The rain began after dusk. Vibrant golden-yellow, blaze-orange and blood-red leaves Karen had carefully raked into piles on her lawn became wilted masses of dull, brownish-gray, soaked mush. Through misty haze, the lights of every house on the block shimmered, beckoning neighborhood children to beg for candy in costumes that were pulled over thick layers of clothing that made them look like tiny Stay Puft Marshmallow men in disguise.
As temperatures plummeted, dagger-like icicles hung from power lines overhead, threatening to impale passersby and moaned like ghosts creeping in castle corridors as the wind brushed against them. Tree limbs encased in a glassy sheath howled as they buckled under the weight, snapping the icy black cables below like brittle twigs. Lights out.
Karen paced in front of her picture window, biting her nails, as she searched for any sign ten-year-old Adeline would return from trick-or-treating. The street was dark. She was nowhere in sight.
The icy-rain turned to sparkly white flakes that quickly drifted into deep mounds. Just as Karen decided to pull on her winter coat, she noticed Adeline trudging up the driveway’s small incline, struggling against the slick slab hidden underneath fresh powder, dragging her pillowcase full of candy sullenly behind her.
The blistering wind had whipped Adeline’s cheeks. A single, hot tear trickled from the corner of her right eye at the sight of her mother racing to her rescue. They crashed into each other and slid into a pile of snow.
“Mommy, can you come home now?” she asked softly, looking up at Karen with the same big, innocent brown eyes as she did the day she was born.
“We are home,” Karen replied, cradling Adeline in her arms.
“I want you to come home. I’m cold,” she whined.
The wet, heavy snow quickly deepened as the atmosphere above cracked open with a thunderous bolt of electricity that spider-webbed across the night sky. Karen leapt to her feet, but her legs slid out from under her.
“Mommy, stay with me,” Adeline begged.
Karen’s eyebrows dipped. Why would she say that? she wondered as she continued to pull at Adeline’s arms.
“Help me get you out,” Karen pleaded. “You have to try.”
“Mommy! Where are you?!” Adeline shrieked, clawing at the snow filling in around her face.
“I’m right here,” she said sharply.
The smoke-like plume of Karen’s breath clung to the air as her lungs heaved. Her fingers, blackened from frostbite, stiffened as she vied for a better grip. Adeline sunk deeper, plunging Karen forward.
Another, sudden, deep boom tore through the night sky. Thick flakes floated weightlessly in the air, speckling Karen’s hair, as she sunk her head low and stared into frosty crystals etching across Adeline’s eyes. She wrapped her arms tightly around her child and sobbed. Adeline was a ridged and lifeless little goblin.
“You stayed!” Adeline blurted.
Karen gasped. She could see their bodies buried beneath snow and ice.
“Are you warm now?”
“Yes,” Adeline replied.
“Good. Me too. Let’s go home.”