Steve carried his cumbersome body through the door, dropping his keys towards the table. He picked them up from their temporary refuge on the floor – as usual, he had missed the point. Tired, he hobbled through to the lounge. Hunched over slightly, it was the hobble of an elderly priest after mass – drained but satisfied. He had fulfilled his conservative duty.
Previously artful, the room had aged as quickly as he had, unrecognizable from its early glories. Where there had been pristine paintwork, now it faded and crumbled. Photos were dusty, ornaments chipped; liberty and prosperity had been repressed. The armchair he slouched in had worn quickly of late, much like himself.
He scanned the street through the gap in the curtains. Halloween had fallen on October 19 this year. His beady, deep-set eyes moved steadily; he did not need to squint, it came naturally. As his eyes reached the right hand-side of the window, he fell into a deep slumber.
The door rattled, each rattle offset by giggles and muffled voices. ‘Hall-o-ween,’ he muttered to himself. He picked up a couple of candy bars – not nearly enough for the huddled masses, but why care?
With a few tugs of the door, he swung it open on its creaky hinges, revealing the sights that so revolted him year after year. Dressed head to toe in long, black robes, the children peered up at him through the only revealing part of their clothing: the eyes. Why did they have to come here?
‘TRICKK OR TREEAAT,’ rang out.
‘Just some candy, sir, nothing more. None of the other houses even answered the doors,’ sang the chorus.
‘You aren’t even from this neighbourhood, why have you come out all this way?’ Steve yelled.
The one voice now spoke above the rest. ‘Well, none of the other neighbourhood’s will even let us through. There are roadblocks. And everybody knows you’ve been the most generous, so we came to you first.’
Those days had long gone. A mixture of age and a pensioner’s income had reduced his willingness to be nice, to be generous.
‘And why must you wear such scary outfits?’ he asked.
The kids shuffled awkwardly, shifting their eyes from one another’s gaze, to Steve, and then back to each other. The same voice came back, less certain this time.
‘It’s… just our culture. We are not doing any harm,’ the child replied.
Steve sighed. As he offered his paltry supply of candy, a voice could be heard across the street.
‘Hey, guys, you are more than welcome here!’ Heads swung around to look across the street.
Of course, he would have lots to offer, wouldn’t he? Ever since he had moved into his late father’s cottage, Justin had been stepping on Steve’s toes. First, he had taken over as head of the neighbourhood watch and the council, becoming lax on drug takers in the process. Then he had tried to open up the local schools to children from the poorer peripheries of the area – Steve had managed to use his waning influence to stop that.
‘I have plenty of treats for all your kids, come on over!’ Justin called.
The juvenile mass scurried to Steve’s more polished neighbour. Nicely tended hanging baskets intermingled with Halloween decorations, and freshly carved pumpkins that looked too good to be true – maybe they are? – sat on his porch. He showered the kids with candy and treats, praising their outfits.
Steve tutted. The ghost of Justin’s father had haunted and obsessed him. In the half light of the night, he could almost see him taunting, goading him on.
Steve could almost see mortality coming for him. He had aged, he had worn – he had become irrelevant. Almost on cue, a roof tile crumbled off of his decrepit house, as if to remind him that his past glories were just that: the past.
Will he ever awake from his slumber?