Most of the time, candy is not the kind of reward kids think of when presented a conditional situation. Throughout the year, they are promised and granted toys, experiences, and allowances for their good behavior, good grades, and overall goody two-shoes persona. Halloween comes along once a year and negates all the virtue and instead rewards you with the vices of all flavors, shapes, and sizes. You dress up as the nightmares of your imagination, maybe as the ones that frighten you the most, like the Batman does, and face your fears by mocking it in costume. But I do not object to a sexy Headless Horseman or Bearded Lady (can you imagine the necking? Horrific!). Halloween has a lasting effect, more than for its annual ceremony, that stays behind long after the night is out.
The cool air in the unwilling bend of the trees sends the heat in your body to your ears. Leaves share gossip about your every footstep alongside the even louder silence, your only company. Your stomach talks back to you, echoing like a cavern. It says to borrow sugar from more than one neighbor. Neighbors leave no sign of life, not one sordid tenement in sight, except the kitsch decorations of mechanical zombies, scaffolding skeletons, toilet paper ghosts, glitter-covered, plastic pumpkins, and the occasional GO AWAY! or NO MORE CANDY signs that is or is not ironic at this hour. The freaks should have been prowling earlier by now. Less tricks and more treats for you.
With your pillow case in tow and resourceful costume on your back, the last minute holiday houses are ready to be greeted. The first is no different from the last; just a regular cookie-cutter piece of suburbia. Though this house has no decorations. Up the path to the front door is no front door. In its place is a cobweb of drapes and bed sheets that seem used. Another unoriginal, but still classic, sign that reads TAKE ONE is suspended above a wooden stool where a bowl of candy resides. I thought it was trick or treat, not trick and treat. Regardless, I knew better than to outwit this haunted house or escape the game of afterlife it led werewolves, vampires, and robots to their doom with. As these sweet tooth monsters approached the bowl and reached in for their edible prize, a voice pounded their heads as if a snare drum and tuba fought over volume and background noise. The sound equaled out and found its desired receivers. They did not like the message.
My older-kid-neighbor that outgrew candy, and found extracurricular joy out of scaring children half his age with his high school band's mic and speakers, found the one holiday he could enjoy without remorse and vicarious sentimentality. I had to pat myself on my undead shoulder for knowing a trap when I saw one, although the gimmick's scare never wore off the rest of the evening. Every doorstep I managed to reach had me looking for a hidden Wizard of Oz derelict from ever being used for evil again.
And that was the last year I took part in Halloween.