One Night a Year…
S. Wayne Roberts
One night a year...
One night a year in most towns in most parts of the world there comes a holiday. No, I don't mean the one where a jolly old fat man squeezes down your chimney, breaking and entering, just to leave you gifts, and of course for the cookies that his wife likely won't allow in the North Pole due to Santa's diabetes. I don't mean Thanks-gluttony, which is where we gather around the table with folks we likely like less than we'd like and stuff ourselves with food in which is itself stuffed with stuff, nor do I mean any of their other holidays which falls on nights other than the one night a year I speak of here. I mean Halloween.
Time travel with me, if you will. Now it's not too far, so you can pack lightly. Maybe a change of undies, as we're discussing a night of Ghosties and Ghoulies, but nothing too formal, minimal toiletries and not likely much of the over night necessity.
The time was the mid-90s, the place, Maryland. I was a young know-it-all slasher film and ghost story fanatic whose entire world revolved around whatever happened to be holding my attention at any giving time, but in all fairness I was a prepubescent young man back then.
I spent most of my childhood on a patch of land owned by a local construction plant that sat back in the woods. A quaint little home offered up much like an apartment in an apartment complex for a maintenance worker. It was nice; always well kept and a fantastic place for a kid to grow. Granted there was nobody around to be seen aside from the occasional workers down the road, but up on our little hill, the world might as well have not existed at all. I was free to imagine worlds of my own and embrace the land.
One of my finer moments seems to have been a thick work glove that I fashioned dull plastic knives to with tape as to chase my older sister, much as the villain from one of my childhood favorites would do. I was harmless of course, but marked at an early age by a subculture that I didn’t entirely understand.
Halloween day was typically the same every year; I’d dress up in whatever kid friendly school version of a monster that I could manage and wear it to school. The teachers would parade us around for those whose parents would come to see and then it was back to the classroom for mindless activities and sugary snacks: a holiday party, they called it. School was never something I wanted to do, but Halloween was one of the few days I wanted to go as to get a sort of head start on the holiday festivities.
Clearly there was no place near my house to go door to door for candy, but we’d load up into the car and head out to one of the rich neighborhoods nearby, in which I’d get to work. Door to door, mindless greeting after mindless greeting, I collected my bounty. Looking back I imagine that I didn’t put in too much work, as there was always candy bought for the house, as if someone would come by for the candy anyway. The point is, one way or another I was going to be thoroughly intoxicated on candy.
It was all just a means to an end, as the real point of Halloween had little to do with costumes and much, much more to do with sitting in the floor with my mountain of candy and watching my horror marathon. The entire month of October was usually a treat in itself, but on that specific night, it was as if no other genre existed.
Halloween, Friday the 13th, Prom night, Child’s play, Candy man, Cats eye, the people under the Stairs, House, and the countless films to the like, not to mention the TV shows like Tales from the Crypt. My favorite of all time was A Nightmare on Elm Street, the one that Wes Craven directed. Some films were funny and some scared me to my core (Candy man used to freak me out with his bees), but they all held my attention and attracted me for their ability to insight raw emotion like nothing else. Rather you cheered for the dumb blonde or the killer, or if you were like me and changed your mind a dozen times over, you always felt something. You felt involved and if the mood was just right you’d get that chill up your spine that somehow altered every shadow in the room (It got very, very dark in those woods), and just around the corner… wait for it, wait for it…
You totally jumped.
Fast forward now with me to adulthood, if it is right to refer to me as such. I make my living writing horror fiction, some that makes me laugh and some that scares me to my core (Not that I’ll likely ever surpass what Candy man did to me), but most of all, I’m a complete and total horror fanatic, or “Nerd”, if you will. I still dress up every now and then, my waist line is in itself a confession of my partaking in the sweets, and most of all, I still watch and when the mood is just right, between you and me, I still jump.
I’ve not been back to that old house since I was a young teen, but the memories of the seclusion and the childhood it spawned will live within me forever.
S. Wayne Roberts—Steve—resides in the Baltimore area of his beloved Maryland, with his supportive family, where he enjoys taking life by the Bay one day at a time.