Ricky wasn’t evil, just desperate like the rest of us. He said we’d do it on Halloween. Said there’d be lots of blood. Said we’d be swimming in it. And because we wanted to believe him, because we were entirely thrilled by the idea, we went along with his plan.
This was in another time, a dark and disturbing future where world order was a localized treachery overseen by groups of so-called Elders.
Years and years before, the adults had stopped aging and we had, too. You were either the older age you were when the virus hit or you were young and stayed that way. At first our gang felt regal, being ensured eternal youth, but then we realized there were things older people enjoyed that we did not, entitlements that came with being a fully-realized grownup. Then the Elders grew jealous and cast us out. Not only that, but their envy became saturated with hatred. Slave traders sometimes used us in make-shift dog fights. The Constable and his cronies often scoured the woods, shooting in the dark and howling whenever one of us got hit and screamed. Food was what we could scrounge in the forest. We were young, but because of our youth we lived like savage animals.
At some point, a rumor went around that adult blood could be a tonic to thwart our predicament, freeing us from our constipated maturation. In the beginning it was just like the hopeful folklore we’d revisit around a campfire. But then Eddie Jarvis said that, years back, his Dad had got a nosebleed beating while him and, when Eddie inadvertently smeared some blood on his own hand, a change occurred. He showed us his old man hands, skin sagging by the knuckles, green veins bulging like string beans. My mouth watered at the sight. We couldn’t help but be jealous.
Ricky said, “Do you remember Halloween?” We remembered Christmas and Thanksgiving and even Easter but no one recalled Halloween until Ricky started to recount the holiday and how it worked, kids Trick-or-Treating freely in the neighborhoods. It seemed like a fantasy at first, the shroud of a shared dream we might have had, but once the details were described we recalled how it had been our favorite night, the dress-up part of it, the scads and scads of candy.
“They must have fucked with our memories,” Ricky said.
“Wouldn’t even let us have that,” someone said.
“Not even that.”
“When was Halloween?”
“In May, I think.”
“No,” someone said, “August.”
“Had to have been fall,” Ricky said. “I remember it got dark early. I remember it was cold and there were leaves on the ground.”
“Then when was it?”
No one knew.
Ricky beat his fists on the stones surrounding the fire pit, making the flames dance even more jaggedly. Blood spit into the fire and the fire hissed back and someone squealed and someone else starting dancing a jig, and before long we were all dancing like the barbarians we were thought to be.
When we were too exhausted to go on, we fell to the ground and lay there until Ricky shot up and shouted, “October 31st! That’s when Halloween was.”
“What’s the date now?”
We all watched Ricky concentrate. He rubbed his bloody hand across his cheeks as he thought, creating long red bolts on his skin. The image sent a shiver through me.
“It’s October 30th.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do. And you know what else I know?”
It might not have been precisely Halloween. Time—days, months, years—was something we never tracked since we assumed age was irrelevant. But it felt like Halloween. It felt wonderfully wicked.
That night, our October 31st, we traveled as a vicious pack. We were make-believe killers intent on real and certain bloodshed. For costumes, we relied on the evil we knew best, replicating our favorite demons: Samara from “The Ring;” Michael Myers from “Halloween;” Jason Voorhees from “Friday The 13th;” and me, Freddy Krueger, my face made up like rotting bologna, my hands fitted with syringe fingertips. I poked myself in the knee and watched a wound open up like a bleeding eye. Perfect.
If this worked, word would get around and by next year there’d be no more ragtag orphans living in the woods. The thought pleased me as none had. I didn’t want to be anyone’s hero, but I was also fed up with just being ostracized because of my youth.
The neighborhoods were dimly lit and mostly deserted, what with there being no kids around other than us. It felt eerie and exhilarating to be roaming them after so long. Inside the homes, through the drapery, we could see Elders seated on their sofas watching television. I was already angry, but to become more enraged, I jagged a spike through my knee. Ricky was looking, and when I yelped, he said, “That a boy, Fred.”
The first house belonged to Slater, a Chemistry teacher who used to ogle girls and let his hand linger on a girl’s while collecting homework. Samara slit his throat with a meat saw blade and Slater’s head dangled like a grizzly melon, a few stubborn tendons not letting go.
Next was the Constable. He tried to make a run for it, but Eddie stuck a screwdriver through his forehead and it popped like champagne. Eddie drove another shot deep into the man’s chest and that time it sounded meaty. A glob of pulp stuck to the end of the screwdriver as it was withdrawn. When the Constable flopped over, we angled his gushing spigot so that the blood poured into the jug we’d brought along.
I took my stepfather’s corneas out with my switchblade fingers and watched the egg-shaped eyeballs wiggle around his crimson splattered boots, recalling the times he’d kick me for not fetching his Coors fast enough. Blood washed in my stepfather’s flapping mouth. He gurgled something that sounded as if he was speaking Ukrainian or baby gibberish. I dipped my head and let his blood rain down on my hair.
The store-owner who used to take our order but never give us change back got hacked in half. It took four swings of a machete but it was worth it. I almost expected his two halves to try scurrying away and was somewhat disappointed when they didn’t. Still his Persian rug was flooded with scarlet in seconds.
For hours and hours we slaughtered. Did we feel guilty? No. We thought of ourselves as young “Dexter” types, justified vigilantes, killers killing the worst of our depraved society.
When we were finally through, we had enough blood to fill the shallow end of the public swimming pool. Under a bloated moon, we stripped naked and skinny dipped. The blood was thick and lumpy in places. We held our breath and went under. We held hands like a group of sky-divers. When we came to the surface we were each choking with laughter, blinded momentarily.
It happened faster than any of us expected. My body started to twist and crumple, bones going brittle. I cleared away the coating of blood from my eyes and saw that Eddie had turned ancient with a long, blood-matted hillbilly beard that continued to grow. Ricky looked like a bloody Confucius, only scrawny. When he saw me and the rest of us, he screamed, “Make it stop!”
We leapt out of the pool, but it was too late. At this rate, we’d be dead in a minute’s time.
“What do we do?”
Our weapons lay in a heap. I grabbed the machete and started swinging. The others did the same. It was a blizzard of blood, wetter than any monsoon. And still we swung. We swung until it was over and we were nothing more than ovaries and semen.
By Len Kuntz