The Trick or Treaters of Shaded Oak Lane

There’s something special about trick or treating. Dressing in costume, going door to door, and embracing the spirit of Halloween - it’s nothing short of magical. And everyone knows that so long as a house has its lights on and its pumpkins are lit, they’ve still got treats to hand out. But as the night goes on and more porches go dark, what’s left for those still out searching for treats? For Sport, this was the perfect Halloween, but a mysterious group of trick or treaters are about to arrive, and nothing will ever be the same.

The Trick or Treaters of Shaded Oak Lane, Original Halloween Short Story, Your Best Halloween Ever

The Halloween that I dressed up as an astronaut was the first year that they came. I was glad that it was a warm night for late October, so my parents didn’t make me cover my costume with a coat, which at seven years old, would have been absolutely devastating.

My mother had taken me trick or treating earlier in the evening just as the sun was setting. My baby brother was too small to go out, so he stayed at home with our father, who was passing out candy. I can still remember running from house to house, my vision distorted by the plastic space helmet I’d been wearing every night since it came home with us from the costume shop a few weeks earlier. Mobs of other kids and their parents crowded the sidewalks and driveways, all in costume and cheerfully wishing us “Happy Halloween!” as they passed. Finally, once the plastic jack o’lantern pail I was using to collect my hard earned candy was almost too heavy to carry, my mother suggested we head for home.

In every way, it was the perfect Halloween night.

Later in the night, I was still in my costume (though I’d finally agreed to take the helmet off) and sprawled out on the floor of our living room surrounded by candy and pages of note paper with math problems scribbled all over them. Just as I was about to finish my homework, my father called from the kitchen, asking me to turn off the porch light and blow out the jack ‘o lantern if it hadn’t burnt out yet.

“Okay,” I said, jumping up and heading for the porch. I stepped outside and immediately noticed that the wind had picked up since my mother and I had returned from trick or treating. It was now blowing through the trees, the air noticeably cooler than it was just a few hours prior.

I bent down and lifted the top off of our jack o’lantern, the flame inside flickering low on the candle wick, and before I could blow it out, I heard something I couldn’t quite place. I looked up and into the darkness, glancing down the street but no one was out anymore - in fact, our house seemed to be the last one with a lit porch and pumpkin. We had just moved to Shaded Oak Lane over the last summer and I was still getting used to calling the neighborhood home. Shaking my head, I bent down to blow out the candle when I heard it again, more distinct this time.

Whispers. I was hearing whispers, almost as if they were carried on the wind itself. I turned to look inside to see if my parents were playing some kind of joke on me, but there was no one in the doorway. I could see my father’s shadow in the kitchen through one of the windows and I knew my mother was upstairs putting my brother to bed. I shuddered and turned to blow out the candle as quickly as I could and gasped when I saw the silhouettes of ten trick or treaters standing at the end of our driveway.

“H-hello?” I called to them. They didn’t answer. I tried to make out their costumes in the dark as best as I could. One looked to be dressed as an old clown with a pointed hat and an umbrella, another had a mask with horns and a tail. One girl in a witch hat was holding a broom and I could just make out another girl’s pigtails; I think she was supposed to be a cowgirl.

“Happy Halloween!” I yelled. Again, they said nothing. A boy in a top hat glanced toward a ballerina before looking back to me.

“W-we still have some c-candy, if you’d like some?” I said, trying to keep my voice from quivering. I carefully backed toward the front door and turned around to reach inside and grab our candy bowl.

When I turned to face them again, they were at the base of our porch, silently holding out what looked like tattered pillow cases to collect their candy. How had they moved to the porch so quickly? I tried not to think about it as I started passing out the little candy bars. I could finally see their faces now that they were up close - those that weren’t hidden behind masks, I mean. They were all pale with dark circles under their blank eyes and melancholy expressions.

I smiled when I dropped candy into each of their bags. One by one, they nodded toward me and walked away. Once I’d given candy to the last trick or treater, a boy in worn out overalls and a burlap scarecrow mask that covered his whole head, I watched him walk toward the end of our driveway and rejoin the others. They stood there, staring at me.

“Happy Halloween!” I called again, still very uneasy about the whole encounter. I bent down and blew out the jack ‘o lantern and when I stood up, they were gone. I ran to the edge of our porch, looking up and down the block, but I couldn’t see them anywhere; it was like they just vanished. I shuddered and jumped inside, slamming the front door behind me and quickly turning off the porch light. I quietly set the candy bowl down onto its post.

“Everything okay, Sport?”

I screamed, unaware that my father had walked into the foyer.

“Y-yeah, I’m fine, Dad,” I said, looking down at my feet, “just a little spooked because it’s so dark outside, I guess.”

My father smiled at me and laughed.

“That’s alright. Go on and get your backpack ready for school tomorrow. It’s almost bedtime.”

Later that night while I was lying in bed, I couldn’t get the image of those strange kids out of my mind. Who were they? Where had they come from? I hadn’t seen them while I was out trick or treating earlier. Maybe they were from another school in the area? I figured they were older than me because most of them were taller than I was.

I rolled over to my side and tried to put them out of my mind, but even the shadows my night light cast around the room started to remind me of those trick or treaters. I burrowed deep beneath my blankets and eventually fell into a restless sleep.

***

They came back the next Halloween.

It was the first year that my parents let my little brother go trick or treating and we both dressed up as pirates. A few of my friends from school came over, and we went trick or treating in a group with our parents keeping pace a few feet behind. Afterward, we went back to my house and played outside in our costumes until well after the street lights came on and all of the other kids had gone in for the night.

I had spent a week or so after last Halloween nervous about those weird kids coming back to my house. I asked around at school the next day, but no one in my class had seen or heard of anyone in costumes like they were. Since I was still the new kid in class, I didn’t want to make a big deal about it and draw too much attention to myself, so I decided to try and forget about the whole thing. They were probably just a group of kids from a neighborhood or two over, or maybe the other side of town. After a few weeks and no sign of those ten kids, I was more excited for the approaching holidays and by the time spring arrived, I had all but forgotten about them.

Halloween fell on a Friday that year, so my parents let me stay up and watch an old horror movie with them after my friends had gone home and my brother went to bed. I had made it about half way through when I started to fall asleep, so my father gently suggested that it might be bedtime. I had had a long, fun night so didn’t protest too much. I sleepily wished them good night and left them in the den to finish the movie.

On my through the foyer, I noticed a faint flicker of candlelight on the porch; my father must have left the jack o’lantern lit. I decided to let it go, figuring it would burn itself out before long. But then something else caught my eye outside of the front window just as I started up the stairs. I whipped my head around and my eyes went wide; I threw my hands to my mouth to keep from screaming.

Those trick or treaters were back, all ten of them, and they were standing at the end of our driveway, just like the year before. Even from inside the house, I could feel their eyes staring through the window and right at me. I stood for a moment, paralyzed by fear, my hands trembling. Before I could stop myself, I ran upstairs to my room, two steps at a time, and jumped in bed, yanking the blankets over my head and trying to catch my breath.

I sat upright under the covers trying to decide what to do. Maybe they’ll go away? I thought to myself. After a few minutes, I had to know if they were still there, so I worked up every bit of courage I could muster and slowly got out of bed. I walked over to the window and peeked out through my window blinds.

Sure enough, they were still standing at the end of our driveway staring at the porch. They looked as though they hadn’t aged a day. The witch with the broom, the burlap-faced scarecrow, the boy in the top hat, and even the clown with the umbrella - it was almost surreal to see them all standing outside of my house again. I tried not to make any noise or sudden movements, but as I studied them, they suddenly jerked their faces toward my window in unison, staring right back at me.

I jumped back from my window, and covered my face with my shaking hands.

“W-what do they want?” I asked myself out loud, my voice trembling. And suddenly, I knew. I knew what they wanted, what all trick or treaters wanted. I walked back to my window and peeked through the blinds again.

They were standing closer to the house now, beneath my window, arms outstretched with the same tattered pillowcases I’d put their candy in the year before.

“They’re trick or treating,” I whispered to myself, “and they’re here for their candy.”

There was no way I’d be able to go outside like last year without rousing my parents’ suspicion, but I had an idea. I lifted my blinds and nodded toward them, holding up a finger to let them know I’d be right back.

As quickly and quietly as I could, I snuck down to the foyer where our bowl of Halloween candy was still on the stand by the coat rack. I grabbed a handful and ran back to my room, taking care to avoid the stairs that creaked.

When I was back in my room, I opened my window and leaned out toward them. A rush of cool autumn air blew into my room, and I could hear their whispers on the wind, just like the year before.

“Happy Halloween,” I whispered into the night, as I tossed the candy down to them. They carefully picked up what pieces hadn’t landed in their bags, and dutifully walked back to the end of the driveway, just as they’d done before. They stared up at me for a minute or two until a huge gust of wind roared through the trees. I glanced for a moment down the street and when I looked back at the driveway, they were gone.

I quickly closed my window and burrowed under my blankets, though I didn’t fall asleep until long after I heard my parents go to bed.

***

A few weeks later, on a bright Saturday afternoon, I was playing outside with my little brother when our mother announced it was time for him to go in for a nap. I asked if it would be alright if I stayed outside for a little bit longer.

“Sure,” my mother said, “just be sure to come in if you get cold.”

In the time since those trick or treaters had made a second visit to our house, I hadn’t thought of much else. I had asked around at school again to see if anyone knew of any kids that fit their description, but no one did. I didn’t tell my parents or anyone else about them, because I was sure no one would believe my story. I wasn’t even sure that I believed it myself.

I was putting my bicycle away in the garage when I noticed the tub of sidewalk chalk my mother had gotten my brother and me the previous summer. I hadn’t used it in awhile, and seeing it gave me a burst of creativity. I grabbed the tub of chalk and ran to the end of the driveway, my intentions set. I started with the clown, drawing him with his pointed hat and umbrella in a blue chalk, before moving on to the boy in the cape and the ballerina. I lost track of time, working diligently on drawing each of the trick or treaters as I remembered them from their two visits to my house.

When it was late in the afternoon and the sun was starting to get low in the sky, I heard the sound of approaching footsteps and looked up to see one of our neighbors, Mr. Owensby, out for a walk. He was a nice old man that lived a little way down the street and would go for walks almost daily when the weather allowed for it.

“Hey buddy,” he called to me.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Owensby,” I said politely. He stopped quickly when he saw my drawing of the trick or treaters. He inhaled quickly through his nose, his eyes darting from one of my drawings to the next. Finally, he looked at me.

“Do you know these kids?” he asked slowly. I looked over my handiwork then back to him.

“No,” I said, “not really. They’re just… they’re some kids I saw trick or treating on Halloween.” He looked at my chalk drawings again.

“I wondered where they’d gone off to,” he said to himself quietly before looking at me directly. “If you’ve seen these kids, then you know that they’re not kids like you or your friends.”

I stared at him, confused.

“Now, I don’t want to go and spook you,” he said, “but they’re spirits.”

“Ghosts?” I blurted out.

“In a manner of speaking, yes,” he said. “I don’t know much about how they came to be or who they were, I just know that every year on Halloween for a good number of years, they came to my house late in the night after all the other lights had gone out looking for treats like any other kid on Halloween. Nearest I can figure, it’s the last lit jack o’lantern they look for.”

I stared at him quietly.

“Two years ago was the first year they didn’t come in all the time I’ve lived on Shaded Oak Lane,” he said. “I stayed awake for as long as I could, but it got to be a little too late for me, and when I went to blow out my jack o’lantern, I saw that the candle was already out. I guess the wind got it. I’ve been wondering ever since what happened to them. It’s all good and well, you see, I’m planning to move sometime in the next year once the weather warms up in the spring, so I’m glad to know they’ve found a place to… I don’t know… keep being kids for a little while longer. Or as long as they need to, I guess.”

“Were you ever afraid of them?” I asked.

“Oh no,” he said gently, “not at all anymore. Of course it was a little jarring the first time I saw them standing outside of my house, but it makes me happy to know I was able to bring them a little bit of peace in my own way.”

He took one last look at my drawings before tipping his hat toward me and continuing on his walk. I sat on the ground after he’d gone, thinking about everything he’d said. Before too long, I was starting to get cold, so I cleaned up my things and went inside.

***

All of that happened a long time ago.

Every Halloween since, I’ve taken care to make sure our jack o’lantern is the last one lit on the block and that I have candy ready for the ten ghostly trick or treaters who find their way into its candlelit glow. Even when I went away to school, I made sure to come home each year on Halloween to ensure that those ten kids had a treat waiting for them.

And now it’s Halloween again. I’ve spent the evening celebrating and handing out candy to the neighborhood kids with my whole family. They’re all inside now, but I’m sitting on the porch, waiting for our last trick or treaters of the night.

I glance at my watch. It’s getting late. I stand and look down the street, and it looks like just about all of the neighbors have their lights out. The wind picks up and I hear a familiar whispering. I turn my focus to the driveway and there they are, the trick or treaters of Shaded Oak Lane, standing in a line just like they did so many years ago when I was a kid.

“Hello, old friends,” I say with a smile, shaking the candy bowl. “Happy Halloween!”

-end-

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