74. Trick or Treat
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"I still can't believe the whole thing was a hoax," Melody said with a sigh. "I guess that happens though?"

Kaylee nodded, "We haven't run into too many ourselves, but yeah. Honestly I feel silly for not guessing it myself."

She paused to adjust her glasses before continuing, "The haunting was so atypical we were having trouble figuring out what it might be, when the real answer was it didn't seem right because somebody was just mixing up common haunting tropes. Confusing poltergeist activity and ghost activity."

"At least we put a stop to it," Paige said with a frown. "And the guy behind the whole mess is facing some serious charges."

Our club leader added, "It was in the news on Friday, I don't know if you all saw that? But the landlord who owns that building was arrested. They're saying he was trying to drive out the tenants because some developer offered him big money for the whole building."

Nina frowned, "This sounds like the plot from a Saturday morning kids cartoon."

Paige shrugged, "The place had a reputation for hauntings, remember? Even though the real haunting ended a couple years ago, the rumours and urban legends live on. He's probably going to jail though, if they can prove Mr. Parker's heart attack was caused by one of that guy's so-called pranks."

That left us all quiet for a bit, since that was the thing that made it so serious. It wasn't just some guy playing pranks or trying to cheat people. An older guy died, and even if it was an accident the landlord was still responsible for what happened.

After a half minute or so Melody broke the silence, "So how come nobody's in costume? I thought this was supposed to be a halloween party. And I bet kids are going to start coming round trick-or-treating soon, we ought to be ready for them."

All eight of us were at Melanie's place again, but instead of hanging out in the basement we were upstairs in the living-room this time. Her dad was working so we had the house to ourselves till half past ten. There was some music playing, a couple jack-o-lanterns outside, and a big bowl of candy and mini chocolate bars just inside the front door.

It was about five-thirty Sunday night, October thirty-first. A week had passed since our midnight visit to the tavern, and our newest club member had convinced us all to get together and celebrate the spookiest night of the year.

Melanie responded with a smile, "It only takes me a second to get in costume."

And sure enough a second later she was in her wolfgirl form, with her tall fuzzy ears and long furry tail visible.

"Me too," Nina said, though she was blushing a bit. Her horns appeared, but that was the only change for her.

"Fantastic! And the one broken horn makes you look tough, gives you some street cred," Melody said with a grin. "Now it's my turn!"

She seemed to focus for a few seconds, then her whole body blurred or shimmered briefly and I saw the purple glow of magic flickering over her. When it was done she'd shrank a bit smaller, down to Nina's size. Her hair had grown longer, it hung all the way down to her behind now in lilac-purple waves, while two tall fuzzy light-purple ears stuck out the top of her head. And a pair of long floofy light-purple tails stuck out at the back. The tips of her ears and tails were white rather than light-purple. Finally, her eyes had changed to pink and her pupils were now vertical slits.

"A purple foxgirl?" Cerys asked with a smile. "Cute."

The shape-shifter grinned, "Purple kitsune in fact! What about you, gonna do the wolfgirl thing?"

The young blonde shook her head, "Nah. I might take me a year to unlock that form. Don't ask me to turn into a wolf either, I can't control that yet at all."

She didn't sound the least bit sad or upset, in fact she was smiling and sounded happy and her mood was up-beat which made me really happy. I knew she'd probably be feeling down again at the next full moon, but for now everyone seemed like they were in a good mood.

Paige and Brooke pulled cheap costume witch-hats out of a bag and put them on, and they both had little toy brooms as well. Cerys put on a plastic princess tiara and held a toy wand that lit up with multicoloured LEDs inside. Even Kaylee got in the spirit, sort of. She was wearing a black knit sweater and black wool skirt, then pulled out a little toy scythe for a cute modern 'reaper' costume.

That just left me without any kind of costume, supernatural or otherwise.

Melody smiled as she looked around the room, "This is awesome! We've got a kitsune, a wolfgirl. Nina's a cute little demon girl. And we've got Princess Cerys, a couple witch girlfriends, and Kaylee looks like Thanatos's little sister."

She turned to me and asked, "What about you Cass? Did you bring a costume, or do you have some sort of demonic form you're going to switch to?"

"Uh, neither?" I replied with a bit of a blush. "I guess I didn't realize everyone would be doing costumes. And I don't have a demonic form. Or at least, I don't think I do?"

Me and Melody both turned and gave my little sister a questioning look. At the same time there was a knock at the door, followed by the sound of young kids calling 'trick or treat' outside.

Nina moved closer to me, and the two of us ended up sitting together on the sofa while Melanie and Cerys went to answer the door and give out candies to the first group of the evening.

"So if I'm um, part demon, and you have another form... Does that mean I do too?" I asked quietly. "Like with horns and everything?"

My little sister replied quietly, "I don't know for sure Cass? Demons like me do, but you're different. Because of how you were human first then changed after? And you're also part goddess, which probably makes a difference too."

"If you want to find out though," she continued softly, "I'm pretty sure I know how you can find it."

I nodded slowly, "Ok. I guess I'm curious? Even if it's just for halloween."

Nina smiled for a moment, then got serious again as she explained "You need to reach deep down inside yourself, and see if you feel another shape in there. It's not a mental thing, not like searching through memories or imagination."

"Not up here," she added as she pointed to my head. Then she moved her hand down to point more at my stomach or belly-button, "Down here, this is where you want to be looking. It'll be like a gut feeling, and if you find it, it'll just feel right. Then try to wear it, like you're wrapping a big warm comfy blanket around yourself."

I frowned as I tried to picture what she was saying, "How do I reach deep into myself? What does that mean?"

She shrugged, "Like meditation I guess? Focus your thoughts and attention and mind down deep inside."

"What if..." my frown got a little deeper and my voice got quieter as I asked, "What if I find it but it's something awful?"

Nina hugged me, "It won't be. You're too nice and good Cass. Whatever you find, it'll be right for you."

After that she got up and went to get herself another bottle of water, while I sat there frowning and thinking about what she said. I didn't try it though. I was still worried about accidentally turning into something terrible, or scaring my friends or making some other mistake.

Then Melanie announced, "Ok I'm gonna order the pizzas. I figured a large meat-lovers, large pepperoni, and large veggie pizza should do? Is that ok with everyone?"

"Make the first two extra-large," Melody suggested. "Or all three of them? I'm hungry tonight, and I'll chip in whatever the difference is on the price."

It took a few minutes for everyone else to chime in with their opinions or suggestions, then the wolfgirl grabbed her phone to put in the order, while Brooke and Paige went to hand out candies to the next group of kids at the door.

Then Cerys sat down next to me. She gently booped my nose with her glowing plastic wand and asked, "What's up Cass? You look kind of distracted, sitting here by yourself."

"I'm ok," I replied with a smile. "And I'm really happy to see you're ok now too Cerys. You look good."

She grinned, "Thanks Cass. But I'm here to cheer you up, not get compliments. So what's going on?"

I shrugged, "Nothing. It's fine. I guess I should have thought about a costume? I didn't realize everyone was doing something."

"Don't worry about it ok?" Cerys said as she leaned closer and gave me a quick hug. "I'm sorry we all didn't do a better job communicating with each other about it? Though I guess it was kind of a last minute thing, with Melody pushing for a party. We never did this sort of thing when May was around. She probably would have complained for weeks about Melanie and Melody flaunting their power like that, or Nina showing off her horns."

"I can just imagine her disapproving frown," I grimaced.

That made the young blonde giggle, then she got to her feet again. "Then she'd make us listen to an hour-long lecture about responsibility and keeping secrets. Glad we don't have to deal with that sort of thing anymore."

"Except we should still try and keep our secrets, and be responsible with our powers and stuff," I pointed out.

"Yeah but that doesn't mean we can't have fun," Cerys responded. "And like Melody said? Folks aren't going to be wondering why there's a real wolfgirl or a real demon here, they're going to be wondering how Melanie and Nina got such amazing costumes."

I couldn't argue that point, so I just smiled "You're right."

As we all waited for the pizza everyone kind of mingled around a bit. Brooke and Paige talked with Melanie, Nina and Cerys talked with Melody, and eventually Kaylee came to sit down beside me for a little chat too. She was still holding her little plastic scythe but she seemed kind of awkward with it.

"So this is a first," she commented quietly. "Club Luna halloween party."

I nodded, "Yeah. You look good, the sexy reaper costume was a good idea."

Just like that her cheeks were almost as red as her hair. She grimaced, "It wasn't supposed to be 'sexy'... It's just a black sweater Cass. 'Sexy halloween costumes' are usually more like lingerie."

"Sorry," I blushed too, "I just meant um, you look really good?"

Then I added in a self-deprecating tone, "Anyways it's a better costume than my 'awkward embarrassed half-demon in a hoodie' idea."

Kaylee smiled and quietly joked, "In a stroke of genius you win the prize for 'most complicated and difficult to guess costume'. In retrospect it should have been obvious though, since all half-god half-demons dress exactly like you do."

That made me smile too, but it quickly faded as I got serious again. "It's been a really crazy year, hasn't it?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "Hard to believe it. A year and a day since you wandered into our club meeting and everything changed."

I hesitated, "Are you... Are you still mad at me for that? All the stuff that's changed because of me?"

Kaylee frowned, then sighed, and finally shook her head. "No Cass. I know none of it's your fault. And if you didn't wander into the club meeting that day I never would have got to know you. We probably wouldn't have got to know Melanie or Melody either. Brooke's mom would still be sick. There's a whole list of good things that have happened thanks to you."

For the next few seconds I wasn't sure what to say. And in the end all I could think of was, "Thanks Kaylee. I appreciate that."

She gave me another smile, but before either of us could say anything else the pizza arrived.

We ended up with three party-size pizzas and a dozen cheesy garlic breadsticks. Melanie got out the paper plates and napkins while Cerys and Nina set the food out on the coffee table and an end table. Melody brought out more drinks for everyone, she and Brooke were drinking some fruity vodka coolers while everyone else had soda. Except me and my sister, we stuck with water.

And a fairly steady stream of kids kept coming to the door, while we all took turns answering and handing out treats.

At one point Melanie announced, "So I know it's a school night again, but if folks want to hang out past ten-thirty when my dad gets home we can move the party downstairs."

There was some talk of another video game tournament, but for now we were all ok hanging out in the living-room.

Eventually folks settled down to just talk, relax, hang out, and enjoy some pizza and drinks. Cerys asked Melody some questions to try and get to know her better, and she ended up telling us about her two boyfriends Kelly and Craig. She didn't get to see them so much since they were all going to different colleges, but they talked almost every day online.

We also found out both her boyfriends knew she was a shape-shifter, and there was probably an interesting story behind that but she blushed and refused to tell it to us. Not yet at least.

As it got a little later and things got quieter I found myself sitting off to one side, thinking about what Nina told me. I was a little nervous but also curious. So I closed my eyes and took a few slow deep breaths as I tried to reach down inside myself like my little sister said.

I wasn't sure how to look for another form or shape, or how I'd even know what that would feel like if I found it. It turned out not to be a problem though, because rather than a different form I found something else instead.

My eyes stayed closed but I frowned as I felt that piece of Socha buried in my chest beside my heart. It felt hard and cold, but it wasn't entirely foreign. I knew it was part of her, but I could sense that it was also connected to me.

I ended up forgetting about finding another shape or form, and instead just sat there sort of mentally examining that object inside me. I knew from what happened in September that surrounding it with more runes was dangerous. Cutting the shard off from Socha also cut it off from me, and that messed with my memory and stuff.

On the other hand, removing those protective runes was even more dangerous. That would let Socha have full access to the shard, and through it she'd have full access to me too. It was like an impossible puzzle.

My forehead probably wrinkled a bit as I frowned harder thinking about the problem. We couldn't seal it away or remove it because it was connected to me, and that'd hurt me. And we couldn't just ignore it or release it, because it was also a part of Socha.

Then it suddenly came to me, and I knew how to fix things. I felt like a weight was just lifted off my shoulders, as I saw a way to save myself once and for all.

We'd been thinking of the shard as a piece of Socha, something alien that needed to be removed or contained. Instead I needed to accept that it was also a piece of me. More than that, I needed to own it entirely. If I made it mine then she wouldn't be able to use it to get to me. Once I made the shard fully and truly mine, Socha would be completely cut off from Earth and I'd be free.

I didn't know yet how to do it, but I knew what I wanted to do. My frown shifted to a smile as I started working on a plan.

~ End of Episode Nine ~

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