Congratulations to Stephen Stanley of Eugene, Oregon, the recipient of the October Penn Cove Literary Arts Award.
Mask of the Monster
Stephen R. Stanley
From me hidey-hole me peeked squinty-eyed at the tasty wee bloodbags as they scurried about dressed in holiday finery. Me tusk banged on the damp stone wall when me tried to get a better peek through the cracks. Smacking me slippery lips, me wished for a chance to snap up a few of them human pups. Oh, such a display of fresh food, stuffed full of sugar and wiggly excitement. Me wiped me slimy mouth on the back of me hairy arm, then thumped the stone wall and wailed a moan of hunger.
Me would thump them all, me would, if they wouldn’t scatter like spooked bunnies when they got wind of me. No fair, them dainty morsels running around unsupervised on the first night of the new year with me stuck in me dank hidey-hole slobbering for tender knucklebones.
Me a smart boogie, me is. Me figured out a plan right then and there. If tiny humans could run around wild in the dark dressed up as me kith and kin, well then by Satan’s Sulfurous Broken Wind, a boogie could do likewise.
Me crawled up through me secret dirt tunnel and set out looking for a proper disguise.
At the mouth of the alley me happened upon a sweet-smelling sugar lump what was perfect in her flouncey pink regalia. Me squeezed between two odoriferous dumpsters and rumbled me most terrible growl.
“Sweet” was what the delectable little creature squeaked in return. “That’s a tight Boogie Man costume.”
“Gimme yer face!” Me said. Me lunged for the wee tyke, but she dodged and thumped me soundly on me snout.
“Ouch,” me said.
“Let’s trade,” she said. “I’ll take your face then you can borrow mine.”
Oh, me should have thought deeper. Me might be a smart boogie, but me ain’t wise. And me was hungry for sugar-stuffed snackins. Afore me could jiggle me noggin in agreement, she reached up quicker than a faery tax collector and tore off me mug.
“Ouch,” me said again, with a bit more emphasis.
“Here,” she said as she tossed her girlie countenance into me fumbling claws. “I’ll haul in oodles of candy with this bad boy.” She looked rather fetching with me handsome visage atop her lacy royal gown.
She ran a few steps toward the beckoning promises of glowing jack o’lanterns, then turned. “Bring my face back here in an hour, or my big brother will poop his cargo shorts.”
She raced toward her destiny with bloated calories, her pink tongue wagging between me lovely yellow tusks.
After slapping her cuteness on to me headbone, me rubbed me crusty mitts together in eager anticipation of feasting on plump trickertreaters. Me snatched a bacon-greased shopping bag out of a garbage can, then shambled off to find kiddy sweetmeat to gobble.
Oh, if only me hadn’t been so hungry.
Me leaped out of the dark, howling fearful, and grabbed for a crowd of pudgy snacks. They squealed and darted away like them bunnies. Then the mob — dressed as pirates and vampires, pixies and storybook royalty, undead celebrities and long-forgotten deities — surrounded me, confounded me, pushed me afore them, up a stoop of stairs, their shrill shrieks piercing me delicate ear openings, until me was poked and prodded and commanded to thump a button what rang a bell.
When the door opened the whole mass of snarling, rabid, confection-crazed children screamed such a cacophony as to deafen hell’s own hounds and demanded candy, candy, candy or else suffer the retribution of outraged delinquents. The fear in the eyes of the poor wretch what doled out the booty to this pack of relentless beggars chilled me evil bones. His gaze beseeched me to end his purgatory; he would welcome any carnage me would inflict — to him or his sticky-fingered tormentors — anything to end the unholy appeasement ritual of these ravenous beasts. He flung the plastic wrapped candy packages into the outstretched, engorged sacks and retreated behind the safety of his barred door. He trembled there, me was sure of it, quaking in fearful expectation of wave after squealing wave of unquenchable candy lust.
The ocean of greed pushed and tugged me along with the bickering horde of slavering, sugar-infused hooligans. Among the frost-dusted pumpkins they trooped house to house, extracting worship, tribute, and adoration for their cute gluttony.
Me feared for me feeble soul and me sanity.
Me escaped to huddle, sniveling like a beaten cur, in the squalid alley for the eternity that remained until the foul pink critter returned with me lovely kisser.
The child appeared in a cloud of chocolate fumes. She snitched her pinkish face and tossed me mug in the scum at me feet. With palsied claws me patted it back into place on me skullbone. Smeared sticky, it smelled of sugar and spice and artificial flavors and colors so unnatural they tasted bitter like ancient potions. Me gagged on the cloying stink of everything nice.
Me wanted to slink away, but afore me could commence to slinking, she snagged me grease-stained shopping bag.
“What’d you get?” she asked.
“Hand it over.” She dumped me meager takings into a bag what held thrice her weight in sugarloot.
Then she kicked me ragged behind as me slunk as best me could slink off into the welcoming dark of me hidey-hole.
“You call yourself a Boogie Man?” She taunted after me. “Get a clue, Wussie Man.”
Her hideous giggle will haunt me the rest of me sleepless days.