It’s finally arrived. You can’t get through a doorway in our house without being brushed by a large felt spider leg or getting skull tinsel in your hair. The skull (cement, not real, I’m ghoulish but not that ghoulish) has been smiling from pride of place on the mantel beneath the black leaf garlands for the best part of a month and homemade cut-outs of witches, ghosts and pumpkins adorn every wall. And that’s just the stuff I put up.
Each year there’s more and I just don’t want to take it down after Hallowe’en, so there’s a little left hanging around – a sugar skull here, a skeletal goblet there and one of these years I won’t have to put anything up at all. I’m a goth at heart you see, I have a gargoyle on my doorstep, the skull I brought back from London where I bought it from a man wearing a top hat with a white rat on his shoulder, its name is Bouji. My grown-up and now married daughter used to play with it as a child. I have a full length wrought iron candelabra in the window and a plethora of candles in candlesticks and am one of the few people who rejoice when the lights go out. In my head I live in a manse upon the moors in Yorkshire, wealthy and isolated with a handful of servants to do my bidding. Its filled with old furniture and dusty passages and the ghosts of my ancestors.
I love the shadows, the possibilities for my imagination and Hallowe’en is one of the times when I feel the veil drawn slightly aside. I relish the lit pumpkins, the eerie light from their carved mask faces, I love the excuse to switch off the lights and let the glare from one of my many horror films light the darkened room. I feel fully and vibrationally alert, my writer’s spidey sense is on 100% and pages are filled with gothic and contemporary horror. It’s no mistake that my three collections of short stories; two horror and one of unusual fiction (a mix of horror, dark faerie, romance and humour) were born at this time of year. I have just finished my latest gothic fiction piece – a novella set in Victorian England but it is not published as yet, it’s too fresh, and I feel the need to keep it about me for a while.
This said I must begin my preparations for tonight, there is a massive pumpkin to be designed, emptied and carved – I’m going to go classic tonight and celebrate the new Hallowe’en film with the original 70s pumpkin from the Meyers house; simple but effective. We will also be watching the first film in the series and I must hunt it out from the mass of horror movies in my collection. So far we have managed to watch more or less the full complement of Tim Burton films and all our usuals althought I’m sure we can squeeze in another this afternoon before the main event. I need to restock the trick or treat supplies, organise our Hallowe’en feast and try to get some new horror written (in case we run out). At least I can leave off tidying the house – it’s the one time when all our cobwebs and dust actually add to the decor.
Please find below a special Hallowe’en treat for your party bags – an excerpt from one of my darker tales from The Lights Went Out and Other Stories, a tale of dark faerie called Cash Flow.
“She met the old woman a second time at the park and she showed great interest in the children, the baby and especially in Jan’s growing bump.
“Coming along nicely dear,” she cackled gesturing to the bump with a bony finger. As if Jan was baking a particularly rich cake.
Jan merely acknowledged her presence on the bench, berating herself for the recent slip in her reserve that seemed to have given this stranger the right talk to her as if they were friends.
“And how are things with you?” She moved closer along the bench her eyes gleaming with interest.
“You look happier. Yes?” The accent deepened.
Jan nodded unwilling to encourage further comments.
“I remembered your despair, young lady,” the strange old woman went on unperturbed. “And I have said a special prayer for you.”
“Oh, please don’t,” urged Jan, reaching for the pushchair eager to be off. What had ever possessed her to open her mouth to this crazy person? “Really, it’s alright.”
But the old woman just held up a finger to her lips. Jan fell silent.
“It’s all taken care off. You don’t have to worry any more,” she pointed to Jan’s bump and winked a smudgy brown eye.
Jan left the park, hurriedly gathering her sons close to her without once looking back. She had no desire for even a last look at the woman on the bench.
Later, she told Martin that she was really too big and tired to take the boys to the park any longer, he would have to do it at the weekends. She didn’t mention the stranger to him, after all she hoped to never set eyes on her and what did it really matter, she was after all just a lonely old woman hoping to strike up conversation with the next person she came across. She was well rid of her.
Unfortunately only a few weeks later Jan came across her in the local supermarket. This time she wasn’t near enough to speak to her as Jan was at the checkout concentrating on packing her groceries but the old woman grinned at her across the heads of the other shoppers and put a finger to her lips again knowingly. Jan focused on getting the shopping into her trolley and tried to ignore the nausea that began to rise up from the pit in her stomach. The baby inside her kicked and moved excitedly. She managed to make it out to her car before she vomited onto the tarmac, spewing yellow bile that ran down the asphalt between the cars.
Again she didn’t mention the incident to her husband, there was no point. How could they reconcile the appearance of the old woman with their improved finances? And they were still finding money, sometimes once or twice a week. It was funny how quickly they had moved from disbelief onto acceptance of the phenomena.
And so in the comfort of her own home, Jan put the thoughts away from her and concentrated on the impending birth, after all everything was on the up and up, the children were happier, her relationship with Martin was vastly improved and she was healthy and not so troubled by money problems. It was all positive.
And yet the woman’s last words stayed with her – “It’s all taken care of. You don’t have to worry anymore.” Like a bad meal that sat in the bottom of her stomach, they threatened to ruin her peace of mind. Waiting at the edge of her consciousness, like the woman herself. For the right moment to pounce. “