Over the hill and through the moor,
the candle man comes walking,
up to your door.
He lights up a candle and walks to your bed,
leaves the candle in the window,
and leaves with your head.
That’s the nursery rhyme my grandma used to tell me when I was young. I remember that little rhyme terrifying me as a child, as I cowered under the covers in the bed at her small country cottage, too scared to sleep. She described him as a tall, pale man in a robe, who liked to kill little children. “And whenever he killed,” Grandma would say in hushed voice ‘he would leave a ghostly candle in their window” at that she would yell out and make me jump back in fright while she shrieked with laughter. “The candle man”, even the name gives me chills. It seemed like such a horrible, scary thing to say to a child, but then again, Grandma was a scary woman. She was small, with weathered skin and cruel, sunken eyes that always seemed to glare at me. After Grandpa died she hardly ever left her house, just sat in her rocking chair, telling stories of the candle man and taking delight in my fear, laughing madly when I jumped. I found her such a disgusting woman.
Anyway, when grew up, I learned that it wasn’t her fault really, Grandpa’s death had shaken her up, messed with her head. She didn’t know what was appropriate anymore. Grandpa was only alive when I was a baby and I never knew him, but I learned when I was older how much he had meant to Grandma. Without him, she had been broken. She died when I was thirteen, and I guess it didn’t really come to me as much of a shock, she was incredibly old and frail.
Now I’m thirty, with a wife and a little girl. We have a comfortable suburban home, and I couldn’t be happier. There has been one thing that’s shaken me up recently, however. It was a silly thing, but it still scared the hell out of me. A nightmare. In the dream I was in my bedroom, comfy under the covers, when I heard a tune being played on the piano downstairs. I knew what was being played as soon as I heard it, “the candle man”. Goosebumps ran up my arms and neck, and ice filled my stomach. I sprinted down the narrow staircase into the living room, where I saw a tall, pale figure in a robe holding a candle, leaving through the open door. The candle man. He was about six foot four or five, with dead looking beady eyes and a wide, evil grin. I woke up suddenly in a cold sweat, turned on the light, and read until I was ready to sleep again. I put the dream down to too many drinks and the coming of Halloween, but it freaked me out anyway.
And that takes me up to yesterday, Halloween night. I was trudging back from a party, not drunk, (I don’t drink) but still woozy from tiredness. I thrust my hands into my pockets for warmth. Whilst I was walking back through the crisp orange leaves, the poem of the candle man popped into my head. My heart began to thud as I walked down the poorly-lit street, leaves crunching underfoot, the pale moon casting long shadows along the path. In my mind’s eye, I could see the candle man, thin and ghostly, running up to me and cutting off my head in one swing of an axe. Silly I know, but the dark can make my imagination run wild sometimes. I arrived on my road and began to calm down. I felt silly for having let the poem get to me. I was perfectly safe under the streetlights.
As I arrived at my front yard, I noticed a tall man in a robe standing at the end of the street, his face shrouded in darkness. He appeared to be staring at me. Once again images of the candle man flooded through my head, sending my heartbeat into overdrive. I shook it off. “It’s just a tall man out for Halloween, nothing to be scared of,” I assured myself, as I attempted to slow my breathing. Then I looked up at my house, hearing demonic laughter from the man’s direction. An icicle of terror stabbed at my heart. There, in my daughter’s window, flickering softly, was a candle.
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