The house is lit in orange and gold, the smell of pumpkin spice permeates the air. I walk from room to room, lighting candles, checking windows. It's cold out and I don't want a rogue draft to tip toe in and chill. In the living room, the fire is blazing, and I toss another log on just to be sure. The wind outside is howling, branches scraping the roof of the porch. The jack-o-lanterns are lit, the cobwebs are secured. I wait, a cup of hot cocoa between my hands. An old movie is on, you know, the kind with the old house, haunted by the spirit of a long dead sea captain.
Under a blanket I lie in wait for the first pitter-pat of feet. They come every year, the same time, without fail. Ever since I moved in I've been graced with their presence. On All Hallows Eve, when the clock strikes twelve, a gaggle of ghouls tromps up my front steps. I hear them, voices coming from the dark, whispering and giggling and adjusting masks and sheets. I wait. They shuffle up the steps, making soft sounds, like the wings of tiny birds, very unlike the children from my old neighborhood who would race up to the door and pound.
A tapping on the glass, a soft voice utters, "trick or treat". I smile and make my way to the basket in the foyer. Filled with apples and bread, crackers and cheeses, this is no usual Halloween fare. There's a chocolate or three for each one, but I know what they seek. I open the door, they look up eager, the only house around that welcomes them. No words are exchanged, just the treats. They look into their worn out bags, look up at me and smile through broken masks and tattered sheets. As they turn to go, one little girl rushes back and hugs me, clings to my leg sending a chill up my spine. I pat her head gently, feeling the wisps of her hair, like ice on my cocoa warmed fingers.
"Thank you," she breathes.
"I'll see you next year," I sigh.
I watch them go and the moon comes out, shining full on the little band. As the moon beams cross them, I wrap my blanket about me closer. You think I'd get used to it, the group of spectral children who come from the woods. But every year, as the moon light flows, I can see the trees of the dark forest through them. They turn, they wave, then, in a puff of mist, they are gone.