Horror doesn’t only happen at night, you know. It happens on the streets of London and in the slums of New York. It happens in the homes of the rich and the poor alike. It happens in your back garden when you’re not looking, or right in front of you when you’re trying not to see. Horror is everywhere.
Believe me, I know. Why? I’m not sure you’d understand. I’m not sure you really want to know. See, there’s a problem with you people – you always say you want to know, but then you cringe and cry, snivel and beg, and I need to deal with it. It all gets very tiresome. So if you want me to tell you why I know about horror, you need to promise me that you can deal with what I’m going to tell you. Well?
Ah, there, I knew it. Once you’re confronted with what happened to everyone else who asked the same question, you back off. That’s smart of you. Sometimes you people actually do learn something. I like that. There’s nothing fun about playing with your food if it doesn’t know what the outcome is. The mouse, for instance, instinctively knows that the cat wants to eat it, so when a cat’s paw descends on its tail, it’ll bit that bit off in order to get away. Of course, once it does that, the cat will catch it by its body and eat it anyway. But the point is, the only reason it’s fun for the cat to play with the mouse is because the mouse knows what’s coming. And now, you do too.
Now, now, don’t give me that look, please. You knew from the moment you called for me what was going to happen. Yes, remember? You’re the one who called me here. You called horror upon you, and horror comes in the guise you gave it. It’s time for you to live with it simply being your own fault. You think you’re dreaming, I know, and maybe you are! But tell me… Right now, does it matter whether or not you’re dreaming? I’m pretty horrible either way.
It was Halloween night, and fourteen people sat around one long surface made up of tables pushed together. They were a loud bunch, all talking and laughing animatedly, despite the fact that it was past two in the morning. They were elated. They’d just finished what felt like the greatest, best, most amazing and spectacular experience of their lives, and they weren’t likely to forget that night for the rest of their lives.
They were a variety – all shapes and sizes, both young men and young women – but what they all had in common was the sweaty, running make-up that none of them had bothered to remove. In loud voices, they yelled up and down the table to each other, congratulating a night well done and feasting on everything from pancakes to onion rings to spaghetti-and-meatballs. They were ravenous, having completed a feat to which they’d devoted countless hours over the last two months.
Anyone nearing their table would have been able to feel the warmth, friendship and fierce-if-fleeting love they held for each other in that hour. Even the tired waitress, decked out in forced-Halloween-uniform and looking tired beyond measure, smiled at the bunch, allowing herself to be patient with them and trusting that, distracted as they were with each other, they wouldn’t complain about the slow service.
It isn’t surprising that this group wasn’t the only one sitting at a diner at two in the morning after Halloween night. The booths were filled with pirates and princesses, butterflies and Peter-Pans, all of them young people on their way back from various parties. The surprising element was that of men and women well into their middle ages, decked out in elegant finery fit for an extravagant office party or dignified family event – and there were many of these at the diner that night as well, looking happy and content, conversing just as loudly and merrily as the young folk.
If the diner could have felt the happiness and excitement that was filling its tables and chairs that night, it would have sprouted wings and begun to float above the ground.