The children were restless and their breaths quick in the chilly night air as they approached the long winding driveway that snaked around and up the hill. The dark seemed to swallow it up after only a few feet and they looked back and forth, meeting each others eye’s with a nervous jitter. A tunnel of scraggly trees buffeted all sides of the road, their spindly branches hanging above, seemingly grasping at whomever passed beneath. They had worked for weeks to prepare for Hallows Eve, enlisting overworked parents in stitching together costumes of cowboys, ninjas, video game heroes and even one of agent 007 himself. The anxious anticipation of the nights events had made them restless and none had gotten any sleep the night before. For days prior each child had begged their parents to let them go alone until their folks, exhausted by the constant petitioning, finally relented.
At long last, here it was. No one moved to step onto the narrow road that stretched before them, they all stood frozen and staring into the darkness. The children had purposely gone later so as to avoid all the troublesome packs of younger children and this strategy had apparently paid off, as all they could hear was the light scraping sound of wind blown branches. The haunting caw of a single crow, perched somewhere in that forest of shadows, cut through the silence and briefly startled one of the older kids. This path was notorious among the kids, it had a long history of strange tales that no one could ever seem to confirm or deny. However, a guy in high school, whom they all agreed was too cool not be taken seriously, had assured them that this was the place to be on Halloween. The place to prove once and for all that they weren’t chicken. “All we gotta do is make it to the top of the hill,” the eldest kid opined, his gloved hand shakily pointing to the grassy crest above. He was the first to step forward, pausing to turn around and grin with feigned confidence at the assortment of characters huddled in front of him.
They moved forward cautiously with the oldest kid leading the way in his ninja-themed attire. After getting no more than a dozen feet from the entrance one of the younger kids, dressed as a zombie cowboy, asked, “Did anyone hear that?” The burgeoning fear choked his voice ever so slightly. With a slight chuckle the older child shook his head and bade them all keep moving. They continued on down the unlit path, the gloom from the trees nearly oppressive in its prevalence. Rounding the road’s bend a small and primitive looking wooden bridge slowly came into view, prompting one member of the group to mutter, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” “Don’t be such a sissy, i bet you a million dollars theres nothing there” was the ninja’s quick response. To prove his point he jogged a little ways ahead of the group to the edge of the bridge and turned around to gesture, “See? Theres nothing. You can calm down now.” The children’s relief was audible and they strode closer, laughing and poking at each other for being afraid of nothing.
As the eldest child stepped onto the bridge he heard a faint rustling sound nearby, like something moving through the grass. Leaning slightly to peer over the side of the bridge and under his eyes locked onto something bright that was nestled at the base of the bridges support column. The shadow cast by the bridge obscured its features but it took only a second longer of looking before he saw a pair of amber-colored eyes staring intently back at him. A piercing howl suddenly rang out from beneath the bridge, followed quickly by a scrabbling sound as the creature moved towards them. Terror seized the ninja clad boy’s heart and he fell back, scrambling to get to his feet as the rest of the group screamed and ran back the way they’d come. They bolted away unthinkingly, driven by an intoxicating fear of the unknown and the knowledge that whatever was under that bridge was worthy of being feared. Nearly at the bend in the road a figure abruptly lurched out of the trees and blocked the children’s path. He had the fearsome horns and head of a bull and the body of a man, with blazing red eyes that were locked onto the group. A massive axe in hand, great gusts of breath visibly spilled out of him into the frigid night air, chest heaving as he slowly stomped towards them. The kids screeched with fright and ran back the opposite direction, adrenaline pumping each hurried step.
Nearing the bridge the ninja yelled, “We have to get across as fast as possible there’s no other way! Hurry!” Eyes wide with fear the group bounded across the bridge, careful to stay in the middle lest anything try to grab them on the way past. The bridge denizen growled in frustration as they all made it to the other side, and several kids gave a quick glance behind, just enough time to see the horned bull-man pounding his chest in anger some distance behind. They didn’t stop running until they got to the top of the hill, they couldn’t have even if they’d wanted to.
As their gaze surveyed their surroundings a large mansion loomed into view in front of them and before they knew it their panicked steps had carried them to the cavernous dimly-lit front porch. They desperately pounded on the door and yelled for help. For what seemed like an eternity silence was their only answer and they pressed their backs against the door, terrified of what could have followed them through the shadows. A voice from inside and the sound of the door opening suddenly shook them out of their single-mindedness, “Trick or treaters? Welcome! Here take some candy!” happily exclaimed a white-haired elderly man. The oldest child wearing the ninja outfit was in disbelief, “You mean..you’re not…you’re not going to kill us?” The old man roared with laughter before meeting the child’s uncertain gaze, “Let me guess, you’ve met my two boys? They spent their whole paychecks on those masks and it looks like they did the job. I wouldn’t worry about them, they’re vegetarians anyways.”