Forbidden Means Nothing
Hallowe’en’s my favourite holiday. Months before October, I get my Hallowe’en Feeling, a chill, a readiness. Probably because the dead leave the Afterlife to visit, or haunt. I hadn’t seen any, yet. Boo. I loved to draw spooky things: graveyards, haunted manors and stormy landscapes. My favourite crayon was midnight blue, perfect for twilight skies.
My brother also loved all things Hallowe’en, especially monster masks. He asked for one starting at age five. Dad refused until Frankie was ten and was found reading H.P. Lovecraft. Defeated, he took us to Hawthorne’s Horror Haberdashery. Reading was always rewarded. It was perfect: a haunted house with goodies we could study or buy. Frankie got a green spiky fish monster with pop-eyes. I, more subtle, got a blue-faced phantom wearing a cowl.
Something felt different this year. My Hallowe’en Feeling was tingling my nerves overtime, and I had dreams of little men with red hats, leathery small humanoid beings with stubs of wings on their backs, and a vast kingdom of tiny doll people with swords. Frankie and I hid in the wine cellar to trade dreams and premonitions, and found we’d both dreamed of the smallfolk.
“This is the year, Rook,” I said, using his secret club name.
“The Neighbourhood?” he asked, voice aquiver.
“Oh yeah. We’re even stronger, now. We can easily evade.”
We did a high five, and broke for lunch.
Evening. The full orange moon loomed close in the night sky. Frankie and I let out howls of delight. Mom was giving out candy this year, so we nagged Dad to stop reading and take us trick-or-treating. He was embarrassing; instead of a costume, he wore a sweatshirt saying Hallowe’en Costume, saggy blue jeans, sneakers. We got our baskets, looked at each other, and sprinted.
“Hey!” Dad called out. “You’re too young…”.
We were too far away to hear the rest.
Downhill to the forbidden neighbourhood, a densely forested area that scared almost everyone. As an owl hooted, we snuck through the open gates.
It was Hallowe’en perfection. Every house, painted in rich dark colours, was surrounded by iron fences, had gargoyles and stained glass windows. One chimney breathed purple smoke. Another was exactly like the Addams Family house. Even the inside, we noted as we passed some windows. A stone house with three fireplaces was partly underhill, the yard a tangle of pretty weeds.
We went trick-or-treating down the whole road, screaming, “Trick or treat! Candy or mischief!” Laughing, adults in cool costumes gave us chocolate, pixy stix, candy fangs, gummy worms and more. Children raced around us, all fully hidden in their costumes. One snorted as s/he passed by, and Rook leaned against me to whisper, “He had tusks, Crow!”
I believed him. This neighbourhood felt different, dangerous with a thousand secrets and people who were not…human. The idea didn’t scare me; in fact, I felt a little high on this new energy. It made me feel wild, like I could do anything I wanted.
Last house was the one partly underhill. Rook looked creeped out, and my spine shivered. Slowly we walked down the driveway, towards a little man sitting halfway down the drive, beer resting on his pot-belly and an actual coffin full of candy by his side. He had a rough face with a long pointed-up nose, wore a dirty undershirt, suspenders, baggy green slacks, muddy sneakers, and a rusty-looking knit cap that seemed to be leaking. Weird.
He gestured for us to come closer.
“No fear,” Rook and I agreed. Holding hands, we went to stand before this…man?
As we came closer, he stood and put down the beer that smelled too coppery to be beer. “And who are you two supposed to be?” he asked.
“I am the Phantom of the Blue Isles!” I said in a hoarse voice.
“I am a Deep One,” Frankie gurgled, crooking his head so his neck looked broken.
“Well, now! Aren’t you two far from home?” We giggled. “Do you know what I am?”
“An English bloke who watches too much telly?” Rook guessed. The man roared laughter.
“Someone respected in this whole neighbourhood,” I guessed.
He studied me, brows lowered, before he said, “I’m a Redcap! Do you know what a Redcap is?” He bared three rows of jagged teeth, and laughed so loud, the owls and whippoorwills silenced.
“Fir Bolg,” I said, grinning. “The shock troops who scare all the Fey. You wield long scythes and dip your caps in the blood of your enemies.”
“Most every human knows to avoid this area. How dare you invade our privacy? You are now game to be hunted.”
A small troupe of children came slinking up, casting aside their costumes to reveal themselves as utterly smooth beings who looked like cherubs. They were drooling. And not kids. The leader had crow’s feet and fine silver hair. I knew we were supposed to run, get caught.
Instead, Rook bowed deeply. “Kind sir, forgive our intrusion. We’ll leave…”. In a crazed voice, he finished, “If you give us all your caaaandy!” He made the mask’s eyes bug out even more.
Well, when in Rome. I made my nails turn to claws, growling with mask fangs turned real. Let’s see if Redcaps could handle being hunted.
The Redcap jammed his big beaky nose in my armpit and sniffed. Then he sniffed Frankie. “Interesting,” he said. “I never thought magi would break taboo.” He yelled, “Pax, everyone.” To us, “You’re welcome back. Your neighbours ain’t.” He raised a finger. “Now, shoo.”
We ran, but we both vowed to go back on another night. We had to Know.
Katy Lohman is a quirky, rather queer fantasy/horror writer and artist whose favorite questions are “What if?” and “Why?” She writes about the fae, dangerous angels, gods, demons and Things That Must Not Be Named. When not writing or drawing, she can be found researching various topics, reading, taking online classes, rolling dice, building decks and exploring Chicagoland. She has short stories published in Ugly Babies 3 and 47-16: Short Fiction and Poetry Inspired by David Bowie, Volume II. Her favorite angel is Raphael, her favorite god is Enki and her favorite DC character is Wonder Woman.