📅 Published on June 12, 2022


Written by Dorian J. Sinnott
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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I’ll never forget the Halloween I moved to Westport. It was a rough year for me—just barely 12—moving in the hottest summer months to a new town in the middle of nowhere. Coming from the big city, the endless fields and forests were definitely new territory. Concrete was replaced with dirt and grass; skyscrapers, tall oaks. My mother assured me that I would adjust in time. That I’d feel more comfortable once I started school and made new friends. But, as the crisp September air set on the small town, I began to feel lonelier than ever. It was hard, being the new kid. And by the end of my first month of school, I had not one friend. Well… except for Annie.

I’d met her one day in the park after school, swinging on the swing set just beneath the old maple trees. Her auburn hair glistened in the afternoon sun, radiant like the freshly fallen autumn leaves. I still remember her smile, her deep cinnamon brown eyes and freckled cheeks. I remember her humming, kicking her legs higher and higher, lifting her into the air. I was hesitant to take the swing beside her, at first. And, quite honestly, was surprised when she acknowledged me when I did.

“Hi,” she smiled. “My name’s Annie… what’s yours?”

I glanced over to her. “Ollie…”

“Hi, Ollie.” There was a little laugh in her voice. “I haven’t seen you around the park before. This your first time here?”

I nodded. “Yeah. My mom and I moved here last month. I’m… still getting used to everything.”

Annie stopped swinging, dragging her feet through the dirt beneath the swing to come to a full stop. She looked over at me, smile never fading.

“Well, if there’s anything you want to know, I got you.” She winked. “I’ve been here my whole life. I know lots of the places around for playing games and stuff. I can show you some time!”

I felt a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. This was the first time anyone had voluntarily offered to do anything with me in this town. And, I thought, getting to know some of the best places to hang out would be a plus.

“That would be great,” I said.

We talked for a while longer, Annie asking questions about where I moved here from, what the city was like… all the basic new kid questions. I asked her a little about herself, as well. Where she lived, about her parents, what grade she was in.

“I just live with my dad,” she said, quietly. “And… I don’t go to school. Not anymore, anyway.”

“Really?” I asked, surprised. “How come?”

Annie was about to answer me, when I heard my mother calling from the park bench. It was getting late in the evening, and I knew she wanted to be home to make dinner. I smiled one last time at Annie, extending my hand in friendship. She took it, eagerly, and smiled back. It was only then that I noticed the bruises just beneath her shirt sleeve. I thought nothing of it—what child would—and said goodbye.

For the first night in what felt like forever, I was eager to tell my mother about my day. And my new friend, Annie.

For the next few weeks, Annie and I played together every day. I would find her on the swing at the park, humming, and waiting for me. And then, we would explore the small town, heading up and down old streets and between shops. Annie had a story about everything.

“My dad says it gets real busy through here this time of year. Something about ‘peepers’ coming through,” she said.

“Peepers?” I asked.

She made her eyes wide, making faux binoculars with her hands around them. “Yeah, peepers. I guess people from the city that come up here to look at the leaves changing or something.” She looked at me. “I guess that makes you a peeper, Ollie.”

While we spent our time hanging around the storefronts and at the park, our favorite place to go ended up being just at the edge of town. To a wooded area, what must have been hundreds of acres. We never went too deep into the forest, Annie warned me that there were wild animals there: bears, coyotes, and rumored cougars.

“I wouldn’t doubt it if the boogieman lived out here, too!” she’d say. “Probably out in a little shack by the creek.”

We’d sit out in the foliage, looking up at the gray skies hidden behind the bare branches of trees. Just talking. Laughing. Living childhood the way we all should. Free.

As it became closer to the end of October, however, I started noticing that the bruises on Annie’s arms were thicker. Darker. I didn’t want to ask about them at first—most kids had bruises. Even I had my fair share from falling off my bike or off of swings. But, there was something about Annie’s that didn’t seem right.

“What… what happened to your arm?” I asked, once I had the courage to do so.

I could tell I’d hit a nerve. Annie’s bright smile quickly faded, and she tugged her sleeve down to cover the dark marks.

“O-oh… it’s nothing…”

I didn’t question her further. Instead, we just laid together in silence, on our backs, atop a carpet of dead leaves. We watched the autumn gray turn above us, brushed by the skeletal branches—the first sign that winter would soon be on its way. After a long while, Annie finally spoke again.

“Sometimes, I wish I could move away.”

I looked over at her. “M-move away?”

“Yeah,” she said, feigning a soft smile. “Somewhere far away. Somewhere new. Where no one knows me. Where I can… just start over.”

I was silent. She rolled over onto her side, facing me.

“You’re lucky, Ollie. You’re free”

Looking back, I liked to believe that Annie got her wish. Her dream of moving away to some unknown place, new and fresh. We had been looking forward to Halloween all month, and were so excited to show each other our costumes. I went as a vampire—thinking it would be cool to get to use the fake blood capsules in my mouth. I’d seen the teenagers use them, and convinced my mother I was finally old enough myself to give them a try. And Annie… Annie went as an angel. Her white dress reflected the dim streetlights, making her stand out brilliantly against the shadows. I’ll never forget how she looked that night. Shining. Radiant.

It still gets to me that, that Halloween night was the last time I ever saw her.

I remember getting candy, laughing as we filled our pumpkin buckets. We rang doorbells, scrunching our noses at every raisin and popcorn ball tossed our way—and playfully arguing over which candy was the best.

“Well, I’ll trade three of my Three Musketeers for one of your Twix,” I’d said.

“No way!” Annie shot back.

When we were done in our neighborhood, we wandered to the edge of the wooded area where we played daily. Annie was quiet, gazing out at the trees. The darkness. I approached her, speaking softly.


She didn’t look at me. She was still for a moment longer before responding, low and distant.

“I should get home… My dad won’t want me out this late.”

I never truly got to say goodbye. Annie turned from the forest, from me, so quickly—and went back home. The next day, I didn’t see her at the park where we usually would meet. I sat on the swing for hours, clutching my bucket of Halloween candy, waiting for the trades we had promised. But she never showed.

Rumors began to spread through my school of kids who had known Annie, saying that she probably ran away. She’d spoken of it often. Ever since her father pulled her out of school. But I didn’t understand. I knew how much she longed to escape this town and the confines it left us in. But, I never thought she would just up and leave in the night. Without a word. A goodbye. At least, not to me.

I never stopped thinking about Annie, not even after my teen years. Adulthood. There always had been a feeling of loss when the leaves began to change and the air grew cool and crisp. And every Halloween, I’ve always wondered about her. About where she went. Why she hadn’t said goodbye. And, ultimately, if she found her freedom. Her happiness. And, if she ever thought of me.

This Halloween, I finally felt the excitement I had when I was a child. My son, Devin, was finally at the age where he could enjoy the day. In previous years, my wife and I always brought him around to a few of the local houses, but he was too young to really understand, or eat the candy. Now that he was 5, he definitely had more of the Halloween spirit in him. He chose his own costume this year—a dinosaur onesie—and had been more than excited about going around to get candy.

When the sun began to sink behind the hills, we headed out, flashlights in hand. Devin walked close beside me, his little pumpkin candy collector swaying at his side. We hit up the first few houses on our side of the street, making our way to the end of town, just beyond the storefronts. Devin was much more lively this year and into the whole Trick-or-Treating thing, and so, going the extra distance wasn’t as difficult as it had been in past years. A cranky toddler definitely didn’t stand well for being that far from home late at night.

As we made our way towards the end of the street, I could have sworn I heard a soft humming coming from behind me. I glanced back, expecting to find a trailing child, on their way for their last rounds before curfew set in; but, all I was met with was darkness. The distant street lamps burning in the center of town. I was still for a moment, keeping a firm grip on Devin’s hand, before I heard him begin to hum. That same tune I thought came from behind me.

“Dev’…,” I said softly. “You… you heard that, too?”

My son looked up at me and nodded. Again, I thought I heard that same, cheery, but at the same time, somber, humming. Only this time, it was coming from the trees. The wooded area just before us. I went to head back towards the center of town, back to the other houses on the opposite side of the street, leading home, when my cellphone rang. It was my wife, late at work due to overtime. I answered, focusing on the conversation and what I could around me.

“Hello?” I said. “Hey, honey… What? Another hour? They know you have a kid who you want to spend Halloween with. Couldn’t they find someone else tonight?”

Somewhere, too focused in our call, I lost track of time. Lost track of everything outside the conversation. Devin managed to slip his hand from mine, making his way towards the forest. I heard him humming, softly, in the background of my call, but failed to realize that he had stepped away. Stepped to the edge of the wood. Only when I hung up did I realize him there, as if in a trance, staring off into the wall of trees.

“Devin?” I hurried over to him, taking his hand back. “Devin, what have I told you about wandering off? It’s dark.”

Devin was quiet. He ignored my question, answering only with, “But… the girl…”

I looked around, unsure of who he was talking about. I hadn’t seen anyone near us—regardless of how little focus I had while on my call.

“What girl?” I asked.

Devin slowly raised his hand, pointing out into the darkness of the trees. Sure enough, there, deep between the branches and trunks, I could make out a figure in all white. And then, the humming. That humming I knew I had heard before. The tune my son began to mimic.

I felt Devin yank his hand away from me once more, this time hurrying into the trees, towards the figure. I called out to him, immediately following. The figure shifted, as if airy, floating away through the trees. But, Devin followed. I kept calling out to him, my heart pounding, flashlight frantically trying to light my path. It was only when we reached the edge of a rocky slope that caught up to my son, stopping beside him and scooping him into my arms.

“Don’t ever run off again,” I said sternly, trying to catch my breath—both from exhaustion and fear. “Do you understand me? What if something happened to you? What if you fell? Or got lost? O—”

Devin wasn’t paying any mind to me. He only continued to stare at the bottom of the slope. I slowly shone my flashlight down the leaf and rock ridden decline, the shaft of light catching on broken twigs and dead grass. Yet, just at the edge of where the light no longer could shine, it caught on something bright. White. Radiant.

I had to allow my eyes to adjust to the darkness, and the frail light my flashlight offered. But, what I saw, was no trick of shadow or light. It was a dress, once pure white, now tattered and torn by the elements—stained with dirt and mud and time. But, it wasn’t the dress that brought the feeling of dread to the pit of my stomach.

Nor was it when my son, tightly gripping my shirt, in a sad tone, said, “Annie…”

It was what was in the dress. That once pure, white angel dress. There was nothing left but old bones, skin rotten and decayed, graying, pulled tight. The eye sockets were hollowed out, every ounce of flesh shriveled or picked clean by the forest. Picked clean by time itself. And the blood. The dried blood, now browned and thick, that coated the neckline of the dress—staining down the chest. The only feature that hadn’t been warped, tainted, was the auburn hair that still clung to the thin scalp attached to the skull.

I felt sick. But, yet, I couldn’t remove the ray of light from the corpse. The corpse of the child, buried partly by old, decaying leaves. And by the town itself.

The next morning, the police took to the woods, excavating the body from deep within the trees. It was identified as Annie, the young girl I had befriended all those years ago. The one I last saw in that white angel dress, late one Halloween. They say she was murdered and discarded out there over the ravines—near the creek. Where no one hardly ever traveled. No one except us, when we were kids.

They suspected it was her father. The drunken old man who had pulled her from classes to “homeschool” her, when the worry of check-ins became too heavy. Too risky. When the bruises on her arms began to show. She dreamed of running away. Away from the town. Away from her father. The only real boogieman that ever existed.

When they finally closed the case and laid her to rest, I stayed beside the grave. Lost, and looking for words. But the only one I was able to find in that cold, autumn gray, was the one I longed to have said all those years before.

“Goodbye, Annie…”

Every Halloween, I still wait at the edge of the wood, like I did the night I last saw her. I wait for just before curfew, when the streets become quiet, and the last of the children head home to count their candy and turn in to sleep. Only then, will I hum that song that was once familiar to my ears. The one from the park swing, so long ago. And I wait. And wait. Until the echo rises from beyond the trees. Soft. Sweet. Often accompanied with the cool breeze, wrapping its way around my being.

I’m lucky, Ollie. I’m free.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Dorian J. Sinnott
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Dorian J. Sinnott

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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1 year ago

Omg, this is so sad. 🙁

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