13 Days of All Hallows’ Eve: “Face Fear”

“Nice costume, Mister!”

Davey’s voice echoed in the cold night, each word a white puff out of his mouth. The man’s cloak was sweeping along behind him impressively. Davey hiked up his pumpkin costume and went to get a closer look at the cloaked man; he looked so powerful and commanding, and the little boy was in awe.

But he stopped when he got closer. There was something about that face… something unhuman, unearthly maybe. Slits for eyes and a nose like a snake’s. And out of his eyes came the most murderous stare. Davey stopped in his tracks, paralyzed by the man’s face.

Davey felt like he couldn’t breathe. His blood turned to ice. It was like looking up at every nightmare, glowing like a swimming moon against the dark night. The man fixed Davey in his petrifying gaze, and Davey was sure those eyes were red.

“Wait, Davey!” his twin sister Lisa called, panting as she ran to catch up to him. She too was a pumpkin this year because Mom thought it was precious. Even at only eight years old, Davey hated being dressed as “precious.”

The man swept by, and Davey stayed transfixed until Lisa caught up to him. “Davey, what are you doing? Mum’ll be mad if she knows we went this far down the street!” She dragged him off toward the sounds of the high street, where the Godric’s Hollow Halloween carnival, the event of the year, was winding down. It was the night where it seemed magic could actually be real.

Not too long after, a flash of green light broke the sky. Lisa was too busy playing games at the carnival to notice, but Davey did. He wondered if the strange man had anything to do with it.

***

The next day, the strange collapse of the house was all over the news. Mom expressly forbid the both of them from going to see the ruin (which strangely, people felt like they hadn’t seen for a while… but of course it had always been there. Of course, it just blended in with all the other cottages surrounding it. They all looked the same after all…). The gas could still be leaking after the explosion, Mom warned sternly.

Mom’s warning, though, could not stop Lisa.

“C’mon, Davey, we’re just going to go stand on the outside and look at it!” she pleaded.

Davey wasn’t so sure. “Why do you even want to go, Lisa?” he fired back. “It’s not like it’s anything special! Plus, it’s getting dark.”

Lisa managed to tug him all the way to the gate before he planted his feet. “Please, please, please, Davey?” she begged. “I’ll be nice to you forever! I won’t tease you for a year! I’ll give you my pocket money for two weeks!”

There wasn’t anything like the promise of extra pocket money to get an eight-year-old boy to go to a ruined cottage.

At the gate, Lisa leaned forward, gripping the top rail. “What do you think happened?” she asked breathlessly.

Davey didn’t say anything. The cottage gave him a creepy feeling. He also kept remembering the face of the man in the cloak, and it made his blood run cold.

“Let’s get closer,” Lisa whispered.

“Lisa, no!” Davey called, but she was already clabbering over the gate and skipping up the cobblestone path. Davey looked furtively up and down the street and then decided he had no choice. He too climbed over the low wall and ran after his sister.

Lisa had gently reached for the door of the cottage, and she had managed to get it open just enough for her to slide in. Davey grabbed her arm. “Are you crazy, Lisa? You could die in there!”

His twin’s shining eyes said that she didn’t care. “Oh, come on Davey. Don’t be chicken.”

“I’m serious! Mom said…”

“Mom says you’re a chicken!” Lisa laughed, wrenching her arm out from his grip and disappearing into the dark.

Davey looked down the street again. There was no one in sight. What was he supposed to do, be a chicken and let his sister die? He took a deep breath and followed her.

The corridor was a wreck. It looked like pictures Davey had seen of bomb sites. A broken pram lay on its side. One wheel was still spinning slowly. A stair about halfway up had caved in.

“Jiminy…” Lisa whispered, her eyes wide. Her face was a pale circle that seemed to float in the shadowy hall.

“Let’s go, Lisa,” Davey whispered. He couldn’t explain why, but he had the feeling that someone else was in the cottage too, someone hiding in the shadows.

But Lisa was gone. Davey hadn’t seen her leave, but he thought he saw her shadowy figure up the stairs.

“Lisa, are you mad?” he hissed. She didn’t say anything. Gingerly, Davey placed a foot on the bottom stair. When it didn’t give, he started making his way up, wondering how Lisa had done it so fast.

The shadow at the top of the stairs hadn’t moved, and Davey wondered what was so fascinating to make his rambunctious sister stand so still.

Photographs covered by shattered glass lined the wall. Davey avoided looking at them; he felt like their eyes might be following him, watching him climb the stairs of this house, disapprovingly staring at every speck he disturbed here. Goosebumps covered his arms.

He finally reached the top. It suddenly occurred to Davey that something about Lisa’s silhouette didn’t seem right. It was around the same height, but this shadow seemed slightly larger…

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw the slit-like eyes of the cloaked man. Davey spun around, terror chilling him to his bones.

There was no one there. Surely he had just imagined it. Davey turned back to Lisa, ready to pull her out of the house if he had to. He knew for sure now that they shouldn’t be there.

The shadow was gone. However, on the floor, something seemed to glow white on the dark carpet. Davey reached down to inspect it further. It looked like some kind of carved stick, but it also had the shape of a long, thin, sharp bone. Davey reached for it as if enchanted.

Just as he did, two things happened in rapid succession. He again saw the terrifying face of the cloaked man, but this time, it seemed to rush toward his face. Davey shrieked and flung his arms across his face, just as an enormous rat ran across his foot. Davey yelled even louder and jumped, crashing into the rickety railing behind him. He swayed, gripping the banister as tight as he could, willing himself not to fall over it.

“Jeez, Davey, you almost reached the ceiling!” Lisa giggled. She was standing at the bottom of the stairs. Davey flushed and let go of the railing.

“Where’ve you been?” he hissed at her, angry. Her eyebrows shot up, but before she could answer, Davey had reached her. He gripped her upper arm tightly and pulled her out of the house as fast as he could, down the cobbled path, over the gate, and back to their own yard. As they marched down the street, Davey thought he saw a shadow of a man disappear from the upper window.

***

That was three years ago. Davey sat curled on one of the window seats in the circular room decorated all in blue and bronze, his mind spinning with everything that had happened today, but mostly from the story. The sixth year student that had led Davey and his fellow first years up here was crouched in front of the fireplace, eyes glinting in the dying light. The prefect whispered about “You-Know-Who” and how there were people who thought he was some kind of spirit, haunting the cottage where he had met his downfall, seeking revenge and vowing to take another body, or at least to forever haunt those that disturbed him.

Davey shivered and curled closer into himself, remembering the mask-like face of the cloaked man years ago. He turned away from the smoldering eyes of the prefect to the dark night outside the window.

Against the velvet black sky, a pale face loomed back at him.

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