The Haunting of Halpert House
The wind was blowing dead leaves in graceful, swirling patterns along the sidewalk as Jim Halpert glanced out his front window. There was a trace of snow in the air. The streetlights had just flickered to life, but no trick-or-treaters had yet emerged from the other houses on the block.
With a sigh, Jim thought about the Halloween nights he had spent in this house as a child. His mother would fuss over his and his brother’s costumes and then send them out to scavenge the neighborhood. “Remember to say thank you,” she would say.
He missed his mother. He could picture her in the shadows on a night like this. He remembered the way her footsteps had sounded in the hallway, her voice as she sang to herself in the kitchen. The memory of the sound melded with the howling of the wind.
But she was gone.
Too many people were gone.
It was his first Halloween back in the old house. He was working from here, now—still covering his east coast sales territory despite having inherited a house in Scranton. He’d been home each year for Christmas and a few times in the summers since he’d taken a sales job in Maryland many years before, but he hadn’t been back in October.
It was strange. He’d forgotten the way the cold seeped into the corners of the house before he was acclimated to the winter weather. He didn’t remember ever noticing before the way the shadows flickered through the trees as their leaves drifted away. He was sure he’d never heard the creaking of the floor, felt the cold spots in the hallway, or sensed…
A flash of color passed his window—a bright pink winter coat over a princess costume. A knock at the door. It had begun.
Eventually, the kids stopped knocking. His bowl of candy was almost empty. He flicked off the porch light—any straggling teenagers would have to find candy somewhere else. Jim smiled sadly. This had been the most human interaction he’d had in days.
The wind continued, and the old house creaked. Jim stared around and waited. He paused for a moment, and then lit a candle. His eyes grew accustomed to the the flickering light, and he let his mind wander. He thought about the past.
The warm, loud, loving chaos he’d grown up in within these walls.
The cozy, familiar happiness he’d shared with his family whenever he visited after he’d moved.
The vivid, intense dreams he’d once had for this house.
He’d thought about someday buying this house, raising his own family here. Those dreams had swirled around one person. He’d left Scranton to get away from the pain of loving her, of longing for her.
Jim had fled to escape that pain. He had no idea what pain was.
“Seriously, if you left here, I would blow my brains out.”
Of course he hadn’t taken her seriously. Of course he couldn’t have known.
So he had gone. And so had she.
But he had sensed something ever since he’d come back here. And perhaps tonight, on Halloween…
And so he waited.
A chill crept along his spine. He felt the hair on his arms rise. Jim closed his eyes.
“Are you here? Pam?”
The answering draft blew the candle out.