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.

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An Unholy Halloween


My appearance may be misleading if you are unaware of my story. From the wispy feathers of white hair, the gaunt features and wrinkled parchment yellow skin, you may think my age to be near eighty years. In fact my true age is less than half that total. I am entirely to blame. If I had paid more attention to the warnings from the local villagers…

In the three autumn seasons through which I have lived in this tiny, Devonshire village on the edge of Bodmin Moor, I have never been visited by the local children on All Hallows Eve. I realize that ‘trick-or-treat’ is more of an American theme, but in the last twenty years or so, it has become almost as popular here in England.

The first two years were understandable; I needed to earn the villagers’ trust. My little thatch-roofed cottage set among surly horse-chestnut trees and away from the main road was a little creepy. That fact, added to the suspicion of a middle-aged man living alone, and with stories of sex-offenders and paedophiles making almost daily headline news, how many parents would be willing to allow their precious offspring to come near my abode?

However, by the third year, I was on first name terms with all my immediate neighbours. They knew by then, that being an artist, I had an excuse for a little eccentricity. Several of my better paintings hung on the walls above the bar of the quaint little pub, the Red Lion, and I had received requests from two of the patrons for portraits of their young ones which I completed from photographs they supplied.

Through the harvest season of that year and the next, I received gifts of home-grown vegetables from, at least, four families, which I repaid by allowing their older children to collect apples and plums from my small orchard. I was therefore, even more surprised to have no costumed revellers standing on my doorstep through that last night of October.

My fourth Halloween was the time I decided to show them I was happy to become involved in the yearly festivities. The shop windows of the stores in the nearest town were filled with the masks, costumes and trinkets to which we have become accustomed, almost from the end of summer. The week before the end of October, I purchased half a dozen plastic jack-o-lanterns, several cut-out, broomstick riding witches and black cats, and felt almost ready to entertain. These items, displayed on the trees and walls of the house, I hoped would attract the village children. I also bought a supply of sticky sweets and chocolate goodies to hand out in the best Halloween tradition.

The night before All Saints’ day, while sitting in the bar of the Red Lion, I noticed that Pete, the landlord of the house had made no attempt to add seasonal decoration. The half-timbered walls and dark stained low wooden beams were made for a touch of Gothic horror.

“Do you not celebrate Halloween?” I asked him?

The moment I mentioned the time of year, a cloying hush fell over the ten or so drinkers. I felt their searing gazes burning into me. For a moment, I thought I had spoken some profane blasphemy.

Lowering my voice I added, “I ask because I’ve never seen children trick-or-treating like they do in the towns.”

“You’ll not see such tom-foolery celebrated in these parts. Maybe those city dwellers have nothing to fear with their bright lights, but here the night when the dead walk abroad is a night we fear most deeply.”

“Oh, come-on,” I said. “It’s only a bit of fun. A few sweets for children in fancy costumes.”

“It’s the one night of the year we keep our doors firmly barricaded. If any children come a knocking on your door my friend, you will be well advised to keep it firmly locked. Now I will be obliged if you make no more mention of this”

His manner and that of his customers unnerved me as I walked home that evening, but passing several houses with candle-lit lanterns in the windows, I put his reticence down to the likelihood that a night of partying would reduce his weekly profit margin.

The following evening, as darkness fell, I hung the lighted lanterns at the entrance to the porch of the house. I had already nailed the witches to the trees on the driveway from the road so that they pointed like direction arrows to my door. With sweets and chocolates displayed in bowls on a low table inside the porch, I waited.

I waited in vain for what must have been four hours. Several times, I went outside in the hope of seeing moving lights or figures under the street lamps. There seemed no sign of a living soul. By ten-o-clock, with wisps of cold mist drifting between the leafless trees, I came to the conclusion that this was another wasted Halloween. I closed the door, leaving the candles in the lanterns to burn themselves out, stoked up the log fire and settled down to read.

I must have slipped into a state of sleep from the warmth of the fire, before I was startled into wakefulness from a sudden noise. I jerked upright in the chair as my book fell with a thump onto the carpet. Apart from the ticking of the clock on the mantle there was only silence through the house. I was still trying to work out if it was imagination that had woken me when the same sound resolved into a tapping on the front door.

A visitor at such a late hour was most unusual. I was concerned as to who would call at this time. The door of my lounge opens onto the porch, the outer door of which, I remembered having left open to the night air. Moving quietly to the door, I pressed my ear against the wood for any sound that might identify my visitor. I believed I could detect faint whispering voices the way children whisper in classes when they should be studying.

I had an uncomfortable feeling, laced with fear. Whatever would children be calling for at this time. The clock indicated it was past eleven. Then I remembered the Halloween inviting lanterns pointing their way to my door. Of course! But still, this was much later for trick-or-treat than I expected.

At that moment, I regretted having no safety chain or peep-hole in the door. As I debated the predicament in my mind, another gentle tap caused me to jump in alarm. I was certain I heard the tiniest giggle from the other side of the door. It had to be two or more children calling for their trick or treat goodies.

Steeling myself, I reached out for the door handle. A small voice in the back of my mind urged me most vociferously not to open the door. But it was only children. What could be the harm in letting them have some of the chocolate treats?

I convinced my nervous state into believing the fear could be no more than due to waking so suddenly. I turned the door-knob. The door emits a creaking groan if opened slowly as in the best traditions of haunted houses. My intention was to use the effect to scare my visitors before I would step from the shadows like some ghastly ghoul.

As the entrance came into view the surprise hit me. I stared!

On the stone step stood a child, a girl of no more than ten years. She wore no mask, but she was made up to look the part. With long dark hair and pallid skin, I guessed she was meant to be a vampire. What caused me the astonishment was her attire. Dressed only in a white, short-sleeved smock that fell below her knees she must have been freezing. The garment may well have been a nightdress from my limited knowledge. Her hands were clasped across her stomach, and she clutched a raggedly dressed, china doll, while gazing at a point on the floor in front of her.

Bedraggled and dripping moisture, I could believe she had come in from the rain. Perhaps the mist had thickened since I had been inside. Behind her stood two more children, a boy and a girl dressed in similar gowns. Several years younger, these two could have been twins from their similar appearance

I looked into the moonlit night for a parent I could admonish for letting children wander the streets in such a state. There was no one in view. I opened my mouth to speak, but no sound could I utter as the girl looked up at me.

Shock hit me as if I had been thrown into an icy river. Her eyes, staring unblinking at me were large and black as a piece of jet. Entirely black, yet alive, glistening from the reflected light of my lounge.

I stepped back as she spoke. I was expecting her to say, ‘Trick or treat.’ The voice was hoarse as if from a sore throat. The words that came from her were, “Feed me!”

The other two shuffled forward into the light. Their eyes, totally black like the girl’s gazed at me as they echoed, “Feed me.”

A sensation came as of an icy hand gripping my throat and I could not prevent a shudder running through my body. “I have some chocolate which…” My tongue struggled to form the words.

“So, so cold,” she continued. “Let us in. Feed us.”

I was almost numb with an uncontrollable fear, yet I tried to think logically, they are only poor children. How could I refuse a little charity? I stepped back to allow them entry.

The events that proceeded my awakening in hospital I have no recollection. Apparently, a neighbour found me the following morning. He said that the door was open, and, with no response to his knock, he had entered. I was sitting in the chair before a fire that had long since gone out. Apparently, I was babbling about evil, dead children and not even knowing their names.

That is my story. You may believe it or not as you like. They say this is an old peoples’ home, and that I am not capable of looking after myself. I feel like a prisoner. I am certain, although the doctors will not admit, this is a mental asylum. They treat me reasonably well, but I feel the eyes of the other inmates burning me with contempt.

The children? They took nothing from me – nothing in any physical form that is. They took nothing other than forty years of my life.

© 2011 Robert A. Read

#FridayFlash Fiction: Halloween Costume.

Timmy!” his mother called from the hall. “There’s a parcel for you. I think it’s from your father. Come and see.”

Looks like it might be the young man’s birthday then,” said the postman.
“Yes, Halloween and birthday rolled into one. He’s ten today.”

Wheeee!” Timmy squealed as he left his breakfast. “Where…where?”

Happy birthday Timmy,” said the postman handing him the parcel.

Louise shut the front door while Timmy tore at the brown wrapping paper as fast as his small hands were capable. Soon, there was a pile of ripped shreds on the floor, and he was able to lift the lid of the box. Two envelopes lay on top, one addressed ‘To Timmy’ and the other marked ‘Louise.’

I think this one’s for you mum.” He handed it to her, and then dropped his own unopened on the floor. Ripping white tissue paper away, he lifted out a red and black cape.

“A Halloween costume! Count Dracula! Wow!” His shining blue eyes were agog. He pulled out another package. “And a vampire mask! Look mum.”

Louise looked up from the letter she was unfolding. “Yes dear, that’s very nice.”

“Can I go try them on?”

“All right, but only for a minute. You still have breakfast to finish before school.” She focused on the open sheet of paper and read, Dear Louise, You now have your wish for the divorce; however, I will not let you take my son away. I will fight you for legal custody of Timmy any way I can. Your ex-husband, Bruce.

Louise screwed up the letter, picked up the discarded wrapping paper and walked back to the kitchen before dropping them into the waste bin. It was not the first time Bruce had made such threats, but as the case had already gone through the courts, there was nothing he could do.

“Raaaawr!”

Startled, Louise jumped. She spun round clutching at the edge of the table. “God Timmy! You scared the hell out of me. That must be the most horrifying Halloween costume ever, Come on, take that mask off now and finish your breakfast.”

Timmy peeled the latex film over his head, dropped it on the table and picked up the spoon to attack the boiled egg. “Mum! Can I wear the mask to school?”

“No, the other kids will damage it, then you’ll have nothing to wear tonight when Michelle takes you trick-or-treating.” She picked up the pasty-white face with dark shadowed eye sockets, holding it to the daylight. A red-tinted film covered the eye holes through which the wearer could see. two sharp fangs stained with red paint hung behind blood-red lips. She stroked the long strands of white hair. “How do they make them so realistic? Trust your father to find something like this.” She placed it back on the table. “Have you finished? Get your books and let’s get you off to school.”

The doorbell rang at two minutes to six. “Hello Mrs Taylor,” said the witch as Louise opened the door.

“Michelle. I’d never have recognised you in that costume. Come in. Timmy’s almost ready.” She led the way into the lounge. “Now remember, Timmy must be back here and in bed by nine thirty. I should be back by eleven. Any emergency, my cell-phone number is programmed into the main phone.”

“Yes Mrs Taylor. You enjoy your date and don’t worry about us.”

Louise watched from the door as they joined other children dressed in macabre outfits. Timmy turned to wave. The yellow glow of street lighting shone on the long grey hair blowing around his shoulders. Closing the door, she returned to preparations for her dinner date with work colleague, Derek. She wanted to make a special effort, this being her first real date since the divorce.

Derek arrived at eight, punctual as he always was at his desk. Louise was nervous, but the food was good, and after a second glass of wine, she began to relax. She had almost finished the second course when her phone rang. Furrows of concern showed on her forehead when she saw the caller’s number displayed was her home number.

“Mrs Taylor? You’d better come home quick.” The female voice sounded distraught. “It’s Timmy, I can’t get his mask off.”

“All right Michelle, let me talk to Timmy. He’s only being difficult.”

“No, you don’t understand. He’s not… Timmy? Timmy, what are you doing?” There was a short pause. “No Timmy! No!” The sudden scream from the earpiece almost caused Louise to drop the phone.

“Michelle? Michelle! Are you okay?” There was a clatter as if the phone had fallen then a loud thump. “Michelle!”

Derek looked up from his food, eyes wide. “Is everything all right?”

“Can you take me home now? Sounds like something awful happened.”

“I’m sure it’ll be okay. Finish your meal first. They’re only playing games.”

“No Derek! This is serious!” Louise jumped up from the table.

“Okay. I’ll just settle the bill.” He stood beckoning the waiter as Louise ran for the door.

The car screeched to a halt outside the house. Louise had her door open before the vehicle stopped moving. She ran up the steps to the front door, which swung inwards at her push. She searched inside for the light switch. The sudden illumination showed a scene of chaos. The hall table on which the telephone normally rested was knocked over, the phone and stand thrown against the wall. A dark trail of blood led into the lounge.

Louise gasped, raising her hand to her mouth. “What’s happened? Derek asked joining her in the doorway. “Oh my God!”

The door to the lounge was open, red hand prints smeared over the white paint. Light from the hall showed Michelle lying in a heap, face down on the floor. Derek ran to kneel at her side. He picked up one hand, searching for a pulse without success. Rolling her over, blood still oozed from puncture holes in the side her neck. The bulging lifeless eyes showed terror.

Louise watched from the doorway. “Where’s Timmy?”

“I’m here mum.” The voice of the boy standing behind her was calm.

She turned. “Oh Timmy.” He stood in the passage, hands behind his back.

She ran to him, “Thank God you’re all right. Come on, take this mask off.” She slipped her fingers under the long black hair searching for the edge of the vampire mask. There was none. “Timmy?” A memory from breakfast flashed through her mind. Had the hair not been white?

A sudden stabbing pain in her stomach caused her to flinch. She stepped back and looked down in horror at the wooden handle of a kitchen knife. A stream of yellow bile ran over the handle as she fell forward, embedding the blade into her gut as she hit the floor.

“And you must be the new man in her life.”

Derek looked up. Still on his knees, he never saw the meat cleaver sweeping down to embed itself in his skull.

 

© 2011 Robert A. Read