Every Halloween it got worse. Trick-or-treaters wore meaningless plastic costumes, or slapped-on fake blood, or just t-shirts that said "costume."
Harold gave them candy anyway, but last Halloween had been the final straw. He'd just turned off the porch light when some kids showed up, not wearing costumes at all.
They looked bored, not saying anything, just expecting free candy. Little assholes.
"Here's some advice," Harold said. "Next time, wear costumes. Or at least say 'Trick-or-Treat'." He’d slammed the door. He was sweating. His heart raced.
He felt furious, but also, unexpectedly, afraid. Who wouldn't be, thought Harold, with that generation in charge of the future?
The next year, his wife handed out candy. She loved seeing the cute ones. Harold shut himself in his study, plotting against costumeless trick-or-treaters.
He could hear everything through his study door.
Doorbell. "Trick-or-Treat!" Laughing. Repeat.
The doorbell again. “Trick-or-Treat!”
"What adorable costumes!" shrieked his wife. "Get in here so I can see you in the light!"
Harold’s heart pounded. Sweat trickled down his face. He heard the front door click shut.
"Honey?" he yelled.
A thump in the front entryway.
The previous Halloween flashed through Harold’s memory. For the first time he saw every detail of those kids—unremarkable clothes, bland faces. Completely black eyes. Christ.
How had he not noticed?
Scratching outside his study door.
Harold googled "Black-Eyed Children," and protocols for when you've accidentally invited them in. Nothing. Nobody ever let them in, it seemed, nobody who’d lived to tell about it.
Black-Eyed Children weren't clever enough to trick anyone into admitting them.
At least not until Harold told them how.