In retrospect, we should never have been trick-or-treating that Halloween night. Less than two months into our senior year in high school, we were way too old to sport costumes and beg for candy. Yet there we were, weaving through the neighborhood, trailing behind droves of younger kids. Amy was in her Cinderella gown and I in my pumpkin carriage garb.
We deliberately hunched over or stood on a lower step to make ourselves look smaller after we rang each doorbell. Occasionally an adult would grouse, "You kids are too old for this!" When they did, we would simply say "Sorry!" and turn off in another direction. No sense playing "tricks" in retribution, especially since we had both turned eighteen on October 2, and if there were any criminal mischief, we could be charged as adults.
Though Amy and I were completely unrelated, some of our friends called us "twins" -- not only due to our shared birth date, but because we had grown up as inseparable as twins. We were like brother and sister, only without all the bickering.
That fateful night was the first time since we were pre-teens that we had trick-or-treated. Perhaps the start of the final year of high school had stirred in us a longing for the simpler days of childhood. Perhaps it was the Halloween dare from one of our friends from school. Whatever the cause of our setting out on this All Hallow's Eve, Amy and I found ourselves having the time of our lives.
"Scott, this is even better than when we were kids!" Amy laughed in my direction. We were nearing the end of our neighborhood, the comfortable suburban sprawl where we had grown up as next-door neighbors. "You wanna keep going out of the neighborhood?"
"I dunno," I said. "It'll be getting dark soon." Unlike many Halloween evenings in our past, there was no rain and no chilly autumn wind. It was a dry and balmy eve, part of a nice stretch of renewed October warmth that once upon a time would have been referred to as a not-so-politically-correct "Indian summer."
"Come on, Scott – let's get a look at the old fart who's moved into the old Weatherby plantation," Amy chirped. "It'll be an adventure."
I wasn't too keen on using trick-or-treating as an excuse to gawk at some stranger who'd just moved into our town. "Parents of little kids won't be bringing them up there, Amy -- there won't be any camouflage. He'll call the cops. We'll be busted as overage candy-holic tresspassers. It'll be a waste of time," I complained.
"We won't know if we don't try!" Amy retorted. "Besides, part of Beth's dare was to get some candy from the 'ogre' that now inhabits the place."
"You know I've never been one to fall for being manipulated by other people's dares, Amy. I agreed to trick-or-treat with you because it sounded like fun, not because of a dare," I stated in my firmest brotherly older-twin tone.
Amy turned her lower lip down in a disappointed pout. A slight gust of warm wind pushed a few tendrils of her long, straight blonde hair up in the air into a somewhat silly-looking spike. Her eyes, a shade darker than a chlorinated swimming pool at dusk, were fixed on me in a silent challenge.
Had her Cinderella gown not puffed at the sleeves and hips to create an image of austere royalty, she might have resembled a little lost waif. My resolve weakened. Despite my belief that I was in the right, I fell into my usual trap of wanting to make her happy. She truly was the "little princess" -- not just the Disney brand, but the youngest-girl-in-the-family variety.
She could see in my moment of hesitation that my resolve was beginning to waver. "Okay, let's go -- but we're back here before dark," I ordered. The frills in her Cinderella sash crinkled between us as she gave me a quick hug.
"Don't worry," she quipped, "Nobody's expecting us, and nobody's going to miss us if we're late."
"Tardiness is not the point. I'm talking about safety. We don't want to be outside the neighborhood in the dark, on the shoulder of the main road with no street lights, possibly becoming the deer in somebody's headlights," I quipped.
Amy smiled her cutest waif grin. My heart always skipped a beat when she showed by that smile that I had done something to please her.
She had paid the price to get those well-aligned teeth. I remembered well those years of self-doubt that she had endured while sporting a set of god-awful silver braces. At first, I had done my share of teasing, but I soon stopped when I could see that it was really bothering her.
"We'll save some time by not stopping at every house. I'm really intrigued to find out what Beth was talking about with the old Weatherby plantation house. She made it sound really mysterious. We can just go there and come back home before the twilight fades," Amy suggested.
She grabbed my hand and started out of the neighborhood. My pumpkin outfit was beginning to weigh me down, but Amy's tug gave me just a tad of momentum as we headed up the hill. Houses on each side became more sparse as we made our way the three-quarters mile or so up to the Weatherby place.
As we turned off the road and walked up the gravel drive, the mood changed and our pace slowed.
"The place looks spooky to me," I asserted honestly.
"Yeah, it does," admitted Amy.
The brown brick house was massive and sprawling, with Gothic columns two stories high. Only one entrance faced the road. The entrance was on a raised porch, and a yellow bug-light spilled rays of golden light from just beside the entrance door. A few tattered Halloween decorations adorned the window beside the door.
I didn't see any lights on inside the house, nor did I see a doorbell to ring. "Maybe they went somewhere," I remarked.
"Maybe they just have thick drapes," Amy countered. "Scott, you knock on the door to see if they're home. I'll stand beside you with the candy bags."
I stepped first on to the porch, Amy making way for my expansive pumpkin carriage suit. The porch was made of wood, and as I made my way to the door I was vaguely aware that the floor of the porch reminded me somewhat of a giant picture frame.
"Go ahead," Amy encouraged. I had a queasy gnawing deep in my belly. Something just didn't feel right to me. Then I saw what appeared to be a giant door knocker, about three feet to the left of the door rather than on the door frame to the right.
Amy plastered a princess smile on her face, readying herself for the inevitable "Trick or treat!" if anyone happened to be at home. I reached for the door knocker and pulled it down hard.
What happened in the next few moments is difficult to remember, much less describe. At the split second that I slammed the door knocker, I heard Amy scream behind me. The porch gave way and dumped Amy and me into a room below, sort of like a cold cellar or wine cellar with concrete walls. Though we dropped about eight or ten feet, a thickly padded over-sized double mattress on the floor below kept us from serious injury.
Even so, I was momentarily disoriented. I checked on Amy, who was unconscious beside me. I checked her breath and vital signs -- she appeared to be okay. Maybe she had just fainted – there was no sign of head trauma or concussion.
I looked around the room to see more clearly where we were. It dawned on me that the illumination was not yellow, but rather a sterile white fluorescence from beside the lone door in the room. I looked skyward, expecting to see the porch light and tattered wood above us, but the floor of the porch was completely intact, forming the ceiling of the room!
It was then that I heard the Voice. "No, the porch did not collapse," I heard the Voice say. It was a voice like the one from the old Halloween spoof song, "Monster Mash": distinctly British, somewhat creepy, and with a hint of humor.
Amy was starting to come around, and I knelt down to help her up.
"Where are we?" she asked. She looked shaken but not badly hurt.
"Not sure," I said, "but we're not alone. Someone rigged the porch to drop us down here. Maybe it was the door knocker that tripped a trap door. We're somewhere below the porch."
"That's correct, my lad," said the Voice. "You two are now my guests. I trust you will stay at my pleasure."
That last part sounded ominous. The hint of humor was gone.
"Scott -- I'm scared," Amy said. Her ruby lips were starting to quiver. A tear leaked from her left eye and rolled down her cheek.
"Don't worry, Amy -- we'll be okay," I promised hollowly, having no idea that this was indeed the case. "I'll take care of you," I continued. I intended to do everything in my power to live up to that last promise.
"Who are you?" I bellowed to the Voice.
"My friends call me by my first name," replied the Voice, "but I prefer for my subjects to call me Master."
At this, I was experiencing a strange mixture of fear and anger. I tried the knob of the door, knowing instinctively that it would not turn. The hinges were not visible, obviously being on the other side of the door, so there would be no removing the door from the hinges to escape. I tried jamming my shoulder into the door, but quickly realized that it was of steel construction.
"Son of a bitch," I muttered, partly at the Voice and partly at the pain in my right shoulder from jamming it into the door.
"You need not try escaping," said the Voice, "you will not leave here until and unless I desire you to do so."
The threat was neither oblique nor veiled. His previous mention of "subjects" could have been a coy joke, but it was now clear that Amy and I had been kidnapped. Amy tried to suppress her fear, but her shoulders were heaving with unshed tears.
.... There is more of this story ...