by C.E. Wilder
A fanfic about the origins of Lock, Shock, and Barrel from the Nightmare Before Christmas.
Trick or Treat
Barrel picked at the clawed ends of his toes absently as he sat around in the tree house with Lock and Shock. He could just barely remember a time when his toes were soft and round. He stared intently at the claws they'd become as he tried to grasp at further memories. But they slithered through the wrinkles of his brain and out his ears like slimy worms. All he could recall were those chubby little nubs at the end of his feet.
Shock smacked him in the back of the head with her mask. He sat up but continued to stare off into space. Shock put her hands on her hips with a huff of frustration.
"What's wrong with you?" she demanded.
"I'm remembering again."
"Oh give it up!" Lock exclaimed, hopping down from an iron maiden. "You do this every year."
"But I remember something, I swear!"
Lock's tail flicked impatiently as he crossed his arms and Shock rolled her eyes. They waved away his insistence, gathering up the equipment for their night of mischief. Tonight was the Big Night. They couldn't let Barrel distract them from another Halloween with his ridiculous fantasies. Barrel let the memory slide away, following along with preparations, but never quite losing the distant look in his eye. As their animated tub carried them off into the night, he stared back at their crooked home. Such a familiar feeling.
The full moon sat high in the sky, retreating behind the clouds as the trick-or-treaters advanced. Barrel sat in the back of a red wagon with bags of candy as his two friends pulled, staring up into the sky. They stopped at the bottom of a hill and Lock took out a map from the wagon, smoothing it on top of a bag of candy. Barrel joined the other two as they looked it over.
"There's one more house we can hit," Lock stated, pointing to the only house without an x through it. "But we have to go through the woods to get to it."
"No way!" Shock objected. "Haven't you heard what happened to that one kid that went in there?"
"Those are just rumors," Lock scoffed.
"We'll never make it before they stop giving out candy anyways," she went on. "It's late."
"But we almost got em all!" Lock argued.
"We have enough candy!"
Barrel's eyes shot back and forth between his friends as they argued, not sure what to do. He didn't want to go through the woods himself, but he did want to help Lock complete his plan. Not to mention, he loved candy. Finally, Shock put a hand on the map and swiped it away, sending it fluttering to the ground.
"Hey!" Lock chased after it but the wind caught it and spirited it away into the sky. "Now look what you did!"
"Good. Let's go home."
Shock grabbed the handle of the candy-laden wagon and started turning back the way they came, but Lock crossed his arms and stomped his way toward the trees. Shock stopped and glared at him as Barrel stood, looking between the two once more. Always caught in the middle.
"You'll get lost and die!" Shock yelled.
"What's it to ya?" Lock shouted back.
Shock gave a frustrated growl and turned back to follow, grabbing Barrel's arm as she passed him.
The trio wandered around the woods for an hour, checking and rechecking their steps. Did they see that tree already with the pattern that looked like a face? Were they going in circles? What were those weird animal tracks? Shock lost her patience quickly and began to blame Lock. The two were arguing again in no time. And when they pulled their wagon into a circle of trees, Barrel was the only one to notice how strange they were.
"Guys," he gasped.
They turned to shout at the same time.
Slowly the anger melted from their features. Turning in a circle, they surveyed the strange trees surrounding them. Each had a door shaped like a different holiday icon embedded in the bark: a shamrock, a Christmas tree, an egg, a heart. Lock stepped towards the one shaped like a jack-o-lantern instinctively.
"Where do you think they go?"
Don't touch it!" Shock exclaimed, smacking Lock's hand before it could touch the knob. He shook his head, not even realizing he'd been reaching for it. "You don't know what it is!"
"Maybe they have candy," Barrel suggested innocently.
His friends looked at him and he saw an unfamiliar uncertainty in their eyes. They each put their masks on and approached the door again. A nervous energy surrounded them as Lock reached up and knocked on the door. It opened with a creak and the traditional "trick or treat" fell from their lips half-formed as they were greeted with a deep dark void.
As Barrel leaned forward to investigate, a gust of wind blasted dried leaves and the smell of rotting foliage in their faces. The leaves began to swirl around in miniature tornado, the trick-or-treaters crying out in shock as it sucked them into the darkness. They fell for a long time, it seemed, though there was no way to know how far. Falling in such a void almost didn't feel like falling at all.
A pile of dried leaves cushioned their fall and Lock was the first to struggle to his feet. He pushed his way out of the leaves and stopped, staring at his surroundings. They were on the edge of a forest, facing a huge cast iron gate. Shock and Barrel joined him in reading the sign over the gate aloud.
"What does that mean?" Shock demanded.
"Maybe it's a theme park," Barrel suggested.
"Don't be stupid!" Shock exclaimed. "Theme parks don't suck you in through a tree!"
"You don't know that," Lock argued for the sake of arguing. "What if it's a new one that hasn't opened to the public yet? That could be part of their theme."
"If it's not open yet we shouldn't be here," she shot back.
"Maybe someone can tell us how to get home," Barrel put forth. "Or call our parents to get us."
Once more, his compatriots gave him that strange feeling of uncertainty. They were normally so decisive and even forceful with their ideas. They rarely listened to Barrel. But again they agreed with him and the three of them ventured into town, searching for someone who could help them.
In the beginning, they thought the denizens of the town were only humans in convincing costumes. And the townspeople didn't seem to notice that they weren't what they appeared to be either. But it didn't take long for the children to notice something wasn't quite right. When they realized they were surrounded by literal monsters, they retreated to the hills outside the town and stumbled upon an abandoned building to squat in.
While even this building was creepy, they felt safely sequestered away from the monsters in town. Slowly, they learned how to survive, what to eat, which monsters were safest to interact with, and how to depend on one another. They never went into town without their masks and avoided other devils, witches, and skeletons lest they were found out. It was hard to keep up with the days but as they passed, the children grew more comfortable with their new lives. And as they grew comfortable, changes began to take place.
Barrel's toes grew pointed and clawed, the tail of Lock's costume became a part of his body, their skin took on a corpse-like pallor, and their eyes sunk into their sockets, retreating into dark circles that never eased with sleep. As their bodies changed, their minds began to slip and soon they were like the monsters around them.
On their first Halloween, they joined the Halloweentown monsters in their trek to the human world. Excited to scare and terrify, they'd forgotten what they were. They'd forgotten that this was the opportunity they'd been waiting for and when the night ended, they willingly returned to their new home.
As they followed the parade back to the main entrance between their old world and their new world, their small feet trampled a weathered piece of paper into the mud. The wind blew a corner over as the parade passed, revealing the faces of three lost children. Last seen trick-or-treating.