This is a special Halloween story set in the same world as my book The Adventures of a Duck and features the eponymous duck and her snake boyfriend.
Harry the snake opened the door wearing a black and red cape with a big fake moustache. ‘Ah, Lucy,’ he said in his best Bela Lugosi impression, ‘will you be my vampire bride?’
It was a greeting for his girlfriend, Anne the duck, who watched his little one-snake-show with a smirk. ‘Very funny,’ she said, ‘but I think of myself as more a Mina.’
‘Oh,’ sighed Harry, taking off his moustache, ‘but then I’d have to be Jonathan Harker, won’t I?’
‘No,’ replied Anne, ‘Mina and Dracula would work well together. Though I wonder with your moustache, would they think you were Snidely Whiplash and me your victim?’
‘Dracula had a moustache!’
‘Most people don’t know that though.’
Anne took another look at Harry’s costume and smiled as she remembered what it signified. The other day, her housemate, fellow duck Melissa, had not only invited Anne to her Halloween party, but said ‘Ask Harry if he wants to come along too.’ Despite him being certain Melissa’s friends insulted him behind his back, Harry accepted, so this party was special. It was not only Anne’s first Halloween party ever, it would be the first Halloween party Anne and Harry attended as a couple. Thus, to mark this special milestone, they both decided they would have couple’s costumes.
‘You know,’ said Harry as he spun around, ‘with this cape, I could probably pull off Erik the Phantom, and you can be Christine…’
‘Does it have to be Gothic literature though?’
‘Well,’ replied Harry, stroking his chin with his tail and dropping his moustache, ‘it’s just…we’re celebrating being a couple, and we became a couple because of our tastes in books…’
‘Yeah,’ said Anne, ‘but it does feel a bit, well, pretentious.’
‘Oh, come on. Everyone knows Dracula and Phantom. I’m not going as Lord Ruthven or anything.’
Anne picked up Harry’s fake moustache. ‘I know. I think I’ve got a black dress somewhere. With that and this moustache, we could be Gomez and Morticia.’
‘Can you speak French?’ Harry said, ‘Yeah, that’s a possibility. Hey, I think I saw a costume shop nearby. Maybe we could go look there for some ideas.’
So out the two went, and as they did, Anne felt a little quiver of nostalgia, as she remembered her Mum buying her a big pointed hat and broomstick to go along with her binbag robe. As they walked down the street, Harry said, ‘You know, if we buy costumes there, they really have to be good ones.’
‘Well,’ replied Anne, ‘nothing too expensive. I don’t think we’ll be using them for much else.’
‘Oh, I can think of a time when we can use costumes,’ said Harry with a sly expression on his face.
‘And what would that…’ Anne said before realisation hit her. ‘Harry!’
Harry used that Bela Lugosi voice again as he said, ‘Come into my coffin…’
‘Let’s just focus on the party,’ said Anne as they approached the shop. “Funny Bunny Costumes”, it was called, and the storefront window boasted a pseudo-graveyard presided over by two mannequins: a Grim Reaper and a witch. Harry looked the display over and suggested he and Anne dress as characters from A Christmas Carol; ‘Well, the Christmas stuff is in shops already,’ he said. Anne ignored that joke and entered the shop.
The shop was called “Funny Bunny” and sure enough, a rabbit in a polo shirt sat at the counter. He didn’t exactly seem funny, looking at Anne with a bored expression while drumming his fingers, and according to his name tag, his name wasn’t Funny Bunny, but Larry.
Harry slithered in, and Larry actually smiled. ‘Hello,’ said Harry, which made Anne, who still had trouble talking to store staff, want to sigh with relief. ‘We’re looking for…’
‘…for costumes,’ said the rabbit with a wide grin, ‘So you can pretend, is that right?’
‘Well,’ replied Harry, ‘I wouldn’t say…’
‘Because the costumes in this store,’ Larry continued, gesturing to the wares behind him, ‘don’t let you pretend to be someone else, they show you who you really are!’
Harry turned to Anne and whispered, ‘This is my kind of guy.’
Larry pointed to a poster cellotaped onto the side of the counter, which showed none other than himself on stage. “Confessions of a Haberdasher”. ‘That’s what I did before I opened this shop. A one-rabbit show where I had a different name but it was the real me up there.’
‘I wouldn’t mind being an actor,’ said Harry, ‘I have all of Banquo’s lines memorised…’
‘But you’re an actor already, aren’t you?’ From behind the counter, Larry pulled out a pair of devil horns. ‘You, snake, I can sense a lot of darkness within you. You wear a mask, you pretend to be good, but there is a lot of evil in your soul. With this…’ He shook the horns. ‘…you can reveal who you truly are.’
He threw the horns at Harry. They landed on his head.
They became part of his head.
Harry’s scales changed from green to crimson. His fangs elongated and what looked like an arrow-head spring onto his tail. Harry roared in pain, breathing fire as he did so.
Anne could only stand and shudder.
‘And you, duck, you wear a mask too. You pretend to be braver than you actually are, but you don’t have guts.’
Before Anne could run away, Larry threw a skull mask at Anne. All of a sudden, it felt like everything within her had been scooped out, leaving only a cold hollowness. Her skin, her feathers, her entrails – they had all vanished. She felt her gut twist, even though she no longer had it.
So where there once stood a duck and a snake, there was a skeleton and a demon. Even Larry had changed: he now bore blazing red eyes, and his teeth were now like those of a shark, with saliva dribbling down his mouth.
‘Now you are what you truly are!’
Harry turned to Anne, swallowing as he did so. ‘Well, Anne, I guess our costumes being pretentious is the least of our problems now.’ After he said that, he belched another torrent of flame, though it singed nothing.
Though Anne lost her insides, she could still speak. She approached Larry, staring him straight in the eye, and said, ‘Why are you doing this?’
‘I said! To show that we all wear masks, we all pretend…’
‘You really think,’ said Anne, ‘that makes you deep? You really think…you really think you’re the first person to say that?’
‘You’re just trying to look smart, aren’t you? I’ve heard this stuff before; I’m a university student. “We all wear masks” has been used about a hundred times in the poetry classes…’
Harry joined in. ‘Did anyone come to your play?’
Larry roared, raising his arms into the air, then the entire costume shop was enveloped in red light.
The light subsided. Anne was again flesh and blood and feathers. Harry lost his horns. They stood on the streets, with “Funny Bunny” replaced with a closed-down fish and chip shop.
‘So,’ said Harry to Anne, ‘I think I have a jacket somewhere that’ll make me look like Gomez, eh, “Tish”?’