Vicky Melvin had just finished her homework when the door bell rang. "It will be Yasmin for me," she shouted. her blue eyes peered anxiously round the living door. Sometimes she was needed to run errands or to look after young Becky, her baby sister.
Mrs Melvin did not take her eyes off the television. "Don't be long. I don't want you out after dark," she muttered.
Vicky scampered off, before her mother could change her mind, stopping only to grab a packet of crisps out of the kitchen cupboard. The two girls were in their last year at Berridge Primary.
Yasmin's mother worked at the upholstery factory on and Yasmin went to her Auntie's for tea. Her Mum would not finish work until half-past five by which time it would be dark. Vicky knew Mam would shout at her when she got home late but it was Halloween and Yasmin said she had a brill. idea for some fun. Life had been pretty boring since Goose Fair. Anyway everything was more fun in the dark. She wondered what Yasmin's idea was. Perhaps they were going to gather wood for bonfire night. Sometimes orange boxes were left out at the back of shops or broken furniture in skips. Vicky had promised she wouldn't go 'trick-treating.'
"Remember when we visited that old people's home?" Yasmin asked as they walked up the avenue.
"Remember that old fellow telling us about the street games they used to play?" Yasmin grinned mischievously.
"What?" asked Vicky. "Do you mean when they kicked a tin can then ran and hid. But you need a gang for that."
"No, I'm not thinking of that. I mean spirit tapping. Come on. Let's do Ma Gregory!" Yasmin turned and ran down the next street. They always did this in case anyone saw them going in the wrong direction.
The grey mist swirled like patches of smoke as they reached the bottom of the hill and approached old Ma' Gregory's front door.
Vicky wasn't sure she really fancied the game. "That old man...the one who coughed every time he laughed said they used to tie the door knobs together before they tapped on the windows."
Yasmin stuck her tongue out. "There aren't any door knobs now silly. That was ages and ages ago. We'll just tap on the windows and run."
Vicky hung back, "They say she is a witch you know."
"Pooh," Yasmin snorted. She's just a nasty old woman."
"Still," Vicky protested.
"She kept our ball, didn't she? Just because it went over her wall." Yasmin cut short any further discussion by tapping on the window with her nails. Gnarled hands pulled aside the net curtains, a wrinkled face appeared at the window. Vicky screamed. The children's feet padded on the pavement as they ran. A man loomed out of the darkness. Yasmin ran full pelt into him. She would have fallen but for his hard hands clasping her shoulders.
Terrified, she twisted away from him.
"Hey! Come back here!" He shouted.
The two girls didn't stop running until they reached the edge of the forest.
"Come on," panted Vicky. We can cut through here. Yasmin followed her up the shadowy path.
The trees reached out their bare branches like skeleton arms. A loitering leaf floated wetly onto Yasmin's cheek. "It's scary," she said.
The words were no sooner out of her mouth than they heard footsteps echoing behind them.
"Run," cried Vicky.
They ran blindly up the path towards the top walk. Panting they had almost reached the top when Yasmin tripped and fell. She rolled down and down.
"Yasmin," Vicky shouted. "Yasmin where are you?"
Nothing could be seen through the deepening gloom. Muffling, choking yellow fog rose from below like smoke from a giant chimney. Cautiously Vicky descended the steep run.
"Vicky, I'm here." The voice came from beyond the next hump.
Suddenly, as Vicky ran down the slope the path disappeared. There was mud beneath her feet. She fell and landed by Yasmin's side. They clung together, cold, wet and frightened.
Then a brilliant light erupted followed by a shower of stars.
"It's a rocket," said Yasmin.
"Look," whispered Vicky. Further off grey shadowy figures were moving through the trees. High up a boy was swinging from a rope fastened to an overhanging branch.
"Let's ask if we can play," suggested Yasmin.
Vicky grabbed her arm. "No," her voice shook. "Look at their clothes."
Yasmin looked. The boys were strangely dressed. Their trousers reached just below their knees and they wore peaked caps. "Who are they?" Yasmin wondered.
"I think they are ghosts," Vicky squeaked.
"Don't be daft."
"Well, where has the path gone? Why are we standing in mud. And why are those kids dressed in clothes like they wore in that old man's photograph album? Vicky pulled Yasmin's arm. "Let's get out of here."
They began to climb up the bank of mud, up and up. Sometimes they slithered and fell. Just as they reached the top a light beamed through the darkness.
"It's all right," a man's voice shouted. "I've found them."
"Don't be frightened. It's the police," added the woman police officer as she reached his side. She held out her hands to the girls.
"Well, you two have got some explaining to do. Your Mothers are worried sick," the policeman scolded as he put them in the car.
"It's a good thing Mrs Gregory guessed where you'd be" the young policewoman told them. "How did you manage to get yourselves in such a mess? You're covered in mud"
"Down there," Vicky began-Yasmin kicked her ankle. "On the field," she added.
"Yes, that's right," Yasmin agreed.
"But the field shouldn't be that muddy. Why didn't you stay on the path?"
The two children stared at each other in dismay. How could they explain? No one would believe them, ever.