Come the end of each October,
                        when the skies look grey and sober,
When the mist rolls on the water,
                        falls this dark All Hallows Night.
Keening wind that moans and mutters,
                      round the window panes and shutters;
Dreary rain that fills the gutters,
                        stains the stone that once was white.
Then, the dead can walk unhindered,
                      walk abroad till dawn’s first light.
Nameless horrors taking flight.

Gates of Hell, that death unhitches;
                       vampires, demons, wolves and witches,
Loosed upon this world of sorrow –
                       all Pandora’s boxed delight.
Lucifer, whose voice like thunder,
                       rends the tombs and crypts asunder,
Raise the dead from six feet under;
                       zombies stalk you through the night.
Seek the flesh that may release them
                       from apocalyptic plight
On this dark, All Hallows night.

Werewolf shape-shifts in the shadows
                       of the trees beside the meadows,
Where the cattle graze and tremble
                       at its fearful howls, in fright.
Werewolf wends his wayward wander,
                       through the woods to houses yonder,
Snatches small child from beyond her
                       mother’s reach and darkened sight.
Feeds upon the bloody carcass
                       of the poor angelic mite;
One more death on Hallows night.

Spectre of the child now haunting
                       woodland glade where death came, taunting:
Mournful cries, she calls for parents
                       passed beyond the veil of night.
Ever is she doomed to prowling,
                       like the wolf her lonely howling,
When full devil moon is scowling,
                       echoes through the silver light.
She will wander, ever searching
                       for release from demon’s might.
Just one more All Hallows night.

To the Sabbat, broomstick riding
                       witches with black cats confiding.
Open heath beneath the sky, where
                       Satan calls them in their flight.
Naked, round the fire dancing,
                       widdershins the circle prancing,
Chanting, even though they can’t sing,
                       to perform unholy rite.
Pan, the horn-clad god presiding,
                       knowing all with second sight,
Ruler of All Hallows night.

Crucible and cauldron boiling,
                       now they cast their spells, despoiling
Fields of corn with fungus growth, a
                       pestilence of mildewed blight.
Calves may die before the morrow,
                       bringing farmers grief and sorrow;
They, for comfort, seek to borrow,
                       holy words to ease their plight.
But the dogma from the churches
                       has no Godly power to fight
Darkness this unholy night.

Vampire, rising from the grave, he
                       mocks the vampire killer, bravely
Armed with crucifix and stake of
                       wood, who dares to stand and fight.
Vampire bites the hapless hero,
                       drains his blood from full to zero;
Stands and laughs like Emperor Nero
                       watched Rome burn in flames so bright.
Wipes the blood from fangs which gleam in
                       pallid, sickly-pale moonlight.
He’s undead, tonight’s his night.

Rain on rotting linen falling,
                       listening to the old ones calling
From the pyramids in Egypt,
                       stands the mummy, bandaged tight.
Now’s the time he must deliver
                       talisman of ancient river,
Stolen from the life-force giver;
                       to his Pharaoh lost despite
Knowledge he would live forever
                       ‘mong the constellations bright
Of this sacred Hallows night.

Hid behind a sepulcher of
                       lichened stone, with matted hair, a
Ghoul of once commanding stature
                       stares into the darkening night.
Crouching low deformed and hoary,
                       eats dead human flesh: that’s gory;
He could tell a gruesome story
                       connoisseurs of fear and fright.
Will you listen to his ramblings?
                       Will you listen now, despite
Needs to flee this morbid sight?

Though you’ve all had ample warning
                       that you may not live till morning,
Still, the last day of October’s
                       welcomed in with great delight.
Standing on the doorstep, bandy-
                     legged children beg for candy
In their costumed garb so dandy,
                       fearless of the ghastly sight
That awaits them in the shadows
                       Hides another evil sprite
This macabre All Hallows night.

All Hallows Night.

Friday Frights: Screaming Skull.

My Friday Frights submission for the Issue 57 prompt – Telekinesis. This story is around 2300 words. More fun at the expense of my dear neighbours. Continues from my Dinner Party Story, She Wasn’t Invited.

My first and, I expected, my last dinner party here in France, was a disaster of epic proportions. All went well until an apparition in the form of a child, a girl of eight or nine years appeared on the staircase and scared the bejesus out of my guests. Without exception, they fled from the house leaving me to confront the nightmare alone.

Actually, it was not so much of a nightmare. I knew the house was haunted. It began, at least I first became aware of a ghostly presence, when, whilst digging to clear brambles from an area of garden, I unearthed a human skull. I realise I should have reported the find to the local Gendarme, but this being France… The skull had obviously been in the ground a very long time and I could not see them being overly keen to investigate a possible murder of so long ago. Besides, I thought it might look good, well, a talking point at least, if displayed in a glass cabinet under an eerie green light.

The night I first brought it into the house was the night I first saw the young woman to whom the bones had belonged. Aware of the paranormal for as long as I remember, I have no fear of ghosts and, after an initial moment of embarrassment on my part for desecrating her grave, we began what I think many people would see as a bizarre relationship. Her name, when she was alive, was Monique, a beautiful name that I will always refer to her by.

She liked my idea for the display of her remains as it gave her a strong physical link with this house. She wanted to stay and, to be honest, I enjoy her company. I should add here, our relationship is not sexual. No matter what romantic fiction writers tell you, physical sex with a ghost is not possible. For an apparition to even remain visible, it must draw energy in the form of heat from the physical plane. This is why there is such a noticeable drop in temperature during paranormal activity. No matter how stunning your ghost appears, I challenge any man to maintain his libido when she feels like a block of ice to his touch.

Anyway, getting back to the dinner party, I made no mention of hauntings to my guests before they arrived. I really did not think they would believe me. It never occurred to me that Monique might get upset at not being invited and make an appearance with such devastating effect. Monique and I had a long talk later that evening, when I explained that most living people do not understand ghosts the way I do and, as I thought she understood that, she would know why I could not invite her. Admittedly, I should have told her about the dinner, but as it’s not every day she visits me, and I am so pleased to see her when she does, it had completely slipped from my mind.

This pacified Monique, but I was uncertain how I should explain to the neighbours I had invited. I considered one idea: that being a writer of horror stories, it had been an experiment to see their reactions and my ghost was the daughter of a friend made up and dressed to look scary. Unfortunately, her mother, who had been upstairs all evening with her, had got a little carried away and made her look too realistic.

In fact, I didn’t need to go to such measures. Mid-morning the next day, I was disturbed from some writing by a knock at the door. It was Michelle who had been the first to see Monique on the stairs.

“I am so sorry that we all rushed away leaving you alone,” she said. “I expected to find you this morning a white haired, gibbering wreck of a man. Did you realize the house was haunted?”

“Well, as it happens…”

“I’m sure you didn’t.” She answered for me before I could admit I did. “I thought I could sense a lurking evil in the house as soon as we came in.”

I am certain I looked at her in surprise. Monique has never struck me as being evil. I know she worked as a prostitute before her murder by a deranged psychopath who believed he was, “doing God’s will by cleaning the scum from the streets.” Monique’s words, not mine. I also know she has a certain sense of humour in an un-deadpan sort of way. But evil… She bears no grudge, even against the man who ended her life.

Michelle continued, “I’d like to bring some friends over this evening. I know they can help you.”

“It’s okay…” I tried to stop her but she was not listening.

“Would nine be all right?” She glanced beyond me into the room, perhaps as if expecting to see a winged demonic presence on the carpet. “Well, nine it is then. Bye for now, and please don’t worry.” She turned and almost ran from the house to her waiting car.

I tried to call Monique, but it is not as if I could pick up a phone, so whether she got my message or not, I had no way of knowing.

At a quarter-past nine, I began to suspect Michelle had been unable to arrange the “help” she promised. I started to feel a sense of relief until there was a knock at the door. Michelle with her husband Guillom, a plump woman who appeared to be in her late forties, with almost flame red hair, and a thin, elderly man in the attire of a priest stood waiting on the step.

The moment the door was open sufficiently, Michelle made her apologies. “I am so sorry we’re late, but I didn’t realize Father DuBois needed to make so many preparations.”

“You’d be surprised how long it takes to get holy water.” Guillom was smirking as he added his contribution.

Father Dubois looked more serious. “My apologies, but it’s not just a question of turning on a tap and filling a flask.”

“And this is Odette.” Michelle indicated to the red haired woman. “She is a psychic.”

The woman bustled forward until her presence seemed overwhelming. Perhaps it was the red hair, or perhaps the bright orange dress. I felt dazzled.

“We’ve already met,” I said.

Odette stopped abruptly. She looked bemused. “I think you are mistaken.”

“Not this life,” I added. “Paris? 1790? The French Revolution.” I have no idea if I was correct, but three of my four guests stared at me in awe.

“So, you believe in reincarnation?”

I had assumed The priest would not. Such a concept is not part of the Catholic creed. “Of course Father,” I replied. “I’ve seen too much evidence not to be certain.”

Odette looked deflated. “I think… maybe I do remember.” She sounded very hesitant. One up to me, I thought.

“You’d better come in,” I continued holding the door open for them to enter.

Odette, having pushed herself to the front was the first to enter. As she reached the middle of the lounge, she clutched at her chest with both hands and her knees buckled. I thought she was about to collapse; heart attack or something similar.

Michelle grabbed her arm for support before I could move. “Whatever is the matter?”

“I feel it. That sense of foreboding. That evil presence you told me about. I feel it, here in this very room. It’s so strong, so powerful, so overwhelmingly evil.”

A large black ball of indistinguishable form suddenly appeared in the corner of the room, flew across the carpet and out through the open door. Everyone jumped, Michelle screamed and the priest made the sign of the cross with one hand.

I tried to stop laughing. “It’s all right. That was only one of my black cats. You scared her.”
How many cats do you have? The priest asked. I would swear his voice had developed a nervous quaver.

“Three black and one silver-grey. I think the others are out at the moment.” I turned to Odette. I intended asking if the “evil” presence was still in the room now the cat had gone, until I realised she had fainted. I went into the kitchen for some water as Michelle tried to revive her.
As I turned the tap, I felt a snigger of amusement. Monique?

I could not see her but sensed her presence. Monique and I have a wonderful system of communication. She speaks no English, and my French is very limited, but as a spirit, she is totally telepathic. We communicate with pure thought, with sensation, emotion, feelings. She translates my sensations into French, while I translate hers into English. The thoughts are the same; it is only the symbols, the words we use to convey those thoughts that vary from language to language. If one of us thinks of an apple, which is the word symbol I use, Monique sees the same fruit but she knows it as “un pomme.” It is perfect. There is no chance of any misunderstanding.

I realized at that moment, we also had the ability to talk with none of the others overhearing us. I’m so glad you’re here Monique. I couldn’t stop them. I hope they don’t really exorcize you.

I don’t think they can. SHE, is a charlatan. I assumed Monique was referring to Odette.

I thought you would be more concerned about the priest. With his talk of holy water, he had me worried.

If we were religious fanatics, maybe. But neither of us believe in a god, do we?

That was true.

I returned to the lounge with the water. Michelle and Guillom had Odette sitting in a straight-backed chair beside the dining table. Placing the glass on the table beside her, I said, “If you want to call off tonight…”

“We wouldn’t dream of it.” Michelle seemed to have taken on the roll of spokesperson for the group. “You must have been living through hell these past years.”

“Not at all!” I felt it was time I explained before they got carried away with their hocus-pocus. “I’ve always known this house is haunted. A young woman by the name of Monique who was murdered here around fifty years ago. She doesn’t always haunt the house as a nine-year old child. I understand she was seventeen when she died. She can appear as any age she experienced in life, up until the moment she died. She believed a nine-year old would have the most sensational effect among those she wanted to scare. I should have warned you before last night, but, to be honest, I didn’t think you would believe.” I decided to make no mention of the skull sitting in a box beside the computer in the room I use as a study.

I turned to Michelle and Odette. “I don’t know why you should think she is evil. She can exude an air of sadness, melancholy at times, but evil? Never to me. She has given me some wonderful inspiration for stories. I see her as my muse.”

A snort of derision from the priest drew my attention back to him. “Then she has seduced you with her lies. This is exactly the way God’s word describes the behaviour of demonic entities. We are expressly forbidden in the Holy Bible to have any contact. To prove to you the demon’s true nature, I will summon her in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to appear before us in her true form.”

I was not sure why he felt he needed to speak in such a loud voice. Far more quietly I said, “There is no need for summoning, father. She is standing right behind you.”

The look on his face was priceless as he spun around. Of course, he could not see her. I was aware of no more than the faintest glow of ethereal light.

“Would you please be good enough to show yourself in your true form Monique?” Even when speaking to the dead, it is considerate to be polite. I asked the question aloud only for the benefit of the living. I felt the sudden drop in temperature from the warmth of the summer night.

I guessed how she would show herself: the way she looked, the moments before she was murdered. Many times has she appeared to me in such a form, she knows it excites me. I was not disappointed. I think the priest was shocked. The two women definitely were. She stood, a glowing vision, completely naked. To me, she looked more like an angel than a demon.

The events that followed, I was not expecting. Father DuBois pulled a crucifix from an inside pocket of his cassock, thrusting it toward Monique. The electric lights in the room were suddenly extinguished. There was a loud thud from the table behind me. I think both women shrieked. I half turned, catching site of the skull now resting in the centre of the table. It still glowed from the eerie green light, although there was no light visible. The priest yelled something in French and unprintable. I looked back to see the crucifix glowing redder than Odette’s hair. He dropped the cross from where it lay, smouldering on the carpet. The smell of singed flesh mixed with burning carpet-pile reminded me of sulphur and brimstone.

The final straw was the loud, demonic chuckle that came from the skull. Four figures, including a badly shaken priest fled from the house.

I turned to Monique. That was amazing. I didn’t know you could do telekinesis.

There was a strange, almost frightened look in her eyes. It wasn’t me,she whispered.

© 2012. Robert A. Read

The Skull II (Death)

A continuation from my last blog: The Skull for VampLit #FridayFlash topic: Death. This is work-in-progress – working title. The Undead Muse: biography of a ghost.

Monique: The biography of a ghost.

“Booo!”

“Oh… hello Monique.” I answered without turning my head from the computer screen.

Are you not pleased to see me?

“I would have been an hour and half ago. You’re late.”

She giggled. “The late Monique Patrise. Sorry, something came up.”

“What could possibly come up? You’re dead for heaven’s sake. What were you doing? Having sex and forgot the time?”

The phantom hissed at me. “I should be so lucky,” she continued. “If you think being a ghost is easy, you should try it.”

Acutely aware of the sudden drop in temperature, I turned to face the spectral form. “And if you think sitting here in summer wearing three sweaters waiting for a ghost that doesn’t show is fun…”

An overwhelming sense of sadness brought a lump into my throat. “Stop that!” I said. “You know you have an unfair advantage putting emotions directly into my head.”

“Awww!” the mood in the room brightened. “Kiss and make up?” she added.

“Okay.” I shut my eyes and grimaced as I felt the icy touch of dead lips press against my cheek.

“Friends?” she asked.

“Friends,” I confirmed. “So, tell me, what came up to delay you.”

“Well, nothing really. It’s just that time passes differently when you’re dead.”

“How do you mean? Is haunting so time-consuming?”

“No, I guess not. Not like that, anyway.”

“Explain please.”

“Well, it’s like being in limbo. You understand what limbo is?”

“I believe it’s supposed to be like a waiting area between this world and the next isn’t it?”

“Waiting is a good analogy,” she answered. “It always feels like I’m waiting for something, but I don’t know what. I’m trying to look through a swirling grey mist into the world I left behind. A fading black-and-white film that won’t run at a constant speed. Sometimes the projector runs so slow I think it has stopped, other times it flashes images so quickly I can’t keep up. It’s impossible to know the time, to keep an appointment. I thought I’d be closer to the time you arranged than an hour and half though.”

I looked at the clock on the computer screen. “Actually, you’re just over an hour late. I guess time is only important to those still living. Do you have an awareness that forty-two years have passed since your death?”

“It feels more like eternity. I still remember my life leading up to my death with vivid clarity, but it feels like I’ve been in this limbo for ever.”

“Can you tell me what it’s like to die?”

“I can, if you are sure you want to hear. My death was horrific. I don’t know if every death is as bad.”

“You told me the events leading up to your murder. I’m more interested to hear how you realized you were dead.”

“At first I didn’t. Pain in my chest, the terror from being unable to breathe was totally overwhelming. I felt dizzy as if my head was spinning. I think that was when I began to lose awareness of time. The pain and terror seems to stay in my memory forever. I can still experience it now if I think about it. At some point the pain stopped, a bit like waking up from a bad nightmare. I was aware of lying on the ground listening to the two men talking. They were arguing; blaming each other for killing me. I wanted to get up, tell them I wasn’t dead, but it felt too much trouble. Let them blame each other, get themselves worked up about it I thought. I wanted them to suffer as I had.

“After a bit they calmed down. They got some equipment from their van. The night was dark. I remember seeing a quarter moon through tree branches. I watched them working for some time before I understood they were digging me a grave. Not wanting to be buried alive, I called out to them, not too loudly at first, ‘Hey, I’m not dead.’ They took no notice, so I started calling louder and louder. Still they ignored me. This was when I thought they were ignoring me on purpose just to scare me. I tried to stand, but was unable to move. There was no sensation, no feeling in my body, no sensation of damp grass or cold air on my skin. It was like being paralysed, I guessed, maybe through severe injury to my back? I could still hear the thuds of their shovels and the occasional words they spoke.

“Eventually, they stopped digging. One of them took my arms and the other my feet. Although I felt nothing, I knew from the movement of tree branches they had lifted me. I screamed. I heard their strained breathing, I heard my scream, but they appeared not to.

“There was a thud as they dropped me into the ground. I could still see them silhouetted above me. One of the men lowered the sharp edge of a spade slowly as if getting it into position. Then he kicked down sharply with his foot. There was a crunch and a jolt and I was suddenly able to sit up.

“Earth and stones rained down from their shovels as I climbed out of the grave. It was shallow, no more than a metre deep, so I had no problem. I looked down and saw my naked body. My head was turned away to the side, unnaturally twisted, and I could see where he used the spade to sever it from my neck. That was the point I knew I was dead. I sat on the grass bank and wept. They didn’t see me; just threw the stuff in their van and drove away.”

© 2011 Robert A. Read

Word count – 997

Friday Flash Fiction Poem: The Ghosts Of Rosslynne Bay.

Notes: Since I foolishly challenged Gaynor to write a poem based on the form and rhyming pattern of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven (and seeing the excellent piece she submitted last week) this is my sad attempt at the challenge. The difficult part I found when writing the lines was in making sure they are all “trochaic.” Each line of each stanza must start with a stressed syllable followed alternately by unstressed and stressed to the end of the line. Lines 2, 4, 5 and 7 will end in a stressed syllable, thus adding extra emphasis to those lines. (see my blog “The Raven” )

In explanation, the name Annalais is intended to be of French origin and should be pronounced similar to the wine, Beaujolais, without sounding the final ‘s’   This ensures the rhyme with the last syllable of Rosslynne Bay.

The name, Rosslynne Bay, is fictitious (I believe) but was inspired by a bay I visited as a child — Rhosilli Bay near Swansea, South Wales.

The poem may also be considered a little traumatic — I warn you now.

The Ghosts of Rosslynne Bay.

While I walk on cold sands, thinking – that my life, like red sun, sinking
Slowly into foaming waters off the beach at Rosslynne Bay,
Has of now lost any reason, like the closing of the season,
Grief becomes a fest’ring lesion, memories of Annalais.
As the sunset brings the darkness, as the sunset ends the day,
Thoughts of her bring sad dismay.

It was here that first I met her, on this beach the sunset set her
Eyes of em’rald-light afire, and drenched her hair in golden spray.
Here we walked in summer moonlight, passions whirled like seagulls in flight,
Happiness seemed without respite, death would never cross our way.
Seemed our joy would last for ever on the beach at Rosslynne Bay;
Last for ever – till today.

Winter Solstice drawing nearer, winter weather more severe, her
Need to visit parents came with thick’ning fog at end of day;
Her walk in ice and snow alone, she never made it to our home;
Oh, if only I had known, but in a bed of sickness lay.
Not until the midnight hour did my worn fevered thoughts portray
Fear for my sweet Annalais.

Sad, the night that she was taken, sad, the morn when I awaken
To the news that they had found her naked body cold and grey.
On the moor he sought to hide her, shallow grave he was provider;
Neath the sods of earth he laid her, hidden from the light of day.
In the dark her killer bound her; rope around her throat to slay,
Choked the life from Annalais.

Let these spoken words I borrow, ease my grief and soothe my sorrow.
Now I beg that she find peace from all her pain; to God I pray.
Yet can you be God, so callous? Treat your angel with such malice?
Let her die, perhaps you’d tell us, why you took her life away.
She was innocence incarnate, my sweet angel Annalais.
“There can be no God,” I say.

On the sands harsh memories of ships that foundered in the seas,
Grounded by the westward gales on shingled banks of sand and clay.
Hear the waves now gently murmur, words to me seem to confirm her
Wish that I should leave to join her, end my life without delay.
I will walk into the water where the moonbeams dance and play;
Dance with my sweet Annalais.

Sunset beckons blood-red finger, beckons still and yet I linger;
Moonlight shim’ring iridescence, through the clouds that gently sway;
A shrouded figure gleaming bright, a silhouette against dark night,
Stands now before my troubled sight, ghostly pale in silver-grey.
Spectral figure stands before me; perfect lady Annalais.
“Come to me,” I hear her say.

Water round my knees is churning, cold as ice and yet still burning;
Sinking sand beneath my feet, the treacherous sand that turns to clay,
Pulls me down as if I’m falling, while around me souls are calling,
Siren’s song is less appalling than the mem’ries of the fee.
Memories of brave men drowning, in the sand their bones now lay
Here, the tombs of Rosslynne Bay

Shifting sands now cold and stark their – loneliness and sorrow mark where
Autumn drizzle hides the sun, as morning breaks on Rosslynne Bay.
And overhead the roosting flocks of seagulls in their feathered smocks
Seek shelter under dripping rocks, underneath the cliffs so grey.
Cliffs that guard the ghosts who wander, through the wave’s cold misty spray
Ghosts of I and Annalais.

© 2011 Robert A. Read.