“Remember, all you have to say is, ‘Trick or treat,’ when they open the door.”
“Trick or treat…nothin’ more.”
“Right. Nothing more. But, just in case, I’m Frankie and you’re Charlie.”
“Frankie. Charlie. Got it.”
“Charlie” falls in step beside “Frankie” as they round the corner coming up on the first in a long row of houses. McMansions, Frack had called them. Charlie stops, squinting as he looks down the street. Even with nothing more than the light of the full moon, he can tell that, aside from color of paint, and maybe a tree or shrub here or there in the front yard, the homes all look pretty much the same.
“Something’s wrong.” Frankie gives him a bump with his elbow and points. “It is Halloween, right?”
“Yeah.” Though that said, Charlie double checks his calendar app. “Why?”
“No one has their porch lights on. You’re supposed to have a light on if you’re givin’ out the candy.” He stares for a long moment, and then turns back to the main road. “Let’s try a different street.”
Charlie follows along, but when they come to the next intersection, a peek down the lane reveals much the same as the last. He watches as a bewildered Frankie shakes his head, shrugs his shoulders, and then leads him on to the next street. And the next. But with each, other than a random porch light cutting into the night, the streets remain dark.
And not a costumed kid to be seen.
“I don’t understand…” says Frankie.
Charlie tugs on Frankie’s arm and points to a mini-mart just across the street. “Their lights are on. Maybe they know something.”
“Yeah…good idea. Let’s give ‘um a try.”
As they step into the store, holding their still-empty pails with both hands, they spot an older, pleasantly plump woman standing behind the counter. The tinkle of the door’s bell causes her to look up from whatever she’s doing and as she does so, Charlie notices that her nose and mouth are covered in a mask, the front of which is imprinted with the muzzle of a fuzzy little dog.
But before he can say “Trick or treat,” like Frankie had instructed, the woman throws up her arms and lets go an excited squeal that stop the two in their tracks.
“Whooooo-eeeeee! Good lord aren’t you two the most precious things ever!” she says. Her voice is loud and high-pitched, even with the mask’s muffling, and her eyes twinkle like stars on a moonless night. She does a little shake, then dances around the counter, racing up to the front of them, where she bends down such that her face meets theirs. “Oh, good heavens, I just want to pinch your little cheeks! Your costumes are just adorable; they’ve got to be the best I’ve ever seen.” She twists to her side, grabbing a small handful of candy from the shelf, and then spins back, dropping equal amounts in each of their pales. “I must say, I’m surprised your parents let you out tonight.”
“Where is everyone? What happened to Halloween?” asks Frankie in his best child-like voice.
“Oh dear, oh dear, boys, it’s that damn virus.” She reaches up and tugs on the top of her mask, giving it a little snap. “Got canceled this year. Didn’t your parents tell you?”
Charlie feels his shoulders slump. “Canceled?”
“Yessiree. Oh, I’m so, sooo sorry, boys. Such a waste…those little alien costumes are just as cute as they can be.”
Thanking the woman, Charlie and Frankie turn and head back out the door into the night, dragging their feet as they ever so slowly make their way to the empty meadow where they landed their ship.
As they step aboard, Frankie heaves a long sigh. “Frack said this was the greatest thing ever. He’s been coming for years and years. ‘Free candy at every house,’ he always brags.” He gives his head a shake and looks down into his pail. “We FINALLY get to come, and something called a virus cancels the whole gig. And now all I have to show for it, after making that horrendous 27 light-year journey here to Earth, is a pack of bubblegum, a Snickers bar, and some lollipops.”
After a long career of tinkering in telecommunications, Jim Bartlett switched to tinkering with words, both, of course, requiring a stretch of the imagination. He has since been fortunate to have a number of stories, ranging from flash to novella, featured in Fiction on the Web, CrimeSpree Magazine, Short-Story.me, Ontologica, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Fairlight Books and a number of other wonderful publications. Most recently one of his stories was featured in the print anthology, The Best of Fiction on the Web, 1996 – 2017. While mentally he strolls along a warm California beach with his wife and golden retriever (shhh, she doesn’t know she’s a dog), physically they reside on a special little island in the Pacific Northwest.