By Robert Essig
It wasn't until my sixteenth birthday that I really fit in with my family.
Sounds crazy, I know, but, no matter how generous my mother, father and older siblings were, I couldn't help but wonder why I looked the way I did. Why did I look like the people outside walking on the sidewalk and those I saw on TV, yet the people who raised me and taught me kindness and trust were monsters?
I was born on Halloween night.
We all were.
So far as I know it has been some sort of ritual handed down over the years. Just don't ask me how that figures into the unpredictable nature of human conception.
We have a grand party every year on Halloween in celebration of all our birthdays as well as the holiday that celebrates the damned. Yes, I'm well aware of the Samhain roots (and yes, I know how to pronounce it!), but my family's origins came much later, and to us Halloween is a celebration of the damned.
"How'd your mask turn out?" my mother asked.
I gave her a cursory look and then a glance toward the hatbox on my nightstand in which the mask in question was concealed. I finished it weeks ago.
"It's perfect," I said.
My mother nodded. She was so beautiful with her beady eyes like the dark centers of olives in a face of dead green flesh. Her best attribute was her protruding nose, all crooked with the perfect wart on the tip, off centered just to the right.
There would be a lot of kids in witch costumes tonight. They would attempt to look half as good as my mother. As I look into those gleaming little spheres I see all the love she has given me and I hope that someday when I have kids I could be half the mother she is to me.
"I can't wait to see it," she said before patting my knee and walking out of the room.
Everyone crowded around the front door at the sound of the flat noted chimes that bellowed down the foyer.
It was midnight.
"I was afraid we wouldn't get even one trick 'r treater this year," said Uncle Rich. Bolts protruded from either side of his neck, one a half an inch lower than the other. His head was flat like someone had cut the top off with a guillotine. He'd never been all that creative.
"It's Julia's sixteenth birthday," said Aunt Patricia. "Of course there's going to be one. I never doubted it."
Aunt Patricia's face was smooth like a porcelain doll, half of it the perfect image of something like a Geisha, the other half cracked with chunks that had fallen out revealing the scaled flesh of the creature beneath.
I'd always admired Aunt Patricia's artistry.
The hatbox with my mask waited for me on a table at the front door.
"Go on," said my father, flashing me a fanged smile.
He and Mother had gone traditional, much like Uncle Rich, but with far more attention to detail.
My brother and sister stood like grinning sentinels, Jim with horns on a head of red flesh and she like a Disney villain of her own creation.
I opened the box. My hard work, blood, sweat and tears were inside. I'd spent almost a year working on the mask. There was a lot a of detail, after all, and I wanted to be sure that my destiny would be as pleasing to the eye as Aunt Patricia's masterwork.
I pulled the mask out of the box and held it up to my face. I didn't turn to face my family and show off my exquisite artistry for that wouldn't matter until the ritual was complete.
The doorbell rang again.
I opened the door, the fingers of my other hand firmly grasping the chin of the mask, holding it up to my face.
The kids were maybe fifteen. Both boys. One with a smeared skeleton face of white and black grease paint; the other with a deadpan Michael Myers mask.
They both took one look at me and dropped their hefty pillowcases of candy. Couldn't see Mike's face, but Mr. Smeary Skull looked like he might need a change of underwear.
Their fright caused my mask to tighten like someone was pulling plastic wrap over my face. I felt an instant of fear, even claustrophobia as the eye holes began to deepen and the mask seemed to want to swallow me up and lock me behind papier-mâché and latex. I let go of the chin. The mask remained fixed to my skin. Soon enough the hollows I had been peering through sank away and, after a feeling like someone had smeared clay across my cheeks, I felt comfortable in my new skin.
I turned from the lonely sacks of candy adorning the porch to face my family.
Aunt Patricia smiled and tilted her head to show the flawless half of her doll face, as if to praise me on my attention to detail. My mother and father smiled as well. My siblings grinned wider as if remembering their own sixteenth birthdays not so long ago.
The snakes that now roiled atop my head hissed their approval. My forked tongue darted over the elongated teeth that now racked my jaws. I put a hand to my cheek, running it down the fine layers of delicate, soft scales.
I have always been apart of this macabre family, but now, after my transformation, I truly fit in.
I hope you enjoyed that little Halloween tale. If you are interested, check out my novels Through the In Between, Hell Awaits, and People of the Ethereal Realm.