Halloween is a big deal at our place.
I mean, for my partner and I- sans kids- we like to go all out. Not that we overdo it with the house decorations, necessarily- but in the month of October we like to watch the scary movies, you know. And on Halloween there's something about the cool air, the clouds scudding across the moon, the sense that something is in the air. We like to walk through the neighborhood and see the kids trick or treating, the parents talking in the driveways or in the road, trying to stay warm. Sometimes it takes a bit of gumption to go out if it's too chilly. Heck, we had snow flurries once.
This year, though, it was all different.
I should have known from the outset. The cat clearly knew something was up. They say the animals, especially cats, can sense things. Whisper, our black cat, was very agitated before we went out. We didn't think much of it, at the time, we were more concerned with bundling up and not forgetting the flashlight- you know, the important things. Whisper was all over the house, on the windowsill, hissing... why was she hissing? That was weird. Had I known I never would have set foot outside the door. Although maybe it was good I did.
I look forward to Halloween all year long. So does Riley. Thankfully it's something we have in common. It's a fine line between staying in and watching a scary movie while answering the trick or treaters at the door, and heading out into the night and feeling some of that Halloween spirit. This year there was a chill in the air as we set out, but it wasn't too bad. Definitely had colder nights. We adjusted our scarves and set out briskly, smiling and sipping hot chocolate as the kids in the neighborhood ran and called out.
I'm not sure when it all went wrong. By seven o clock or so it was full dark but something was...off. You know when you see movement out of the corner of your eye? And when you look, there's nothing there. That's what it was like. I swore I saw a shadow move behind a tree not thirty feet away, in an otherwise dark yard. Must have just been a trick of the streetlight, right? Well... no. We kept walking and as some kids were approaching, the shadow... I don't know how to say it, but the shadow detached itself from the tree somehow and approached the kids. They never saw it coming.
I was like "Riley, do you see tha...?" And before I could finish my sentence the shadow was among the kids, there was screaming, and a horrible cracking sound. One of the kids fell as if their limbs had turned to butter, and the rest scattered. I was shocked, and Riley clutched my arm. She had seen it too. The shadow was still there, and it turned to look at us. All I can say is- I've never been more frightened. I didn't see eyes, but there was no doubt it was looking right through us.
The screaming began then. Not just the kids near us, but everywhere. Throughout the neighborhood. The shadows were everywhere. I saw one on a roof, pulling someone out of a top floor window. Another, barely ten feet away, shoving a parent into the street, directly in front of an oncoming car. There was a sick thunk as the car hit them. The parent crumpled- thank goodness the car had been going slow, on account of all the kids around- but it didn't look good. And there was laughter. The shadow was... laughing.
Kids were running now, and parents too. Some brave souls tried to fight back and that didn't end well. I saw a pool of blood under a streetlight and a bloody smear in a neighbor's grass. There were dogs barking and then one whined and fell silent. I thought about Whisper then. Had she known?
Some parents were herding their kids into a cul-de-sac, trying to keep them safe as the parents encircled them. How do you fight shadows? One woman was snatched from the group and literally ripped apart as several shadows played tug-of-war with her. The worst part was the gleeful way they cavorted and scampered about. Picking off vulnerable people or stragglers, but also darting in a crowd and taking someone out. We tried to stay close to others, to assist if we could, but also not get too close to darting shadows. But how to know a real shadow from... a creature?
They say that on Halloween the veil between worlds is thinner, perhaps the spirit world is closer than other times. I can't say, but I remember the despair settling in and shadows from all sides, the sense that there was no escape. Someone later said that there must have been someone, a dabbler in things best left alone, and maybe something had gone off the rails somehow. At any rate other beings appeared, there were rents in the sky, and light pouring forth. I thought we were watching the apocalypse. Shadows come from light, or so I've heard. Well, maybe the lights were reclaiming what was theirs. Not that the shadows went willingly.
No one will ever look at Halloween the same again, after that.
I woke up with a start. Riley was ready to go, I must have drifted off after eating too much of the pizza.
"If we don't go out now we're never going to."
I grumbled but got up, dreading the cold even though I loved Halloween. Kids were already at the door, shouting "Trick or treat" through plastic masks. I gave out a bit of candy before reaching for my coat. The anticipation was building. It was Halloween- one of my favorite times of the year. But why was Whisper hissing at something through the window?