Story inspired by this lovely image by Alison Mutton; the original may be viewed here, on her blog.
At first, everything was fine, and Chris started to remember why he liked Halloween. Mrs. Birch was still giving out bars of soap, but then Mr. Franklin made up for it with his whole bags of treats, so that was all right in the end. Chris had almost forgotten he hadn't wanted to come out trick-or-treating when Matt started to turn into Alpert Court. Chris froze.
"What's your problem?" Matt demanded, turning around. "Come on."
"I don't wanna. Mr. Jackson's house is scary."
Matt rolled his eyes. "You're not still scared from last year, are you? You know Mr. Jackson always has the best candy, so come on." He started up the street, and for a moment Chris couldn't decide if he was more afraid of Mr. Jackson's house or being left alone. The rattle of the dried leaves in the tree over his head decided him, and he bolted after his brother.
Most of the porch lights on Alpert Court were out. The only reason anyone bothered to trick-or-treat here at all was for Mr. Jackson's candy, and only a very few - the well-informed - braved his house. Chris had been scared so badly last year that he had promised himself he wasn't going to go anywhere near Mr. Jackson's house this year, and now he found himself standing at the end of the walk again, distracted from the ghosts swooping around the porch by something in the tree in the front yard. He tugged nervously on Matt's sword.
"Matt, there's eyes in the tree. Matt!"
Matt flipped up his eye patch and squinted upward. "So?"
Chris swallowed. The tree, dimly lit by the flickering lights in the house, was occupied by a dozen glowing eyes scattered throughout the branches. The eyes seemed to hang in midair, peering down at the two boys in the yard as though waiting for them to pass beneath.
"I'm not going up there," Chris said.
"You're being stupid," Matt said. "Don't be such a baby." Giving Chris a push that nearly knocked him over, he ran up the path to the porch. He knocked on the front door and waved at his brother while he waited for Mr. Jackson to answer the door. Chris hunched his shoulders and listened to the wind knock the branches together, trying not to look at the multitude of eyes gleaming against the dark above him.
Matt bounded down the steps and ran back towards him. "That was great," he said, rummaging through his candy bag. "He's got loads of stuff because practically no one's come by." He stuffed a Snickers in his mouth and said, around the chocolate, "So you're too much a scaredy-cat to go ring the doorbell?"
"I'm not scared!" Chris clutched the handle of his bag tightly. "I'm not."
"Sure you're not," Matt said affably. "But you still won't go ring the doorbell, so I get to tell everybody you're a big scaredy." He grinned and leaned forward, a smear of chocolate at the corner of his mouth. "They'll all say you're a biiiiiig baby." He mimed sucking a pacifier and dodged Chris's punch, laughing. "Get up there, you."
Chris faced the porch. One step, two... He snuck another glance at the tree and closed his eyes.
"Move it, stupid!" Matt called, and Chris felt a pebble hit his cape. The impact startled him and he scrambled for the porch, ducking under one of the ghosts and running face first into a spider web. Panicking, he pounded on the door. After a moment, he heard shuffling footsteps inside, and then the door creaked open.
"Why, Christopher, Happy Halloween," said Mr. Jackson, holding a large tray. "Caramel apple?" He peered more closely at the boy in front of him. "Is something the matter, my boy? You look as though you'd seen a ghost." He chuckled at the joke and held out an apple; Chris took it with shaking hands. "What is it, Christopher?"
Chris took a deep breath. "Your - your tree," he said. "It's - it's got eyes in it!"
Mr. Jackson gave him a perplexed smile. "Why, so it does." He set down the tray of apples and picked up a bowl of candy. "I spent all of yesterday carving those pumpkins to look like owl eyes, you know, and got one of my neighbors to put them all up in the tree for me and light them too." He leaned out the door and studied the tree of eyes. "I think it looks pretty good, myself, don't you?"
"You mean they're just pumpkins?"
"Oh, my dear boy, don't tell me they've frightened you?"
"No," Chris said hastily. "'Course not. I wasn't scared at all. I think it's really cool. Thanks for the apple, Mr. Jackson, and the candy. I can't wait to tell my brother!"
He trotted down the steps and stopped halfway across the yard to look up at the tree. This time, it didn't look nearly so scary. They just looked like cleverly carved eyes, lit up from within by candles. Much more cheerful now, Chris took a bite from his apple and ran to catch up with Matt, deciding that maybe he did like Halloween, after all.