Authors: Barry Hutchison
Benjamin Blank stood in his bedroom studying the little green-faced figure at the top of his stairs. It stared back at him, tapping its foot impatiently.
“Are you a gremlin?” Ben asked.
“Are you a big frog?”
“Of course I’m not a big frog!”
Ben ran a hand through his messy hair and scratched his head. “Well, what are you then?”
Paradise Little drew herself up to her full unimpressive height and pointed at the pointy black hat on her head. “I’m obviously a witch.”
“Oh,” said Ben. He crinkled his nose. “Not exactly original, is it?”
“Well, I’m very sorry,” replied Paradise. “I didn’t realise we were being marked on creativity.” She looked Ben up and down. “Anyway, what are you supposed to be?”
Before Ben could answer there was a commotion from the spiral staircase that led up from the room below. A brightly coloured
head popped up through the hatch in the floor. Two large antennae flopped and flailed around madly on top of the head, like a couple of overweight worms having a fight.
Wesley Chant, former trainee wizard, climbed the last few steps. He only just managed to squeeze a pair of colourfully patterned wings through the hatch. “Ta-daa!” he said, when he finally finished clambering into the room.
Ben and Paradise both took a step back so they could take in the full majesty of Wesley’s costume. He was wearing what looked to be a dark-blue body stocking that covered him from neck to toe. On his head was a red and yellow knitted bobble-hat with the jiggly antennae fastened to the top.
But it was the wings that really drew the eye. They were each over a metre wide, shaped like giant number 3s and sewn on to the back of the body stocking just below the shoulders. The detailed patterns on the wings perfectly matched each other, and Ben reckoned Wesley must have been secretly working on the costume for weeks. There was just one question.
“What is it?” Ben asked.
Wesley looked down at himself. “It’s a butterfly.”
Wesley nodded. Quite proudly, Ben thought.
“Let me get this straight. It’s the Feast of Scarrabus, the darkest night of the whole year, when children all over the kingdom dress up
as the most horrifying creatures their imaginations can conjure up,” Ben said. “And you’ve come … as a butterfly.”
Wesley blushed. “You don’t have to dress up as something scary.”
“Of course you do!” said Ben.
“Yeah,” agreed Paradise. “It’s pretty much the entire point.”
“OK, yes, well, that may be. But … butterflies
scary. Imagine one kept doing
!” Wesley yelped, lunging at Paradise and waving his hands in her face. “Imagine that! Just doing
over and over again! Then what would you do? Hmm?”
“Kill it with a shoe,” said Paradise flatly.
Wesley stopped lunging. His wings drooped. “Bit harsh.”
Paradise turned back to Ben. “So what are you then?”
“All you’ve done is paint your face white,” said Wes.
“I’m not finished,” Ben said. “Turn round.”
Wesley’s wing slapped Paradise on the back of the head as they turned.
There was a soft rustling from behind them. It was followed a moment later by a
as Ben fell over while pulling on a pair of trousers. He sprang back to his feet, fastened the trousers then snapped the hood of a cloak up over his head.
Paradise and Wesley turned back to see Ben lurking in the shadows in the corner of his room. His white-painted face was barely visible beneath the black hood of a long robe.
Jutting out of the front of the cloak were two spindly tree branches. In the gloom they looked like long, insect-like arms.
“Well, I’m none the wiser,” Paradise confessed.
Wesley’s wings twitched with excitement. “Wait, I know this,” he said. “It’s the Moon-Faced Ghoul-Thing. Brilliant!”
“What’s a Moon-Faced Ghoul-Thing when it’s at home?” Paradise asked.
With some difficulty, Ben knelt down and reached under his bed.
He pulled out a heavy hardback book and held it up for the others to see.
Paradise rolled her eyes.
“Here we go again,” she muttered.
“I found it in here,” Ben said, flipping through the pages of
Who’s Who, What’s What and Why They Do Such Horrible Things to One Another.
Wesley had given him the book soon after they’d first met. It was written by legendary monster-hunter Lunt Bingwood, who had mysteriously vanished shortly after he’d completed it. The book contained details of pretty much every monster and weird creature that had ever existed, along with helpful diagrams of the best places to kick them should the need ever arise.
Ben had had the book for just over six months and had read it from cover to cover more than a dozen times. He’d spent days
combing through all the entries trying to find the perfect costume for the Feast of Scarrabus.
When he’d read about the Moon-Faced Ghoul-Thing he’d felt a flutter of excitement in his chest and knew he’d found the perfect outfit.
“Here it is,” Ben announced.
He pointed to a creepy black-and-white drawing on one of the book’s yellowing pages. The picture showed a tall, skinny creature with a round face and large bulging eyes. It wore a robe almost exactly like Ben’s, but instead of tree branches it had six spider-like legs creeping out from within the cloak’s dark folds.
“The Moon-Faced Ghoul-Thing,” said Ben, his voice a low whisper. “Even Lunt Bingwood
never saw one of these. According to legend it’s the servant of Lord Scarrabus.”
“I thought everyone knew this story,” said Wesley. “When children don’t respect the traditions of the Feast of Scarrabus, the Moon-Faced Ghoul-Thing snatches them away.”
Paradise raised an eyebrow. “You mean like the tradition of dressing as something scary?”
Wesley glanced down at his butterfly costume. His face turned almost as white as Ben’s. “I’m sure it wouldn’t come for a silly thing like that. Would it?”
“Of course not, moths-for-brains,” Paradise said. “The whole thing’s a legend. It’s just an excuse for people to get free sweets. There’s no such thing as a Moon-Faced Whatchama-call-it.”
From downstairs there came a series of soft chimes. Ben closed the book and slipped it back beneath his bed.
“Nine o’clock,” he said, standing up and straightening his stick-arms. “You two ready?”
Paradise adjusted her pointy hat. “Let’s get it over with.”
Taking a steadying breath, Wesley smoothed down the wrinkles of his butterfly bodysuit. “Right then,” he said, his voice coming out as a croaky whisper. “Let the Feast of Scarrabus begin.”