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Common Halloween Tricks
by KJ Hannah Greenberg



I traced my finger along the article entitled “Common Halloween Tricks.” Women’s magazines attempt to create balance between affected banality and blatant tosh. Hence, the issue I held urged homemakers to mash marshmallows into ghosts and to paint skeleton bones onto their black leggings.


I turned the page to search for coupons. That particular publication was notorious for offering seventy-five cent discounts on all manner of useless personal effects. As I needed neither a Miss Piggy hairdryer or a coin counter guaranteed to function equally well with minted dollars, euros, and yen, I flipped until I reached the editorial.


In that piece, a periphrastic vixen vented about our colony on the moon, and about the cost of sustaining the war in Iran. Her solution to each money sink was the same; send a powerful atomic missile. I shook my head at the author, surprised that genocide had found a home among columns devoted to: using licorice whips to craft credible spider cookies; employing smiles, during PTA meetings, to disarm unfriendly homeroom teachers; and manipulating plastic wrap to warm up “bedroom leftovers.”


Two weeks later, on All Hallows’ Eve, I heard the blast. That thud resonated from Ljubljana to Port Moresby and from Bolshevik Island to Wellington. The lights went out, but my WhatsApp group stayed frenetic. Someone had detonated a nuclear device on the moon. Many of the world’s most powerful governments were calling the event “war.”


Long before dawn, another weapon of mass destruction exploded. Tehran was leveled.


Less powerful governments, too, were rattling sabers. After learning that a few world leaders had been assassinated, I pulled Duke into my safe room. He slobbered doggy kisses all over me and settled down, nose to tail, for a rest. I had prepared food, water, flashlights, tampons, and bedding, but had forgotten about his need to void. I hoped that the world’s chaos would quickly resolve.


Two days later, my cell phone died. What’s more, my panic chamber reeked. Plus, my muscles were knotted. I pushed open the secondary door, expecting to see a landscape blanketed in nuclear snow. Instead, I found Terry asleep, with his shoes on, on my living room sofa. My brother opened an eye and smiled at me.


“Got ya!”


“But the WhatsApp group.…”


“Friends of mine, too, Sis.”


“But the news….”


“Did you bother verifying via Internet?”


“But the tremor….”


“Small quake. Fortuitous timing.”


“The power?”


“Main switch, utility room. Hope the neighbors didn’t freak. I restored it after you locked yourself in.”


“How could you?”


“Bored, I guess. You should clean up that stink.” He gestured toward my safe room, shook himself and then left my apartment.


On the sofa sat a men’s glossy, twin to the one I had read. It featured the editorial about the Moon Colony and the Middle Eastern War. It offered coupons, though, for shave cream and for beer and ran a slightly different version of “Common Halloween Tricks.”




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