BY IVANKA FEAR
Copyright is held by the author.
“They’re already starting,” Phil remarked, with a hint of surprise in his voice.
It was only 5:20 pm. The dark hadn’t settled in yet. In fact, it was still clearly daylight, even though it had been a gloomy, rainy, typical fall day. I glanced out the window and was a bit taken aback myself by what I saw. Two small figures were coming up the road clasping their booty tightly in their little hands. One was a pirate, the other wore a black cape and a mask over his eyes and was dressed all in black. A short distance behind the two small figures was a taller one.
“I didn’t think they’d start till six,” I said. “I’m not ready for them yet.”
I quickly went to the cupboard, took out a cardboard box and poured the contents into a large stainless steel bowl. Then I joined my husband in the living room, waiting for the doorbell to ring. We waited, but were greeted by silence.
“That’s strange,” said Phil, my husband. “I was sure they were heading this way.”
He got up, opened the front door, and peeked out. There was no one out there. The yellow and brown leaves clung to the road, damp from the day’s rain. Puddles still dotted the asphalt, though the rain had stopped a while ago. The air was crisp, the street was quiet.
“Most of the neighbours have their porch lights on already. Maybe that’s why they missed our place,” said Phil. He switched on all the outdoor lights, and we retreated to the family room to watch TV while our supper was cooking.
Our grown son, Nick, was already there, lounging on the couch, watching reruns of Happy Days. Our cat, Moe, sat perched by the patio door, looking out as if expecting someone. The smell of the lasagne cooking wafted into the room. We sat down and waited for them to start coming.
“I can hear them out there,” Nick said. “Maybe we should check if the doorbell works.”
He left the room and a few seconds later we heard the ring. Nick returned to the family room and remarked, “Well, it works fine. I just saw some of them over at the neighbour’s house, so maybe you guys better head back to the living room to be ready. They’ll be here anytime.” So back we went to wait for them to come.
Everything was quiet once again. “Maybe they’ve been warned to stay away from the Fear house,” I joked. When your last name is Fear, your house may not be the place to stop on Halloween night.
I remembered how when we first moved here we didn’t think anyone was coming. Maybe it was because we were new or maybe it was because the street was so dark in spite of the few streetlights. With only a few houses on the street, maybe it wasn’t worth their while. But some came, after all. They just came later than we expected them.
“Do you have my phone?” I asked Phil. “I want to see if Laura replied to my text.”
I hadn’t heard from her for so long. Our daughter had moved away some time ago and I worried about her. I was one of those mothers who always envisioned the worst when I didn’t hear from my children. Earlier that day, I had read on my news feed that there was a big accident on a major Toronto highway. I just wanted to confirm that she was okay.
“I don’t see any messages. You know she never answers your texts or calls. She’s probably ignoring you on purpose,” answered Phil.
He’s probably right, I thought. I know she’s busy, she’s probably got better things to do than to check in with her overprotective mom every few minutes. But still . . . I don’t recall the last time I talked to her. In fact, I can’t remember when she last came home, when she was last here.
“I’ll call her tomorrow. I’m sure she’s just busy tonight,” I conceded.
Then I went to finish getting supper ready. In the kitchen, I prepared the salad and checked on the lasagne. I got out the plates and cutlery and called out to Phil and Nick, “Supper’s ready! Time to wash up and come eat.”
The digital display on the microwave read 6:40. As they entered the kitchen, I recalled how the same thing had happened last year. “Remember last year we didn’t think anyone was coming, but they just came later? I’ll bet they’ll start to come after seven, after supper.”
We sat down at the table and enjoyed our meal, reminiscing about how we spent this evening in previous years. It was different when the kids were little, when we played a more active role in it.
Now we just sit and wait. Things just haven’t been the same, I think to myself. Life is all about change, I guess. I suppose I’m not ready to accept it yet. The kids have grown, we’re growing old, the house has grown quieter. Retired from our jobs, I sometimes wonder what’s next for us. Are we just waiting? Waiting for what? Waiting to die? It seems we’re always anticipating something, and that’s a good thing, isn’t it? I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and stop living in the past, I tell myself, I need to move on. There’s something out there, just beyond our reach, waiting for us.
As we finished our meal, the antique clock in the living room chimed seven times. I collected the dishes and set them in the sink, put away the leftovers, while the guys returned to the family room.
“Why is it so cold in here?” I asked as I sat in my usual spot, the glider next to the window.
The flames burned brightly in the fireplace, sparks flying and wood crackling behind the grate. Phil had lit a scented candle and set it on top of the piano. It was cozy, with the three of us and Moe settled in our favourite spots. I still felt a chill, though. Maybe I was coming down with something. Fall always was the worst season for colds and flu.
“I hear them again. They’re out there,” insisted Nick.
I got up and looked out the big bow window again. There were two police officers on the road in front of our house. For some reason, that sent a wave of apprehension through my mind and body. But I went to the door, bowl ready on the entry bookcase, and waited for the bell to ring. Nothing happened.
I went back to the family room and told them, “They were right out there. Two of them, dressed as police officers, but they passed by our place. Why are they ignoring us?”
“Maybe they’re doing one side of the street, then the other. They’ll probably circle around at some point,” answered Phil. “But this town has changed, so I don’t know what’s going on.”
Nick shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “What can you do?”
Things had definitely changed in our town over the last few years. The new highway passed by the town, not through anymore. Since the construction, things had really quieted down around here. We didn’t seem to get the visitors we used to get. People moved out of town and new people moved in. At one time, we knew almost everyone in every house in town. People used to wave, say hello, stop to chat. Now, especially this past year, everyone seems aloof, not particularly friendly. When we go for our walks through town, our greetings go unanswered. People just walk on by, without acknowledging us, as though we don’t even exist. We like to think it’s them, not us. New people from the city moved to the small town aren’t used to our ways.
“Yeah, I’m sure they’ll come around sooner or later,” I said, “But it’s kind of weird how they intentionally pass by us and don’t stop here.”
Nick popped a DVD into the player and we settled in to watch a movie. Some horror flick I’ve seen plenty of times before. Something about the fog rolling in. I jumped out of my chair and ran to the front door. I was sure I had heard something.
“Mom, what are you doing?” yelled Nick after me.
“I think someone’s here,” I shouted back. Approaching the front door, I once again grabbed the bowl and waited for the bell. “This is ridiculous. Someone must be playing a joke on us,” I said aloud to no one. Back in the family room, the eerie sounds from the DVD permeated the air as the guys sat mesmerized by the film. “It’s getting late. Someone should have come by now. Is there something wrong with our house? Not good enough for them?” I quipped.
Phil broke away from the screen and responded by indicating their loss would be our gain. Once again, I heard a noise. It made me nervous.
“Did you hear that? I’m going out there to see what’s going on. I need to get to the bottom of this. If people are goofing around trying to spite us or scare us, or whatever, I want it to stop, ” I decided.
Nick turned towards me and said, “Calm down, Mom. You always get yourself so wound up about everything. They’ll come eventually. There’s nothing you can do about it. They have to want to come. You can’t make them come.”
“You just have to be patient. Someone will come sooner or later,” Phil tried to reassure me.
“I’ll be right back in,” I assured them. I felt as though they were trying to placate me, and I was having none of it. I had to see for myself.
“Wait! Don’t go out there. Remember what happened the last time you went outside, and the time before and before. It always upsets you so much when you do this,” warned Phil.
“Just leave it, Mom. It’s not worth it. Don’t do it. Don’t go out there,” warned Nick.
I didn’t listen. I didn’t know what they were talking about. There was something odd going on and I had to get to the bottom of it. So I went back to the bow window in the living room and drew back the curtains. It was definitely dark by this time. It must have warmed up a bit as there seemed to be fog in the field across the road from us. Still, I could see them. In the pool of light created by the streetlight, they walked past, never looking my way.
I went to the door and opened it, peered out, and saw more of them coming my way, enveloped by the fog. Out I ventured, down the steps and across the lawn to the road. “Hi, how are you?” I said to them. “Come on over to our place. We’re ready for you.”
They didn’t answer. I noticed one of them was a vampire and another a witch, accompanied by a werewolf. Pretty normal, I thought. Except they seemed to ignore me, talking only to each other.
“Just two more houses on this street,” said one.
“I don’t like coming down here. It’s so creepy,” said another.
“Especially with what happened here last year,” said the third. Then they passed by me without acknowledging my presence. Weird, I thought. I waited for the next group to come along.
Two tall figures, one carrying a little half cat, half pumpkin, and a smaller ghost came into sight followed by a black and orange cat. How cute, I thought. “Hi,” I said. “Drop over to our place,” I said to them. Again I received no answer. This was really getting spooky.
The next group included an angel and Robin Hood accompanied by two larger shadowy figures. There was something vaguely familiar about them. Before I could speak, I heard one of them say to the other, “That’s where that terrible fire happened, isn’t it?”
“What fire?” I asked. They continued along without looking back at me, almost as though they hadn’t seen me.?
“Yes, that poor family. Only the daughter survived. What a tragedy,” came the answer.
Then it struck me. I remembered. I remembered how my husband and I had taken our own children out on a night like this long ago, one an angel, the other Robin Hood. There was something else niggling in the back of my mind. I just couldn’t figure out what it was. I remembered how happy we were. I turned around to head back inside to tell Nick and Phil what was going on out here in the fog. Something wasn’t quite right.
I took a step towards the house and froze. My heart stopped beating. I couldn’t breathe. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out. I felt myself fading. I couldn’t believe what I saw. That’s not possible, I thought. This can’t be happening. I closed my eyes and counted to 10. Then I opened them again. Nothing had changed. I felt it go through my body, that wave of sheer panic, the feeling that I was about to die. I had to be dreaming. Was I losing my mind?
Then came the realization, the Deja Vu, almost calming in a way. This had happened to me before, many times. It didn’t always play out the same way, but the feeling of detachment was there every time. Kind of like Alzheimer’s. Or Schizophrenia. I was confused by it, didn’t really know what was real. Couldn’t remember what I needed to remember. Didn’t know who to trust. Like I was not in my own body. I remembered why Phil and Nick were trying to warn me. They knew how excited I was about tonight and how disappointed I would be when I finally realized the truth.
I stood and stared for I don’t know how long. Understanding at last, understanding once again, understanding for the umpteenth time. In front of me, where my house should have been, with its white brick and stone exterior, bow window facing the street, front porch inviting, front door waiting, it confronted me.
A wide expanse of empty lot, grass overgrown, lay there waiting for me. I walked in the direction of the door I had exited only minutes ago, the door that no one saw. I opened the door, walked in, and didn’t look back. Sometimes you just have to wait and hope. Maybe next year, I told myself.