I’m sorry, but I won’t be coming to your Halloween party this year either. It has nothing to do with your parties, it’s just… costume parties in general. I don’t enjoy them anymore like I used to. Not since that last one a couple of years ago.

Yeah you know the one I mean. But you weren’t there, so you don’t know everything that went on. I suppose it’s for the best if I just tell you.

Since it was the last year of college for most of us, it was a pretty big event. We weren’t likely to see most of the people again by the same time next year, after all. Lena, who hosted it, put a lot of effort into the decoration and the catering. There were all kinds of gimmicky party snacks, eyeball icecubes, skull cookies, brain pasta… she really outdid herself.

The costumes of the guests showed a little less creativity. Most were your ordinary vampires, witches, mummies and the like. Only three people stuck out with genuinely creepy costumes: they all wore plain clothes and huge wooden masks that covered their entire heads. The masks had strongly exaggerated facial features like celebrity caricatures, only they didn’t seem to depict anyone I knew. Someone said one of the masks looked sort of like someone elses dad, which they found rather tasteless, because said dad had passed away a year earlier, but I couldn’t quite see the similarity. I had no idea who the people under the masks were either. Everyone I had expected to come was accounted for, so I assumed they were someones friends from out of town. They also kept to themselves and didn’t talk to anybody else.

At one point I tried to start a conversation with them myself but it didn’t go too well. I walked over to the one closest to me and said “Hi” and “Great costume”.

Three wooden faces turned to me in unison but none of them said a word. They just stared at me. I felt them stare, even though I couldn’t see their actual eyes. It was very awkward. After a few moments I mumbled an excuse and went back to more pleasant company.

Apart from that the party went on rather uneventfully until Dennis drunkenly fell from the balcony. In retrospect it’s almost amazing it didn’t happen earlier, considering the low railing and how crowded that little space was with drunken people, but those are pointless musings now. The balcony was only on the second story, so the fall wasn’t immediately deadly, but it was bad enough.

Naturally the party was ruined. An ambulance was called and Dennis was rushed to a hospital while the rest of us stayed behind, sobered by the shock. When I glanced around, I noticed I didn’t see any of the guys with the wooden masks anywhere.

When it became apparent, that there wasn’t anything left to do, the guests began to dissipate. One after another glumly said their goodbyes and went home. I was among the last ones to leave, partly because I felt bad for Lena, who had prepared the party with so much love, and partly because I was hoping for news from the hospital. There weren’t any however, neither good nor bad, so in the early morning hours I eventually grabbed my coat and left too.

I went home by foot. My place was comfortably within walking distance from Lena’s via a few shortcuts. The streets were dark and very empty, the trick-or-treaters had long finished their exploits and this neighbourhood was never very busy, even by day.

Just before I arrived home I walked into one of the guys with the wooden masks from before. He was alone this time, the other two nowhere to be seen, and he didn’t look happy. He sat on an overturned trashcan, just outside the light cone of the closest street light, his hands gripping his ridiculous wooden face and shaking his head sadly.

As I approached in the dim light I slowly realized that this wasn’t actually one of the trio from the party. Or at least I hadn’t seen this particular mask before. I recognized the face on this one! The broad face with the flat cheeks and the deep set eyes, it was Dennis’ face!

My brain exploded with a million questions, but he didn’t react to anything I asked. He showed no recognition that I was even there, not even when I grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him. Eventually I gave up and went home, feeling too tired and gloomy to press him further.

The next day I got up after a long but unrefreshing sleep. When I went to take out the trash I tripped over something between the containers in the backyard. Something big and hard, with pointy edges. It was the uncanny Dennis-mask from the night before. The weirdo who wore it (why?) had apparently just dumped it here. I bent down to pick it up and put it in the proper bin, but it was much heavier than I expected. Way way to heavy, in fact, for a simple mask.

It wasn’t a mask at all! There was no space underneath it where a human head could have fit in. The entire thing was one single, solid block of wood.