Fictober, Prompt 31 – “Scared, me?”
Warnings: monsters, implied hunting. Some Halloween spookiness to finish things off.
Acknowledgment: This whole piece was inspired by a creepy Halloween night description that LiveJournal user eryne-chan wrote many years ago in an LJ RPG. I really liked the description and saved it, and wanted to do something in tribute (though this story is entirely unrelated to the original RPG post). The last half of the last line is borrowed directly from her description, because I could not get it to sound quite right with any other wording. The rest is merely “inspired by.” Happy Halloween!
I always patrol the streets on Halloween. I start early, before the sun is fully down, as the little children and their parents make their trick-or-treating rounds. I’m well known by now, and many of the children wave excitedly when they see me, exclaiming over whichever guise I have picked to wear this year. Their parents nod to me in thanks for the extra pair of watchful eyes.
There are some monsters that would snatch children away.
I nod back, but do not speak to them.
Dark comes early here, at this point in the dying year. Soon enough the streetlights are flickering on, pools of warmer golden light, a safer companion to the cold light of the moon, rising above.
Some of the streetlights continue to flicker, never quite coming on.
The parents with children avoid those streets. The older children, the ones allowed to walk together without adult supervision, make an appearance in greater numbers now.
They do go down the streets with flickering lights, encouraging each other toward the lighted doorways and spookily welcoming decorations.
“Scared, me?” they ask each other brashly, and do not listen to the instincts that tell them to stay away from darker paths.
I do not stop them. That is not my purpose, and in any case, it is mostly safe.
The moon is thin this year, its light weak.
Darkness steals into the spaces between houses, thickening between the pools of lamplight, creeping up to fill the treetops. With true darkness, the children are not the only ones on the streets anymore. More figures, costumed and masked as is appropriate, join the children, following in their footsteps, accepting candy at doorsteps but never taking their eyes from those they follow.
I follow them, and they are forced to nod in acknowledgement. They follow the children, as is their nature, but they do nothing else.
Adults begin to return to the streets, costumed themselves now, heading for restaurants and parties and bars. Other figures join them and are complimented for their costumes. They smile realistic sharp smiles, and nod in thanks, and wait.
They too are forced to nod in acknowledgment as I pass by. They follow the adults, as is their nature, but they do nothing else.
If the adults notice anything amiss, they brush it off as a product of the atmosphere.
“Scared, me?” they ask each other jokingly, and do not ask why the atmosphere feels the way it does.
Hours pass, and still I patrol the streets. Parties wind down, and people make their way home. Those that know, or sense, that they are not alone hurry. Many hurry. Some move more slowly, unaware, or too inebriated, to realize they should be watching the time.
The seconds tick by. I can hear them in head, though the large clock on the main street counts only minutes and hours, silently.
I hold my breath, and many others hold theirs (or not) with me.
The clock strikes midnight.
There is no chime, as there might have been in older times, but all know that it has come. Even the drunkest people feel a sudden chill, and the darkness deepens as the moon slips behind the trees, acknowledging that the time of its pale light is done.
There is a moment of stillness.
Masks begin to slip, and other smiles grow sharper.
Those humans who have not made it safely home must now make their way through streets that are less friendly. Some will not make it unscathed. Some will not make it at all.
The darkest hours of All Hallows Eve are our time…and dawn is a long way away.