[Part II and III added] Peter had the lowest expectation for Halloween this year, but that was before his little sister's plan took shape, and changed his own.
*On the 31st.*
That day’s supper was coming to an end and Peter’s parents were reviewing the incoming course of events for the Halloween evening with his quite excited sister.
The little town where they lived was fully commited to the tradition, as they had discovered when moving in two years ago. Not only were almost all of the houses parseming the little town lavishly decorated with spiders, spooky skeletons, nicely ciseled pumpkins and others themed items of the sort - He was convinced some of them participated in state wide contest; no way otherwise -, but the town went as far as closing some of the streets to car’s circulation to let the childrens safely run everywhere. Finally, the parents could write-in their childrens to a big party organised later on near the townhall for them to gather in the later evening, extending the festivity for all the willing ones.
Of whatever kiddy stuff they had prepared for them, it was the themed costume contest he had - halas - heard the most of it. Elisabeth had spent the last few days in the house proudly showing off the witch costume their father had made for her, beaming at each upgrade of fabric he had added. Although her husband visibly took part in the fun of this little project, their mother had to warn Liz that she was going to tear it up and spoil the result for her to finally stop wearing it.
"I can’t wait! It’s going to be so fun!" She beamed, fidgeting on her seat. She again gave him a weird long side-eyed look, like she had done all week each time Halloween was brought up, he noticed. For some reason she clearly had high hope for Halloween this year, and Peter took a mental note to prepare for something to say to confort the little brat after the eventual big deception of a lost contest.
The discussion eventually focused back on him, though, and he tensely gave his glass of water a sudden unreserved attention as his parents once again gave him the talk on alcohol, music not too loud for the neighbors and seemingly arbitrary timedates to come back from his friends little party. A smaller town meant a more attentive police to such events from high schoolers, after all.
"Geez, I know, dad, I’m seventeen, in case you haven’t noticed? I-got-it. So just leave me alone and focus back on Liz’s make up, or the house’s Halloween stuff... or whatever else for all I care!" He concluded, feeling the need to loudly drop his fork in his plate as to ponctuate his point.
"Peter!" His Mother exclaimed, her stern tone dropping to a more conciliatory one as her son concentrated back on his plate. "We understand. Believe me. But, you know, your father and I would be way more at ease if we had at least some landline number to call, in case we can’t join you. That’s something that can always happen, for a lot of reasons." she added, on a worried tone. "Actually, you haven’t even told us yet in which of your friend’s houses you’re going to, and we-"
She was cut as Peter suddenly stood up "Well maybe if you hadn’t made me leave all my friends for this shitty place in the middle of nowhere you would still know their houses!" He yelled before barging out of the room and going up the stairs. "Fuck this!"
"Peter, you come down right now and excuse yourself!" Attempted his father, but his scold got no other answer than the loud thud of a door closed with all the force of a teenager’s mood. He exchanged a look with his wife - a look that could have spelled ’he’s at this age’ right there in colorful letters - and sighed.
Elizabeth, meanwhile, finished her plate in silence.
Upstair, Peter furiously crashed on his bed.
The truth was that there were no party with his friends. Or, more precisely, no party in which he was invited. Bruce had told him he was and he had been stupid enough to believe him and, worse, proudly tell his parents he had such a schedule for the night, far from the boring adult’s one. Bruce and his little group had snickered and laughed at the fool he was when he had brought up the matter later on. No doubt there was some Facebook update he couldn’t see talking about it.
It hadn’t been always like that. He had actually got his hopes quite up following his arrival in the town two years ago, but it wasn’t so easy to stick yourself into little circles of friends who knew themselves since kindergarten, and he had quickly saw himself being left out. It wasn’t helping that what his family had always considered ’chubby’, with only his little sister escaping it, differed quite from state to state. Not that he was obese - nor ugly for that matter, with brown hairs, what his mother proudly described at beautiful light eyes, and the distinct remaining tan from a life in the south - but that was enough in high school for being the butt of the jokes, and the hopes he had in his growth spurt to even things a bit proved fruitless.
"It’s not fair", he thought out loud while punching his pillow. He couldn’t even talk of it with his old friends like he had done at first. Along the years they had barely kept connection with ’friends’ ending up in different schools, what hope did he had in a whole different state?
’What am I going to do now?’ There was no way he could go back downstair and tell his parents he actually had no party to go to. ’And what? Have them scold me for not telling them earlier, with half pitiful looks?’. His anger was subsiding as fast as it came, being remplaced by sorrow. He could feel tears coming up around his eyes.
He could always go out and walk alone somewhere, pretending to go to one, go back late in the night once his parents were sleeping, and lie about having such a good time. But everyone knew each others around there. ’Surely mom will talk of the evening with some hairdresser, or see some facebook photo lacking any sight of me and inquire about it.’
’Everyone will know I’m such a loser!’
He punched his pillow again, this time half hearthdly, and sniffed back his tears as it slowly took back its shape.
He had stood motionless for what felt like a long time but probably was merely some minutes when someone knocked on his door.
He sighed, preparing to face one of his parents if not both, but was surprised to see his little sister stealthely enter his bedroom.
"What do you want? Shouldn’t you be preparing yourself? Your friends will be waiting for you, you know?" he said bitterly while getting upright on his bed.
"Well, you see... I wanted to ask you something while Mom and Dad are still cleaning stuff. My friends won’t be coming before half a hour anyways. And- and I wanted to ask you!"
"So, what?" he interrupted the little girl who couldn’t seem to decide what to do with her hands while looking at the carpet below.
"Do you want to go trick or treating with me and my friends?" She asked, finally looking up, hastily going on "I already have the costume! You could join us, and we would go from house to house and collect candies and then there would be the fair with everyone and-"
"Woah wait. Hold on, Liz" He almost chuckled. He was accustomed to the fast pacing speeches his little sister often went into when she was flustered, which somehow had a way to always raise his mood, but he had to interject here. "I’m sorry, really, it’s not that I don’t want to go with you but listen a minute. Trick or Treating is for little kids around there and I’m seventeen, I’m not going to join up your little group of grade schooler and sproll around the streets." he gestured. "Besides, isn’t there an age limit for the kid’s event at the town hall? I’m pretty sure I couldn’t even participate, adults are only allowed there to watch over. See?"
"I know. That’s why I have this." She exclaimed while extending her right arm to bring up a little metallic box he hadn’t even noticed she had with her. "With this you can join us! The candies will make you little. And Emma gave me a costume. It’s not hers you know, it’s one of her big brother’s costume and he’s not using it this year so she said I could take it, but I think it’s neat, it’s a boy costume and I’m sure you will like it."
She may very well had continued talking, but Peter, intrigued, didn’t really listen. sitting on the side of his bed, he took the little box from his sister extanded hands and examined it. It looked like any other box of candy one could find in a store, although probably on the upper side in term of price as it wasn’t just a bag or a plastic one.
On the top of the small square box the metal ended into a circular metallic lid, and on top of that lid was written in colorful letters AR Candies and, way below, Get younger and join the fun!, while a drawing in the center took most of the place available.
It portrayed a man in a pirate costume on the left, and a kid in an identical costume on the right. Lines went from one side to the others with several blurry shapes of the man, each being drawn smaller as they got closer to the kid. It strongly reminded Peter of his old Anymorph books, although instead of animals here the ending part of the transformation being featured was obviously supposed to be a kid version of the man.
He chuckled while looking at the sides of the box. "Oh Liz, where did you find that?"
"Well, at my school we had to each submit a drawing for Halloween, and it’s me who made the best one, they said, so I had a prize with books and toys, remember?" He acquiesced, thinking back. "So, you see, in one of the books there was this flyer saying I could ask for something, anything, and they would try to make it so. I thought it was just some lottery stuff so I just wrote that I wished my big brother would play with me more often, because you’re always in your room with the door closed and never here to play."
He looked up at her, half an eyebrow raised, but she didn’t even seem to realise and kept on. "And so after mailing it one day there was this delivery truck with the same logo than the flyer and when I went to respond it was for me. I really got it! I’ve read what it say and so I thought you could use it to join us on Halloween. Do you want to? Please, we will have so much fun!" She finally finished with an eagier smile.
Peter stared, a bit incredulous, at his little sister. She was grinning, and from there he could see the mix of baby teeth and adult ones, some of them barely poking out. She was a cute child, with her eyes of the same light shade than him and her hair of a brownish blonde, although that may have been because she was still young, as she had only turned eight three months ago. Not that anyone could dare to wave away the importance of this quarter in front of her.
He could recall how he had sometime got curious questions from his various friends when the sibling topic eventually popped up and he would talk of his nine years younger sister. Most were accustomed of two or three years age differences, sometime five. Some adults, he later on realised, probably thought they were of different mothers. There was nothing of the sort, though, and what remained for sure was that he had to deal with a very young sister when growing up and it meant, as it did this evening, that sometime he had to go along whatever weird ideas come to the mind of childrens. In the end, though, his sister’s imagination never failed to raise his spirit, but he would never have admitted it in front of anyone.
"These candies will make me regress into a little boy, hmm? Well, let’s take a look." He humored her while opening the lid. Most of it was filled with little gelatine candies of a vaguely spherical shape, colored in a deep blue, while a much smaller part in the middle contained an handful of red ones, identical if only for their color.
"The blue ones take away one year each, and the red ones restore you to the age you were before. It’s written on the side. You should start with just one blue candy to let it slowly take effect." Elisabeth explained, looking at him with all the seriousness of a car dealer.
"If you say so, madam." He picked one. The deep blue gelatin was more consistent than he first thought. He hesitated, taking a look at the side of the box in search for the ingredient list. But the letters were too tiny, and right there on the bottom side were all the usual food tags and indications. "Well, hello my sixteen’s, here I come!" he said with a smile as he put it in his mouth.
Chewing it, he was surprised to find out there was an inner liquid part. It was actually pretty good, warmer than he would have thought, but way too sugary for his tastes. ’I hope I won’t have to eat many more’ he thought. ’I really should have prepared that little speech for big deceptions.’
The liquid was really warm, in fact. He could feel it going down in his stomach, warming his inside along the way. It kind of reminded him of liquor chocolate. Noticing his sister still looking intently at him, he sensed he had to say something "Well,-" he began while scratching his tingling chin. "Look like it-
"It worked!" she suddenly exclaimed with excitation, her hands all over her face. "I can’t believe it was true. I had doubts but it worked. Look! Look!" She went to his desk and grabbed his hand mirror to give him.
He sighed while grabbing it from her offering hands. "Okay, Liz, you had your fun, and I went with it because you were happily hopping around but I have to prepare to go, you know? Plus Dad will surely-"
He stopped, looking into the mirror in his hands. A mirror which showed a subtly different reflection than the one he was accustomed to.
"Will surely... after what happened earlier..."
He looked closer. In fact, he couldn’t have been closer to the surface than that. And what he saw in it didn’t make any sense. At seventeen, he had still a long way before his patch of facial hair could form a fully grown beard, but the face which looked at him on there seemed like it could hardly grow even the beginning of one.
"...What happened earlier..."
His chin and cheeks looked smooth without even the hints of the stumbles he had still felt only moments ago, with only a line of light fuzz remaining under his nose, not even worthy of being called a mustache. In fact, his whole face looked somehow different, the shape a bit rounder and, without his usual stumbles of hairs, it gave him a softer look, almost... younger.
Feeling the sudden need to stand up, he left his bed, taking a few step toward his wardrobe door’s mirror before feeling a bit disoriented. It was subtle, and he wondered if he would have noticed otherwise, but his field of view was slightly distorted compared to what he was accustomed to. Even his desk, he noticed with a rush of clarity, seemed a bit higher. Looking down, his pant crumpled a bit more on his feets, and the sleeves of his baggy black shirt didn’t seems to reache the usual place on his hands.
On a brisk, he lifted his shirt. There, the recent fine line of hairs going from his bellybutton down toward his groin had litteraly vanished. Only smooth skin remained under his palm. He turned toward the full size mirror. There was no mistakes. The body of a sixteen years old looked back at him. *His* sixteen years old body.
"WHAT THE FUCK!"
Behind him, he could hear Elisabeth giggle excitedly.