Still uncertain why you’re playing along with this, you dig into the plastic bag and pull out the wizard hat. You hand it over reluctantly, aware that if she does something weird you’re already shitty costume is going to get fifty percent shittier. Her gnarled fingers clutch the costume hat, and she sets it on the top of the display case.
With more care than you expected, the old woman scoops the last of the gold powder from the jar and sprinkles it on top of the wizard hat. As it falls, a strange ripple courses through the air, like looking down a highway on a hot summer day. Then, as suddenly as it started, the air shimmer is gone and she’s handed you back your property.
“Just remember, like all magic of Halloween, it starts and ends with the night,” she warns as you stow the wizard hat back in the plastic bag. “And don’t forget, fulfilled or forsaken, you owe me a dream by All Saints dawn.”
“Oh yeah, totes,” you agree, scrambling toward the exit with as much subtly as you can muster. It isn’t a lot. The old woman makes no move to stop you, though if you can still feel the statues’ stares from the higher shelves as you push open the door. Sprinting back into the street, you find the grey daylight calms your nerves and you wonder what you were feeling so weirded out about.
You don’t turn back, however. Instead you start jogging through the cold air toward home. Even among the starkly lit signs of reality, you can still feel those stares lingering on your skin. It’s a sensation that won’t fade until you’re back in your apartment and have had a long, hot, shower.
* * *
A few hours later, after time to let the ooginess of the shop fade away, finds you somewhat more optimistic about your costume. Digging through your closest for hours allowed you to find some old costume remnants from Halloween’s gone by, which have been sheared and repurposed to compliment your wizard hat. Though you might have gone with the axe if possible, just to avoid thinking about that afternoon’s experience, your materials didn’t lend themselves to a barbarian costume.
They did, thankfully, let you create a passable wizard outfit. You took a blue Snuggie and wore it like a robe, added some silver star stickers to match the pattern on the hat, and found an old rainstick of Jim’s to serve as a staff. It no longer makes the rain sound, though, because two years ago Jim tried to turn it into a bong. Jim might have a problem, but you aren’t going to worry about that tonight.
Admiring yourself in the apartment’s bathroom mirror, you feel like this might just work. Yes, the bulk of your outfit was haphazardly assembled and it shows, but the culmination of everything sort of works together. The hat is definitely the stand-out component. In the store it looked like cheap molded felt with a few garnish stars sewn on. Atop your head, it seems authentic and regal, the stars almost glowing at the edges. You surmise the lighting at the costume store was shitty. You are kind of slow on the uptake.
“Hey, hurry up!” Jim yells, pounding on the door. “I want to get going soon, but I gotta piss. That’s like a five minute procedure in this thing.” Even with the bathroom door closed, you know Jim is dressed like Bowser from Mario Brothers, and that he’s going to use the “want to see my castle” line all night long.
“I’m almost done! What time is it?” You want to snip a few loose threads if there’s time, though at this point such actions are the equivalent of getting a paintjob for an El Camino.
“Fuck man, you know I can’t read digital,” Jim yells back. “The sun is pretty much down though, so maybe seven or eight?”
You’re contemplating how little sense that statement made, when suddenly your entire body seizes up. It’s like the time you drunkenly tried to fix the television, you feel as though your whole body is being ripped apart by electricity. Your bones seem to be stretching and contracting simultaneously, while you vision has completely dissolved into static. There’s no way to tell how long the attack lasts, only that it ends when you pass out in a crumpled heap.
A minute later you awaken and pull yourself up from the floor. Since you use the bathroom counter to do this, you are immediately struck by the sight of yourself in the mirror. Gone is the shitty Snuggie and stars, in their place is a vast, complex robe so dark it seems like someone dipped it in midnight. As you stare into the fabric’s depths, you think you can make out tiny stars swirling about, like dust motes, scattering away when you try and focus on them. The staff is no longer a rainstick-would-be-bong. Now it has become a long length of gnarled wood, with various symbols etched into its wood. Your eyes have changed too, they’re glowing with an unearthly blue light, which matches the sparks of energy intermittently leaping between your fingers.
“Jim, did you put acid in the coffee today?”
“Nah man. I learned my lesson. Wait, did you use creamer?”
“Then you should be fine,” Jim yells back. “Why, something up?”
“I… I’m not sure.” You finish pulling yourself up and stare at the reflection. Carefully, you pull the hat from your head, tensing for another burst of electric seizure. Nothing happens. You check your head for lacerations or bruises, and, finding nothing, must conclude that you are not experiencing a head trauma induced hallucination. No, it just seems like you’ve turned into a wizard.
Taking a deep breathe, you steel yourself. Right now, this is weird and all, but it’s just a costume. It’s not like you actually got powers. Energy sparks off your hands again, right on cue. One spark hits your toothbrush and causes it to levitate off the counter.
Okay, so shit might be a bit more than cosmetic. There’s only one way to see for sure, you’re going to have to try a spell. On the counter is an empty plastic cup that you’d previously had filled with pre-game beer. Next to it is a creepy ceramic frog figurine Jim made in one of his art classes. Refilling cups and animating the inanimate both seem like pretty like standard wizard fare. Time to stop stalling and give one a whirl.
You decide to conjure beer