You ring the doorbell of the gatehouse and glance over your shoulder at the front walk overgrown with weeds and leafless wild roses, heavy with rose hips. Shadows creep closer as the sun sets, and you jump when the door suddenly opens.
"Happy Halloween! Come in." Quinn pulls you inside, smiling, cute in his pumpkin costume. "There's hot cider and pumpkin muffins on the side board. Help yourself! Everyone's here and Liam's already hiding in the graveyard. Ready to go find him?"
You load up on cider and muffins while Quinn puts on his pumpkin head. He ushers the group outside, but pauses on the step, hazel eyes serious behind the sweet mask.
"Liam's dressed as a skeleton," he begins, "But many specters walk the graveyard at night. Make sure you know who it is before you hide with them." Teeth flash in a smile behind the toothless grin of the pumpkin mask. "Wouldn't want to lose any of you."
The wind's picked up and blows leaves down the driveway with the rustle of mummy wrappings and dry bones. You glance at the manor house in the distance bur Quinn takes your arm. "Not that way," he says, voice firm. "Mustn't disturb Betterford's restless spirit."
He hustles the group in the opposite direction and soon you come upon the broken gates to the old cemetery. The sunlight's gone but the sliver of moon rises over the tombstones.
"Ready to play?" There's a gleam in Quinn's eyes, moonshine, and you suddenly remember he's a ghost as much as any of the specters you fear to meet this night.
"Repeat after me!" Quinn enthuses. "One o'clock. Two o'clock…"
A chill runs down your spine as if a cold finger touched you as the count draws closer to twelve.
"Eleven o'clock. Twelve midnight! Hope I don't see a ghost tonight!"
The group runs, scattering into the graveyard in search of the elusive skeleton. You shiver, realizing you're alone, and stop passed the cemetery gates. A gasp catches your breath. It's wonderful! The graveyard is bright with sunshine and laughter. Children run by in pumpkin masks and Dracula capes and witches hats. Pumpkin lanterns and sugar skulls hang in the trees.
Whether they are memories or spirits, doesn't matter. Love and happiness cling to the warm air and fill you with a quiet joy.
"Ghost in the graveyard!"
The cry shatters the moment and you're once again in the dark cemetery, alone. Someone's found Liam.
"Ghost in the graveyard!" rings out again and you run towards the sound. Wouldn't do to be last! You search frantically through the tombstones, not looking too closely into the deep shadows.
You stumble over a headstone and find yourself facing a crypt, doors flung wide, dark at pitch.
You hear a snicker inside. Now, the question is: do you enter or not?
P.S. Quinn says you can choose more than once. Happy Halloween!