It was a lovely Fall afternoon, and what better time for a walk? It was Halloween, it had rained the night before, and the fallen leaves had left stains behind on the sidewalks which were revealed now that the leaves had dried and blown away in the sun. Of all the things about her favorite season, Fall, leaf stained sidewalks were her most favorite. Leaf stains, like ghosts of leaves. They stayed on the sidewalk sometimes for weeks. Nature’s own form of printmaking. She had one leaf ghost in her garage which had been there for years.
Wait, though. Did that one just move? No. It had to be a trick of light. A shadow.
She laughed at her own overactive imagination, but couldn’t help walking around the leaf ghost that had moved. It was shaped like a leaf man. Her eyes rolled at herself.
A leaf man.
Don’t be silly.
She stepped over it a little higher than she really needed to, and when she felt something touch the bottom of her boot, she almost fell trying to jump away in mid step. She ran a few steps. Stifled a scream. Stopped.
Oh, come ON. Don’t be an idiot. A stain on the sidewalk can’t touch you!
She turned. Stood at the crack on the sidewalk and looked down at the leaf shape.That was not a stain on the sidewalk.That was not one of her leaf ghosts. That was definitely. Definitely what? Alive? Leaf ghosts are not real. They’re just stains left behind by dead leaves.
Maybe so. Maybe it was just a stain, but the stain on the sidewalk was looking at her. There was a shadow of a smile. A literal shadow of a smile. On the face of a leaf ghost on the sidewalk.
Leaves don’t have faces. Stop being ridiculous. You’re imagining things.
Still, she could plainly see that the leaf was tilting his head at her and smiling. She tried very hard not to scream. To act like there was nothing amiss.
The leaf ghost beckoned to her to come closer. She shook her head. No. Why would she go closer? She didn’t want to be closer.
Stop being crazy! It’s a stain on the sidewalk. There is nothing to be afraid of!
She took a step closer to prove to herself that she wasn’t going crazy. She leaned down. The leaf ghost reached out to her, touched her foot. She tried to move back. Couldn’t. Her foot wouldn’t move. Her foot was rooted to the sidewalk. Rooted. Sinking into it. Breathing too quickly, she bent down to untie her shoe to free it from the sidewalk. The leaf ghost grabbed her fingers, and they too were rooted. She was being pulled in.
The sidewalk became pliable and stretched around her like plastic wrap. Concrete cling wrap, she thought. Her last thought.
She looked up and saw people walking above her on the sidewalk. She pressed her hands against the concrete.
“Look,” they said, “a leaf ghost! It almost looks like it’s moving. Don’t you love Fall?”