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This was to be the first time that I had been allowed to go trick or treating at Halloween and I was just about as excited as a young boy could be. Little did I know however that this day would change my life forever.
I was five years old, and had never been allowed to join in the Halloween celebrations before, since my Mother was always very protective of us.
I can still vaguely remember the year before, throwing a tantrum at not being allowed to join my older brother, but it did me no good. I just had to suffer watching him dress up in his fancy dress costume and go around the neighborhood with his friends.
But this year was different though. I was deemed old enough now to join in with the trick or treating festivities, and oh boy was I ready.
I forget now what the reason was, but Billy’s friends had to go out of town, and since he was ten and I was now five, Mother said that it would be ok for me to join him in the trick or treating celebrations.
Mother helped us both get ready, with us donning white sheets with holes in for our eyes and mouths, and pretending to be ghosts.
We both thought that we looked great, we had the best Halloween costumes ever, and the minutes seemed to drag slowly by until 7 o’clock when Mother gave us our candy buckets and said that we could go out.
So out we went, my brother Billy and I, and we had a wonderful time seeing all the other children in the small Midwest town where we lived, dressed as Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves or similar creatures of the night.
Some of the girls were dressed as Witches or Fairies, and I got a real fright when Aaron Sanders jumped out at us. Aaron was dressed as a Zombie, with pale skin, dark make-up around his eyes, ripped shirt and overalls and everything.
Despite being frightened, I was having the time of my life, it was exciting, and Billy, good brother that he was, held my hand and made sure I came to no harm.
As had become the tradition in many towns on Halloween night, those houses which were participating in trick or treating left a porch light on, so the children all knew which ones to visit and which to not.
I don’t know how it happened, but somehow we ended up in a part of the town that I didn’t know, with some older houses, and it was a bit creepy to say the least.
I said to Billy that we ought to go back, since few houses had lights on in the porch, but Billy said to try one last house, and held my hand as we walked up the path to this really creepy looking old house that was sat a good way back from the road, and had candles burning dimly on the porch.
As we approached the house, we could see that an old couple sat there in rocking chairs, a really old couple by the look of it, in old well worn clothes.
The man got up slowly, and beckoned to Billy to come inside the house.
I pulled Billy’s hand as if to say “No”, but Billy said that it would be ok, and told me to stay there at the bottom of the steps that led up to the porch.
Billy went up the steps, which creaked at every step and followed the old man as he shuffled slowly through the screen door and inside the house.
It was as if time stood still, and I changed weight from foot to foot, not daring to move from the spot that I stood on, while the woman on the porch sat expressionless as she rocked backwards and forwards in her rocking chair.
For what felt like an eternity I stood there, waiting for Billy, wondering what had happened to him, and panic was beginning to set in, as I wondered what I would do if he didn’t come out of the house soon.
For a start, I had no idea where I was, I was lost, and looking around me there was no sign of any of the other children that had been wandering the streets with us that Halloween evening.
Looking up I could see the bright full moon and dark clouds passing slowly in front of it, making things seem even more scary and ghostly to a five year old boy all alone in a strange place.
To my great relief, the old man shuffled out of the house, and Billy followed, but I could see at once that something was different.
Billy didn’t say anything, but came down the steps from the porch and over to me, and took my hand in his.
When I say “different”, I mean that something didn’t feel right to me. Billy’s hand felt cold, where it normally felt warm in mine, and it was as if the skin on his hand was dry and tough too, not the soft smooth skin of a ten year old boy.
Billy also seemed very pale, and as I looked into his face, I could see dark patches around his eyes, and he didn’t smile back at me like he usually did to his baby brother, he just remained expressionless.
He led me away from the house, and then I noticed as well that he wasn’t walking the usual energetic walk that Billy did, it was a slow shuffling motion.
We got home eventually, with Billy leading the way, and as it was late I headed up to bed, and lay awake for hours with the events of the night playing over and over in my head.
Mother hadn’t noticed anything odd about Billy when we came home, but as it was late she just sent us off to bed.
The next morning, I woke early, got dressed and went downstairs, to find Mother preparing breakfast as she usually did.
“Billy” she called upstairs, but there was no answer.
Again she called “Billy”, and I sighed with relief as I heard Billy turn over and get out of bed.
He came slowly and carefully downstairs, and Mother and I both had a shock when we saw him.
Billy was deathly pale, with very dark rings around his eyes, and the same as the night before, he seemed lacking in expression.
“Billy what’s wrong?” Mother said, but Billy said nothing, and just sat there at the dining table.
He didn’t eat anything either, well none of us did, and that afternoon Mother took him to see the Doctor.
The doctor didn’t know what was wrong with Billy, but thought that he might be overtired, and so recommended to Mother that she give him a sleeping draft and let him sleep for a while.
Well Billy slept. He slept all that Saturday evening and night, and all Sunday too, waking only as Mother and I were going up to bed on Sunday night.
Mother asked if he was hungry and Billy slowly shook his head. She gave him some water to drink, but he turned it down and shuffled back to bed.
The following day I went to school on my own, and although Billy had got out of bed that morning, he was in no condition to go to school.
When I came home that afternoon, Mother said for us to go outside and play, since she thought it would be good for Billy to get some fresh air.
We played ball, or should I say “I” played ball, while Billy stood there and barely moved most of the time, or slowly kicked the ball towards me when I threw it to him.
It was one of these kicks that caused the ball to fly almost unnaturally across the yard, and as I ran after the ball, picked it up and turned around, I saw that Billy had shuffled into the middle of the road, and heard the screech of brakes and a loud BANG as a car came around the corner and ran right into him.
Mother came running out, as did the neighbors across the street.
The police were called, and the ambulance, but there was nothing they could do for poor Billy. The driver of the car saw nothing, and had no chance to stop unfortunately.
I told Mother my story and she told the police, but nobody believed me, only being five and scared on my first Halloween night.
And so it was just Mother and I from then on, and she made sure to keep me well under her wing and protected, and I never went trick or treating again, in fact on Halloween nights the lights on our house were all extinguished and we both sat in the dark, waiting for the annual terror to pass.
It was ten years later, when I was fifteen years old, that I was out walking around town, and I came across a sight that looked somewhat familiar, and it brought back a memory from the past.
It was a long front yard, rather scary looking, in an older neighborhood, but as I looked up, I didn’t see the scary old house that I expected too, just the spot where a house had been, and a FOR SALE sign planted in the yard.
A shiver ran up my spine, and I left there quickly, and headed home, but I didn’t tell Mother, I just went outside and sat quietly on our front porch, in my rocking chair.
This story is copyright Tony Payne and originally published by me on Yahoo Voices back in 2010.
Image of the haunted house is from http://www.flickr.com/photos/trostle/3130698335/
Thanks Matt Trostle for an amazing capture. Even the crows give me the creeps.