There was a screech echoing through the air with a ferocity that surely no mortal had heard, much more like the sound of a thousand demons crying out in pain all at once than anything else it might otherwise have been. Andrew stood still, frightened. He had never experienced such an ear-splitting sound in his short nine years of life and he almost certain never would again. His older brother, Braydon, had assured him for repeated years that this night was the one night humans could count on demons and vampires and werewolves and everything evil to roam the world after dark. Perhaps he had finally strayed too far from his older brother, left the protection of his guardian for precisely long that a demon was swooping down to fly away with him.

Slowly, Andrew turned to look behind himself, first his head turning, his eyes catching a small rush of costumed people rushing forward from the sidewalk. Intrigued—curious—Andrew allowed his torso and then his full body to turn around. With a sigh of relief, Andrew realized there was no monster behind him. There was nothing more than a group of people gathering, huddling around together on the road, the bright lights of a car shining on them, parked nearby.

Shrugging his shoulders and turning back around, Andrew began to skip to the house he had been heading toward. It was the house with the huge waving ghost in the front yard, and a couple of scary-looking statues with flashing lights illuminating their twisted faces. Andrew wasn’t afraid though, because one of the other kids who he had bumped into at the house he had just left had told him this house was handing out full-sized candy bars! He began to half skip, half run toward the house, excited at the prospect of getting one single bar all to himself, or maybe, just maybe the nice old man who lived there would be enthralled by his Spider-Man costume and give him—dare he think it?—two bars all to himself. 

Of course, if he got two, he’d give one to Braydon, because he knew Braydon hadn’t wanted to take him out trick-or-treating again. His older brother had told him this was the last year they’d go out together, so Andrew wanted to make the most of it. Next year, Braydon had told him, he’d have to go out with his friends from school instead of out with his big brother. Andrew had to make this year the best year yet!

Andrew swallowed a soft yelp as he rounded the corner leading up to the front porch of the house. There, hidden behind a bush, was yet another statue, this one of a very tall, imposing figure wearing a hockey mask, a bright, shiny blade in his hands. Not quite looking up fully, Andrew looked through his eyebrows and up into the dirty mask, staring into the black eyes shadowed behind it, waiting. The flashes of white light that pulsed from time to time as if a silent storm was rolling in made it appear as though the statue was moving, but the eyes never blinked, never even moved. Shaking his head finally, Andrew let out a small chuckle, realizing that this too must be a statue. Turning, he hurried up to the porch and knocked on the screen door.

Barely a moment passed before a jovial old man with graying hair and thick, black-rimmed glasses opened the door, a giant bowl of full candy bars easily visible in his hands. Andrew’s eyes grew wider as he stared into the orange plastic bowl. They were all there: all the big names in candy, all the chocolates and chocolate peanut-butters and chocolate crunches! They were all there! Oh, which one to ask for? Would he have a choice? Did it even matter? This was a full bar of chocolate!


The old man seemed confused. Opening the screen door, the man stepped out onto the porch, still clutching the bowl in his hand, arm wrapped about it, holding it close. “Hello? Is there anyone here?”

“Me, sir!” Andrew called out. “Trick or treat!”

The man looked right over him though, not even looking down at him, not even acknowledging him. Andrew was nearly four feet tall! The man should be able to see him. He wasn’t that small. “Here I am, sir! Down here!” Andrew called out again.

“Hmmph. Guess the trick’s on me,” the man said before turning back and heading into his house, the door closing behind him.

“What?” Andrew found himself asking aloud. He reached out and knocked on the door again, certain the man had simply failed to see him.

This time the old man opened the door with a hint of annoyance, and no sign of the candy bowl. Looking out through the screen, again passing right over Andrew, the old man called out, “That’s enough of that! Stop trying to play tricks on me!”

With a slam, the door was closed again.

Andrew furrowed his brow and stared for a good couple of minutes at the door, hoping the man would return, but eventually he gave up, dreams of a full bar of chocolate dashed by the rude old codger. Shoulders slumped, Andrew headed back down the path away from the house, ignoring the menacing statues and ghostly decorations surrounding him. Maybe he wouldn’t go trick or treating with his friends next year. Maybe he wouldn’t go trick or treating ever again.

Kicking his shoe on the sidewalk, he turned slowly toward the next house on the block, looking down at the cream-colored pavement as he walked. He carefully avoided stepping on any of the cracks in the sidewalk for fear of breaking his mother’s back—something else Braydon had assured him was necessary, particularly on Halloween—and decided he’d try again.

Looking up as he reached the next driveway, he noticed the house lights were off. He quirked his head to the side, confused, because although he hadn’t really acknowledged it as he went to the scarily decorated home, he had been certain this house had been lit up too. Another moment, and he realized none of the houses nearby were lit up anymore, not even the house with the old man. Up and down the street, there wasn’t even a sign of life. No kids, no costumes, no people, and no candy. Just darkness, broken by the street lamps. Houses in shadow, much more gray and eerie than they had been moments before.

A small wave of panic began to wash over Andrew as he looked up and down the street. Braydon! Where was Braydon? He could feel his own lips quivering and his eyes starting to water a little as he realized he was alone. He’d never been alone outside before, not this far from home. “Braydon!” he cried out. “Braydon, where are you?”

There was no answer.

But a light across the street went on. The brightness of the porch lamp drew Andrew’s attention immediately and he looked up to see the front door of the house open. A kind-looking woman with deep mocha skin and long, braided hair stepped out onto the porch. “Come here, little one,” she called out to him.

There was something soothing about her voice, something that Andrew instantly trusted, and so he wiped his tears. Looking both ways before he stepped into the street on the off chance a car might be coming, Andrew rushed across and over to her porch. There, she awaited him, her arms wide. “Come, little one, do not despair. Everything will be alright.”

As she wrapped her arm around Andrew, suddenly he felt very safe again. He looked up into her cinnamon eyes and smiled. Reaching down, the woman wiped away the last of his tears. “Oh, dear child, this must all be very confusing for you. But do not worry. Time is endless.”

“Wha…?” Andrew stopped himself for a moment. Now that she mentioned it, he really was confused. “What’s going on?”

“You are dying.”

There was a truth in the woman’s words, but Andrew couldn’t quite understand what she was trying to tell him. Of course he knew what death was. He’d lost a hamster and a couple of gold fish and, well, his grandfather, too, but he thought death was a lot scarier than this. “Shouldn’t I be afraid?”

“Oh, no, child.” The woman’s face lit up with a bright smile. “People have had me wrong for ages. Always running around holding some large blade, dressing in moody robes, snatching souls and the like. Or worse. Some gave me ugly jackal heads. In the end, I am never quite what they expect. But then, dying is not quite what they expect either. Death is all about second chances, my child, but you first need to learn what went wrong.”

“What did I do?” The question crossed Andrew’s lips without hesitation. He knew it had to be something he had done wrong. As he looked up into the woman’s eyes, he could see his own red and blue and black costumed face reflected in the blackness of her eyes, and then he remembered.

Before he could give that memory much thought, much less give voice to what he recalled, he saw the woman nodding. “Yes, my child, that is it. But see, in this case, your life is not yet over. There is more yet for you to do, a long life to live, and so you must return with the knowledge of what you have done wrong.”


“You will know.” She released him from her warm grasp and took a couple of steps backward, placing a hand upon his head. “Never forget this chance you have been given.”

“Who are you?”

The woman threw her head back and let out a hearty, friendly laugh. “Oh, child, I have been called many things. Thousands of years ago they called me Osiris. Some call me Death. Others Thanatos. So many names. These days, I prefer a nice, short name. Just call me Siri.”

“Thank you, Siri,” Andrew said, smiling, feeling a warmth flowing through himself.

“Wake up, buddy, please, wake up!”

It was Braydon’s voice calling to him, and suddenly Andrew found himself in his brother’s arms. There was a group of people standing around him, a few on their phones, all of them looking down at him with concern in their eyes. The car… The car with the bright lights was there too, and Andrew suddenly remembered with clarity what had happened and threw his arms around Braydon’s neck. “I’m sorry, Bray! I didn’t mean to! I shouldn’t have run off like that! I just wanted to go get the candy bar!”

“It’s okay, buddy,” Braydon said with a smile. There were tears running down his cheeks, his green eyes filled with joy. He pulled off Andrew’s mask and mussed up his hair. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”

“I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you coming, I’m so sorry.”

Andrew turned and saw a man, older than Braydon but definitely not as old as the old man he had seen at the scary house. He had a pale complexion, his face wrought with concern.

“I should have been paying more attention,” Andrew said, looking away and into his brother’s chest. “I’m sorry, mister.”

“Let’s just get you checked out, okay?” the man said.

Andrew nodded, but he knew he would be okay. The kind woman—Siri—had told him so. He knew what he needed to remember. There was only one more thing he wanted. “Can we go trick or treating again next year, Bray? I promise to be good.”

“You bet, buddy. You bet.”

October 30, 2020 20:02

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