by Rhianna Urquhart, Age 14, Scotland
Artwork by Katie King
All children love Halloween, right? The dressing up, the flickering pumpkins with creepy expressions casting morphed shadows on the dark streets, and most of all – the sweets. I was never one of those normal children. I never wanted to dress up. I didn’t want to see the decorations. Scooby Doo was enough to keep me up at night, not being able to sleep. Growing up in my house, my irrational fear cancelled Halloween. We had no decorations. We had no pumpkins to carve. We left a big black bowl of sweets beside the front door with a note tacked on the front: Happy Halloween. Please take two or three sweets. There were always a couple of greedy kids whose grubby hands grabbed for more, but it didn’t matter. Halloween was locked out of the house, that’s what mattered.
You could almost say I ran away from Halloween.
You might wonder what caused me to be so afraid. It was the dream. I call it the dream because I always have the same dream every night. It always stays exactly the same.
In my dream the date is October, the thirty-first. There’s a corridor that seems to stretch forever. I’m at one end and there’s a door at the other. The lights are always off, but through the small windows in the door enough light drifts in to be able to make out a figure with a pointed hat on the other side. The figure alone is enough to set the back of my neck tingling. Three things happen almost simultaneously – there’s a man laughing, there’s a blood curdling, ear piercing scream for help, and the frantic scratching at the door begins. Slowly scratching turns to pounding. The figure is hammering on the door, desperate. The whole door shakes. Frozen to the spot. Sweaty palms. Heart racing. I want to run. I can’t.
The dream always ends with the door opening. That’s when I always wake up.
I’d grown up, but I hadn’t grown out of the dream. Halloween seemed to lurk in the corners of my mind; the fear was rooted in my brain. I may be twenty four and living in my own flat, but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared.
And tonight is my first Halloween alone.
I had a plan though. I was going to turn off all the lights in the house, and go to bed early after I came home from work. I’d set an alarm for ten, when the children outside had gone to bed. Simple, really. Except lying in bed, the noise of children laughing and screaming is too loud. And let’s face it – who can sleep at seven pm? I tell myself for the seven hundredth time not to be silly, and to switch my bedroom light on, and admit my plan has failed. Heart in my mouth, my feet hit the floor and I sprint to the light, half expecting a hand to shoot out from under the bed and drag me to a miserable end. I turn the light on and yell when something spiky sends pain up my foot. This is it, I think. I’m going to die. Looking down, I see I’m standing on my phone charger and remind myself to breathe. I remind myself that ghosts aren’t real.
I’m about to get back into bed but a deep menacing laugh booms outside. It is quickly followed by a scream. My heart rate picks up, air stops travelling to my lungs and I try and convince myself it can’t be happening. It’s in the wrong order, it’s not real. I don’t believe myself.
I have to prove to myself that my dream isn’t real. Maybe then it will go away.
Slowly I open my bedroom door, and inch out into the hallway, feeling for the light switch. I can’t find it in my panic. I can’t hear any noise over my heart thudding unevenly.
And then, I can. Scratch. Scratch. From all around me I can hear the scratching. I turn round and face the white door, where a silhouette of a person in a pointed hat stands. The hat is slightly bent at the top, a detail I don’t remember from my dreams. “This can’t be happening!” I yell, at the same time the pounding starts.
I try and remind myself to breathe. Instead I scream as the figure in the pointed hat continues to thump on the door. I want to run, but just like in my dream, I am frozen on the spot in the dark corridor.
The door handle turns. Why didn’t I lock the door? Why didn’t I lock the door?
I try to calm down. I decide that in a moment I’m going to wake up, as I always do at this point. I’ll be in bed, and I’ll have had my usual nightmare, and it’ll all be okay. I’m almost feeling confident as the door creaks open.
It hits me that this is not a dream. I’m not going to wake up, and I have no idea what is going to happen next.
The figure steps inside and heads straight for me. The figure is a girl. She is maybe eight years old. She is wearing a bright green witch outfit. Her tights are ripped. She has bare feet. Long, blond hair bounces on her shoulders. She looks up and grins, a horrible, crooked smile. I scream. Her grin widens.
The girl I am looking at, who torments my dreams, is me. I step back in horror, she moves forward. She screams. A firework explodes. Her cold hand grabs mine, and I see the ground rising towards me.
This is it, I think. I’m going to die.
“Halloween has you now,” the girl laughs.