Hallowed be thy Flame
By Desmond Reddick
23 October 2006 — There is just something about seeing a huge mass of slowly moving people walking the streets in a dark neighborhood that warms my heart. I always loved Halloween. From a very early age I was dressing as various monsters both cinematic and made-up. While I wasn't the only first grader dressed as Dracula, I was the only kid in second grade dressed as Freddy Krueger and the only kid in fourth grade dressed as a nondescript grim reaper. I ate it up.
I was a rather polite kid who never really bothered anybody... but when All Hallows Eve rolled around, the dark spirits must have taken over. I jumped out at people, lurched silently towards them to make them uneasy and took unnerving jokes a little too far. I remember being talked to by more than one teacher. It's always been my time of year.
Halloween: a holiday derived from a Celtic Fire Festival where the winter is ushered in with the snuffing of flames. Halloween: a holiday where children can dress as monsters and walk door-to-door getting candy — for free. Halloween: my favorite holiday.
Seeing as the big day is next Tuesday, I thought I'd relate my most memorable Halloween night and maybe you'll share yours in the forums. I will preface this story with the knowledge that my old neighborhood, although upper middle class, became a firecracker battleground on Halloween. I was 12; too old and cool for trick or treating, but not old and cool enough for a party. I spent much of the night watching bad horror movies with my neighbor (because he picked the movies). While fireworks were going off down the street, we hung around his house. After all, who wants to hang around neighborhood-approved (RE: controlled) fireworks when they're 12 and trying to rebel? So we did what anyone else would: hung out in the front yard with bottle rockets.
Some older guys we knew drove by in an old, canopied pick-up truck. We were watching them innocently enough — until they stopped directly in front of this. A dull glowing light emanated throughout the covered bed of the truck. It was in absolutely no time that bottle rockets exploded from the rear window of the canopy! We turned around and took cover behind the shrubs in his garden. It was like being in a war movie: hot, screaming rounds zipped every which way while we cowered with out hands over our dirt-covered heads. Prickly leaves scratched our skin as the stream of projectiles continued above and around us. Each one exploded in the night sky with a bright pop. Once the final rocket had exploded, we dared to poke our heads up over the flora and saw the truck rattling up the street.
Little did they know the vengeance we were about to bestow. We loitered around the front yard making up wildly overactive bouts of cold revenge. Among them: feeding them to their pets, digging a huge hole in the street and filling it with pointy sticks sure to impale when driven into, throwing their truck into the sun using only our psychokinesis and just plain beating them up. Clearly none of these were viable options.
In our fraternizing we almost missed the slow movement of the clunking pick-up down the street towards us. We took fast cover and waited for the truck to slowly idle at the foot of the front yard. It was then my friend came up with our revenge. Schmevi, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, lit a half-brick of bottle rockets in his hand as he ran towards the open tailgate and threw it in. Shocked by what I was seeing, my jaw hung open, and I'm sure a 747 could have flown in without dinging my lips. In an image I will never forget, Schmevi sprinted back towards me as the occupants of the canopy-covered bed shrieked in terror. Bursts of light accompanied by gunshot-pops were followed quickly by a mass of smoke emanating from the vented sides and open entrance.
I was overcome with terror as I too turned tail and ran. Revenge-fueled glee would have to wait; running to safety was paramount. We sprinted without turning back.
The neighborhood I grew up in was essentially a network of streets encircling a huge forest. The forest had once been used as horse trails, but were currently used by strolling adults and kids playing war. And war it was! Just as we entered the forest, having seemingly lost the fellas, we stumbled into a much bigger predicament. Two large groups of teenagers with firecrackers were facing each other. As previously mentioned, this is a normal occurrence in my neighborhood on Halloween, but in this case it was different: we were in the middle of it all.
Looking back and forth, I couldn't discern a single face on the dark armies before us. Nondescript humanoids with fire-spurting sticks were closing in on us, and we didn't know which way to run. In seconds, bottle rockets, Roman candles and other forms of explosives were flying by our heads and exploding dangerously close to us. Still winded from our sprint through the yard and into the woods, we ran across the trail and jumped a fence into another neighbor's yard. We were safe.
The feeling of elation took over as our hearts continued to pump from the terror of the battlefield and the fear of getting caught. The explosions from the bottle rocket war directly behind us no longer seemed menacing. Without looking at each other we burst into hysterical laughter. Halloween began as Samhain, one of the Celtic Fire Festivals signifying the death and rebirth of seasons. We had our own Fire Festival that night.
The point of the above story? That particular Halloween was spent the way every Halloween should be spent: bathed in terror and loving every minute of it.