I’m fucked up. Let’s start with that. When I was seventeen, walking home from a pretty tame party at a friend’s house, a guy in a brown trench coat and matching hat attacked me. Yanked me by the hair. Knocked me unconscious. Left semen dripping down my thighs and an unwanted baby in my stomach. He did everything he could, except kill me.
I guess he assumed I wouldn’t be able to identify him, and he was right. I never even went to the police, because I didn’t see the point.
After that, I stayed cooped up in the house. Wouldn’t leave, even to go to class. I begged my parents to homeschool me senior year, and since they were the only ones who knew what happened (aside from the therapist they paid to knock on the door twice a week), they agreed.
I still texted friends, but I didn’t hang out with them. I didn’t even talk to them on the phone. I was skittish. Scarred. Downright terrified.
But Halloween helped me. My parents pushed me to answer the door for the tiny, innocent toddlers, while they hovered behind me, just in case someone dangerous showed up. Our house was on a populated street, so by the end of that night, I’d spoken to at least one hundred kids, a dozen teenagers, and even some parents. It helped me feel like me again.
Five years after that all went down, I went back to “normal.” I was enrolled in college. Had a semi-serious boyfriend. Went out partying and drinking on weekends, just like every other twenty-two-year old.
But then something happened. Halloween of 2015 happened. I was still living at home, dressed in the skimpy zombie nurse costume I was planning on wearing to a party later in the evening.
A little girl dressed up as a red-headed Elsa was the first to ring the doorbell and I was stuffing KitKats into her pumpkin when I saw it. Saw him. In his brown trench coat and matching hat.
He had his hand on the little girl’s shoulder and I lunged to grab her—but then stopped myself when I heard him nudge, “What do you saaay?”
She squeaked out a thank you and I nodded.
The man was only her father and he was dressed up, too. As Sherlock with a pipe swinging from his free hand. It wasn’t the same guy from five years ago, that much was obvious. I was just being jumpy. Didn’t know why, but I didn’t want to think about why either, so I wiped it from my mind.
But then, when I opened the door for the next group, there was a boy. He must have been four or five with the same scraggly hair, the same jaw, the same chin. Like a miniature version of him. Like it was his kid. The kid I’d almost had.
For some reason, the kid didn’t show up with any friends and I didn’t see any parents watching him from the sidewalk. I looked over his shoulder, searching the street for his mommy and daddy, and when I glanced down, he was gone.
Weird. Very weird. But I forgot about it as soon as I saw the impending group of tweens parading down the street. All girls. Thank God. Never had any problems with girls.
It turned out there were nine of them, each dressed as a Crayola crayon color. Only one of them, the red one, was polite enough to say trick-or-treat, but when she opened her mouth, I heard, “Calm down. Calm down, sweetheart. I won’t kill you after it’s over. You might end up slitting your own throat though.“
The same words he had said before slamming my head against concrete. The words I had nightmares about for months.
Maybe I was having some sort of flashback. Maybe I was having a psychotic break. My brain had been functioning well for so long. I’d gotten too comfortable. A setback was bound to happen. I didn’t get over the trauma. I just managed to forget about it for a while.
I didn’t even give the poor girls their candy. Just slid into the house, panting as I pulled my knees up to my chest. I could hear them cursing me out through the walls. My parents would be pissed when they got home from their costume cruise. No way we wouldn’t get egged—or at least toilet papered.
The next time the doorbell rang, I didn’t answer. I waited until the new group left, scooped the leftover candy into a bowl, and left it out on the stoop, locking the door behind me.
Then I grabbed my phone, shot a text to my boyfriend to let him know I wouldn’t make it to the party, and threw that phone across the room, so I didn’t have to deal with his disappointed response.
No way in hell was I leaving the house. It was the only place where I felt comfortable. Safe. Alone.
But then I saw him, legs folded on my living room couch. Or, at least, the miniature version of him. The kid that disappeared from my front door. He must’ve snuck inside. Or maybe floated, judging by the way his skin faded in and out, depending on the light. He looked like everything I imagined a ghost to be—no. Not like a ghost. Like something that never existed in the first place.
I closed my eyes, hoping I could erase him from existence, but I felt a breeze flit over my fingertips and a squeaky voice say, “You can’t get rid of me this time, mommy.”