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‘Twas on a Halloween eve when the harvest moon was perched high in the expanse of a glowering autumn sky. Rather than illuminating, its light deepened the surrounding shadows, fashioning an eerie landscape. The ghoul was making his nightly rounds, you could have sworn that lonely cry was a banshee’s wail, and the ghost was
a’ haunting. ‘Twas on such a Halloween eve as this that the midnight revelries were to occur, when a certain Halloween party was to take place. But only you can determine the substance of the rogue ghosts and ghouls in the frightening narrative I will tell. For who can say if it was goblins or active imaginations that spurred the curious series of events; for it is on nights like these that strange fantasies are born.
A cozy little house upon a nearby hill kept at bay the prevailing night and domiciled a feeling of comfort and well-being for the residents within.
“But, Mom,” Helen retorted, “if I wear it, it will cover up my costume! Wendy wouldn’t have wor-“
“It’s the thirty-first of October,” cut in her mom. “This close to winter you will be wearing a coat.”
But nine-year-old Helen was not to be assuaged. “Mom I think…” But it was no use, for the argument was over.
Meanwhile, their guests, another mother-daughter pair, including Helen’s best friend, Lily, were likewise finishing Lily’s costume in a more peaceable manner. Lily smiled smugly to herself. Her mom didn’t make her wear a coat, but the smile turned into a grimace, accompanied by a sharp cry, “Mom!”
“Lily,” her mom said, “do you want me to do this or not? Just get through it; it will be over soon.”
“And it will be worth it!” said Helen’s mom.
Lily did her best to form her mouth into something that slightly resembled a smile but only succeeded in widening her gaping maw. It was no simple matter driving a hanger through one’s hair to try and make braids stick out and up, but this was just what the two moms were trying to do. She wished she had chosen some character other than Pippi Longstocking, with her braids and freckles – a princess or a ballerina or an – “OUCH!”
Eventually the preparations were complete. They had achieved the desired effect with the wire in Lily’s hair and Helen had consented to wear a pink fluffy coat.
“Mom!” Helen nagged. “Hurry up! We’ll be late!”
“No, we won’t.”
“Yes, we will!” she answered back with great enthusiasm. “You’re so slow! Hurry up!” Helen began pushing her mom towards the door.
With a start Helen’s mom shouted, “You just calm down, now I have to get ready!” All the while, Lily was making an attempt to smother her amusement at Helen’s unabashed eagerness. She too was eager, but slightly more successful at curbing it. She had to admit, if the moms took any longer they really could be late!
“Let’s go now, Helen,” she suggested. “I’m tired of waiting!” So out the door the two flew at a gallop and down the porch steps they stumbled. “‘So yesterday, so yesterday…’” they harmonized, wavering falsettos blasting a favorite pop tune as they sped to the car.
However, their steps became more hesitant once they were out of range of the light on the front porch. Their rapid strides grew slower and more uncertain. The gloom of the twilight was closing in around them and unearthly night noises were echoing across the sagebrush hills. Her heart growing more and more constricted with fear, Lily turned toward the house to qualm her surging discomfort with the familiar sight of Helen’s home. But what she saw made her grow cold and clammy and an unknown fear so great began to spread through her.
Geography of the area was so: the house was perched on a steep hill; to reach the car below one had to pass by a trailer full of junk, and then proceed down a sheer incline. It was behind this pile of junk where Lily saw a head, very distinctly, peak from behind the heap and dart back in once she had seen it. She stopped abruptly and nudged Helen in the ribs.
“Helen,” Lily whispered hoarsely, trying unsuccessfully to keep the tremor out of her voice, “act normal. But turn around and tell me what you see.”
Perplexed, Helen began to question her friend’s appeal but stopped when she saw Lily’s expression. Once she turned back from looking at the garbage, Lily saw the fear in her own heart reflected in her friend’s face. Helen had seen it too. After scanning the area again, they discovered it was not one person, but two who were tailing their downhill descent. Unable to move, their pursuers still shadowing them, Helen and Lily remained rooted to the spot. Gathering her remaining courage, Helen hissed, “We have to do something. Let’s just ask them what they’re doing and maybe they’ll go away,” the reasoning of a frightened third grader.
“Okay,” Lily hesitated.
“So, on the count of three?”
“Sure,” Lily ventured.
With a challenge on their lips, the two whirled to face their assailants. But the pursuers abandoned all pretences of stealth and leapt out from behind the junk pile to give chase.
“Ahhhhhhhh!!!!” Without a thought for consequences, the girls raced downhill at top speed, landing in a quivering heap on the road. Huddled together, they dreaded the approach of pursuing footsteps. But something was not right. There was not a sound. Hesitantly they looked and saw their stalkers hunched on the gravel; one seemed to be wearing a fluffy coat and the other had two braids that stuck out.
In a mirrored movement, both pairs of figures got up, brushed the gravel from their knees, and walked toward the car. Their fragile attempt to regain their dignity was broken by uproarious laughter from above as the moms came down the hill to whisk them off to the gala Halloween party.