Justin stared up at the second-story window, moonlight glinting off his bald head and the inch-long fangs beneath his lips. “You know, Marnie, this is the one night you could just go to the door and ask for candy.”
Marnie tilted her head to look up at her companion--he towered over her a good two feet--and frowned. “No, that’s not fun.” Her voice was that of a child, as was her flesh, but the mind and soul inside were centuries old. “I want the candy they don’t want to give."
“For what?” Justin said. “You can’t fucking eat it.”
“Look, I'm trapped in a ten-year-old body for eternity, so let me fucking act like a ten-year-old one night a year, okay?" Marnie said. “I’m a proper little vampire every night but Halloween.”
“Ugh, don’t use the V-word,” Justin groaned. “You know I hate it.”
“Fine. I’ll be a good little, uh, blood-sucking undead thing. Happy?”
“No, but let’s get this shit over with. How do you even know the brat in there has any candy?”
“I watched him lug in a big sack earlier. Little man was busy. I haven’t seen a score like that in years.”
“Well, climb up there and get it.” Justin waved a taloned hand at the window. "You know, it's total bullshit you get to ignore the whole invitation thing."
“Hey, that loophole is the one goddamn benefit I get from my booster-seat body, so cry me a river." Marnie grinned, showing her own fangs, shorter than Justin’s, but in her small mouth they made her look practically saber-toothed. "Okay, here I go. Trick or treat.”
Hovering outside the window, Marnie peered inside. The room contained a twin bed, a small desk and chair, and not much else. Pretty sparse for a kid’s room, especially since the rest of the house looked well appointed. The bag of candy sat on the desk, and the sleeping kid it belonged to lay curled underneath a blanket on the bed.
Marnie wedged a talon under the window and applied slow steady pressure. The lock gave with a hollow snap, and she opened the window without so much as a squeak. The sleeper did not stir.
Marnie drifted into the room, floating over the floor so she didn’t make any noise. She went to the desk, grabbed the sack, and then floated back to the window. She glanced down to where Justin stared up at her, his dark skin drinking in the moonlight, his eyes glowing crimson in the gloom. Man, he’s got that vampire thing on lock, she thought, instantly jealous, and a little sad she would always be small and cute... until she opened her mouth.
She tossed the sack down, and Justin didn’t even make an attempt to catch it. Dick. He was right, though, she couldn’t eat the candy, and the nightly hunger had begun to gnaw at her belly. She extended a finger--one sec--and smiled down at Justin. His brow furrowed in irritation, but he waved her on.
Marnie ducked back inside and floated over to the boy's bedside. He huddled beneath a threadbare quilt that looked like something you might let your dog sleep on. It was thin and the night was cold. She could see him shivering in his sleep.
Marnie pulled back the quilt, revealing a nine or ten-year-old boy with creamy skin and a shock of dark hair, somewhat wild. She reached out to touch his face and then noticed the yellow bruises along his jaw and neck, the split lip, the dried blood on his chin, and the tracks of faded tears on his cheeks.
Old memories surfaced like sea monsters rising from the depths. The ugly crack of fists on flesh, the taste of her own blood, the wheezing pain of a punctured lung, strong hands locked around her throat. Those memories had faded a long time ago in the wake of Justin’s gift, but they roared back to life now.
“Oh, my poor sweet boy,” Marnie whispered into the dark, her hunger forgotten.
She was about to leave when the light flared beneath the door and heavy footsteps sounded. The door opened, and a huge figure stood framed against the light, a belt dangling from one hand.
Marnie kissed the boy’s forehead, ensuring he would remain asleep, then stepped around the bed and into the light.
“Who are you?” the man in the doorway said and raised the belt.
Marnie showed him her saber-toothed smile. “Trick or treat, motherfucker.”
Marnie floated down from the window, the little boy in her arms. Justin chuckled. She looked like an ant carrying a mouse.
“Meal on the go?” Justin said when she landed.
“Uh, not quite,” Marnie replied. Fresh gore, slick and black in the moonlight, coated her face, but the quilt around the child’s body was pristine.
Justin shook his head and pulled aside the fabric to expose the boy’s face. It was perfect. Too perfect. Not a drop of blood on the pale skin except for two small dots above the big vein in his neck. “What the fuck have you done, Marnie?”
“The same thing you did, two hundred years ago,” she said, her eyes filled with defiance and old, old pain. "When you saved me.
He nodded, understanding, anger fading on a wave of old memories. “Okay, but it's your responsibility to show him how things work when he wakes up tomorrow night. Deal?”
“I will, Justin. I promise,” Marnie said and took Justin’s hand in hers. “I remember everything you taught me.”
“Get your candy so we can get out of here,” Justin said.
Marnie smiled, somewhat sadly. “No, I’m done with tricks.” She hugged the boy close and kissed his wide, clear brow. “And this is all the treat I need.”
Aeryn Rudel is a writer from Seattle, Washington. He is the author of the Acts of War novels published by Privateer Press, and his short fiction has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, On Spec, and Pseudopod, among others. Aeryn is a notorious dinosaur nerd, a baseball fanatic, and knows more about swords than is healthy or socially acceptable. He occasionally offers dubious advice on the subjects of writing and rejection (mostly rejection) at www.rejectomancy.com or Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.