Emanuel hid, lying behind the row of boxwoods at the side of the house. They didn’t completely conceal him, but it was dark and he was a ninja—all in black—so he held his breath as the man walked past, his shotgun held level in his hands. The man had shot Jerrold for ringing his doorbell, and Emanuel didn’t know if he was alive or dead, but he flew off that front porch and around the side of the house so fast, he hadn’t realized he’d trapped himself in the man’s fenced-in backyard.

The man walked a little beyond where Emanuel lay in the dirt and stopped. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the man’s head turn, as if he were listening. Reflexively, Emanuel closed his eyes, like a younger child who believed that closing them would make him disappear. Emanuel’s head, which had been hurting all day, was aching worse than ever. The pain was so intense he thought he would cry out. Then he saw the blue flashing light, heard the siren burst of the squad car as it screeched to a halt in front of the man’s house.

For a hopeful moment, Emanuel imagined he was saved. But when the man walked out to greet the officers, they commiserated in familiar tones, and the man pointed over to Jerrold’s body on the porch. One of the officers walked over to it and called in a dead body on his radio, while the other chatted with the man on the sidewalk. The man gestured toward his backyard, and the officer flicked on his flashlight, holding it beside his head and probing the garden where Emanuel lay. Resting his free hand on the butt of his sidearm, the officer started into the yard.

Emanuel had no illusions about what was coming. In his homemade ninja costume—black jeans, T-shirt, and mask—he popped out between the boxwoods and made a dash for the fence at the back of the yard. The officer, startled, pulled out his revolver, drew a bead on Emanuel, and squeezed the trigger four times.

And then the strange thing happened.

Emanuel watched his limp body slide down the wooden fence. He was standing where the cop was, his gun still gripped in his right hand, his left hand holding the flashlight that illuminated his own bloody back. They were his hands now, and he dropped the flashlight to stare at his new hand, wiggle his new fingers. He looked down at his new costume. It was good enough to fool anyone. And his head had stopped throbbing.

His partner was standing behind him. “You get him, Ed?” he asked.

“Yeah.” Emanuel walked past him, out front to where Jerrold lay dead and the man with the shotgun stood looking bored. Emanuel walked up to him, said, “Trick or treat, motherfucker.”


Emanuel shot him in the chest, and the man fell to the ground with a look of pained confusion. He looked down as the man pleaded for mercy and fired a second shot into his head.

“Ed!” his partner screamed. “Drop the weapon!”

Emanuel wheeled around, aimed the six-shooter at his partner, and pulled the trigger. A shot rang out, but not from his gun. This time Emanuel felt the bullet’s jolt before he switched bodies. He saw the body he’d used for a few minutes lying on the ground next to the other dead white man.

He knew more police were on their way, and neighbors were starting to emerge, so he ran around to the driver’s side door of the squad car and got in. He knew how to drive, though he’d never done it. The seat was already set up for him, the key in the ignition. He turned the key, and it made a screeching sound. The car’s already running. Emanuel put it in drive and lurched forward, taking a few moments to get accustomed to how much gas to give it, how much pressure to apply to the brakes. He drove away—figuring out as he did how to shut off the flashing lights—turned a corner, dinged a parked car, and finally found an alley to park in.

He tilted the rearview mirror to get a look at his new self. This costume was about the same as his last one, only it had dark curly hair and a neatly trimmed mustache. Part of him was terrified, but another part felt euphoric. Then he thought about his cousin Jerrold. It had been his idea to cross over Alston Boulevard into this part of town, with its tree-lined streets, big yards full of fall leaves, and old Victorians with jack-o-lanterns on all their porches. Halloween Town, Jerrold called it. They were both thirteen, almost too old for trick-or-treating, but this was to be their last time. Their childhoods were over now.

But life wasn’t over for Emanuel. He wondered if he could take anyone, whether they tried to kill him or not. Can I die? Am I a god? He needed to test his power.

Emanuel drove the squad car back across Alston and, a few hours later, pulled up in front of his building. He knocked on his mother’s door and held his breath. She opened the door a crack, and her eyes landed on him, wary and confused.

“What you want?”

“It’s me,” he said. “Emanuel.”

“Man?” she said. He was wearing the costume of the dealer who’d put her brother in a wheelchair—the last person she expected to see on her stoop. But something about his voice and those eyes—she knew it couldn’t be anybody but Emanuel.

She let him in, and he told her everything that had happened. Tears for Jerrold rolled down her cheeks. Tears for Emanuel too. “What you gonna do, Man?” she finally asked him.

“If people won’t change on their own …” he said, trailing off. “Then I will.”

This story placed fourth in our Halloween Flash Contest!


Alex Lubertozzi has worked as an editor and writer for longer than he’s comfortable admitting and, along the way, co-authored two books of nonfiction. He’s been composing fiction pretty much all his life (if you count lying) and recently finished writing his first novel, Any Other World Will Do. You can troll him on Twitter @alexlubertozzi.