Just behind the door , Macon Renshaw smiled as he gazed through the small peephole out into the street. It was just past dark, and he could see the trickle of children trouncing boisterously down the sidewalk, making their way down the neighborhood, nearing his own home. It was located at a dead end, at the very edge of the block, and situated in such a way between the trees that some people, if not careful, might overlook its existence entirely. Macon was new to the neighborhood as well as the house, a tenant of only two weeks, and he knew little of the people or their habits… but he was eager to follow the custom of the annual neighborhood trick-or-treating. 1

Macon's smile widened as the children drew closer, three to a group, their small feet stirring the colored leaves strewn across the sidewalk, a gentle autumn breeze stirring the long hair of the little girls. He had turned on his porch light, set two carefully carved pumpkins on his porch, an open invitation… and now he stood waiting, an eager anticipation stirring itself in his blood.2

As the children made their way up the porch steps, whispering and giggling together, still Macon waited… not until the three young voices piped up in unison, "Trick or treat!" did he allow himself to open the door and greet them with a wide smile.3

"Well, hello there, girls and boys! My, don't you look wonderful!"4

They did look enchanting; the little girls were dressed as some sort of fairy princess, complete with wings and glitter, and as Little Red Riding Hood, and the boy was dressed in a ninja's garb. They smiled back at him, expectant, polite, and the boy asked him, "Do you got any candy for us, mister?"5

"No, young man, I'm afraid I've run out," Macon smiled, "but if you would like to come inside with me, I would be more than happy to give you each a piece of cake."6

The children's eyes lit up immediately, and the youngest girl actually bounced on her toes in excitement, her face splitting into a grin that revealed a missing front tooth. 7

"Yay! I want cake… where's it at?"8

"Just come this way, children… just come on in," Macon invited, and he stepped backward, opening the door wide. As the children filed in eagerly, following him closely, he slid the knife from inside his sleeve down into his hand, his eyes glinting in a strange symmetry with the blade.9

Paloma Berwin beamed as she nearly skipped down the sidewalk of the neighborhood, well-lit by streetlamps and the full moon shimmering brightly overhead. She was almost seven years old now, and her parents had finally decided she was old enough to trick or treat around the neighborhood by herself, if she stayed on the sidewalks and was very careful crossing streets. In her new polka dot red dress, with her Minnie Mouse ears headband, stockings, and white gloves, Paloma felt very pretty. Without her parents nearby or even any brothers or sisters, like most of the children who were out tonight, she felt very grown up as well. She deliberately clicked her heels against the sidewalk, almost skipping, and began to sing out loud, swinging her plastic pumpkin with her candy in it as she went.11

"We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz…"12

She had already received candy from both sides of the whole block, glowing at the admiration of the friendly, smiling adults who had answered the door had given her for her costume. Her parents had told her she could only go around her own neighborhood block while she was alone- if she wanted to go any further, she would have to come get them, or else join up with another group of children. Paloma wanted more candy, more people to see her costume- she was not ready to go home yet. But she also didn't want to go get her parents. She liked to walk alone, liked feeling so free, so trusted. Having her parents walk with her the rest of the way would ruin the delicious excitement of the whole evening.13

Paloma slowed her pace, wanting to drag out her inevitable return to her own home. She considered disobeying, heading over alone to the next block, but she knew her parents, how they would know she had when she came back. They always found out about those kind of things. She just wanted the block to magically extend, with more houses, lots and lots of houses, all giving out candy. Paloma examined the rows of houses again, hoping she would realize she had skipped over one somehow and could go up to it.14

As her eyes scanned around her slowly, Paloma realized she had indeed missed one of the houses- a house at the very end of the row, mostly concealed by trees, set at the back of the cul de sac. No one had lived in it last year, but as Paloma walked towards it, hopeful, excited, she could see that the porch light was on. Maybe they had candy… there WAS one more house she could go to!15

Ignoring the voices and clattering footsteps of two other children, on the opposite far end of the street from her, Paloma began to skip again, smiling. She hoped whoever lived in the house had good candy- chocolate, or maybe even cookies.16

There had been no children approaching within the past half hour, and Macon was glad of this; it had given him more time to carry the bodies of the last batch into the basement, to quickly clean up the mess in the kitchen they had left in their wake. No matter how many times he did it, the sight and smell of their blood amazed him. To think that one's life depended on something so innocuous, so seemingly extra when one looked at the body as a whole. And the sheer quantity in such small bodies, yet they can spare so little and live…it was truly a fascinating thing to reflect upon, to observe.18

As Macon returned to his post at the front door, he could see two children a distance away as he looked through the small window beside the door. They were walking in the opposite direction, however, not seeming to notice his house. But another child did… he could see her coming up the driveway almost entirely out of the view of other homes on the block the closer she came. Watching her, Macon smiled. She was a pretty little thing, a brunette around six or seven, with a red polka dot dress, white gloves, and black makeup on her face, complete with headband ears shaped like a mouse. As she came closer he noticed her black tights and a black tail as well. She was an adorable child, an asset to his assemblance…19

As she made her way to the top of o his porch, calling out cheerfully, "Trick or treat!" Macon's eyes glinted as he opened the door wide, greeting her with a delighted smile. He couldn't wait to have this one too…20

"Happy Halloween, little one! Well, aren't you something!" he smiled, making a show of looking over her costume from head to toe. "Mouse, are you- Minnie?"22

"Yeah!" Paloma grinned, pleased to have her efforts recognized. "I got the same dress!"23

"And don't you look pretty! A Minnie Mouse like you certainly deserves some treats!" Macon declared, still smiling broadly. "Well, I'm afraid I've run out of Dum-dums and Laffy Taffy, but I just got finished baking a cake, and there are plenty of pieces left. Why don't you come sit inside and have a piece?"24

At his suggestion, Paloma's eyes shone with surprised delight. This was perfect… she had wanted a way to delay returning home, and here it was. She could sit down in his kitchen, have some cake, and she wasn't even breaking any rules, because she was still in the neighborhood. She nodded eagerly, breaking out into a grin.25

"Okay! Yes, please, I want some cake!"26

"Then you'll certainly have some," Macon laughed as he stepped back, gesturing inside. "Come on in, Minnie!" 27

Paloma followed him eagerly, her wide, excited brown eyes taking in every detail of the living room's simple furnishing as Macon led her into the kitchen. Gesturing for her to climb onto a stool on his counter, he turned his back to her, retrieving a large chocolate cake with the words "Happy Halloween" written on it in orange icing. Several pieces had already been cut from it, but Paloma didn't care. She stared at it with anticipation and delight, squirming on the tall barstool.28

Macon's heart was beating faster with his excitement as he set the cake before her and handed her a plate and fork. He picked up the freshly cleaned knife from before and slowly came to stand before her, making a move as though he were about to cut the cake with the knife in his hand. And he did, scooping it up onto the plate before the little girl.29

"Here you go," he said congenially, "hope you enjoy yourself."30

"Oh, I'm gonna," Paloma said assuredly, looking up at him with a smile, and Macon's stomach clinched nervously, excitedly. Here it was… just a few more moments…31

As Paloma looked down at her plate and picked up her fork, seemingly totally involved in the prospect of her eating, Macon's hand tightened around the handle of the knife, and he turned, half raising it-32

Just as Paloma's stool spun around, and her fork stabbed him viciously in the eye. As his uninjured eye bulged with shock and pain, and his body spasmed a gurgling scream bursting from his throat, the child snatched the knife from Macon's considerably weakened grip, slitting his throat from one ear to the other without so much as blinking an eye.33

As blood spurted, Paloma jumped back, just out of reach, taking her plate of cake with her. Dropping the knife beside Macon's body as it collapsed in a heap on the floor, jerking, hoarse cries escaping it, Paloma looked herself over worriedly. If any blood had gotten on her, it had blended in with the red of the dress. It was a good thing she was wearing gloves… she had learned from the first time.34

She stood there, holding her cake plate in one hand, calmly eating with the other, and watched as Macon's voice gave out, as his body slowly grew still, as the blood stopped flowing entirely. She watched him die, and then, licking chocolate from her lips, she gingerly stood beside him and used the knife to cut off two of his fingers, wrapping them in a paper towel and depositing them with the rest of her treats into her plastic pumpkin. It had taken a lot of strength, but she had done it, and these were her favorite treats of all.35

Paloma walked toward the front door, a smile on her face and a spring in her step, beginning to hum aloud as she made her way back home. She couldn't wait to show her parents her Halloween treats. 36