I like to go on drives at night; quiet, peaceful strolls around the suburban neighborhoods.
Autumn leaves crunch under the weight of my old Sedan. I crack the window, and a crisp breeze cools my face. Pumpkin spice wafts from the kitchens of model homes, houses all painted rose and cream. This is a place where nothing bad happens, where a girl like me can live alone.
But even when the darkness falls, my hair rises with the static of a threat looming in the doorways of my home.
A presence that I know isn’t there—but then I look again.
Cotton webs stretch across door frames and rubber goblins peak around corners. Halloween is soon to come.
Halloween makes my skin crawl, halloween masks especially. Fake blood, sticky and dripping from gashed foreheads. Wounds crusted and festering. Ugly clowns with fleshy lips spread in evil grins. Hillary Clinton, dead behind her wide blue eyes.
I pass a home with life-size statues of horror movie figurines. The clown, It. Chuckie. A man wielding a chainsaw. All standing erect, lifeless but menacing. My eyes deceive me. I think I see one tilt its head and step forward.
My chest tenses with a familiar, incessant nagging. I’m being watched. I divert my gaze from the figurines and turn the car toward home.
Living alone is relaxing for an introvert. No one to speak to or entertain. Peaceful silence and no distractions.
“Who’s there?” I call out, at about the same time each night. I cock my head and wait, listening for the sound to repeat.
It never does.
Something shifts in the living room. I’m certain the house is haunted. I wield my phone like a weapon and flash a photo, illuminating the couch. My eyes search madly for the culprit, chest heaving.
There’s no one.
Being a scardy cat and living alone don’t make a good combo.
That’s it, I think. Tomorrow, I buy a gun.
A vase of fake flowers falls, clamoring against the dining table behind me.
“Who’s there?” I squeak, then reprimand myself. “You need to be brave, Anna.” With that, I go to the bathroom and brush my teeth.
Tucking my legs under the quilted comforter one by one, I remember the flash photograph I captured. I slide my phone off the bedside table. I tap twice and I’m in my photo gallery.
My breath catches in my chest. I zoom in. I zoom out.
It’s a picture of me. The front facing camera must have been selected. I’m jumping into the living room, my face blinding white and blurry. But it’s not my face that rises bile to my throat.
It is the man in the Halloween mask standing behind me.
A Halloween mask, with red, sticky blood oozing out of an open wound and a mouth open, growling, and evil. His hand is outstretched, reaching to run his fingers through my hair.
A soft rustling comes from the hall.
My heart pounds as the door of my bedroom squeaks open. For the first time, I don’t ask who’s there.
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