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“You hate Halloween?” The question comes up in the middle of lunch after the revelation.
“I don’t hate Halloween.” Cassidy says, folding her hands in her lap, “I just don’t see the point of it.”
“I am appalled.” I say, looking at her in shock, “How have I never heard this information before?”
“I guess it just never came up?” She says, looking sheepish.
“Not liking Halloween doesn’t just ‘not come up.’ You kept this from me!” She looks away from me, plays with her food.
“I just knew you’d get upset,” she says.
“I’m not upset.” Cassidy raises an eyebrow at me as I say it.
I sigh, “I’m just surprised is all.”
She smiles, “It’s not even that big of a deal, I just didn’t tell you because I knew how you’d react.”
I’m about to answer her with some retort when I suddenly get an idea. I perk up, my hand going to her arm, “I have an idea.”
She rolls her eyes at me and says, “You’re going to make me see how fun Halloween can be.” At the same time I say, “I’m going to make you see how fun Halloween can be!”
I look at her in shock after I realize we’ve said the same thing.
“You can try,” She says, gathering up all of her things, “But I don’t think you’ll be able to make me like Halloween.”
“Challenge accepted,” I say as she stands up and leaves just as the lunch bell rings.
The weekend after discovering Cassidy’s dislike for the best holiday ever, we all group up in a nearby forest. I called up all our friends and told them to invite their friends. We end up being a group of about twenty teens, all dressed in dark colors, standing around a pile of Nerf Guns. Jason had quite the collection of the toys from his childhood and his little sister was even more obsessed with them and so, together they had created quite the arsenal.
The rules were simple: it was every man for himself but teams were allowed, though no more than four people per team—we don’t want someone to have an unfair advantage cause they grouped up with ten other people. Whoever was left standing, be that one person or one team (or whatever remained of that team) won the game. What did you win? Pride, mostly. But also twenty bucks; one dollar for every person involved, because hey, these things weren’t fun unless you were playing for a real prize.
And so we all split off, each taking a Nerf gun or two. Picking up the pellets was going to be hell, we realized, but we’d counted how many we had before hand and promised to buy more to replace the ones we lost. Cassidy had doubts about the whole thing, and she told me so as we headed into the woods.
“See, I think I should have mentioned that part of the reason why I don’t like Halloween is because I don’t like scary things, Jade,” she tells me.
“Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be scary, it’s going to be fun,” I promise her, giving her a kiss on the cheek before I split off from her.
We’d set our designated start time at 11:00 pm. Right now it was 10:58. While there were no rules against teaming up we had all agreed that we had to wait until the game actually started before making our alliances. So I separate myself from Cassidy and make my way further into the woods. My mind is trained on the best method of how to go about this, and I eventually come upon the idea that climbing a tree is best. So I do. And then I sit and wait.
It’s not long until it’s 11:00.
I remain quiet, listening for other people, making sure I’m not surprised.
Several minutes pass and nothing happens. Being in this forest so close to Halloween is giving me creepy vibes. You could totally lose your mind doing something like this; it’s easy to see the trees as people, hear the noises and think they’re ghosts, fool yourself into thinking that this place has something dark in it. But knowing that my friends are around is a good reminder to myself that nothing creepy is actually out there.
Well, that’s not completely true, Sam is one of the friends in this forest, after all.
I hear the crunch of leaves proceeded by heavy footfalls headed my way and I get ready to fire. Seconds later I hear the jeering voices of two other people. I wait until they’re closer before deciding what to do.
“This isn’t fair!” Cassidy’s voice calls, “You guys stole my gun!”
“There are no rules against it!” Calls back Jess.
“You really should have been holding on to it tighter- stop running in zig-zags!” And Kate.
I sigh, watching as the figures make their way into my line of sight. I can easily make out the black blobs running through the forest and I aim my gun, steady myself, and shoot twice.
“Ow!” Jess swears loudly before falling to the ground—as per the rules, he’s now dead.
Kate follows quickly after, my second shot having hit her in the chest. Cassidy looks around wildly in shock.
“What?” She asks the air.
“Seriously?” I call down to her, and she looks up at me in panic for a moment before she realizes it’s me, “We’ve only been playing for ten minutes.”
She sighs, takes the guns from Jess and Kate as they get up to leave (it would be dangerous to have people just lying around in this dark forest, they’ve waited their minute on the ground, now they have to go back to the benches outside the forest and text the group chat to let everyone know there’s two less people to worry about).
“In my defense they totally jumped me,” she says, glaring at their backs.
Jess turns around, “Hey, we let you go easy—we could have just shot you and been done with it.”
“Just get out of here,” I say, smiling at them.
I turn back to Cassidy and hold out a hand to her, “Allies?”
She smiles and takes my hand, “Yes please. I need all the help I can get.”
30 minutes later Cassidy and I are still in the game, and it’s become obvious that we should have done this in a smaller area because we’ve only come across three other people. The texts from the groupchat inform us that there are, indeed, other people being shot. From the number given to us it appears that there are only seven of us left. Despite the slow going, Cassidy and I have a good time anyway. There’s a tense feeling in the atmosphere and she and I keep quiet so as to not alert others to our position. Still, the adrenaline of the game is a wonderful feeling.
We’re about to give up and head back to the edge of the forest when four people suddenly surround us. I fire quickly, getting one of them before they can get me. Cassidy gets another one and then we’re face to face with the other two, guns pointed but nobody shooting.
“Just walk away,” I say to Holden, who stands in front of me.
“You know I can’t do that,” he says.
“You girls better just surrender now,” Ben says, his gun drawn on Cassidy.
“See, we can’t just let you win,” Cassidy says, shifting slightly, causing the boys to look nervously at her, “It wouldn’t look good on us women.”
“We’ll say you went down bravely,” Holden says.
“Yeah, no shame on your part,” Ben adds.
I shake my head, “Not gonna happen boys.”
I fire the first shot, hitting Holden in the chest, taking him by surprise. And Ben tries to react just as quickly, firing off his gun at Cassidy—who looks terrified and not at all prepared to shoot quickly. So I leap in front of her, taking the bullet to my chest, and she shoots at Ben as I go down before catching me in her arms and falling with me.
“Cass!” I say dramatically, reaching for her, “I’ve been shot!”
“I can see that, Jade,” she says down at me like I’m the weirdest person here.
“This is it, I’m done for, say goodbye to me, notify my next of kin!” I yell, breathing heavy in fainted pain.
“You don’t have next of kin,” she tells me.
“Oh, my love, our time has been cut so short!” I reach up to cup her face, “How will you go on without me?”
She rolls her eyes, then smiles and starts to play along, “My love I do not know. My life is over now that you are dying!”
“It is a tragic fate!” I say, placing the back of one of my hands on my forehead.
“Truly tragic,” she agrees, then begins to fake cry. “Life has no meaning without you!”
She takes her gun and places it to her temple.
“No! My dear don’t take your own life!” I call out to her.
“It is the only way,” she responds.
“Please, live your life as best you can without me,” I plead her.
She smiles sadly at me, and then drops her gun, “Alright, I will do as you wish.”
I’m about to continue my fake death and close my eyes, but before I do I see the Nerf bullet that hits her back. She screams in shock, and then after realizing what’s just happened, she gives me one final breathy “I love you,” before falling over me. I close my eyes, and we both stay there for our one minute of death.
Afterword we both start giggling. She leans over me, looking into my eyes.
“See?” I ask her as I move some of her hair out of her face, “Halloween doesn’t always have to be about what’s scary, it can also be about having fun with your friends.”
“And fake dying,” she adds.
“Yes,” I agree, and giggling we both stand up.
Two days later there’s a picture of Cassidy and I in our “death” pose, a beautiful peace that looks a bit like the end of Romeo and Juliet, that surfaces on Facebook. Several hours after that is the entire scene from the moment I jumped in front of her to the moment of our deaths. Neither of us had realized we’d been filmed, but having the moment recorded for all time is something both of us agree is a good thing. When we asked Sam why they’d felt the need to film us, they just replied with, “It was just too cute not to!”
After that night Cassidy admits that Halloween may be her favorite holiday.