Halloween makes people say strange things.
My coworkers were discussing their children’s costumes, and I overheard the sentence, “My son was a Rubik’s cube last year.” It’s no different from the other sentences you hear around this time of year, but this one struck me as particularly Kafkaesque.
One day, waking from puzzling dreams, Gregor Samsa awoke to discover he had been changed into a monstrous Rubik’s cube. He lay on his cheap plastic back, and saw, as he lifted his head, his red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and white abdomen divided into rotating faces, all of them quite out of order.
I imagined a world where Spontaneous Rubik’s Cube Transformation Syndrome was a perennial problem, but one which people had learned to live with. You called a puzzle-specialist to solve the cube before the ailment reversed, for if you didn’t solve the cube before you reverted to your normal form, you might end up with legs coming out of your shoulder blades, or your esophagus emptying directly into your lungs.
* * *
I have never Halloweened. As a child, my parents opted for the more reverent All Saints Day (November 1st), or a generic, church-hosted “Harvest Party”. I wore a bathrobe and went as David, and my brother duct-taped buckets to his shoes and went as Goliath. Rather than go door-to-door around town, we walked around the church sanctuary and played ring-toss and mini-bowling to earn Ring Pops and Sour Patch Kids. It was like trick-or-treating, but without the risk of getting kidnapped or eating poisoned candy, which of course took all the fun out of it.
I don’t know who was supposed to be poisoning candy in our area, but I guess every neighborhood needs a resident candy-tainter. I can picture him sitting in his basement, injecting a syringe full of epinephrine into the butt-end of a Snickers bar. “This’ll keep those bastards off my lawn,” he cackles with glee.
Since our saccharine fare came from the church, we never ate “Halloween candy”. Our Butterfingers and Reese’s cups were never pumpkin shaped, and anything with a witch on the wrapper was discarded as too satanic. While this had little impact on the candy selection, I did manage to go most years without encountering Halloween Death Taffy. Those ambiguously-flavored orange-and-black-wrapped blobs that were 89% corn syrup, 7% ear wax, and 4% bits of wrapper that got stuck in the taffy folds. I once lost a dental filling in one, and the extra metal only improved the flavor.
During college, I could have Halloweened if I wanted to, but without a decade and a half of building up the tradition, the trappings just seemed pointless, especially since I was a man, and could not simply dress up as “sexy pirate/nurse/zombie/Rubik’s cube”. When working in the restaurant industry on Halloween, my sole concession to the night of disguises was wearing a hat with the logo of our chief competitor.
These days, I don’t decorate my house to entice trick-or-treaters. I close the shutters, turn off the lights, and read Lovecraft by candlelight. And if someone does come a-knocking, I come slowly to the door and let it creak ominously open, letting the eager young children see my face.
“Who are you supposed to be?” they ask.
“You, in twenty years,” I say.
As they run screaming into the night, I return to my book, satisfied that I’m the scariest monster around this Halloween.
* * *
If you liked this, you may also enjoy my previous Halloween post. Or you might hate it. How should I know?
EDIT: I made the mistake of googling “sexy Rubik’s cube”. Apparently that’s a thing after all. Like Jayne’s hat.