We all have that one friend who’s not into the holidays. You know the one: won’t decorate, won’t dress up, won’t wish you a happy -whatever day it is-, and, though he’ll reluctantly agree to come to your themed party, he’ll stay in the back and scowl the whole time. In most cases, the hate is directed at just one holiday, whether it be Valentines, Christmas, Easter, or, hell, even arbor day. My friend Patrick? He hated Halloween with every fiber of his being.
Now, Patrick hadn’t always been that way. I’d known him since grade school, and we’d usually spend Halloween together. I noticed a sudden shift in his attitude around the time we got too old to go trick-or-treating, but too young to go out drinking. At first, I figured he was just being a normal angsty teenager. Maybe he thought Halloween was “just for babies”, maybe he was pissed off about not being allowed to go trick-or-treating anymore, or maybe it was just a phase. Damned if I knew. It wasn’t until last year that I found out the real reason.
It was a few days before Halloween, and I’d managed to drag Patrick to a costume party. Naturally, he’d shown up in his usual t-shirt and jeans and told the doorman he was dressed as a broke college student. He was in that state of semi-drunkenness where he’d started slurring his words, but was still mostly coherent. Some chick wearing devil horns -and almost nothing else- ran into him, and I saw him flinch when he looked at her. He mumbled about how much he hated Halloween, and I finally got around to asking him why. That’s when his face drained of color, as though he hadn’t had years to prepare his answer. He emptied his cup and shuffled nervously from foot to foot. His story started with a promising “You’re not going to believe this, but…”
When Patrick was 14, his parents left him alone on Halloween night. Nothing unusual there: he was more than old enough to take care of himself. They left him with a bag of candy and put him in charge of handing it out to the neighborhood kids, but were adamant that he stop by 10 pm, lock the doors, and turn off the porch lights. 10 pm, they insisted, and not a minute later.
There were enough kids that night that Patrick had to spend the first half of the evening sitting outside on the porch handing out candy to the seemingly endless procession of kids. Around 8:30 pm, things quieted down enough for him to head inside, make some popcorn, and start watching a horror movie. He had to pause every few minutes to cater to another cluster of kids, but as the evening wore on, the visits came fewer and farther between, until he only had to get up every ten minutes or so.
He hadn’t heard a peep for a good twenty minutes when he noticed a figure making its way up the driveway. Patrick rolled off the couch and checked the time. 10:08 pm. Most kids had gone home already and were busy sorting through their candy. However, Patrick knew from experience that houses tended to give out more treats near the end of the night just so they could get rid of the surplus and close up shop. He figured this kid was trying his luck, hoping for a jackpot. It was too late to turn off the lights and pretend he wasn’t home, so Patrick decided he’d give this kid the jackpot he deserved, and would go dark as soon as he left.
The figure rounded the corner as Patrick headed to the door. By the time he’d armed himself with a handful of candy and opened the door, the figure had reached the foot of his stairs. He realized then that the person just outside the beams of his porch light was much taller than a child. A parent, he figured. Maybe his kid had fallen asleep or was hiding under the thick black cloak he was wearing. The man’s costume was strange: the fabric looked to be much higher quality than anything you could buy at the store, that’s for sure. It was a thick, tattered cloak covered in chains that jangled with every movement. Two black horns protruded from the top of the hood, leaving frilled frayed fabric all around the holes they’d torn.
“Trick or treat, trick or treat. Give me something good to eat,” it bellowed.
The voice was so unnatural that it sent a chill down Patrick’s spine. He swore to me that it sounded like two people had spoken in unison. The figure took another step up the stairs, which brought him within the radius of the porch light. Patrick could now see he was wearing a goat’s mask beneath his hood. Two pearly yellow eyes with slit pupils stared at him. He stared back. The mask was so lifelike: its fur swayed softly in the breeze, mist seemed to escape its wet nostrils, and the eyes looked real. Almost as though they’d been ripped right off an animal and glued on while they were still fresh. And suddenly, the goat’s eyes blinked.
On instinct, Patrick slammed the door shut and locked it. He could hear the patter of something thick as the figure climbed up the wooden steps. Patrick looked out the peephole hesitantly, hoping he was wrong. Praying the man would take his mask off and start laughing at him.
“Trick or treat, trick or treat. Give me something good to eat,” it said.
Patrick watched as a long forked tongue slithered out of its maw and licked its lips with feverish hunger. He strained his vision enough to notice hooved feet clicking against the floor. Suddenly, it rammed into the door with all its might. Over and over again. Patrick didn’t know what else to do, but to press himself against the door in the hopes of keeping it shut, and turning off the porch lights, in a vain attempt at pretending he wasn’t home. As soon as the light went off, the creature ceased its offense on the door. The clattering of its footsteps slowly moved towards the living room window. In a panic, Patrick darted into the living room and drew the curtains shut. As he did so, he noticed every other house on the street had already turned off their lights. He ran through the first floor and turned off all the lights he could find, and then ducked behind the couch and hid. Thankfully, the sounds of rattling chains and hooves stopped.
Patrick studied me as he told his story, almost as though trying to gage whether or not I believed him. I didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t like him to spin yarns, but there was no way his story was true.
“It was probably just some dude in a really good costume trying to freak you out. Mission accomplished,” I reassured.
Patrick shook his head, and told me his story wasn’t done. He continued.
It hadn’t been very hard for him to convince himself the whole thing had been in his head. He figured he’d had a sugar crash and dozed off mid-movie. It was all just a nightmare, nothing more. That is, until a year later, when Halloween rolled back around. He was home alone again…sort of. He snuck his girlfriend in as soon as his parents’ car disappeared down the street. He and his girlfriend left a bowl of candy on the porch and shut the curtains so they could canoodle in peace. Throughout the night, between the shrill screams of bimbos getting mutilated on TV, they heard kids running up and down the front steps to grab Halloween candy. Again, as the night progressed, fewer and fewer kids showed up, until the trick or treaters trickled to a stop. Neither Patrick nor his girlfriend thought to turn off the porch light when 10 pm ticked by. Before long, they heard the clunk of something heavy on the porch, followed by a strong knock at the door.
Not noticing the time, and thinking the bowl of candy needed to be filled, Patrick walked over and opened the door a crack. He saw a yellow eye with a rectangular pupil that darted from side to side, until it fixed on him.
“Trick or treat, trick or treat. Give me something good to eat,” it said, as a hooved foot kicked at the door.
Patrick screamed and slammed into the door in an attempt to shut it, but the goat-headed stranger was putting all its weight against it. It was a tug-of-war, or rather, a push-of-war, with the goat trying to open the door, and Patrick trying to shut it. Beads of sweat rolled down his face as Patrick yelled at his girlfriend to help. Together, they managed to push it far enough to lock the deadbolt. But even then, the goat outside rammed against the door repeatedly. It looked as though it was going to fall off its hinges. Patrick’s girlfriend was screaming. She hadn’t seen what was on the other side of the door, but she knew it was trouble.
“Hit the lights!” yelled Patrick, as he desperately pressed himself against the door.
She flicked them shut, and suddenly, everything went quiet. They waited in the dark for a while, neither one daring to look out the door or pull open the curtains to see if the thing was still outside. It wasn’t until they heard the crackling of a car up the gravel driveway that the two finally relaxed.
I stared at Patrick, this time, in clear disbelief. It sounded like horseshit to me. Or, I guess I should say “goat shit”.
“Every year,” he said, his tone dull and his gaze distant, “he comes every year, if I have so much as one light on. No matter where I am. My parent’s house, a girlfriend’s, it doesn’t matter. He finds me.”
I let out a chuckle and pat him on the back. I played it off as a joke, fully expecting him to crack a smile and tell me he was pulling my leg. He didn’t. I changed the subject and bought him a drink. Halloween came and went, and I forgot all about his story.
Which brings us to this Halloween. I was hosting a party at my place. I’d invited Patrick, but he’d refused, as usual. Suddenly, a few minutes past 10 pm, my phone rang. It was Patrick. I picked up and said hello, but all I could hear were his sobs and the sound of violent banging on wood. Imagine the sound of your pissed off landlord knocking on your door demanding payment, multiplied by twenty.
Patrick’s mumbles were nearly indecipherable through his choked cries.
“The lights, won’t” he kept saying.
I didn’t understand what he meant.
“The lights!” he screamed.
I heard what I thought was his door splintering open. There was a loud slam and the sound of jangling chains. Patrick screamed a scream so feral that I felt my body seize up. And then, I heard it: I heard the most chilling voice I’ve ever heard in my life. A voice so cold it ran daggers through my veins. A voice that reverberated through my speaker, and seemed to have not one, but two sources. I don’t mean there was an echo: I mean it sounded like a man, but with that normal voice came one that was deeper and produced an unholy growl with every syllable.
“Trick…or…treat…Give me something good to eat,” it uttered.
I heard something being dragged. Patrick’s screams and the sounds of jangling became distant, until I couldn’t hear them anymore.
I left my party and sped across town to Patrick’s condo. All I found was his phone on the welcome mat, his door hanging off its hinges, and the dozen solar lights he’d installed in his flowerbed this past summer.