It was an odd October morning when he arrived at my doorstep; the kind of morning that frames a beautiful fall sun against a black sky. The kind of morning that gives you a chill and wakes you screaming during a midday nap.
He was a preacher; or so he said. Dressed in black trousers and high gloss shoes accompanied with a black button-up shirt and dark hat, his eyes were as dark as his garb, and looking into them made you nauseas and weak. Something about him echoed greatness and yet, an equally horrible blackness surrounded him; a blackness that left my soul trembling and eyes watering as I stood defiantly in my doorway, resisting the urge to blink with every ounce of free will I could conjure. When he asked to come in, my mind screamed no. And then I blinked. Unfortunately the move had been made; he had taken a pawn. My stutters were not enough to dissuade him. He took coffee with sugar, which I made against my better judgment. I eyed him nervously and intentionally walked the perimeter of the family room to avoid him at all costs. Yet, whatever questions he asked, I answered.
The conversation began lightly; superficial and small. He asked about the weather and the town. Things drifted a hundred different directions and his questioning followed no conceived logical pattern. He would ask about me (my name in particular and from whence my family came), then switch to baseball, and then move on to politics or religion (he seemed curious about the church in particular). Yet something did not bode well. I sensed a growing climax in the conversation and it struck me like a ton of bricks.
The preacher’s eyes moved, but not in the traditional sense of the word. Instead of drifting or rolling, sliding or glancing, they simply moved. He was staring directly at me and the next moment, without blinking, I saw him staring at a picture of my wife. The motion made my stomach turn upside down and I nearly vomited. He commented on her beauty and asked if she was at work. I nearly said yes and then I caught myself. The nausea passed and I took a seat across from him; the first time I had felt comfortable enough to let go of the farthest wall in the room by free will. My mind walked down a hundred old paths and I saw her in a million places. Without a moment’s hesitation, the preacher mentioned something about children and I began to hear singing from down the hall. Suddenly I was overcome in a wave of memories and I pictured my wife beside me on the sofa. My two children, beautiful and innocent, played on the floor at our feet and we were all happy; together as a family. It passed slowly, their ghosts fading from my vision as I closed my eyes and forced them away. I felt a satisfying calm and I raised my head; I leveled my eyes with those of the preacher. I explained that she had died in an accident along with my children and he simply nodded his regrets. Something changed in him, though, as he watched me remember. Something in his eyes danced and laughed. For a moment it seemed he would share the great secret he held within him, but the look passed and he apologized, continuing his inquiries.
He asked again about my family’s origins. I told him we were from Scotland originally but that had been quite a number of generations ago. He said he was from out of town; a few miles south of Denver. Looking back, I would guess that may have been the only true statement he ever uttered. Except one.
He commented on the breeze as he left, putting his hat gently back on his head. It stayed, miraculously, and he took several steps before turning and staring through my soul.
“Halloween is always such a sinister time of the year. I think this one will be worth remembering.”