This was their last Halloween together, but none of them knew it yet. Mel knew they were getting old for trick-or-treating, but she wanted to do this one last group costume idea. Over the summer, Anna had introduced the group to her favourite show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’d taped a bunch of episodes onto VHS and they’d spent the hot summer days camped out in her basement watching her parents big TV.
Mel was obsessed – quickly surpassing Anna’s obsession. She’d borrowed the tapes to watch some of her favourite moments again and again. She cast the four of them as the characters in the show; Anna, of course, was the perfect Willow, Vic would be Xander, Samantha, despite being a girl, was kinda stuffy, so she was Giles and Mel was the only blond, so unsurprisingly, she was Buffy.
“You guys, we have got to dress as them for Halloween!” She said over lunch one day. Sam and Vic were sharing a plate of fries and looking adorable as usual. “It’ll be so fun! We can all go trick-or-treating then go to Anna’s house and eat candy.”
“What did Anna say about this?” Vic gave her his usual skeptical stare. Anna had gone to a different High School than the rest of them so she wasn’t there to support Mel’s ideas like she used to.
“She is totally cool with it. Sam and I can even sleep over.”
Anna would be fine with it, Mel was sure. She headed toward Anna’s house after school, passing by the private high school on her way. Sure enough, Anna was standing near the gate. She wasn’t alone, and as Mel approached, she recognized Mandy, Anna’s next-door neighbour standing next to her.
“Hey Mel. How’s life at Madison High?” Mandy leaned back against the gate. Mandy used to babysit Anna and her younger brother that summer, so she’d made friends with all of them. She didn’t really seem like a grown-up, even though she’d volunteered in the library at their old school. She was probably the coolest grown-up Mel had ever met, she even had her nose pierced.
“It’s okay. I wish Anna was there too. What are you doing at St. Pat’s?”
Anna jumped up and down, her plaid skirt flapping as she hopped. “Mandy’s directing the play this year! I’m thinking about trying out.”
Mel tried to hide her surprise. Anna on stage? This was new. She was the shyest girl in eighth grade, now she wanted to be a play? “That’s really cool, Anna. I think you’d do great.”
“Me too.” Mandy winked. “Well, I’m off. I’ll see you girls later!”
“See you Mandy.” Anna waved and turned back to Mel “Hey, do you want to go to Sev before we go home?”
“Sure, yeah. I could use a slurpee. So anyway, I was talking to Sam and Vic and…” Mel outlined her whole plan for Halloween night while they made their way down the leaf-lined street. Anna agreed, but expressed doubt about the costumes.
“Who will even know who Willow is? I feel like we’re the only ones in this town who even care about Buffy.”
“Come-on! I can’t do it alone. What would Buffy be without her Willow?”
Halloween night dawned cold and clear, and Mel was freezing in her mini-skirt. Her mother had expressed doubt about her going trick-or-treating, but helped her find a spare pillowcase anyway and sent her out the door with warnings about not bothering any little kids.
Sam and Vic were standing on either side of the front stairs of Anna’s house, Vic had his arms crossed and Sam looked like she’d been crying.
“Hey guys. Where’s Anna?”
“I think I’m gonna go.” Vic walked down the stairs. “I told Ben and Lee I’d meet them.” He snapped a scary monster mask down over his face.
“Vic! I thought you were going to be our Xander!”
“Yeah, I couldn’t really find that at the mall. I’ll see you at school on Monday.”
Mel watched helplessly as he grabbed his bike and rode away down the street, swerving to avoid a group of kids in power ranger costumes. Sam stood wordlessly, sniffed, and walked into Anna’s house. Mel went to follow and noticed Mandy on her porch, putting out a jack-o-lantern. She waved and called out,
“I’ve got tons of candy, make sure you guys come over tonight!”
Mel waved back and followed Sam into the house. Anna was in the basement flipping through channels. A red wig lay next to her on the floor.
“Hey guys.” She said monotonously, not taking her eyes off the TV. “I’m trying to find a scary movie.”
Sam flopped down beside her. “Sounds fun to me.”
“I thought we were going to go trick-or-treating.” Mel’s voice shook a little as she spoke. “Where are your costumes? I thought we decided…”
“I don’t really feel like trick-or-treating anymore.” Sam sniffed again. “Vic’s being a jerk and I don’t want to run into him out there. He’s acting so weird lately.” She waved her hand vaguely toward the ceiling.
“I kinda changed my mind. We’re too old for trick-or-treating. None of my friends at St. Pat’s are going.”
Mel felt a lump rising in her throat. Swallowing hard, she joined her friends on the couch. After the movie ended, she didn’t feel like staying. With a quick good-bye, she headed outside, still holding her empty pillowcase.
Mel noticed that Mandy’s house was one of the few on the block with the light still on. Maybe she could get a bit of candy and make this night better. She walked across the lawn and rang the doorbell. The silhouette of Mandy’s wild curly hair appeared through the frosted glass of the door. She opened the door with a wide, jack-o-lantern-like grin. There was an odd smell drifting from inside her house, something Mel couldn’t quite put her finger on. She shivered and held out her empty pillowcase.
“Hey Mel! All alone? You can have some candy if you promise to slay some monsters on your way home.”
“You know who I’m dressed as?”
“Hell yeah! I love Buffy. Did you see the season finale? That was a trip. Here, come inside. I’ve got way too much candy, you can have as much as you want.”
Mel stepped over the threshold and grabbed a few mini-chocolate bars from a big black bowl. Inside the house there were scarves and candles everywhere, giving the whole place an eerie glow. The smell was stronger in here, but it seemed sweeter. She came further into the room, trying to figure out if it was coming from the candles or somewhere else. Mandy patted the couch, beckoning her even further into the house.
“Tell me about your night? I heard your friends arguing earlier.”
Mel inhaled deeply and all her thoughts poured out in a long stream.“Not really. Vic’s just… well, everything’s just all different. It’s like nobody’s themselves anymore. I want it to be like it was in summer. But Vic seems like he’s going to dump Sam and Anna’s not at school and nobody wanted to be what I wanted them to be.”
She blinked back tears. Mandy leaned forward to hug her and Mel caught a glimpse of her necklace. It was a complicated twist of heavy-looking metal. It caught a little of the orange light and seemed to glow for a moment. Mel felt dizzy and Mandy caught her by the arms as she flopped forward.
“Whoa, there Buffy. Isn’t there somewhere you need to be?”
“Xander?” Mel whispered, confused. She blinked hard and then stood up to leave the house. She had forgotten what she was supposed to do tonight. Angel was waiting at the Bronze and she had vampires to slay.
“Good night, Buffy. Don’t leave any scary monsters alive out there.” Mandy’s voice sounded like it was coming from very far away. Mel looked down at her hands to find that she was holding sharp wooden stake. It was time to slay any scary monster she came across. As she crossed Mandy’s lawn she spotted one riding towards her on his bike.