“Peter Scarsdale? I’ve come for you!”
Yep, I knew that voice all right. Even in my drowsy state of mind, newly woken, I recognized it as if I had been the one speaking. My wife's father, Amos. Her dead, he alive, standing on my doorstep.
"Peter!" he called again through the door. His fist, strong and heavy as I knew it to be, slammed over and over again against the door. Knock knock wood, strong and sure.
I thought I heard the sound of tears behind the impact, snuffling in the breaks.
Dad likes you Peter, I know it! Please try to become good friends...
Oh Mary. I...
....stirred my reluctant self, shuffled my unwilling body to the door. I opened it slowly, deliberate, ready to pull it shut at the slightest hint of a fist rushing toward my tear-stained face...
Instead I was engulfed in a hug by Amos's familiar, elephantine arms. I felt his bristled face against my neck and shoulder, wet with moisture. Like me, he had been crying.
"Peter, it's been quite some time. I'm...so glad to see you." I heard him say, muffled, into my shirt. I patted him on the back.
"Nice to see you Da...Amos...but could you let go? I can barely breathe!" I gasped.
He let go as soon as the words left my mouth, surprising me and nearly causing me to keel backwards, but I caught myself on my heels and righted. I took a minute to take the sight of him in. His face, I saw, besides being red and watery, was the same as I had known it. More lines though. Most wouldn't notice, but I did. Grief's mark, as it were.
I smiled. For this man, I could do it genuinely. "Want to come in?"
He nodded, wiping wetness from his beard. "Please."
And so we did.
"I think of her every day you know. It feels as if she were still here, but not. It was the same for my own wife for a time as well...and I-" He stopped, unable to finish.
I sat back in my chair, sipping the coffee. Black as space, bitter as the mourning, no cream nor milk. A fitting brew for just the two of us. "Mary...she told me we could be friends you know."
Amos nodded, smiling sadly now. "Yah. She said the same to me about you. At the time we met those years ago, however, I didn't feel that way."
I threw him my own grin now. "I could say the same you know."
We laughed for a time at that, reminiscing about the girl I had missed and the daughter he had treasured, but before too long there was quiet. And with it, I remembered what he had said upon arrival. "So, what did you want me for?"
He refilled our cups with java, still hot. "Hmn?"
"When you first walked up. You said you came for me. Why?"
I watched his gullet throb beneath that bone white beard. It seemed, oddly enough, smaller than I remembered. "To come visit the family of course. They want to see you."
I kept my stare blank, but sighed with relief inside. That was all? And here I thought it was something serious, or that I was accountable for something. Phew. "That...that's all?"
"Yah, that's all. Can you come? They've been begging me all year to get you down there, and since I was in the neighborhood, I thought it was the right time to ask-"
In the neighborhood. Hearing that, I suddenly felt cold. I put my cup down. "In the neighborhood? Why? Are you making a house call, or-"
I was cut off when he burst out chuckling. It reminded me, strangely, of a weasel from some cartoon. "House calls? No no, nothing like that. I am...I was, actually, inquiring about a person who came to the community. A preacher by the looks of him, dressed in black and all. He said some things, however, which frightened some of the children and women. Jeremiah, who saw him go, told me he had come from this area originally, so I-"
"Halloween is always such a sinister time of year. I think this one will be worth remembering." The smile that came with the preacher's words was cancerous, and in me arose the desire to jump from the highest turrent of the largest house, to die and fall and never walk again. Oh Christ oh God-
...the strangest thing. Peter?"
I snapped my head back, blinking. I couldn't stop blinking. "What?"
Amos watched me, eyes brightened with new concern. "You okay Peter? Your face is so pale-"
"What did he say? What strange thing?" I asked in a calm voice. I couldn't think of the preacher. To even remember those eyes of his was a risk in all itself, I couldnt-
Yet already the fear was here. I could feel it, hear it; Anxiety shot up within my chest, severing what little composure I had regained with a single, deathly snip of the scythe. I observed my shadow as it seemed to stretch across the room, fleeing from the sun at noon which shone in cracks in my windowblinds. The light, racing along the floor, reaching for a shadow larger than itself...!
"Just nonsense, absolute nonsense. Babbling about the hollowing of an eve and the raising of a god. The words of someone crazy, in other words. Why do you ask?"
It was from that point, I think, that my mind began to die.