Short Story
          BACK TO THE SHADOWS
                                          By Patrick Green

At six twenty-two p.m., Pooky yelped and leapt at the door, even before the
doorbell rang.
Rising from her rocker and her scrapbook project, Mrs. Tucker shushed the
Pomeranian.  Answering the door for the first gaggle of trick or treaters, she
expressed suitable delight at the pirate, the football player, the home-made
mummy, and the two identical princesses from some charming Disney classic
that she could not identify.  Pooky seemed satisfied, for the nonce, that there
was no threat, and pranced back to her post at the foot of the old armchair.
"Oh, you're all so precious!"
Beyond their masks and face paint, the children expressed surprise at
receiving the full-sized candy bars, the little baggies of popcorn tied with
orange and black ribbon, and the caramel apples with which Mrs. Tucker
weighed down their bags.
Mrs. Tucker watched as the kids shuffled off, feeling she was in charge of
them till they reached the safety of the minivan waiting at the end of the drive.
 She waved at the pretty young mother at the wheel.  As the van pulled away,
Mrs. Tucker listened to the sounds of the autumn evening.  The drone of a
truck faded on the distant highway.  Mrs. Tucker heard the rustling of orange
and red leaves, took in the smell of fresh decay carried on the breeze.
As this sound faded, Mrs. Tucker detected an odd new sound from the border
of hedges to her right.
At the edge of the yard by the road, the hedges shook slightly, long after the
breeze had passed.  A cat?  Or perhaps, Halloween tricksters.
Mrs. Tucker cleared her throat with just the proper timbre to show she was
aware of...whatever.  Still, she couldn't help but smile a bit.  In over thirty-five
years living in Westbrook, she'd never heard of any truly troubling incidents
out of the neighborhood's reasonably well-heeled children.
Mrs. Tucker pulled her shawl tight and stepped inside, back to her
scrapbooks.
By seven thirty-seven, several trick-or-treaters had come and gone.  Pooky
had settled into a routine of scampering to the door, huffing at each new band
of invaders, then returning to the chair, perhaps expecting the return of her
master even after these three trying years.
Outside, as dark drifted down like a cold blanket, the streets bustled with
activity; tricks, treats, laughter and squeals of faux fright.  Mrs. Tucker felt a
small yearning for the revelers to come closer, as they had when Edison was
alive.  How he had delighted the kids with lively, off-the-cuff spook stories,
personalized for each group.
Since Edison had passed, the Tucker house was less popular with each
Halloween.  Mrs. Tucker had tried to keep the enthusiasm alive, with the best
treats in the neighborhood.
Rustling again, in the hedges?
Pooky issued a nervous, plaintive growl.
Mrs. Tucker listened, peering past the still-thin veil of night.
At seventy fifty-three, Mrs. Tucker opened the door to find a supremely cute
fouryear-old boy in a Dalmatian costume, chaperoned by his twelve-year-old
sister who was half-heartedly made up in some sort of -what do they call it?  
Runt rock?  Punk, that was it.  A punk rocker, with green hair spiked up in the
middle, and a vinyl dog collar.  Or maybe it wasn't a costume.

"Hello, you sweet little puppy!" Mrs. Tucker gushed, rubbing the boy's head.  
His sister offered a sweeter smile than Mrs. Tucker expected, considering the
girl's disaffected affectation.
Pooky remained quiet, offering only a perplexed look.
The boy only had eyes for the candy, while his sister shot a quick, nervous
glance toward the bushes.
"What's wrong, sweetie?"
"Do you have another dog? A really big one?"
Mrs. Tucker stared hard at the line of hedges now drenched in darkness.
Without another word, the little girl grabbed her brother's hand and rushed
him away, cutting through the yard in the opposite direction from the hedges.  
Mrs. Tucker felt very alone and very vulnerable.  She turned toward Edison's
chair, knowing he wouldn't be there.
Pooky had retreated to the kitchen doorway, staring first at Mrs. Tucker, then
into the dark.  When the door was closed, she lay her head down upon her
tiny paws and essayed a plaintive whine.
Mrs. Tucker sat in her rocker till 8:40.  She had planned to re-organize her
scrapbooks tonight, perhaps hoping someone would ask her about the
project, at which point she could show off her work, talk about her family, and
have some company for a precious few minutes.
Looking up, she found Pooky at her feet, staring.
"Are you hungry?"
Mrs. Tucker knew Pooky wasn't hungry. Her bowl was nearly full.
No trick-or-treaters since the little Dalmatian and his sister.  Tonight,
Halloween was happening somewhere else.  Anywhere but the house of a
doddering old woman, whose far more entertaining husband had long since
A dog barked, just outside her door.  A large dog, larger than those of any of
the immediate neighbors.  Emboldened by the confirmation, Pooky added her
own squeaky woof Mrs. Tucker jumped with a start at Pooky's outburst,
tossing paper mementoes into the air in a confetti of panic.
"Quiet, Pooky!"
But Mrs. Tucker did not further admonish Pooky, glad to have the silence
filled, even as her little companion snarled and scratched at the door.
The barking of the big dog suddenly ceased, leaving only Pooky's
less-thanthreatening little pops.
Mrs. Tucker approached the door, listening intently for the big dog, too afraid
of silence to shush Pooky.  Her curiosity betrayed her fear, firing synapses to
open the door.  Pooky quickly backed away from the door, growling.
As Mrs. Tucker swiped at the light switch, she realized that it had been left on
to encourage trick-or-treaters hours ago.  Just as she realized that Edison
would not be at the old armchair when she repeatedly turned to it.
Pooky stayed behind Mrs. Tucker, quieting long enough to sniff the air.  She
didn't like what she smelled.
Mrs. Tucker took a step back from the door, ready to slam the door should...
an attacker attempt to rush in.
There was movement at the bottom of the hedges, very close to the house.  
And a slick darkness on the grass.
The movement stopped.  Was something waiting?
Mrs. Tucker eased the door shut, and fought to keep from calling out for
Edison.  She looked around for Pooky, and found herself oddly lonesome in
the dog's sudden absence.
"Pooky?"

Surely Pooky had merely gone to a safe dark place, perhaps under the bed
or behind the commode.  Mrs. Tucker made a quick check of these and other
tiny sanctuaries, though her knees and hips protested vociferously.  She
found wavy little hairs, but not their source.
She called and called, refusing to entertain the notion that Pooky might have
slipped past her before she closed the door.  Even so, Pooky would have
barked and scratched in short order.
Unless,... well never mind.
"There's something outside my house. In the bushes. And I can't find my dog."
Mrs. Tucker rolled her eyes at herself.  How that must sound to the jaded ears
of a police dispatcher on Halloween night.
"Has anyone threatened you ma'am?'
"...No."
"Has your property been damaged?"
"My dog, Pooky, she's...! can't seem to find her..."
"We're very busy tonight, ma'am.  We'll send a car by as soon as one is free."
"Yes. "
At precisely ten 0' clock, Mrs. Tucker hung up in resignation, and stepped into
the living room.  She called out for Pooky, and made kissy noises.  She had
not seen Pooky go out.  But Pooky was gone.
The front door, even with its dead bolt and chain latch, was little more than a
thin veil. Mrs. Tucker went to it, and opened it.
Somewhere, several blocks over, came delighted laughter.  Children and their
parents and those in between who loved Halloween not for the candy or the
pleasure of seeing cute little costumed creatures, but for the dark freedom it
offered, these revelers carried on with the abandon that Mrs. Tucker had
always only allowed herself to observe.  Edison, with his eternally adolescent
humor, had brought it much closer, close enough really, for this lifetime.
But here on this street, where the old folks lived, the porch lights were already
dark, and the indoor lights were reduced to just a television here or a
nightlight there.  The children in this neighborhood were respectful of their
elders, God bless them.
The wind rattled the leaves.  Something else rattled the shrubs.
"Pooky?"
Mrs. Tucker's voice was barely audible even to her.  Whatever was out there,
taking its sweet time getting to the house, was smart.  And dark.  And
inevitable.
Maybe this thing would take her to Edison, and ease the pain that would not
subside since she'd lost him.  Perhaps it was Edison, playing a final Halloween
prank before claiming her once more, for the world beyond.  Pooky, she
thought, might have already been claimed, and now she had only to allow the
circle to close.
Mrs. Tucker turned from the door, leaving it open.  She pulled her shawl
around her as October rushed in, and moved her rocking chair near the door.
 After a moment, she decided to turn it so that she would face away.
Ready or not, she thought it might be best not to see her transporter, even if
it was Edison.
At ten forty four, a tear rolled into the wrinkled comers of Mrs. Tucker's smile,
as she sensed something quieter than silence slipping into the open door.  
She placed a photo of Pooky from her puppy days on the last page of the
scrapbook, and eased it shut.
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