All down the lane you can hear the sounds of people drawing deeper into houses, taking steps and whispers with them. It is like a body in the cold, drawing heat into its center. Lose the limbs and save the heart, or some such.
I hear my mother pacing the kitchen, the steady shuffle of her tread. I hear the front bolt slide. I hear the back door lock. I hear the shutters snap and the windows lower and they are all warnings that it is time.
This is the night when shadows come, down through the chimney, up through the floors.
The harvest moon means one thing and one alone. Out in the dark and through the fields, the Harvesters are coming. The Sower, the Reaper, and the Taker. Three cloaks and three masks the same rust red of the too-low moon, and three hands gripping three tools. The shovel, the scythe, and the basket.
My mother comes to kiss me goodnight. My father looks to the window, and seeing it shut, gives a nod and slips away.
This is the night when the world gives back. The payment for abundance.
Now the lane is hushed. Now the night is still and cold. I sit on the bed and wait and watch and listen, and soon I hear it, the faintest turning of a latch. The shutters on my bedroom window tremor, and unfold. From the dark I hear a tap, tap, tap as of a scythe against a pane of glass.
I swallow, and stand, and cross the room. Eyes tucked behind the rust-red masks gaze at me and I gaze back, before my fingers drift to the window lock. I slide up the glass, and lift my basket from the sill.