I scratched at the fur under my ripped and bloody shirt as I walked down the chilly streets of Rockford. The streetlights above flickered dimly as I stepped down the sidewalk. I thought wolves had good vision, but I could barely see a foot in front of myself; the night had already grown dark with the overhanging clouds, and the mask I was wearing only made it harder to see.
Sure, I could’ve taken the mask off, but I only had a few more hours before Halloween ended for the year. I would have to wait another whole year before spending time dreaming of other costumes only to settle again on the perfect one.
Besides, next year I would be twelve and maybe even too old to go out trick-or-treating again. Most other boys my age were already out TPing houses and playing pranks on the younger neighborhood kids. I had barely made it out of my house before having to dodge a flying egg. Behind me, the egg smacked the forehead of Betsy Ryan, a soft-spoken girl from my class, splattering all over her face and Bo Peep costume. Blood rolled from her forehead down to her face as she began to cry, taking her from a nursery rhyme to a zombie flick in a hurry. I had known the egg thrower well. He was my older brother, Tim.
Tim could be rotten, especially during Halloween, and I knew that egg had been meant for me. The next one wouldn’t miss. I ducked down behind a large bush and then ran along the alley behind the houses on Montgomery Street. I had to escape before Tim and his friends found me again.
I ran toward Leo Walters Memorial Park, the place I would meet my best friends, Carter and Christopher. As I neared, I saw the two fighting as usual, rolling around in the grass of the field. They were arguing over something—I’m sure trivial—as they seemed to do many times a day. The two were so different it was hard to believe they were related, let alone twins. Aside from their mismatched costumes, the two look almost identical except for Carter being a skosh taller than Chris.
“What are you two fighting about now?” I hollered as I glided toward them. The two stopped with their mouths agape and their fiery red hair tussled; both had and a hand on one another. On teleasing each other, their goofy crooked smiles lit up their faces. Their chubby, freckled cheeks were smudged with dirt from the damp grass.
“Chris started it,” Carter huffed as he straightened his cape and costume. “He was supposed to be going as Batman this year, so now I look like an idiot. I changed at school after detention and got here to see this mess!”
Carter motioned to the Jeff Gordon costume Chris was doing that was now crooked and grass stained on the knees. With a shrug of shoulders, Chris muttered an offhand reply: “I changed my mind.”
“You could’ve told me sooner so I could’ve changed my mind, too! Who picks Robin as their costume? Who wants to wander around just being the sidekick all night. I could’ve been Batman!”
“You’re always the sidekick so what’s the difference tonight?” Chris asked.
“Am not! Take it back!” Carter growled, clobbering his brother in the head and tackling him to the ground.
“Really guys?” I yelled. “Are we gonna stay here all night and fight or can we get some candy before all the good houses run out?” The boys stopped again and straightened out their costumes once more. Carter put his Robin mask back on, and Chris picked up his NASCAR helmet. With our pillowcases in hand, we began walking toward the golf course houses on the south end of town in hopes they hadn’t run out of full-sized candy bars.
“Your costume looks great this year, Russ,” Carter said, slapping me on the back as we walked the winding road to the golf course. “Must be a full moon behind those clouds. I wish our mom could make such a kickass costume!”
“Thanks, she really did go overboard this year,” I told them. My mother had spent nearly two months creating the werewolf costume of my dreams. I had mentioned that I wanted to be a werewolf for Halloween in July, and before I knew it she had all the supplies to make it and worked every evening to create a truly horrific monster, mask and all. The hairy monster I inhabited had claws and ripped jeans and a ripped shirt covered in fake blood. She made the teeth of the mask out of clay and placed them into the mask she had sculped out of soft foam and faux fur. She added blood to the ends of the teeth to make it even scarier than it was before.
It was probably the best costume in town. My mom had been so proud of her creation that I could hardly get her to stop taking photos before I left the house. I was equally as proud of the costume and couldn’t wait to show it off to the neighborhood.
The park was only a few blocks from the beginning of our annual trick-or-treating route. We strode quickly until we came upon the old Stainton House. So far every year we had taken the long way around to avoid walking past this house, and the last two years the three of us missed the best candy houses because it took us so long to get there. Even with our parents by our side, it was just too scary.
This was my first-year trick-or-treating without supervision, and I was not going to miss the good candy again, not this year. I certainly wasn’t going to let this imploding old house stop me. But Carter stopped dead in front of the house as Chris and I continued to walk.
From behind us: “Wwwait guys,” Carter stammered. I looked back to see him cemented to the sidewalk, his gaze locked upon the old decaying house.
“Not again, Carter,” I whined. “We’re not going around again. I don’t wanna miss the good candy this year!”
Carter shook his head confirming he would keep going but didn’t move. I turned to look to Chris for help, but he just shrugged his shoulders at me in his usual manner. I looked up at the creepy house. It was built in 1845 and was crumbling around itself. Every town has one of those old homes that is supposed to be haunted but is just the place that the older kids hide to sneak a smoke.
It wasn’t that the house didn’t scare me; I just had grown to realize the folklore I’d heard when I was small was probably bogus. I had heard many terrifying stories, but all of them I could poke holes the size of Wisconsin in. I wanted to be brave this year and make it past the house, and I needed to show Carter there was nothing to be afraid of. I stepped closer to the edge of the yard.
My brother had told me the scariest story of all about the Stainton House. I had been sure that the old man who’s built the house, Edwin Stainton, was a troll who still lived in the darkest corner of the basement. My brother told me he fed off children who grew too curious and entered the house.
Of course, at the time I was terrified of even looking at the house, but now I realized my brother was trying to keep me out of the house so I didn’t rat him out about his cigarette habit. This realization had come when I noticed nobody that went into the house had come up missing. Plus, I’d noticed my brother sneaking off to the house with his friends, a cigarette in hand as he entered.
I picked up a medium sized rock at the edge of the property and hucked it as hard as I could through the last standing front window of the house. It shattered to pieces and fell to the ground.
“What did you do that for?” Chris asked with a look of shock upon his usually smug face. While it wasn’t something I would ordinarily do, I needed to show Carter that the gnarled old wooden structure was nothing to be scared over.
“See, Carter, it’s just a crappy old house. Nothing to be afraid of.”
“If you say so,” he said and bravely took a step forward. The three of us continued by the house; our now brave little Boy Wonder never took his eyes off it until we rounded the corner to Willow Road, the beginning of our route.
As the sun had just begun to set behind the mountain, the three of us walked up and down the driveways following hordes of children in costumes. Some of the costumes we saw were store bought, some poorly made, and some outright scary. We begged for as much candy as homeowners would give out, and by the end of the night our pillowcases and bellies were full of delicious treats.
“We should probably be gettin’ home,” Carter said, looking down at his watch for the fiftieth time. It was past nine and my mom wanted me home in a half hour. I knew I would be grounded for sure if I didn’t hurry it up. The night had grown dark; the sky continued to hang heavy with clouds that threatened to rain. The moon was gone leaving nothing but the yellow glow of the streetlights to lead the way home. Most of the other kids had scattered back to their parents or home, leaving us on the empty road.
Chris and Carter only lived a street over from me, so we planned to walk home together. Unfortunately, we would have to walk by the Stainton House one more time. Now it stood in shadows dark and deserted; the sinister house sucked my breath away. Once the sun fell behind the mountain, it took all my bravery with it. The chirp of crickets filled the heavy air and the dim lights illuminated every creepy flaw the house had for us to see.
We walked slowly past the house in hopes that nothing would pop out from it. Even though my rational mind told me the house wasn’t really haunted, I couldn’t help but feel the heavy knot of fear in my gut. We were on the far side of the front yard mere feet from safety when we heard it.
A low growl came from the dark void between the looming Stainton house and the large shed that sat beside it. I couldn’t see what had caused the growl at first. The three of us stepped forward trying to see what had caused the noise. Before I knew what had happened, a monster sprinted toward us from between the crumbling structures.
It was him, the troll of Stainton House, Mr. Edwin Stainton himself. He had green, curly teeth and red angry eyes as he ran toward us. The three of us dropped our loot and bolted in different directions in hopes of escaping certain death.
I ran for blocks before I was brave enough to look back. Once I finally did, I saw nothing. The monster was gone, but so was the candy and my friends. I hoped that Carter and Chris had made it home and hadn’t been gobbled up by the monster. I couldn’t believe what I had witnessed and wondered if anyone would believe my story the next day.
I planned on calling the twins when I reached my house to make sure they made it home all right. I once again hoped that they did. Perhaps the monster would be happy with the large offering of candy we had abandoned in the road during our dash for safety.
I tugged at my shirt for warmth as I continued walking home. The streets in my neighborhood had grown quiet; most of the other kids had gone home and the lights were turning off all around me. Trick-or-treat was over and it was nearly time for bed; after all, it was a school night.
I passed by Principal Hurley’s elaborately decorated home. Every year Principal Hurley decorated her house with orange lights and giant spiders that lined the walkway and her wooden face leading into her yard. She always sat upon her porch in an old creaky rocking chair and handed out candy. Each year she dressed as a different Dr. Seuss character. Last year she and the fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Brightwell, were Thing One and Thing Two. This year she dressed up as the Lorax.
I was only two streets away and felt safe from danger as I neared my home stretch. I knew I was already in trouble for being five minutes late, so I let my mind worry about the excuse I would come up with for my tardiness in hopes of a lesser punishment. My mom would never believe the truth!
I came upon my street when I heard a rustling in the bushes of the corner house. I stopped, turned, stepping backwards past them. That’s when I heard it, that low growl we’d heard back at the Stainton House. IT had followed me; IT had found me! My heart jumped into my throat as the tall figure of the troll rose from the bushes. Stumbling backwards I turned, caught my balance, and began to run as fast as my short legs could carry me. The troll continued after me close on my heels, its footfalls gaining distance, now right behind me. I knew I would never make it home to safety before the monster gobbled me up.
As I entered my yard, I realized I now heard just one set—only my own desperate footfalls—then wham! a force slammed my back, propelling me forward as arms surrounded me and we flew through the air. The troll rode me to the ground, tackled me hard in the grass, then yanked my mask from my head. “Tim!” I could see my brother’s tan Camry parked on the curb, so I began to holler in hopes he would come out and save me.
“Tim, help me!” I cried out to no avail. The monster pinned me down. I closed my eyes, so I didn’t have to look the disgusting monster in the face. I begged, “Please don’t eat me!”
That’s when the troll laughed. He let go of my hands and began to laugh harder. The monster rolled off my back, his belly jiggling with laughter. I sat up confused. Why was the monster laughing? But that’s when I realized—I knew that laugh. I jerked the terrifying troll mask off the monster to reveal Tim beneath it. His long, dark hair was pulled back and his face was warped in laughter.
“What a rotten thing to do, Tim!” I yelled at him.
“But the look on your face was hilarious, Russ. You should’ve seen it. You and your goofy friends ran like little babies!” he laughed.
“You made us drop all of our candy!” I growled before hitting him on the head with his mask.
“It’s in the car, you twerp,” he said pulling me to the ground for his famous noogie. “You can give the other two dorks their candy in the morning.”
“Where did you get this costume from?”
“You thought you were the only one mom would make a costume for?”
“Right, no wonder it was so scary!”
“I’m sorry, Russ, but I had to give you a good scare this Halloween. Soon you’ll be too big to scare.”
“Thanks, Tim, but I think you may have scarred Carter and Chris for life.”
“Are you gonna tell them it was me?”
“Not a chance,” I laughed, and to this day Carter and Chris think the Stainton House is the home of a twisted tooth troll waiting to devour them.