When monsters grow up

David MacNeal

One night of the year we permit the inner villain to come out, like a horrible monster revealed at the end of a movie.

Fictional horror’mdash;whether in movies, books, or costumes’mdash;playfully scare us away from true world turmoil and degenerates. We reserve the right for spooks and candy. We earned it.

On Halloween 2005, there was a six-foot-tall, cardboard cut out of King Tut’s bejeweled and golden casket displayed in a See’s Candy store; it was begging to be stolen.

Everything was going according to plan: Matt, in full gorilla costume, drove his van to the second floor mall entrance; J.P. concealed his face and body with motocross gear; and I had black eyes, a tattered business suit, and green gruel crusted on my mouth’mdash;the perfect zombie.

The ‘inside woman,’ Liz, was working the counter, and she would text us when the Asst. Manager was in the back.

J.P. and I hovered above See’s Candy on the second floor, waiting for the word GO.

Minutes went by’hellip; and then some more, attracting security guards to us. We stood behind a mall directory in front of See’s, when finally the text was sent: ‘OK. come in quik!’

We darted for Tut. Running into that brightly lit store, more treats than a trick-er could ask for, we jostled our hands over the King, lifting the head and legs, and then’mdash;
‘What are you guys doing?’

It came from a stout man in a white button-down tee. (Didn’t see him squatting low to the ground shelving chocolate boxes.)

Later, I’ll learn that the ‘sent’ and ‘stored’ text times differ by three minutes’hellip; the delay courtesy of bad reception.

‘Do you need anything?’ said the Asst. Manager.

My friend Liz mouthed to me: ‘Take it now. Go!’

I began muttering, ‘Uh, just wanted’hellip;’

J.P. shook his head. And I awkwardly finished, ‘Just wanted’hellip; Happy Halloween.’

The truck screeched rapidly at the first floor entrance with a puzzled-looking gorilla at the wheel. We left empty handed’mdash;just a zombie with a heart and a gorilla with a clean conscious.

It’s not that Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, and Dario Argento didn’t make effective products. Certainly Fred Krueger and Pinhead would never be without job, forever delivering spine-prickling packages.

We just became oft-wandering trick-or-treaters slogging about for a good scare’mdash;emotionally anesthetized by the old ones.

Prosthetic noses, magic gum, a compact with five grim colors, and a white wig used to be enough, say, during an elementary school Halloween parade. Dressing up as an old man was odd and fun enough for a worthwhile Halloween day.

Gradually, tricks turned into vandalism. Treats turned into stealing. And parties became binge-drinking escapades of testing ones limit’mdash;trading bowls of candy for toilet bowls of vomit.

I envision a future with grown-up monsters schmoozing around the seasonal elegant culinary dish of the night (perhaps a pumpkin turkey ‘ghoulash’)’mdash;tailoring more towards the like of bohemian diplomats, musicians, writers and scientists’hellip; This, of course, until I have my own children to trick-or-treat with.

And I think that’s where the final transition lies: Bonding with each other through scares and jolts. My parents did that much for me.

In fact, we made our own haunted houses in the garage: live patients would scream on a gurney as we disemboweled them (using spaghetti and meat-filled condoms); strings would dangle in the pitch black, perturbing people as they pass through; limbs would be hacked off by real chainsaws, the smell of gasoline further unnerving them.

For a couple of years it became more important than Christmas. And I think someday it will again reach that level because, while buying a gift is quick and easy, a complex, intricate and malevolent scare is one that keeps on creeping.

I’m just a monster in search of a happy Halloween.