Homecoming

“And what are you supposed to be?”
The child stood staring up at Miriam in silence, the expression blank. Or at least, the expression on the mask hiding their face was blank.
It didn’t say fun.
It didn’t say scary.
It didn’t say anything.
Every other kid she had seen through the window passing her house that night, their parents steering them on to the next door with a whisper, had been some kind of superhero, Marvel or Star Wars character.
Or at least she guessed, anyway.
So out of touch now.
After only a year.
Daniel would have been able to tell her, instantly, who each kid was supposed to be, and what cartoon or movie they were from.
Kids were trick or treating earlier and earlier every year. When she was a kid, they waited until it got dark on October 31st before even thinking about what to dress up as. And back then, costumes consisted of parents’ old coats, an oversized hat, and whatever plastic mask had been left hanging on the rack at the supermarket that morning. Now, kids were planning their costumes by the end of the summer, getting their parents to order them off Amazon weeks in advance. On Hallowe’en itself they were ready to hit the road, and every door on the street, almost from the time they got home from school.
And Daniel was always out there before any of them.
He lived for it.
Lived.
The kid in the weird mask stood motionless.
No holler of “Trick or treat!
No expectant pail, bucket or bag held out.
This had been the first, and what would probably be the only, knock to come to Miriam’s door. Her house stuck out from every other on the street by its lack of Halloweenness.
Not a single polystyrene gravestone on the lawn, zombie mannequin on the step, or carved pumpkin in the window.
All it was wrapped in was darkness.
Another parent with their child shuffled past on the sidewalk as silently and quickly as they could, pretending not to see Miriam.
Parents.
“Where are your parents?” said Miriam, her voice cracking with it being the first time she had used it to speak to anyone in months, never mind… a child.
The kid said nothing, just slightly angled its head up at her.
“You out here on your own? Your mom or your dad not with you?”
The mask angled to one side and leaned closer.
It spoke to her without saying anything.
Full of questions.
Like all kids.
What made you answer the door?
Good one to start. There had been no knock. Miriam had been perched on the sofa in the front window, watching the street and parents she used to be such good friends with passing by.
Some of them, out of embarrassment.
Others out of fear.
Many, she suspected, out of revulsion.
Don’t you have any candy?
Miriam had ordered in some candy for the occasion, on the off-chance that she had a visitor. But not much. She knew she was most likely going to end up having to eat it herself.
She had never liked to see things go to waste.
Funny, in a completely fucked up way. She very nearly laughed. And it sickened her.
“I do have some candy,” she said to the mask. “I just didn’t put it out. Wait there a second and I’ll go get it, okay?”
Can I come in?
Miriam was already halfway down the hall. She turned to see the kid now standing by the bottom of the stairs.
Is my room still the same?
What?
Does Daddy not live here anymore?
Stop.
Are you ready for me take my mask off now?
No.
Mom?

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