#31DaysofHalloween Writing Contest – Week One!

Happy October, Ghouls!

We’ll start off with an easy writing prompt this week. Here are the rules:

1.) Use the photo below as inspiration for your story.

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2.) Story must have a beginning, middle, and end but must not exceed 300 words. 

3.) You must use the following word in your story: “hoard” (and please bold it in your entry).

4.) You must listen to this song on repeat as you write your story (I’ll have to take your word on this one, but I’ll be able to tell because it will automatically make your story so much better.)

5.) Post your entry in the comments section of this post by Midnight PST, Oct. 4th (this Friday).

And the winner shall receive…

Holly Black’s newly released novel, THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN

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Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave. 

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

So go forth and stretch your creative muscles. And be wicked!!!
~zombree
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56 thoughts on “#31DaysofHalloween Writing Contest – Week One!

  1. The wind worried my bedroom curtains back and forth. Swayed the old trees with a wind that didn’t touch any of the other trees in the neighborhood. Rain spilled in torrents in front of my bedroom window. I walked to the front room and glanced to the street where a hoard of girls with white sheets draped over their heads dipped, swayed, and danced down the sidewalk in the sweltering heat of summer. The sidewalk was as dry as the twigs that lay scattered on our front porch from those wretched old trees.
    “We need to thank all for the breeze that always comes through here,” my mother said.
    “Get out of my way,” I said to my sister.
    “Why are you harping?” my mother said, her voice louder than a second ago.
    “She’s just sitting there.”
    “Doing… what?”
    “She’s just sitting there doing her inhaler!”
    Heat washed over me as I opened the door.
    “Go out that door with that bad attitude and don’t expect that I’ll let you back!” But my mother’s voice didn’t drown out the hoard of girls as they began their sing-song chant for ever and ever amen.
    I slammed the front door shaking the house and scattering the cats.
    I walked through the tiny front room to my bedroom. Rain was dripping down the wall from the windowsill. I pulled the fretting curtains aside to close the window. The hoard of girls looked over at me from behind the bushes that circled our house. Their sheets were drenched from the torrents of rain. I pushed the window up as high as it could go and released the wooden screen. The curtains draped over my head as I joined the hoard of girls with their sing-song voices of for ever and ever amen.

  2. It was a dark and stormy night… ok, so not stormy… it was a dark and humid night, hmm, not really the same effect. There were a dozen ghosts walking together in the woods behind the old antebellum mansion like a freakin’ hoard of KKK members! But really we were just a bunch of college freshman hired to scare the snot out of as many people as possible who came to experience the best haunted trail in the New Orleans area. I turned back to see if everyone was still together, but I only counted nine instead of the full dozen. Where the heck were the other three? I signaled to my friend Jack and asked as he came closer, “hey have you seen the other 3 ghosts’?”

    Jack turned around and counted figures before turning back to me and shrugging his shoulders and then just kept going, not saying a word, not stopping to help. I thought that this was strange but I was too concerned about the missing three ghosts than Jack’s odd behavior. I was the one responsible, who coordinated and convinced this motley crew to participate. Well the money had convinced them more than I did; it was good, real good in fact. I paused for the first time wondering about the amount of money we were offered, it seemed a bit much for just trying to scare people by jumping out from behind trees making moaning sounds.

    Right about then the three missing ghosts jumped out at me moaning and grabbing me as they pulled me deeper into the woods. I cried out, but no one paid any attention, after all that was what this whole night was about, right?

    We are once more a dozen ghosts but we don’t need costumes anymore.

  3. Please consider this my entry for week one of you 31 Days of Halloween Writing Contest:

    HOUSE OF THE MIDNIGHT MOON
    By Debbie Dorris

    Zola Skye, a beautiful one-hundred-thirty-year-old witch, had twenty-four hours for the boiling brew to simmer before adding the final ingredients to the potion that would summon the ancestors.

    New Orleans is famous for strange things that go on, especially on Halloween. Zola felt certain she wouldn’t get caught. What she was about to do was banned by her coven a century ago. But she had to save her sweetheart from the clutches of that disappearing prison of a house.

    No one, except Zola, believed the legend about the old haunted house that appeared on Halloween at sunrise then disappeared at the midnight moon, taking with it all those who dared enter.

    Years ago Johnny, Zola’s novelist boyfriend, wanted to spend the night in a haunted house for inspiration. Driving past a creepy mansion, Zola challenged Johnny to stay the night there. Always a gambler, he accepted. The next day she went to pick him up but the house had vanished.

    The day arrived. Zola dressed in the traditional witch costume and covered her face with green make-up; sure she would blend in with any trick-or-treaters. After carefully placing the cauldron in the trunk, she drove to the vacant lot where the house should reappear.

    Under the watchful eyes of gatekeeper Ents, she added a vial of her blood and Dragon’s Blood, Dracaena resin she’d taken from her vast hoard, to the brew. Then she chanted for the ancestors. Within seconds eerie wraiths materialized and performed their ghostly ritual dance around the lot.

    The house appeared as predicted. The door opened allowing the ghosts entry. Johnny stood by the entrance begging Zola to go away. As she reached for him her hand crossed the thrush hold. The house sucked her in.
    ####

  4. Ophelia opened the trunk where the hoard of her history was gathered. Stained deck of cards, poker chips crusted with blood. A half full whisky bottle with Beau’s lip prints on the opening, a lock of his raven hair curled on Ophelia’s palm. There was also a bolt of sheer cotton gauze, gray with age, a crimson candle, sewing needles, thread and a large pair of scissors rusted shut with gore.
    Ophelia hummed the haunting tune of her gambling man which haunted her nights. She scrubbed her hands together once again, trying to wipe the burning away on the flesh where Beau’s blood had covered them, her head nodded in time to the tune.
    Taking up the candle, she struck a match, lit the candle and watched as the wax pooled, dripped, imitating exactly the way Beau’s blood had pooled, dripped after her jealousy had raised the scissors again and again. She used the blackened match stick to draw a pentagram on the floor.
    Ophelia returned to the trunk, pulled out the bold of gauze and began to measure. She would sew new shrouds for her sisters this night. The would gather with her about the star and whirl. They would swirl the talismans from the gambler’s trunk together in the flame and when they made their midnight music, Beau would rise and return to Ophelia to dance once more beneath the crescent city moon while the Spanish moss fluttered. Beau had been proud to be born on the Bayou Teche. He would be ever proudly undead there also.

  5. They came again this afternoon, the children dressed like ghosts.

    There were nine of them, holding hands beneath the sheets like paper dolls. I watched them through the hallway window, slightly raised to let the fall breeze in, studying their exaggerated dance.

    I heard a mower somewhere else in town, the last cut before the cold settles in and kills all the lawns. I even heard the Peterson’s dog next door, dragging its chain as it ran back and forth.

    But the ghosts made no sounds. They were a silent little hoard and they danced for me.

    I left the hallway window and headed to the kitchen. I stepped out onto the back porch, needing to face them. They have visited me eight times, growing in number each time.

    When I stepped down into the yard, they stopped dancing. They stared at me through their sheets, each one the same shade of ethereal white. A slight breeze was blowing, but the sheets were unaffected.
    I couldn’t see their faces but I knew each set of eyes all too well.

    “Leave me alone.” I said. “I’m sorry. I can’t take it back.”

    One by one, they dropped their sheets and I saw the young boys, all of whom I’d seen before. They pointed with decayed fingers to the shovel propped against my porch.

    And then they were gone. Sheets and all.

    I started to weep, but I obeyed them.

    I can’t take their visits any longer. It’s worse than being awakened by the memories of their eyes, huge and wide with fear as my hands clasp their throats.

    I went inside and called the police.

    Then I return to the back yard and used the shovel.

    I dug until I heard the first clink of bone.

  6. There’s a noise, somewhere out in the backyard twilight, but Carl’s eyes dart to the loose board in the living room floor. It’s not them, not yet, just the wind teasing its fingers through the stiff branches of the aging oak.
    There’s a knock at the front door, and then the faint call of “Trick or treat,” but the child’s heart is not in it.
    His mind goes back to the floorboards, and the small hidden box. The living room is illuminated only by a single candle which he snuffs out. He needs darkness to see them when they come.
    He doesn’t have to wait long. A mist forms slowly, rising out of the grass and from between the unkempt bramble in the yard, hinting now at the shapes of children covered with sheets. A coldness seeps into his bones and he knows the moment approaches.
    They laugh and dance in the garden, his October ghosts, and Carl feels a desire to join them. But it is not his time, not yet. Their hoard lies under the floorboards, which he pries loose and frees the box. He hears them laughing, like they did just after stealing it. They approach the back door and then the merest hint of a knock is heard.
    One by one they accept a shard of rock sugar from a shaking hand, as they have for the last sixty years. They never say anything, and he sheds a tear for each one, each year.
    He knew they were drowning, but he had only been six, and his job was to protect the box, a big box of rock sugar stolen that evening. He couldn’t save them, just listen to them call for help.
    He keeps it safe, and they get their share. He’ll join them soon enough.

  7. Brianna crept up the staircase, making her way to the attic. She froze as a loud creak resonated through the house. Holding her breath, she prayed her family did not wake. A moment passed. Silence. Quickly locating the antique trunk, she knelt before it, cringing as a loud squeak emanated from its rusty hinges. Brianna reached into the trunk and withdrew the exquisite white cloth once belonging to her grandmother. Fingering the delicate material, she cast her thoughts toward the future. From the time she was a little girl, she fantasized about her special day, the day she would finally don her grandmother’s finery and become a woman.

    The day she would finally dance with the dead.

    For generations her family boasted the title of strongest clan; their dark magicks unsurpassed. Now, Brianna was finally of age to join them. In just four short days, on All Hallows Eve, she would don the traditional white hood, joining her older sisters, cousins and mother as they trekked deep into the woods, away from the prying eyes of others, where screams of the innocent were silenced by the darkness. As the first slivers of moonlight slithered through the trees, the dead would crawl from their graves to judge the clans; the losers forfeiting their most sacred items. The winning clan – Brianna’s clan – would HOARD these endowed objects as a reminder of countless victories. Blood would be spilled as legacies were born.

    Shaken out of her reverie by the sound of the clock striking midnight, Brianna carefully replaced the aged fabric in the chest, sealing it from prying eyes with a whisper. Tiptoeing back to her room, she tumbled into bed and fell asleep; a smile on her face. Four more days.

    (I couldn’t bold hoard for some reason – all caps instead – sorry!)

  8. I can sense more than feel the sheet being pulled over my head. “I’m alive,” I scream inside my brain. Movement…voices. We’re headed somewhere. A few bumps and then a motor turns over. Road noises but I can pick up snippets of conversation…”lab” and “cadaver” and “doctors”. Then all noises cease but for the shriek of metal and breaking glass. I’m weightless for a brief moment and then I hear a crunch and snap and this time I’m truly dead not simply poisoned into paralysis by my ungrateful progeny. My eyes open slowly taking in the carnage around me. My vision is cloudy. I tug at the sheet, my death shroud, yet it seems to be a part of me now. “Hello?” I call out and am greeted by others, nine of us in all we determine. No one sees us emerge from the truck but for a small dog that is sniffing the driver’s body, Hoard his name-tag reads. The dog growls at us before turning and running away.

    We move away as one all attracted to The Light emanating from an old moss covered house in the middle of downtown New Orleans. A house that I know for a fact doesn’t exist. “There is…a house…in New Orleans,” someone begins singing. “They call the rising sun,” we all finish the line. “Gates Mansion” the plaque on the wall reads. Small arrows reading heaven and hell point to doors on the left and right. I turn.

  9. Mom always told me Gram was a little nuts, but now I knew better. I saw the ghosts as they marched into the forest. Their white death shrouds billowing in the wind as they marched into the forest. My mom said it was just a trick of the light, but I knew better. Gram gave me a long hard look when I said it. I knew she believed me.

    Gram pulled me aside and told me that nobody could see them because they didn’t have the Sight like she did. Said I was special and to not listen to my mom about it. My mom didn’t believe and shunned the gift. She told me that those were the shades of the children that were lost in the forest and I should never follow them.

    “Why?” I asked peering up into her old, wrinkled face.

    “B’cause,” she whispered. “They’s lead you to yer death.”

    I remember laughing and saying she was silly. Grams gave me another hard look and I knew I was in trouble.

    “Fine, then,” Gram said. “Go on. Follow ‘em. And when ye die, yer mom will be broken and I’ll watch fer you ever night as you parade with the spirits.”

    That sobered me right up, but I still couldn’t shake that itch. The one that said to follow them. It’s one of the few things I do remember.

    I feel eyes watching me as I follow my shadow brothers and sisters into the night. I turn and see an old woman staring from behind a curtain. Grams watches me. My mother sits broken and lost on the battered sofa. A small girl stands with Grams and stares at us with wide eyes. I want to tell her to run, but I have no voice.

    • Forgot the keyword! Ok. Rewrite! 300 words now.

      Mom always told me Gram was a little nuts, but now I knew better. I saw the horde of ghosts as they marched into the forest. Their white death shrouds billowing in the wind as they marched into the forest. My mom said it was just a trick of the light, but I knew better. Gram gave me a long hard look when I said it. I knew she believed me.

      Gram pulled me aside and told me that nobody could see them because they didn’t have the Sight like she did. Said I was special and to not listen to my mom about it. My mom didn’t believe and shunned the gift. She told me that those were the shades of the children that were lost in the forest and I should never follow them.

      “Why?” I asked peering up into her old, wrinkled face.

      “B’cause,” she whispered. “They’s lead you to yer death.”

      I remember laughing and saying she was silly. Grams gave me another hard look and I knew I was in trouble.

      “Fine, then,” Gram said. “Go on. Follow ‘em. And when ye die, yer mom will be broken and I’ll watch fer you ever night as you parade with the spirits.”

      That sobered me right up, but I still couldn’t shake that itch. The one that said to follow them. It’s one of the few things I do remember.

      I feel eyes watching me as I follow my shadow brothers and sisters into the night. I turn and see an old woman staring from behind a curtain. Grams watches me. My mother sits broken and lost on the battered sofa. A small girl stands with Grams and stares at us with wide eyes. I want to tell her to run, but I have no voice.

  10. “Those poor children,” Sister Mary Eloise said, shaking her head as she paused before Wicker Street. A recent transplant from the Pacific Northwest, she acknowledged the tragedy, but not the superstitions.

    Dusk fell like a spiderweb on Wicker Street, stringing the wrought iron lamp posts together in the Louisiana heat. Gnarled ancient oaks obscured the husk of St. Marguerite’s Orphanage. The charred skeleton, covered in vines, lay undisturbed even to this day. A sickly-sweet HOARD of bougainvillea memorial wreaths decorated the sidewalk. It had been one hundred and sixty years since the fire razed the brick building and all its residents.

    The harvest moon, in its golden glory, ascended to its height in the night sky. Children’s laughter echoed from the burnt remains. The residents of Wicker Street shut their doors and windows, and rubbed their rosaries. No one would venture out this night.

    The laughter changed into the timeless French children’s song, Frère Jacques. The melody grew in strength as transparent, white spectres coalesced in the ruins of the orphanage. Billowing shrouds, akin to bed sheets hung out to dry hours earlier in the noonday sun, danced in a procession of their own eerie melody.

    Twelve ghosts twirled into the street, approaching every door and peeking through every window… searching. Searching for someone. But the children of Wicker Street were safe in their parents’ embrace this night.

    Returning from an ailing parishioner’s home, Sister Mary Eloise turned from Cherry Avenue into Wicker Street. Her restrictive wimple clung to her neck like a noose. She heard their haunting song before she saw them. In the middle of the street, the twelve ghosts enveloped her. She fought them, screaming as they sucked the life from her body. At last, they found what they were looking for. Sister.

  11. Richard checked the light bulb on his front porch one more time. It was a bright yellow bulb with a pumpkin face and he had checked it every thirty minutes since noon. He cursed Daylight Savings Time for coming a day too late as he peered through the blinds. Halloween was his favorite holiday and he had felt aching anticipation throughout the day. He watched as a hoard of ghosts, goblins, and chubby pumpkins descended onto the street. His hungry eyes searched for which ghosts had sprouted curves underneath their sheets; unwrapping them with his eyes like candy cars. So sweet. The thought alone made him nibble the candy corn in his pumpkin bucket. The ghost’s costumes looked so much like the sheet from before. He thanked God every day that the memories stayed so fresh in his mind. He remembered talking to that little ghost as he cleaned her fluids off of the sheets. The little ghost had hung there pale and beautiful. As he bled her, he had explained that the right combination of bleach and soap can get blood off of white clothes and a white tub. He squealed with delight that the same bleach was what had left no DNA to connect him to that little ghost. As he put in a stick of peppermint gum, he saw a girl riding a stick pony and her ghost friend come to the door. He licked his lips as the cowgirl bounced up the steps. Their falsetto voices rang out, “Trick or treat smell my feet, give me something good to eat, if you don’t, I don’t care, I’ll pull down your underwear!” The girls giggled and Richard giggled back.

  12. Draped in sheets our ghostly countenances made their way stealthily across the yard toward Lisle house. This was going to be the Halloween that we would talk about for years to come. This was legend. Lisle house lay vacant all year but on October thirty-first it came alive with lights and music. I had never heard of anyone who had been invited to the house, no one had, that’s why my friends and I had to crash the party. Why hadn’t someone thought of this before? This would send our social status in new directions. We reached the house and the haunting music pulled us with eerie tones and strange melodies. Almost floating we entered into the lights and people swirled around us in costume. Werewolves, fairies, vampires and zombies were swaying and falling to the music. Pulling the sheet back I joined in as a handsome vampire took my hand and twirled me into his arms. I lost my friends in the crowd and lost myself to the music. Unsteadily I swayed and fell and screams filled my ears as a HOARD of vampires fell onto the party and chaos broke out around me. I struggled and made my way to the door my body a lead weight only to be zapped by an electrical charge as I watched my own body dragged in front of me out the door. Shaking my head no I watched as apparitions began to appear and join me looking out at the fire on the front lawn consume the dead bodies. I began to laugh uncontrollably as the flames licked up high into the sky. How ironic that I would spend an eternity trapped in this house as a ghostly apparition watching the Lisle house party every year dressed in my white sheet.

  13. I stared at my reflection as I pulled the white veil over my face. There were nine of us born exactly sixteen years ago, at the stroke of the clock that welcomed in All Hallows’ Eve. Only one of us would be chosen.

    I met the others outside. We were all dressed the same, draped in white with veiled faces, and we silently began our descent into the forest. We stopped when we came to a small clearing with a lit fire. The hoard of stones that used to sit in a pile was now the base of a marble slab; we all stared at the table, knowing it was meant for just one of us.

    We stretched out into a line, standing side by side holding hands, and began our soft song to summon the Angel of Death. When I opened my eyes he was walking toward us, perfect and beautiful.

    I watched him slowly move down the line, evaluating each of my sisters. My breath caught in my throat when he stopped in front of me. His eyes met mine, but he didn’t move on; instead, he held up his hand and offered it to me. I took it, and he led me to the marble slab.

    “My bride,” he whispered as he picked me up and laid me down on my back. He lifted my veil and opened my robe, revealing my bare chest. He removed the black dagger from his cloak and raised it far above his head. Chanting, he lowered it, and I smiled to myself when the cold metal met my skin.

    He stared deep into my eyes and I could see his entire body tense. The dagger felt heavier and heavier above my heart, and then the whole world went black.

  14. “What if she keels over?”
    Roland ignored his sister. He was having a tough enough time seeing through the sheet to keep up with Owen and the others.
    “Keep up, Smithson!” Owen shouted back to him.
    Roland grabbed Cynthia’s arm and quickened his feet to make up the distance to the rest of the group. They glowed like nine luminaries in the dying light as they bunched together just outside the oaks. The enormous trees extended their limbs like guardian trolls, warning that to go beyond them was unforgivable.
    “I want to go home,” Cynthia said. The tiny ghost was now pulling on him. “Mama’s gonna be mad we ruined her sheets.”
    “So what,” Owen said. “You can buy her new sheets with your cut of the load.”
    “She really fill the walls with all that money?” Billy asked.
    “That’s what my dad said.” Owen leaned on an oak to get a better look at the Landry house. “Old woman’s got every crack stuffed. Must’ve known the banks would go under.”
    Owen crossed through the trees and the rest followed. Roland exhaled through tightened lips as if he was whistling and pulled his sister out of her dissenting stance.
    The white paint of the house shed in different places like rotting scales. Two windows on the second floor burned orange, a dragon guarding its hoard.
    Inside the house it was dark but for a single candle on the floor, illuminating the form of Mrs. Landry sitting in large chair. The smell and decay said she had passed long before.
    The homemade ghosts looked on in silence until—behind the chair—a head, then shoulders, appeared. Mrs. Landry floated above herself with eyes as cold as her corpse. Then, smiling, she calmly put her lips to the flame and blew.

  15. Staring out the window wide-eyed and frozen, my trembling body finally released the yellow waste it had been holding for hours waiting their arrival. The warm trail trickled down my legs watching the sinister figures creep and sway in a single path toward my house set deep in the Louisiana swamps.

    “They is real” I whispered.

    “I told you dey is real” Nellie hushed. A slow, gratifying smile spread across her face. “My mama called for dem when my daddy did to her what you husband doin to you.”

    “But who is they?”

    “I don’t know who dey is. A coven, I thinks” she said under her stretching smile. “At leas, dat’s what my mama said dey is.”

    I was afraid. Not of him anymore. Of them. I mean, I hates my husband for the mean things he do to me over the years… but seeing them coming for him terrified me.

    “I’s able to hoard some money, mister, don’t know bout-”

    “Fool, dey don’t want no money” she snapped quietly.

    “How we gonna pay em then?”

    Her caramel-colored eyes turned to me.

    “Dey just wants him.”

    “How they know which one him is?”

    Nellie smiled. Her broken teeth glistened under the light of the rising sun above, “Dey know by you. He carry da smell of you fear on him. That’s how dey know. And dey gonna make him pay for what he do to you.”

    I trusted Nellie. Since arriving, she’d been my friend- my only friend. Everybody else too scared of her. She scarred up from beatin after beatin for doin work of the devil. But she good to me. When he hurt me, I go to her. She take me in. Clean me up. Now, through them, she gonna make sure he never hurt me again.

  16. “Will you dance with us tonight, Taylor?”

    The young woman hadn’t known she slept until the whisper woke her. Her eyes opened to the shape crouched on her windowsill, an unmoving silhouette behind white curtains fluttering in a breeze that didn’t blow. To think that, as lately as one year ago, she did not believe in such beings as these.

    “Tomorrow,” she answered, as always. Her quiet voice grated hoarse, but she didn’t dare clear her throat. The night her daughter’s sudden cry startled the crouching creature had been the baby’s last. A coincidence, some might say. She did not believe any such thing. “Not tonight. Ask tomorrow.”

    The creature’s eyes burned black against the window’s shroud of snowy linen. “How many tomorrows do you think you have left?”

    As many as I can hoard, Taylor thought. She would put off a decision as long as she could. As long as the creature allowed, or until she could find a way to stop the invitations coming. If she could last just one more week, she’d be on a train speeding far away from this accursed house. Surely that would end it. Surely she would be given a chance to start again. She tried to believe she would.

    “Please,” she begged softly. “Tomorrow.”

    “Tonight.” The word stilled the curtains; for half a beat, stilled Taylor’s heart. “Tonight, or never.” The silhouette vanished, only an echo of its words left behind. “You have until the sunrise. We will not ask again.”

    No longer a request. A command. Her time was up, too soon. It was dance or die. Or so some would say. She did not believe in the “or”.

  17. Sadie sees things. She doesn’t want Daddy to know, so I don’t tell, but sometimes I think I should. Times like today.

    Because Sadie sees a house that isn’t there.

    “It’s there,” she says and leaps from the tree I didn’t feel like climbing. Her sweater fans out like those flaps of skin on flying squirrels. “You can’t see it because it’s the kind of house that hides unless you hide first.”

    “That makes zero sense.” I make a big zero with my hands and stare at her through it. She thinks just because I’m two years younger that I’m automatically stupider, too.

    I turn and catch the clearing in my zeroed hands. The clearing behind the trees, where Sadie’s invisible house is. “You’re not hiding. How come you can see?”

    “I’m always hidden.” She raises her arms and snuggles my head with her itchy sweater and the pokey bra underneath. “You only see me ‘cause I let you. I’m like the house.”

    She frees me when the neighbor boys stomp the field behind us. All seven think Sadie’s crazy. That’s what six of them say when she’s kissing the seventh.

    “Let’s do this,” one says. He drops a box at our feet.

    Then it’s Sadie, me, seven boys. Sheets pinned on bodies and tablecloths on heads. Good and hidden, we haunt the tree line. She promised the boys a hoard of wonder inside this house of hers. “There,” Sadie says. With two tablecloths between us she’s a pointing ghost. “See?”

    I pull the fabric tight against my face. I don’t need wonder. The house itself would be enough.

    Look.

    Maybe it’s a stain on my tablecloth. Maybe I don’t want to doubt her anymore, the way Daddy would.

    Tomorrow the clearing could be empty.

    But today, I see.

  18. With arms outstretched, her bones as brittle as antique china, Isabelle lingers—a fading image born of excited photons, sensitized silver and mercury vapor. Her teeth are cracked, would likely crumble to dust if she could but relax her petrified grin, and her eyes weep powdered rue.

    Only her ears remain unspoiled, eavesdropping on countless hours of conversation as first decades and then centuries elapse. She craves the breathless whispers and tired recitations, the salacious confrontations and bitter confessions. Diatribes. Monologues. Sermons. She inventories each exchange, dissecting every inflection and vocal nuance, inserting herself into their substance. So, too, does she decipher the language of the unspoken. The unstealthy creek of floorboards, the drone of insects, the curious hum of new technology. These are her only sanity in an unsane, unchanging unlife.

    Tonight there is a discordant symphony unlike anything Isabelle has ever experienced. A high, cautionary trill punctures the quiet and smoldering embers seep through. They ignite the cosmos.

    She rejoices as crackling flames lap her weathered visage.  

    Isabelle had evaded the Pope’s hoard of righteousness, escaped the tortures of the Inquisition and avoided the gallows in Salem, only to be discovered in an era of rational thought and imprisoned by a new magic. Now the burning time has returned and with it the promise of sweet release. Isabelle delights in the ballad of cinder and flame as it rises to a deafening crescendo.

    Her skin blisters. The world turns to ash.

    Isabelle is engulfed in divine conflagration and evaporates into silence.

  19. The Wakening
    By
    Lucas Pederson

    Lana held tight to the hands of her fellow Wakers as the gauzy white shawl and robe flapped around her.

    The Wakers circled the The Place of Rest. Above, the moon filled the a New Orleans night with its pale, pregnant glow. The Wakers danced under the moon, like lost ghosts.

    A sizzle scampered across Lana’s every nerve, plucked every sinew like the strings of an old harp.
    The ground tore open. Goblin mist frothed.

    A black claw shot out of the opening. Its talons plunged into the dirt. Slender fingers flexed. Another claw rose, fell and gripped the earth. Then another, and another. Deep furrows in the dirt as they pulled what had lain buried for a thousand years out.

    The Coven’s hoard.

    Lana sucked in a breath.

    A head rose out of the goblin mist. Silvery tufts of hair shimmered in the moonlight. White eyes jittered. Its lower jaw unhinged in a wail so loud and it blotted out Lana’s thoughts.

    Beside it, another head appeared. Its mouth stitched shut.

    No one spoke. It didn’t take long for Lana to realize why. She stood alone in the back yard. The Wakers were gone. They left her —

    “You…” The voice coiled around Lana’s ears.

    One of the things lifted itself up. Bones crackled as it crab-walked towards her. Lana scrambled away, tripped over her own stupid feet and landed on her butt. The pain didn’t compare to the thing that crawled on top of her. Both arms were pinned to the ground by an invisible force.

    The creature’s face lowered. Thick chuffing noises sounded from its scrawny throat.

    Black lips peeled away from small, pointy teeth in a hideous grin.

    The last thing Lana saw were those sharp, pointy teeth lowering closer and closer to her face.

  20. The renewal process never bothered me much. What we did wasn’t personal, just necessary. It was either kill or die, and no one wanted to die. I could hardly be blamed for what I was about to do. I’d waited as long as I could—96 years—before attempting the ritual once more.

    Now it was time.

    We gathered at dusk, nine of us, draped in white to represent rebirth. Our shroud-covered forms faced off with the nine young ones needed for the ceremony. They huddled on the grass, knees to chests, staring with fear-fringed eyes. One blinked, reminding me of a fresh foal.

    So young. So vital. The first drop of rain to hit the sidewalk in a thunderstorm. The rosebud, yet to bloom.

    I shivered in anticipation, squeezing the bony hand of the sheet beside me.

    With a desperate cry, we began. Their blood is what’s needed. The white of our shrouds must run red. If a speck is left uncovered, the ritual will fail and they will have bled for naught. This in mind, I meticulously soaked my sheet with crimson, careful to paint each tiny thread and trying not to HOARD it all for myself.

    Time passed, our ghostly posse becoming something much more sinister. We went from decent to wicked to innocent. From Golden Girls to slasher film to cartoon.

    In the calm afterward, I stared at the eight red figures. We were changed—shorter, smaller. One by one, the cloths were removed. Shedding my own, a terrible thrill ripped through me hitting every nerve along the way. My hands weren’t shriveled but smooth and sticky red. A child’s laughter bubbled from my throat, no longer raspy with age. To be sure, I joined the others who were dancing gleefully.

    It worked. I was renewed.

  21. Frank was such a sweet New Orleanian boy; I just wish he hadn’t moved into that colonial house down the street. Since that night, he hasn’t been the same. It happened on the night of my bachelorette party. Foolishly I opened my door at the gentle knock. He showed up with a grin, enticing my friends with the thrill that only a nineteenth century old house could invoke.

    We each wore a sheet over our heads, moaning and groping to his house, it was after all hallows eve. The air beneath the fabric reeked with beer churning my stomach as I stumbled through the threshold. All nine of us piled in to his living room. Frank reached behind the couch, pulling an ax by his side. Sally was first, she pivoted to run and he sliced open her spine. The rest of us stood perfectly in the line. Mary was next; he never muttered a word before decapitating her. I stood second to last, flinching every time the ax swung against the air. As the blade swung towards me, I ducked. Niki’s sheet soaked red as blood squired from her skull. My legs shook unmoving. He grabbed my hair ripping me from the floor.

    “So who is left?” He stood before me guarding the hoard of bodies. “Who is to be my bride,” Frank whispered brushing the fabric over mine my lips. The sheet fell to the floor. “So, this is my wife.” The edge of the ax followed her jaw, between her breasts, and down her thighs. Breathless his lips pressed into mine. The salty taste of blood filled the cracks of my lips. The red velvet cake we had picked out for the wedding seemed all too fitting.

  22. The man in beige pulled out of her, shooting his pleasure on her belly. This woman was a keeper—her stomach wasn’t as bloated as the others in the corpse pile.

    A howl ate up the night and tormented the man’s senses. Dagnabbit. Get it together, you coot. The blasted howls of gun barrels hadn’t wound through his head since the end of the war. Chilled to the bone, he pulled his trench coat closed. It was premium quality, fit for a seasoned officer—unlike the knock-offs these women wore.

    The river lit up like gunpowder. That telltale illumination told him he was being hunted by flashlight, so Peeping Tom must’ve called the cops again. It didn’t matter; the reeking bayou disguised the stench, and the excuse of a police force never noticed the balding man with one foot in the grave.

    Gone were the days when youth respected those who had fought for their right to prance around in fake finery. He kicked dirt on the latest woman, humming a naughty limerick his buddy had sung with him in the trenches. That is, until his buddy had been blown to smithereens, forcing him to wear a coat of intestines and spinal fluid that night.

    A canine barked. Criminy. The police had never brought dogs before. He whisked a bed sheet over his hoard of the dead and covered the trench with a hollow statue. Nothing to see here, coppers. Just a veteran praying over his war memorial.

    The finger of the latest woman protruded from the ground. There was no time to act. It’d be easy as pie for the right people to connect that dearly departed one to him.

    Baby sister, you will be the end of me.

  23. As the sun began to set on the hot summers evening. Sandra, had no idea of the impending doom she was destine to face. Her simple life, or the life that she thought was ordinary was nothing but. Just as this evening started as any other ordinary day it would be one to go down in history, to be remembered for generations to come. Jerry had come home about 6 pm that evening drenched in sweat from a hard days work in the field, his finger covered in blood and oil from having to work on broken down farm equipment. Heidi Sandra’s mother, was young in age but life had been difficult, shooing its effects on her body. This was a typical American family.
    The life that they had struggled to survive day to day had come to an end and their plan and the plan of the hoards of other was about to come to fruition. The sat at the table and finished their supper, without as much as a word. Then walked into their closets, to begin their transformation. Sandra, Heidi and Jerry all looked at one another as if saying good bye. The walked out the door. Greeted by the others who have been fed up with the same struggles of life, they grabbed hands and began their destiny. The rich aristocrats sipping their wine and feasting on the stolen fruits were to become the fertilizer for a new generation. The Hoard had finally made it to their destination. Without as much as a work they kicked in the door. The Hoard had chased down everyone in the house. And began to feast. Blood has spilled from their veins like the springs rain nursling a sapling tree. The old way of life was over.

    • White wings speckled across the robin blue water in a ghostly pattern. Arlo and Becca watched them wash down the river bed. The last bit of light casting autumn’s burnt orange aflame along its feathery edges.
      “I s’pect the black dog hoards the rest of the bird.” Arlo turned to Becca. He wiped snot and dirt across his unclean face and rocked on his bare feet. “Folks say that dog used to be a mean man that murdered his own family.”
      Becca rolled her eyes. Twenty years living and Arlo Gunner figured he knew all the urban legends of these here parts. “It’s getting dark, and there’s a lot more to worry over than some hell hound coming after us in these woods after dark.” Becca thought of Old Man Riley’s pot farm and one big shot gun. She’d met him one time before back ten years ago in this very spot. She ran like the devil chased her back then. She lived.
      Arlo smiled, whipped wicked small and scared all at once sending chills down her arms. He’d take advantage of situation and he’d run first sign of trouble. She couldn’t trust him, hadn’t been able to since they’d been little kids. She weren’t ‘bout to start now.
      Arlo walked down the trail dragging a long stick along side him, humming that old Dylan tune about being homesick or blue. Becca wasn’t for sure. She just knew Arlo had never been any of those things, too rich and still living at home in big ol’ mansion.
      “Thanks for coming out here with me, Becca.” Arlo slipped his hands in his pocket and brought the shiny object of his affection to his lips – his harmonica. He played, filling the pine trees with a winding dreadful sound to alert any beast to him. Once that dog gets your scent you’re gone. Becca’s pulse quickened.
      “No problem. I don’t know why that harmonica means so much to you. You could have waited until tomorrow morning to look for it. We’re not going to make it back before nightfall.”
      Arlo stopped playing and turned to look at her. Already her skin had taken on a purplish bruised effect from the shadows trying to swallow them up. Becca’s skin glowed vampire white. Normally Arlo found this sexy, but tonight the way her eyes, darker than usual pooled surrounded by bits of land and glared through him. He changed his mind ‘bout sexy.
      “Don’t be scared, Becca. I won’t let anything happen to you. Do you want to walk in front?”
      “No. I’m okay. Let’s just keep walking.” Becca swallowed hard forgetting her hatred towards Arlo. His Elvis-type looks helped. That’s another ball in the rich boy’s corner, looks. After awhile none of it helped ease the fear filling the air. Soon, battered deep purple spread all across the landscape until they barely could see in front of them. Arlo pulled out the harmonica again and played. A dog howled in the distance, deeper than any normal dog they’d ever heard. Arlo stopped playing. Becca bumped into him.
      “Watch it would you?”
      “You hear that?”
      “Of course. We need to keep moving, Arlo, and stop playing.”
      “I can’t!”
      “That harmonica is going to kill you.”
      Arlo laughed. “How do you figure that?” Arlo started moving and Becca followed him.
      “Why didn’t you pick someone like James Cotton? Why Bobby D?”
      “I was just a kid wishing to play the harmonica like the guy I loved.” Arlo kept on moving. By this time, Becca’s heart rate had slowed. She figured she might make it.
      “Why are you asking so many questions?”
      “No reason. Just two more, though.”
      “Okay Becca. Two more.”
      “Why’d you have to sell your soul for it?”
      “What?” Arlo turned and looked at her then and that’s when he heard the train for the first time and knew he was close to getting home. They could catch a box car and ride it all the way into New Orleans. “I was a kid, and I’d probably do it again.” He laughed zipped his lips across his harmonica. “Love you, baby.” He kissed it. “What’s your second question?”
      “How fast can you run?” Becca’s eyes glowed red.

  24. By: J Lenni Dorner

    We didn’t die in the train crash. Mama please, you’ve got to come. It’s time. It just is. You’ve got to come now, Mama. He brushes hair too hard.

    Sissy! Sissy, stay out of the sun.

    Mama, you need to come get us now. We’re right here. Five houses down. He has a hoard of dolls. They are all wrapped in white. It smells real bad, Mama. The dolls have no hair. They look like uncooked fries dipped in ketchup.

    There’s nothing to eat, ‘cept the flies. You said not to eat flies, Mama. You always shooed them away. Come shoo them away now, Mama. He’s brushing Sissy’s hair too hard. It’s drawing the flies to her. I’m so hungry. The flies are hungry, too. Make them stop. Please.

    Stay out of the sun, Sissy! Sissy! Please, please stay out of the sun.

    I don’t think the other dolls stayed out of sun. I see them, out there, outside the basement window. But they are in here, too. In here with us. Are you outside the basement window, Mama?

    I’m so hungry. He brushed my hair too hard. I was so cold, Mama.

    Sissy? Sissy! No, no, no!

    We have to go into the sun.

  25. The streets were never this empty.
    Usually hoards of children and their parents swarmed the avenue like flies on a decomposing carcass. Their combined chatter drowned out the hum of the streetlights. Discarded wrappers crunched underfoot tossed aside by impatient trick or treaters.
    The starlit sky curved away from the roofs of the houses, doming over the neighborhood, trapping me in silence. I wanted to go home, but it was my year.
    A flicker of movement, something white fluttered from one yard to the next. Shrieking erupted in the dome of silence and brought my hair to its end. I froze.
    “’Excuse me.” A child with a mask of green paint and Styrofoam muscles holding an empty plastic pumpkin stood behind me.
    “I can’t find my mother.” The boy’s lower lip quivered.
    I said nothing when five figures appeared behind the child. A wave of giggles moved from right to left. White sheets hung over the shapeless masses. Two of them reached out and the boy clutched the cloth-covered appendages tightly. They drew him away from me moving quickly down the lane and around the corner. By the time I reached the turn, they were gone and silence returned.
    A scream ripped through the air and I ran towards it. Down the next block, I spied a ball of orange on browning leaves in an otherwise empty yard. The child’s bucket lay tipped on its side in a pool of dark liquid. I grabbed the black handle and let the pumpkin slide into the garbage bag I was holding, and kicked leaves over the blood.
    By the time I awoke the next day, any further evidence of the previous night’s holiday disappeared and no one acknowledged the woman scouring the streets for her little boy.

  26. When she stepped out onto the back porch into the cold, damp night she could not see the source of the commotion. She hugged her arms to her chest and held her elbows tightly as she peered apprehensively into the mist. She could hear it. Hear them. This wasn’t the first time they’d come round. They came every year ‘bout this time. Hoards of them.
    As the mist slowly dissipated she began to see their forms dancing in and out of the shadows of twisted trees. She moved tentatively forward, watching as the moonlight glinted off their pale shapes. In unison they stopped and turned toward her. They were coming to her. For her. Inexplicably frozen in place, she waited. Would they speak this time? Would they touch her? Hurt her?
    Now enclosed in a ghastly circle, the shimmering shapes gyrated silently around her. She became frantic. There was no way to escape the crowd of featureless faces. Her breaths came hard. Her heart wanted out of her chest as badly as she wanted out of the dream. One shape separated from the pack and moved closer to her. And closer still. The energy radiating from it was palpable. It rushed her. Rushed into her. Her body stiffened and swelled with the energy. Her head tilted back sharply and she released a silent scream. A scream she never woke from.

  27. ERASURE

    There is true horror in daylight. At night, you can craft a story for every shadow. But at high noon, sun filters through windows, creating harsh spotlights on the truth: her worn spot in the bed, the slowly disappearing indent in her pillow, her key mocking me on the counter.

    I would hoard memories so I could tell our future children how in love we were. She would get a smudge of flour on her nose when baking brownies. After she broke her leg, I painstakingly painted her toenails every two weeks. She tattooed my initials on the inside of her wrist as a sign I was the one who would quicken her pulse forever.

    “Not so anymore,” she said.

    Then not for me either. I snuck the vial out of the test lab at work. Now, I’ll conduct my own experiment.

    It’s easy to stick myself with the needle and comforting to feel cold liquid flooding the warm landscape of my dermis. I lay in bed, in her spot, and wait for the medicine to do what it’s made to. And soon, it does. Memories of her transform into tiny ghosts and wander off, traipsing close to an imaginary hedge in an ironically sweet line. Glimmers of significance that came with flour, toenails, and tattoos fade. I watch the ghosts depart until the one I most cherish — her name — has left me. Then, I sleep.

    I’m jarred awake by a desperate banging on the door. I rush to open it and see a woman crying.

    “Please forgive me,” she says.

    She is stunning despite her tears and a tattoo that mars the porcelain skin inside her wrist, but unfortunately, she is a stranger.

    “I can’t help you,” I say, and shut the door on her anguish.

  28. I showed her a good time. From the looks of that place, she needed it. Bad.
    Those photos were creepy as hell. And so clean, it wasn’t natural. Not a smudge or a fingerprint on them. I swear that damn soldier was watching me. Watching me with his dead eyes from that sick shrine.

    She should thank me for lifting the rings. It’s not healthy to HOARD memories like that.
    Real gold, and heavy. They’ll pay a few debts, take some weight off my back. If this damn swamp doesn’t swallow me first. I should’ve waited till morning. But I couldn’t stay another minute in that shack.

    I’ve heard the stories. I don’t believe them. There’s nothing unholy about night.
    If witches in white want to conjure at the crossroads, they’re welcome to their voodoo dance. It’s sure as hell not going to raise any dead. No more than her smudgeless temple will.

    God, it’s hot out here. I hate this southern heat. It’ll suffocate a man with his own skin. I’m gonna weigh ten pounds less by the time I find the road again.
    Wait. Right there, in the bushes. Was that a light? There, it flickered again. Headlights. I knew I was getting close.

    Aw hell, it’s just a kid with a campfire in some discount store Halloween getup. Maybe he knows where the road is. Partying in a swamp? I’d hate to be a teenager around here.

    “Hey kid, mind if I bum a smoke?” Maybe he didn’t hear me. He’s probably on something. His costume’s not actually half bad.

    “Nice medals, kid. They almost look like the real deal. Your dad military or something? Kid?”

  29. “Where are their faces, Daddy?” She clasps my hand with all the strength a four-year-old can muster.

    “They’re gone,” I say. Her hands slip a bit from my sweaty grip. “They burned away a long time ago.”

    The evil ones move toward us with only their white cloaks visible, covering their flailing figures. The full moon shines through the oaks trees on this hot Lousiana summer night. The phantoms have no feet, but lurch forward slowly, like invisible sleepwalkers jolted with electricity.

    Her breaths are fast with tail-end whimpers. “Who are they?”

    I kneel down and put my arm around her. I’ve been her sole protector since her mother died. “They’re witches. Very old, very mean witches.”

    “Are they coming to hurt us?” She presses her head against my chest.

    “No, sweetheart. They’re coming to hurt you.”

    She pulls her head back and looks into my eyes. “You’re going to stop them. Right, Daddy?”

    “No.” I laugh. “Of course not. I called them here.”

    She pushes me away, as her expression changes from scared to confused. The witches move closer, and their beastly grunts grow louder.

    “You must go with them. That’s the deal I made so I can here stay longer.”

    “But why?” Tears drip from her chin. “I’m your only daughter.”

    “No, you’re not the only one, and you certainly won’t be the last.” I put my hand on her back and push her into the path of the witches. They pounce like tigers feeding on fresh catch, squeezing every limb. She shrieks from the pain. With one last effort, she dives towards me, digging her fingers into the dirt. A fingernail rips off as they drag her away. I feel relief, as my hoard of borrowed time grows larger in my infinite existence.

  30. We are dark secrets wrapped in sheets that smell of moth balls and formaldehyde and the stale gulp of death. For years and minutes we lay huddled tight together beneath the floorboard of Auntie Em’s Home For Wayward Girls. Listening to footsteps. Answering with groans.
    “God bless these old rotten planks,” you told them, convincing them, one couple at a time, that their daughters were safe—that they’d graduate from your house and be thankful for the parents who loved them enough to send them away.
    We never were.
    They left us with hugs and tears and guilt.
    And what did you take? Birthdays and proms. First days of school. Kisses hidden from front porch lights.
    And hair.
    The razor buzzed as it dropped all around us. Hair for those damn baby dolls you hoard. Antiques who stare at nothing with glass eyes—one wide open, one half shut. You scrubbed the scuffs off their plastic arms with dish soap as you sang them to life. Scarlett Ribbons. You named each of them after each of us. You even took our names.
    But now, it is our hour.
    As you lay on your wedding bed, surrounded by the miniature children of your own making–the ones you could control. As your breath wheezes and your chest tightens. You know the moans are not the floorboards and the smell is not some animal that met its maker in the crawl space.
    It is our night to dance.
    We let our sheets drop to the cursed floor. The lid to our shared coffin.
    You stare at the way the candlelight sways on our bald, bony heads.
    Nothing left to use.
    Nothing left for your babies.
    The last breath escapes and you lay still. One eye wide. One half shut.

  31. Dearest Mother,

    Today, as you know, is my sixteenth birthday. Funny that it should also be my deathday. Funnier still, you knew this when you sent me here.

    Nine months ago, they took us to the meadow just beyond the old, gnarled oak trees that border our camp. Nine girls and nine boys trembled like terrified bunnies in the hands of vicious children.

    It was there in the field that our little miracles came to be while the man-wolves watched with greed. They said we would be the creators of a “Pure Generation”.

    This morning, we were marched out of our camp. Cloaked in white and bare-bodied underneath, nine girls stumbled blindly in to the same clearing beyond the oaks for “The Deliverance”.

    We were each given a small, pink pill to swallow. All accepted the drug without protest. The wolves pet our faces lovingly and retreated into the trees to wait.

    Frieda was the first to scream. Blood sprouted from her delicate nostrils and red beads fell like precious rubies from her tear ducts. Soon after, she bled between her legs and the lives inside were gone from her body.

    As I huddle here now, the howls go round while blood and flesh rush out onto the grass and wildflowers. More girls lay back and go limp, but I do not bleed.

    One by one, men in wolf costumes come to collect and hoard the born and chew on the dead bones of girls. Soon, my beast will come for me, for us.

    I wonder, dear mother, do you remember when I kissed you and called you “mummy” just before I walked into this horrible camp?

    I cannot help but hope that it is with birthday luck I may be the only one left aliv-

  32. “Gentle folks of Chalmette! I have come with important news! The souls of your girls are in perilous danger! The times are changing, the clothes tighter, the weather hotter, and the loins burning with the desire of carnal knowledge!” The tall, tawny haired man announced to the now aghast crowd of sheep. “I am here today to offer a refuge to secure your daughter’s salvation! In New Orleans, we have just opened up a new facility to protect or restore their maidenheads.”
    The crowd roared in astonishment and in excitement that they could dispose their sinful progeny.
    Six months crawled by and on the late afternoon of the 31st; the Academy hosted a mass party in the backyard of the facility. When everyone was settled the girls were summoned.
    A boy stood in the crowd, watching intently for the familiar outline of his girlfriend, Annie. The ghost like figures unveiled themselves, each pale and stoic. The boy saw his beloved and tried to catch her attention. After the speeches were made, the girls were sent back into the school without interacting with their family, a rule the headmaster explained earlier. The boy, angered, followed Annie until he saw his chance to nab her. When out of sight the two embraced and fell into a pile of leaves, consummating the moment. Enraptured by the love they just made, the boy fell asleep, naked in Annie’s arms while she wept.
    The sun peaked over the horizon, waking the boy. He opened his eyes to stare into hers only to scream manically. In the place of the beautiful girl was her decomposing corpse with the bruised markings from where his hands had touched her. The boy grew sick and began to vomit up pieces of her tongue and a HOARD of maggots.

  33. They come at dusk with a soft knock, knock, knocking on the door.

    “It’s too early for trick-or-treaters,” Mom calls from another room.

    Our carved pumpkins are still inside, their eyes and mouths empty and dark.

    I’m not wearing my costume yet. Mom is helping Jason and Brianna with theirs first, and I’m waiting with that can’t-hold-still-like-I have-to-pee feeling.

    Dad answers the door and I peek from behind him.

    They are ghosts, the kind dressed in sheets—except gauzier—and they don’t have eyes. And they don’t laugh or say “trick-or-treat.”

    Dad is silent.

    When Mom rushes into the front room, there’s something wrong with her smile. And when she says, “Oh my, there’s a hoard of ghosts!” there’s something wrong with her laugh, like it’s broken. She tries to pour candy into a bowl, but she can’t get the bag open because her hands are shaking all over, and then she spills half of it on the floor and doesn’t even try to pick it up.

    Dad is still in the doorway not moving and not saying anything. Brianna and Jason run past us, bumping into Dad as they fly out the door.

    What happened to their costumes? Brianna was a fairy princess and Jason was a skeleton, but now they’re ghosts and I can’t even tell which ones they are.

    It doesn’t matter anymore.

    The ghosts circle through our yard. I don’t realize I hear their music until I’m stepping to its beat, out the front door. Dad doesn’t try to stop me or even look at me when I pass.

    The ghosts surround me and then I’m one of them, covered in filmy white.

    Our circle unwinds and we move away, into darkness. Far in the distance behind us, I hear my mother scream, scream, screaming.

  34. Pingback: “Scarytale” or “Tomorrows’ End” | Ever On Word

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