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Note: This is a stand alone selection from the anthology Bad Apples.
Ben & Bella Riggle are not your normal twins. Every year, they wait and wait for Halloween to come around. They spend their time in their little treehouse mending themselves and their clothes, tinkering with left over bits, and enjoying the rare visits by Sam, the one who brought them back.
This story opens on the day of Halloween, the twins getting a bit impatient waiting for night to fall. It is the one time a year they can safely leave their haven and venture out to mingle with the masked kids. But they have a task. Each year, they must bring tribute back to their treehouse before the sun rises.
I really enjoyed this story for several reasons. First, it is full of suspense and not focused on the gore some horror stories get caught up in. Second, it takes place on Halloween, a holiday ripe with mystery and mischief. Third, we get to know the little ‘horrors’ of the story first and foremost, and everyone else second. To them, this is simply what they do. They choose their tributes carefully. They do this to show how much they appreciate the one person left in their lives, the mysterious yet powerful Sam. Finally, while Sam has just a few short bits in this story, I really want to know more about him. Is he some deity? Is he just a guy with some special abilities? He has fondness for these kids, but is it self-serving fondness alone or something more, like family?
This story kept me engaged from beginning to end. Plus, it made me think. Here we have one answer (fantastical though it is) of where missing, perhaps unwanted children go. And right beside it we have the answer to what may very well happen to cranky adults full of hate for the world around. The story had a very nice symmetry.
Plus there was some gallows humor involved. Ben and Bella aren’t your typical sweet children. They don’t have empathy for normal humans, or at least, adult humans. Bad things happen to some of these adults, yet the author doesn’t linger over the blood spilled or the horror and pain the victims probably feel. This is a story about the Riggle twins, and that includes their humor. I was quite charmed by them. Not charmed enough to invite them over for tea, but charmed none the less.
The Narration: Commodore James did a very good job. He had some very interesting voices and odd human sounds to come up with. Plus he threw in a handful of sound effects. I really liked how he did Ben’s voice, as I could just imagine him having to physically lift the corners of his mouth up to get a touch of the required lisp. Also, on occasion, Sam has a multi-layered voice, just as described in the narrative. Very nicely done!