Come closer . . . closer

Her throat closed when she smelled gasoline and smoke. He’d come back for her. She couldn’t stop the whimper from escaping her lips. She covered her mouth, but it was too late. He’d heard. Rustling of pant legs came closer . . . closer. She ran to lock herself in the bedroom, but he had gotten there first. She screamed.

I like to write suspenseful scenes, and I enjoy reading the occasional spine-chilling book, if it isn’t too scary. My grandkids and most kids today feel the same. They like telling mildly spooky ghost stories, carving pumpkins, choosing a Halloween costume, trick-or-treating, and having ghoulish figures invite them to come closer . . . closer.

Youngsters throughout the world celebrate Halloween. Its origin can be traced back to the druids or Celtics from northern Europe, Britain, and Ireland. The Celtics annually held a Samhain festival on October 31, the last day of their calendar and a special day to honor the dead. They believed that the souls of the departed would be roaming the streets. By dressing up as spirits, the living could blend in with the demons. People would place tasty treats outside to keep the demons happy and prevent them from entering their homes.

Halloween is gaining popularity in countries such as Japan, Greece, and Poland. Mexico and other Latin American countries celebrate “Day of the Dead” which begins October 31 and lasts until November 2. It’s a chance to honor deceased loved ones and ancestors. Treats are often made in the shape of skulls and skeletons.

My oldest granddaughter was born on Halloween. She’s studying abroad this semester so she’ll celebrate October 31 and November 1, All Saint’s Day, in Rome. Italians place fresh flowers, mainly chrysanthemums, on the graves of loved ones. They also honor the deceased by placing a red candle in windows at sunset and setting a place at the table for any spirits who want to pay a visit. I hope her festivities include her favorite candy, chocolate.

Families across the US are planning on passing out candy this Halloween to costumed trick-or-treaters. Halloween is second only to Christmas in the amount of money spent on treats, costumes, and displays, according to the National Retail Federation. One year some of the trick-or-treaters visiting our home got a trick instead of a treat when my Halloween-loving daughter, Heidi, set up an elaborate display in front of our house. She’d persuaded her friend to lie on a table wrapped in a white sheet. My daughter had designed and colored the sheet to look like the stomach was open and intestines (cooked noodles) spilling out. She invited trick-or-treaters to come closer . . . closer.

The display was impressive. Too impressive. Several kids left too freaked out to realize they hadn’t taken their candy.

My husband and I won’t have an elaborate “operating table” with intestines spilling out this year for trick-or-treaters, but we’ll follow tradition and pass out candy. I’ll enjoy seeing the various costumes and the kids’ enthusiasm, but if things get too scary, if a man smelling of gasoline and smoke approaches me, if I hear his rustling pant legs getting closer . . . closer, I’m out of there!

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