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.