I was 18 when the little girl across the street went missing. It was Halloween night and her parents had decorated their house like a graveyard. RIP gravestones and skeletal hands and feet popped out of the ground while a smoke machine went off in the corner creating a misty eeriness throughout the yard. Strobing lights kept a steady pace as trick-or-treaters hastily walked up to the door for their share of the candy bowl. Sammy, the little girl who went missing, hadn’t come out of her house once, which was unusual since Halloween was her favorite holiday. She dressed up in one costume every week for the entire month of October and went to each door in the neighborhood with different kinds of candy to keep the spirit alive. This year she picked gold coin candy and KitKat’s.
Her parents seemed normal. They opened the door in their costumes, a green witch and a warlock, and passed out candy to each trick-or-treater, making puns about each of their characters. A little girl dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and as she ran away from the door, the witch called out to her “I’ll get you my pretty! And your little dog, too!” to which the girl laughed and ran to the next house screaming, “You’re never gonna catch me!” Normally this would have been Sammy running towards her parents from someone else’s house, but Sammy’s voice was absent this night.
I assumed she went to a friend’s house for trick-or-treating. She was getting older and probably didn’t want to walk around the same old neighborhood with her parents anymore. I had done the same thing when I was her age, so it didn’t seem unusual. What was odd was how she didn’t come to my house. Every year on Halloween, my parents threw a huge party with all of my family and friends there. Sammy and her parents would come over after the babies in the neighborhood would go to bed. She was a night owl and our parents had been good friends since I was a child. They were much younger, but far more mature than their age. Sammy loved attending the parties so she could play the games outside. We had “Bob for the Apple”; “Find the missing limb”; and “Pin the arm on the Zombie”–since she was younger, I let her win every time.
Even though I assumed she was with a friend, I expected her to come back for the party. But she didn’t. Her parents didn’t even attend. When I asked my mom about it, she said she noticed a difference in Mr. and Mrs. Bates. She said they had been peeping out of their front windows all day long and they changed their normal sheer curtains to blackout’s a month or so ago. She also told me they hadn’t been answering the phone for a few days and when they finally did, Mrs. Bates screamed at her to stop calling and to leave them alone. Although a day later, she called back and apologized telling my mother she was “going through something” and she “needed her to avoid calling for a while”.
I soon realized I hadn’t seen Sammy for a while. In fact, Sammy had been clear from the neighborhood for nearly a week. Not only had they changed their curtains so no one could see inside, Mr. Bates couldn’t stop looking behind his back and Mrs. Bates walked around biting her perfectly lacquered nails in what I assumed was nervousness. I began to suspect them when they didn’t show up to the party at their usual time, so I did what any nosy 18-year-old would do and I went snooping around their house. When I stopped in front of the graveyard I decided to take out my phone and pretend to take pictures so it looked less suspicious. I opened the camera and zoomed in to the small gap in the front window curtains and saw something I never thought existed. Mr. and Mrs. Bates were arguing and pointing fingers at each other. Their foreheads crinkled in anger and the veins on the sides of their necks looked like they were ready to pop out and spew blood everywhere. This argument was no joke and I was not about to get in the middle of it.
I guess I wasn’t sly enough, because a couple of seconds later, their faces turned, the curtain opened, and they stopped arguing. I pretended like I didn’t see them until they had opened the curtain to which I gave them a little wave and a sharp smile. They waved their hands to the door and I stayed standing in front of the graveyard. The door opened and Mrs. Bates began speaking.
“Hey Jessica, how are you sweetie? Want some candy? We have extra.” She sounded partially out of breath and partially like she was forcing the good to come out of her.
“No I’m alright, thanks. Where’s Sammy? I was waiting to play the games with her.”
“Sammy? Oh, um, she, uh, went to her…grandmother’s house. Yeah, she went to her house for Halloween this year. Maybe next time, okay?” She gave me a small smile and closed the door.
I knew something was up, but I didn’t want to make any assumptions, yet. I walked back to my house and into my backyard where all of the kids were playing games and fighting over who would get the last mini Hershey’s bar. Then I saw her. Sammy was sitting in a chair on the far left side of the yard crying into her fake bear paws. I walked over and kneeled down in front of her.
“Sammy? Are you okay? I thought you went to your grandma’s house.” She looked up at me; her eyes were red and her skin was pale and cold. Her tears created lines down her face, but when I touched them they were dry. This was not my Sammy. “Sam, whats wrong?”
“My mommy and daddy don’t love me anymore.” She began crying even harder.
“Of course they do, why would you say that?”
“Mommy doesn’t kiss me goodnight anymore, and Daddy won’t talk to me. So I ran away.”
“You ran away? To my house?” I couldn’t help but let out a little giggle because it seemed almost ridiculous to me that she would run across the street and consider it “running away.”
“No. I went to the woods. Down the street. I woke up here.”
“Woke up here?” There was no way she sleepwalked through the woods and to my house. “What do you mean you woke up here?”
“I mean, I fell asleep underneath a tree and when I woke up I was here.”
I wondered when she ran away, but I decided not to question her further in fear she would become upset. “Let’s go upstairs and clean you up a little bit. Is that okay?”
“Okay.” She sniffled and wiped away her tears. I picked her up and carried her up to my room. When my mother saw me she stopped me and asked why I was holding my arms that way.
“What? Mom, are you drunk already? Geez, you really are a light weight!” I laughed off her question and she walked away with a confused look on her face.
I took a warm washcloth and wiped Sammy’s hands and face with it. I turned around to grab a towel and when I turned back, Sammy was gone. I searched the house high and low, asking every single person inside and out if they had seen her. No one knew who I was talking about. I was so frustrated I decided to venture through the neighborhood to see if she had run off again. I never found her. And when I went back the Bates’s house, they kindly reminded me that Sammy had gone to her grandmother’s house for the night.
Now, every year on Halloween, Sammy sits in the corner of my parents’ backyard with her bear costume on, her face in her paws, and a soft moaning coming from her throat. After every party, I go to her, kneel down, and tell her it’s time to go home. She just walks away and disappears into the night, waiting to be seen the next Halloween.
Edited by Sabrina Loftus