The doorbell rang, and Catherine answered it quickly. She opened the door to a silent and staring boy. After a few moments, she finally chimed in something.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” she asked.
The boy responded with more silence. He was older than most of the kids out and about collecting their candies, but not quite old enough to be a teenager. His clothes were old and worn. His face was dirty. Bits of broken leaves clung haphazardly to his body. He held what looked to be a real machete in one hand and a dirty pillow case in the other. The case was lumpy and possibly half-full. Its bottom was stained dark red and looked wet.
“Well? What are you supposed to be?” Catherine asked.
“I’m a head hunter.” He said it with such directness that it gave Catherine a small shiver. “Tonight’s the only night I get to collect more heads.”
“Yeah,” Catherine said. She grabbed a handful of candy and reached her arm out. “It’s a shame that aren’t more nights like that.” She stood with her arm extended, but the boy made no movement to come closer to the door. Catherine suddenly felt a strong desire to not cross the threshold.
“I can collect heads any time I want,” he corrected. “Tonight’s the only night I get away with it.” He held out the dirty pillow case and Catherine dropped the candy in. He ducked his head down to look below her arm. “Is that your cat?” he asked.
Catherine stepped back and placed her hand on the door. “Yes,” she said without looking. “Why do you ask?”
The boy stared intently for a while before looking back at her. His eyes seemed distant. She noticed there were more dead leaves scattered in his hair, and his face appeared to be spattered with dry blood. “Do you ever let it outside to play?” he asked.
“No,” she said immediately. “Never.” It was a lie.
The boy looked at her for a long time. From behind him came the sound of nearing children.
“Is that a real knife?” Catherine asked.
As soon as the question was asked, the boy turned and left. He never said thank you. He never said goodbye. A bumblebee, a pirate, and a fairytale princess took his place. “Trick or treat!” they exclaimed with smiles on their faces. Catherine smiled and happily added to their bags. When she looked up again, the boy was gone. She closed the door and gave her kitty a scratch on the head.
The next day the news broke that a young boy had been arrested for animal cruelty. So the story went, he would lure cats out from their hiding places with different pieces of candy and then severe their heads with a dull machete. The machete, apparently, was a former birthday present. The police found him shortly after midnight, sitting on the sidewalk counting the heads he carried in a dirty pillow case.