I've never brought this story up, not even to my pals who were there that night. Pretty sure they'd rather forget about it, too. I can't help but think about it every year, when Halloween approaches.
We grew up in a simple small town in a time when us kids could run free without worry. Nothing mattered except getting home by the time the street lights turned on. The parks and the woods were our kingdom and we ruled, fearless.
That Halloween night changed everything. A heavy mist filled the air like walking through a cloud. I remember feeling the water droplets against my face. Cold and damp, yet exciting.
My pals got permission to stay out later for Halloween unsupervised as long as we promised to stick together. We had already trick-or-treated every house on our block and decided to continue down to the lower block for more candy.
There is a park just outside that neighborhood where we rarely played. It has a swingset with two cast iron sculptures on the top bar. One is a lion head and the other is the head of a clown. They are about the size of a jack-o-lantern and are similarly hollow.
Weather and time had peeled away most of the paint, making them creepy even in the light on a normal day. I'm sure they looked neat when it was built in the '60's, but not so much by the time we inherited the park.
Sometimes we'd dare each other to climb up to the top and reach into the mouth of either the clown or the lion to put something in it or to see what someone left. Those hollow heads with gaping mouths were not the only reason we rarely played in that park, but that's what took us there that Halloween night. A dare to reach into the clown's mouth.
I remember standing shoulder to shoulder with my pals on the sidewalk in front of the park. The last houselight on the edge of the lower block was barely visible up the road. The clown and the lion looking down at us with open mouths and peeling paint.
As if the ornaments atop the swingset weren't bad enough, it was the slide behind it that caused concern for every generation of kids who played in that park. A green s-curved slide stood behind the swingset. We all knew the story about the slide.
We froze in panic when something began rustling under the slide. I hope my heart never beats that hard again. We heard an unmistakable choked gurgle coming from under the slide.
Then something dark reached out and thrashed against it. Metal hit metal with a "tink-tink" and the gurgling grew into a wailing moan.
I dropped my bag of candy and ran toward home as fast as I could, with my pals doing the same. I'm not sure if anyone else looked back, but I saw her. The dark form scampered out from beneath the slide.
It staggered forward, grasping at its neck and fell. It crawled and reached at us. The gurgling cry will haunt me forever.
Years before our time there, a girl had been playing alone at the park. She had put on her dog's collar and leash to play pretend that she was a doggy. No one's really sure how it happened, but it seemed that she had climbed to the top of the slide and fell off. The leash had wrapped around the railing at the top and she was found there, hung dead.
The tales about her ghost under the slide had been passed along from generation to generation of kids who played in that park. I wonder how many stories about that slide have never been told. I've never brought it up myself, until now. I wish I could forget about it.