Aspen already knew what her costume would be. She was going to be the princess under the bed and champion the rights of monsters everywhere. Who else was as brave and strong and amazing?
Her mom helped her zip up the dress without catching any of her fur in the zipper. She put her crown on, settling it right behind her third eye. Aspen grinned at the mirror.
She was missing a baby fang, but otherwise she looked very princessy. It was perfect. She smoothed out her fur and jumped down from the stool.
Aspen was ready for a night of tricks and treats. She picked up her plastic pail and waited by the door. After taking far too many pictures, her mom finally took her out into the delightfully scary sunshine.
It was fun to be out so late in the day, when the sun was shining and casting odd spooky shadows everywhere. Tree branches cast shadows that looked like human hands reaching out to catch her. Aspen held her mom’s paws a little tighter and tried not to look at them.
Aspen rang her neighbor’s doorbell and waited. Even with her mom right next to her, she felt a little nervous. She could hear old Mr. Dragon shuffling to the door. His tail made a swishing sound when he walked.
“Hello?” he said, opening the door just a crack.
“Tricks or Treats.” Aspen smiled widely, showing all her fangs.
“Oh, how terrifying!” Mr. Dragon opened the door a little wider. “Is that the princess under the bed, visiting my old cave? I’d better show her my best tricks.”
Aspen giggled. “It’s me, Aspen. I want to see your best tricks, please.”
And so Mr. Dragon breathed fire in the shape of spiders and bats. He said a spell and one of the firebats was cool enough to sit on her hand for a few seconds before it flew off with the others, fading away into the bright sky. Aspen applauded until her paws hurt.
Mr. Dragon bowed and smiled, and then he shuffled back inside. His door clicked shut. Aspen didn’t feel nervous any longer. She raced to the next house with her mom following behind.
Hours later, her plastic pail was full of treats. She’d collected brussel sprouts and broccoli and cauliflower and cabbage and radishes and turnips. Even better, she’d seen so many amazing tricks.
The yetis built a snow maze that didn’t melt. The Scottish monsters could disappear and reappear and did a dance that seemed to take place in four dimensions. The vampires made the area around their house dark as night whenever someone knocked on their door. It was strange to stand on their front porch in the darkness and see daylight stretch like a curtain around the outside of their lawn.
The shadows were smaller and less scary by the time Aspen got home. She was so tired. She couldn’t remember ever staying up this late. Her dad took her pail and exclaimed over all the treasures.
“Daddy tax. I get all the brussel sprouts,” he declared.
Aspen gave him a stern princess glare. “That’s not fair. You can’t have all of them.”
“What a scary princess you are.” Dad grinned. “You win. We’ll share them.”
“And Mom too,” Aspen said. “Did you do tricks or treats this year?”
“Treats. We still have some peas left over. Maybe next year I’ll think of a good trick to do.” Dad gave her a hug. “It’s time to go to sleep. Do you need me to tuck you under the bed?”
Aspen hugged her mom and then stood up straight and tall. “I can brush my fangs and get to bed by myself. I’m the princess under the bed.” She started to walk away and then paused. “Could someone help me with my zipper?”