Chapter 3 (conclusion)
In another ten minutes we reached the Shayton Estates subdivision, where Leah and I both lived, but on separate streets. Built on converted farmland back in ’77, Shayton Estates represented the march of suburbanization into Withamsville. Bobby lived farther down Shayton Road, in a little rundown farmhouse that he shared with his mother, and a dog named Bluebell.
“See you later,” Leah and I both called after him, as we made the turn onto the main road of our subdivision.
“Later,” Bobby said, not looking back, but casting up a single hand in salutation.
Alone with Leah now, I felt that I needed to somehow maximize this time alone with her. But what could I say?
I naturally said the wrong thing.
“Listen, Leah,” I said. “If—if that bothered you back there, we don’t have to go trick-or-treating Friday. It’s okay.”
She stopped in the middle of the road.
“I don’t mind going trick-or-treating. Didn't I already say that I’m going to go? I simply don’t want to talk about—that—other thing again. Okay?”
“Okay,” I said. Jeez, I thought.
“Listen, Jeff: I’m sorry. But I don’t want to talk about that ghost boy anymore. Got it? And from now on I’m riding the bus home. At least tomorrow, anyway.”
“Okay, Leah,” I said. “You have a good night.”
“Have a good night, Jeff.”
We had reached Leah’s street, and she turned toward her house. After that exchange, I wasn't about to offer to walk her home (although I would very much liked to have done that).
The ghost boy had clearly upset Leah. He had upset me too, for that matter—and not only with his embarrassing secrets.
The rocks that I threw at the ghost boy had both found their mark, almost by accident. (In truth, it had been my intention for them to merely land close by, perhaps splattering him with mud.)
The ghost boy did not attempt to evade the projectiles, nor did he raise a hand in reflex, as most people would.
Leah, Bobby, and I had both watched in silent amazement as the rocks passed through the body of the ghost boy.
And when each rock passed through him, the ghost boy changed. For a split second he was no longer a boy at all: he was a rotting corpse with exposed rib bones, a grinning skull trailing remnants of long hair.
It was as if the rocks had broken whatever energy field sustained the illusion of an actual boy. That was the explanation I would give myself in the years to come, as I reflected back on that day by the little pond, when I threw rocks to avoid the revelation of uncomfortable secrets.
Those thoughts would become the reflections of a much older man, who could look back on the actual events with a certain degree of detachment. At the time, I pushed the few seconds of the nightmarish vision to the back of my mind. Truth be told, I was at that juncture more concerned with Leah: What would it take for me to move past my fear and make us more than “just friends”?
In a more normal year, my crush on Leah might have remained the defining event of the season. But Halloween of 1980 was to be a time of strange sightings for the three of us. And we hadn’t seen the last of them yet. In the very near future, it would be impossible for me to avoid confronting them.