Across the Street

Halloween has been a favourite time of year for Kai. Tricking was better than treating as he grew up, but this year seemed different. Can one become too old for Halloween? An innocent curiosity has put Kai in suspense as he jeopardises his life—all happening in plain view of his humble abode.

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1. Never Too Old

"All set," Kai muttered with a snicker as he zipped his bag filled with a carton of eggs, Silly String, a flashlight and a water gun.

 

Halloween has come around once again, and Kai loved causing problems around his neighbourhood—and what better time of year than a night of fright to nonchalantly do so. Kai was dressed all in black, wearing Halloween paint that blackened the areas around his eyes and lips. He smiled as he admired his work in his closet door mirror. He swung his backpack and jigged out his bedroom and down the stairs.

 

"Stop," Kai heard his mother call out in a casual tone. "What's in the bag this time?"

"The usual," Kai responded, patting the bottom of his bag gently.

His parents grew tired of his affinity for tricks on Halloween to forbid him ever since he was 13 years old. For three years now, he's been allowed this privilege to cause trouble.

"Okay," Kai heard his mother sigh. "Just be back for dinner. I don't want candy to be your only meal tonight."

"I know," Kai chimed as he skipped toward his mother to kiss her.

"And your father," his mother continued. "He'll be home soon, too, so please don't let him wait for you."

Kai rolled his eyes when he turned to head out the door.

 

The evening breeze chilled the nearly dried black paint around Kai's eyes and lips as he stepped off the porch that led to the footpath of his neighbourhood. Children roamed every block, hearing the cluttered shrieks of trick-or-treaters asking for candy at lit and decorated homes. Kai walked slowly in the middle of the road. Tonight was a night for children to roam the streets, filling it with half-dead zombies, vampires and cheaply made superhero suits. No adults were to be seen. But Kai hadn't touched his bag once.

Something didn't feel right this year, Kai thought to himself. Every year before, he'd be unloading his ammunition down his usual itinerary, needing to return home for a second batch of eggs and a full canister of water for his water gun.

He stopped and stood just two blocks away from his house.

 

He dared to say the words, clearly: "I'm getting too old for this." His crisp confession was drowned inaudible from the laughter and playful screaming of children, but his mind echoed the words under a megaphone. Was he too old for Halloween? It was obvious, by the high-pitched squeals and heights of the scampering children in costumes, how much older he's gotten. Even the spark of excitement he'd get—like the feeling of Christmas morning when he was eight—felt the dimmest tonight.

 

Kai pondered, now walking back to his house. Perhaps, pranks and trickery weren't his true passion during Halloween. He could feel the paint harden around his eyes, feeling his thick eyelids as he blinked the cold October autumn from drying out his eyes.

 

He continued to recall his previous years. 

 

"Wait," Kai muttered, the only word escaping his recollections.

It kept puzzling him. The nightly outings, the packing, the disobedience toward his parents. It was never for tricks nor treating. He remembered what he did during the Halloween nights: He'd go far from his house and walk through the spry culs-de-sac of decorated homes, admiring the work and dedication each year residents did to commemorate the festivity; he'd visit the neighbourhood ditch that connected into the city sewers that stretched for kilometres; he'd climb up the tallest tree in the neighbourhood park as a lookout, presenting visible the homes and distant street lights at the horizon.

 

He gasped when he realised what he was.

He was an adventurer. "Not a trick-or-treater," Kai unknowingly spoke out.

 

Kai then immediately realised: He had already done everything. There was nothing else to do. He sighed, bringing himself back to the present as he neared his house.

"I guess I outgrew Halloween finally," Kai said through a long exhale. There was nothing else to do. He wanted to explore on such a night of scares and spooks, and it hadn't even gone an hour since he left home. He stopped just before the walkway to the front door.

 

Looking over his shoulder at the setting sun, the shine turning clouds into thick violescent waves, something caught his peripheral vision. He spun messily, his eyes readjusting to the dimming evening. His pupils slowly painted the outline of a house. Kai waited until the outline grew more detailed, and his mouth dropped agape in surprise.

 

The vacant home across the street.

 

His body shivered at the immediate interest. Realising his mouth was wide open, he cleared his throat and blinked several times, his eyes watering a bit from the chill wind hissing through the street.

 

He shuffled away from the entrance to his house and onto the opposite footpath, stopping just a step behind the entrance to the rotting house that slouched in front of him. He smelt the familiar scent of sawdust as the wind shifted, pushing him off balance slightly from time to time. The smell was definitely misleading. The house gave off a fresh smell of construction, but the structure tilted slightly to the left with holes in various areas, freckling the first story of the empty house. Vines crawled up posts, and a window on the third floor showed an injury, probably from a baseball. The lawn suffered dehydration and showed patches of death, probably from stray animals urinating in those spots—Kai could imagine.

 

"This—" Kai began to say, catching his breath. "This is awesome!"

The house responded with a slow creak as the wind shifted once more. A sudden gust shrieked in his ear as his balance lurched forward. He stepped a good several metres before regaining himself. The smell of sawdust grew stronger. He was now close enough to touch the banister that led up to the porch of the quiet, rotting house. Kai only smiled.

He pet the support beam that held the roof above the patio, effortlessly rubbing off the peeling paint. His nostrils choked as the sawdust smell hugged him. He felt the warmth of the aged wood sticking to his skin. Kai could no longer feel the autumn wind; he only heard the howls moving around the old structure.

 

His attention changed to the rattling of the patio door. The wiggling of the door was rhythmic with the wind, and this new interest urged him to climb up the stairs.

 

"I wonder," Kai stuttered as he apprehensively stepped up the last tread onto the patio area.

"I wonder what's inside."

His hand was already resting on the crusty doorknob.

 

He suddenly recoiled and dropped his hand to his hip.

"Wait," Kai snapped. "This could be dangerous!"

Kai glared at the doorknob, constantly startled by the sporadic wiggling of the flaky door. He looked back to see his house. It was still well lit, and his father wasn't home, yet. Looking farther down the street, he could still see children parading around in costumes with bags now visibly full of candy. The sunset was still visible by the lighter clouds skidding the horizon. He turned back to face the door, leering at the doorknob blotted with rust and dirt.

 

"I'm never too old for Halloween."

 

He grasped the doorknob and twisted it, flinching from the screech of rusty metal. It took just a couple of yanks to completely retract the latch until the door could be pushed open. The hinges cackled as Kai shoved to make way. The stagnant odour of an abandoned house suffocated his nostrils, forcing him to cough and breathe through his mouth.

 

He stepped out of the doorway to slam the door shut, the sound echoing through the pitch-dark house.

The sound of outside was instantly cut, and Kai could hear nothing but the sound of his breathing.

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