Susanna Liu

“All the stories are true.”

Upon reading this in Cassandra Clare’s “City of Bones,” my seventh grade self shuddered. I had just begun to dive into the world of fantasy novels and all things supernatural. While my body was here, my mind was off battling evil wizards, slaying demons, fleeing from werewolves and fawning over vampires. Each night, I would pull out my flashlight and fly through hundreds of pages under the covers, eager to escape to a world where reality was a blur. And when morning came, I would return to the world as we know it, a world without magic. A boring world. Nevertheless, after spending a night looking over my shoulder for all sorts of monsters, I was grateful for the chance to return to this boring reality. It gave me a sense of safety. But to wonder if all these stories are true? To wonder if the fantasy world that I leisurely travel to isn’t a fantasy at all? That shit is terrifying.

Dark clouds rolled across the sky as they hung heavily on the world below. Green leaves swirled in the stifling air as they smacked across windows and piled up in gutters. Each step forward was another risk of stepping into a murky puddle or being carried away by the punches of fall winds. Not even the slight tropical drizzling could protect me from the suffocating heat that pervaded every pore of my body. Yet, despite it all, I roamed the dimly lit streets of the Hamptons, a neighborhood in Florida, with wide eyes and an open bag on that Oct. 31.

I remember walking down those dark streets as they flooded with too many people in every costume imaginable. Teenagers in clown masks scared the fairy princesses relentlessly. People converted their mansion garages into haunted houses, from which kids would escape screaming every two minutes. Parents held all sorts of excess costume accessories as they desperately tried to keep track of their wild kids. There were pizza food trucks, exclusive parties and king-size Hershey’s bars in every cul-de-sac. The Hamptons was the place to be on Halloween night. Everyone was there. Even if, like me, you didn’t live there, you would find a way or, more accurately, a person to get in.

Trick-or-treating at the Hamptons was a memorable, albeit frightening, experience each year, but my seventh grade Halloween was truly unforgettable. As then the sun went down that balmy October night, all of the monsters came out…

“All the stories are true.”

For my whole life, I had treated the supernatural phenomena and creatures I encountered in novels as what they were: a fantasy. They didn’t exist outside of the chapters of my book. They were simply words on a page, characters in a story. But in seventh grade, I began to wonder, and wondering can be a dangerous thing. What if it’s true? What if all the stories are not just stories? Are vampires real? Are werewolves running around on full moons? Does the veil between the real and spirit world really disappear on Halloween?

My logical side scolded me for my naivete, but my illogical side crumbled in fear. The possibility of all monsters existing, of all magic existing, scared the shit out of me. It still does.

That Halloween, as the quarter moon hung low in the ebony sky and I traveled house to house, passing vampires, werewolves, mummies and zombies covered in gore, my mind raced in terror. I didn’t think that each monster I passed on the sidewalk was real. But seeing those teenagers covered in fake festering wounds and gruesome masks, portraying the supernatural creatures we choose to regard as myths, made me afraid of everything that might be out there. Everything that might be out there waiting for us to become its prey… Does that sound crazy?

“All the stories are true.”

What if vampires are real and they’re lurking around corners watching us make fools of ourselves as we stick plastic fangs in our mouths? What if they are just biding their time to take revenge on our mockery of them? What if that guy I passed on the street dressed as a werewolf is actually a demon? What if they’re among us? What if they’re everywhere we look, posing as humans?

Dread rushed through me, pushing every irrational fear and doubt to the surface of my consciousness. I could no longer feel the stifling Florida heat or see the Halloween excitement milling around me — everything was just pure, blinding terror. Suddenly, anything became possible in my mind, and my world was exponentially widening, leaving me behind to splash around in the inky waters of uncertainty.

Now, obviously, as I inch towards my first Halloween in college, I can look beyond my irrational fear of the unknown, of the possibility that monsters and magic really do exist. Now that I’m older, I can look at the world with a lens of clarity. Yet, I believe that age doesn’t diminish our creativity and imagination; it only pushes it further into the recesses of our minds. So, as I don my costume this Halloween, I await that inkling in the back of my mind, behind all of the logic. It will tell me to watch out for the monsters, because “all the stories are true.”

Jacqueline Kaskel | jacqueline.kaskel@yale.edu

JACQUELINE KASKEL