by A. P. Sessler
William Burke playfully gnashed at the air with his new plastic teeth as he unwrapped a peanut butter cup. He licked the chocolate from the wrapper, then dropped it into the white plastic bag his mother held before him.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Welcome,” he said, noticing the odd sound of clapping canines as his jaws met. He removed the green plastic teeth just long enough to eat the candy, then placed them back in.
“Easy, Count Chomperla. If you eat too much candy, you’ll get a tummy ache,” Mr. Burke teased him.
“I’m not a vampire. It’s a magician’s cape!” William reminded his father.
“He was just joking,” said his mother. “Now go play with the other children.”
“Do I have to?” he whined.
“Yes. This is your Halloween party, and they’re your new neighbors.”
His shoulders slumped as he trudged into the center of the dark menagerie, ducking the cotton cobweb strung across the arched opening on the way.
“I hope they like him,” Mrs. Burke said.
“Come on,” said Mr. Burke. “A good-looking boy like that? Of course they will.” He exited the dining room through the archway into the living room. Unlike William, he managed to get a face full of synthetic web.
“All right!” His booming voice filled the first floor of their two-story home as he peeled the offending substance from his face. “Does everyone have a pair of plastic fangs?”
The assorted characters gathered there proudly flashed their plastic teeth.
“Good,” he said, then whispered to his wife, “Did you get all the trash?”
“Right here,” she whispered back as she raised the bag full of teeth wrappers.
“The kids love them, don’t they?”
The children growled at one another like little monsters, baring fierce fangs and wicked grins, squealing and laughing.
“I guess Carlo the Great would be pleased that his old gimmicks are still being used,” he said.
“How did you even find them in that mess?” she asked.
“It wasn’t too hard. For an eccentric old man, he wasn’t that bad at organizing things. On one side of the basement, there was the magic show stuff: top hats, magic closets, trick saws and knives, and a trapdoor stage; on the other side, there were the gags: electric hand-buzzers, fake poo and vomit, whoopee cushions, and of course, plastic vampire teeth.”
“And let’s not forget the section in the back.”
“I’m serious,” she said. “I don’t like having those kind of books in our house.”
“Babe, if we were that superstitious, we wouldn’t be celebrating Halloween.”
“In any case, I still think we should sell it all online. I bet we could make a killing.”
“Off of stuff like plastic teeth? They’re probably a dime a dozen.”
“The kids seem to be getting some enjoyment out of them.”
“Yeah. Carlo was a great entertainer.”
“And a decent realtor,” she said, leaning in to give him a quick kiss.
She felt a tug on her shirttail, followed by a tinkling bell. She looked down to find Dudley, the family poodle, standing on his hind feet. He was wearing orange and black foil bows on several strands of his hair, and a belled collar about his neck.
“No, Dudley, I haven’t forgotten about you,” she said to the anxious-eyed dog.
When she leaned down to pet him, she noticed William, quietly sitting on the couch by himself, apart from all the chattering children.
“Here, Dudley. Let’s go play with Billy,” she said, leading the dog to William. “Billy, Dudley was bored, so I thought I would bring him over to you.”
“Hi, Dudley,” said William, baring his green vampire teeth.
Dudley bared his own teeth and growled.
William returned the growl, sending Dudley scampering up the stairs into the master bedroom.
“Billy! Why did you do that?”
“He did it first.”
“Never mind. Stay here and try to talk to someone,” she said, looking up the stairs.
“I’m sorry,” he said as he stood up. “I’ll get Dudley and bring him back down.”
“Okay, but don’t show him those teeth. They scare him.”
He ran up the stairs and disappeared into the bedroom.
The grandfather clock chimed eight.
Mr. Burke approached the stereo system and paused the Spooky Sound Effects CD. The room quieted.
“It’s time!” he announced. “Earlier this evening, we had you all place your votes for best costume in our ballot box, so if we could have our own mad magician William come forward to help count the votes …”
“He went to fetch Dudley,” Mrs. Burke informed him.
“Just a moment, everyone,” said Mr. Burke.
They waited a minute, but William didn’t come back down.
“Billy?” Mr. Burke called.
A plump boy in pumpkin costume approached. “Mrs. Burke?”
“Yes, honey?” she asked.
“When do we eat?”
“The pizza will be here soon, right after we announce our winners.”
“Okay,” he said, waddling away.
“Yes, everyone. Pizza will be arriving soon, so hold your horses and wands and broomsticks and whatever else you have. And speaking of magic wands, I’ll soon pull William the Great out of our magic wardrobe,” Mr. Burke said, then unpaused the CD.
A witch’s ghastly laughter filled the room, followed by moaning spooks and the sound of dragging chains.
William’s parents walked up the stairs, down the hall and into their unlit room. From outside, they saw him staring out the bay window, his back hunched. The bright moonlight poured into the room, stretching his shadow across the floor like a piece of black putty.
“Billy? It’s time for the costume contest,” said Mr. Burke.
William remained silent.
“Did you find Dudley?” asked Mrs. Burke.
The boy flinched, straightened, and half-turned his head to catch her voice. Light from the hallway sparkled in his left eye.
“Did you hear your father? It’s time for the contest,” she said.
William turned away, hunching his back again.
As she approached, she heard his mouth in motion, chewing or sucking some curious delight.
She saw bits of foil lying at his feet, glinting in the moonlight.
“Your father and I told you not to eat all your candy. You should save it—”
On second glance, Mrs. Burke could see the orange and black bits of foil on the floor were not candy wrappers as she had assumed. They were clearly untied bows.
“Dudley?” she called, glancing about the room.
She listened for a whimper or a bark, but only heard William’s soft laughter.
“What is it, Billy?” she asked.
He turned his head, and she saw something dangling between his teeth. His mouth was dripping a dark substance that couldn’t be chocolate. The thing in in his mouth fell with a jingle, quickly muted by the thick carpet.
It was Dudley’s collar. She looked at the reflection of the bay window. In it, she saw Dudley’s lifeless body, marble-white, lying limply over William’s hands. A large, bloody stain covered Dudley’s neck.
Mrs. Burke slapped her hand over her mouth to silence the scream.
Someone’s hand took hold of her shoulder. She jumped, turning to find Mr. Burke. He pulled her to his side, then shoved her away, towards the door.
“Leave me and Billy alone,” he said.
“I’m not going anywhere without you,” she replied.
“You have to help the others outside. We can’t let them see Billy like this.”
A soft voice spoke from behind them. “Don’t worry about us.”
Mr. and Mrs. Burke turned to see their young guests silhouetted in the bedroom door.
“No, children. It’s time for you to leave. Billy isn’t himself,” said Mrs. Burke.
“Neither are we,” a child replied, followed by the others’ impish laughter.
A sea of green, glowing teeth appeared on the dark figures as their closed mouths opened into fiendish smiles.
“We’re so hungry,” they said. “We can’t wait any longer.”
William’s parents froze, paralyzed with fear as the silhouetted crowd and their glowing mouths filled the room. Tiny, cold hands grabbed at their sides and limbs, while plastic teeth, now stronger than bone, began to tear into their flesh.
Copyright © 2014 A. P. Sessler