Friday, October 14, 2016

Halloween

Everyone disappeared. It happened on the last day of October -- the 31st. Gradually at first. Then, before midnight, I was the only one left.

I awoke on October 31st and at first thought nothing of the day. I didn't realize anything was wrong until I went down stairs, hair still wet from my shower, and found the kitchen empty. Every Halloween that I can remember began with pancakes shaped vaguely like pumpkins carefully crafted by my holiday-obsessed father. But not this morning.

The house was silent. I called out for my dad, wondering where he was and what he was up to. I thought maybe he was trying to pull some sort of prank on me. The saying is, after all, trick or treat. The sound of my own voice startled me. It cut the silence in the house like a dull knife. There was no response.

It was strange, but not so alarming that I would call 911, or anything as drastic as that. There were a number of explanations rattling trough my mind as to where my dad might be. Called in to work, out of pancake fixings, out for a  Saturday  morning walk, maybe. All I knew for certain was that I was alone in the house.

There wasn't anything else unusual at this moment, nothing that would have given me pause and clued me in to the mystery that would follow the rest of the day. There was the normal amount of traffic on the street outside my windows. I saw the usual number of neighbors picking up their newspaper, or getting an early start to their lawn care or other weekend chores.

It was watching the world outside my window getting on with their day that made me remember the list of things on my to-do list. Item number one, get candy for trick-or-treaters. My dad had tasked me with this yesterday over dinner, and I had promised to pick up three bags in time for tonight's frivolities.

I grabbed my jacket from the hook near the door, walked out to my car and drove to the store. I said hello to the greeter standing just within the entryway, an elderly man that liked to sing old R&B songs to pass his time at work. There were large displays of discounted bags of candy just feet from the entrance, and I grabbed three bags at random. I used the self-checkout lane, which was also the closest to the entrance, scanned my items and paid. On my way out, I looked for the greeter to say goodbye, but he was gone.

The drive home was uneventful. Maybe the traffic was a little lighter than would be normal for the day and time, but there were still plenty of cars on the road. As I turned onto my street, I noticed the trees in the neighborhood, which just a week earlier had leaves the colors of a campfire, stood mostly barren. How quickly seasons change.

I parked my car and greeted my next door neighbor, Mrs. Murdie. She was in her yard, a dog leash gripped tightly in her hand, her golden lab, Bessie, doing her business. I remarked how cold it had gotten and Mrs. Murdie agreed. I asked if she had seen my father this morning, and she gave me a strange look, as if confused by the question. She is getting on in years, so I shrugged it off, wished her a nice day and went inside.

I had forgotten my phone at home, and I checked it first thing when I entered the house. Nothing from my dad, but I did have a message from my friend, Sarah. She wanted my help moving her ex-boyfriend's stuff from her apartment. They'd gone through a bad breakup, he cheated, and she kicked him out, but he wouldn't move. She said he was out this morning for work and she wanted to move his stuff to the curb. She's my best friend, so I had to help.

When I arrived at Sarah's apartment, half of the guy's stuff was already on the curb. We didn't have any boxes to put things in, so we just carried armfuls of junk and set it down on the sidewalk. Sarah said she didn't want to talk about it. It took longer than I would have guessed. It was around five pm when we finished.

I asked Sarah when her ex would be getting home. She looked at me sideways and asked who I was talking about. I thought maybe I wasn't clear in my question and asked her again what time her ex would be out of work and get home. He was always jealous of Sarah and my relationship I didn't really want to  be there when he came home to find all of his things on the sidewalk. Sarah said she didn't know who I was talking about. I thought at first maybe she was just doing one of those things you do when you have a break up, pretend that person doesn't exist. I said it was going to be hard to pretend he didn't exist until after he picked his belonging up off the curb. Sarah asked if I was feeling okay, a genuine look of concern on her face. I told her that I was, and I asked if she was? I told her that I know how breakups can hit people hard sometimes and I was starting to worry about her. Then she asked me what I was talking about. She said she hadn't just broken up with anyone. That she had never dated anyone.

I didn't know how to respond. It was unlike Sarah to take this approach to a breakup. To swear off having ever dated anyone? In the six years we've been friends, I've seen her go through more guys than I have fingers. It wasn't a healthy way to deal with it, but I knew her well. She could handle a breakup. I was worried about her, but I was worried about my dad, too. I had sent him several texts throughout the day and he hadn't responded to one. I told Sarah I would call her later this evening to check up on her, and I took my leave.

The drive home was strange. There were far fewer cars on the road than there normally would be on such a day and time. I was becoming increasingly concerned with the day.

When I arrived home, I got out of my car and something crashed into me, nearly knocked me off my feet. It was Bessie. She jumped at me, wagging her tale, happy to see me. I didn't see Mrs. Murdie. It wasn't like her to let Bessie out off leash, as she had a tendency to bolt. I took Bessie by the collar and walked her to Mrs. Murdie's door. My knock was answered by silence. I knocked again, but there was no answer. My dad was allergic to dogs, so I couldn't take Bessie into our house. I tried Mrs. Murdie's door and it opened.

The door half opened, I poked my head in and called out for my neighbor. No response. I opened the door the rest of the way and took a step into the house. I called out again. Still nothing. I let go of Bessie's collar, hoping that maybe she would run to her owner, but she just circled a few times and then curled up on the floor.

 I entered the house proper and called out again for my elderly neighbor. She is old, but her hearing has always been fine. I was worried she might have fallen. I searched the house, and didn't find her. It wasn't until I was done searching and nervously petting Bessie that I came across something strange. All the picture frames in the house were empty. I'd been in Mrs. Murdie's house before and on nearly every wall hung pictures of her family. Now, the frames were barren.

I had no idea what was going on. Did my neighbor remove all her old photos that she previously seemed to adore? Was she going to put in new photos? I couldn't say, but it was an odd sight. One that sent chills down my spine. I made sure Bessie and water and food and then went back to my own house.

I had hoped to see my dad when I entered, but he wasn't there. I checked my phone and saw that he still hadn't responded to my texts. I tried calling him. The call didn't go through. I received an automated message saying that the number was invalid. I hadn't dialed the number in. I used the saved contact. I checked the contact number, maybe somehow I had accidentally changed it, but the number was the same as it always had been.

I was standing in the middle of my living room, everything quiet, when the doorbell rang, jolting me out of my head and my increasingly darker thoughts. I answered the door expecting a police officer, or for some strange reason, my dad, though why he would have used the doorbell I don't know. Instead I found a zombie carrying a pillow case.

The zombie yelled trick-or-treat in a high voice and I simply stared motionless at it for a moment. I saw a woman standing on the sidewalk take a tentative step toward my house and was jolted awake. It was a kid trick-or-treating. Of course it was. It was Halloween. I went inside and grabbed a newly purchased bag of candy, tore it open and dropped an absent minded handful into the kid's nearly empty sack.

Before the child-zombie could walk away though, I stopped him. His candy bag was nearly empty. It was well into the trick-or-treating hours now and that kid's sack should have been nearly overflowing. I asked the kid where all the candy was, and received a blank dead stare in response. I asked how many houses he had been to where people answered their door and the kid said a few, an unhelpful answer. The mother had moved to my porch steps by now. She encouraged her kid to come on and go to the next  house. I asked her, hadn't she noticed there were far fewer people out trick-or-treating this year? Why were so many people not answering their doors? Why didn't her kid have more candy? She said there was the same number of people as always, asked if I was playing some kind of Halloween trick and then ushered her kid away from my house. She glanced back at me as they walked pass Mrs. Murdie's dark house and moved down the street.

I scanned the dark sidewalk for other trick-or-treaters. I saw another pair far down the block, but that was it. Three kids out on Halloween? All of my neighbor's houses dark? Something was happening. Something I couldn't understand.

I went back inside and called my dad again. Again the automated message saying I dialed an unknown number. I called Sarah. The call rang once and then the dreaded automated message answered.

Maybe there was some sort of evacuation that not everyone knew about. Maybe a train carrying hazardous chemicals had derailed. There had to be some reason why everyone had disappeared.

I turned on the television. It was time for the eleven o'clock local news. The TV didn't pick the signal up. There was only a black screen. I changed the channel. Again a blank black screen.

I dug my phone out of my pocket and tried one last call, 911. There was automated response after I punched in the numbers. There was no dial tone. Nothing.

I ran to my room and woke up my laptop. I tried to open Facebook, but was given an HTTP 404 screen. Same thing with Twitter, with the New York Times.

I walked back down stairs. I sat on the couch.

So, that brings us to the present. To my knowledge everyone in my town, and perhaps state, or maybe even the world has disappeared. That's reason enough to be afraid, but I'm afraid for one more reason. Just moments ago, with the last seconds of Halloween ticking off the clock, there was a knock at my front door.

by D.K. (Alone at Night)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a good one, but I hate cliffhanger endings. What is at the damn door!!!

Anonymous said...

Can't call 911 or use Facebook or make calls but eh at least you can upload to alone at night.....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

" Can't call 911 or use Facebook or make calls but eh at least you can upload to alone at night....."


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