The doorbell rings, and I nearly jump out of my skin.
What did I do?
It is completely unexpected, this interruption of darkened silence by the sudden and simple “dong” of the electric bell. I fumble around trying to put my thoughts—myself—together. Heart rate screaming, my first response of feeling “caught” turns to anger at whoever rang the bell.
Why is it ringing tonight? There’s no reason for it? The lights are off. There’s nobody home. I don’t want to play!
These thoughts repeat in my mind as I fight to keep my breathing under control; I’m huffing and puffing mad now.
There’s no reason to be angry. I expected this. They come every year, the same night every year. In fact, they come at the same time every night of every year! Why am I surprised? Each year at precisely the same time, these identity-hiding little monsters—little ghouls!—stalk me, corner me in my house, and take from me. And every year I’ve let them.
This year I wanted to take my life back. I wanted to take this night back for myself.
You aren’t getting anything from me!
I did everything I was supposed to do. I took everything down. I hid everything. There are no identifying marks on my doorstep! I shut the light off. I’m not home. I stayed away from the windows. I blocked the windows so they couldn’t see in.
I’m not here!
But they still came. They’re still here. They’re here now. Why? Why do we allow them in? Some ancient religious ritual that highlights taking from people—tonight!
You aren’t getting anything from me!
BANG BANG BANG!
My thoughts are scrambled again. Banging on the door.
Leave me alone!
Can’t you just go away and leave me in peace?
Leave me alone.
I turn, trying to see the door from where I sit in darkness. The hallway leading to the front door—where the banging is coming from, where this ritualistic crime occurs every year—is especially dark.
As I move to stand, I notice I’ve started to perspire.
Do they know?
I’m guilty. I’ve hidden from them in here. I’ve hidden myself and all signs that anyone is here. I’ve covered up all the evidence.
But do they know?
I glance into the shadowed living room, at the mound of… things …from the yard. Things that might cause them to show up at my door. Things that could lead them to me. Things that tell them I’m here and I’m open for business. Jack-o-lanterns. Black cats. Fake spider web. Fake Spanish moss. Ghostly plastic kiddie-pools that hold dry ice and give off “smoke.” Anything and everything Halloween.
Because I don’t want them here. I don’t want to hand out candy. I want tonight for myself. Don’t they see?
But they are here.
I make my way down the hallway. My hands are slick with perspiration but I wipe my face anyway. Am I sweating because I know they know, or because this makes me so mad? This was supposed to be my night.
The house is empty. I sent Jamie away. She gets into this stuff, too, and I just couldn’t stand it for another year. I just needed some peace and quiet. But now the monsters at my door have taken that away from me. I’m huffing and puffing again.
I grasp the doorknob. The muscles stand out on my forearm because of my slick palms, because I have to really grab the doorknob to turn it.
I open the door. I’m ready for these little bastards.
These aren’t kids in Halloween costumes standing at my door. They’re policemen. Three of them. And their grownups.
Grownups wearing costumes?
“Mr. Andrews?” the one in the center asks. His costume is perfection. It fits like it was tailored, not purchased at the mall.
“Yes.” I play along. I’m a little shocked that grownups are at my door—especially grownups in costumes!—and my anger has dissipated. “But I don’t have any candy.”
Am I feeling guilty? What’s going on?
The policeman is taken aback. “Candy? Halloween was yesterday.”
Yesterday? WHAT THE…?
The policemen’s facial expressions are slowly changing. They were bored. Concerned, too, but more bored than anything. Now their brows are pinching together. The center one is cocking his head back and looking at me like he knows.
They’re looking suspicious. These kids are good. Good costumes and good at impersonating.
These aren’t kids in costumes! They’re real!
The one in the center pulls a flashlight from his belt—also very real-looking—and shines it at me. The darkness is lit up. Their faces are changing again. Suspicion to shock. Shock to anger and determination. It happens so quickly.
I find myself pressed against the hallway wall. There is shouting. The other two are pointing their flashlights around.
Those aren’t flashlights.
The one whose cold, metallic fingers have gripped my wrists behind my back now finds the switch and turns the lights on. All three stop and their faces do that change thing again, even faster this time. Determination. Shock. Anger. Disgust. Faster than you can think.
I look at what they’re looking at. The “things” in my living room are streaked with red. Good streaks. Very Halloween. Very good for luring trick-or-treaters in. There’s even a body, a murder scene to be exact, to go with them.
“Is it her?” the one behind me asks.
“Yes,” the other two answer simultaneously.
“Mr. Andrews,” the one behind me says, “you’re under arrest for the murder of Annabelle Kurtz…”
I look around. There’s blood on the walls. Blood on the floor. Blood on me. It wasn’t perspiration. It’s blood.
“Is there anyone else in the house, Mr. Andrews?”
After a pause, I go on.
“My wife, Jamie, is in the bedroom.”