My name is Teresa, I’m sixteen and Halloween is by far my favorite time of the year but it also has some anxiety for me. You see my specialty is creating the costume, no sexy kitty for me it has to have references and it has to show skill. I’ve done the werewolf, I’ve done the vampire, I’ve done so many things it’s getting hard to think of what to do next.

After much deliberation I’ve settled on the ghost this year. I keep quiet about this choice, not even telling best friend Jess. She and I go to the same high school and much as I love her, this is the one area where the two of us compete. Instead I secretly begin to collect and hoard what I’ll need to make the costume. I watch videos about how to make fake blood, I consider who I was before I met with my terrible fate, I settle for cheer leader hoping to be funny as well as scary.

You may be wondering why so much effort for one night of the year. Well we live in a rural mountainous area called the Catskills and there’s not much going on out here. Jess and I live on neighboring properties. There’s a road that runs past both of them but it’s not the shortest way to get to each other’s houses. The quickest way is over the fields and through a small forest called Winkle Wood. My mother doesn’t want me doing this but once I’m out of sight she can’t exactly stop me.

This Halloween the plan is to meet Jess at her house and her mother will drive us both into town. Getting ready requires some time, I powder my skin white and draw dark circles under my eyes. I desecrate a cheerleader outfit I found at the local goodwill with fake blood. My mother comes and leans against the bathroom door eyeing my efforts.

“I was a cheerleader you know.”

“I know,” I say grinning widely

She sighs, “I don’t know why you are drawn to such gruesome ideas”

“Oh come on Mom, it’s Halloween!”

“Yes, well go and have fun, make sure you take the road to Jess’s house.”

“Sure will”

She leaves me too it and I pack my phone and other necessaries into a small back pack and head out. I do walk towards the road at first but then as usual I veer off and head towards the woods.

It’s quite beautiful out in the fields, the stars are shining above me and fireflies are skipping through the grass. Inside the woods it’s a bit spookier, the trees loom large, their branches blocking out the light. I hear the hoot of an owl and the crack of a branch under foot. I sing to myself determined not to let the creepiness take over.

To be honest It’s more usual to come this way by daylight but I know this forest like the back of my hand. Or at least I think I do. It seems to be taking longer than I expected to get to Jess’s house. Old stories begin to rise up in my mind, Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, but there are no wolves or witches out here unless they are children in their Halloween gear. I try to laugh at my imagination but it comes out sounding hollow.

I pause to lean against a tree and catch my breath and find my bearings. I can just see the moon angling through the trees, it’s still close to the horizon and I begin to feel sure of where I am again. I set off with more confidence and much to my relief find myself coming out near Jess’s house. I wonder what costume she will have cooked up this year.

There are lights on inside and I can hear voices on the night air. Silently as the ghost I’m pretending to be I slip around the side of the house and come up the front path just as if I had walked in off the road. Confidently I ring the door bell and wait on the front page.

“Hey Jess” I say as the door swings open but the words die on my lips.

Because it’s not Jess or Jess’s mother or anyone in her family, it’s just an older lady who looks a little puzzled.


“Jess, This is her house!”

“I’m sorry dear I and my husband Tom have been here for ten years and there’s no one of that name here.”

I’m feeling desperate now, “no one here, not ever?”

“Well there was a family here ten years ago but they moved away, sad circumstance the daughter lost one her friends, she just disappeared and then the whole family decided it wasn’t safe here anymore.”

I’m shaking like a leaf and if I didn’t have the make up on I would be white as a ghost.

“Do you want to come in?” asks the woman doubtfully.”

“No.” I turn and run back the way I’ve come.

Something tells me I can’t go by the road not if I’m to find my way back. Instead I plunge back into the forest not caring what branches scratch at me or what vegetation catches at my feet. I run as if my life depends on it, I have the strongest feeling that it does. This time the trip through the wood is as quick as I expected it to be, it seems my sense of direction works better when driven by pure instinct.

I run out the other side and into the fields around my house.

I run up to my house praying that it is my house. As I approach I slow down thinking about what story I could possibly tell my mother about why I’m back so soon. I pause outside the door panting a little and then raise my hand to ring the bell. The door swings open and there stands a man I’ve never met before. I am about to dissolve into tears when my mother appears behind him.

“Tess? What are you doing back?”

The story bubbles out of me between messy sobs. My mother listen’s gravely,

“Tess, I’ve always told you never to go by the woods.”

“But why mom, what happened?”

“I can’t say for sure but the legend has it that those are the woods Rip Van Winkle fell asleep in all those years ago.”

I stare at her mouth agape and then I begin to frown.

“Mom, who’s this?”

The stranger extends a hand, “Tom the name’s Tom, I got a little lost, it seems to be ten years before the time I left home.”

October 27, 2019 00:22

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