Good evening, my friend, good evening indeed.
Have I ever told you that my favorite holiday is Halloween? I love sweets, candy, costumes — wearing a mask so as not to pollute the world with my disgusting visage. Halloween, unlike most holidays, is magical in that it celebrates the ecstasy of anonymity. This is the one day of the year where I can be exactly what I want to be: anything but myself. Let me explain.
I was a beautiful child, Tim: blonde, featherlight, with ivory skin and eyes like a seascape. My parents lauded me, extolling my outward beauty; yet never once did they bother to ask of me those subcutaneous desires, the ones which skin and face, eyes and mouth do not reveal.
At parties I was dressed in bowties, gifted cakes, banquets, feasts with fish and fresh bread — all for my looks, never for my mind. Oh, fickle factotum of fate, please forgive my sweet and callow birthgivers! Their minds were simply too jejune to recognize that, since the day of my delivery, there has been a wickedness bathing behind the pools of my irises; a dark grotto, gurgling and churning, echoing an insidious overture that has haunted my every night.
Despite learning to suppress these darker, more sordid urges throughout high school, college, and even through graduate school, I knew that soon the mask would slip. Alone at the dinner table one evening, a filet of roast duck in front of me, I stared at my face in the mirror glass. Adulthood had done my frame and figure well; yet it had done little to assuage the tremors of tumult that were swimming lanes inside my veins. On this particular eve, mouth full of meat and lentils, I almost choked upon the realization that tomorrow was, in fact, that day around which my world, my life rotated: Halloween!
I lay in bed all night, cloaking myself in my sheets as would a sick caterpillar. Would tomorrow beget my metamorphosis? My skin was warm, but I was not ill. I was perspiring, but to the touch I was not wet. What was happening to me, Tim? Would Halloween precipitate my final capitulation into the dark? Every bit of slumber eluded me. My eyes stayed open till dawn.
* * * * *
The day slinked by in a tedium of marginalia, chores, repressed urges. I watched television, watered the ficus, stroked my moustache deep into the setting sun. Puffing on my pipe and staring out the window, I felt a burgeoning in my nether parts. In my somnambulistic state, I had almost forgotten that night was upon me — no, Halloween was upon me. And yet, an even sicker realization sent a shiver through my bones: I had not yet prepared a proper costume.
I checked my timepiece; it was 4:25 pm. Out my picture window, several trick-or-treaters, youngsters in store-bought costumes, were rushing around the street, cackling, shouting, delighting in the cool and pleasant weather. I looked down at myself, ashamed, embarrassed of my attire. I looked like a sad stuffy codger. I thought about the costumes I adorned as a youth — soccer player, car salesman, Hillary Clinton — and cursed myself for not properly preparing. As the children slinked by the street, I enshrouding myself in my curtains, holding my breath and praying that they would bypass my home.
I made nary a sound, Tim, yet my whole body was shouting in pain.
The blasphemous youth! With flurried steps, I ducked beneath the window and crawled to my cellar, slamming the door behind me. I would NOT be seen dispensing sweet treats without a proper costume. But what was I to wear? I simply had no ideas. I surveyed the cellar. On the walls lay jar upon jar of jam, peas, beans: all provisions deemed vital for sustenance upon the imminent collapse of society. I scoured the shelves further, holding up to the light peaches, condensed milk, pickled meats. Nothing would do. I lay rest the jars, stifled a whimper, and padded back to the cellar steps. It was at that moment that something caught my eye. Precisely when I thought I had exhausted all possible avenues for crafting a costume, I spotted, in the darkest corner of the cellar, a plump orange pumpkin; its sickly stalk, reminiscent of my own, was craned in intrigue.
“How did you sneak in here?” I asked the gourd.
My new friend did not answer.
From across the room, a glint flickered into my eye. Perched fortuitously on my work desk was a meat cleaver. Looks like I’ll be having the last laugh! I rushed toward the blade, clasped it in my hand, and charged at the pumpkin. With weapon brandished high above the fool’s autumnal head, I cheered as would a savage beast, and brought the trenchant edge down upon my very own neck.
How unexpected! I recoiled as blood spewed in comical spurts to every which corner of my cellar-cum-boucherie. Lifting the blade again, I began to saw fervently at my neck. I simply could not stop, Tim! The pain, though unbearable, was nothing compared to the thrum of pleasure pulsing through my bones. My pumpkin friend, now streaked with blood, began to cackle deliriously.
“That’s right!” he screamed, “keep GOING!”
And going I kept! I sawed and I sawed and I sawed a bit more. After myriad moribund minutes, my head, which had become little more than a hangnail to a finger, fell to the floor with a thunk. I, somehow still conscious, knelt down and seized my head by its scalp. Stumbling forward, intoxicated with both glee and despair, I reached down and clasped the pumpkin. Then, as one would see in a low-budget horror film, I cut a hole in its bottom, pulled out the gunk, and affixed the pumpkin to my own twitching brainstem.
Tim, I had done it! I had created a unique and compelling costume! Rushing up my cellar steps, I bolted out of the house and onto my porch. The cool October air felt crisp against my flesh, and the street was filled with all the sights I had expected to see: children, bags full of sweets; young mothers and fathers, hands in their pockets, basking in their offspring’s sugar-fueled joy. I too was quite high on life. In fact, I began to dance, jigging my way down my steps, then down the avenue, my severed head, like a prize, lifted toward the sky.
“TRICK OR TREAT!” my detached skull screamed. “GIVE ME SOMETHING GOOD TO EAT!”
I was in ecstasy, Tim. Finally, after twenty-six years of living a cautious, prudent life, I had done the inconceivable: I had morphed myself into a seasonal centaur, a beast both human and gourd. I thought of my parents, how mortified they would be. Then I thought of my younger self, how proud I’d be, for I had finally worked up the courage to do something of my own choosing. Have you ever seen The Vanishing, Tim, the Dutch horror film? There’s a point, late in the movie, where the villain explains why it is that he had once decided to jump from his balcony as a child, knowing full well he’d break his legs, which he did. The pain of the jump mattered not. It was, instead, the sheer fact that he knew no weak-willed person would make such a decision. The point is, regardless of physical pain, there is power in liberation, in knowing that you can, in fact, control at least some of your fate.
Unfortunately, my delight did not last long. One of the neighborhood’s young fathers happened to be an off-duty police officer, and after asking me to present my ID (which I carelessly left at home), my autonomous skull vomited a medley of blood and spinal fluid upon his child, who, coincidentally, was dressed as the headless horseman. I was arrested on the spot, brought in for questioning, and spent the final minutes of my life in the back of a police cruiser, where I suffocated on a mix of pumpkin innards, blood, vomit, sinews, and tears.
Tears of joy.
* * *
Happy Halloween, Tim. I hope this letter finds you well.