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Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
“Considering how much crap people give this movie, it honestly isn’t that bad,” Mark said while taking another sip of his beer.
His wife, Claire, took another fistful of popcorn from her bowl.
“Just you wait. This is one of my favorite parts coming up.”
In the next scene, a boy wearing a pumpkin mask watched a flashing jack-o-lantern on a television while a silly theme played in the background. Just as the mask began to rot and the kid fell to the ground, Claire heard the doorbell ring. She grunted with disappointment and set the bowl of popcorn down on the coffee table.
“Right when we were getting to one of the best scenes,” she said with a slight hint of disappointment in her voice.
Claire stood up from their couch and walked towards the front door. While doing so, she grabbed a bowl of candy from their kitchen counter as well as her witch hat. She placed the cheap cone on her head and made sure it was lopsided. As she walked down the foyer, she could hear her husband’s laughter bellowing as the sound of snakes and bugs squirming blared from the sound system. As soon as she opened her front door, she was greeted with the delightful, high pitched screams of small children.
“Trick or treat,” they all yelled in unison at an ear-piercing pitch.
“My oh my, aren’t you a scary little bunch,” Susan exclaimed while extending the bowl in front of them.
She allowed each kid to take two pieces. Most of them immediately went for the good stuff like Snickers and Reese’s. Just as she expected, none of the children went for the Almond Joys that had come in the variety bag. She didn’t really mind, however. They were her favorite, and it meant more for her at the end of the night.
“Stay safe children, and please be careful. This is a busy street, so watch out for any cars.”
“Yes ma’am,” the group retorted while turning and running down the cobblestone path that snaked through her yard.
One child covered in zombie makeup turned his head as he ran and yelled, “thank you!” Claire smiled and waved goodbye to the children as they ran down her driveway and onto the sidewalk. As she watched them take off towards the next house, she caught sight of her neighbor walking across the street. The two exchanged a friendly wave. The woman and her daughter glanced up and down the street before running across it and up to Claire’s front door.
“Happy Halloween, Margaret,” Claire said while holding out the candy bowl for her daughter.
“You know, I’ve been looking all up and down the street for you! I’m guessing Mark went out with Tommy tonight?”
Margaret’s daughter, Elizabeth, shuffled through the candy in the bowl and attempted to find one that would satisfy her cravings.
“Tommy actually went out with some friends from school. He was begging us all month to do it. I was a little skeptical, but Mark was the one that pointed out that we need to let him off the leash a little bit. We came to a compromise that he couldn’t go past Jefferson Street.”
Elizabeth squealed with delight as she finally found a Twix bar among all the pieces of candy. She placed it in her bag and went back to scavenging through the bowl for another one.
“We also put a tracker app on his phone just to make sure he listens. He’s never really been a problem with this sort of thing, but I just wanted to be safe.”
They both looked down as Elizabeth made it known to the world that she had found two more Twix bars.
“The two of us need to get going. If we see Tommy anywhere he’s not supposed to be, I’ll give you a call.”
The two women hugged, and Margaret took her daughter by the hand. As they walked down the driveway and onto the sidewalk, Claire looked on with a smile. The two of them passed in front of her house and further down the street. Just as Claire was stepping back inside, she caught sight of something in her neighbor’s yard.
A child stood near the edge of the grass. Claire guessed he was about ten years old from his size. His small frame was covered in a pair of dark blue coveralls that were easily two sizes too big. His face was hidden by a Michael Myers mask that was meant to be worn by an adult, causing it to appear almost comedically large on the boy’s head. An orange plastic bag filled with a small amount of candy hung by his side from a small fist. She assumed it was the Johnson’s kid considering he was standing in their yard.
“Did you want some candy, Robert?”
The boy stood completely silent and motionless. He simply continued to stare at her with the hollow, black eyeholes of the mask. Claire had never really known Robert to be a talkative boy, so this hardly surprised her. Claire shrugged and shut the door behind her. She rested the bowl of candy back on the kitchen counter and plopped down into the cushions of the couch. Just as she found the perfect comfortable position, Mark nudged her.
“Would you mind grabbing me another beer?”
She glared at him with an exhausted look.
“You have no self-reliance, do you?”
Just like many other times in the past, Mark flashed her a pitiful look.
“Pwease?” he asked in a mocking child’s voice.
Claire grabbed the empty bottle from his hand and stood up from the couch.
“God, you’re insufferable,” she said with a laugh.
Claire walked into the kitchen and threw open the door to the refrigerator. As she grabbed one bottle, she figured that she might as well get one for herself. As she placed them on the counter and opened a drawer to retrieve the bottle opener, something caught her attention. Just outside the kitchen window, she saw a shadow fly across the grass in the soft glow of their security light. She leaned closer to the glass that had frosted around the edges from the chill of the night air. A few dead leaves tumbled across the grass as she scanned the yard for the source of the movement.
Her attention suddenly diverted to the front door. She left the bottles on the counter and grabbed the bowl of candy once more. As she flung open the front door, she was not greeted with the familiar cheers of small children like every other time that night. Her front doorstep was empty. She glanced at her driveway to find no one in sight. It was not until she looked near the edge of her lawn that something caught her attention.
The boy in the Michael Myers mask was standing near the hedge that bordered Claire’s yard. He stood completely still in the green glow of the Halloween lights that emitted from the front landscaping. At this point, Claire knew this was not the neighbor’s kid. Although Robert rarely talked, she knew that he was not one to pull pranks like this. She attempted to see any details of his face through the holes in the mask, but to no avail.
“Look, I don’t know who you are, but either take some candy or get out of here.”
She held out the bowl in his direction. The boy tilted his head to one side as the Halloween lights changed to a shade of purple. He then pivoted on his heels and walked down her lawn towards the street. He vanished around the hedge and out of her sight.
“Little weirdo,” Claire muttered to herself while opening an Almond Joy and popping it in her mouth.
As she set the candy bowl back on the kitchen counter, Mark called to her from his perch in the living room.
“Who were you yelling at?”
“Just some kid who was standing in the yard. I saw him across the street in the Johnson’s yard a few minutes ago.”
“Well, did you offer him any candy?”
“Yeah,” Claire responded while popping the caps off their beer. “All he did was stare at me and walk off.”
“Good thing I’m here to protect you, honey.”
She rolled her eyes while walking back to the living room.
“My ass,” Claire said shoving the beer bottle in his hand.
She tousled his hair and sat down on the couch. With the popcorn bowl resting back in her lap, Claire picked up a handful and happily put it in her mouth.
She turned her head to find their dog standing at the back door, waiting to be let in.
“Oh, come on…”
Giving up her seat once again, Claire dragged her feet to the back door and slid it open. The black lab pranced inside with delight and vanished into the kitchen to search for scraps. In its wake, a few leaves blew in through the door. Claire quickly rounded them up and tossed them back outside. As she looked out over the yard, she noticed the boy in the Michael Myers mask standing amongst the trees that backed up to the fence.
“Hey! What the hell are you doing back there?”
There was no response.
“Mark, you better get over here.”
Her husband grunted as he stood from the couch and lumbered in her direction. Using the door frame for support, he leaned over and stuck his head outside.
“I’ll tell you one thing, that isn’t the Johnson’s boy. Robert is a couple of inches shorter than that and a few pounds heavier.”
Claire blew air from her nostrils and pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration.
“At this point, I don’t care who the hell he is. I just want him out of here. If that means calling neighborhood security, then so be it.”
Mark stepped outside with his bare feet smacking on the flagstone patio. He stood right at the edge where it met the grass. His shadow loomed over the yard as he blocked some of the light coming from inside the house.
“Either you leave, or we’re calling security. You got that?”
The boy stood motionless and refused to answer.
“Are you deaf or something? Get out of here!”
This time, the boy moved. He set the orange candy bag down in the pine straw and opened it. Reaching inside, the black handle of a kitchen knife emerged from the bag. The blade reflected the moonlight and bounced it back in their direction.
Mark immediately threw his beer bottle straight at the child. It hurtled through the air before shattering in large chunks against his head. His small body slumped and fell to the ground with a soft thud.
“Mark, what the hell is wrong with you?!” Claire cried as she ran through the doorway.
“You saw that! The kid had a fucking knife!”
“He might have a concussion now, thanks to you! Do you want to have assault charges brought on us by this kid’s parents?”
“I doubt they would do anything to us when they realized he was carrying a knife around. Just look at the size of that thing!”
Mark turned as he pointed in the boy’s direction. To his shock, the child was gone. All that remained was the dark brown glass of his beer bottle scattered among the landscaping.
“Where’d he go?” Mark asked while stumbling backwards towards the house.
Claire took a few steps back herself and fumbled for the phone in her pocket.
“That’s it. I’m calling the cops.”
Mark followed her back inside and locked the door behind them. As the blue and white colors emitting from the television danced around the room, Claire dialed 9-1-1 and spoke with a dispatcher. Although difficult at times, she managed to keep the panic from seeping into her tone.
“They’ll have an officer here in about six minutes.”
Her phone suddenly rang, causing her to jump. Looking down at the screen, she was met by the contact photo of her son dressed up as Doctor Strange that she had taken that very afternoon.
“Hey, mom. I’m almost home. Is it okay if my friends come over in a few minutes and watch some movies? They had to go change because we slipped in mud.”
At this point, her son’s messy clothes were the least of her concerns.
“That’s fine, dear. Just please hurry home.”
“Alright. See you soon,” he said with delight as the call ended with a beep.
Claire shoved the phone back in her pocket and looked at her husband. Mark was staring out the kitchen window with his nose pressed against the glass.
“Any sign of the kid?”
“Nothing yet,” he said while turning towards the backyard. “It’s like he just disappeared into thin air.”
There was a knock at the door that caused both of them to jump. Claire breathed a sigh of relief and quickly walked towards the door. She threw it open and greeted her son with a sigh of relief as the cool night air flooded inside.
“I’m so glad you’re hom-”
The doorstep was empty, save for a few bugs that danced around the overhead light. Claire panicked and began frantically looking from side to side.
“Tommy,” she called into the cool, night air.
Stepping forward, she was met with an unsettling crunch under her foot. She slowly looked down to find a piece of plastic cracked under her shoe. As she lifted her foot, she recognized it as the magical shield that had come with Tommy’s costume. A knot formed in her stomach and she began to lose her balance. Propping herself against the door frame, she called for her husband.
He came barreling down the hallway in an instant.
“Is he out here again?”
Mark followed his wife’s eyes down to the ground. When he saw the pieces of shattered plastic resting on the concrete, the color drained from his face.
“I’m grabbing my gun…”
Before Claire could stop him, her husband had fled to their room to retrieve the firearm from the top shelf of their closet. As she watched him disappear around a corner, she heard a noise come from the driveway. It sounded like something falling on the pavement. She timidly approached the driveway and peered around the back of her car. She was met with nothing but the site of an empty sidewalk. She crept closer to the street and was surprised to feel her foot slip in something. She glanced down to find a small puddle of blood near the back tire of her SUV. Her shoe had smeared some of it across the driveway in a dark, crimson streak. Tommy’s cell phone lay on the concrete with the screen cracked. Claire’s contact was still pulled up on the phone app.
“Mark!” she screamed at the top of her lungs.
Within a matter of seconds, her husband came running through the front door with a pistol in his grasp. As he came closer to her, she pointed at the puddle illuminated under the sickly yellow glow of the street light. Mark wrapped an arm tightly around his wife pulled her away from it. He was met with resistance as she broke from his grasp and ran towards the street. As Claire glanced further down the sidewalk, she could see a trail of blood illuminated under the streetlights that dotted their way down the road. She felt her head spin and her knees begin to weaken. She soon fell to the ground and began to sob. Mark rushed to her side and bent down to cradle her.
She continued to scream her son’s name into the cool night air, only to have it echo back as if the world was taunting her. As her cries carried up and down the street, hot tears ran down her cheeks. Mark held her tighter as the two were bathed in the red and blue glow of an approaching police car. The vehicle pulled up to the curb and the deputy threw his door open as he caught sight of them. As he approached, Claire’s voice continued to pierce the night, only to be lost in the howling wind.
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