Is Anybody Home?
rating: +49+x

Ding dong

Alice, Hailey, Sarah and Erin, waited in front of the house dressed as characters from that new season of Doctor Who. The teenagers all held out pillowcases with pumpkins and ghouls drawn on them in multi-colored Sharpie. The door didn’t open. Maybe this is why the group in front of them skipped the house. But the lights were on, and the porch was decorated.

"Maybe they fell asleep?" Alice asked.

"Oh, just wait a little longer," Sarah said, elbowing Alice a little, "No need to turn back so fast."

"I dunno," Hailey said as she looked around for other trick-or-treaters, "it is kinda late." The girls turned to leave just as the door opened. They stopped in their tracks and one-eightied to see a costumeless, middle-age woman with bags under eyes. The girls froze. The woman smiled and reached for a bowl next to the door.

"Trick or treat!" the girl shouted. They pushed back toward the door.

"Don’t you all look cute," the woman dropped small bags of gummy bears into each of their bags.

"Thank you!" And they scampered off the woman’s porch, continuing down the sidewalk toward the next house.

Alice checked back over her shoulder "Hey, wasn’t that Olivia’s mom?"

"Olivia?" Hailey asked.

"She went to our school until last year," Sarah explained.

Alice leaned in and hushed her voice, "I think she got expelled."

"Uh…"

The three other girls turned to look at Erin after she finally spoke. She stood with a slouch and hunkered shoulders to make herself as small as possible.

"We probably shouldn’t be talking about Olivia behind her back," she said, "We don’t really know why she left."

Sarah cocked her head to the side, "Weren’t you good friends with her?"

"Yeah, but… we haven’t spoken in a long time."

This caused Sarah to stop walking. The rest of the girls stopped too and looked at her. She took out her phone to check the time, which lit up a mischievous smile on her face.

"You want to see her?"

Erin avoided Sarah’s gaze, "Uh… what do you mean?"

“Well, she’s probably out trick-or-treating like us. I know we went as a pair last year. We can hide under her porch and wait until she gets back… and then give her the jump scare of a lifetime.”

The other three girls looked at each other to see if this plan was considered acceptable. Even Sarah knew it was a dumb plan, but it would require some consensus to determine if it was a bad plan. Erin shook her head, but Alice and Hailey just shrugged. It might’ve been dumb, but it sounded fun.

“Great,” Sarah declared, “Let’s go drop our bags off at my mom’s house and then head right back.”


The girls took up their positions underneath the porch at around 10:30. All of the lights in the house were off, except for one on the second story. They could make out the silhouette of one of Olivia's parents, sitting in a rocking chair, reading a book. This only gave Erin pause, but then again she was the only one who kept telling the group "this feels weird" and "this is a bad idea."

"Oh, c'mon," Sarah replied, "It's just a little joke. Besides, both of us want to know what Olivia's been up to this past year."

"I guess but—"

"No buts!" Sarah whisper-shouted. And thus the conversation was over. Alice took out her phone to text her boyfriend while they waited. Erin moved closer to the edge of the porch so she could bolt for it if they got caught. Hailey just turned to Sarah, whose gaze was fixed on the sidewalk so she wouldn't miss when Olivia arrived.

"What was Olivia like?" Hailey asked. Sarah looked over at Erin, who could've given a much more comprehensive answer if she wasn't refusing to make a sound. Sarah rolled her eyes. Coward.

"Olivia was— like she was cool. Like uh… remember that time in August when we convinced Alice's parents we were just going on a walk to 'finally spend some time outside'? And then we just caught a bus into town to see Superbad?"

"I still wish we saw something else," Alice said without looking up from her phone. Sarah didn't respond. She started getting caught up in the story, and forgot to keep herself to a complete whisper.

"Well… one time she one time tried to talk me into hopping on a train and just taking it to the next town. Not, like, buying a ticket, just jumping on a moving freight train!"

"Did you go?" Hailey asked.

"I didn't, I'm not that cool. But I heard she did. Took it all the way to Bensford where her parents were waiting for her."

"Woah."

Erin finally interjected, "You— you shouldn't be spreading rumors like that."

"Oh it's fine! It's not a bad rumor. She's just so cool!"

Creeeaaaaak.

Sarah cupped her hand over her mouth. The rest of the girls quickly retreated further under the porch.

Thud. Thud.

Someone was standing on the porch. The girls collectively froze.

"Rude brats."

Thud. Thud… Creeeaaaaak.

"Ok, maybe we should go back home," Alice whispered. Erin nodded in agreement.

"It's fine. They didn't catch us. First leaving the house earlier during trick-or-treating, and now this? Good things come to those who wait," Sarah replied. She tapped her temple to make herself look more wise, but it came off as just silly. It still worked though.

"Fine. We'll stay under here for a little while longer."

And suddenly Erin lost her energy again.

The four girls sat in silence for another thirty minutes. Hailey and Alice passed the time on their phones, while Erin traced the patterns on her costume. Sarah never took her eyes off the road. Somewhere, deep down inside, she knew that Olivia was coming. She didn't know how, or why, but she knew. Like how a child believes in Santa Claus.

Except, unlike Santa, Olivia showed up.

A beat-up, tan sedan pulled in front of the house. A girl wearing black jeans and a grey t-shirt hopped out of the passenger-side, and then leaned in to the car to tell the driver something. When the girl turned around, Sarah almost exploded with giddiness. Olivia looked just like how Sarah remembered.

Hailey and Alice immediately put their phones away to look on with Sarah. They waited for her to give the signal to jump out.

Olivia looked her house over like she was sizing it up before a fight. She took a moment to stretch.

"What's she doing?" Alice asked. Sarah promptly hushed her.

Olivia finished stretching and backed a little ways into the street. She counted down to herself, mouthing the words, "three… two… go". She bolted toward the side of the porch. She jumped just as she passed out of the girls' views. All they heard was the sound of a foot stepping on wood, and then a click, and the quiet sliding noise a window makes as its opened.

"Woah," Sarah said.

"We missed it!" Alice whisper-shouted, elbowing Sarah in the side.

"I'm sorry! I didn't expect her to somehow climb in through her window!"

CRASH.

Hailey, Alice and Sarah froze. Erin curled into a tight ball. The sound came from inside the house. Sarah popped her head out from under the porch. Now all of the lights in the second floor were on, and she could see two angry silhouettes crossing in front of the windows.

"Olivia Rebecca Lee! You come out here right this moment and explain yourself," the mother yelled. Then Olivia shouted something back, but the girls couldn't decipher it. A series of emotional shouts and angry yells and sobbing followed. Erin curled into a tighter ball. Alice, Hailey and Sarah just listened until it died down.

"Wait, no there she's coming!" Sarah pointed back out in front of the house. Olivia was walking toward the front porch again.

"On your signal."

Erin uncurled from her ball. She was confused.

"What?"

"Shhh. Olivia's coming!" Sarah replied.

"But she's already in—"

"SHHH"

It looked like Olivia. It walked like Olivia. Wait, did it? Erin couldn't tell. It was… it was someone. With the name Olivia. Who lived in this house. She was walking toward it slowly. Did she have shoes on? Maybe? Did she have legs? Erin couldn't tell. But she could feel something. She could feel its hatred for the house. The Olivia-thing stepped on the first stair of the porch.

"NOW!"

"No!"

Hailey, Alice and Sarah lunged from underneath the porch. Erin made a break for it away from the house. She ran. And she ran. And she looked back and saw nothing that made sense and kept running until she collapsed in the irrigation ditch five blocks down. She breathed in, and out, and in, and out, and in and— she looked back again. The whole house was— no. It wasn't there. Was it? Erin gained a second wind and ran again.

After ten more minutes, Erin stumbled her way up to Sarah's house. Her hands shook as she took out the house key Sarah gave Erin to hold on to, since Sarah's costume didn't have pockets. It took three tries for her to fit it into the lock and turn the door knob. She made sure to lock the door behind her. Luckily, she didn't wake Sarah's parents as she crawled her way to Sarah's room. She didn't know what she was doing anymore. Should she call the police? Maybe her parents? Erin wanted to go home. She wanted her mom. She fell on the floor of Sarah's room and wept herself to sleep. She had nightmares of empty attics.


When Erin woke up early the next morning, she slowly rubbed her eyes. The sun had just risen, and shot beams of light on Erin's face. She could remember last night, and almost cried again. She trudged her way down stairs to go tell Sarah's mom.

"Oh hey! You finally woke up!" Sarah called from the kitchen table. She sat there with Alice and Hailey, comparing candy hauls from the night before. Erin stood there, shell-shocked.

"We already sorted out your pile, I hope you don't mind," Alice said. Erin shook her head. Did she remember last night? Maybe that was just a dream… like the thing with the attics. In a half-dazed state, she joined her friends at the table.

"Also, how the hell did you get the gummy bears?" Sarah asked, "I don't think any of the houses were giving those out!"

"I uh… I got it from Olivia's house."

The other girls all exchanged confused looks.

"Olivia's house? I thought we skipped her house," Hailey said.

"Yeah," Sarah replied, "No one got candy from that house."

Erin threw out the gummy bears while the other girls weren't looking.

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