When I got home that night, I noticed the smiling jack-o-lantern in my front yard was crushed.
“Oh,” was all the reaction I could muster. A quick glance around the house revealed no other damage; I’d gotten off lucky for Halloween night in this neighborhood. I slid the key into the metal lock and slipped inside quietly. I caught a glimpse of myself in the gold-framed hallway mirror; my hair was disheveled and the makeup did nothing to hide the dark circles under my eyes. Dropping my purse and keys onto the kitchen counter, I kicked off my flats and filled a glass half full with Diet Coke. The bottle of vodka was frosty and I poured a little more than I usually would.
The shrieks and shrill screams from the party echoed in my ears as I reflected on the evening. Only one catfight (they’d worn the same ears and tail, and were pissed off about it), but I’d had to break up quite a few pairs who were getting a little too friendly. Middle schoolers are much more precocious than when I was in school. I tipped back my glass and finished it off.
I refilled my glass and reached into my purse, digging around for my phone. It was 11:13; I could check my email, scroll through Facebook, maybe even play a round of Yahtzee, and still make it to bed by midnight… if only I could find the stupid phone. A memory flashed through my mind just then — Batman standing near the closet where teachers kept our personal things during the dance. The mask kept his (her?) identity a secret. Was it possible that one of my students had stolen my phone? Maybe even another teacher?
Finally, my fingers wrapped around the hard plastic case. I pulled the phone from my purse and unlocked the screen, and my stomach lurched. The photo on the home screen had been changed; I was looking into the eyes of a man I’d never seen. Smiling menacingly at me from the phone, his hand was held up in a wave, as if he were saying hello. But wait — I squinted and looked more closely at the image, and my breath caught in my throat. The man stood, staring directly into the camera. His hair was messy and despite the fact that he was smiling, there was something threatening about his posture. I was sure that I’d never seen him before. He stood in a dimly-lit hallway, right in front of an ornate, gold-framed mirror.