When I retired, I moved out of my old home and shuffled myself into a neat little house at the final curve of a dead end street, my white-picket dream in the heart of suburbia.
Life was quiet there, for the most part. Kids played kickball in the street, and parents walked with strollers and big lolloping dogs that grinned and barked and shepherded children like cattle.
After a while, I became a fixture of the neighborhood, earning the nickname of Old Mr. Mack.
That’s not to say that I was the most loved figure on the street; my reputation, actually, was quite to the contrary.
I kept to myself, rarely talked to neighbors, and scolded the local kids if they kicked their soccer balls onto my lawn.
Older children dared the younger ones to run up and touch the side of my house while parents tutted over how lonely I must be.
I never hated the life I built there, however. In fact, I rather enjoyed it.
After the grueling emotional toll of my former job, some peace and quiet was most welcome, and I played the role assigned to me with gusto.
By the time Halloween rolled up, I was staunchly situated in my reputation as a scary old man.
The pranks that befell me that night were entirely expected, and the anticipatory terror that gleamed in the children’s eyes as I confronted them was exhilarating.
It was the same expression that most of my former clients had worn, and it made me almost miss my old job.
That evening, a sad-lookinig little boy came to the door to trick-or-treat. His father was well known throughout the neighborhood as a drunk who often yelled at his wife and young son.
The child was dressed in a homemade gladiator outfit that exposed thin arms blooming with bruises. As soon as I saw the hand-shaped marks, I immediately began formulating a plan.
By the time he had retreated down the driveway, I was resolute.
I waited until after midnight, until the streets had cleared and the porch lights had been switched off.
Wearing my old work uniform, I slipped out into the night, all but floating down the sleeping street in excitement.
I had been a little worried that I would be rusty, but it was like riding a bike. The father, probably in a drunken stupor, hadn’t locked the house’s front door, and I entered without a fuss.
I navigated through the dark home with ease unbefitting of an old man, and quickly found where the father lay snoring on the couch.
The fear in his eyes as he awoke to see my spectral form was spectacular. The strangled gasps for breath as I sucked out his soul folded into the most exquisite symphony I had ever heard.
At that moment, as I reaped that man’s very essence, I realized the truth: Death can never really retire.
But it was good while it lasted.