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Alfred James grunted loudly. It was an utterly ridiculous holiday. Piles
of orange mush pulled out of pumpkins with embarrassing
facial expressions, people running around in crude costumes and
demanding sweets from people with whom they are not even acquainted, and
trying to scare the living daylights out of each other with plastic
spiders and fluorescent skeletons. It was preposterous.
Back in his day, children had certain levels of respect, and were not
nearly as rude as those of the current time. Why, these days,
children might as well just break down the doors and say, “Hand over the
chocolate,Punk,” for all that it was worth. He was sure that it was a
bad influence, and would lead to terrible, spoilt behaviour as they grew
older. He couldn’t see how their parents could stand for it.
Muttering to himself, Alfred made his way across the room,and lowered
himself carefully into the old brown armchair, which creaked as
he settled and leaned back, closing his eyes. For a moment, all was
silent. His breathing slowed, his mind cleared, and he began to slip
The doorbell was the newest installation to Alfred’s home,though he
kept the brass knocker above the letterbox, and the rusty chiming sound
was accompanied by a high pitched giggle, poorly disguised as some
sort of beastly groan. Alfred grunted and shifted in his chair, hoping
the children would realise that he did not wish to answer the door, and
The bell went again, backed by irritated voices.
“Alright, alright,” Alfred muttered as he pulled himself from the chair,
and leaned against his cane as he walked across the room. “Keep your
The bell chimed once more, and was closely followed by a hammering on
the knocker, far too loud for Alfred’s comfort. Any harder, and it was
sure to be damaged. He sped up his pace and managed to reach the door
before the bell was rung again. Grunting, he pulled back the locks and
opened the door to a short boy laden with toilet-paper, two girls in
purple coats and hats with green strips of paper which fell down over
their blonde hair. There was also a taller boy wearing ragged clothing
and a morbid expression on his face. To Alfred, this boy looked no
different from the teenagers he saw walking past his home on any other
“Trick or treat!” They informed him, in what was supposed to be unison.
The eldest boy’s voice lingered long after the other three children had
shouted excitedly, one beginning a little after the other.
“Trick.” Alfred glowered, and slammed the door shut. A few moments later
a wailing sound came from behind the door, some hushed voices and then a
loud hammering on the knocker. Growling, Alfred removed his hand
from the lock and opened the door again.
“What do you want?” He asked roughly.
“Look, sorry, but what the hell was that?”
Alfred inspected the knocker, ignoring the appalling language of the
speaker, not the eldest boy, as he had expected to be responsible, but
the taller of the two girls in pointed hats, who continued irritably.
“You don’t just slam the door in someone’s face. Look at the state
you’ve gotten my brother into!” At this, she gestured to the
tissue-clad boy, who was wailing and being fussed over by the other
girl. “That’s not on. It’s Halloween. You don’t want visitors, say so,
or get a bloody gate.”
Alfred knotted his eyebrows, peering at an imaginary dent in the metal.
He had left his glasses on the chair, and being against those
ridiculous Jack-o’-lanterns, he had no source of light outside, so was
struggling to see.
“Look- Are you even listening to me?”
Coming to the final conclusion that the knocker was not damaged, Alfred
turned back to the children and took in the scene.
“Are you deaf,man?” The girl asked, loudly.
“Look, I haven’t any sweets for you. I’ve made that quite clear already.”
The girl took a step forward.
“Look, the least you can do now is give us something, as an apology if
Alfred grunted. “Fine, then,” He muttered, digging into the pockets of
his jacket, and pulling out paper bag, which he opened and slipped
a hand into. “There you go,” he said, gruffly, removing his hand and
placing a single aniseed ball into each of the children’s bags.
The four children looked up at him, speechless, and he held their gazes
until they turned and walked back towards the road, muttering between
Alfred didn’t even wait until he could no longer hear their rude remarks
before he pulled the door shut and set the locks again.
There were a further twelve visitors after this first group,each of
whom were offered either “trick”, or an aniseed ball from the bag.
With each visit, Alfred was becoming increasingly grumpy. There was even
a point when he wondered how the holiday would be celebrated when
somebody really was killed on Halloween.
However, he managed to keep the butter knife from their bodies, and
didn’t even threaten to hit the children with his cane. This was
unusually kind for Alfred, and he began to wonder that he might be ill.
“Probably some disease from those children,” he told himself, “It can
only be expected when they’re wrapping themselves up in bathroom
And there it was again. The kindness. He wasn’t blaming the children,
but the toilet paper. This was most unusual. So unusual, in fact,that
he decided best to get some sleep, and hope that all would be better
He took his cane and stood up slowly, supporting his spine with one hand
as he did so, and took a step forwards. His right foot hit the ground,
and the room blackened suddenly.
It took Alfred a moment to realise that the illness hadn’t blinded him,
and the lights had simply gone out.
“Damn crazy kids,” He muttered, looking out of the window to the houses
opposite, all of which still had lights on.
He reached to the wall on his right for the light switch, and clicked it
once.Nothing happened, and he flipped the switch again. Nothing.
Cursing,he ran a hand across the edge of the mantelpiece, reached a
matchbox, remove done of the small wooden sticks and flicked it across
the rough side. After a couple more swipes, the match lit,and Alfred
held it up to one of the wax candles on the shelf, lighting them all in
turn. “Damn those crazy kids,”
Taking the metal dish which held one of the lit candles, he made his way
across the room and struggled with one free hand to unlock the door.
Eventually, he succeeded,and swung the door open, holding the candle in
front of him and peering out.There was nobody there.
He took one last look about, and was just shutting the door when he
heard a noise behind him. He spun around, cursing at the pain which shot
up his back, and came to see nothing but his own hallway, illuminated by
Shaking his head at the sudden paranoid behaviour, he turned back to
close the door and found himself looking straight into the eyes of a
young lady with tousled blonde hair.
She wore a sleeveless leather tunic and boots over denim trousers. In
the glow of the candlelight he could just make out the black webbing
across her veins, and her darkened lips. Alfred had never seen a
Halloween costume quite like this before.
The woman's blackened lips stretched into a smile, before parting and
forming words which didn't quite fit her mouth. "Hello, Alfred," She
said, in a tone which was both pleasant and terrifying, "My name is