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They say the man came in through the front door. That was the scariest part for the residents of Lakeview — he came off the street, through the entryway, up the stairs, and into the bedroom. No one ever saw him, not once. Three years in a row, during the golden hours of Halloween, those precious moments when the red and orange leaves blazed like a celestial bonfire. Kidnapped not in the dead of night, or from the street while trick-or-treating, but in the afternoon, for heaven’s sake! One child per year, for three years straight. He was never caught, and the poor kids — or their bodies, if the parent’s darkest dreams were confirmed — were never found. But the ‘he’ never materialized again, as if ‘he’ never existed at all.
I stared up through the towering oaks and smiled as the harvest sun flickered, those same broad leaves glowing with cozy autumn hues. I thought of Mother as she walked this same route eighteen years ago. I thought of Mother as she walked right up to my door, never glancing left or right, always staring straight ahead. Opening the door with purpose. Divine purpose, she would always say, stroking our heads, recounting the tale as we donned Halloween costumes. Every year, she would spend the morning decorating the windowless cellar, spindly fingers covering the walls with paper skeletons, scattering the ceiling with bright white cotton spiderwebs, placing plastic cauldrons overflowing with mist in each corner. On this day, Mother laughed; on this day, Mother was happy.
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