Everyone knows of the man that lives in the lone house, surrounded by nothing more than a field of weeds. No one has actually ever seen him come and go, but the whole community is sure of his existence. He's a spectacle that keeps everyone entertained in the rural area.
Saturday is Halloween night. It's the perfect time, in Lenny's eyes, to let his curiosity to get the better of him. Not many things scare him. The stories they tell about the man in the lone house is one tale that never gets old. People say that his face is marred and distorted, the most hideous thing a person could ever see or experience. But, no one has ever seen him, he's sure. Too many rumors have been told at school to make a definite description. The only time anyone ever recalls seeing anything was when the man decided to move in a few years ago. He apparently hadn't bothered to make his company known such as introducing himself to the few neighbors there were, including Lenny and his father. People just knew and he was too young at the time to care.
That night, before Hannibal had let him go to trick or treat with Oliver, he warned him with a warm tone of voice to his sensitive son in his mother's tongue. "Be careful," Hannibal heeded. His little one was growing up. "You're turning eleven soon. I know you don't want to be babied. Just stay with Oliver." He breathed and straightens his boy's periwinkle owl onesie.
The boys came face to face on the worn, makeshift sidewalk. It took Lenny a moment to recognize his friend in his get up. Oliver was dressed in a costume that probably cost over twenty euros, donated to the boys home. Along with the marker that covered his chin and the above portion of his upper lip, he was a pirate. "Did your dad suspect anything?" Oliver queried, glancing up at the large home his friend came from.
"No, of course not. We're in the clear, but let's actually get candy first." Lenny nodded and turned his attention to the pillowcase he'd been allowed to take from home. The two boys ventured from the few houses there were, especially the ones that had just a bowl out and unrealistic signs that read "take one". After nearly half an hour, Lenny convinced Oliver that they should head there now to the man's house. They had to be back by nine and he wanted to get the most out of the night.
Lenny was determined while Oliver would mumble questions wondering if his friend was actually sure about going. Lenny still didn't back down even when they approached the rickety steps and he climbed up onto the porch there, facing the door. It was dark inside as usual. Oliver stood back in the second step and Lenny took another step forward, listening closely until he heard the thud of footsteps. He flinched and went still, holding his breath. Lenny turned to whisper at his friend that he had heard something, Oliver doing the same to whisper back he had heard something too. Lenny clutched his pillowcase full of candy and came closer to the door before pressing his ear it and considering just ringing the doorbell anyway. If the man never came out, what difference would it make? He waited a while longer to keep his ear to the peeling paint and eventually pulls back. He reached up to press his fingertip to the doorbell and Oliver quickly hissed in a whisper. "What are you doing?"
"I'm gonna ring the doorbell," he whispered back before pushing the button just as Oliver rushed up to grab his arm. The hood of his onesie fell from his head and he waited to face the monster everyone preached about. "It's too late. Now we have to see if he'll come out." Lenny whispered again and takes a few steps back. The wood of the house crackled and groaned, settling as the little town cooled from a hot, sunny day. If it spooked a child it petrified the inhabitant. The old wood of the single staircase creaked loudly, each footfall marked by the thud of something dragged behind. A dim light filled the first story and filtered through the curtained windows. One by one, the steady footsteps grew closer. Oliver was starting to lose his nerve, but he couldn't leave Lenny behind. It had been a bad idea from the start. The monster was coming to get them now and they'd probably woken it up. He knew when he was woken up in the boy's home he was really cranky.
Lenny stood his ground while Oliver started to skitter back towards the steps of the porch again and waits there, ready to run off if need be at any point. The steps sounded slow, almost labored. As children, it just seemed terrifying. All the stories put in their head, they had no idea what was going to come of it. A bolt retreated from its niche with a faint click and the hinges clinging to the wood door groaned it protest as it was pulled back. What stood before them was not a monster, but a man, be it a particularly large man with an odd sort of breathing apparatus that was leashed to a roll-around tank. "I'm sorry," came the rasp, "I have no candy for you..." If anything, he looked genuinely repentant for not being prepared. Lenny stood there, slightly frozen in place and squinting when his eyes were forced to adjust. He blinked and he cocked his head back some so that he could look at the man. He sort of leaned in one direction to look around him to the tank. He recognized it from the patients he'd seen with his father before. The man wasn't a monster at all. Lenny felt bad and started to retreat from the door, backing away a little. His face contorted with worry that the man would become angry and Oliver waits there, standing his ground. They both had expected much worse. Yet, all the same, they stayed put waiting for something worse to occur. Mostly Oliver didn't want to leave his friend in case the man actually was a creature of the night.
"Sorry, mister..." Lenny chirped up and looks back at Oliver. "Your porch light isn't on. We know that means no candy." The looming bulk of a man only watched them, making no move to cross the threshold of the door or reach for them. He merely turned towards the primitive array of switches fitting in a panel against the wall. After a few tries with the delicate knobs, the lamp above them flickered on. He turned it off again when he considered what the small boy had said. Lenny could only watch what the man was fidgeting for and Oliver huffed impatiently before speaking up.
"Come on, Lenny. There's nothing here. He's just some guy." The boy called out before turning to start down the rugged makeshift path that was their sidewalk. Lenny stayed put though he heard his friend walking away and stares up at the man. He looked to the tank again, recalling the thudding and thumping before sighing. He lugged his pillowcase of candy over his shoulder with two hands around it and turns to start back down the steps. The disappointment of it all roiled off the boy and he was taking slow steps after his friend, not bothering to catch up.
The following morning, he found himself wandering around still in his onesie, and approaching the house where the man lived. He hadn't looked anything like he expected. He'd been sickly and he was sure even if he thought about hurting him and Oliver he couldn't have. Lenny didn't know why anyone would say such mean things about a person that couldn't defend himself, that didn't bother leaving his home to interact with any of them. Except him. He climbed the steps to the chipped door, the steps creaking underneath his weight. Before he could get to the door he heard something like a shouting hiss coming from the opposite house across the way. One of the witches from across the road was waving to them, it was Ms. Persley. They weren't actual witches, per se, not that plenty of kids hadn't already claimed to have seen them flying on brooms. Few people actually interacted with them since they never showed up to church on Sundays. She continued to flail her arm at him. "Come here!" she hissed.
"What?" He called back guiltily, knowing he'd been caught. Last night had been easier to blend in. In comparison to day time and nosy neighbors, of course someone had seen him.
"Come from over there, creeping on that man's property." Ms. Persley called again and waved a hand with a scrutinizing gaze, he noticed the closer he got.
"I just wanted to see him again. Isn't he sick?" The boy pushed his hood down and his hair shifted into place with nothing to hold it back. His father always told him to be careful around strangers, he just didn't consider old women and neighbors to be very dangerous. "Dad has patients like that. Says they have to learn to cope with their problems like dysfunctional lungs and cancer." Lenny nodded, confident in his words and the truths his father spoke.
"Come inside before the cold catches you." The old woman ushered him inside with a hand on his back and Lenny wrinkled his nose. Old people smelled like mothballs and aged perfume. "You're Hannibal's boy--Adaline!" Ms. Persley called and Lenny winced under her hands that now kept him put in place. His eyes wandered the expanse of what he could take in of the first floor. Everything looked like it belonged in a different time or more so the place hadn't changed or kept up with the present times.
"What!" A voice that rounded from a corner before the sound of a chair dragging against a linoleum floor screeched aloud and the shuffled of clothing and shoes tapping on the floor came closer, footsteps silenced once on carpet. Another witch, Lenny thought. "Who is this? Hannibal's boy? It's like he's been shrunken into a smaller version of that young man."
"I saw him sneaking about Bane's front porch." Ms. Persley said, nodding like she was proud for being the neighborhood watch. Lenny was starting to get frustrated and perturbed before Adaline--Ms. Olson, he learned, after she introduced herself properly to him--sat him down on their sofa.
"You're scaring the poor child, but I do think it is our job to educate him. Now, what's your name, child?"
"Lenny." He chirped up with a look of indifference and watches as Ms. Persley came to sit down on the opposite of him so he was midst both women.
"Listen, Lenny," it was Ms. Olson. "That man is troubled, you hear? No one has any business bothering him except when we have our Sunday tea."
"Except Sunday tea." Ms. Persley agreed, excited for the visit that was to come when their current company was gone.
"He doesn't breathe too well either. If you saw him you know that. You wouldn't want to give him anymore strain, right?" Ms. Olson asked and Lenny could only nod in agreement, his eyes large with anxiety. "You don't go over there bothering him. He has no family, but he takes care of himself and keeps to himself." The old witch pressed firmly and Lenny sighed. That was how the next half an hour passed. Bickering between the two women and being fed snacks and tea himself just so that he wouldn't be left neglected in their company. When it was time to go they all said their goodbyes and Ms. Persley saw him out just like she had seen him in.
Lenny stood there working his hood back over his ears now that he grew cold again and he stared at the house opposite that of the witches'. He swore he saw movement in the curtains, and the boy stared until he just assumed it was nothing. He skipped off and away from the house and down the middle of the road back home before his father could notice his absence.