Boris creeps up, his four legs on each side moving in a rhythmic waviness, practicing a menacing stare with his thirteen eyes, but his pincers are hidden behind a cloth mask with a black web imprinted upon it. I can tell by his eagerness that he doesn’t know. I have to break the bad news to him.
“What? Halloween is cancelled? Are you serious?” Most of his eyes stare at me intently to ascertain the truth of my statement.
“Yep. That’s what the boss told me.”
“Well, fly shit! They can’t do that. It’s the biggest day of the year. I get more on Halloween than all the other days of the year combined.” His head and thirteen eyes droop to the floor before he regains some semblance of composure. “Did he say why? Is it because of COVID?”
“Ostensibly, yes? What in the hell does that mean? We all take precautions. We are evil distancing.”
“Some say that’s the problem. I mean, how scary is it when a vampire or a werewolf wears a mask? Half the scare is in the teeth. The boss says it’s a question of artistic integrity. Don’t you feel your scare loses its impact when you wear your mask?”
Boris squints his eyes and moves his gazes about the room trying to impress me. He flares his legs to make himself look bigger. It doesn’t work.
Boris says, “Okay. Okay. You win. I don’t like it, either. It’s not as scary with the mask. but if they can play sports with a cardboard crowd and sound-tracked crowd noises, and baseball can play seven-inning games and best-of-three playoff rounds, we can make a few concessions too. Don’t we owe it to our victims? Professionalism dictates that we get there and terrorize the populace. We owe it to the people!” He slams down his front four legs.
Ghosts flit about the room with the energy of his determination. Ghouls lift their heads and their eyes shine red in our direction.
“I admire your enthusiasm, but I think the problem is really much deeper than that. This year has scared the shit out of so many people already, and with a presidential election just a few days later, well…”
“So what are you saying?” Boris asks. “You think the real problem is scare fatigue?”
“How could it be worse? You don’t mean…” Now Boris looks like he is shaking.
“Noooo.” I can hear Boris’s knees knocking back and forth in fear like Newton’s cradle.
“No one is terrorized anymore. I read a blog from one guy that said he would love to transfigure himself into a werewolf and rip the guts out of some people.”
“Oooh,” Boris retracts timidly covering his eyes with his pedipalps.
“And another that says living forever with sex slave vampresses doesn’t seem so bad.”
Boris’s spinnerets fall to the ground and his fovea flattens to the floor, the lift leaving his eight legs. Or is it ten? Or twelve? He has lots of appendages.
“No one is safe. Not even me,” I say. “Do you know I looked up goblin? It says I am and I quote, ‘A mischievous, and usually very unpleasant, vengeful, and greedy creature whose primary purpose is to cause trouble to humankind.’ That doesn’t narrow it down much when you think about it. I have to compete against politicians, lawyers, CEOs, stock analysts, and customer support people. Seriously. All I have going for me is green skin and bad dentition. It’s the same for all of us. We have to be more scary and evil than all of a black and orange Halloween decade that has scared the crap of anyone paying any attention at all more than we ever have. They are stealing our business.”
“So now what? There must be something we can do?”
“Yes. I think so,” I agree. “First, take some time off. Enjoy some gourmet fly carcass.
“And then,” I proclaim loudly, “we have to regroup.”
Ogres and ghouls and gargoyles straighten and stand from their sitting hump-backed positions.
“We have to become more scary than pandemics!”
Witches on brooms and ghosts circle over head dancing like electrons about a nucleus.
“We have to become more fearsome than global disasters and Greek-lettered hurricanes and state-wide firestorms!”
Jackalopes leap in bounds between Boris and myself with their evil antlers.
“We have to out-terrorize a population on the verge of a civil war!”
Werewolfs bay at the full moon. Bats echolocate at unhearable frequencies. Salamanders up their level of slime.
In the middle of my fantastic, albeit empty rant, the cheap elastic band snaps and my mask pops off. A collective gasp of cold evilness runs through the crowd and it disperses as fast as a viral news story.
“Next year,” I conclude under my breath and under my mask as I try to hold it back to my face.
All thirteen eyes on Boris’s hairy face are coated with the moisture of sadness. We each turn and go our separate ways.