This is reading #26 of my coming-of-age 1980s horror novel, 12 Hours of Halloween.
The novel is available on Amazon Kindle for a dirt-cheap price. But you're also more than welcome to listen along with the readings on my YouTube channel:
When I arrived at the place where Wilma Court and Cider Mill Drive intersect (those streets are still there, as far as I know), Leah and Bobby were waiting for me.
Leah looked breathtakingly pretty in her Pocahontas costume: It was about what you would expect: an imitation buckskin tunic and skirt, with lots of tassels and feathers. She had even put a little war paint on her face—possibly lipstick and eye shadow that had been repurposed for the occasion.
“Hi, Jeff,” she said.
“Hi, Leah,” I said. Did she know how pretty she looked? Did she know that I knew?
Bobby, meanwhile, seemed to be much more comfortable in his pirate costume than I was, although our two outfits were more or less the same. He somehow seemed to be more in character.
“Hardy har har!” he said, in a funny voice that made Leah smile. “Last Halloween! Let’s go score us some booty!”
Trick-or-treat was just getting underway. There were kids walking among the houses, but not too many yet.
Most of them were significantly younger than us.
“Let’s go, then,” I agreed.
We saw nothing unusual for a while. I was more or less familiar with the houses that were close to the intersection of Wilma Court and Cider Mill Drive. A few of the neighbors even recognized Leah and me by name, though none of them recognized Bobby.
“Aren’t you getting a little old for trick-or-treat, Schaeffer?” one of them asked me, in a joking manner that was not entirely a joke. This was Mr. Daley. He had been one of my little league coaches two summers ago.
“My last year,” I told him. I almost asked him if he had been talking to my father. I’m twelve years old and I want one last trick-or-treat, I felt like saying. So shoot me.
“All right, then. Well, I hope you like Snickers.”
“Everyone likes Snickers.”
We were about halfway up Cider Mill when both the terrain and the houses grew more unfamiliar. I almost never had any occasion to walk so far in this direction; and this wasn't a route that I traveled often as a passenger in my father’s car, either.
We were walking up the driveway of a house with a yard that was decorated by fake headstones, when Leah spoke out:
“Hey guys, look: Those gravestones aren’t fake: They’re real.”
“What do you mean?” Bobby asked.
“Just look at them,” she said.
There were lights on in the house, which I didn't recognize, but which seemed to be a perfectly normal suburban split-level with a brick and aluminum siding exterior. Nor was I initially suspicious of the headstones. These were common enough as Halloween decorations. They were usually made of plastic or Styrofoam, and bore clichéd epitaphs like “R.I.P.” or “I’ll be back!”
But as I looked closer, I saw that these particular ones were in fact different, somehow; and I could immediately see what Leah was talking about. I broke away from Bobby and Leah and stepped out into the lawn, toward the five gravestones.
“What are you doing, Schaeffer?”
“Hold on, Bobby,” I said.
I crouched down in the grass, my plastic scabbard catching in the turf as I knelt.
The first headstone read,
Michael J. Hollis
1965 – 1978
“For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
-2 Corinthians, 2: 18
“Michael Hollis,” I read aloud. “Wasn't he—?”
But of course we all knew who Michael Hollis was, if we thought about it for a moment. Michael Hollis had been a thirteen-year-old boy, a student at Youngman Elementary, who had been struck dead two summers ago when he rode his bike across Route 125 one day without bothering with the crosswalk, nor even with looking both ways. The accident had occurred just east of Withamsville, and the tragedy had hit the local community hard. Michael Hollis had, by all accounts, been a good kid who had simply made one careless mistake.