It was one of those damp, brown autumnal evenings, where the leaves had fallen and begun to turn to beige mush underfoot and the drizzle-blurred street-lights tinged everything sepia and indistinct.
I walked home along the railway, the tall fence still decked with last week’s Halloween detritus. Half a gnawed pumpkin grinned macabrely at me from the kerbside, its innards gushing obscenely from the gash in the side of its carved face.
I pulled up my hood against the drizzle. It wasn’t half-past five, but it felt later. No-one else was around and my shoes thudded softly as I trudged the last miserable stretch to my door.
The house across the road still had their halloween decorations up. I rolled my eyes as I fumbled for my keys. That’s what you get, I thought, if you live in student-ville. Their Halloween party had driven Ken up the wall - he’d nearly gone over to tell them to stop their bloody screaming but I’d convinced him to leave it. He only ever made a fool out of himself with those lads.
Like last Christmas when he’d complained about the blow-up doll in their window wearing a sexy santa outfit, her dimpled cheeks and astonished ‘O’ mouth hidden behind a Santa beard.
It’s indecent he’d bellowed, juvenile. Dean apologised shamefacedly and then Mike had poured bubble bath mixed with glitter on him from the upstairs window.
I let myself into the dark hallway. Ken wasn’t back yet, so I picked up the mail: a postcard from Jill in Vietnam, a flyer for a play about a tapeworm, bills, more bills, adverts. Then a letter for the boys across the road.
It looked official. I should run it over. Perhaps I could mention the decorations - maybe they’d take them down before Ken got home. I scurried over, hunching against the rain.
The decorations were morbid. Plastic bats dangled, the sinister silhouette of the blow up doll pressed against the window through the curtain, as if trying to escape, spatters of fake blood smeared on the glass, trickling, coagulating on the windowsill. It was nearly a full week since Halloween, Ken was right, it was high time this lot came down.
I knocked for ages before giving up, then wedged it into the letterbox among the reams of junk mail. Students are disgusting I thought. And the house stank. It was vile
Then I stepped back and fell into the stack of rubbish bags that had been building up since before the party, flailing among the rotting food and empty booze bottles. I screamed with disgust and humiliation - how could they live like this?
When I saw the astonished face of the blow-up doll gaping through a translucent binbag I screamed again. This was beyond, I finally understood Ken’s rage.
I stood up, stinking, dishevelled and banged hard on the window, demanding they answer immediately.
Then the shape pressed against the window shunted sideways and toppled towards me with a thud. I saw the greying flesh of the dead boy’s cheek distorted against the glass, a single, terrified eye staring from his blood-spattered face, silently begging for someone to come and complain about the noise.