Cody proudly led the trio down the street, past the houses with dark windows and the ones whose residents handed out pennies, down to the homes known for giving out the best and the most candy year after year. Irdu sat perched on his shoulder, observing his surroundings with a constant grin on his face, while Reed trailed behind, not daring to take his eyes off of the demon for even a second.
“Here we go.” Cody announced as he turned onto a winding walkway. “Mrs. Ackerman always gives out good candy.”
[I]Oh no.[/I] Reed cringed. [I]Not Mrs. Ackerman.[/I] The boisterous woman had been a neighbor and friend to the family as long as he could remember and would no doubt recognize him at his current age. And when that happened, there was no telling what she - or Irdu - would do. But by the time Reed opened his mouth to tell Cody not to knock on the door the boy had already done so. Reed stiffened on the porch, a dozen different ideas on he should do fighting within his mind and not one emerging the victor before the door swung open and Mrs. Ackerman appeared with a heaping bowl of candy in her hands.
“Trick of Treat!” Cody declared. The rosy-cheeked woman beamed and leaned over the boys. Reed grimaced and took a step back.
“Aren’t you the most adorable little angel!” Mrs. Ackerman gushed.
“Archangel.” Cody corrected, brandishing his sword for emphasis. The woman chuckled.
“Of course, of course.” She turned towards Reed and took in a sharp breath. [I]Oh jeez, she’s gonna scream.[/I]
“And what a charming little devil!” She cried. “Cody, who is this darling young man?”
Reed looked up at his brother just in time to see the boy’s eyes widen to the size of saucers. [I]C’mon, Cody, think fast.[/I]
“Uh, he’s, my, um...” Cody stammered. “My cousin! He’s my cousin...uh...Robbie!”
“Well, Happy Halloween, Robbie!” The woman said as she knelt down to Reed’s level. “You know, you look just like Cody’s brother Reed did when he was your age.”
She straightened herself out and furrowed her brow. “Where is your brother, anyway? Your parents told me that he’d be watching you tonight.”
“Oh, he, uh, forgot something and had to run back to the house.” Cody scrambled. “Can we have our candy now?”
Mrs. Ackerman clicked her teeth and wagged her finger, locking her eyes on Reed’s. The boy fidgeted under her stare.
“Not until I hear the magic words from your cousin!” She declared. Reed inwardly groaned. [I]Are you kidding me, lady?[/I]
“Trick or Treat.” He muttered, his eyes on the pavement. The woman frowned.
“Oh, c’mon, dear. You can do better than that.”
“Yeah, Reed.” Irdu said, looking over at him with a sly grin. “Get into the spirit.”
Reed swallowed, took a deep breath, and then looked up at Mrs. Ackerman with the biggest gap-toothed smile he could manage.
“Trick or Treat!” He cried. The woman’s face broke out in a brilliant smile as she dropped a generous handful of candy in the boys’ pails.
“Thank you!” Cody said. He gave Reed a small elbow in the ribs.
“Yeah, thanks.” Reed mumbled.
“You’re welcome, my dears. Happy Halloween!”
As the boys left the porch, Irdu hopped off of Cody’s shoulder, flapping his wings to keep himself aloft directly in front of Reed’s face as he walked.
“There, now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” He asked. Reed scowled and looked away. The demon chuckled. “Hey, don’t get a sour puss on me now, little guy. We’ve got a whole lot more houses to visit.”
“That’s right.” Cody chimed in. “I’ll race you to the next one, Reed!”
Without another word Cody dashed down the sidewalk, leaving Reed in the dust behind him. He stood there fuming for a moment as Irdu let out a low whistle.
“Wow, look at the kid go. There’s no way you could keep up on those little Kindergartner legs of yours.”
Reed shot the demon a dagger glare before bolting after Cody, his sprint fueled purely out of spite towards Irdu. As the night wore on Reed realized that he was actually enjoying himself a little bit, that his brother’s seemingly endless supply of cheer and enthusiasm was rubbing off on him. It had been so long since the two of them had spent any time together that Reed had forgotten just how much fun the kid could be. But any time he began enjoying himself too much all Reed had to do was look up at the grinning demon perched on his brother’s shoulder to remind himself that keeping the boy safe - keeping the entire town safe - was still his sole responsibility.
It was deep in the evening when the boys came across a house that struck Reed as oddly familiar, as though it had been pointed out to him once and he kept the location in the back of his mind for safekeeping. As Cody rang the doorbell Reed furrowed his brow in thought, knowing that this particular home was somehow important but unable to remember why.
“Coming!” Came a soft voice from inside the house. Reed’s body went numb.
“Cody, we have to go right now.” His brother frowned.
“I’ll explain later!” He hissed. “For right now, let’s just - ”
It was too late. The door opened and within the foyer stood an elegant teenage girl in a sparkling white gown with gloves and a tiara to match. It was just as Reed feared - this was the house of Chloe Preston, the girl he had harbored a crush on since sixth grade. And before his very eyes stood the crush herself, a vision in pure sparkling white. [I]She’s gorgeous,[/I] Reed thought, his jaw somewhere in the vicinity of his belly button. [I]Why, of all nights...[/I]
“Trick or Treat!” Cody proclaimed. The girl smiled and dropped a candy bar in his pail, then stopped. She cocked her head and examined Cody for a moment, a glimmer of recognition playing on her face.
“You look familiar.” She said, pausing in thought. “Do you go to Lynwood Elementary?”
A slow smile crept across her face. “Are you Reed’s little brother? I think I saw him picking you up after school one day. You’re even cuter than he is.”
[I]Oh no. Nononononono.[/I] Reed winced and looked up at Cody, whose smile was bright enough to signal ships out at sea.
“You think my brother’s cute?” Cody asked, letting out a little giggle. Chloe blushed and nodded.
“I’ve thought so for a while now, but I’ve never been able to work up the courage to tell him.” She admitted. “Maybe you can tell him for me.”
Suddenly she turned towards Reed and smiled, as though noticing him for the first time. The boy burned red and looked at his feet.
“Who’s your little friend?” The girl asked.
“Oh, that’s my cousin Robbie.” Cody said, before leaning in and continuing in a low whisper. “Don’t mind him, he’s just afraid of girls.”
[I]Cody, if I get us out of this I promise that every waking moment I have will be spent making you miserable.[/I] From where he stood Reed could just barely hear Irdu whisper something into Cody’s ear, something that made the boy giggle uncontrollably. [I]That can’t be good.[/I]
“You know what might help him stop being shy of girls?” Cody offered, still giggling. “If you gave him a little kiss.”
At that moment Reed was halfway tempted to run from the doorstep and let Irdu do whatever the hell he wanted with his little shit of a brother. The idea only became more tempting when Chloe looked him up and down, winked at Cody, and then lowered herself to Reed’s level. Despite everything, Reed found himself unable to look away - the dress did marvelous things for the girl’s blossoming bust, and the position in which she was crouched in gave the boy a pretty spectacular view. The brief joy he got from that view was quickly overwhelmed by a humiliation deeper than any he had ever felt before, brought about by the realization that he had sprouted a tiny erection and that it was pushing against the fabric of his costume. Reed swallowed and lifted his pail to waste-level as Chloe leaned towards him, close enough for him to make out the faintest hints of a sweet, flowery perfume.
“Happy Halloween, little guy.”
With that she bent in and gave the boy a kiss on the forehead. Her lips felt warm and soft against his skin, and despite the situation Reed felt himself on the verge of swooning. Chloe pulled away from the boy, laughing at the boy’s dreamy, wide-eyed expression.
“Better get used to it.” She smiled. “In a few years there’ll be plenty of girls wanting to kiss you.”
Reed felt as though every inch of his body was blushing. Cody chuckled as he reached over and patted the boy on the head.
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep this a secret.” He told Chloe. “I wouldn’t want Reed to get jealous of the little fella.”
“I wouldn’t want that either.” Chloe laughed. “Say hi to your brother for me, okay?”
With that, the girl retreated into the house, leaving the trio alone on the doorstep. Even after a few moments, Cody hadn’t moved an inch. But no matter how much time passed Reed refused to look at him, since even without glancing at him he could see the shit-eating grin plastered on his brother’s face.
“Don’t we have some more houses to get to?” Reed muttered. Cody snickered.
“I don’t know. Maybe we should stay here so you can get another kiss from your giiiiirlfiiiiiiend.”
Cody’s response to that was to make a variety of smooching sounds, which grew louder and wetter as he followed his fuming brother back into the sidewalk.
“Aw, don’t make fun of your little brother, Cody.” Irdu mockingly scolded the boy. “It’s already sad enough that his crush likes him better as a kid than as a teenager.”
“Shut up.” Reed actually felt himself on the verge of tears, which only made him more upset.
“Ah, don’t get so worked up.” Irdu said. “By the end of the night you two’ll be an adorable little pair. Maybe you can play hopscotch together or hold hands on the playground.”
“That’s enough!” Reed shouted as he spun to face them. The show of anger only made Irdu laugh, but at the same time, Cody suddenly grew quiet. He frowned, knelt to his brother’s level, and wrapped his arms around the boy’s shoulders. Almost too surprised to act, Reed took a long moment before returning the hug, his anger and frustration slowly ebbing away into the embrace. After a few seconds Cody gently pulled away from the boy and gave him a smile.
“I’m sorry.” He said, his eyes sincere. “We won’t make fun of you anymore. Right, Irdu?”
The demon groaned and rolled his eyes.
“Fiiiiiiine.” Irdu sighed. Reed sniffled and managed a smile.
“No problem.” Cody said. “Now c’mon, we haven’t even gotten to the best houses yet!”
The boy placed a hand on Reed’s shoulder and led him down the street while Irdu floated behind them, making no effort to contain his disgust for the scene of brotherly affection. For his part, Reed was a little flustered that Cody had suddenly started acting like a big brother - but at the same time, made no effort to move out from beneath his hand.
As the night grew darker and colder the crowds of roving kids all but disappeared, most of the homes they had preyed on becoming dark and silent in the late hour. For Reed, just keeping up with his brother had become a challenge, his small body growing weary after hours spent canvassing the neighborhood for candy. He even found himself nearly nodding off as he walked, almost falling asleep where he stood before snapping back to attention and scrambling to keep up with his brother. The third time it happened Cody took notice and slowed down so Reed could catch up.
“What’s the matter?” He smiled. “Tired?”
“No.” Reed insisted, a little more petulantly than he would have liked. “I’m fine.”
Cody chuckled and took his hand. Reed grew warm and avoided Cody’s gaze but held on to his brother’s palm just the same.
“Only a few more houses to go.” Cody promised. “Then we can just sit down and relax until midnight.”
The last word Cody spoke sobered Reed like a slap to the face. [I]I should have grabbed my watch before we left the house. There’s no way for me to tell how much time is left. I’ve gotta get Cody to ask what time it is at the next place -[/I]
Reed’s train of thought was interrupted by a strange noise that echoed down the corridors of the empty street. He looked up and realized that the sound he heard was that of eggs breaking against siding, and that those eggs were being slung from the shadows by a pair of snickering teenagers not twenty feet from where they stood. Reed stopped in his tracks, squinted and then widened his eyes. [I]Oh God, it’s Kevin and Jay,[/I] Reed realized, recognizing the friends that he had planned on hanging out with before he had been saddled with his brother. [I]I didn’t know this is what they would be doing tonight.[/I] Cody looked back at his brother, seemingly curious as to why he had stopped.
“What’s the matter, Reed?”
“Let’s turn around.” Reed whispered. “I don’t want to go this way.”
Reed motioned at the teenagers.
“Those guys might give us trouble.”
Cody pursed his lips in thought. “It’ll be okay. I don’t think they’ll bother us if we just walk by them quickly.”
The boy continued walking but Reed yanked on his arm before he could get very far.
“Cody, please.” Reed begged. “Let’s just go another way, okay?”
Cody frowned, studying his brother’s face carefully. Reed bit his lip. [I]If I tell him the truth he might sympathize - but then Irdu’ll find out, and he’ll probably do everything in his power to embarrass me.[/I]
Reed went cold, recognizing that it was Kevin’s voice that had just been shouted in their direction. He looked over and saw him and Jay striding towards them, their expressions making it abundantly clear that they were not pleased with the boys’ presence.
“Let’s go!” Reed hissed. But Cody would have none of it. The boy stepped up and puffed his chest out as the teenagers walked up to them, crossing their arms and looking down at Cody with unmasked irritation.
“What are you doing here, kid?” Jay asked.
“Trick or Treating.” Cody answered, simply. Kevin scoffed and leaned over him.
“Isn’t it a little past your bedtime, squirt?” He sneered. The boy met his eyes.
“Move out of the way.”
Kevin and Jay raised their eyebrows and looked at each other.
“Kid’s got balls.” Jay said, impressed. He glared at Cody. “It’s too bad you just saw us egging that house. We might have been liable to let you go otherwise.”
“I won’t tell anybody.”
“Sure you won’t.” Kevin grinned. In a flash of movement he spun behind Cody and locked him in a full nelson. The boy cried out in surprise, flailing his legs and shouting as in an attempt to escape the hold.
“Cody!” Reed shouted. Moving on instinct, the boy reared his foot back and planted its tip squarely in Kevin’s shin. The teen cursed and his grip weakened, enough that Cody could escape. As soon as his feet were on the ground, he and Reed bolted away from the teenagers - but before he could get away, Reed was suddenly jerked backwards, almost as though he had been lassoed around the waist. He looked backwards and saw that the idea wasn’t far from the truth, as Jay had taken hold of his forked tail, gripping it tightly with both hands. With surprising ease the teen pulled Reed towards him despite the boy’s best efforts to scamper away. Cody, noticing that his brother wasn’t beside him, turned and ran back into the fray.
“Hey! Leave him alone!” He cried. But Kevin merely shoved him aside, sending Cody tumbling onto the grass. Meanwhile, Jay practically howled with laughter as he lifted Reed into the air by his tail, bobbing the boy up and down in mid-air like a yo-yo while he cried out and struggled to escape. Candy cascaded over the rim of his pail as Reed tightened his grip on its handle, holding onto the cheap molded plastic as though his life depended on it - since that very well may have been the case.
“Irdu! Help him!” Reed faintly heard the cry of his brother. He looked up at the demon, who sighed and nodded. Before Reed’s terrified eyes, Irdu begin to glow, looking exactly the way he did before the demon reduced him to childhood.
“No, wait!” Reed shouted. Oblivious or indifferent to his objections, Irdu remained locked in his trance, the glow growing darker and more ominous until he opened his eyes and thrust a claw in Jay’s direction. A second later, Reed was dropped roughly to the ground, groaning in pain from the pail being jammed into his gut upon landing. But even through his pain he could clearly make out the horrified cry that pierced the air behind him. Reed turned onto his back to see what had become of Jay, letting out a small cry of shock when he saw the answer. The teen was shrinking rapidly into his clothes, so fast that he was actually overcome by them. But before that happened Reed was clearly able to catch the signs of what exactly was happening - the smoothing of features, the melting of muscle, the distinct sense that the teen was being forcefully stripped of his burgeoning masculinity.
It was over in a matter of seconds. Where Jay had stood a moment ago there was now nothing more than a crumpled pile of clothing, beneath which a small mass wriggled and writhed. Reed looked on with a combination of despair and fascination when a little face poked through the collar of Jay’s t-shirt, its expression the very picture of bewilderment. Soon the rest of the body wriggled through the collar, the naked, tow-headed baby looking up at the group and his surroundings with an expression that became more frightened and confused with each passing moment.
“J-Jay?” Kevin stammered. The baby looked up as if in recognition. Kevin covered his mouth and sobbed. He spun to face Reed, his eyes burning with rage. The boy cowered and scuttled backwards on his hands.
“What the fuck did you do to him, you little shit?!” He screamed.
“I-I didn’t...” Reed stammered. Kevin growled and lunged at him, but as he closed in, the teen was suddenly knocked backwards and onto the grass, as though by a great gust of air. Reed looked over his shoulder and saw Irdu still in pose, a satisfied smile on his face and a single claw pointed in Kevin’s direction. [I]No, NO![/I] The boy scrambled to his feet and looked over at the teen, who lay dazed and moaning on the lawn, seemingly unaware of what was happening to him. From where Reed stood it almost looked as though Kevin were deflating, his shoes flopping to the ground and clothes going flat as the body that supported them retreated into itself. Meanwhile Kevin’s face was growing softer, rounder, becoming all rosy little cheeks and big bright eyes.
When the transformation drew to a close Kevin finally seemed to snap to, looking around to try and confirm where he was and what had happened. With some effort he sat up, staring at Reed and Cody with unabashed, open-mouthed shock. The sound of a baby’s wail caught his attention and he looked over to see Jay sitting on his soft little bottom, drumming his heels and waving his arms wildly. The child had tried and failed to rise to his feet several times before finally giving in to the frustration that bubbled within his tiny form. Kevin stared at him for a long moment before raising his hands to his face, wiggling the his pink little fingers in front of his eyes. A few seconds passed before the child screwed up his face and began to bawl, his cries joining his friend’s to create a symphony of infantile anguish.
Reed jumped. He had been watching the scene play out in a kind of morbid trance, unable to tear his eyes away despite the horror that filled his body. It wasn’t until his brother called his name that he finally snapped free, turning towards Cody to see his face pale and shaken.
“We need to get out of here before somebody comes.” Cody said.
“What? We can’t just leave them here!” Reed cried, motioning towards his bawling friends.
“They got what they deserved.” Irdu said, simply.
The boy grit his teeth. [I]It’s not like I can force him to change them back anyway. And if I resist...[/I] After a moment’s consideration, he took hold of Cody’s hand, allowing the boy to rush them away from the scene, his friends’ cries growing softer and softer until they were washed away by the whistling of the cold autumn wind.