“Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night.

What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”

William Blake


A small pale hand reached out and opened the door at the incessant ringing and the figure of a boy was cast in shadow by a looming figure outline in the doorway…

“Hey kids! I’m Wilbur the Clown!!!”

No…that’s not the way to begin this…stories aren’t supposed to begin with endings…this is a fairy tale…the old kind…as Grimm, not Disney, wrote them…

The pale face rehearsing zany expressions in the cracked mirror scowled darkly as other clowns in the circus cast hurried to get ready. In the background, he heard the crowd cheering in intervals under the big top…the tear-stained pink slip was on the counter.

“You’re still here, Wilbur?!” the ringmaster demanded.

His face slipped back to a jubilant facade…he rehearsed his forced smiles ’til his lips split and bled. He turned with a smile that looked like a reopened wound…he had been fired after he was caught trying to lure children into the shadows…while the crowd was distracted. His dream of being ringmaster haunted him…but he loved the children the most…how they laughed at his act…no… not love…something…twisted….he looked at his painted face in the mirror, tears streaking through his pale makeup as he laughed madly….

He understood how the tiger felt incessantly pacing its cage…knew the wild cravings that growled against constraints…

“Yeah, you look closely at that cage…you will be in one soon!” the ringmaster barked.

The clown looked up at him and cackled as he sprang. Moments later, the clown burst out of the circus tent and howled with laughter into the spotlight, basking in his dream of being the ringmaster. He reveled in the cries and uproar of the crowd as the rolled-in lion cage was unveiled….

He wore the ringmaster’s top hat with mockery, pointing at the unveiled lion cage and who they were feeding on alive, screaming as they mauled and gorged. He sadistically thrilled at their horrified screams. Taking advantage of that diversion, he made his escape, roaring away laughing in a stolen clown car. Its doors and hoods were painted with vintage circus posters. He left the circus far behind to find towns where he could lay low in obscurity.

Yet as he lingered alone at the end of the day and night fell, the old cravings clawed at his mind…no matter how much he resisted….and he once again found the old white face paint and clown costumes.

He looked through the papers for advertisements for children’s birthday parties…who didn’t love a jolly clown…? He traveled with his own dark circus act from town to town…bringing laughter, then tears….

This time would be different, he always told himself. He would lay low and live reclusively. Yet the nights grew longer…the maddening isolation closed in…the old cravings came back to taunt him…to tempt him…the way he sadistically baited the caged tiger at the circus he was fired from.

II: Halloween Night

He kept the skeletons of his victims wherever he went. That morning, he had arranged them in a danse macabre.

“Take one” the sign read with a smile in red ink…” The bait was set. He smiled with sadistic anticipation for the first knock.

“Kids are greedy…they’ll take them all…” he whispered.

He carefully unwrapped the candy, chuckling as he stuck them with razor blades and laced them with poison. Then he carefully wrapped them back and piled them in an irresistible hoard of sweetness piled high on the porch.

He waited and waited for his quarry, grinning with eager anticipation. Packs of costumed children passed by inexplicably. The candy remained untouched. The skeletons all where he left them arranged. He shrugged.

“Why aren’t they coming in for it?” he wondered.

Suddenly he grinned as a pack of twelve masked children appeared…

“Don’t just stand there,” he growled. Yet they did just that, hovering, hesitating. He threw the doors wider opened and smiled.

“Hey kids, don’t you want some candy???”

He paused…


Just a trick of the light, yet somehow, the silhouettes of ghost decorations swaying from tree branches seemed like waiting children.

“How did I think they were trick or treaters?” he wondered.

The street and night were eerily quiet like a ghost town, except for the creaking of branches, swaying ghost figures stirred by the wind. He shook his head, then paused from closing the door.

“Wait, who did this?”

The skeletons had been rearranged. They had been moved closer to the house. He thought he heard laughter…somebody playing a trick on me…well, it’s not funny! He slammed the door. Then he heard it…at the window like an animal clawing. The wind whispered at the windows and red leaves blew at the porch.

What was that scratching sound at the pane and door? A stray cat? Is that a tree branch…it…it looked like a skeletal hand at the windowpane, clawing to get in…just the wind…just the wind…or some brat’s idea of a prank…

He jumped as the phone rang.

“Yes…oh?” he beamed.

“A children’s Halloween party? Yes. Yes, of course I’m available! Where is it being held? Why, that’s practically next door!”

He hastily packed candy and donned his old clown costume. Then he roughly grabbed the old cat he used for his show. As he approached the house as jubilantly as an overgrown trick or treater, a raspy voice suddenly addressed him…

A teenager in a harlequin mask perched on a neighbouring house’s post looked down at him.

“Do you know why jack o’ lanterns were first carved?” he asked, gesturing at an array of jack o lanterns leering at him with fiery grins.

“Haven’t a clue…”

“To ward away evil spirits from homes…”

“You don’t say. Fascinating…hey, want some candy?”

He dug into the bag and raised a handful of razour-bladed candies. When he looked up, the harlequin had vanished.

“Hey, where did you go?”

He shrugged and put out his cigar on the post.

“Hey. What are you all smiling at?”

He stomped on the pumpkins and waddled to the door, rehearsing his smile and laugh.

“I’m here for the party!” he beamed

The animal-masked child said nothing, only gesturing him in.

“Where are your parents, little boy? Are there any adults here to supervise the party?”

He shook his masked head.

The clown grinned. This was all too good to be true.

He beamed at the audience of masked children gathered in silent anticipation.

He made his trademark entrance then, cavorting into the room cackling.

The children are all unsupervised? This was just too easy…

“Where…where are the adults?” he asked.

“Crying…” a girl answered.

“Crying??? Well, I’m here to make you laugh loads!!”

They didn’t laugh, cheer, or applaud. They just sat with their animal masks watching him intently. A sudden flicker of unease chilled him.

“Alright, kids! Ta da. Here’s my little assistant tiger to help me with my tricks!”

He roughly pulled the malnourished and neglected cat out of a hat. The abused cat ran into a little girl’s arms…she stood up…the cat looked back at him confidently, purring as she stroked him.

“Ohhh. Isn’t that just adorable! Now you hand the cat back over for my trick.” She backed away clutching the cat, who hissed at him.

“Leave him alone…” she said.

His jolly facade wavered. His voice turned rough.

“That’s my cat! Hand him over now!”

The other children rose in unison and stood with her, confronting him silently. The cat bared his fangs.

“No. No. Don’t get up; the show isn’t over yet, kiddies!”

They remained impassive and silent.

“Alright, party is over!” he sneered.

He reached into his sack for his candy cane-striped mallet. On impulse, he proclaimed:

“Let’s play a game, kids! At the count of three, let’s take off our masks. One…two…”

“Three,” a child finished.

And they did…

Boys and girls…their pale expressionless faces, white and silent as mimes…faces that were hauntingly familiar. He recoiled in sickening recognition.

“Wait…wait, I know your face, and yours, and yours…wait…wait, you aren’t supposed to be alive…I…I killed you all….what…how are you here…?” he stammered.

The little girl held up an invitation for him….

“Trick or treat…” they suddenly began to chant…but their voices seemed like distant echoes. He backed away as they advanced on him. Suddenly, the doorbell rang repeatedly behind him.

“No…I…I killed you…killed all of you!!!

“Here! Here!” He threw the candy in front of them…

“Take it! Take all of it!”

He clutched a candy-caned striped clown’s mallet that fell from trembling hands as they looked back at him, silent and pale.

“Trick or treat! Trick or treat!” they chanted in monotone.

They walked over the candy. Their pale hands reached for him.

“Give us something good to eat!”

Their voices sounded distant like echoes. He was a few steps away from roaring away into the night in his clown car. Then he heard keys dangle…a little boy was holding it. It was then they smiled in unison. He threw open the door and screamed as the skeletons confronted him in ranks. It seemed the dead besieged the house.

“Trick or treat!” they roared like a battle cry. He felt hands grasp him and pull him back into the house. They force-fed him the razor-bladed candy till his tongue was shredded and lacerated and he frothed from the poison he laced them with. He shuddered spasmodically from the candy he gorged on, then shook convulsively with growingly maniacal laughter. The witch decoration on the door swayed.

Then, as if an illusion faded, the house was revealed to have been to be a decayed, long-abandoned mansion with rotting pumpkins on the discoloured porch.

When neighbours heard the tortured screams inside the abandoned house, they called the police. They found him sitting against the wall, his hands staunching blood from a torn torso, as if he had been mauled. On the wall, it seemed he had written confessions for his murders in his own blood. His crazed eyes looked through them as he frothed and chuckled like a rabid hyena. Blood was oozing between his fingers from terrible wounds. They believed they were self-inflicted. The echoes of the ghostly chant of “trick or treat” followed him, trailing as he sank into darkness.

“Give us something good to eat…”

He opened his eyes finding himself in a straitjacket and padded cell. Suddenly, he realised he wasn’t alone. The animal-masked children looked down at him in a circle…

“Trick or treat…”

He screamed and screamed again. When the attendants rushed in, the most stalwart of them retched at what they saw. It would haunt their nightmares forever…

Trick or treat,” he repeated incessantly with a child’s voice that seemed ventriloquised, “give me something good to eat…”