Monthly Archives: October 2014

Samhain in Green Lake

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This is not the story I intended to tell, but this is what came out when I set fingers to keyboard… so you’re stuck with it as I don’t have time to write another today *chuckle* I’m really hoping WP have a Halloween prompt today so I can connect it!

‘The evening was damp, but at least the rain had stopped. As darkness drew down the streets gradually lit a soft orange with hundreds of jack-o-lanterns and strings of lights which bobbed in the light breeze, throwing dancing shadows across lawns and sidewalks. Skeletons dangled from trees and capered on porches. Houses sported new names on artfully decrepit wooden signs claiming they were ‘Haunted’, that one should ‘Beware the vampire’ or run from the ghostly inhabitants. Candles burned in windows and strange figures could be seen moving within, dwellers preparing to be not quite so human for one night only.

At full dark the streets began to fill. From every house poured pint-sized witches, zombies, ghosts, vampires, devils, ghouls, all sprinkled with the occasional ballet dancer, fairy and beloved book character. The still air began to fill with laughter, shrieks, the patter of hurrying feet and the age-old cry; ‘Trick or Treat!’ Containers of every size, from chubby hands to bucket-sized pumpkin tubs, started to fill with every imaginable sweet treat, brightly coloured papers beginning to collect in little drifts up against cart wheels and tree roots as tiny demons could resist no longer.

When every house had been visited and all the spoils compared, the supernatural horde faded back into the houses. Inside, where spider webs bedecked every surface, witches flew from ceilings and sparkling orange streamers climbed the bannisters, celebrations continued, loud and sugar-fuelled. Spooky games were played, in turn giving way to a scary story, told in a circle before the hearth whilst tucking into foods which had acquired horrific names for the night. Finally, as a full moon cleared the clouds and flooded the streets with its eerie clarity, tired mortals shed their fae guises, slipping between covers, half thrilled, half uneasy at the prospect of Samhain dreams.

The adults followed but not before each had left a cake and a cup of milk on the doorstep, their eyes clouding for a moment as they remembered loved ones.

When all was still a low fog began to arise at the end of each street. It curled slowly around fences and gates, creeping up to porches. It glowed, faint shapes roiling within the sickly yellow of its smoke. A tang of earth and rot, unpleasant and cloying, followed in the wake of the fog, tainted every house for a long moment before passing on. Milk curdled in lovingly placed cups and cakes crumbled or grew unnatural moulds in an instant. It slithered its way, tendrils searching, questing, with an urgency no mere fog could have.

Twice that night the fog found doors with no cake, no milk, no protection. At the first it slipped a long strand through a partially open window. It coiled round bannisters seeking the upper floors. It slid under a door, up a bedpost, along a smooth counterpane and around the neck of the husband, tightening, constricting, squeezing with power drawn from dark, ancient magic. The soul made no sound as it was strangled from its vessel. For a single moment it hovered in the air, a pale facsimile of the body in the bed, then it was drawn into the fog, taken from the house to roll eternally in the fetid shadows.

At the second house the fog slithered through a splintered plank, sneaking into a back bedroom. An old mother lay on a cot. Some sense of preservation, some second sight brought her upright, eyes blinking blindly in the gloom, aware she was in danger but not knowing from what. The fog feared no mortal, instantly drawing itself together, taking on the form of a demon which bore no skin, blood sliding over exposed organs, a black heart beating an ever speeding rhythm which was picked up by that of the old woman, even as she gasped for air to summon aid. Her heart raced, galloped, screamed, burst and she fell back on the cot, her soul submerged before she could comprehend her end.

The fog oozed out into the street, eager to find more prey, but it had taken too long. At every door where soul gifts had been left a soft light enveloped the house. Within that light moved an infinite number of shining white souls, a protection his corruption could not defeat, the love of one mortal for another, eternal and unbreakable. Families protected by family, always. The demon assumed his natural form once more, his soul collection locked deep within his black heart whilst he raced along the streets, searching for those with no protection.

He found one, speeding up to the door and instantly recoiling in pain as the glow of protection solidified around the home. Not possible! And who was this? What mortal dared stare at him so brazenly, without fear? Her voice drifted to him through the glow which he could not contemplate for it brought searing pain to his eyes.

‘This village is protected by one who knows you, demon. One who understands the old ways and has brought protection. One who has taught strength in love and care for even the greatest outcast here. The love friends and community. You will have no more of my souls, foul creature. Leave!’

The demon screamed in frustration, whirling about and streaming out of the village. As he passed the last tree he blasted it with a boiling steam and it exploded instantly, filling the air with a million sharp shards, but the protection held and he was seen no more.’

Grandmother Ida sat back and smiled at her captive audience. She leaned to her right and patted the blasted, blackened stump which still marked the very edge of the village.
“This remains to serve as a constant reminder of those days and that wise woman who saved the village from the torments of a demon. But one can never be too careful, so remind your parents to put out the cakes and milk tonight.”
The children streamed away, pockets filled with Ida’s famous toffee cakes, and she rose, her back cricked from long sitting. As she stretched she kept an eye on the smoke drifting across the road and spoke softly;
“I still know you, demon.”
The smoke dissipated and Ida went to join the village around the bonfire to hear other stories.

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Twas a dark and stormy night

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Ok, I admit straight away, these are just a bit of silly fun because I latched onto the whole idea of three things, and when I saw ‘dark night’ all I could think of was this!

I do love me some Snoopy *grin* Anyway, here are my trio of extremely silly ‘horror’ stories on the theme of dark night, fridge and tears.

Dark Night

It was a dark and stormy night. From the shadows behind the fridge came a figure. Crying tears of pure terror, the girl backed away…
Sadly for the flatmate who decided to play a Halloween prank, the girl advanced with a frying pan and hospitalised him.

Fridge

It sat on the abandoned lot. Just a fridge, broken, rusting, but sometimes, on dark nights, it was known to shed blood tears.

Tears

It was so old-fashioned, a doll that cried ‘real’ tears. The girl had tossed it in the corner to be ignored in favour of her iPod. Until that dark night when she got up to go to the fridge for a drink and the doll came at her with a knife.

Red Nails

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This is in response to prompts here and here and this picture:

There are some days you just shouldn’t get up. I ought to have known when I read my horoscope. ‘October 1st – Aries – Expect the unexpected. A friend may surprise you.’ Oh did he ever. Let me take you back to the beginning of the month:

Marty and I decided to go out for a drink that night. He’d been dumped by his latest floozy and we were both pretty plastered by the time we tumbled out of the bar at one in the morning. Staggering down the high street we paused outside the picture window of our local store. They’d clearly spent quite a bit of time dressing it for Halloween as it was replete with glowing pumpkins, draped cobwebs, a witch at her cauldron and a vampire appeared to lurk behind a crooked gravestone, blood glistening on one protruding fang.

Marty leaned against me. I thought nothing of it as we were both beyond standing upright without help, but when his arm snaked about my waist I turned to push him off, but his lips were on mine and we were suddenly making out like a couple of horny teens. Giggling, he grabbed my hand and dragged me round the back of the store. It had been more than a few years since I’d had a quickie in a back alley and, despite the fumbling, the unsteady jostling and the reek of spirits surrounding us in our personal cloud of lust, it had proved to be an exhilarating experience; probably not how I’d look at it come the morning, but hey, you only live once.

Straightening ourselves up, Marty produced a bottle of JD from his jacket pocket and we wandered further into the back alley, passing the bottle back and forth between random gropes and sloppy kissing. I still don’t know what possessed us, but we spotted an arm sticking out of a dumpster. Marty boosted me up and, despite the chances I would cripple myself in unimaginable places, I yanked it free. I guess the store had disposed of an unwanted mannequin. Laughing, we raced back to the high street, me holding the stiff fingers with their fire engine red nails, Marty holding the shoulder end. We managed a drunken ring-o-rosie on the roundabout, stumbled across the now deserted main road and fetched up against the gates to the cemetery; at which point Marty had his idea.

Ten minutes later we were hiccuping laughter, standing over a fresh grave. I vaguely remember slurring something about disrespect and being silenced by Marty’s kiss. In a flash he was kneeling by the newly turned earth, scooping a deep hollow whilst I had a disconnected conversation with the back of his head and the arm; I don’t remember what I said, but I know the tone sure as heck wasn’t respectful. He reached up, snatched the arm from my loose grip and stuffed it into the hole. By the time he’d shuffled the earth back in and tromped around on it for a bit the effect was actually pretty amusing; a corpse struggling to break free of the grave. Marty took a shot on his cell phone and we wobbled into the night, chuckling.

Flash forward to now, three weeks later. Marty and I haven’t actually seen each other since that night, but I wish I hadn’t read the paper today. It was just a few lines buried on page five;

‘Local man found murdered.
Police are continuing enquiries into the strange death of local engineer, Marty Hartman who was found in Highstone Cemetery early Tuesday morning. Although police are releasing no details of the crime and have given no clue as to suspects, the cemetery attendant spoke to our reporter to say that the body was found buried in a newly filled grave with one arm sticking up through the soil ‘…as if he’d tried to dig his way out.’

I know I have to do this but I don’t want to. I’m going to the cemetery. I have to see if it was the same grave we desecrated. I know how foolish this sounds, that most people will think I’ve lost my marbles, but I have this feeling; I think the occupant was more than a little unhappy about our prank. I don’t know how I know this, how I can be so sure about something so unlikely, but I do know one thing… Ever since that night something has been following me.

I’ve never seen it clearly, only shadows, but that shape has three arms. Laugh all you like, but I know what I’ve seen when I walk home from work, when I’m alone in the house and look into the garden. It’s out there, watching me, like it probably watched Marty. Something cold, angry and focussed, waiting for its chance. I know it’s stupid to go there, but if this thing killed Marty I’m next and I won’t go down without a fight. You see, there’s one other thing. Lying in bed I can hear scratching, usually on the window glass, sometimes along the bricks or the wooden sill. I bury myself under the duvet and wear earplugs these days, but I can’t deny what I see in the mornings, every morning, no matter how often I clean it away; scratches made by nails, nails painted fire engine red.

Taken from the Herald newspaper:
‘Local woman found murdered and buried in Highstone cemetery. Police say the scene is an exact replica of a previous murder, that of Marty Hartman. Rumours of a serial killer are beginning to circulate in the community although officers will not be drawn on the issue saying only that their investigations continue.’

Statement of Silas Verger, taken by Constable Perkins:
I saw her, that dead girl, wandering around the cemetery with a flashlight. Asked her what she was doing and she said she was researching for a newspaper story. What with the murder and all that, I left her alone. Next thing I hear this scream, a great ripping noise and then nothing. I reckon I got turned around in the dark, cos I couldn’t see anything, or find where I’d seen that girl. I got outta there fast because of the scratching. Huh? Yeah, scratching, like nails against wood. Seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. What with concentrating on the noise I reckon that’s why I didn’t notice the mannequin arm stuck in the trash can til the next morning, the one with the red nails, like blood they were.

Millie’s Homework – A Green Lake tale

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Today’s prompt was very silly so I fiddled with it a bit to fit a Green lake tale *wink*


(Image located here)

Millie looked at the empty page, fidgeted in her seat, gave up and rose to stare out the window. Not a child to whom words came readily tonight’s homework was a trial. Miss Bindhook, who took Millie’s class for spellcrafting, had asked them all to write a short piece – but stipulating not less than one page and in normal handwriting, for she knew her reluctant writers too well – describing the attributes of the modern witch. All the pieces were to be included in the latest edition of The Witches Zodiac, a quarterly scroll put out by the heads of year.

Leaning her elbows on the sill and heaving a deep sigh, Millie stared out to the rolling fields; just now stubbled and covered in scavenging children, gleaning what little remained of the harvest. She wanted to be out there, not stuck inside. How she had come to possess Witching she could not tell, but word of her playing with fae folk and occasionally disrupting local magic energies with her untutored magic had quickly reached Grandmother Ida and off to school she’d been bustled. Heathenfield was a wonderful place, full of clever witches only too eager to pass on their knowledge and to explain to the young people just how special they were, and yet…

Millie so wanted to forget the paper and quill, and she was on the verge of clambering over the sill when she heard a familiar voice, saw a familiar figure step from the shade of a hazel tree.
“I never liked homework either, Millicent.”
“I… well…” Millie gave up, climbed out into the yard and crossed to Grandmother Ida, “It’s too hard!”
“Life is never meant to be easy, child. Come, walk with me.”
Millie never felt quite so special as when Grandmother Ida chose to spare time for her, and she stood a little straighter, walked with a touch more confidence as she fell into step with the tall, grey-haired woman who ran Green Lake in all but name. They crossed onto the path between the bare cornfields; Millie noting how all the children stopped, turned and bobbed curtseys or sketched bows when they spotted Ida. She pretended the recognition was for her until Ida’s gentle reproach.
“Not yet, Millicent, but perhaps one day, if you can finish your homework.”

Millie wasn’t really listening, although she managed a quick ‘s’cuse me’ before darting into the field. Ida watched the gawky child run to a little one who had fallen. It wailed for its mother but Millie cuddled it up, brushed it down, and chatted to it. Ida thought the girl as yet unaware of the gentle healing magic she was exerting on the child’s grazed knees, but she only smiled when Millie trotted back, a little shy and awkward, stumbling over apologies.
“Mr’s Grain’s boy, Jeffy. His ma’s not got a lot of time with all the washing she takes in and his big brother is supposed to watch him, but he gets caught up in big boy games. Little Jeffy just needs someone to let him know he’s not forgotten, s’all.”
“Indeed. Shall we?”

Ida resumed their gentle amble, slowly heading their feet in the direction of Green Lake itself. Along the way she watched Millie pick up kindling for Old Mrs Farthing – as she was always known – currently wracked with arthritis and unable to gather for herself, snatch up some cress for a potion she knew Miss Bindlock was working on, stop and listen to the troubles of Mr Arthur and his pigs, gently suggesting a simple cure that Millie would bring for him the next day, halt a band of children from setting fire to a pile of leaves – which proved to contain a hedgehog ready to hibernate – explaining the dangers to them, the animals and the forest from uncontrolled fires before tucking the hedgehog into her apron pocket to find him a better winter bed, and finally handing over a large piece of tin she’d found to Brack the Boggis who happened to cross their path with a broad grin on his face and a wink for Ida.

They halted on the lake shore, the emerald green waters still as a mill pond whilst evening began to draw down. Soon it would freeze and the great water would become the village playground for a couple of months, but for now it was calm and peaceful.
“Watch.”
Millie realised Grandmother Ida had suddenly slipped into serious mode after their long walk filled with village matters. She followed the line of Ida’s gesture and watched the centre of the lake. It remained smooth for a moment or two and then began to turn, a gentle spiral lifting up from the surface in a mist of sparkling green drops until it formed a vaguely human shape. A feminine face appeared, ageless, smooth but somehow Millie knew it was kind. Diffuse green eyes fell upon her and she felt the urge to kneel, but Ida caught her under the elbow, keeping her upright, whispering from the corner of her lips:
“A witch kneels to no being.”

The voice which issued from the lake being was neuter, a thing of rippling waters, dancing spray and tinkling rain.
Little witchling, I have seen you this day and I find it most puzzling that you cannot describe a modern witch with ease for have you not been an example? I have seen you comfort, listen, and give aid where it was most needed. You knew the when and where for you know Green Lake and you know her people, both fae and mortal. What more is a witch but one who knows when and where to apply her knowledge? Share my thought with your class and continue on this path. I feel, one day, your childlike fantasy of obeisance will come to be if you do. Be blessed, little witchling.”

Ida didn’t stop Millie this time, allowing her to pay respect to the Green Lake spirit before they turned for the village. Millicent looked up at Ida with a tiny spark of doubt in her eyes.
“Did you do that to teach me a lesson? Make that spirit I mean?”
“Certainly not.” Grandmother Ida grumped and Millie was content, almost running home to write her piece for class. Behind her back, Grandmother Ida made a small symbol in the air and the the Green Lake spirit smiled before returning to the water.

Mirror Mirror

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Late again! I promise to do better tomorrow, but for now, here’s my effort for this prompt.

Kathy walked through the front door, dropped the keys on the hall table and stopped abruptly, staring around in complete confusion. When Caitlin had asked Kathy to house sit for a couple of days she’d been only too happy to help. Caitlin was a good friend and they’d been on life’s rollercoaster for a few years now, but this beggared belief. Caitlin’s house was an exact duplicate of Kathy’s.

Walking from the hall to the lounge, Kathy felt dislocated, moments of déjà vu jostling against open-mouthed shock. Everything, down to the coffee cup which announced ‘Geek girl’ stuck to the morning’s newspaper on the sofa arm, echoed Kathy’s home perfectly. She paused by the fireplace, staring absently into the large mirror above, trying to get her head together. Some kind of joke? An elaborate prank? A trick? It sure as hell wasn’t April Fool’s, but the increasing discomfort Kathy was experiencing certainly leant itself to the date, All Hallow’s Eve.

She gazed at the reflected room, feeling a random urge to reach out, to touch the glass. Maybe it would waver and blur, proving she was still at home, in bed, asleep and dreaming. Actually, it was the perfect spot for some of that one way glass they always used in cop shows. Suddenly convinced that was exactly what she was seeing, Kathy reached up and hammered against the glass.

“I hope that’s screwing your viewing!” she yelled, overcome with anger, but the glass didn’t waver, did not blur or shatter; it held her hands. Kathy tried to pull them away but she was stuck fast and worse, her hands were visibly sinking through the surface of the mirror. She screamed for help, all the while yanking and twisting her arms, but they were now wrist deep in the mirror room. Abruptly she felt her feet leave the floor, a sharp solid pull dragging her through to her shoulders. It brought her face to face with herself; Kathy screamed louder and Kathy smiled, winked and pulled. Kathy heard a hollow, rasping whisper as their heads passed through each other;
Demons love Halloween, mortal. I chose a trick.

Kathy gazed out from the mirror into her home. No, Caitlin’s home, now itself, no more a replica. The other Kathy had waved brightly, shed her Kathy guise, turning into a creature of dark aspect with flaming eyes and tattered black wings, then risen gently up and through the ceiling as readily as smoke. What it had been Kathy could not know and she did not care. What occupied her every thought was how to get out of the mirror. The other Kathy had done it, surely she could too? She sank against the far wall, nursing sore, bleeding hands, battered from her failed attempts to break free, and considered.

She lost track of time for the mirror world showed no sign of day or night and the room beyond remained static, unchanging. No-one came, Caitlin did not return, and Kathy spent most of her time in a semi-sleep, planning, scheming and dreaming impossibly complex ideas for freedom. At some point she rose, crossed to the mirror and peered out becoming instantly animated, hammering on the glass once more. The room beyond was being packed up, boxes and removal men were everywhere. What was going on? Why was Caitlin moving out? Why hadn’t anybody looked for her, missed her? How long had passed?

A figure moved into view and came to study the mirror with one of the movers. Caitlin! Her friend stood, hands hard into the small of her back, belly swollen hugely with late pregnancy. Caitlin hadn’t even been seeing anyone when Kathy had entered the house! She fought to read their lips, managed to make out the words ‘…too big’ and ‘…charity shop’ and then she was lifted from the wall, wrapped in a blanket and bundled into the back of a moving van. Some time later – in the absolute dark, with no reference points, it could have been hours or years – the mirror was bumped around, unwrapped and studied by a man Kathy knew! He owned the curios shop on the high street. Kathy tried to get his attention, but he didn’t seem to see, handing over some cash to the moving man and then dumping the mirror in the back of the store.

Kathy watched helplessly, knowing time was passing, never knowing how much, her world fading as dust and grime covered the mirror, forgotten. The shop changed hands; that much she knew from her brief glimpses of a new face occasionally passing by the tiny space she had left to view her shrinking world. Stuck behind a piled of unwanted watercolours and a large pile of mouldering books, she had no way to tell day from night. She was alone, drifting, untethered from the world. When the last light faded under a cloud of grey dust, Kathy’s world went dark and she curled up in the emptiness and closed her eyes.

When the mirror was moved she took no notice, comatose in her tormented mind, filled with visions of demons laughing at her. Only when a cloth wiped back and forth, flooding her world with light which made her shrink back against the receding shadows, did she realise the mirror was no longer in the shop. Shortly after the cleaning job, the mirror was hung on a wall. To Kathy’s mingled horror and joy, it hung opposite a wall clock with a digital calendar counting away in the dial. October 31st 2034. Twenty years since she’d been hauled into the mirror! She had to get out.

That evening, when the young couple threw a Halloween party to celebrate their new home Kathy watched and waited. Her mind roiled, no longer a lucid thing, but something of flame and madness, dark of aspect. Escape, that was her only purpose. She shrieked with delight when a foolish mortal by the name of Annie decided to test that old chestnut about Bloody Mary. Annie faced the mirror and the mirror echoed her perfectly. With a trace of fear in her eyes, Annie spoke the charm, touching her face in the mirror with a chuckle when nothing happened.

Her hand was grasped hard, encased in flame, pulled and yanked and drawn, through and through, her screams alerting the guests, but it was too late. The demon rocketed into the room, screamed at such a pitch it burst the young husband’s ear drum, shot looks of seething hatred at the guests with flaming red eyes and sped out of the open window into the night. Of Annie there was no sign.

Later, when the police had gone, the guests dispersed, a dark shadow detached itself from the corner of the room. The demon smiled, stroking the ornate mirror frame fondly. It had been one of his better jests, a real Halloween trick, and it still continued to create fresh demons for him, a thousand years on.

On This Harvest Moon

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A little romantic dreaminess as an antidote to all the bad things I’ve written about lately *grin* I don’t do romantic very often, so I hope it passes muster! To accompany it, my favourite Neil Young song, which seemed more than appropriate!

Della sat in the wing-backed chair by the hearth. The flames sent shadows springing across the yellowing whitewash of the walls, bringing it to life in orange splashes. She picked idly at the threads coming loose on the worn arms, her thoughts wandering to other Harvest days, finding it easy to settle on one.

She’d been a maid still, bright of eye and flaxen-haired, a prize to be captured and how the local boys had tried. She had rebuffed them all, feeling in her bones that there was more for her than a farmhouse, lines of laundry and a tribe of snot-nosed howling babes. She’d worked her way, by hard effort and a little help from her Aunt Cassandra, into the post of Lady’s Maid at the big house, dedicating herself to perfect service, and becoming both indispensable and a confident of Lady Imogen, daughter of the house.

Her days were always full, from first light and seeing the fire was made up, clothes laid out and bath water drawn, through dressing, combing, discussing future plans, seeing to Imogen’s special diet – for she’d been a weak soul, ever given to vapours and humours – to the last round of tidying, tucking in and glass of tonic to strengthen the lady’s blood. Dizzy Della, the other maids called her, for she was never still, always chasing down one chore or another, but Della didn’t mind. She preferred being busy, and she knew the harder she worked the more chance she had of being given the nursery position when Imogen inevitably married and had babes she wouldn’t be strong enough, or inclined, to care for.

On the day of that Harvest, the one which shone forever in her fading mind, Della was busier than usual. The big house always threw an enormous ball to celebrate the end of Reaping; two in fact, one for the lords and ladies, the other for the workers. On the morning, Sheila, the housekeeper, was laid out with fever. Lady Imogen, desperate and with no mother to guide her, thrust Della forward, telling the staff to follow her orders.
“I can’t, Della, it’s too much for me. You do it; you know everything.”

With which Imogen had taken to her bed for the rest of the day. Thankful that she had kept on extremely good terms with all the staff – though never mingling, of course – Della had been able to co-opt the aid of Jameson, his lordship’s butler, Minnie, the head cook and Sally-Ann who ran the lower echelons of the maids. Together they’d managed to set up the ballroom, see to the menus and have everything ready before the evening’s festivities began. In transports of relief, whilst Della fussed her into layers of silks and taffetas, pinned her hair and draped it with a net of glittering crystals, and helped her find her be-feathered fan, Imogen had gifted a delicate pearl-drop necklace to her maid in thanks before scurrying off to see which marriageable prospects were attending.

Exhausted, but feeling ever more secure in her future placement, Della had slipped the necklace around her neck, and turned her steps towards the great kitchen where the secondary celebration would be in full swing. Suddenly too worn to face the frivolity, the drunken letching and inevitable unwelcome hands in every dance, she turned left, slipped behind a hanging which depicted a forest hunt and then through the concealed door behind. It circled her around three times and then sprung her out onto a narrow balcony high above the ballroom. Once it had served as a minstrels gallery, but his lordship had built a raised stage at the far end of the ballroom on which to display his hand-picked musicians – a group he retained for his personal use alone; unheard of anywhere in the surrounding area – and now the slender space was reserved for whirling dust bunnies and the occasional music of breezes racing one end to the other.

Della stepped carefully over abandoned music stands and melted candles, propping herself against the far wall, seated on the bannister, where she could look down on the whirling, glittering swirls of people below. She spotted Imogen simpering at the son of a neighbouring earl and shook her head. The girl had little taste and the boy was known across three counties as a roué of the worst kind; it was said he had at least twenty bastards at the tender age of nineteen. Perhaps Imogen knew and thought him suitable as a breeder. Who knew the workings of genteel minds?

Della dreamily watched the dancers come and go, ebbing and flowing across the highly polished marble floor, dresses cutting through the sparkling shadows and light-wells caused by the profusion of torches and candelabra. She spotted jewels of just about every stone known to woman, smiled gently at the nouveau riche vulgarly displaying, the old rich studiously ignoring them, and the young people who cared not a jot, dancing with any pretty face, or handsome one. The players struck up a slow waltz and Della rose, closing her eyes and turning slowly, her long skirts leaving circles and arcs in the years of dust, letting the music take her down to the ballroom where she danced with one so handsome she could barely look at him. She could feel his arms about her, so firm, so…

Della’s eyes flew open, and she stared straight into the cornflower blue gaze of Lord Robert, Imogen’s younger brother. He smiled, straightened his hold and continued to waltz her along the tiny balcony. For once in her life she was dumbstruck. She couldn’t scream and ruin the ball below, not that he had done anything to warrant screaming, if she was honest.
“You dance beautifully, Della, so very light.”
“Thank you, my lord, but…” she glanced over the railing, “should you not be below?”
“Why on earth would I want to be down there? They haven’t got a brain to share between them, and if I have to watch Imogen fawning over that hideous boy any longer I may well be sick to my stomach. I’d much rather dance in the dust with Della.”

His eyes twinkled and she giggled despite herself. The music changed up, faster and Robert tried to move them with it, but the confined space was too much. He stopped, held her at arms length and took on a serious look;
“Do you trust me, Della?”
“Not one inch, my lord.”
“Good girl. This way!”
They fled down the stairs, sprinted through the house, dodged the lackeys outside the ballroom doors and vanished into the gardens. The windows to the ballroom stood open and they could hear the music pouring forth as they scuttled into the rose garden, bathed in pale yellow light by a vast harvest moon. They drew to a stop, Robert taking her in his arms once more, and she could find no will to resist. She knew all the stories of foolish maids who got into trouble with young masters, but her bones were talking and they were telling her this wasn’t about that.

They danced and danced, fast, slow, laughing without care, pressed close, melting into each other, whirling and skipping, leaping and spinning until the music stopped and the sound of coaches approaching could be heard from the front drive. They stopped, face to face, grinning idiotically, then he leaned close. She held her breath.
“May I?” he whispered and she smiled her assent. The kiss had been a chaste thing, light and fleeting, but it burned into their hearts with all the fire of love. They knew he had to go, that she had to return to his sister, and Della thought it might be all there ever was as she waved him away, but the memory had never faded.

He’d been called away the next morning, hadn’t returned for five years, some crisis she never really understood in a land she’d never heard of, but she’d kept that Harvest night close and let it bolster her through the years of Imogen’s marriage and the first of her weak-chinned, sickly children. Until one Harvest evening when she’d sat high above the ball in the minstrel’s gallery. She’d known, almost before he’d stepped into the dust and held out his hand, flying into his arms, letting him spirit her away to this far-flung island with the mine he’d been saving for his father all those years. A father who’d disowned him when he’d married Della, but who’d had the heart to gift him the mine. It had kept them well enough, but they could have been poorer than church mice and still been blissful.

She heard the latch lift, stirring aching bones to rise to her feet. That had been fifty years ago, but he was still beautiful and she went readily to him when he set the needle to the record, wound he gramophone and held out his hand, their footsteps tracing arcs and whirls in the sands blown through the open door.

From the other side

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Here’s my ten minute write. A little early Samhain (Halloween) flash fiction accompanied by my favourite cartoon dog in all the world!

Oh that sun feels good, but time is passing. The rain will come soon and I don’t like sitting on damp earth. Ah, I know that rumble; here comes the man, time to be packed.

Ah, I feel like I belong now. I wonder what the label says. I hope I’m a popular brand this year.

The ride here was pretty bruising, all of us jostling around together in the truck, but I like it here. Lots of us all on display and waiting to be chosen. The kids will grab us all, given the chance, but the mums are picky; after all, they need us to be perfect and beautiful and durable.

I liked being picked, and the ride here. It’s very quiet at night. I sort of miss the rustle of my neighbours, the creaks and snaps as we matured, but this is sort of peaceful too; the calm before the big day.

It’s in the air, excitement. The children are running around talking about candy every minute, who will get the most, which houses will trick and which treat.

I must admit, this is not what I expected. Having your insides scooped out and large chunks of flesh chipped away isn’t all that pleasant, but now I have a lovely warm glow inside from this candle. Sitting here, in front of the house, I can see and hear the children running from house to house, shrieking at scares and laughing, bags filled with candy dangling from ghosts, monsters, vampires, witches, ghouls and every imaginable fright.

It was cold out here overnight. I wonder what happens now. Maybe I’ll be taken in for the table. That would be nice. I would have liked to see the children counting their candy, but being inside would be an improvement on being investigated by cats and deluged by dogs.

Hmm, placed on top of this large bin, I can see a lot more of the street. There seems to be a lot of activity coming up the road. Men running back and forth, shouting to each other. What are they doing with those bins, the ones like mine? Oh, they’re coming here. A new adventure!