Ollie lost track of how much time he'd spent standing at the door with the purple panel, doing his best to attract the occupier’s attention, but hard as he tried, he just couldn't generate enough of a knock to alert the householder to his presence. He had just made the decision to move on to another house when he heard the latches unfasten from the inside. The door opened to reveal a middle-aged lady with big hair and a startling amount of make-up looking down at him, a forced lipstick-smeared smile projected prominently on her face.
"Hunh. Didn't think anyone was gonna come by. You're the first one." She put a foot on Ollie's side of the threshold and leaned out to see if the trick-or-treater was on his own. "Got your father with you, then?" Ollie looked at the woman, shook his head and began to well up. "Never mind." she said. Ollie could see the disappointment on her face through the lashings of foundation she wore. "Crackin' costume, little man." She said in a semi-sincere sort of way. “What kinda paint is that?” Ollie continued saying nothing.
"Well, my sweeties are only for you then, I guess." She reached for a plastic bag and began rifling through it. "I've got chocolate, Wine Gums, Originals and ... ah, that's where that went." She deposited the packet of tobacco down the top of her silk, fur-trimmed gown. "So, whaddaya want?"
Ollie watched the painted woman with tears in his eyes and couldn't bring out any words.
"One of each, you say?" She prompted. Some happening in the street just beyond her garden caught her attention. “Oooh, what’s going on here, then?” A fleeting distraction, she reached into the plastic bag, picked out a mini Snickers bar and held it above the bag Ollie held. "How 'bout a chocolate to start?" Ollie instinctively opened the bag to her. She opened her hand to let it fall and the bar of chocolate landed on the floor at Ollie's feet. "Clumsy boy." the woman said facetiously. "How about catching it this time?" Ollie could hear her emerging annoyance as she spoke. She looked again towards the people beginning to gather across the road. “Looks a bit nasty, that. You think there’ll be any firemen?” She returned her hand to the bag and retrieved a packet of fruity-fruity things. “Catch this one, yeah?” She let it drop and again, it fell to the floor. “Are you doing that on purpose?” her frustration becoming greater. Ollie again shook his head and held his bag higher. The woman dropped another. And another. And another. All of them landed on the floor. Agitated, she took a handful of treats and flung them towards the child, hoping at least one of them would make it in to his bag. They all landed on the floor. Ollie stood silently, his eyes pleading with this woman for assistance. Startled, she backed across the threshold and again reached into her bag of sweeties. She hurled another volley of candies, this time, directly at the boy. They crashed, as little plastic sacks of treats will do, on the footpath behind Ollie. The woman eased the front door closed, eying Ollie, all the while not blinking, not even once. Ollie heard the latches fasten. He knew she was still watching him through the peep-hole. He could feel her stare. I’m hungry, he thought. I’m really hungry.
It was early evening on the thirty-first of October. Hallowe’en. Ollie was incredibly excited. He’d waited all week for today, the day he’d cross the currently held top item off his bucket list. His daddy had made arrangements with Denise, a colleague of his, to call round her at house for a bit of Hallowe’en frivolity. Just trick-or-treating, really. But Ollie hadn’t been out like this before. So, it was to be a tremendous event. Wearing the costume his mum had crafted for him that vaguely resembled a Minecraft character, complete with a matching mum-made collection bag. Daddy had reported that he wasn’t feeling well, so stayed at home while Ollie and his mum would go round to Denise’s house, the house that stood out as it was the only one on her street that had a front door with a purple panel, for Ollie’s first Hallowe’en outing. They thought it would be best to keep it controlled. Controlled and simple. Ollie certainly wouldn’t be allowed to go out on his own at his age. Not even going out with a group of like-minded youngsters was a feasible idea. Children could be excitable. And in a group, they’re even worse. Worse still would be encountering an unruly crowd or happen upon a stranger’s house who, for the autumnal festival, had become a bit overzealous with their seasonal theatrics. A wax figure, for example, that, without warning, springs to life in Ollie’s vicinity would be terrifying to the unsuspecting boy and not worth any amount of treats. Or tricks, for that matter. But the real event would be when Ollie and his mum returned home. In the little man’s absence, daddy would have the house decorated with pumpkins ready for carving and ghosts made from tissue paper suspended from the living room ceiling. A little Hallowe’en music and one of those annoying, noise-activated dancing monsters that Ollie flatly refused that one time to leave the shop until his mum had purchased. And of course, brownies. Chocolate brownies. Ollie’s favourite. Filled with enough sugar to keep him bouncing off the walls till well past midnight. But it was all right, they’d previously decided. It was Hallowe’en. Family fun time. And after all, it wasn’t a school night. So, after having their fill of a Saturday night take-away meal, Ollie and his mum suited up appropriately and set off for Denise’s, which was only a ten-minute walk away, all according to schedule. Who could have guessed that all of their plans were for nothing and the day would turn out so very differently?
When Ollie turned away from Denise’s front door, he was blinded by the brightness that came from the scene before him. The flashing lights atop the police car were bright enough to cause him to wince but everything looked considerably more illuminated than it should have been; the crowd collecting in the street, the fence around Denise’s garden and even the trees were glowing; seemingly, giving off their own light. Ollie moved from the top step at Denise’s door and stopped at the edge of the footpath past the open garden gate. Remembering what he’d been taught, he looked up and down the street for approaching traffic and then a quick glance down to gauge how tall the kerb would be as he stepped down and into the road. Ollie’s glance wasn’t as quick this time. When he looked down, he became frightened, and more than a bit nauseated, by what he saw. I’m very hungry. The soles of his shoes were hovering at least two feet above the ground below him. He slowly lifted his head and tried to fathom an inkling of reason behind his predicament. How can I be this hungry, he thought, with a tummy full of noodles?
Ollie didn’t want a lot out of life. He wanted a lot of a lot. When he grew up, he wanted to be a pirate, a fireman, a doctor, a professional footballer, an actor, a singer, a writer, a scientist, a spy, a race car driver, a film director, a lorry driver, a dinosaur, a computer programmer, a policeman, a deep sea diver, a soldier, a black belt, a dog trainer, a train driver, a graphic designer, an architect, a ship’s captain, a magician, and a comedian. His bucket list was exhaustive. But beyond all of those professions, what he most wanted to do, and thought about at least five times a day, was to be a pilot. To fly. The thought of it consumed him even more than training to be a dinosaur. But now that he actually was flying, he wasn’t so sure that it was for him. Ollie looked again for oncoming traffic and proceeded to cross the road. That’s when he spotted his grandparents on the opposite footpath. Ollie’s nan and grandad were scheduled to “accidentally” run in to their daughter-in-law and Ollie to provide a bit more time, if necessary, for the brownies to finish off in the oven back at home. They were happy to do it as they were eager to see their grandson in his costume. Nan and grandad were drifting towards the gathering further along the way, at a slower pace than usual. Ollie was alarmed by their expressions of concern, and as he neared them, he wanted to call out but again no words would come. He wasn’t sure if they’d catch sight of him before disappearing into the expanding crowd, but, feeling his eyes on her, nan looked for and saw her grandson, still hovering at nearly a yard above the ground.
The old woman shrieked before she collapsed. Her husband immediately knelt at her side, attending to his unexpectedly traumatised wife. “Ollie!” she said, “It’s Ollie.” over and over, breathlessly as if she had just completed a marathon. “I’m sure it’s not.” grandad tried to reassure her. Ollie knew that he himself was the cause of her distress and so he backed away, tearing uncontrollably. He turned from his grandparents as he couldn’t bear seeing the ongoing reaction his nan had had on seeing him as he was. In this state. Ollie turned his attention to the noise building at the end of the road. He saw the people present. He saw the ambulance just arriving and the police car that was already there. And a bit further on, he saw another car, with its front end buckled where it had crashed. A red car. A big red car. The one that hit him when he was crossing the road a step in front of his mum. He noticed a clearing in the midst of the crowd and it drew his curiosity. When he moved closer to them, the pain in his tummy eased slightly. He realised then it wasn’t hunger that he was feeling. Not hunger but a sensation of being pulled. The closer he got to the group, the more he could feel the pulling at his core. He drifted through the many onlookers standing concentrically, focused on something at the middle of their congregating. Utterances like “My God” and “That poor woman” and “Can you see that little boy up there?” Ollie heard as he passed them by.
When Ollie reached the edge of the clearing, he saw the focus of the crowd’s interest. The reason they all were there. His mum, sat on the ground in the middle of the road, on the markings that indicated a pedestrian crossing, wildly rocking to and fro, with her arms clutching at the limp, motionless body of her dead child.
The pulling in Ollie’s tummy quickly became unbearable. He watched his mum, sobbing and stricken with inconsolable grief, as she cradled his own tiny, lifeless body. He wanted to shout, to scream as loud as he was able to gain her attention. But he was powerless to do anything but stand there. Stand there and watch her heart, her soul breaking. He began waving his arms over his head, attempting to catch her eye. But his mum’s eyes were swollen shut with anguish. He lowered his hands and returned to stillness. He began to let go. To release himself and give in to the pulling that guided him to where he did not know. As he lightened his tenure, his mum lamented her loss with a gasp. She opened her tearful eyes and locked on his as he stood there among the onlookers. Illuminated like a tiny beacon. Mum began to not cry as she recognised her son, her baby boy. Through her pain, she smiled tenderly at him. And at that, Ollie knew that she could see him. Just as the others had. And he knew that she understood, that she was smiling to him a farewell. He smiled in return. Ollie knew what must now transpire. He closed his eyes and let the pull take him where it may.
When Ollie opened his eyes, all he could see was the pattern on his mother’s dress. And her hair dangling in his face, matted with his blood.
“Mummy, there’s blood in your hair.”
“Ollie!” his mum screamed. “Ollie, you’re alive!” She held his small face in both hands and stared into his eyes. “You’re alive!”
Ollie scratched at a patch of coagulated blood that was tickling his nose before returning his mum’s gaze.
“Can we go home now? I don’t want to go trick-or-treating anymore.”
She cradled her son again, tighter than before, and cried with the boundless joy that only a mother could understand.
In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, neither mum nor son spoke. They only watched each other, holding hands so tight that their fingers went circulationless and numb. It was years before either of them spoke about the incident in each other’s presence. It was years after that before Ollie mentioned anything about spending that Hallowe’en al fresco, as it were. But in the back of that ambulance, with six broken ribs, one dislocated shoulder, a blackened eye and dried blood on his nose, that was the closest Ollie had ever felt to his mum. Sure, it wasn’t the greatest Hallowe’en experience. And he didn’t receive a single sweet for his efforts. But at least he could cross trick-or-treating off of his bucket list.