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The Halloween Plague

October 30, 2013

The Halloween Plague

 

Dennis was sitting on the couch tying his shoes. He wore a gray polo shirt and khaki slacks. The TV was on.

“This is the easiest Halloween costume ever,” he shouted to Callista. “Look like an IT nerd? Done. All I needed was the glasses. And boom! Snowden.”

“I’m glad you’re having such an easy time,” she hollered back. “I’m having to download a video to my phone just so I can show people who I am.”

“You could still go as a sexy nurse.”

“That’s not a costume because I already am a sexy nurse.”

“Scrubs count as a costume,” Dennis stood up from the couch. “And I think you’re sexy in your scrubs.”

“You’re sweet,” she said, joining him in the living room. “But I’m already dressed. Joshua from Dark Angel. What do you think? I still need to paint my nose with an eyebrow pen but…” She opened her arms.

He smiled.

“Joshua!” she barked.

“Sexy Joshua,” Dennis said.

“We interrupt your regularly scheduled commercials to bring you breaking and important news!” the TV insisted.

“Here we go,” said Dennis. “Halloween safety with Officer Friendly.”

“It might be serious,” Callista said.

“I’m Sean Malarkey and we have breaking news,” Sean Malarkey said on the TV. “Police are telling residents to stay indoors tonight after a mysterious plague has swept the city. The virus is said to cause bleeding and erratic behavior.”

“It’s Halloween night!” Dennis said indignantly. “I’m not staying indoors.”

“Shh!” Callista said.

“No details yet on what has caused the plague or even a list of possible side-effects. The police are keeping very quiet. But our reporters spoke to several witnesses who described fantastic scenes so unbelievable that our legal department insists we cannot broadcast them without verification from the authorities, who, no surprise, have declined to comment. We’ll have more on this mysterious plague as the story unfolds. In the meantime, we urge you to stay indoors.”

“This is bullshit!” Dennis kicked an invisible stone.

“We return you to your program already in progress.”

“It’s a hoax,” Dennis said. “It’s gotta be a hoax. A mysterious plague? Come on.”

“The police don’t make up stories, Dennis.”

“Maybe it’s like a trick-or-treat thing?”

“I think we should stay home.”

“There’s no way. There’s no way. I already paid seventy bucks for the pub crawl. Anne and Terry are going to be there.”

Callista collapsed onto the couch.

“I guarantee you,” she said sighing, “as soon as Anne finds out about a mysterious plague you’ll be getting a call from Terry saying they’re not coming. Let’s just stay home. We’ll watch The Twilight Zone and eat leftovers.”

“I don’t want to stay home,” Dennis whined. “This is the first Halloween I’ve had off in years!”

“I’m not risking a virus just so you can get drunk and throw up in a graveyard. Now sit down.”

“I don’t want to—”

“We interrupt your regularly scheduled commercials to bring you breaking and important news!”

Dennis looked at the TV.

“I’m Sean Malarkey and we have breaking news. Police have released some of the details about this mysterious Halloween plague. They believe it may have something to do with the Halloween costumes. Through a spokesman, they urged consumers to verify the origins of their costumes. They suspect that costumes imported from Transylvania were infected with the mystery bug.”

“This has to be a hoax,” Dennis insisted.

“Shh!”

“Check the labels on your costumes and please—stay indoors. Call the police immediately if you suspect you may have been infected.”

“The police?” Callista said. “Not EMTs?”

Dennis nodded.

“Hoax. It’s probably all a drug sting. Single out the weirdoes.”

“We’ll have more on the virus and the costume scandal as it unfolds. I’m Sean Malarkey. Stay tuned.”

“I’m checking the Internet,” Dennis said.

He ran across the room and leaned over the desk. He clicked the mouse button and the computer came to life. He opened the browser and searched for “Halloween Plague”. It was almost a full minute before the message came back saying the computer could not access the Internet.

“Try your phone,” he said to Callista as he crossed the room.

He sat beside her. She typed quickly and her phone quickly told her that it could not access the Internet.

“I’m calling Terry,” Dennis said.

He picked up the phone, dialed and waited.

“Hey, it’s me. Are you watching the news?” He paused.  “What are you doing? Terry? Hello?”

“What happened?” Callista looked worried. It suited her dog-man costume.

“He sounded weird,” Dennis scowled at his phone. “Anne was screaming like a crazy woman in the background.” He looked at Callista. “That was really weird.”

“We interrupt your regularly scheduled commercials to bring you breaking and important news!”

Dennis and Callista leaned forward.

“I’m Sean Malarkey and we have more on ‘The Halloween Plague!’” Spooky lettering and a gruesome Jack-o-lantern filled the upper left corner of the screen.

“Way to go graphics,” Dennis muttered.

“Police have contacted Channel 5 and asked that we retract our previous reporting. It seems we have been the victims of some crossed wires at the research level. While police say that Halloween costumes may be at the center of this epidemic, their origins in Transylvania have nothing to do with it. We spoke to the Transylvanian ambassador. He had this to say:” It cut to the ambassador. He was pale with black, thick hair and wearing an antique suit.

“Did I mention I think this is all a hoax?” Dennis said. “I mean look at this guy.”

“Transylvania is a thriving economy,” the ambassador said with a thick accent. “We will not be looked down upon by the likes of small-town America. No garment made in Transylvania has ever been contaminated with mystery plague. It never will be.”

“Is he wearing a cape?” Callista asked. It cut away before either of them could tell whether he was or not.

“Transylvanian in origin or not,” Sean Malarkey said, “police urge citizens to stay indoors and lock your doors and windows. As reported, one of the effects of the plague is erratic behavior. We’ll keep you updated as the story unfolds.”

“Can you at least agree we should just stay home?” Callista said.

“I guess,” Dennis said. “Is Transylvania a real place? I always thought it was like Jellystone or Springfield.”

“I think it’s in Eastern Europe.”

“I wish the Internet worked,” Dennis moaned. “This is like torture.”

“Springfield is real.”

“What?”

“Springfield is a real place. It’s not fictional. There are tons of them. That’s why it’s funny to call a fictional place ‘Springfield’. It could be anywhere.”

Dennis sighed and sank into the couch.

“What are we gonna do? No Internet. Can’t go outside. Can’t do anything. Can’t do anything but sit here and listen to Sean bloody Malarkey interrupting every twenty seconds.”

“I wonder why work hasn’t paged me,” Callista mused.

“Because it’s a hoax.”

Callista snuggled against Dennis.

“We get to spend a night in together,” she said.

“I guess.”

They laid there peacefully for a moment. Dennis almost fell asleep. Callista had half an eye on the TV.

“We interrupt your regularly scheduled commercials to bring you breaking and important news!”

They both sat up with amazing alacrity.

“I’m Sean Malarkey, and we now return to our ongoing coverage of the Halloween Plague.” A flashy graphic flashed across the screen accompanied by a ghostly wolf howl. “Police have now released details about the origins of the Halloween Plague. A group of young girls unleashed the awesome power of an Ouija Board at a sleepover. An ancient curse was uttered and the ‘virus’ was born, causing costumed Halloween revelers all over the city to transform into their costumes. Police are worried about the overwhelming amount of Miley Cyrus’s—”

“Miley Cyrii?” Callista asked.

“—that are loose in the city. A police spokesman:

“Only costumed people have been transformed. And the curse only takes hold if the costume is completed.”

Dennis looked at his “Edward Snowden” glasses and Callista held up her eyebrow pencil.

“As a result,” the spokesman went on, “we have been overrun with Mileys, Lebowskis and Katniss’s. We even have a Hitler although he insists he’s Charlie Chaplin. Anyway, because the curse is lifted at midnight, the mayor has declared November 1st 2013 as Halloween. We’re pushing it back a day. We are encouraging schools, businesses and residents to participate. Whatever you do, don’t put on a costume until tomorrow. This is very real, very dangerous, and very permanent. We have several children that have already been transformed into ghosts. And although transformations will stop taking place at midnight, once someone has been transformed there is no way to reverse the process. So let’s be safe and save it for tomorrow.”

Dennis pulled off his gray polo shirt.

“There’s no way I’m changing into that traitorous mook,” he said. “You should take off the dog suit.”

“All of a sudden you believe?”

“I’m not taking any chances, sweetheart. There could be hundreds, if not thousands of people changing into Biebers or Kate Middletons out there. I’d rather be me than that idiot Snowden.”

“We could become somebody else,” Callista said contemplatively.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you could be dating Scarlett Johanssen.”

“I don’t know.”

“And I could be dating Adrien Brody.”

“I’m better than Adrien Brody.”

“I could be dating you with Adrien Brody’s nose.”

“But wouldn’t I become Adrien Brody?”

“You mean like you’d actually be him?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know.”

Dennis stood up and started pacing the room.

“This is too weird,” he said. “I don’t want to be Adrien Brody. I hate those stupid Stella Artois ads.”

“You could be Batman. I could be Catwoman.”

“Why can’t we just be who we are?” Dennis said. “I like sleeping. Batman only sleeps for like ten minutes a day when the Batwing’s on autopilot.”

“I’m sick of feeling fat and frumpy.”

He sat down beside her.

“You look good to me.”

“I’m serious, Dennis.”

“What? You’re going to become Catwoman?”

“You don’t want to date Scarlett Johanssen or maybe Zooey Deschanel?”

“You’ll still have to work at the hospital, you know? The real Scarlett Johanssen’s not going to give up acting jobs so you can get work.”

“I’ll work in a hospital and I will have a great ass.”

“Do you even have a Scarlett Johanssen costume?”

“No,” Callista said glumly.

“Well, we can’t leave the house. There could be packs of roaming Hefners out there.”

“You know what I do have?” Callista brightened. “My Cleopatra costume from three years ago!”

“Didn’t she kill herself with an asp?”

“Yeah. But she was supposed to be like the most beautiful woman of the ancient world.”

“We’re going to seem like Brad and Angelina when everybody else has become Spider-Man or Nixon.”

“I guess. It just seems such a waste. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

“So’s an aneurysm.”

“I can’t believe you. Ten minutes ago, you were saying it was all a hoax.”

“It’s like you said,” Dennis said, throwing an arm around Callista’s shoulders. “We’ll stay in, eat leftovers and watch The Twilight Zone. Tomorrow, we’ll wake up in a city full of Mileys and we’ll thank our lucky stars that it’s 2013 and not 2008. We could’ve had a plague of Palins.”

Callista straightened up.

“I’m going to go get changed,” she said. “Pour some wine.”

She disappeared into the bedroom. Dennis poured two glasses of wine. When Callista came back, she was dressed in pajamas. They drank wine and watched TV. She poured him another glass and heated up leftovers. They ate in front of the TV. Dennis had another glass. At the beginning of another episode of The Twilight Zone, he declared with drunken confidence, “It gonna turn out that it’s all a dream.” By the time the episode had proved him wrong, he was asleep.

Callista listened to his breathing and looked at her watch.

11:22

“Not much time,” she said to herself.

She left him on the couch and went into the bedroom. She was gone for nearly thirty minutes. Dennis snored at the TV. She stood over him and applied the final touches, drawing dark lines at the sides of her eyes. She smiled to herself and curled up next to Dennis on the couch. She adjusted her wig and fell asleep.

 …

“What the hell?” Dennis screamed. He scrambled out from under the woman that was sleeping on him. “Who the hell are you?”

“It’s me Callista.”

“Like hell,” Dennis said.

“It’s me, I swear.”

“Prove it.”

“Your email password is One Direction forever.”

“It’s a trick.”

“It’s not a trick.”

“You look like—I mean—You look like—What happened?”

“I became Cleopatra,” she said proudly.

“I thought she was supposed to be beautiful,” Dennis said without thinking.

“She was the most beautiful woman in the ancient world. Wait. Why?” Callista ran to the bathroom and stared in the mirror. Dennis sat on the couch and cradled his head in his hands, listening to the sounds of anguish from the ancient queen.

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