[image description: Three adorable dark-eyed trick-or-treaters —  one vaguely human, one vaguely doggish, and one vaguely pumpkinny — in a watercolor style. Text reads “SNACK RACKLE AND PUP, the small gods of GIFTS FROM STRANGERS, 236”]

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They’re a lot stronger now than they used to be, in this age of Internet wish lists and gifts from strangers that can show up at your doorstep at any time.  They walk the world all year round, enjoying the change of the seasons, learning about the things they never got to see before.  They don’t expect this phase to last forever.  Phases never do.  And they reserve their true passion and promise for Halloween.

Rackle is the Small God of Baby Showers and First Birthday Parties in their spare time.  They have no limbs or sharp edges that could hurt an infant, after all, and being chewed on is somewhat in their job description.  Some people find it odd for a Halloween god to be associated so strongly with infancy, but Rackle is always glad to explain, when people ask them:

“To a baby, everyone’s a stranger, even their own parents.  They don’t know anyone or anything, and they have no fear when someone they don’t know offers them an object.  Why should they?  They would be nothing but fear all the time.  Instead, they are pure joy, receiving the good gifts of the world, and if that isn’t the seed of trick or treat, I don’t know what is.  I accept their worship because it is sugar-sweet, and meant for me.”

Pup is the Small God of New Owners when not walking beside Snack and patrolling the moonlit Halloween streets.  He comforts the pups and kits and birds and other creatures being handed into the car of clumsy giants they don’t yet know, who don’t yet know them.  He tells them things will be all right, and sometimes he lies, and that’s a brutal trick, but he never means to lie to them, and when he finds he has, he comes and collects them for the next Halloween’s joy.  He heals everything he can.  Why he eschews humans outside of Halloween is an easy explanation:

“Pets pass from hand to hand in this world you’ve made, and they can lose the familiar in the blinking of an eye.  They don’t know why the rules have changed, or why they’re called by a new name, or where the owner they know and love has gone.  They know so little, but they know they want to be safe, and fed, and content if not always filled with joy.  I go to them to ease the sting of transition, and help them hope that one day, there will be no strangers.”

Snack walks mostly and only on Halloween itself, and the nights around.  She blends with the crowd, a lanky girl perhaps a little old for trick-or-treat in the eyes of some adults who see the first stirrings of puberty as proof of sudden adulthood, even in a crowd of children, even behind the mask.  She holds out her pillowcase, she speaks the words, and she is given candy by an endless sea of strangers.  They are always strangers to her.

She has no other job.  She only accepts what is offered, and leaves her small blessings upon the houses she passes, repelling solicitors and door-to-door campaigners for as long as the spirit of generosity can thrive within those walls.

For one night a year, they walk all together, and they are content, and they are whole.

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