A visit to the shadows

October 31, 2002|By Mark Cloud

It was only a cape, but I loved that thing. I was 10 and Kurt was 9, and his mom made us capes for Halloween so we could be vampires. Kurt and I were best friends from as long as I could remember.

We weren't bad kids, but it seemed as if we were always running from something. We rang doorbells and ran, we threw things at cars and ran, we stole two apples from a bushel in old man Koontz's garage and ran and got caught and had to apologize to his face and give him a dime each.

And every day we used to run home from school to watch Dark Shadows, a dusky world of ghosts and secrets and witches and mysteries and werewolves. It took forever for that old RCA television to warm up. Kneeling on the floor a foot from the TV, it felt as if I was getting away with something, seeing things I wasn't supposed to see.

And what I wanted to see most was the vampire. Barnabas Collins was weird and frightening and drank blood from people's necks. And I wanted to be him. No one would ever dream of trying to make him pay a dime for an apple.

So for Halloween, there really was no other choice. We had to be vampires, Kurt and I. The capes his mom made were long and black and had high collars that covered the backs of our necks. We had plastic fangs. And that was pretty much it for our costumes. Most vampires don't wear sweatshirts and sneakers, but it didn't matter. We had the capes.

And we entered another dimension in those capes. "Parallel time," I believe they called it on Dark Shadows. It felt as if we were flying, time stood still, we were everywhere at once. We didn't just attack our own neighborhood. When we were done there we just kept on going, right up J Street and all the way over to the houses by the public pool.

It was new territory for us at night, but we were invincible in those capes. We had never collected such a huge Halloween bounty and had to start eating some of it and stuffing candy into our pants pockets because our bags were overflowing. We even had the nerve to stop a second time at some of the houses we had gotten candy from earlier in the night. They didn't say anything, they just gave us more candy. We were vampires.

It didn't end with Halloween, either.

We wore the capes whenever we needed to be particularly stealthy. That winter, there were sightings in our neighborhood of vampires throwing snowballs at cars. That spring, vampires were almost caught running through Mr. and Mrs. Homer's backyard with flashlights.

One summer night, Mr. Clogg and his dog had the stuffing scared out them when out of nowhere a naked vampire, wearing only his cape, came sprinting around the corner of the house next door and almost ran into them. The man was open-mouth silent, the dog barked and the vampire just kept running into dark.

Mark Cloud is an attorney who lives in Atlanta.

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