and strange, almost like the squeal of a possum. Then teeth found purchase on Sebastian’s shoulder. They were dull and hard and worked with incredible force to crush their way through the meat and bone. Sebastian moaned and whimpered, the pain almost unbearable. When the teeth released his butchered shoulder, he found himself looking up at a young woman with red hair and freckles. He wondered who she really was.

Sebastian looked away from the monster and the new face it wore to glance at the house behind them. More lights were on now and he could hear movement from within. He knew the thing would make its escape in a moment so he looked back at it or the girl that it wore. “Tell me why,” he said. “Why me? Why did you choose me?”

The girl’s freckled face shifted, twisted, bubbled and pulled until it was Sebastian’s own face staring back at him. It smiled. Then the face returned to the red headed girl. “Why not?” she said plainly.

A door slammed. The girl bent over Sebastian and took the witch mask from around his neck. He didn’t fight her. He was too busy watching as her body rippled like liquid and his keys fell from her side into the bloody grass.

“What the hell is going on here?” a woman said from behind him. “Who are you? What are you doing in my yard?”

Sebastian looked back at her and found himself squinting into a flashlight beam. He shielded himself with a bent arm. His lips moved but before they could make a sound, he heard another female voice. “It’s the guy from the news. I followed him here. He grabbed another kid. Please. You have to call the police.”

The beam of light moved off of Sebastian’s face and he turned, his eyes following it to the grass beside him. He wished he hadn’t looked but it was too late. The woman screamed as Sebastian turned his head and vomited, adding to the mess on her lawn. He heard her doing exactly as she was told. She spoke quickly, frantically. Sebastian knew the cops were already nearby after what happened with Elliot. It wouldn’t take them long.

He tried to scramble to his feet and slipped in the gore of the monster’s meal, falling back into the remains with a choked sob. In the quickly passing glow of the homeowner’s flashlight beam, Sebastian saw a redheaded girl smiling at him. She turned and walked towards the road, putting his witch mask on as she went. “Stop her!” he cried. “She’s the real killer. You can’t let her go!”

“Shut up, you monster!” the woman from the house yelled at him. “I watch the news.”

“Why would she catch me, tell you and just leave the scene?” he asked in a panic, slipping and sliding in the wet grass as he tried to get his footing. He heard the sirens. No, dammit. No. He had to catch the thing first, to put an end to this.

“She was probably scared or sick or both. You’re going to hell. They’re going to put you in the chair, you hear me,” the woman said as Sebastian stumbled past her. He could feel the wetness of the fresh kill all over him and he felt his sanity slipping. He just wanted to scream and sob forever, but instead, he charged towards the road. When he reached it, he found it to be brightly illuminated now by the spinning lights of several police cars. Sebastian skidded to a halt, but he looked around, his eyes darting every direction, searching for the redhead. Then he saw her in the distance, strutting purposefully back towards the main road and the dwindling celebration that inhabited it.

“No,” Sebastian said out loud. He heard the shouts, felt the guns on him. He just pointed down the road. “You have to stop her. Please. Oh God, please don’t let her go. It was her, it was all her.”

Then he was hit hard, his feet taken out from under him. His arms were twisted behind his back and his wrists seized tightly. People were yelling at him, telling him how awful he was, and how he was going to rot in prison. Sebastian just stared down the road at the fading image of the girl in the witch mask. He blinked and she was gone. Then he was being dragged to his feet and forced inside a car. The door slammed shut and he jumped. When the police officer got in the front, Sebastian started pleading his case again. “You have to believe me. I don’t care about myself. You can take me to jail all you want, but you have to get the girl, okay? Arrest the girl. She’s not who she seems. She’s not even human. Please.”

“Shut the hell up,” the cop commanded. The car started moving and went to the main road. Sebastian stared out the window as they passed the many sullen people in costumes, all looking shaken and traumatized since Elliot had ruined their festivities, canceling Halloween with one terrible mistake. They shuffled along like so many zombies or ghosts, heads hanging down. One such head turned to look back at him through a cracked witch mask.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Chisto Healy
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Chisto Healy

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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