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Halloween: When the Masks Come Off

Halloween when the masks come off


Estimated reading time β€” 17 minutes

It has been a long time since I reveled in the fears of those I used to prey on. It could be said that I reformed from my old ways. Well, the old ways of my kind. Not just my own. There was a time when I enjoyed the hunt even more than the meal, but I suppose I matured sometime over the centuries.

Oh yes, I am ancient. Ancient to your perception of the word, anyway. To my kind, I am still quite young, and there are even far older things than us, I can promise you that. Humanity has barely scraped the surface of the mysteries this world truly holds, and mine are only slightly ahead of you in such knowledge, truth be told.

There are many things that you got right about us, yet so many that you have gotten wrong. First and foremost, we are not attractive by your standards. To my people, I am a fairly average-looking individual; one who can easily blend into a crowd. I would find it significantly more difficult to blend in with your people, but it can be done.

It does take focus, mind you. We are not shapeshifters, but we can influence how you see us. It was not easy at first, but I have grown quite talented in the act as I do enjoy walking in the human world when I can. Perhaps that is what led to my, shall we call it rehabilitation? Oh yes, in my younger years, I would feast on you by the dozens without batting an eye. Over time, however, I think humankind began to grow on me.

It was the children, I believe. Regardless of how sinister I may have appeared in your eyes, I would never feed on a child. Even when I saw you as little more than cattle, I could never end the life of an innocent. Perhaps I just never had the appetite for the taste of the pure of heart. It could be that the dregs of humanity have a more potent flavor.

That being said, I will not pretend that I have never quenched my appetite on a harmless adult. Very few were off limits to me in my youth as I considered your kind beneath me.

Though there are aspects of society that still disgust and confuse me, I no longer think of you all in such a manner. There are some, of course, but I no longer take the life of anyone unless I feel that they deserve it. There will always be filth to serve my needs, and I do enjoy the flavor.

It has probably been some three hundred years or so since I adjusted my outlook. I even took a human mate, for a time. Her children were a delight to spend time with, even though they could see behind my illusion; perhaps not the entirety of the real me, so to speak. Pure hearts can figure out the truth of things so much easier than the corrupt.

Adulthood inherently brings with it a certain degree of corruption to even the most innocent of souls. It is just the nature of things, I would think. We see the world for what it is when we grow up, no longer just how we want it to be.

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I grew very fond of Abigail, my mortal companion, and her two little ones. I stayed with them for many years, but ultimately I would leave them before the years weaved their unfortunate spells on the frail, mortal shell.

I think it was curiosity more than anything that led me to live in the mortal world for those years. I was fascinated by your ways, though I did not fully understand them. My people have little in the way of emotions, though we are not blank slates, as many would believe. I think we have many aspects that would appear quite foreign to you, aside from just the obvious, physical appearance.

We do not age in the same manner that you do, I suppose that can be taken for granted from the words I have spoken so far. We do have diseases and mental ailments, but they differ greatly from anything you could relate to. Another misconception about us is that we can not transform your kind into ours. Our blood can carry pathogens that can lead mortals to crave that which we feed on, but it is more of a condition than an alteration. It frees the soul from the body leaving only a walking shell. This remaining husk requires living sustenance to survive.

My community has actually taken great offense to cults that have formed from such a disease. They would claim to be our equals, but they have no manner of understanding how far off they are in their assessment. Yes, should they continue to feed, they will live indefinitely. Surely they will be more impervious to bodily harm, along with the ability to heal certain wounds after suffering damage. It is still something more likened to donning a costume and playing a part than becoming anything like my kind.

We can go without feeding for many years, should we choose. Unfortunately, this would render us with similar weaknesses to those of your kind, but it has been known to happen. We can even feast on the traditional delicacies of the mortal world should we choose, though we would reap little benefits from it. I must confess, I am quite fond of such things as your fried chicken and the occasional steak.

Although I do like to walk amongst your people, the focus it takes to keep my appearance hidden requires a great deal of effort the longer I maintain it. This is why I have grown to thoroughly enjoy the festivities of All Hallows Eve. It is the only time of the year that I can allow my true face to be observed and cause no more than a fleeting fright to those who may look upon it. It is a manner l of freedom that my kind rarely gets to experience.

I like walking the streets and enjoying the laughter of the children, though I find my eyes rolling at the sight of the older youths. The late teenage girls dressed in their skimpiest outfits regardless of how cold the outside air feels to them. The teenage boys wearing idiotic parody costumes that only serve to make fun of others. The smaller children show so much more class than the older ones.

In recent years, there has grown an unsettling trend amongst some of the young people who attend a nearby university. They have proven to be quite the foul and useless examples of humanity who only enjoy bringing anguish to others. I have observed them from a distance over the months, in an attempt to understand their motivations.

They call their actions ‘practical jokes’, and they even record them on their little devices that are rarely far from their grasp. They publish their clips on a variety of your internet pages, and I have observed others marvel at their works. I watch your world and attempt to understand your ways, but some things make very little sense to me. I must say, though, I have grown quite fond of your world wide web.

Many of my peers mock my interest in your society, but most of them still cling to the old ways. They see you as little less than animals who have overtaken the land and forced us underground. I have attempted to convince them that we may still share the surface world, but they refuse to use our inherent abilities to blend in amongst you.

They know all too well how mankind treats those they do not understand, and we have lost legions over the centuries to your fearful throngs. Those tales may lie in your books of fables and myths, but they show so much more clearly in our encyclopedias.

Regardless of our shared history, I bear you no ill will. Were my kind greater in number though, I imagine they would force all of you away from the light and into the caverns that we dwell within. There are so few of us left and I believe it would be best if we could find a common ground after all these years.

The group of miscreants I spoke of, apparently grew tired of badgering their own peers and set their sights on the children of this city. As the Halloween season approached, I witnessed some of the youths in masks, leaping from trees to terrify young boys and girls who happen by.

They succeeded in causing a little girl to cry while I watched on from the shadows one evening. She fell to the ground and tore a deep gash into the flesh of her little knee. She wept while a taller child, presumably her sibling crouched beside her in an attempt to calm her down. The teenagers in the grotesque masks only laughed at the two of them and slapped their hands together, seemingly celebrating their defeat of such an innocent victim.

I donned my most innocent and friendly face before making my way out of the darkness to greet them. I attempted to reason with the older youths and convince them that scaring little ones was no way to feel better about their own miserable lives. This only served to bring them more levity as they strolled away, reveling in their victory.

I helped the crying little girl back to her feet and attempted to assist her brother in calming her down. Unfortunately, I only scared her more at first. She could see the shadow behind my veil, though just a hint of it. After a moment, she could sense that I meant her no harm, and she offered me a delightful smile for my efforts.

She asked me what I was; an inquiry which caused her brother to study me more. He also saw beneath my mask, but he too did not flee in terror. I basked in their wonderful presence over the passage of mere moments in time as I escorted them back to their home, after a small stop off at a nearby ice cream shop.

It is truly magical to me that children can have the ability to see beneath the flesh. I know my appearance can tear into the bravest of men, but to a child, I am but a curiosity. Before I bid the two goodnight, they spoke of the variety of attacks these immature teenagers had been inflicting on others. It had become a tradition of theirs, these past few Halloween seasons.

The two children seemed to regain their fear of me for a moment when I bit into my thumb before their eyes. I had learned to control the toxins running through my veins over the centuries, so I would be able to repress any contagions should I choose. I allowed one single drip to fall from my fingertip into the little girl’s open wound. She and her brother marveled at the sight of her gash closing shut, leaving no scar behind or any trace of damage to her flesh.

She wrapped her tiny arms around my neck and rewarded me with a small peck of her lips on my scaled and hardened cheek. This caused a warmth to spread through my chest that I had not felt since I played in the fields with Abigail’s son and daughter so many years before. I assured the two that the pranksters would learn the error of their ways very soon.

I continued to observe the group of older teenagers over the following days. I watched from afar as they harassed so many more of the town’s children. I watched on while the five of them laughed so much harder when they caused the little ones to fall to the ground. I felt a rage build from within me that I had not felt in decades.

Though their actions angered me, I had no intention of bringing them any more than a simple fright. That was until they provoked a throng of small children to flee from their display, causing a few of them to slip and fall down a nearby hill. The two small boys and one little girl became silent when they made contact with the ground below. I leaped down after them still hearing the laughter of their attackers from above.

My bloodlust boiled over and I fought against the building urge to strike.

I reached the trio on the lumpy ground at the base of the hill. All of them had gashes and cuts across their faces and limbs. The smaller boy had broken both of his legs, while the other boy and girl had suffered fractures of wrists and shins.

Once more, I allowed droplets of my blood to fall into open wounds. Their small bodies contorted as they repaired themselves from within. Though the bones would heal, I had to assist in snapping them back into place before my blood fixed them at the unusual angles they lay in.

Though the three were unconscious, they still winced and moaned from the pain I was forced to inflict upon them. This was only to help them, but I still felt a stab of guilt for causing them harm. The children would heal and remain unaware of my involvement, but this would not quench my thirst for vengeance. Perhaps I would return to the old ways one last time.

The night of Halloween arrived, and the hateful teenagers spread their malice to any children who crossed their path. I followed close behind, having taken the form of vapor to remain unseen. Every fright they caused and every torment they provided only served to fuel my rage.

I would stalk them through the night, but I would not strike until they were away from the children. I fought against my desire to shred their throats in front of the little ones, but my intent was not to traumatize the innocent. Still, their simple pranks may seem trivial to some, but to a child, they cut so much deeper.

The pack of hooligans made their way into the woods. Perhaps they sought to find more prey behind the cover of the trees. Maybe they had their fill for the night and decided to talk the shorter route back to their dorm rooms. Their reasons made no matter to me. This would be where I would strike. They enjoyed bringing fear to the innocent, but I adored providing terror to the hateful.

I followed behind, still in my misty form. I reached out to snap the occasional tree branch to revel in their alarmed glances behind them. All five were draped in tattered robes and rubbery masks. The tallest one pulled off his face covering to reveal widened eyes when I snapped a long branch from a tree only feet behind them. As they quickened their pace, I knew my plan was proving fruitful.

I spread my vaporous form as widely as I could to sever a circle of dry rotted limbs around them. They all cascaded to the ground, landing in intermittent intervals after bouncing in and out of other branches on their descent. The quintuplet stopped and darted their heads around them in all directions.

They spoke softly to each other as they turned around, seemingly intent on making their way back out of the forest. They moved quickly, but I moved faster. I scattered limbs before them and to their sides, causing them to travel the path that I desired. They would not be leaving this forest until I was finished with them.

With my guidance, they buried themselves deeper into the dense woods until I was satisfied they were safely away from prying eyes. Now the bloodletting could begin.

They had all pulled off their masks as the rubbery material had apparently restricted their flow of oxygen while their pace hastened. This was good. I wanted to see the expressions on their faces. I severed one last small and slender tree branch and sent it flying towards the tall one who was the first to remove his false face.

He screamed in delicious agony when the jagged limb penetrated his left thigh. I made sure to avoid any arteries as I had not yet decided if they would be allowed to survive this encounter. The boy fell to his knees, gripping his hands tightly around his leaking wound. The other four ran to his side while darting their eyes across the darkened trees.

I wanted so badly to make my appearance and introduce them all to a horror they could not fathom, but the moment had not arrived just yet. They still sought rational explanations for the broken slice of wood that sprouted from the oozing thigh. I split a variety of many sizes of limbs, causing them to shatter into splinters. I rained them down upon the five waiting victims like a storm that had erupted from above them.

They all screamed in unison as thorned slivers buried into their flesh bringing thin streams of crimson to leak slowly down their faces and arms. The thin strips were not strong enough to penetrate their extravagant clothing, but severe damage was not the purpose of this. Oh yes. They were afraid now.

They screamed into the night as they gathered their friend from the forest floor. They all wore wounds now, but none were significant enough to cause any more than light scarring. They all fled in the same direction and it was just about time for me to introduce myself.

Though my body was gaseous at the moment, I could still feel the tingles of anticipation. It had been so long since I hunted for anything more than sustenance, I forgot how thrilling it could be.

I shot ahead of them to prepare for my arrival. Turning myself to vapor did not allow my body to be clothed as inorganic material could not be transformed. Somehow I thought my nudity would be just as unsettling to my prey as my scaled flesh.

What would they notice first, I wondered. Would it be my yellowed eyes glowing in the moonlight? Perhaps my rows of jagged teeth behind the greyed flesh of my lips? The claws that tore through the skin of my elbows and knees, or the twin spikes of my shoulders? It may even be the talons on the tips of my three-fingered and dual-thumbed hands that would catch their eye. I was enjoying this way more than I expected.

I stood several yards in front of them when I made my body corporeal again. Transforming back to the flesh would always leave my skin slick and moist as though layered in sweat. I held my arms slightly outwards with my talons spread wide, keeping my head lowered so that my thick, dark hair would hang low on my face revealing only the glow of my eyes through the strands. I even erected the fleshy wings from my veined and muscled back to allow my vast wingspan to prove that what they were seeing was far from human.

I felt the ground beneath my feet vibrate as they skidded to a halt before me. Every one of them began to tremble and a couple of them allowed their bowels and bladders to give into the fear. Huddled together, they began to gradually back away, as if they thought I may not have noticed their arrival.

I allowed my voice to devolve back into the guttural and wailing sounds of the golden age of my kind.

“Do not turn away from me,” I demanded, feeling my body shake with anticipation.

“If you flee, you will never leave this forest again.” Of course, they still attempted to run, but I would have hoped for no less.

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This is where the real fun begins.

I chose to soar towards the two who ran together first. The long-haired boy kept his arm wrapped around the taller one with the twig still protruding from his leg. I picked them both up with my taloned feet and raised them high above the trees.

They screamed and writhed in my firmly grasping toes until I released my grip and allowed them the freedom they fought for. Their blood still dripped from my talons which had pierced into the tender flesh of their shoulders.

I briefly entertained the notion of letting them crash into bloody heaps on the firm ground below, but they would never learn their lesson through a terminal series of broken bones and twisted meat. I quickly descended towards them and regained my grip on the already shredded tissue I had grasped before.

We were close to the forest floor when I caught them, but I slowed their approach before releasing them once more to shatter bones against the hard bark of the trees. They lay still and unconscious, but I could still hear their beating hearts.

I retracted my wings and sprinted on all fours toward the three others who had escaped into the forest. I could smell their fear and feces, so they would not stay ahead of me for long.

I leaped on top of the heavy boy with shaggy hair, snapping both of his shins as I pinned him to the ground. He spat as he screamed an assortment of curses and I watched several strands of his hair turn pure white when I disjointed my jaw and allowed it to fall wide and open like the gaping maw of a hungry shark.

The pure joy I felt in his terror was momentarily interrupted by my desire to bite out his throat and feel his spewing fluids spraying into my mouth. I fought the urge as these foul individuals did not deserve a bloody death for their insults and pranks. They did; however, deserve to observe firsthand what fear truly looks like.

I twisted my jaw back shut while the boy preyed on whatever god he found holy to allow his life to continue. I wrapped my hand around his face, allowing my talons to tear holes into his forehead and cheeks. I pounded his head into the ground until he lost consciousness leaving a bloody reminder of what he saw this night.

Only the pair who took the foreground on the prank against the little girl and her brother remained. The others had watched and laughed at their actions, but I saw this final couple to be the leaders of this band of hooligans.

They always began the assaults and reveled most in the tears and injuries of the children. Their price would be the steepest to pay.

Would I take limbs, perhaps? Leave them horrifically scarred and unfit for life among other humans? The options were many, but my time was short. Maybe we start small and see how it goes.

Were my flesh capable of producing goosebumps, I imagine I would be sporting quite a few right now.

I vaporized again to continue my pursuit in silence. I needed to get them together again. A nudge here and there should do the trick. I scattered more branches to guide their path, once more. I even allowed parts of me to solidify to gently push them in the direction I wanted. The woods were quite dense in places, so I would lead them to a clearing. I would even allow them a moment to think they had eluded me.

This was the most fun I’d had in centuries!

As planned, the two found themselves in a wide-open area in the center of the forest, having the belief that they had arrived here of their own volition. I chose to observe from high above after they stopped running and caught their collective breath.

They embraced each other and spoke of what they had seen. They spun theories of elaborate makeup and costume design while taking no time to inquire about the condition of their associates. It was as though they had completely slipped from their memory.

They perched down beside the thin stream that ran through the clearing, washing their faces and drinking from the water in their cupped hands.

The forest had fallen silent as my presence often had that effect on the wildlife of such places. They sensed what I was and kept themselves hidden when my kind was nearby. Had these teenagers the same instincts, they may have been able to shield themselves from me.

I softly allowed my gaseous form to descend to where the two sat side by side. The parting of the trees allowed the moonlight to illuminate the clearing and reflect in the water of the stream.

I began to solidify, once more but remained silent behind my waiting prey. They sat by the stream, gazing into the night. If all went as I hoped, they would not notice me until their eyes met the reflective pool bearing my image behind them.

I watched as their posture stiffened as, one by one, they felt the presence of something at their backs. I watched the water reveal their eyes gazing down upon it.

They appeared too frightened to even move, which both delighted me and caused my heart to sink ever so slightly. My pursuit had come to a close, and this would be the final act of the night’s festivities.

The taller of the two slowly turned to face me. His eyes met my midsection which paralleled his gaze. He turned his head gradually upwards to stare into my face.

I wore a wide smile that bared each and every one of my razor-sharp teeth. Drool seeped from my mouth and dripped from my chin and onto my chest. It joined with my scaled flesh that was still moistened from my transition back to a solid form.

I heaved with mimicked breath as I did not need oxygen to fill my nonexistent lungs. I wanted to appear feral and ravenous to the two cowering teenage boys who had brought such misery to the children of this small town.

I looked on as they trembled in more visceral and blood-curdling terror than their little minds knew how to reckon with.

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I drank in their fear and it nourished me more than any meal could ever hope to.

Both of the boys faced me now. They adjusted their posture to prop upon their knees while they begged their gods to spare their worthless lives. I stretched one single arm out in front of me.

They wailed and bargained with me to spare them which only drove rage deeper into my ancient soul.

With one single grasp, I snatched the quivering lumps of flesh before me from the ground on which they knelt. I gouged both of the taloned thumbs of my left hand into one of each of their eyes and they screamed in agony and shock.

I did not push my fingers deep enough to penetrate their fragile brain tissue, though I cannot say the thought did not cross my mind.

My immense and powerful wings beat against the air of the clearing as I lifted them high above the treeline. The two writhed and wailed while I held them still outstretched before me.

I watched the fear grip their remaining eyes as they begged harder than before for me to spare their worthless lives.

For a moment, I found great temptation to feed on their fragile bodies. To bury my sharp teeth deep into their flesh and quench my thirst on the lifeforce they still held within. A fresh meal was not the purpose of this endeavor, nor was ridding humanity of these trembling specimens.

The deep gashes I clawed into their chests and midsections while we hovered above the forest below were only to allow them to always remember our meeting.

They would never be able to read the words I carved into their skin. It was an ancient and long-forgotten language that only my kind would be able to decipher.

Roughly translated, their flesh now bore variations of the words ‘filth’, and ‘free meal’.

I even sliced my name into them, like a painter autographing their work.

I swiftly dropped back to the earth below and released the two above the rocks and pebbles that surrounded the stream.

When they awoke, they could clean their wounds in the rippling water, but they would always bear the marks I branded them with. Their newfound lack of depth perception would also remind them never to revisit their old and immature ways.

I stared at their twitching bodies next to the deceased and dried leaves of the woods. I felt proud of the deeds I had accomplished this night, and I rewarded myself with a snack:

The two fresh eyeballs that still sat impaled on my taloned thumbs. I plucked them off and chewed them up, savoring the delicacy I had not enjoyed in many moons.

The hour had grown late, but I still had time to stroll through the city streets and breathe in the remaining hours of my beloved Halloween. Tomorrow I would don my mask again, but tonight I would walk proudly among the people of this world.

It has been almost a year since that night, and the five teenagers remain in one of your mental facilities.

Of course, nobody believes the tale they spun of the terrors they experienced, but they do tell an interesting story.

I still look in on them from time to time. I even allow them to see my face peering through the window when I feel like I could use a little levity. Their reactions are truly priceless.

I still watch over the wonderful children of this small town, and their smiling, playful faces continue to remind me of why I gave up my ancient ways.

Halloween is upon us again, and all I ask is that you remember this:

Should you choose to prey on others this season, pay attention to those walking the streets beside you.

Perhaps not all of the grotesque and monstrous faces you will look upon are made of latex and plastic.

Maybe some of them are not as forgiving as I.

Credit: William Rayne

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