Before I continue onward with the story of the Malmohus, the greatest museum in all of Scandanavia, I must tell a seemingly unrelated back story.
On Halloween weekend in first grade two important things happened to me.
First, I saw Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, and I watched Mace gingerly stick his hand into a tree to pet the adorable little fluffy guy AND A GIANT TREE MONSTER SWALLOWED HIS ARM AND OH MY FUCK. As a girl who touched everything, this was...the goddamn worst.
Second, the next night I went trick-or-treating.
I was a cheerleader that year, I remember, because my cousin Beth was a real cheerleader. In high school. I desperately wanted to be like my cousin Beth (I wore her ten-year-old hand-me-downs until I was thirteen, although not by choice) because she played soccer and she was beautiful. When she learned I adored her she was thrilled and started trying shove her damn old ass Barbies down my throat.
Not much later I realized my allegiance to her was tepid, at best, and that I really wanted to be like my cousin Tony, who taught me how to play poker.
Anyway, so I was dressed as a cheerleader and trick-or-treating, and on one porch a cloaked skeleton sat on swing, holding a small, half-opened picnic basket. I remember giggling up the path to the porch, shaking Beth's actual pompoms (so cool), running ahead of my dad and my little sister.
The swing creaked ever so slightly, the black cloak shifted eerily in the night breeze. I paused and watched. Was it real? My dad walked up with a three-year-old Katsisch. He held her hand as they approached the dark figure, and she blushed, face half hidden, before reaching up high, as high as should could, and bravely plunging her hand into the unknown depths of the basket, dragging out a handful of candy and retreating to the safety of my dad arms. "I did it!" Katsisch shouted, triumphant. My dad praised her courage.
I stopped dead when I realized what was going on. What I had to do. The dark figure nodded, imperceptively. No, it couldn't have. But it did, oh it did. I whimpered.
My dad was instantly encouraging, urging me forward, but I shook my head and fought
off the frightened tears, because no, didn't he see? Didn't he know? It was calling to me, luring me with sweets, that dead, terrible skeletal thing, with its cabalistic eyes and it's cloak of living darkness, and while my dad's back was turned, the skeleton's curved chin dipped and it looked at me, it looked right fucking at me I swear to fucking god, and I cried, I didn't want to go over there, I knew what would happen, I didn't want to go...
But my dad told me to be brave, and see? Katsisch did it and she was fine, it would be okay, just go over there.
I dropped my pom pom and my bucket of candy and took one last
look at my dad, pleading. He smiled, assured me the skeleton wasn't
real, that nothing would happen. I knew he was was wrong. But I had to
do this. I had to get my own damn candy. I had to do it myself.
Resolved, I crept slowly towards the swing, the skeleton, and the mysterious basket that promised so many wonderful and terrible things. As I inched closer I peered into its sinister picnicky basket depths and saw nothing but Snickers, but sinister picnicky baskets held by cloaked skeletons must have dark powers, powers I couldn't even imagine. Slowly I lifted my arm, hovering above the open basket. After a long, slow, contemplative second I looked up at the face of the skeleton and breathed. I couldn't be real, I thought. But still, I had to be quick. I had to be so fast. I had to be so, so, fast.
My hand darted into the basket and the skeleton lurched, snatched my wrist like a striking python with its cold, dead fingers, and rasped, "No, pretty girl."
Boy howdy did I fucking scream.
I smashed my little fists into the skeleton as hard as I could but it had already let me go, and and I was crying and the skeleton was laughing and then saying it was sorry, and then it wasn't a skeleton at all, it was a teenage boy wearing a mask, and I just hit and kicked him in the shins, hard, and ran away to the safety and the
shadows of the trees. Other trick-or-treaters were laughing down the street, those dummies, they didn't know about real things, like skeletons and monsters that hurt your hand.
Back up on the porch, my dad was laughing his ass off, congratulating the boy on a prank well pulled. He actually believed the skeleton was a fake, he said, over and over again, obviously impressed. Katsisch smeared her face into his shoulder. The boy apologized to my dad, who laughed and told him not to worry, and the boy tried to call out to me I yelled that I hated him, and cried harder.
My dad hugged me to make sure I was fine, and then dragged me back over to the porch to apologize to the boy for hitting him because it wasn't very nice, who wasn't really so scary when he wasn't hiding under a hood with a dumb mask on, and I told him so. He grinned sheepishly and scratched the back of his head. My dad
nudged me forward. I apologized, tears running down my face. The boy
stuck out his hand for me to shake it and I buried my face in my dad's side. But my dad wasn't having it, so I shook the boy's dumb hand and jumped away, refusing to accept any of his dumb candy, because it was dumb.