“All Hallows’ Eve. Ghosts and goblins my arse! Any of those little bastards come knocking on my door and I’ll show them the true horror of Halloween.”
Tom Rankin lived a solitary life, never venturing further than the threshold of his own front door due to his loathing of interaction with others. Ever since he was persecuted as a child for allowing the class hamster to die whilst in his care, he has shunned any form of social interaction. Some say he keeps the stuffed animal on the hearth above his fireplace; however this isn’t true, and the whispered assumptions only add fuel to his hatred towards others. It is in fact pickled in a jar that sits on his bookcase.
He stood watching hatefully out through a narrow slit in the curtains, waiting for any poor unsuspecting child to wander up his garden path uttering those blood curdling words, “Trick or Treat”
* * * *
“Why did you have to bring your brother? He’s getting way more candy that we are!”
“I know, but my mom forced me.”
The three boys, dressed in makeshift ghost costumes from old sheets with holes cut out for eyes, worked their way from house to house in a bid to collect as much candy as they could possibly fit into their pillow cases. The trouble was, one of the three was smaller and used sticks to walk on account of his knees pointing inwards. He also had a curve to his spine causing him to always look like he was bending over. The other two boys believed this was the reason he was getting more candy than them, sympathy.
“Hey I know why don’t we get your brother to knock on scary old man Tom’s door? Bet you he won’t!”
“He’s retarded, not stupid!”
“Then I’ll dare him, no double dare him.”
Unseen by the arguing ghosts, a young boy covered by an old white sheet took his first awkward stick assisted steps up the path to Tom Rankin’s door.
* * * *
Tom watched from his concealed vantage spot behind the curtains muttering to himself,
“The little bastard!”
He ran to the front door in readiness of the inevitable knock that would shatter the peace and quiet he coveted so dearly.
Pressing his eye up against the spy hole, he waited, and waited. The young boy wasn’t the fastest of walkers at the best of times, and to be hampered by the covering sheet only slowed him further. It was much like the speed at which pumpkins are sold after Halloween.
Eventually there came the sound he’d been waiting for,
“Knock knock!” went stick on wood. “Trick or Treat” called a young male voice from the other side of the closed door.
The door flung open instantly and a deafening roar, so loud it stopped two ghosts who had been previously arguing in their tracks, erupted from the dark shadows from within the house.
“Cool roar Mr Rankin!” said the small child in front of him.
“That didn’t scare you? How did that not SCARE you?”
“Because it’s Halloween, everyone tries to be scary. Yours was a good roar though. Trick or Treat?”
“How about this?” he said stepping out of the shadows. “Does THIS scare you?”
The small child strained his head up from his usual downward gaze so as to see exactly what was supposed to be so scary, it was the face of a man that for so long had not been looked upon by another living soul. It stared at the boy with eyes full of hatred, teeth yellow and stained gritted through a snarl formed by dry chapped lips.
“Awesome makeup Mr Rankin!” the boy began excitedly. “But no, not scary,” he finished in a dry unimpressed monotone voice, his gaze returning back to the path below his feet.
* * * *
“What, is, he, doing?!” exclaimed one of the two ghosts that had been previously arguing, their full attention now locked on the youngest ghost stood talking to whoever was on the other side of the open door.
“I don’t know, but it looks like he’s talking to someone,“ said the other.
The two boys moved inch by inch closer to see if they could get a better look at who it was the younger boy was talking to. Given that stories were rife about Tom Rankin being either a cannibal or vampire, the nervousness they portrayed was understandable, and yet the prospect of actually seeing with their own eyes the enigma that was Mr Rankin, they continued to subconsciously shuffle forward towards his door.
“What do you think they’re talking about?”
“The price of cheese perhaps?” He punched his friend in the arm. “How the hell should I know?”
There ensued a flurry of exchanged punches between the two of them, distracting them just long enough so as to fail noticing the youngest ghost wander into the house and for the door to then shut behind him.
* * * *
Tom guided the young child from the shadows of the hallway into a candle lit room off to the right. It was filled with a plethora of antiquated furniture and curiosities, all of which were covered with a layer of dust only marginally younger than the items it covered.
“Young man you intrigue me. First you walk where others fear to tread, and then you gaze upon a face without being filled horror that I myself have become fearful of looking at. How?”
The young boy struggled momentarily to remove the old sheet that made up his Halloween ghost costume. Once free he paused and looked up at Mr Rankin,
“For most of my life people feared I would never walk. Now I can, why would I allow fear from preventing me walking somewhere? As for your looks, spending most of my day looking at the ground beneath my feet anything I choose to look upon I do in wonder and awe.”
Tom sat himself down in his favourite armchair,
“That is a rather complex physiological outlook for one so young. With an outlook on life such as yours, you’ll grow to be an astute member of society.”
The young boy returned his gaze back to the floor, trying hard to conceal the tears that had begun to form in his eyes.
“I should be going,” he spluttered as he stutteringly moved his way back into the hall.
“Why are you crying?”
Now out of the house and with Tom hiding once more hiding in the shadows, the young boy lifted his head once more,
“We are very much alike Mr Rankin. We are both looked upon by others as different, and yet I pity you.”
“You pity me?”
“Yes. We may both be shunned, but unlike you, I choose to battle the demons in others and do my utmost to adapt to the world around me. You Mr Rankin, you hide from the world and have allowed the demons that were once others become your own.”
For a moment there was silence as the young boy returned to his brother and friend, but was then shattered by a booming voice from within the house,
“AND STAY AWAY FROM MY HOUSE!”
The door slammed shut almost shaking it from its hinges. The young boy refused to speak of what he’d seen behind that door, nor did he again visit the house. Mr Rankin returned to his armchair with one thought pulsing through his thoughts.
“It must be a heavy head to carry, being so wise and yet so young.”
* * * *
There have been rumours that Mr Rankin had taken to venturing outside his house under the dead of night, but these remain unconfirmed. As for the young boy who once dressed as a ghost, he still hasn’t spoken of that night nor has he returned to the door of Mr Tom Rankin.