Henpeck reached out a jagged claw and pressed the button. The doorbell chime sent shivers of anticipation up his spine, and he stifled a giggle as the foyer light came on, a modern LED devoid of heat or passion.
“Trick or treat!” he yelled in chorus with his companions, and the old woman put a hand to her chest, in mock-astonishment. Her bright floral Mumu did little to hide her rotund, meaty shape, a once-pretty woman brought low by doughnuts, gravity, and time.
Grey wig slipping as she bent low to admire their costumes, her artificially white grin held all Polident and no real bite. “My, aren’t you a pack of little monsters!”
She produced a large bowl, and their chuckles and laughter died. Toothbrushes and three-packs of disposable floss picks clawed through Henpeck’s mind, plundering the energies he’d gained throughout the night, sapping him of strength and will.
He hissed and stumbled back from the spirit-killing array, his forked tongue flicking between jagged, razor-sharp teeth. The other goblins followed suit, their squabbling a raucous clamor under the yellow sodium-vapor streetlights.
The old woman cried out. Heads turned as they scattered from the porch, away from the spirit-killing poison erupting from the bowl. Henpeck turned sideways and hid behind a blade of grass, and a tingle of excitement shivered through him, energizing withering muscles. He peeked around the green stalk at the young boy staring in his direction. A monster from some Disney movie or another, he gaped wide-eyed at the space Henpeck should have occupied, would have occupied, had it not been Hallow’s Eve.
Fear and wonder streamed from the boy, streamers of innocence and wonder and no little fear from a mind uncorrupted by bills and taxes and the never-ending drudgery of work. The bright filaments flowed into Henpeck and he gasped at the intensity, so rare in the age of television and video games. He drank it in, let it consume and remake him.
The boy gone, he stepped out from behind the grass, an eight-foot troll swallowed in shadow. He ran massive hands over bumpy skin as hard as stone, reached up to take in the shape of his malformed horns. A grin split his face, massive white Jack-o-Lantern teeth, square and strong.
He stuck his tongue out, broad and flat and the deep red of candied apples, and chuckled at the imaginations of little boys. One eyebrow raised, he turned to look at the old lady’s porch, dark again for want of trick-or-treaters. As his companions cowered and gibbered in the shadows, he stalked back up the stairs and rang the bell.
The light came on, the old woman reappeared. She had the door half-open before she stopped, mouth agape at the monstrosity in front of her.
She gasped in awe as he stepped forward, using his mass to force her back into the house.
He ignored the black miasma from the bowl of hatred and grinned. “So you like teeth, do you?”