It might be cheap and flimsy, but you’ve always got the possibility of costumes becoming real in the back of your head (it only has to happen once to plant that seed) so you go with cowboy. Should things turn suddenly real, you’d rather be a rough and tumble badass than a carnival act or dancing fool. Shaking out the thin, artificial duster and dented hat, you toss on a white shirt and a pair of jeans from your closet. This model came with a clip-on bolo, but no boot covers, so for tonight you’re a cowboy in sneakers.
The last accessory is a gun belt made of fabric, but the package doesn’t contain any actual prop guns because that’s what you get for buying the cheap leftover shit on discount. After rooting around your room, you find a pair of mismatched water pistols, ones that Jim uses to fire vodka right into his mouth, and jam them into the holsters. Pausing to check yourself in a mirror, the effect is highly underwhelming. Perfect for a night of normal Trick or Treating.
As you emerge from your room, you can hear Jim’s voice loudly announcing an attempt to smite the couch, and you pick up the speed. You make it just in time to see him jump in the air, spin his hammer around and slam it into a seat cushion. The one where you usually sit, actually.
“I’m still not sure I understand how this is a valid costume.” Victoria’s voice draws your attention, just about the only thing that would steal your eyes from the current Jim shitshow, and you see her costume for the year. Dark, triangular ears are resting atop her head, and she’s slipped in contacts that make her hazel eyes yellow and feline. The rest of her costume is black fur from her neck to her toes, pull tight enough to be alluring but not so much as to push the bounds of prudence. The only spots that stand out are her finger tips, where the shine of metal betrays a slender claw on each finger.
“Are you a cat?” Wow… all that, and you still needed clarification? Just… wow.
“A black cat,” Victoria corrects. “A proper costume of a witch’s familiar. And you are clearly a cattle driver, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around exactly what it is that Jim is professing to be.”
Ah right, that. You turn back to Jim, who is brandishing his fake hammer overhead as though it will help her understand. Like you, Jim also raided the costume bargain bin last year, however he was not content with merely choosing one of the cheap options and living with it. No, he used them as ingredients, cobbling together a whole new outfit from the scraps of others. The hammer he’s holding is a prop from a set of demonic weapons, while a plastic knight’s armor guards his chest. His back is covered by a pirate’s longcoat of the same quality as your duster, and big green boot covers conceal his own sneakers. It would be the most ridiculous costume ever, if the name didn’t outpace it by so much.
“I told you, this year I’m going as something unstoppable, just in case. I am… Godpunch Lightning-Fucker!” Jim announces.
Victoria’s eyes go wide and an unfamiliar chuckle fills the room. It takes a moment before you realize that it came from Annabeth, the first sound she’s made all evening. Somehow, this seems to bother Victoria even more, and she marches over to Jim.
“While the creativity is lovely, I do question your use of language in naming. Not to mention, this is a holiday of dressing up as others. Tonight’s activities are low-risk, but it would be unwise to flaunt the traditions of All Hallows Eve so blatantly. You must garb yourself in the veil of another, not something you just thought of.”
“I didn’t just think of it, I’ve been planning this all year,” Jim proudly tells her. “And I even made sure I was dressing up like someone else.”
“Don’t show her the-” but no one is listening to you as Jim drags Victoria over to his room and clicks on his computer screen. You follow, already knowing what will be there. Sure enough, there it is, Jim’s website, a domain existing only to host the hastily scrawled drawings of one adventurer with seemingly limitless power, Godpunch Lightning-Fucker, who happens to be sporting the same outfit as Jim.
“What is this?” Victoria says. It’s one of the few times you’ve ever seen her genuinely puzzled.
“I couldn’t just make shit up for Halloween, that wouldn’t be cool,” Jim informs her. “So I made a comic series first. See, now I’m dressing up as someone else!” He yanks his flask free, tips it upward, and drains out the last of it’s contents. “Oh, um, could you all split from here for a few minutes? I need to stock up before we leave the house.”
You and Victoria start to leave, but you turn around to face him before fully stepping out. “No endless beer cup! We’re walking the streets, and the cops will be looking for exactly that sort of shit tonight.”
Jim nods, though you can see the disappointment in his eyes as he does, and shuts the door. You turn back around to find Victoria unfolding a large paper map on your kitchen table. Honestly, where she even found such a thing is beyond you. Who sells paper maps in this day and age?
“Merlin, I require your aid before we set out,” Victoria says, calling you over as her eyes scan the map. “When I was of age to gather tribute, we lived in a different town. You, however, have dwelled here all your life. Tell me, which is the best place for us to begin the gathering?”
Annabeth seems to actually be taking interest as she’s peering over the top of the table at the map Victoria has laid out. You make your way over and examine it; trying hard to remember how things were the last time you went out hitting up people for sweets.
“I’m assuming tribute here means candy, because if it’s anything else I’m going to be no help.”
“Tribute is merely sacrifice, be it a chocolate bar or a sugared skull,” Victoria assures you. “Of course, the more gathered, and the grander in scale, the more the tribute is valued.”
“Got it.” You reach out and touch the highest area of the map with your finger. “The Meadows is the richest part of town, and they give out by far the best candy. That said, getting there is a bit of a trip, and there are a lot of other kids working the same territory. There’s good loot, but it’s pretty much the only place you can hit. Carver Street, on the other hand…” You move your finger down to a smaller area. “It’s the entrance to a whole line-up of mid-income cul-de-sacs. Not as big of a haul per home, but you can cover a lot more square footage. Of course, if you really want to roll the dice…” One last move, off to the east. “Rainey Lane does an annual haunted block party. That means that if you run the houses early enough, sometimes people are trying to dump all their candy to be done before the party starts. But too late, and you just have a bunch of empty houses. Plus, if they’re not shucking candy out the door it’s a long trip for a small reward.”
“Fascinating,” Victoria says. “All three could provide adequate tribute, yet each has their own risks. Very well, Merlin, as the expert Annabeth and I will put our trust in your hands. Select the destination where our night will begin.
You really should have seen that coming, shouldn’t you?