In honor of Halloween I have written a short story to spook you all before you gorge yourselves on candy. (Just kidding, it is not really that scary, but it was super fun to write and I hope you all enjoy it! ;-))
I am frozen in fright; my feet are rooted to the ground. A pale wisp of moonlight peeks through the thick trees on the outskirts of my family’s farm, reflecting off my white nightgown; no doubt I look like a ghost. The rays of pallor light cast eerie shadows, which I hardly notice, across the forest floor; shadows are the least of my worries now. Cappie, my tabby, yowls. I never should have gone out looking for her in the middle of the night, believed my Da that cats can survive the night outside, even if she had always come in to curl up in front of the fire every other night of her life. I never should have followed the lady with the long black hair and apple skin red cheeks into the woods on the promise she had my cat, even if it was true. Far away, I can hear bells of the chapel in the small town on the hill announce that it is midnight, November 1st, 1817. I can no longer feel my legs, or my hands. I don’t look down, but I already know what is happening to me. There is a fluttering of wings beside me, and then I hear it, the incessant, evil cackling that poke needles of ice up and down my spine, it is the last thing I hear before my curse overtakes me…
“My feet hurt!” Complains my younger brother Finnigan, his clunky Buzz Light-Year costume clearly weighing him down.
“Mine too!” Squawks the miniature Cinderella next to me in a most un-princess like manner.
I moan inwardly, little siblings are such a drag! The sun had been down for all of ten minutes before they faded like little violets. “All right you two, let’s go home.” We walk the five blocks back to our house on the end of a cul-de-sac. I walk up the stairs to our front door, nearly tripping over my red devil’s cape and tail. Inside, our parents are watching reruns of daytime soap operas that have been recorded on our DVR. My little brother and sister run to them, digging through their candy bags to show off their biggest chocolate bars and M&M bags.
Standing in the doorway, I wait for permission to go back out into the night where I have promised to meet my friends. When at last I am dismissed, I bolt out the door, and this time, I really do trip on the stairs, landing higgledy-piggledy on the cement. “Crap!” I breathe in through my mouth. Looking myself, I find that I have skinned the heel of my hand, something I have not done since the third grade. I roll my eyes at my stupid clumsiness and continue walking down the street.
I meet up with my friends Natalie and Lila in front of Hollyhock Farm Park. Natalie is dressed up as a clown with a ridiculous amount of face makeup that makes her smile overly enthusiastic and a fake red nose. Lila is going as a shower, so the curtain blocking me from seeing her face.
“Hey Mags!” Natalie greets when she sees me coming. Lila echoes her.
“Hey guys! Lila, can you see at all?”
“Nope,” my friend giggles.
“Well, let’s get started shall we?” Natalie and I grab hold of Lila on either side and start heading down the road, stopping at each house to collect our treats.
Over the years that we have trick-or-treated these streets, we have mapped out who gives out what where. We go to Shuster Road first. This is the richer street in our neighborhood, and the street that hands out the yard long licorice and king sized candy bars. Then we go down Pinebark St., Dunthorp Pl. and avenues one, two, three, four, and six. We skip 5th avenue because the people who live down that way have been trying to put the trick back in trick-or-treat for years and have banded together to only give out plastic spiders and the key chains shaped like pigs and cows that have brown stuff protrude from its posterior if you squeeze it.
I look at my watch, and it is almost midnight. The pillowcase I am using to collect candy is bulging with goodies, though I am not ready to go back to my house quite yet.
“Hey guys, does anyone want to take a little detour through Hollyhock Farm Park?”
“Sure!” They giggled in unison.
“I was planning to head there anyway, my Mom only let’s me keep half of my candy, so I’m going to bury it in the park and tell her I already threw it away,” Natalie says.
“Gosh, I didn’t know she did that, I’m super sorry Nat,” Lila chortled.
“I doubt you are, it’s okay,” Natalie hugged the shower curtain, “I love you anyway.
The entrance to the park suits the Halloween mood perfectly, the moon is thinly veiled with clouds, and glows like a will o’ the wisp.
“So, Natsters, where is this secret candy hideaway you were talking about?” inquires Lila.
“I was thinking in the woods somewhere,” Natalie replied, “come on, let’s go!” She grabbed Lila-the-blind-shower-curtain, and started running through the park towards the trees.
I ran after them, following their shrieks and outlines in the dark. The cement walkway gave way to packed dirt, and I tripped over a root. I call out for them to slow, but their shouts drowned out mine, and soon they were out of earshot. I stumbled to lean against the tree whose roots had tripped me, and rubbed my ankle. I looked up at it. It was unlike the other trees in the park, it had a thick trunk and twisted limbs. There were burls on the tree that almost made a face in half-light, one that had a look of warning and horror. I put the thought out of my mind quickly
Something black flapped past my head. A bat flitted and landed in the tree, there was something strange about it that I could not quite place, than I realized it had red eyes. I kid you not, glowing red eyes, like the Halloween decorations that were hung from the eves of my house. Only this one was real. At this point I was thoroughly spooked and was about to take off at a run down the path, when I heard a far away cackle. One that seemed to be nearing very quickly.
A figure materialized in front of me. And though I could not see her face, which was cloaked in a hood, I could hear her voice like shards of icicles that pierced my ears.
“Well, look what we have here. It seems a little lamb has strayed too far from the heard. She has the exact same look as the last one, don’t you think Cappie?” The stranger’s attention was directed upward. The red-eyed bat peered down with a look of contempt and hissed. “Well that’s no way to treat me is it?” the woman flicked a bony wrist and the bat fell to the ground.
She’s a witch, I thought. I knew that if I had been in my right mind I would not have thought that, but it was the only answer I could come up with, and as it turned out my out-of-my-right-mind self was right.
“Such a pretty thing you are,” the witch took a vial out of her sleeve, I couldn’t see what was in it, but it could not be anything good. “Come on Deary, drink up,” she held out her hand as if to give me the vial.
I found my voice.
“Are you crazy?”
The witch sighed, apparently disappointed. “I so hoped that it wouldn’t come to this, but an incentive such as this has always motivated people like you to comply with me in the past,” she raised a hand, which, seemed to glow slightly and an image appeared in her hand, hazy at first, then coming slowly into focus.
I find it strange that when you reach a certain point of terror, your mind comes up with the oddest of thoughts. As the haze focused, my only discernable thought was my inner geek whispering hologram.
All thoughts disappeared from my mind completely when I realized what she was showing me. My friends, Lila and Natalie were caught in a net of moving darkness. They looked horrified, and in pain.
“You’ll have to choose Deary,” she chided me in a sing-song voice, “it’s you or them.”
I could feel my hands shaking at my sides, and a cold sweat ran down my spine. I couldn’t let anything happen to my friends, but how could I know that she wouldn’t do anything to them once she was through with me. I was about to ask her this when I felt three consecutive buzzes at my side, my phone. A flicker of hope fluttered inside me. I turned around so that I faced the tree and pretended to cry – well, it wasn’t really pretending. I brought my devil’s cape up around me so that she wouldn’t see the light of my phone as I read the text.
Omg mags, where r u? r u lost rofl wud b just like u *NATBUG*
I put my phone back in my pocket. Lila and Natalie were safe. The haze was an illusion, but though I was reassured about my friends, I did not see how the information would help me escape. One thing I was sure of though, if I drank whatever was in that vial, it wouldn’t be so hot for me.
“Crying will not do any good for you. Choose, you, or your friends.” Her tone of voice was more that of someone asking a child to choose between two flavors of ice cream.
My mind was racing. I didn’t know how to defeat a witch. Would she melt with water like the Wicked Witch of the West? Did she have some detrimental element she couldn’t be in close contact with like Superman and kryptonite? My tongue felt like paper, I had no weapons or options. In the end I did something I hardly ever do. I let impulse take over.
I ran at her, grabbing the vial out of her hands and smashed it onto her shoes. A puff of green smoke came wafting up; it smelled like decaying leaves after a rainstorm. She shrieked in fury, she reached out for me, and soon we were grappling with each other. I knew I had to get away; it was only a matter of time before she placed a hex on me. She was already muttering in a language I did not recognize, and, for someone who had hands that looked as decrepit as hers, she was strong.
After what could have been years I managed to slam her against the tree. I heard a sickening crunch that made my stomach churn. I was sure I had broken her back, but then I noticed a bag slung over her shoulder, shards of glass had broken through it. It appeared to be some sort of potions bag, and all the liquids had just broken out.
I only had time to think of a less-than-very-highly-thought-of synonym for excrement when the whole thing exploded and I blacked out.
I woke up to a pounding head and a torn cape. I looked up, and the witch leaned against the tree in the same spot I had left her. I got up and went over to her. Her features were hard. I reached a shaky hand out to touch her, and there was no doubt about it, she had turned to stone. Something icy touched my shoulder, and I whirled around in a start. There, in front of me, stood a girl, well, she more floated than stood. She wore what looked like a nightgown, but it was hard to tell because she glowed eerily and looked like she was made of mist. A similar mist seemed to be bubbling up from the body of the bat. I expected to see a bat ghost to come flitting out, but when the mist finally shaped, a cat came trotting over and rubbed itself against the girl’s leg.
“Thank you for freeing us,” her voice was a whisper.
“You’re welcome,” I replied, at a loss for anything else to say, “What’s your name? I asked.
“Charlotte Hollyhock, and this here is Cappie,” she indicated toward the cat at her feet.
“Like Hollyhock Farm, Hollyhock?” I felt like I had been eating sand, and probably sounded like it too, but the curiosity thrust the words out.
“Yes, I lived there with my family until the witch turned me into that tree,” Charlotte sighed. It could have been a trick of the misty light, but it looked as if a tear rolled down her cheek.
There was rustling and familiar voices coming up the path towards us. Natalie and Lila. And quick as a wink, before I could say anything else to the mysterious girl and her cat, they dispersed like so much dandelion fluff on the wind, and then were gone altogether.
“Hey, there you are! What happened?” Natalie asked, when they finally reached me.
“I tripped on this tree root and hurt my ankle, I tried to get your attention, but you were already gone.”
“Oh, oops. Well, we haven’t buried the candy yet because we were looking for you. If your ankle is, like, broken you don’t have to come, but the spot’s not far from here.”
“No I’m fine.” I cast one last wary look at the tree that had been Charlotte Hollyhock, and my friends followed my gaze.
“That’s funny,” said Lila who had opened her shower curtain so that she could see, “I don’t remember that rock being there.”
Lila, thinking I was making another one of my jokes, giggled and grabbed me by the hand. “Come on, Silly, let’s go.”
We headed down the bridleway, skipping willy-nilly. Though I was still thoroughly spooked, and began to wonder: if ghosts and witches were possible on Halloween then what else was? I kept on seeing things out of the corner of my eye and urged my friends to hurry up.