“I don’t wanna go in there,” Johnnie said, gesturing toward the dark hedges. “I don’t care if he gives out the best candy every year – Old Man Jameson is creepy.”
“Awww, come on ya scaredy cat!” Mikey teased. “You scared of the dark? Scaredy cat! Scaredy cat!” Mikey was dressed as a Roman gladiator. He had real leather sandals his Mom had made him, but the storebought plastic breastplate he wore was too large and sagged past his waist.
“Yeah, come on Jonnie! Don’t be a girl!” Samantha giggled, hitting him with her goodie bag. Samantha was a princess this year, clad all in pastel purple, in a conical veiled cap and long flowing gown.
“Alright, alright,” Johnnie relented, pulling the drooping edges of his bedsheet up from the ground – he was a ghost. “Let’s go.”
The children walked in through opening in the dark hedge fence, toward the old wooden door of Old Man Jameson’s house. The building was ancient, the exterior made of large round stones set in concrete; it was more of a cottage, really. The walkway toward the chipping red paint of the front door was uneven cobblestone, upheaved into disorder by the frozen ground of many winters past.
“Oh my god,” Samantha said, her voice wavering. “This is soooo creepy.”
Old Man Jameson was always known for his elaborate Halloween decorations. The children glanced around nervously as they progressed towards the door – the gladiator, the princess and the ghost – at the unsettling lifelike quality of the horrors on the display.
Child mannequins in costume, not much larger than the children themselves, were set in lifelike poses around the yard. Here, a boy dressed as a tiny policeman, his eyes missing and streams of blood painting his cheeks red. There, a girl in a costume as fairy, her frail paper mache wings distressed and body eviscerated. Another mannequin was a boy not much bigger than Johnnie, dressed as a Viking. A horned plastic helmet sat on his tiny cranium at a funny angle, and the fake flesh on his face was peeling from the skull underneath. All so lifelike.
“Come on, let’s get our candy and get out of here already!” Mikey said, no longer feeling like the brave soldier of his costume. The children gathered around the red door, and Samantha the swung the brass knocker.
RAP RAP RAP
“TRICK OR TREAT!” The children yelled.
Old Man Jameson opened the door and it creaked eerily upon its aged hinges.
“Well hello!” he said, grinning toothlessly. “Happy Hallowe’en my little ones!”
“Happy Hallowe’en, Mr. Jameson!” Samantha chirped. The boys were silent and stared at the old man.
“Have some candy apples!” he said, and dropped the plastic-wrapped fruit into their open bags.
“Thanks. Happy Hallowe’en Mr. Jameson,” Johnnie said. He made to leave.
“Oh, but wait,” the other said, smiling at the children. His teeth were so yellow. “I just made some hot cider. Won’t you have some before you go? It’s an awfully cold night out there this year for October. It will warm you from the inside.”
“I dunno,” Johnnie said with hesitation. He remembered something his mother had said about strangers once, and felt like this might be that kind of something.
“Sure!” Samantha said gleefully, taking a cup of the hot steaming liquid the old man had decanted.
The boys followed suit, and sipped the cider. It was delicious.
“Good, good,” said Mr. Jameson.
“Ooooh, I feel funny,” Samantha said, raising her hand against her head.
The children collapsed into a heap onto the front step.
“Oooh, Old Man Jameson’s house!” said Billy, pulling his fur-covered cap down again. He was a werewolf this year. “Let’s go! He always has the best candy!”
“Aaaah I dunno,” said Steven, a bashful scarecrow. “He’s sooo creepy.”
“Come on you silly boys,” Jenny said. She was Barbie this year. Marcie, an evil witch in a flowing cape of shiny black plastic, followed her in through the hedge.
The children walked down the cobblestone of the path, past the lifelike decorations in the yard. Dead youth surrounded them in frozen poses: a miniature gladiator bloodied from battle with his left arm missing, a child ghost covered in a gore-smeared sheet, and a young princess dressed in purple cradling her severed head in her hands.
RAP RAP RAP
“Trick or treat!” The children squealed.