It had rained earlier in the day as it had for the past two days and her new walkway was awash with red mud. Luckily the rain had also washed clean the stepping stones which now looked like small cement islands in a sea of blood. At least this would allow little visitors to reach the door clean if they’d a mind to. She checked the weather on her iPhone. The evening promised to come on cool, with clear skies that would last into the night, illuminated by a full harvest moon. Positively perfect, she thought.
Deloris loved Halloween, with the costumed kiddies and good scary fun; this was her favorite time of year. Now she set about the final decoration preparations. Hand-carved jack-o-lanterns lined the porch lit with thick wax candles. No artificial ceramic or, God forbid, foam rubber illuminated by LED Lights here. She restrung the damp spider webs and straightened her hand-carved “Welcome Trick or Treaters” sign. Now for the candy, full sized bars only, because she didn’t believe “fun-sized” was. Now all that was left to do was to flip on the porch light…and wait.
She didn’t have to wait long, for soon little feet beat a path to her door. Never having children of her own, she delighted in her little visitors. She especially fawned over those who came in original costuming. But original or store bought, she treated them all like they were marvelous, filling their plastic pumpkins and insisting (with the parents’ permission) on a snapshot of each one which she would later add to her album. She used a vintage Polaroid, because she felt it captured the spirit of the season in a way no cell cam could.
As the evening wound down and the number of children dwindled to nil, Deloris reluctantly decided to call it a night. As she stepped outside to extinguish the Jack-o-lanterns, she noticed a small boy coming up the walkway alone. Bless his heart, he seemed to miss every stepping stone, each step dipping into the thick red mud. As he drew into the light and she could see him clearly, Deloris fell madly in love with the boy’s costume. Two big brown eyes peered from a wraparound fitted rabbit mask that was covered in what appeared to be actual fur, complemented with long whiskers. The fur matched the boy’s hair color flawlessly. He wore a faded hand sewn blue coat with prim little white gloves, which held an actual carved pumpkin with a baling twine handle. His britches were also covered with the same fur as the mask, with matching slippers. Definitely a nod to Beatrice Potter’s creation here, but what really set it off was the worn vintage look.
Without thinking, Deloris grabbed up her camera and snapped a picture. The boy shielded his eyes with an arm from the brilliant flash and Deloris felt instantly guilty for startling the boy. “Oh, I am so sorry little one,” she said, “I didn’t mean to frighten you, but your costume is just so adorably wondrous that…” She paused and looked around the yard, “Umm where are your parents? It’s awfully late for you to be…” At this the boy dressed as a rabbit began rummaging around in his pumpkin. Pulling out an orange stained card, he flicked a pumpkin seed from it and presented it to Deloris. Hesitatingly she took the card, fearing that the child may be a deaf mute and lost. This thought was dismissed as she began to read when the boy spoke in a low soft voice, “Aloud please.” So Deloris read, “Salutations young Peter, welcome to my home. It is so very nice to see you this fine evening. But where are my manners, the hour grows late. Please cross over my threshold and make yourself at home for the night. You are my welcome guest sincerely…Deloris Elaine …Fisher?”
She looked up to ask the boy if this was a prank and how he knew her name, but he was gone. Looking down, a set of muddy tracks led into the house. The prints disappeared into smears in the carpet. Frantically she searched the house. Finding no sign of the boy, she debated calling the police…and telling them what, exactly? After another thorough sweep of the house she resigned to bed.
As night drifted to morning she stirred awake. Moonlight trailing in through the open window showed the closet door standing ajar. She started to rise and rectify this when she saw the silhouette of a rabbit’s head peering at her from the foot of the bed. Had the little trickster hid in the closet the whole time? She reached for the light and was startled to feel fur. She drew her hand back and saw the boy was standing by the bed. “Please don’t do that,” in that same soft voice. Terrified, Deloris slid back on the bed till her back hit the wall. The rabbit boy came forward and climbed into the bed beside her, facing her. She could see the dark brown eyes leering at her in the darkness. “Thank you for this,” in that low voice. A small soft furry hand touched her cheek and Deloris fainted.
The next morning she awoke with a start and found herself screaming in an empty room. Pulling back the covers there were red dirty smears on the sheets. Leaping from the bed she went for her phone in the living room. While dialing the local sheriff, she looked down at the pile of Polaroids and then hung up. On top was the last picture she had taken…the one of the little rabbit boy who had invaded her home. But there was no child in the picture, instead there was a weathered tombstone which read simply “Peter R. Abbot 1893 — 1901 They walk among us unaware.” Deloris still celebrates Halloween each year and each year she waits and watches. With his card in her hand and at the ready, she holds a vigil for a little boy in a rabbit costume. Ready to open her home to a little visitor looking for a place to rest for the night.
(This week’s column is a Chainsaw Classic from 2018.)
Next week: The continuation and conclusion of “little visitors” and Hell-o-ween!
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