Wind blew through bare branches as we made our way home from the dinner party. Our bellies full of rich food and drink, we walked through fallen, drying leaves kicking up their pungent smell around us. The road was of packed dirt and had a whitish glow in the moonlight. Five girls in costume, we’d been to a halloween party and were walking to Cassie’s house, were we planned to spend the night.
“I thought the mummy costume was fantastic,” Mona said, wobbling in her high-heeled boots. “Yeah, and the werewolf was incredible,” Cassie said. “Who was that, anyway?” Noone knew. “He was tall. I didn’t recognize him,” she added.
We rounded a bend in the road and just caught sight of a large dog as it bounded into the bushes along the road, it’s bushy tail a tawny silver color. We gazed ahead, and a cold wind blew against our faces. The sounds of our boots on the road seemed amplified. Trees swayed, creaking.
“Wow,” said Robin. “It’s creepy here.”
It was creepy.
“Halloween night, girls!” shrieked Kate, letting out her best mad scientist laugh and spinning around in the moonlight, her arms held up in the air above her head. We all laughed half-heartedly. The woods surrounded us and stretched on ahead into blackness. Kate seemed to be the only one us that wasn’t scared.
Just then, there was howling, first from the spot in the road the dog had been, and then a chorus of yips and bays joined the first howl, seeming to surround us.
We stopped in the road, spooked. And as suddenly as it started, the howling stopped.
We gazed at each other in stunned silence. Kate was the first to speak. “That was crazy,” she said, trying to sound cavalier. But her voice was unsteady. None of us answered her. But at the sound of her voice, a figure stepped from the side of the road. He seemed to come from nowhere.
“Kate. It’s been a long time,” he said, smiling and gazing across the road at her. She froze, and then slowly, her head shaking no, began to back away from the stranger. He advanced, holding out a hand to her. “Darling don’t you recognize me?” he asked with a quizzical grin. His voice had an echo, but his tone and manner were warm, solicitous.
“No,” was all Kate said, continuing to back toward the other side of the road.
“Kate, who is it?” I asked. The stranger kept coming, moving toward us with his hand out toward Kate.
“No!” she screamed this time. “It’s not possible ….” she whimpered.
“Kate,” I asked again – “Kate for the love of God who is he?” I demanded, the pitch of my voice rising. The other girls all stood stock still, mesmerized by the scene unfolding in front of them.
“You can’t be here…” she whimpered, reaching the side of the road now, her boots sinking into a bed of leaves, twigs cracking under her weight.
“Darling, I know it’s been a long time, but it’s really me – I’ve come back for you,” he advanced quickly toward her now, circling her waist with his arm and stepping forward into the trees and bushes that stood behind her. “I’m taking you home,” we heard him say, as they disappeared into the woods, Kate in his arms.
We stood staring after them. Moonlight shone on bare trunks and limbs, the forest floor a carpet of leaves shining in the moonlight. We could see clearly by moonlight into the woods, past low brush and fallen trees. We could see clearly that Kate was gone.