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Author's note: This is my entry for the Trick or Treat, Short and Sweet Halloween Writing Challenge 2023.

First of all, I want to say that I feel like Halloween can be really scary for kids, and that's not because of the costumes and decorations. It's because you're going out in the middle of the night, walking around far from home, talking to strangers at every doorstep. Of course it was still a fun holiday that everyone would look forward to, but I think there was a common uneasiness deep beneath it all.

Anyways, when I was a kid, I would get a weird feeling sometimes. It rarely ever happened, but I remember every time that it did. I'd be playing outside, just going about my day, when I came across a path that I'd never seen before. It was totally empty, and I couldn't tell where it lead. I would suddenly realize that I had wandered away from whoever was looking after me, and I was completely alone. For a brief moment, it was just me and this empty path in front of me. In that moment, I would be completely overcome with emotion; I can't define it as positive or negative, just that it felt important. Those moments always stuck with me, but I still don't know why.

Now I'm only explaining this because it directly ties to what I'm about to describe. See, back in elementary school, there was a popular story that kids would pass around on the week of Halloween. As the story goes, you shouldn't go out too long trick-or-treating, because eventually, you'll reach something you're not meant to see; a road at the edge of town. It was never described in any consistent way, just that you'll know it when you see it. They say this road is a portal to another dimension, one where everything is slightly different, like a bizarro-world. Once you go down the road, you can never go back. I never really understood what that meant at the time, but this story still struck a chord with me, especially because that feeling came most often in the fall when the weather was moody. For a while it took a lot to keep that off my mind every Halloween, but I eventually got over it and it rarely crossed my mind after that.

So fast-forward to 2014; I'm 11 and going out to trick-or-treat in my stormtrooper costume. I met up with my next-door neighbor, who was also my best friend at the time. For the sake of anonymity, let's call him James. It's me, James, and two other friends from school. We went around the neighborhood, hitting all the usual spots and occasionally getting checked in on by my parents. Our biggest concern was making sure to visit the houses that always give the best candy. After an hour or two, we'd stopped at every house we knew, but being in the oldest grade at our elementary school (basically full-grown adults), we all felt confident enough to push our borders a bit, so after James called his parents to make sure they were cool with it, we checked out some new streets. From what I can remember, we found some good houses, but nothing that exciting.

About 30 minutes later, we were at the end of a cul-de-sac and everyone was getting pretty tired, so we started talking about heading back. That's when I saw something weird; a gravel trail leading up a hill nearby. Normally I would've wanted nothing to do with something like that, but I was suddenly overcome with curiosity. I don't know how to describe it, it's like I was in a trance. I asked my friends if they wanted to go check it out, but everyone felt too tired to walk up the hill, so against my better judgement, I told them I'd be back in a minute, and made my way over.

The Dark Path

Reference image of what I saw that night. It's not the real thing, but it's the closest I could find.

I reached the top of the hill, and that's when I saw it; the trail kept going, leading straight into the pitch-black woods. I got that same feeling, stronger than ever before. In that moment, I had every reason to turn back, but I just couldn't. After all those moments I'd had, I guess I just couldn't take the curiosity any more. I continued down the trail, following it as it twisted and turned deeper into the forest. I should've felt terrified, but I didn't; for some reason, the presence of anything else on the trail didn't even seem like a remote possibility, I had no doubt in my mind that I was completely alone. For such a pivotal moment, I feel like every detail should be burned in my head, but all I remember is the dead silence and the silhouettes of the trees against the night sky.

Next thing I remember, I was back at the entrance; I must have gone in a full loop without realizing it. Whatever trance I was in faded away, and I made my way back down the hill. I expected to get an ear-full about how long I was gone, but my friends didn't say anything about it. We just went back, watched a movie together, and called it a night.

There were some minor things that I could've sworn had changed, like the color of my carpet and the name of the neighborhood park, but even at the time, I easily chalked that up to paranoia. However, thinking back on it now, I realize that was the same time when things started changing in my life. I don't want to get too personal, but I've dealt with a lot of things that I shouldn't have had to at that age. I often feel like nothing's ever been the same after that night. Not only that, but that was the last time I ever got that strange feeling; I've never had it since. I also never heard that same Halloween story again, but that could just be because people felt like they were too old for it at that point. Strangest of all, nearly everyone that I've told about this has had a similar story, including the dark turn of events shortly afterwards; I've heard stories of divorces, traumatic accidents, and even the deaths of loved ones, all taking place soon after they crossed the path, and all sending their lives down a darker track. It's a long shot, but maybe this is a place that none of us are from; even if we can't remember it, we all came here at some point, walking down that same path.

I try not to get too hung up about it; whatever the case is, I'm here now, and I might as well make the best of it. I suggest you all do the same, so please, enjoy the season, and every one after it.

Wishing you all a happy Halloween,

-Bucket :)

Written by Bucket28
Content is available under CC BY-SA