October 31st, a night of fearful giggling and festive spooks, where children collect sugary goods and toothbrushes from kind neighbourhoods. A night when children laugh and play among the eerie landscape and enjoy the decorative pumpkins, candles, and ghouls. As for Robert, this was his favourite time of the year. Cool autumn weather mixed with bright auburn leaves and gold yellow dots littering the ground.
It was quite chilly that day, but Robert’s mum, Margaret, had fixed him up with a steaming cup of hot chocolate and a warm winter coat to send him to the annual Halloween festival hosted by the neighbourhood. Robert noticed the droplets of condensation that dotted the white ceramic mug as he put the liquid to his lips.
“Is everybody going this year, honey?” asked Margaret, referring to Jenny, Allen, and the rest of his friend group.
“Yes, mum,” replied Robert through loud sips.
“And you’re sure you don’t need me there?”
“Yes, mum,” Robert replied with a slight hint of annoyance.
“You know me, I’m just worried about you. There never seems to be too many adults at the event,” she sighed.
After a brief pause Robert gently responded, “Thanks mum, I know you care about me. I’ll be fine, I’ll just stick with my friends. I better get going, getting there late means less candy!”
Robert’s mum smiled softly and went to give Robert a hug as he left the house.
“Bye, mum!” hollered Robert over his shoulder as he and his massive candy bag disappeared out of sight, around the corner house.
Joy-filled, bloodcurdling screams, and distant chattering grew louder, soon becoming a swarm of indistinguishable noise. In the outdoor park, there were attractions strewn all over the place: a massive wooden roller coaster disappeared into the thickets of trees, the neighbourhood’s old, uninhabited mansion had turned into a massive haunted house, and snack vendors made the place smell wondrous. As far as the eye could see, with orange, purple, and black colours, jack-o-lanterns and flamboyant costumes.
“Hey, Robert! Over here!” called a group of people over to the right. Robert saw his friends holding glistening, fresh, caramel apples parked near the game booths, one of them trying to smash a baseball into a target and send a clown into the water. He wondered to himself why the clown had decided to take that role. Robert made his way to his friends, having a rather simplistic costume of a businessman, his shoulder bag doubling as a candy container.
“Hey Robert, we saved an extra slice of pie for you!” said Allen, as he gave him a slice of pumpkin pie.
“Thanks, Allen,” Robert mumbled through large spoonfuls of pie.
“$2.00, you can pay me back tomorrow…” Allen winked at Robert.
“Don’t worry, I’ll just forget about that bus ticket you borrowed from me,” Robert countered, and they both laughed knowingly.
“Say, what do y’all think about going on a tour through the haunted house? It can’t be as scary as the rumo—” Jenny says as she is interrupted by a spine-chilling scream erupting from the house. “—rumours say.”
A few of his friends looked a little uneasy. The mansion had only been converted into a haunted house this summer, and reportedly, some of the workers fell through the floorboards and plummeted 3 floors to their deaths. A few people who went through as a trial group had disappeared but most wouldn’t talk about their experiences. The overwhelming consensus passing through Robert’s school was that the few people that disappeared had moved towns, and the ones that won’t expose their experience have been prevented by the organization running the haunted house, as they want to keep it a surprise.
Shockingly, as the friend group approached the ticket collector, there didn’t seem to be many people. Only 3 separate people were standing in line, even though there had been a huge buzz about it at school. The line seemed to be moving quite fast, and Robert’s friends pushed him forwards, saying it’ll be much scarier going in alone.
Robert protested and cried out, “I told my mum that I wouldn’t go anywhere unsafe, and I’d stay with you guys!”
“Ah Robert, stop being such a wuss and chickening out. It’s only a haunted house, and plus, we’ll be going in, only… 2 minutes later.”
Alas, Robert entered the house and the door clicked shut. He was met with a long winding hallway, the hall was pitch black — with the exception of eerie red glowing footlights — paired with a pool-table-green colouring the walls. His face grew taut and his leg muscles started twitching, as if he was suddenly immersed in freezing water. He started down the long tunnel, with eerie silence in place of what usually would have been jumpscares and people in costumes. In a way, he felt this was scarier. In the darkness, a melancholic piano played a faint, sad piece.
“In the dark… you are most vulnerable.” A dry, sinister, echoing voice came from above.
Robert flicked his eyes to the ceiling and was met with darkness and the indistinct outline of a spiraling staircase.
“You cannot see us… nor hide from us… nor distinguish us… we are all around you.” The last 3 words, booming and arriving in his ear from all different sides.
He backed against the wall, beady drops of sweat formed on his forehead as he broke into a cold sweat, like condensation on a mug of hot chocolate.
“You know me, I’m just worried about you,”
“I’ll be fine, I’ll just stick with my friends”
A hard shove landed to his side and he fell, only he didn’t hit the floor like he expected, a crater in the floor beneath his feet. Falling, and falling, he collided with a hard stone floor, and just before losing consciousness, Robert saw the familiar blue sweater of Mary, and the skeleton costume worn by Flynn.
In the faint moonlight, among the screams and shouts of joyful costumed children above, in the night of tricks and treats, Robert was gone.
Photo by Andy Henderson on Unsplash.com