3 students from the North are coming down to the land of mud and underbrush. It is autumn and nighttime. They are standing in front of a bleak, old building they can't see the corners of because it is too dark. They can hear crickets coming from all across the land, each cricket hiding away somewhere in the bushes and tall grass. These are the last crickets of the year, they can tell - they can smell the smoky crispness of winter in the midnight air.
The three students have met each other on the bus ride here, but by now they are too tired to make conversation.
Alan is the oldest of the three at seventeen years old. He's wearing a sweater that doesn't stand a chance against the cold, one he's had for a while. He has his hands jammed into the middle pocket, and his dark eyebrows are furrowed as he tries to stay awake.
Audrey is the second-oldest, sixteen, with dark brown hair tied up into two braids, and an old wide-brimmed hat on top. She is thinking about how far away home is, and how far away the stars look from here... She's in a plain, white dress, sewn by a grandmother, that has begun to fray just a little.
And then there is Francis, only fifteen, short too. They're sitting, leaning against the wall, half-asleep, but the hard and damp wall keeps them just awake enough. When they can't take the half-sleep anymore, they watch the moths flutter around the lantern, trying as hard as they can to hear the flutters of their wings.

Francis feels something shuffling from behind the wall...
...the door opens, offering more light to the drowsy youngsters. Francis turns, Audrey looks away from the sky, and Alan raises his eyebrows. A little man is in the doorway. Behind him, it is darker than it is outside. He is holding a smaller lantern, dimmer, and much more yellow than the one hanging above them.

* THE HOUSE the house the house is where the man invited them in safe from the wind safe from the yellow skies and the biting dogs
safe from the people. All the ways from Chicago the city that gleams
along the great lake of Michigan its dark towers falling asleep
and sleeping for a very long time.

The man smiled. The lantern illuminated his face only partly, the other half shrouded in shadow, making him look almost skeletal. Making the whites of his eyes yellow. "Oh - kids!" His mouth hung open too quickly as he spoke. His teeth were wet.
Alan stayed still. To the right of him Francis slowly slid up the brick wall, and to the left of him, Audrey made a clicking sound in the back of her throat. She's always doing that, Alan noticed. What kind of... expression even is that? Does it, like, mean anything, or is it just a sound she likes making?
Audrey made another clicking sound. Francis was the only one looking the man in his eyes.
The man continued smiling, mouth open. Silence, all but the crickets and the wind.
"Awright, let's step on in now. It's gonna get nippy soon," he finally said, moving himself to the side of the doorway, waving them in. It was completely dark inside. The wooden porch creaked as the kids shuffled insides silently.
The man took a moment to watch the darkness outside. He closed the door behind them.
The sound of wind muffled, howling up against the windows and walls, grasping at the house's bones. The man jerkily came up behind the kids in an awkward half-limp. His creaks were somehow louder than Alan's, even though Alan was a bit taller and most certainly heavier.
"Now...!" The man said suddenly in that creaky voice of his. "You kids want a little something to eat? It must've been a long ride all the way over here..." He headed into what must be the kitchen, carrying his lantern with him. Leaving them all in darkness.
It seemed as though the man had forgotten to turn on the lights. Alan struggled to discern the shapes of the walls and furniture just from the moonlight streaming in through the windows. With no choice, he attempted to follow the lantern's light, Audrey and Francis following close behind. He knocked his shoulder on a bookcase or something a few times, but eventually he made it to the kitchen, where the man still refused to turn on the lights.
Audrey would've gotten annoyed at this point, but she was too tired to care. All she wanted was something to eat...
The man set the lantern down on a small table. The glow of the lantern reminded Audrey of a campfire, as the kids all huddled around it as the man looked through the cupboards. Did he not have a refrigerator? She clicked again.

The rest of the night blended together, blurry and distorted by exhaustion. They had all eaten the scones, only because there wasn't anything else to eat, and they each were told to find their own room.
Alan navigated in the dark.