“Mom, there’s a man coming up our driveway,” Daniel said, peeking through the slit in the living room curtains. He held an old Daisy air rifle in his hands, and he had learned how to use it. When he’d been in school, before it had shut down, he hadn’t been much of a tough guy. In fact, there had been one boy—Zane—who had ragged on him mercilessly every day since the beginning of second grade. But, the sickness came and his upscale neighborhood was overrun with those seeking food and supplies kept in the garage refrigerators and basement storage rooms of the big houses.
“Does he look familiar?” Daniel’s mother asked in a raspy voice. She’d been looking a little gray lately, and Daniel and his little sister, Leila, worried about her. They worried about who would take care of them when she no longer could.
“Is she going to die?” Leila would ask her brother, as they sat in the dark dining room, eating sugar on crackers by candlelight as their mother’s muffled retching seeped from beneath the powder room door. Daniel didn’t want to think about that.
“No. I’ve never seen him before,” Daniel said, watching the man approach. “He’s got a bag with him. An old plastic Target bag.”
Daniel’s mother crossed the room and took Leila in her arms. Leila, her baby, her innocent one. Since Daniel’s father had disappeared, having gone out in search of gasoline for their generator, three weeks ago, Daniel had taken over as the man of the house. It was his duty to protect his dying mother and his baby sister. Serious work for a boy of eleven, but he did his best.
A knock on the door made them all jump. Daniel looked at his mother through the gloom. Her shoulder-length brown hair was a tangled mess and mascara trailed from the corners of her eyes in charcoal streaks, making her look like some kind of deranged mime. She put a hand over her mouth, stifling a cough.
“Who is it?” Daniel shouted through the heavy oak front door. Leila hissed at him. “I have to see what he wants,” he told her. “What if he has news?” Leila hugged her mom tight.
“Trick or treat,” came the stranger’s answer.
Daniel watched his mom break from Leila’s embrace and cross to the door. She looked at Daniel, putting her index finger to her lips.
“We haven’t got anything,” she shouted through the door, grabbing a fireplace tool from its rack.
“Oh, no, please,” the man said. “I’ve got something for you.”
Their supplies dwindling, they were desperate for news from the city. Television was no longer broadcast, the Internet was down, there was no electricity. The neighbors had left a week ago.
Daniel’s mother motioned for Daniel to step away from the door. He did, but he raised his air rifle, covering his mom as she opened it a crack.
The man’s large green eye filled the gap.
“Hello,” he said to Daniel’s mom. “I know you’ve got young ones in there. I live down the road, you see, and I’m so sorry for them to have to miss out on the seasonal festivities. I’ve brought them some candy.” He shook the Target bag, making it rustle.
“That’s very nice of you, but unnecessary.” Daniel’s mother kept her foot wedged tightly against the bottom of the door in case the man tried to push it open. Though he said he lived down the street, he did not look familiar. “Do you have any news? From the city?”
“News?” he said. “No, I’m sorry, no news. But if you’ll just take these treats for the little ones…” His lingering “s” sounds were like those issued by a snake.
“No, that’s okay,” Daniel’s mother said.
There was a long pause as the two sized each other up.
“Well, you know,” the man said, “it is trick or treat.” His great green eye fell on Daniel and his gun hovering in the middle of the living room. “If you don’t accept the treat, there may well be a trick.”
Daniel’s mother slammed the door.
They heard the man laughing on the front porch. After examining the house, walking around it, inspecting windows and doors, he made his way back down the driveway. “I will be back,” he shouted with a smile.
It was full dark, and Daniel’s mother had fallen asleep on the sofa. Leila, clutching the handle of a ceramic chef’s knife, slipped out the front door on her brother’s heels.
“Are you ready? He’s kind of a big one,” Daniel said, pumping his rifle.
Leila nodded and wiped her nose on the back of her hand. Daniel thought maybe she was getting sick, too. He needed to find her some nourishment.
The pair crept up the cracked concrete driveway and settled behind the boxwoods beneath a large bay window, squeezing in between a big boy with a hatchet (“Zane,” Daniel said, giving the boy a nod) and a girl armed with a grilling fork.
“Look,” Leila whispered, pointing at the driveway, stifling a giggle.
The man appeared at the end of the driveway and slowly approached his house. The moonlight glinted off of the top of his bald head and made his eyes sparkle.
Then, the children descended upon him.
They each took home a few pounds of meat, and Leila never got sick.
“Trick or treat,” they said, popping Skittles into their mouths as they walked home, laughing in the dark.
Shannon Giglio is a writer of dark fiction and a former acquisitions editor for Evil Jester Press. She lives on the Georgia coast with her husband, author Peter Giglio. She has worked for CBS, Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions, dick clark productions, inc., and a couple of accounting firms. Her books, REVIVAL HOUSE and IDOLS & CONS, both written under the name S. S. Michaels, can be found on Amazon.com. Her third title, SHORT BUS HERO, will be available December 16, 2014 (Nightscape Press).