Adding a needlessly fancy flourish to his final pen stroke, the young researcher finished the latest entry in his journal. A giddy excitement lightened his features as he proofread his work, an entry on a species of bioluminescent wildflowers that he caught migrating from clearing to clearing in the dead of night.
He spent last night following their bluish-green glow and observing the way in which the organisms interacted with each other. Fascinatingly, he found that the flowers' roots behaved much like appendages when they upended themselves from the soil. A part of him still suspected a capacity for intelligent conversation within the precise way the flowers waltzed around each other, but he needed more time to observe before he could pull any assumptions. (Of course, the silly comparison that tickled his mind was of the dancing broomsticks in that old children's cartoon about the mouse and the magician.) Overall it was an illuminating and magical experience, pun entirely intended. The discovery of this species was also exactly what he needed to keep his morale up and his curiosity burning.
Since arriving here in Gravity Falls two months ago, he hadn’t encountered enough mystery. Sure, there was that massive tree ent that demolished his car on his first day in town— "Steve," as he affectionately called him— but past that incident, the woods remained suspiciously silent. Day after day he trekked under the evergreens' thick boughs and returned with not even a single page of notes. He swore the forest was messing with him... flashing shadows on underbrush when his back was turned, all its creatures falling silent when he settled in a clearing to wait and observe. He almost wondered if— if whatever weird creatures that lived in the woods were studying him. Perhaps they were probing for weaknesses, or determining whether they found him to be a threat. Conducting their own research on humanity in parallel to his...
He wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if he discovered that was true. If there was one thing he knew for certain this forest was teeming with life, its heartbeat pulsing with an avid tempo. However, precisely when its denizens would accept his presence in their habitat and reveal themselves was knowledge he'd yet to glean.
Ford leaned close to his journal and blew over the pages, wanting the ink dry before he moved on to other business. Satisfied that it wouldn't smudge, he gently closed the thick hardbound book and crossed into the kitchen. An orange tinted glow filtered through the window blinds, bathing the room in the sunset's calming ambiance.
He swung open the cupboard, a sudden craving for a hearty soup gnawing at his stomach. Hunger clawed at his innards with a ferocity he hadn't experienced since that one week in college he lived off nothing but stale tortillas and canned beans. Had he not eaten since last night's dinner again? Stanford sighed, running a hand through the thick curls of hair behind his ear. Damn. That was a devilishly bad habit to start, one he better nip in the bud. He grabbed the first canned soup he saw and a small pot to cook it in. The young man had just turned on the stove when something knocked against the exterior of his house.
Ford stiffened, and shut everything off. Did... did he hear what he thought he heard?
He waited, slowing his breathing enough for it to remain silent. His limbs twitched with unspent energy. Could this be it? Could this finally be his big break? Another creature to study and catalogue? The knocking noise beat against the wall again, this time in urgent staccato. Slowly, so as to not create a deluge of unnecessary noise, he crept across the edges of the wood floors— not yet settled— and nabbed his old polaroid camera from the table. Ford draped the camera's strap securely around his neck and reached towards the door knob, nerves alight with anticipation.
"Slowly," he reminded himself. "Don't want to scare it away..."
He gripped the knob and turned, pulling the door slightly ajar to peer out.
The researcher swung the door open wide, staring at the two young kids with his mouth rounded in surprise. One was dressed as some spandex-clad hero and the other as a rather macabre zombie, covered in fake blood. They couldn't be older than twelve. He could almost feel the adrenaline in his veins recede in the disappointing absence of a new creature. His brows furrowed. What on earth could two children want at this time in the evening, and how did they know he lived back here? No neighbors lived nearby for miles, and he'd only settled in Gravity Falls two months ago.
Ford smiled hesitantly. "Uh- greetings, kids! What can I do for you two?"
The kids shoved burlap bags forwards, and the speed of the movement startled him enough that he stumbled backwards on his heels.
"Trick or treat!!" they exclaimed, twin smiles lighting up their faces.
The costumes, the bags half filled with candy, it all made sense now. Well... it kind of made sense. This particular path of logic derailed when he remembered that it was late June, not October. After another second of deliberation he concluded that the kids were probably just having a bit of fun, trying to see who they could make a fool of. From the few excursions he'd made into town, a few of the townsfolk sadly appeared clueless enough to fall for such a trick. Lord knows he played equivalently dumb pranks on the neighbors as a boy. (Albeit not alone.)
He nervously clasped his hands behind his back and sighed, trying to formulate the best way to communicate this to the kids.
"Listen you two, I think it's wonderful you're having fun in the great outdoors like this, but it's still only June. Halloween doesn't come until October." Keeping a wary eye on their reactions, he added, "I'd also appreciate if you didn't trespass onto my property in the future."
The zombie kid whispered to the other one. Ford inclined his neck to hear clearer, and only managed to pick up the last half of it. Something about "he doesn't know," and "see, I told you he's new to town." Didn't know what?
"Common', just give us some candy, mister!" the one in the spandex outfit whined. "We walked so far!"
"But it's not Halloween," Ford insisted, perplexed.
"No, it's Summerween!" the zombie corrected. "It's all the fun of Halloween but in summer. We always celebrate twice here. And if you just give us some candy I promise we'll leave you alone!"
"We'll tell our friends to skip your house, too!" his friend chimed in.
The young adult rubbed a few fingers against his temple, beginning to find this whole situation infuriating. He was now utterly sure that the kids were duping him. Summerween?? Halloween, but in summer? Who had ever heard of such a silly idea? And these children had the gall to tromp all the way to his door and demand candy from him? Were all the children in town this tricky and exacerbating?
"I don't have any candy to give you," he said matter-of-factly, gesturing towards their burlap sacks. His stomach grumbled, thinking of the uncooked soup still in the pan in the kitchen. "I'm sorry, I don't."
His response must have struck a negative chord because the children began to whine and grumble at him, their increasingly angered outbursts overlapping one another's.
"Not even one piece?"
"You're just being mean, mister."
"This just plain sucks!"
Ford threw his hands to the side, his patience with the children all but shattered. "Fine!" he snapped, and paced to the kitchen to rummage in his shelves for any sweets he may have. If candy was the only thing that would make these insolent kids go away, then candy it would be. He was almost positive they were manipulating him, but he was far past reasoning at this point. He only wanted them off his front porch. With longing, he glanced at the soup on the counter.
His footsteps regretfully sounding a bit more furious than he intended, he found himself back at the door. Ford bit at his lip when he saw the children react in slight fear to his apparent anger, both backing away from the door.
"Here," he said gruffly, offering two small packages of black licorice to them. Black licorice he had fully intended to snack on later. He considered giving them some jelly beans since kids were more likely to enjoy those, but decided he was too selfish to give his favorite candy up. The licorice would have to do. “Stay safe in the woods. Good night.”
The children silently and hastily nodded their thanks and ran off with their burlap sacks between the trees, towards town. Suddenly feeling far wearier than any man in their mid-twenties had any right to be, Ford leaned against the doorpost, watching them fade into the thick underbrush.
Too distracted by the thought of his waiting dinner, he never noticed the kids throw the licorice to the ground at the outskirts of the clearing in disgust.