By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Imagine a world without electric light, where fire was your only friend as night closed in.
Shadows flickered and crept across the floor, under tables and into corners.
Consider a time when mental illness was labeled demon possession and everyone in town knew a poor soul’s suffering by the quality of her screams.
Picture a well-armed militia of battle-scarred men who didn’t care about crimes committed against you. They were paid to do whatever the Great Man wanted, and you knew to keep your head down when they passed.
Conjure up the stench that came before indoor plumbing. Let the air fill with the crowded stink of pigs, horses and humans. Listen to the fat flies buzzing around.
Imagine the heartless, the predators behind trees, those who would take what they could get, however they could get it.
Think about dying because someone wanted what you had or going to your grave after an infected cut less than a half-inch long.
See death as an everyday experience, if not at home, then on the dirty streets. Even the Great Man wasn’t immune. Even his fair wife. Even his fair child.
We Americans do a fantastic job of taking things and making them our own. I’m not complaining. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.
I’ve retained my sweet tooth and look forward to snatching Almond Joys and Kit Kats from my kids’ trick-or-treat bags.
I loved Halloween back when it was my turn. We were allowed to gather in bunches and roam the streets at night. It was a rare adventure, even if the streets were well-lit and the people we harassed were happy to give.
But Halloween’s roots go back to scarier times, when Little Red Riding Hood was more than a cute bedtime story. It was a dire warning about life-or-death consequences.
Of course, metaphorical wolves still stalk our modern-day world. The headlines are filled with them, but there’s a big difference between now and the old days.
Today’s horrors are often – but not always – far off. It’s the girl who gets kidnapped and killed in Nevada that convinces us to bolt our doors. We’re more likely to see the grieving family on a national television news magazine rather than looking out our windows or walking over to share the pain.
The sure knowledge remains that the nasty wolf could claw its way into our lives. Then people thousands of miles away might find themselves thinking about us and shaking their heads while bolting their doors.
That’s why I think of Halloween as more than a sugar rush, more than a good reason to visit the neighbors.
For one night, we face what frightens us and all the things that have ever terrorized our kind, and we laugh.
But not too loudly and – goodness knows – not too proudly.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at(662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.