Lights Out

I had my legs kicked up over the arm rest of the tattered, leathery chair in my living room. I’d only been home for half an hour or so, and work had been hell that day, so it was far more comfortable than usual. The lights were off, all of them. I’d made sure of it. The kids would all be out trick-or-treating soon enough, and I didn’t plan on moving anytime soon. I wondered to myself whether they could see the glow of my television through the window, hoped they couldn’t.

Things were quiet for about another hour. The sitcom I’d landed on was hardly entertaining enough to keep me awake. I felt myself starting to drift off and decided to let it happen, but the doorbell rang and jolted me back into consciousness.

At first, I wasn’t sure whether it was real or not. Either way, I wasn’t about to get up. If I answered the door once, all the other kids on the street would see and then my doorbell would be going off for the rest of the night. They’d probably already moved on anyway, I figured.

A minute passed and the doorbell sounded again.

“Come on, kid,” I whispered to myself. I sat up a little straighter in the chair and noticed that the show on the television was not the same one I’d been watching before I fell asleep. That was weird. I thought I’d only been out for a minute or two. I leaned to my side in order to see the clock in the kitchen.

I was dead wrong. Hours had passed, and it was nearing midnight.

The doorbell rang a third time. Now I was nervous. The kids should’ve all been out of the streets hours ago, and if it were someone I knew at the door, they would’ve yelled for me by now. A flurry of possibilities swarmed my mind, each imagined figure at my door more unsettling than the last.

That’s when it hit me. Whoever was at the door, I’d fallen right into their trap. I could think of several of my friends who would take any opportunity to mess with me, and I’d let them get in my head.

I let out a chuckle. I felt like an idiot for getting so flustered and worried over what was probably nothing more than a half-assed practical joke. After a few deep breaths, I walked over to the door, unlocked the deadbolt and swung it open.

I expected my porch to be empty, assumed the prankster would be hiding somewhere around the corner of my house. Instead, I found myself face-to-face with a cloaked child. I knew it was a child because they only stood about four feet tall — I couldn’t tell exactly how old they were, because they were covered almost entirely by a dull, white sheet. Their eyes were all I could see of the kid, but I could tell from the look of them that they belonged to a little boy. It was the kind of generic ghost costume you’d see in a cartoon, but with a glaring exception.

Towards the bottom of the sheet, around where I figured his knees were, the material was torn and blood-soaked.

“Where are your parents?” I asked, a little frantic. No response. I looked into his eyes and they stared back blankly. I didn’t understand how the child could be so emotionless. There was a lot of blood on the sheet. More than should be there if he’d only taken a fall.

“Hey,” I said softly as I crouched down in order to make my eyes level with his. “Are you alright?” Still no response. “Listen… it looks like you did something to your leg. That probably hurts pretty bad, huh? If you take your costume off, I can clean it up and bandage it for you.”

Not a word, not a single, subtle motion. I looked him up and down, taking in everything, trying my best to figure out what was going on in the kid’s head. I noticed that he didn’t have a bucket for candy, and there wasn’t one anywhere on the porch that I could see. When my eyes fell back onto his, I realized something else: I hadn’t seen him blink even once in the couple of minutes he’d been in front of me.

“Okay, we need to take care of that cut. Let’s take this off, alright?” I reached for the sheet slowly, but he took a long step backwards. He finally spoke:

“I’m a ghost,” he said with a voice like a mouse. It amazed me how smooth his words were given the situation. “You can’t touch me.”

I was concerned for him, but I couldn’t help becoming a little frustrated with how uncooperative he was being.

“Fine, fine, keep it on. Look, just wait here, I’ll be right back.” I turned and made my way down the hall to get the first-aid kit I kept in the bathroom. I walked back down the hall and into the kitchen, poured a glass of water for the boy.

I turned around and saw the front door wide-open like I’d left it, but the porch was empty. He was gone.

I set the glass on the counter and went over to the door, which I shut and locked. I let myself worry about the kid for a minute, but I couldn’t help feeling relieved that I no longer had to deal with the situation he’d thrown me into.

I glanced at the clock and decided it was time for me to go to sleep, so I finished the glass of water and started towards my bedroom, but I saw something on the ground that stopped me in my tracks. When I picked it up, my fears were confirmed. The boy had abandoned his costume on the floor outside my bathroom.

“Where are you?” I bellowed out loudly. Everything about the kid had been peculiar, but now he was being downright disrespectful, and I was pissed. He didn’t answer, which only made me angrier.

I did a quick sweep through the bathroom and the closet across from it. Nothing. There was no way he could have made his way through the kitchen without me noticing, so my bedroom was the only place left for him to be. I flung the door open violently and searched every part of it, making sure to check under the bed and any other spot he could have squeezed into.

The kid was nowhere. Just to be sure, I went back out to the living room and looked around for him, but he wasn’t in there or in the kitchen. The deadbolt on the front door was still locked, so he couldn’t have left that way, either.

I’d never been so confused in my life, but I was just as tired, so I went to my bed and dropped my weight onto the mattress. It felt good to be off my feet after all the excitement. As much as I wanted to fall asleep, I couldn’t help spending some time to ponder everything that had just happened. I wondered who the boy was, where his parents were, what he could have possibly done to his leg. I let his words play through my head.

I’m a ghost. You can’t touch me.

I remembered how familiar his voice sounded when he spoke them, even though I was certain I didn’t know the kid.

I’m a ghost. You can’t touch me.

Oh well, I thought to myself. It’s over now, at least. I rolled over onto my side and found myself facing my dresser. On top of it was the boy’s sheet, which I’d placed there after I’d found it.

Now that it wasn’t so bunched up, I could see what I hadn’t before. The holes for the boy’s eyes were there, but the sheet was the same dull shade of white all around.

Not a single spot of blood on the entire thing.

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