“It looks scary,” Llola said.
It did. It was a very old house, dark, dismal, decrepit and mysterious. The paint was peeling off the walls, and many of the windows were broken. The wooden front steps and veranda were rough and full of splinters. Llola’s Daddy said he thought they would break if anyone stepped on them. Sometimes, at night, from her bedroom window, Llola had seen weird lights in the windows. They would slowly brighten, and seemed to flow, and then just as slowly dim again, and disappear.
“I don’t think it looks so scary, “Sven said. “Let’s go look inside. I dare you!”
Llola had never refused a dare in her life, and she wasn’t about to do it now. Legs shaking, she took a deep breath and agreed. Slowly they approached, cautiously studying the decrepit building. It was just dusk, but that house looked really dark, like midnight. Both were quaking in their shoes, but neither one would admit fear, or suggest that this was a bad idea.
They reached the path leading through the tall weeds of the lawn and paused by the gate in the fence. It was open, hanging by one hinge and it and the fence, like the house, had nearly all the paint peeled off. Looking at each other, they took a deep breath, joined hands and walked slowly up to the steps.
“Do you think anyone lives here?” Llola whispered. “Only, sometimes I see lights at night.”
“I know, Dad said he saw them too. He said they look supernatural. That means something that is not from our world, he told me. Maybe there’s aliens in there, from another planet.”
At the foot of the steps they paused again, then hands tightly gripped, they went up the creaking steps and across the creaking veranda. Just as they were almost at the door, something inside moved, and the door creaked open. A claw like hand appeared, and then a man. He was thin, almost like a skeleton, only with skin on. He pulled the door wider, and started to step out, grimacing at them. Letting go of Sven’s hand, Llola screamed and ran, Sven yelling loudly and running behind her.
The man came out, calling “Don’t be afraid, children, I won’t hurt you. I’m just here to look at the house, to see if it can be fixed. My name is Mr. Johnson, both of your Daddies work for me.”
Half way to the road again, they stopped and looked back. Now they could see him clearly, they could see that he was not really so scary. He was dressed in ordinary clothes, though he was very thin.
“Mr. Johnson?” Llola said, “You were really sick, weren’t you? My Daddy said you almost died.” Sven nodded beside her. “Yeah, that’s what my Daddy said, too. He was really worried. He said you were a good boss, and he didn’t want to work for anyone else.”
Mr. Johnson nodded. “Yes, children, I was very, very ill. I feel that it’s a miracle that I lived. I am well again now, but it will take a while to gain back the weight. I know I look like a skeleton. He laughed as he came down the steps and walked toward them. Still not completely sure of him, they backed up until they were on the road again.
He joined them on the road, and they all walked toward their homes. Llola and Sven lived right next to each other, and not too far from the end of the road, so they were soon home. As they reached Sven’s house, they saw their Daddies on the front porch, and ran ahead to safety, calling “Daddy, Daddy!”
Both men looked around, and held out arms. Then they saw Mr. Johnson, and called out a welcome. “Come on up and join us, Mr. Johnson,” they called. He smiled and came, and they all shook hands.
“I’m afraid I gave your little ones a fright,” he said. “They were just about to investigate the ‘haunted house’ when I was leaving. I’m not sure, but I think they thought I was a ghost. Still, they seem to have recovered now. He smiled at the children who were clinging to their father’s hands.
“They were?” Sven’s Daddy said. “Whatever made you decide to go there, son?”
“I don’t know, I just dared Llola, and we did.” Llola nodded. “I wanted to see if we could find out what made the lights at night, Daddy. I see them after I go to bed, and they are really creepy.”
“Well,” Mr. Johnson said, “I can explain that; Teenagers. I found a smoke machine and a spotlight upstairs. They turn on the smoke, and when it gets thick enough, they turn the spotlight on in the hall, and move it gradually into a room. That makes the smoke glow, and any movement makes it move a bit. Really, quite ingenious. I think they have the making of good special effects people for spooky movies.” He laughed. “Does that help?” he looked at Llola.
“Well, no, not really. What’s a smoke machine?”
“Tell you what,” Mr. Johnson said. “Why don’t we all go there, and I’ll show you. It’s getting dark enough now – we can put on a show for the rest of the kids on the street!”
Both Daddies looked at each other, then at the children, chuckled, and said “Let’s – it sounds like fun! Wouldn’t you like to give the other kids a good Hallowe’en shiver, kids?” They grinned and nodded, so that’s what they did.