Sam sat on the couch and put his feet up on the table. He turned on the TV, clicked on Netflix, and waited for it to load. “Babe, Can you bring me a soda?” he yelled into the kitchen.
“Shh!” His wife, Mary said. “I just got the baby to sleep.” Mary walked quietly from the kitchen into the living room and sat down next to her husband. She handed him the soda he had requested.
“Sorry. How was she today?” he whispered.
“It was a rough day. I can’t wait for her to get over this cold.” Mary replied.
Sam popped open his soda and slunk down as it hissed. He placed his hand over the top of it. They both leaned forward and looked into the baby’s room and listened. Not a sound. She was still asleep.
“Sorry,” Sam mouthed at his wife. She replied with a scowl, stood, and closed the door to the baby’s room. Sam picked up the remote and began scrolling through the thumbnails on Netflix. “I know you’ve had a rough week. But we just need to get through the weekend. By Monday the baby should be over her cold and be back in daycare. And you’ll be back to work.” Sam spoke in a low tone. Careful not to wake the baby. He put his arm around Mary.
“You’ve been scrolling for five minutes. Why don’t you pick a movie already?” Mary asked.
“I would but why is it all horror movies?” Sam replied.
“Because it’s Halloween,” Mary answered. “Just pick a movie. How about Halloween? It’s a classic. I’ll make some popcorn. We can relax. I need a night off. It’s been a long week. I just need to relax.” She stood up and went into the kitchen.
Sam clicked on Halloween and started it. He could hear the microwave start and Mary returned to the couch. “I can’t believe that people used to be scared by these old slasher films,” she said.
“Well, I think it’s pretty scary. These movies freak me out. It’s not too far-fetched to think it could happen. People get stabbed to death every day,” Sam said. He took a sip of his soda and listened to the popcorn pop in the kitchen. He turned the volume down on the TV and looked toward the baby’s room.
“She’s out,” Mary said. “Spent the whole day crying…”
The microwave beeped and Sam jumped up to turn it off. Mary went to the baby’s room and slowly turned the doorknob. She opened the door just enough to peek inside. She closed the door and went into the kitchen.
“She’d still out,” she said. She took a bowl out of the cabinet and Sam poured the popcorn into it. They sat back down on the couch.
Sam took a handful of popcorn and put it in his mouth. As soon as he did there was a knock at the door. They glanced at each other. Mary sat the popcorn on the table. “Who could that be?”
“No idea.” He answered with a mouthful of popcorn. Mary stood up and walked over to the door. She opened it and a chorus broke out from the porch “Trick or Treat!” Mary was startled.
She hadn’t thought about trick or treaters. She had forgotten about Halloween altogether, to be honest. And now, she had three kids on the porch holding bags open expecting candy. Mary looked over at the kids’ costumes. They wore typical princess costumes but were covered in fake blood. The sight of it made her very uneasy.
“I love your costumes, kids, they’re so cute. But I’m afraid we don’t have any candy to offer you.”
The kids stood there in silence. They held their bags out as if they didn’t understand what Mary had just said.
“I’m sorry kids, we don’t have any candy to offer you. Maybe you’ll have better luck at the next house…”
“Or maybe in town” Sam added.
He had stood up and walked up as Mary was talking to the kids. When he reached the door he was unsettled by the appearance of the costumes. They were grotesque and gory. Not at all what he had been expecting from little kids.
Sam and Mary both stood there for several seconds in awkward silence. Just as Mary started to repeat herself the kids turned in unison and walked off the porch.
Sam closed the door, careful to be quiet. “Cute costumes, huh?” He asked Mary.
She laughed. “What was I supposed to say? I mean they came out here and we didn’t have any candy. And they worked hard on those costumes.”
“They were hideous.” Sam shot back.
Mary dropped her jaw in mock appall. “That’s so mean. Don’t you remember when you were a kid and you spent weeks planning out your Halloween costume? I’m sure if you think back you had some terrible costumes. “
Sam sat back down on the couch. Mary joined him. “Not me,” Sam said. I was always a cowboy.”
They both laughed. “I’m sure you were a great cowboy,” Mary said. “
I was a damn good cowboy,” Sam replied.
“Now that I think about it, we should get some cows and horses. Now that we live out in the country,” Sam said.
“Yeah. okay. What do you know about raising cows?” Mary asked.
“Nothing. But I didn’t know anything about raising a baby either and we’re doing okay on that front.” Sam laid back and rested his head on Mary’s lap. “The way I see it we can figure it out as we go. I know we moved out here because we didn’t raise our kids in the city. But I think maybe might want to embrace the country life before we end up raising a city kid in the sticks.”
“Maybe we will at some point but I don’t think it’s a great idea right now. We have enough going on right now, especially since you are working seven days a week. You don’t get home until after dark and you are gone before the sun comes up,” Mary said.
“Honey, we talked about this before we moved. We sold the apartment in the city and bought this house. The profit was enough for you to take a year off and stay home with the baby. But I had to keep my job. You know I can’t make enough selling real estate in the country. All of my contacts are in the city. Maybe in a few years after we’re more established in the community where I can work more here and less in the city. But until then, I have to commute.”
“I’m sorry, I know we agreed…” Mary was interrupted by another knock at the door. She looked at Sam.
He sat up. “It has to be the same kids. How many people would be willing to drive way out here for a piece of candy? I mean really, it’s a ten-minute drive once you leave the paved road. He began walking toward the door as he talked. “Even then you have to make your way through the woods. I got lost twice this month on those dirt trails through the trees”
Sam opened the door. “Sorry, kids we…” He stopped mid-sentence and took a step out onto the porch “Hello?” He called into the night.
He stepped back into the house. “Nobody is out there.”
“I heard someone knock,” she said.
“Somebody knocked. But nobody was there. It’s probably those same kids. They’re pissed off they drove out here and we don’t have candy.” He went into the kitchen and looked out the window. He was suddenly very happy he had installed the floodlights around the house when they moved in. He couldn’t see anything out there.
Sam went back to the couch and sat down. He put his feet back up. Mary was looking out the sliding glass window. “They couldn’t have driven out here,” she said.
“What?” Sam asked.
“Those kids, did they look old enough to drive?” Mary asked.
“Well, no. But, it has to be a half-hour walk even from the closest neighbors,” Sam said.
Mary started to say something but there was another knock at the door. This time it was much louder. She jumped. Sam stood up and walked over to the door. He opened it. He was secretly relieved that there was nobody there. Sam took a step outside again. He looked into the yard could see something under a tree in the front yard. Sam started to walk over to see what it was and heard the baby crying.
He popped his head back inside the house and saw that Mary was checking on the baby. “I’ll be right back,” he said. “There is something in the yard. I just have to see what it is.”
Before Mary could protest he was out the door. As walked toward the object he scanned the perimeter. He couldn’t see anything but felt as if he was being watched.
At about fifteen feet away he could see that it was a jack-o-lantern. And for a little dramatic flair, it still had the knife sticking out of the top. He chuckled to himself. That’s perfect for a little small town neighborly hint. Hey, neighbor, saw you forgot Halloween so I put a jack-o-lantern in your front yard. Maybe if I wait until the last minute they’ll put up Christmas decorations.
Sam bent over to pick up the pumpkin and even in the dark, he could see that there was something written on it. He took a few steps back toward the house and repositioned the pumpkin so he could see it better.
He could see that they had painted trick or treat on it. Sam carried the pumpkin back to the porch. He set it down, but in the light, he could see that it wasn’t written in paint. It was written in blood. Then he could see that the knife was covered in blood as well.
Sam saw that his hands had some of the blood on them now. He rubbed it between his fingers. It even felt like real blood. That feeling of being watched suddenly became amplified. He told himself that some hick kids were out there in the woods getting a good laugh out of this. But something deep within him told him that was real blood. And maybe it wasn’t kids having a little fun…
Sam could hear the baby crying still. He decided to go back inside. He was a little scared by the prank but knew they were watching him and didn’t want them to have the satisfaction of knowing it.
He got back inside and locked the door behind him. Mary was holding the baby. She was just about back to sleep. “I’m going to put her back to bed,” Mary said.
“I’ve got it,” Sam said. He gently took his daughter from his wife. He placed her back in the crib. Her eyes closed as she began to drift off to sleep. When he went to pull the blanket up and tuck her in he saw that she had a bloody thumbprint on her onesie. He tried to brush at it with his thumb and made it worse. That’s when he realized that he still had blood all over his hand. It was from the pumpkin.
Sam looked around the room for something to clean his hand. He picked up a pack of baby wipes and cleaned his handoff. Sam threw them in the trash can and then, on second thought he pushed them under a few dirty diapers. He didn’t want his wife to see them and worry.
When Sam walked out of the room he closed the door quietly. But when he did he saw that his wife was standing in the living room staring off into space. She appeared to be frozen. And then he followed her gaze. He saw that the sliding glass door was wide open.
“When did you open that?” He asked his wife.
Mary didn’t answer. Sam looked at her more closely. Her hands were trembling. Her lips were moving only slightly as if she was trying to speak but her brain was temporarily unable to complete the task. Sam looked back at the door. It was completely open.
“It’s okay. I’ll close it.” He walked around his wife and when he turned to face the door he saw what had frightened his wife.
They were standing there. In the tree line. Less than fifty feet from the porch. The darkness concealed all but the silhouettes of their bodies. The children that had been at the door and what had to be their parents.
Sam watched for a moment. He wanted desperately to run and close the door. But he was almost certain that if he ran they would run toward him. Like a dog chasing a rabbit only after it ran away. And one thing he was sure of, even though he couldn’t see their faces in the dark. He was sure they had that same look in their eyes. He could feel it. They were looking at his family as if they were prey.
Sam decided he was much closer to the door than they were. He could make it. He ran and slide the door shut as fast as he could. His hands fumbled over the latch and finally. It clicked into place. Sam looked back into the yard expecting to see them rushing at him, prepared to smash their way into the house. But much to his relief they were standing there…. Watching.
He turned to see his wife was crying. She hadn’t moved. Sam walked back to his wife. He put his arms around her to comfort her. “It’s going to be okay. They’re just some assholes playing a sick joke,” Sam said trying to reassure his wife.
“They opened the door. They were here. In our house!” Mary exclaimed.
“Try to relax. They opened the door. If they wanted to hurt us, they could have done more, right?”
Mary wiped tears from her face. She tried to choke out a yes but couldn’t get the words from her. She nodded a yes and then wiped more tears away,
Sam hugged her and then kissed her to try and comfort her. He could see how shaken she was. “Look, we can call the police and get someone out here. I’m sure the police can get them for trespassing, at the bare minimum the police coming out here will scare them away, right?” Sam knew on some level he was talking himself down as much as he was talking his wife down.
“Yeah… Yes, call 911,” Mary said.
Sam gave his wife another kiss on her forehead. Then he turned back to the living room. He stood in front of the coffee table scanning it from left to right, Then he turned to the couch. He began to run his hands between the couch cushions. Then he kneeled down and frantically looked under the couch and ran his hand along the floor under the sides of the couch.
“I could swear I set my phone on the table when I got home. I know I did because I sat it right next to yours,” Sam said.
Mary began to cry again. “Yes, you did. I remember that. Because I had to move them to put the popcorn down. They were inside the house. I told you.”
Sam walked to the door and looked outside. He couldn’t see anybody. He rushed into the kitchen and looked out the window. He couldn’t see anybody in the front yard. “Okay. fuck this. Get the baby. I don’t know what these people have planned. They have come into our house. They have taken our phones. I know if they wanted to hurt us they could have. But they want something. I think they want to scare us, but I think we should play it safe. I don’t want to wait and find out for sure. I want you to get the baby ready. I’m going to pull your car up to the front porch. Meet me out there and we will just drive to the police station.”
“Okay,” Mary said with a nod. She turned and went back to the baby’s room.
“Where are the keys?” Sam call from inside the living room.
“What?” Mary asked when she came back into the living room. The baby was still asleep in her arms.
“The keys are gone,” Sam said. “They were here on the table. The same place I leave them every night when I get home. Right next to yours.”
Mary looked at the table. Her eyes began to fill with tears again.
There was a loud knock at the door. Then a second later, another loud knock. The baby woke up and began to cry. Mary moved away from the door. Sam Moved toward the door, placing himself between his family and whoever was at the door. He looked at the sliding glass door to make sure there was nobody there watching him. His heart was racing.
“Well, obviously I’m not going to open it.” he whispered to his wife. And then, as if on cue he saw the lock turn. They have the keys. He thought. It clicked that he didn’t have to open the door for them, they can get in anytime they want. The handle began to turn. He slammed his body against the door and turned the lock again.
But the door was already open slightly. Someone was pushing against the other side of the door. Sam pushed as hard as he could. “Take the baby to the room. Lock the door!” Sam barked at his wife. She didn’t say anything. Just cried and shook her head no.
The person on the other side of the door seemed to let up slightly and then slammed the door with enough force to knock Sam to the floor. Sam took a second to get his bearings. The man stepped into the room and turned his focus from Sam to Mary and the baby.
He was tall, at least 6’ 5” and two hundred and fifty pounds. The intruder had a terrifying mask on. Mary stepped backward toward the bedroom slowly. The man matched her step for step. Sam saw that he had hit his head on something. Blood dripped from his head to the floor. He rolled to get up and saw that he had hit his head on the stack of firewood next to the stove.
Sam looked to the door, the man wasn’t there anymore. Then he looked to where he was. Everything seemed slow and fuzzy. He knew he had a concussion. Every movement, even moving his head to scan the room made him want to vomit. He wanted to sleep but he saw the man’s boots in front of him. They were covered in blood. He looked up. He looked even taller and bigger from Sam’s perspective laying on the floor.
It was then that Sam noticed that the man was walking away from him, toward Mary. He heard the baby scream. He had to do something. He looked around for something, anything he could use to fight the man off. He picked up a piece of wood from the pile he had fallen into. It was heavy and he struggled to get a good grip on it with one hand. He stood and placed both hands on the log to get a better grip.
Sam took a step, as slowly and quietly as he could. Mary took another step back. The man matched her and Sam matched the intruder. And it was then that Mary saw the woman step into the house. She waved a knife playfully, menacingly at Mary. Mary yelled, “Leave us alone!”
Unfortunately, Sam assumed Mary was yelling at the man in front of him, he hadn’t heard or seen the woman walk in behind him. He felt a sharp, white-hot burning sensation as the blade entered his spine. Pain radiated throughout his body. Every nerve in his body seemed to be screaming at him, telling him some part of his body had been damaged and knew it was. He couldn’t feel anything except pain below his shoulders. He collapsed to the ground. Landing on his face.
Mary screamed as Sam hit the floor. The knife was still sticking out of his back. She held the baby tightly against her chest, her face pointing into her chest. She wanted to protect her not only from these people that had broken into her house, these people that had just murdered her husband. But she also wanted to protect her from seeing this as if the sight of such cruelty would scar her daughter, she was scared that seeing this darkness would damage her in some irreparable way.
Sam gasped and tried to speak but managed nothing more than a gurgle. He wanted desperately to tell his wife to run. To tell her to hide in the bedroom and barricade the door. Tell her to fight with everything she had to save herself and their baby. But each word he spoke came out as a gasp, a gurgle, and a spurt of blood.
The masked woman stepped forward and placed her foot on Sam’s back. He groaned as he was pressed to the floor. She twisted the knife clockwise and then counterclockwise, causing Sam to scream as the wound widened.
Mary could hear bones cracking and grinding in his spine as the knife twisted. She cried out for them to stop. The baby cried louder as she heard the panic and desperation in her mother’s voice.
The masked man turned to face his accomplice and she looked up at him. It was impossible to see through their masks but Mary knew that under those hideous masks they were smiling at each other. That somehow they were relishing this moment. And then the woman pulled the knife out of Sam’s back. His wound gushed blood that rolled down his side and pooled on the floor. And then he went limp.
Then in unison, the man and woman stepped toward Mary. Mary knew she was next. She ran to the bedroom and closed the door. She twisted the lock shut. She laid the baby on the bed and grabbed the dresser. It took every ounce of strength she had.
The masked couple began banging on the door. They hit the door harder and harder. The door popped open as the door frame splintered with the force of the two intruders. The door slammed against the dresser again and again. The baby was screaming now as she could sense the chaos that had entered her world. Mary wanted nothing more than to pick her up and comfort her. But she knew she had to do everything she could to keep her safe and keep them out.
Mary placed all of her weight against the dresser and pushed it back up against the door. A hundred thoughts raced through her head as she fought to keep the door shut. What did they want? Why were they doing this to her family? What could have brought hell itself to her door tonight?
Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard a different noise. In between the sounds of the man and woman banging on her door she heard a new noise behind her. The baby had begun to quiet down. And Mary listed closely… “Shhh… Shhh… Everything is going to be okay.”
Mary stiffened in horror. She turned to see who was soothing her baby. It was the trick or treaters. The children were standing behind her. One of the girls was holding her. The other child was holding a knife.
Mary froze. The world seemed to spin as the dresser gave way and the door opened. She didn’t move as the couple stormed in. She screamed as the blade entered pierced her back and then her side.
“Please don’t hurt my baby.” Was the last thing she managed to get out before the world turned black.
An hour later. There was a knock at a door. Mrs. Smith opened it. She was an elderly woman in her sixties. “Trick or treat!” The children sang out from her porch.
“Oh, what a surprise. We never get trick or treaters this far out. Let me see if we have any candy for you.” Mrs. Smith left the children at the door while she went to the kitchen.
Mr. Smith was in the kitchen getting his evening snack. “Honey, look we have trick or treaters,” she said, the excitement clear in her voice. Mr. Smith pulled the curtains aside and looked out to the porch. He saw the kids in their bloody princess costumes and a little way back from the porch he saw what must be their parents… and a baby in a stroller.
BIO: John Stevenson is an author in the Pacific Northwest.