You

The idea for “You” came from a coworker’s desk calendar of practical jokes, one of which was to leave notes for people that just said — wait for it — you. And what better time to leave prank notes than Halloween? “You” was accepted (and paid for) by Brutarian Quarterly for the Halloween 2001 issue, but it’s not clear that this issue ever appeared. It still counts as a sale though! They’re my rules, I make ’em up …

There wasn’t anybody at the front door, just a big jack-o’-lantern with a kitchen knife stuck through the side. Hank could see the blade through the thing’s gaping mouth, the metal blackened by the flame of the stubby candle that guttered within. He stepped out onto the porch, the old boards creaking and groaning beneath his feet. Whoever had left the jack-o’-lantern had rung the bell and then vanished into the night like a coward.

He noticed a piece of paper pinned to the creamy orange rind. With one hand steadying the pumpkin, he yanked out the knife and dropped it off to the side, then picked up the note. It said, in big black letters, YOU.

Was that supposed to be a threat?

He blew out the candle, picked up the jack-o’-lantern, and took it inside. He put it on the kitchen counter, then went back for the knife; but it was gone. Whoever had left the pumpkin must have taken it while he was in the house.

Hank returned to the kitchen and spent a moment looking at the jack-o’-lantern. Probably just some kids picking on him; maybe they figured he was some kind of weird hermit or an axe murderer or something. He remembered his own childhood, when he and his friends had harassed old lady McGill simply because she never came out. They would ring her bell and run away, leave flaming bags of dog shit on her porch, unscrew the bulbs of her outside lights … whatever they could think of. Never anything as overtly threatening as this jack-o’-lantern trick, though; they were just having fun. But times had changed.

He had become old lady McGill.

And the kids had become psychopaths.

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