There was a knock on the front door. He awoke from his dreamless sleep, slowly, fumbling around for his glasses. He pressed the side of his phone to see what time it was. 2:30. Rap, rap, rap. There it was, three sharp knocks. He wondered if he should be worried. He shouldn’t, he decided. But just in case, he grabbed the tomahawk his part-Cherokee-crazy-uncle had given him as a Christmas present one year.
He walked down the hallway and parted the curtains to the left of the door. His breath fogged the window making a hazy circle three times the diameter of his mouth. His eyes reflected back to him above the circle of fog.
He could see nothing. With a deep breath he opened the door. “Hello?” he called.
No one was out there. He stepped onto the front stoop. Everything around him was dead and quiet. The lampposts flickered dimly along the street.
Freaking kids, he thought. He closed the door, locked it, and went back to bed.
In the morning he had a hard time remembering what had happened last night. He remembered the knocking, he remembered getting up, but not much else. Halloween was tomorrow, probably some early teenage prankers, he thought.
It was Saturday and so he spent a majority of the day raking leaves, arranging firewood, and spiking his hot apple cider with rum. His street was very quiet he thought. It was still nice, around sixty degrees and sunny, so he figured more people would be out and about today. But he barely heard or saw anyone the whole day. The streets were as empty as the community park in his suburbs.
Around dusk he started a fire in his woodstove and grabbed a book to read on the couch. He’d had about five cups of spiked apple cider and was feeling very warm and groggy. As the sun set outside he fell asleep, head on his chest, book in his lap.
In his dream he heard the knocking, but it was more distant, abstract, from another world. When he awoke the fire had dwindled to nothing more than coals and all the streetlamps shone through a slight layer of fog swirling the street. He put his book down and rose to look out the window. He saw no trick or treaters, no people dressed like cats or zombies. In fact he saw no one. As he turned around to lumber to his bed, he heard the knocking. But it wasn’t at his door, but across the street. He swiveled his head quickly back to the window. At first he saw nothing, then his neighbor across the street opened the door, “Hello?” his neighbor called. “Hello, who’s out there?”
The neighbor stared for a minute before he stepped out onto the front porch. Then, with a determined gesture he dropped the bat he was holding and walked confidently into the street and to the left until he was swallowed by the swirl of the mist and dim lampposts. The neighbor’s door was ajar, gaping like the dark mouth hole of skull.
He had a hard time going back to bed. He could not sleep. He wondered where his neighbor had gone.
When he awoke the next morning to make coffee, it took him a good fifteen minutes before he looked out the window and realized his neighbor’s door was still open. Some leaves had blown from the porch into the first few feet of his neighbor’s entryway.
He thought about calling the police but decided that there was some explanation. In fact, he didn’t know this neighbor or any of his others and so there could be a million explanations as to why a front door would be open. It would be presumptuous to make a scare about some neighbor you barely knew.
His neighbors didn’t know him either. He was not sure if anyone on this block actually knew anyone else. Did any of them know anything more about each other than simply what kind of car they drove?
As he went to bed the next night he had a strange feeling. Halloween was yesterday and he had absolutely no visitors. He wondered if people thought he was crazy, if people avoided his house.
Around one o clock he finally drifted to sleep when he was quickly awoken by three sharp knocks on his door. Rap, rap, rap.
He rose quickly, grabbed the tomahawk and ran to the front door to swing it open. “I’ll catch you tonight!” he thought. As he swung the door open he yelled a muffle “HAWW!” But it was in vain because once again it was quiet and dead. He shifted his eyes around the streetscape.
The cars, the trees, the lampposts, his neighbor’s door still ajar.
And then he caught a glimmer of light. It was from the house to the right of the neighbor with the open door. He saw two eyes looking at him. They were the normal eyes of a middle-aged man like himself curious as his breath fogged the window. And all of a sudden something to the left caught his eye. He couldn’t tell what it was, a dark shape of some kind. But in a swell of confidence that was both indescribable and powerful, he placed the tomahawk on his front porch and walked with a determined strut into the street. He felt the other neighbor’s eyes on his as he did this, he wondered if the neighbor would call the police if something happened. “Probably not,” he decided. I never called.
And with this thought he took a few more steps before he was swallowed by the swirl of the fog and the even dimmer lampposts, his door ajar behind him, the black cavern of his house gaping into the night.