“I want to go home,” my six-year-old whispered.
“Ricki, we just got here,” I smiled. “It’s a party.”
“I want to go too,” nodded her little sister.
“Josie, can we at least stay for a few minutes and see if we have fun?”
“No,” my four-year-old said flatly. “We will not have fun. Not here.”
Josie could murder fun with her little bare hands. A tantrum was brewing.
“Honey,” my wife said in her I warned you but again you refused to listen voice. “This Halloween party is too adult for them.”
“Allie, there are other kids here. That boy over there is about Ricki’s age.”
“The one carrying a severed head?”
Allie glared at me. The boy stood next to his parents, who were both dressed like Pennywise. I might have nightmares.
I jumped, fearing a third clown was attacking us from behind. It was my daughters’ friend, dressed in black with a stuffed raccoon taped to her sweater.
“Hi Valerie,” Allie said. “What’s your costume?”
I nodded with appreciation. My girls cautiously followed Valerie to the tables of sugary food. My wife and I went to the shelves of sugary alcohol. Everybody found what they needed to enjoy the evening.
For three minutes. Then something big shattered.
“DAD!” Josie screamed. “DAD!”
“MOM! DAD!” Ricki screamed louder.
Conversation died. Adults backed away and children froze in place. Even the terrifying clowns looked scared. Allie and I hurried to our girls, who were still near the food. And still screaming.
“Are you okay?” I asked Josie. “What’s wrong?”
My four-year-old pointed to a shattered platter and sticky red food covering the floor.
“Did you get hurt?” Allie asked.
“I threw it on the floor,” Josie sobbed. “Because… they’re eating brains!”
“And fingers!” Ricki cried. “Look!”
“Ricki…” I sighed. “Those aren’t real.”
“That’s not what Valerie said,” Ricki sniffled.
I looked around, considering making actual roadkill of our little friend. Valerie had wisely disappeared.
“But look at what they’re drinking!” Josie screamed. “IT’S BABIES!”
“Dad,” Ricki gasped. “Are you sure this isn’t like the Donner Party?”
A few adults chuckled. Holding my bawling children, I missed the humor.
“This is all make believe,” my wife said soothingly. “Some silly person thought making the food scary would be fun. Just like some silly father thought taking his daughters to a terrifying party would be fun. We’ll go home now and it will be fine.”
When we got home it wasn’t fine for me. After the girls finally went to bed, there were no tricks, no treats, and Allie’s silence terrified me way more than the two clowns from It.
And the next day my girls became vegetarians. To this day, six years later, they still don’t eat meat. Or human flesh.