It was half past eight when Kai plunked his ass down on the curb, his fingers curled tightly around the neck of the bottle of Jack.
He had no idea how far he’d wandered, but after drinking half a litre of the stuff, he had a nice buzz going, and his whereabouts were hardly a pressing concern. He’d figure it out, eventually.
It was Halloween, and the streets were crawling with chitlins dressed up in bedsheets, carboard boxes, and zombie masks that smelled like melting plastic and factory chemicals. The ones stumbling their way through puberty were drunker than Kai was, tripping on freshly paved road and howling at the sky. Kai cringed as a teenager walloped a girl’s behind, thinking it was funny, then ran circles around his friends as the girl chased him, flailing her bag of candy. A few strays tumbled out, left ignored as the group meandered by.
“Dipshits,” Kai muttered, reaching for the Reese’s Pieces left abandoned by the gutter.
Just then, a blurry shape whizzed past him and thudded on the lawn at his back.
“Ow,” a voice whined, and Kai turned to see a kid dressed like Scooby Doo, wincing as he struggled to sit up. The costume’s dog ears were splayed over his eyes, his button nose red from the late autumn breeze.
“The fuck—” Kai was cut off by the sound of high-pitched laughter. Another gaggle of teenaged douchebags stood in the road, gripping their sides and juddering. The kid’s candy bag lay at their feet, half his haul strewn across the asphalt.
One of them picked up the bag. “Pussy,” he yelled in Kai’s direction—obviously unconcerned with the grown-ass man sitting on the curb—and strutted off with his friends.
Kai watched, his eyebrow raised. “Little shit’s never seen pussy in his life,” he said, then glanced over his shoulder at the kid. “Can confirm—looks nothing like you.”
Scooby Doo managed to find his feet, his eyes wide and wobbly as he pulled back the snot seeping from his nose. “M-me?” he squeaked, his voice betraying his age. He was no older than thirteen.
“Yeah, you,” Kai gestured with his half-empty whisky bottle. He’d lost the paper bag some time ago—not that it mattered. He was in the rich people neighbourhood, which meant patrol cars were about as common as a quiet chihuahua.
The kid yelped and jumped back when the bottle was thrust his way. “I-I’m sorry,” he stuttered. His costume had been scraped threadbare at the knees, the fabric dyed green from skidding across the grass.
Kai rolled his eyes and belched. “Why’re you sorry? Did you want to be a disembodied vagina?”
Kai waved him off with the bottle. “Hey, follow your dreams, Scooby Doo.”
“My name’s Randy,” the boy said quietly, his head bowed. “And I don’t want to be a va…va…”
Kai waited patiently as the kid sorted out human anatomy.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Kai groaned. “Don’t they teach you this shit in school?”
“Everyone laughs if you say it, though…”
Kai ran his tongue over his teeth, then rose to his feet. There was candy on the road waiting to be sniped, and if he wasted any more time, a car would roll by and squash it.
“You shouldn’t eat stuff off the ground,” said Randy, his voice still mousy.
Kai whirled around after scooping up the candy. He shoved as much as he could into his pockets, then ripped open the few remaining pieces. “Sod off, kid. I’m not the one who got robbed.”
Randy’s face scrunched up at the mention of being mugged. “I hate him,” he seethed. “He’s such an asshole.”
“The kid who thinks you’re a vagina?” Kai asked, licking the melted chocolate from his fingers.
“Blake,” said Randy. “And he’s not a kid. He’s a high school senior and a quarterback on the football team. Every Halloween he goes out with his goons and picks on the younger kids—just to steal their candy and push them around.”
“Sounds like a real dick,” Kai replied half-heartedly, though he couldn’t help but feel a pinch of irritation. That pack of bloated runts hadn’t even noticed Kai sitting there—or they just didn’t care. That kind of bald-faced stupidity turned arrogant punks into something more dangerous, and Kai would have none of it on his Halloween turf.
“He gets away with it every time, because no one thinks it’s a big deal.” Randy stomped over to the middle of the road and plucked a leftover Hershey bar from the ground.
Kai hummed in contemplation, a smirk crawling up the side of his face. “Asshole just needs to learn there’s someone out there with sharper teeth.”
Randy stared at the dirty candy bar, fighting back his apparent revulsion before he ripped open the wrapper and gobbled down the chocolate. “Yeah, well, not sure there’s anyone like that.”
Kai arched a brow, then smacked the kid upside the head. “Let’s go, Scooby Doo.”
“Ow—” Randy swatted at Kai’s hand. “What? Where are we going?”
Kai was already down the street as he called back, “To make some bullies cry.”
A few moments later, Randy’s clumsy footfalls closed in on him. “Can I watch?” he asked eagerly, his previously skittish demeanour giving way to something gleeful.
“Do what you want,” said Kai.
Randy skipped as he tried keeping up. “You going to take their stuff?”
A moment of silence passed before a wide, excited grin spread over Scooby Doo’s face. Then, he faltered. “…Can I hide behind you?”
“Sure thing, kid.”
Kai heard a breath of relief next to him, and he made a concerted effort to slow his pace just enough so the kid wouldn’t conk out before they found their prey. Kai could smell them—sweat and insecurity mingling with a bucket’s worth of men’s cologne. It was almost like they thought the body spray could weld their fractured egos back together.
“How do you know where they went?” Randy asked.
“I can sniff out turds from a mile away,” Kai replied cryptically, then halted. He held his arm out to stop Randy from stumbling ahead of him. “There,” he nodded towards the side of a white, two-story manor at the end of the street. Blake and his friends were huddled in the shadows between houses, smoking weed and drinking cheap beer. They were well out of sight, the lights on either of the surrounding homes turned off to indicate they weren’t welcoming trick-or-treaters.
“Jesus—you weren’t kidding,” Randy hissed. “You really found them…”
“Hang on a minute.” Kai headed towards the nearest front porch. Picking up the largest jack-o’-lantern he could find, he drove a fist through the bottom, ripped it open, and scraped out the residual gourd guts. He needed to make sure the opening was big enough.
“What are you doing!” Randy gasped, his hands flying to his cheeks. “Someone will call the cops!”
Kai snorted back a laugh. “No, they won’t.” Then, he shoved the pumpkin over his head.
“Holy crap,” mumbled the kid. “That’s…surprisingly freaky. You look like the headless horseman from Sleepy Hollow.”
Kai chuckled behind his new mask. “That’s the idea.” He pushed his whisky bottle into Randy’s chest and nodded towards the shrubs by the road. “Sit tight.”
He waited until the kid parked himself behind one of the bushes, cradling his precious cargo. Satisfied, Kai headed straight for the manor, his imposing form backlit by the streetlights. It was only when he got close that he realized how big these high school seniors were; most of them were built like varsity athletes, and at least two were as tall as Kai. Turned out, they weren’t as little as he’d originally thought.
“What the fuck?” one of them hollered as Kai approached. “Who’s this clown?”
Kai stopped in front of them, then gestured to the half-dozen bags of stolen candy divvied up among the buffoons. “Give it here,” he said, his voice muffled by the giant vegetable on his head.
Of course, Kai never expected them to actually hand it over. Predictably, their leader, Blake, stepped forward. He was an inch or two shorter than Kai but just as built. Pulling back his shoulders, he straightened like he had a stick up his ass, shuffling his weight from one foot to the other as he flexed. “Piss off, freak.”
Kai didn’t budge. No amount of posturing could have motivated him to turn around—not when there was an irresistible punching bag right in front of him. He slowly canted his head to the side, his stony gaze never leaving his target. Through the jack-o’-lantern’s slanted eyes, he caught a bead of sweat rolling down Blake’s temple. A bully never punched first when his victim could punch back.
Kai growled behind the fleshy façade, “Candy, motherfucker.”
He saw the fear flicker across their faces, the hesitation as he took a step forward. But he also knew that none of them would back down. There was something far more important than their lives on the line: their pride.
“Your funeral, bitch!” Blake bellowed, then sent an uppercut right between Kai’s ribs.
Kai clenched his teeth and grunted. The strike was uncomfortable even as he tightened every muscle in his abdomen. Still, it was just the excuse he needed. Whipping his head forward, he smashed the massive pumpkin directly against Blake’s skull. There was a crack like splintering glass as the gourd broke open on the quarterback’s face. Large chunks of it fell away, revealing Kai’s red-tinted eyes and a menacing grin smeared with bits of orange meat. The bloated runts screamed, and Kai spat a pumpkin seed straight at Blake’s gushing nose, whose shriek instantly died to a garbled whimper. Tasting salt and iron, Kai licked his lips, relishing the quarterback’s blood on his mouth. It was a solid hit. He reached behind his back and unsheathed the hunting knife strapped to his belt, then sliced open the bag of candy that Blake still white-knuckled in one hand. The contents spilled onto the ground—a feast for the ’coons. Wrappers popped as Kai crushed the candy under his boots and stepped forward, pushing Blake out of the way. The almighty quarterback crumpled like a ragdoll. Glaring down the others, Kai pointed to the hefty bags they held and gestured with a come-hithermotion. One by one, they handed over what they’d stolen.
Turning on his heels, Kai retreated to the bushes where Randy gawked—eyes wide and mouth agape. Without a word, Kai dropped the bags at Randy’s feet, snatched back his whisky bottle, and offered Scooby Doo a triumphant smirk, a string of pumpkin guts still clinging to his face.
“Happy Halloween, kid.”
Thank you for reading! I meant to write and post this months ago, but alas, life got in the way. I hope you enjoyed this mid-winter respite, brought to you by the spirits of Halloween! If you like what I do, please consider supporting me by buying my books, where you can see plenty more of Kai and other characters featured in my vignettes!