"Trick or treat!" a little girl's voice said.
In his dream, Hayden Knight turned around and looked down at his daughter. Meghann grinned up at him from behind a sparkling rainbow colored mask shaped like a butterfly. She wore a bright blue leotard with matching tights. She held out a pink plastic pumpkin with round black eyes and a dog toothed grin.
"Trick or treat!" she said again.
Hayden put his hands in his pockets. He pulled a handful of bullets from the left and nothing from the right. He dropped the bullets into the pumpkin.
"Thank you!" Meghann said.
She skipped a few steps away and held the pumpkin out to Taren Chase who was dressed as the Punisher. Several bandoliers full of bullets and grenades crisscrossed his chest, obscuring the big skull on his shirt. He had even tried to grow a little stubble on his cheeks to complete the tough, ragged look, but it wasn't quite right. He had a Dixie cup in one hand, and he dumped its contents into the pink pumpkin. It was blood with fragments of bone in it.
"Thank you!" Meghann said.
"You're welcome, butterfly," Taren said.
Meghann skipped a few more steps and stopped in front of Skylar Dvorak. She thrust the pink pumpkin towards him. The bullets rolled around, making a sticky clunking sound. "Trick or treat!" she said.
Sky was in his usual loose white pants and tunic, but he was wearing Meghann's little silver wings and her flimsy rhinestone tiara. "Trick!" he said. He snatched the pumpkin from her hands, and she chased him around in circles, giggling.
Hayden felt something brush by on his left side. He sighed. "Why does he do this to me?" he asked.
"Give it back, you meanie!" Meghann said, jumping up at the pumpkin that Sky was holding up out of her reach.
"Okay, here. Treat," Sky said. He dropped Hayden's watch into the pumpkin and handed it to her.
"Thank you!" she said when the pumpkin was back in her hands. She skipped over to the sand box and sat down to admire her treats.
"I just gave my daughter bullets for Halloween," Hayden said.
"You're dreaming," Taren said. "Don't worry about it."
"I know I'm dreaming, but I still gave her bullets."
"I think it's appropriate," Sky said. "You know she'd be just like you if she'd grown up."
"If I let her."
"She'd be just like you. You couldn't stop her."
"That doesn't mean I'd like it. Ever. She's my little girl. I never got to take her trick or treating."
"Hayden, we're all dead. Why are you here?" Taren asked.
Hayden didn't answer. Meghann plucked a bullet from the pink pumpkin and tried to unwrap it like a piece of candy.
"You keep coming back to this place. It's not that you're not letting us go. This is where we're supposed to be. That's not the problem. You're looking for something from us that isn't here."
"The dead are all I have," Hayden said.
"I can't have the living ones because they'll end up here. I can't love them because their lives are too precious to be wasted that way. As soon as I try, I'll lose them."
"It's too late," Sky said. "You love them. They love you. You can't keep hiding behind that fear thing you do. It's lame."
"I'm dead inside. I'm dead inside, and I gave my daughter bullets for Halloween."