It's Halloween, which means Robot 666 Week will soon draw to a close. But before we put the skeletons back in the closet and the bats back in the belfry, we're pleased to bring you the debut of Cullen Bunn's latest short story, 'The Best Costumes Are Homemade,' starring, once again, Mrs. Friedly.
Bunn's previous Mrs. Friedly tales:
The Best Costumes Are HomemadeBy Cullen Bunn
Mrs. Friedly had been feeling quite festive, but the children were raising such a fuss that she was growing cross. She took a deep breath, though, and reminded herself that it was, after all, her favorite holiday. She refused to let it be spoiled. She picked a piece of candy from the bowl on the kitchen table and plopped it into her mouth. She instantly felt better.
But the children still whined and mewled.
“Now, now, my sweet ones,” Mrs. Friedly said, “I’m afraid this really is a necessity. I know you love the costumes we’ve made, but it is simply too cold out, and you must wear your jackets.”
The children moaned and sighed, whimpered and cried. Mrs. Friedly clucked her tongue as she gathered their jackets.
“Now, now. I know what you think. We worked very diligently on those costumes, and they are very scary. I realize you think that wearing a coat will ruin the illusion, but I can’t imagine your parents will approve if you come home with colds. I mean, look at you. You’re already shivering, each and every one of you.”
She offered the first of the children—Sara—her coat. Sniffling, the little girl slipped into the garment and shuffled off.
“There you are,” said Mrs. Friedly, “and you still look quite frightening!”
She handed jackets to little Billy and Gretchen and Scotty. The children screeched with disappointment as they pulled their jackets on.
“Now, that’s just about enough of that,” Mrs. Friedly said. “It’s Halloween, and you should be happy to go trick-or-treating. I still have to finish costumes for the other children.”
Mrs. Friedly looked over her shoulder. In the living room, the other children in her care—the children from the “wrong side of the tracks”—waited patiently while watching Charlie Brown. Misshapen shadows from the flickering TV screen danced across the walls.
“You know they are less fortunate than you,” Mrs. Friedly said, lowering her voice, “but you don’t see them complaining. Now, off you go!”
She ushered the whimpering children towards the door.
“Have fun!” she called, but she could hear them crying as they shuffled down the walkway.
Shaking her head, Mrs. Friedly shut the door and returned to the kitchen to finish the costumes for the other kids. The floor, she noticed, was a mess, covered in puddles of spattered gore and tracked around in four sets of bloodied footprints.
Those really were frightening costumes, she thought to herself. Perhaps I should have put plastic down. Oh, well. No use worrying over spilled milk now.
She sat at the table and set about stitching and patching together the four new Halloween disguises. Normally, she would have taken the time to clean the table up a bit before she got started. She, like her mother before her, had always been a clean-as-you-go kind of woman. But she could hear Charlie Brown coming to an end in the next room, and she knew the children would soon grow restless. She worked around the oozing, dripping blood and promised herself she’d make the entire house spotless once the holiday was over and done.
After a few minutes, she sat back and surveyed her handiwork. The new costumes were ready and—if she did say so herself—they looked terrific. She called to the children in the other room.
The kids shuffled and loped and slithered into the kitchen. Their teeth and fangs and mandibles clicked together with anticipation. They could already taste the treats they’d receive tonight, and saliva oozed down their chins, dripping to the bloody floor with all their other ichors and bodily secretions.
“Here you are.” Mrs. Friedly held up the first of the costumes for one of the children. “Tonight, you’ll be going as Sara.”
The child took the fleshy, sticky costume and pulled it on over its chitenous, roach-like shell.
“And you,” Mrs. Friedly said to the next child, “will be Billy.”
The second child took the costume, sniffing it hungrily.
“It’s not for eating,” Mrs. Friedly said, “at least not until after you’re done trick-or-treating.”
The third child wore the Gretchen costume, although Mrs. Friedly had to cut additional holes into the face for the extra set of eyes.
The final child had never dressed up for Halloween, but the Scotty costume Mrs. Friedly had made fit perfectly over his twisted, scaly body.
Mrs. Friedly clapped her hands together excitedly.
“Oh, don’t you look wonderful!”
Before her stood Sara, Gretchen, Billy, and Scotty, albeit stitched and bloodied versions of said children. They looked grotesque, that was for certain, but far less so than usual.
“And isn’t that what Halloween is all about?” asked Mrs. Friedly. “Pretending to be someone you’re not.”
She handed each of the children a plastic jack o’lantern and each, in turn, a slip of paper. On each scrap of paper was written an address.
“Sara’s home, and Scotty’s, and Gretchen’s, and Billy’s. I think their parents will be most thrilled with your costumes. Oh, how I wish I could be there to see the looks on their faces.”
The four costumed creatures shuffled out the front door—none of them wearing a jacket. They croaked, “Trick or treat! Trick or treat!” as they moved along the walkway.
“Would you look at that,” Mrs. Friedly called from the doorway. “Someone left you some treats right in the front yard.”
Four crumpled, bloody, skinless figures were sprawled in the yard. Blood had soaked through their jackets, ruining them.