Weekly Roundup: December 27, 2013

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            I am so glad I have a couple of practice weeks, and the goals I have set don’t begin until after January 4th(January 5th is Sunday, the first day of the week).  Last week, I surpassed 12,000 words of fiction for the week.  This week, I was lucky to reach 4,000 words, and on three different stories.  Christmas, you know; a reasonable excuse – though admittedly an excuse, not a reason.  I guess I have to be prepared for such weeks.  Sunday the 29th I begin with a clean slate, and in case you have forgotten, I am aiming at 2,000 words per day or roughly 10,000 to 12,000 words per week.  So we will see.

            This week I added about 1000 words to my MIB story, 2000 words to Avalon, episode 3.5, and about 1000 words to The Golden Door, a middle grade book that is long overdue to be done.  Avalon, Season Three is something I want to get finished so I can start posting the series in the new year.  Unfortunately, I got nothing done on Forever: On the Road, a continuation of the wanderings of the Storyteller through the Second Heavens, subtitled, “Anatomy of a Storyteller.”  It imitates an exaggerated, third person memoir with all the names and dates and exact places hidden to protect the innocent, if they exist.

            The Golden Door is a magical story for middle grade reading.  Follow: 

            Mom said the big, inexplicable golden door showed up in the middle of the living room the same time Dad mysteriously vanished from his sick bed.  The golden door may be the family’s only hope of finding their Dad, but after a week the unmovable door remained locked.  Now starting summer vacation, the young people have chosen to ignore it.  Until David finds it open.  There is another world through there.

            The following bit sets the story of The Golden Door in motion.  It is a bit over 1500 words.  I hope you enjoy it

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          David paused at the door to his parent’s room.  The bed was empty and made.  Mama said it was the strangest thing when Dad disappeared.  One minute Dad was there, and the next he vanished, like into thin air.  “Like he went invisible?”  David had asked.  Mama could not answer because her back was turned at the time.  She did not actually see him disappear.  She heard scampering like little feet, but then he was gone and all she could do was cry.  In fact, that was about all she could do for the first few days, that and stare at the golden door in the living room which showed up at the same time.

          David turned the corner to the living room – just a step away in their run-down ranch house.  He looked at the golden door, solid gold in a silver frame.  It reached to the ceiling, and stood in the middle of the room with no visible support of any kind.  Chris said it was only a solid gold slab with a handle and ignored it.  David wondered how it stayed upright.  He imagined a good knock would send it falling flat-side to the floor, and what a terrific crash that would be! 

          A scratching sound came from his parent’s room.  James heard something when they got off the school bus for the last time that year.  David turned to Doritos and chocolate and left the scratching sound to his younger brother James.  Chris said he checked when he got home.  He thought Mama went out and accidentally shut Seabass the cat into the windowless, walk-in closet; but when he looked, the closet was empty and Seabass was asleep on Dad’s pillow.  The closet was empty when James looked as well, and no one could figure out how that stuffy walk-in closet could have a breeze to blow coat buttons and zippers and empty hangers against the wall.

          “Mama would never allow the clothes to be hung in a way where they might scratch the paint,” David pointed out.  The boys left the closet with yet another unsolved mystery, but this time David heard the scratching with his own ears.  Since James was busy, and Chris wouldn’t let him use the game stuff, and Beth knew nothing about the scratching in the closet, that left David to try the door.  He hesitated at the handle.  David was not the bravest twelve-year-old, but he thought that maybe this once he might look.  Besides, Seabass the cat was no longer on the bed, though how the cat might have shut itself into the closet was beyond him.

          He opened the door quickly.  The late afternoon sun shot into the space, and he called the cat, but nothing happened.  He did not look any further.  He was afraid to look too close, so he shut the closet door again and returned to the living room where he sat on the couch and stared at the golden door for a long time.

          Seabass came to sit beside him.  Catbird, the big golden retriever yawned and got up from where he had slept against the sliding doors to the back yard.  That spot was no longer attractive once the sun dipped behind the trees and cast the whole back side of the house in shadow.

          David petted Catbird’s contented golden head with one hand while his other hand stroked Seabass’ soft fur.  They stayed that way for a time, until David abruptly stood.  Both animals looked up, startled by the sudden movement and sudden loss of attention.  David clenched his teeth.   The fact that the door had been locked all week did not matter, except in the back of David’s mind where he hoped the door was still locked.

          “Ga!”  It was unlocked.  David peeked and closed the door again with another “Ga!” significantly louder than the first.

          James heard.  He was finished with his letter writing and decided he better find out what Davey was all stirred up about.  He went next door and tapped Chris on the shoulder.  Chris took a couple of taps before he looked up and lowered his headphones.  A piece of sandwich dangled from his mouth.  He honestly wasn’t listening.

          “Come on,” James said.  “Come on.”  He had to say it twice before Chris got up.  Perhaps Chris was still not paying attention, but at least his feet were moving.  Half way to the living room, they heard it again.  “Gaaa!”  It was deliberately shouted down the hallway.

          “The call of the excited Davey.”  James spoke under his breath as they arrived and David shouted something at his brothers that they could all understand.  “It’s unlocked!”

          Chris immediately turned to get Beth and almost bumped into her as she came barreling out of her room.

          “I heard,” Beth said .  “What’s in there?” 

          Chris shrugged.

          “I looked,” David grinned and his eyes were as wide open as they could be.

          “What did you see?”  Beth was miffed that she had to ask twice.

          “Gaa!”  James answered for his brother.  He shrugged as if to say, “What else?”

          Beth looked perturbed, but David giggled.  “Gaa!”  He nodded in agreement with James. He was still grinning as he pointed at the door.

          Beth shoved Chris forward.  Chris put on the brakes.  While they stared each other down, James stepped up and looked for himself.  He opened the door a mere crack.  “He’s right.  It’s Gaa,”

          Beth frowned, swung the door wide open and almost said “Gaa!” herself.

          Green grass stretched out before them in a world that was bright with late afternoon sunshine.  They heard the faint roll of the sea somewhere, but they could not see it through the door.  They smelled the fresh air and the aroma of growing grain which they could barely make out off to their right.  They felt a touch of the cool breeze that wafted through the meadow on a lazy afternoon in late May.  The grass looked freshly cut, or grazed.  Beth judged it was grazed from the dress of the two people who stood some hundred yards off down by the grain.  It was hard to tell exactly because those people had their backs to the door, but they looked medieval in dress and the grain looked like early grain, barely up to their knees after an April planting.

          “Creepy,” Chris breathed.

          “Cool!”  David yelled.  To be sure, yelling was David’s normal volume.  “Look at the castle.”  It was up on a hill, well beyond the people.  There were more towers and spires than any of them could count including some that reached right up into the clouds.  The castle walls looked formidable enough to withstand any army foolish enough to assault them.  A clear stream came from somewhere inside the castle grounds and wound lazily down the hillside, around the occasional clump of trees, until it reached the meadow.  By then it was a very small river which found the sea somewhere behind them.  Beth looked behind, but all she could see was the kitchen.

          The scratching came again, and this time it was definite and pronounced.

          “Did you guys leave Seabass trapped in Mom and Dad’s closet all afternoon?”   Some scorn entered into Beth’s voice, but before the boys could answer, she stepped around the corner.  Chris shook his head.  David pointed, but Seabass was gone from the couch. 

          They found the cat under the couch, shivering and afraid.  With James’ help, David got the cat out and then held the beast securely in his arms as overweight, gregarious, love everyone Catbird, the golden retriever began to growl.  Beth screamed and the boys heard a tremendous crash in their parent’s room.  Beth made it to the bedroom door, slammed it shut, and while she held the door knob she poked her head around the corner to the living room. 

          “Run!” 

          The boys just stood there.

          Catbird began to dance and bark his head off at whatever was behind the door.  Seabass tried to wriggle free to follow Beth’s instructions, but David held the cat tight.  Chris stared with his mouth open.  James had the good sense to step through the door and on to that green meadow.  That movement broke the spell; that and the sudden crash against the bedroom door from the inside which almost made Beth lose her grip and which was punctuated by a loud crack.  The wood door was ready to give way.

          Chris grabbed David to keep him from running down the front hall and out the front door.  He shoved David after James.  Then he grabbed Catbird by the collar, and carefully, because the dog was agitated beyond belief.  He nodded to Beth as he dragged the dog toward the golden door, and only paused when he got to the place where the door and rug met.

          “Come on!”  Chris screamed at his sister and went through, even as there was a second crash against the bedroom door. 

          “There’s more than one!” Beth screamed back.

          “Hurry!”  The golden door was closing of its’ own volition.  A third crash, and the bedroom door came to pieces, but it held together in sharp and ragged edges long enough to keep back whatever growling, snarling, roaring beasts were trying to get at Beth.  Beth managed a good scream as she ran and dove through the doorway.  They heard the roar of the beast echo in the house before the golden door slammed shut and they were no longer in the world.

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Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.10, Afterword

  Elizabeth went home at ten o’clock and hugged her mom and dad, not without a few tears, and went straight to bed because she had a long, exhausting night.  Jessica met Jake’s mom and dad, who decided Jake was growing up and needed some time to enjoy his last couple of years of high school.  They vowed to work on their own schedules so Jake would not have to always be saddled with his little sister.  Jake said he did not mind, but that made his mom just say, “See?”

Mary, the witch, cast a little spell so when the kids woke up in the morning they would remember having a wonderful time, but the details would be fuzzy.  This was a good thing, because Mike the nerd spent most of the night talking to Jack-o-lantern, wondering if it was made in Japan, and wondering how it worked.  He said the programming almost made it sound like it knew what it was talking about, and he marveled at how they got the words and the mouth to work together so well. 

Blockhead spent the night trying to explain football to Big Tooth, who understood the game, but enjoyed stringing the kid along.  Serena, on the other hand, marveled at the goblin costumes, which is what she thought they were.

“Second best costumes I’ve seen in my life.”

“Second best?”  Marrow was offended until Serena explained.  The Italian dance troop with the naturally hairy legs dressing up as fauns was shear genius, and Marrow agreed.

Thomas “Tommy” Kincaid Junior spent the night trying to impress Sage with his money, his car and his presence, that is, whenever he caught Sage in her big form.  That was most of the time because Cinnamon insisted the girls not take their fairy form in front of people.  Cinnamon took it upon herself to make glamours to disguise as many of the spirits, people and creatures as she could.  They did not really object because they knew they were not supposed to be parading about on Earth in the open like they were.  Sage rewarded Tommy at the end of the night with a little kiss on the lips.  The poor fellow took a long time to get over that.

In all, it was a good night and people did not seriously begin to leave until just before sunrise.  Cinnamon had to make the portal because Mary Procter and Greely Putterwig were fast asleep in their chairs on the porch, and snoring.  Jake walked Jessica home.

“What are you thinking?” Jessica asked when she turned into his arms for a good night kiss.

“I’m a guy.  What do you think I am thinking?”

“Oh.”  Jessica thought or a moment before she said, “OH.  Let’s not go there yet.”

Jake shrugged.  “I was wondering how the Pirates and Indians are making out.”

Jessica smiled.  “See you in school.”  She ran to her front door.

In fact, the Pirates and Indians were tied in the top of the third, nothing to nothing.  They had been playing one night per year for almost a hundred years and only reached the top of the third inning.  But the Pirates had a man on first, and John the Butcher Roberts was at bat.

The bat boy found a skeleton head on the ground.  He jammed it into a complete skeleton and pointed.  “Look, a double header,” which proves conclusively that a sense of humor is not improved by death.

The Indian pitcher palmed the skeleton head they were using for a ball.  He sent in a literal screaming fastball.  The Butcher backed away, and Pusshead, the home plate umpire called it a ball.

“What?”  The Indian catcher protested.  “It went right over the edge of the plate.  You must be blind.”

“Not blind,” the skeleton head ball said.  “He’s an ogre, you know, a moron.”

The pirate on first could not help himself.  While they argued, he tried to steal second  He slid head first, but his body stopped about ten feet shy of the grave they were using for second base.  His hands, however, finished the journey, and as the Indian shortstop went to tag the runner, the hands squirted under the tag.  The pirate got up grinning and ambled up to catch up with his hands.  The occupant of the second base grave stuck his head out of the dirt.

”Safe,” he said.

The Indian shortstop got so angry, he took out his tomahawk and split the skull of the second base umpire.  This, of course, resulted in a bench clearing brawl in the infield which, again, is why after a hundred years the teams had yet to make it past the third inning. 

 

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.9, Loving You

All of the creatures and people, with Mary, Jake, Jessica, Elizabeth, Cinnamon, Nuggets the dwarf and Mister Greely Putterwig found themselves back in the pine forest where the adventure first began.  “Time to go home,” Mister Putterwig sighed, but before he could do anything, he was interrupted.

“We got you now.”  It was Marrow the goblin.  Worms and Maggot were with him, as was Big Tooth, the troll.  “You need to take us to Earth or we will tell Lady Alice that you stole a human child.”

“We already did that part,” Mary got right into the goblin’s face and did not even blink.  “Lady Alice has forgiven him now that he has set Elizabeth free.”

“Hey.”  Worms sounded very unhappy.  “Does that mean we can’t go and scare the children to death?”

“You are not going to scare any children to death,” Jake spoke up, loud, but it was from fear.  The goblins were frightful to look at.  “I won’t let you.”

“Me neither,”  Jessica stood right beside Jake, and they both protected Elizabeth between them.

“How are we going to feast?” Maggot asked.

“Quiet.  I’m thinking.”  Marrow frowned and pulled on his chin.

“The portal,” Big Tooth suggested.

“That’s right,” Marrow grinned, which was almost more frightening than his frown.  “You got an unauthorized portal to the human Earth.  You need to let us go there or we will tell Lady Alice.”

“I am sure she already knows,” Cinnamon said.

“No doubt about that,” Nuggets agreed.

“Puts!” Marrow swore.

All that while, Mister Putterwig was opening the way to Earth, but he was not quite finished when they were all interrupted again, this time by the ghost of Thackery James Barrett, Esquire.

“Sir,”  Thackery came up beside Jake and Jessica as if to protect them, and he stared at the goblins.  “You are brigands to be sure.  You should certainly be hanged for highway robbery, but I confess you have the upper hand at present.  Thus I implore you, in the name of Christian decency, let the women and children go unharmed.”

“You’re not a woman or a child,” Marrow responded.  “I suppose that makes you free game, doesn’t it?”

There was a sudden flash of blinding light as the portal between here and there formed. Thackery let out a chilling shriek before the light settled down and Thackery was able to speak with more calm.  “I remember,” he said.  “I remember those very words.  Suddenly a great light appeared beside me.  I was facing certain death, so I ran toward the light.  I heard the gun.  I stumbled into the light.  My God, the man shot me in the back and killed me, and I ended up here.”  Thackery began to weep.  “Gone.  Gonnnne!” He wailed a true ghostly wail and then shouted.  “Abigail.  Abigail.” And he went into the light.  There was silence for a moment before Jake spoke loud and clear to the goblins.

“Doesn’t matter.  I won’t let you eat any children.”  He reached for the cutlass and was a bit unhappy to realize it had vanished along with the Lady Alice.

“What eat children?” Marrow responded with a dumbfounded shrug.

“Do you know the penalty for eating humans, especially children?” Maggot said, and the goblins, troll, and several of the others in that big group from the circle moaned at the thought.

Marrow spoke.  “We just want to scare them so bad they drop their bags.  Then we plan to feast on all that Halloween candy.”

“I want to eat so much I throw up,” Worms said, and sounded happy with that prospect.

“Don’t forget,” Maggot said.  “I claim the vomit.”

Most of the people moaned at that thought.

The portal wavered.

“Hey!”  The goblins yelled, but Mary, Jake, Jessica, Elizabeth and Mister Putterwig went though first.  Everyone else followed and were directed by Mister Putterwig out the back door, toward the big back yard where an old fairy circle was already present.  It wouldn’t take long to put up some lights and get the music started.

Jake, Jessica, Elizabeth and Mary went out the front door and were a bit surprised to find Tommy, Blockhead, Mike and Serena still there, sitting around, nibbling on Elizabeth’s candy.  It turned out to be a bit after seven, and they had been waiting for more than an hour.   At least they were sitting and waiting before the ghost came through the locked door.  They backed up to the yard and the fence, and Blockhead looked ready to bolt every time Thackery wailed for Abigail.

“Watch it!  There’s another one.” Mike shouted.  It did not help being by the street, under the street light, when another ghost came floating up into that light.

“Thackery?”  the ghost called.  It was a woman, dressed in a fine traveling dress and cloak.  She was pretty, even if she did not appear to have any feet.

“Abigail?”

“A very fine and proper lady named Alice said I would find you here.”  The woman ghost said.

“Oh Abigail.  I searched for you for ever so long.”  He flew to her and they embraced.

“At last, at last.” Abigail hugged him before he set his lips to hers in a passionate kiss.  The two faded from sight and were not seen again in this world.  Everyone sighed except Blockhead, who looked relieved.  Then Jessica made a decision.

“Serena,” Jessica said.  “Call Vanessa and tell her the party is being moved to the old Putterwig house.”

“Really?”  Serena looked uncertain.

“Hey, we are talking Halloween party.”  The music began to work its enchantment from the back to the front yard.

“There is that,” Serena said and she got out her phone.

“Tommy,” Jake called.  “I got twenty bucks.  Take Mike down to the supermarket and buy as much candy as they have left.  We got some big kids that are dying for Halloween treats.”

“Keep your money,” Tommy said.  “For the ghost show it’s my treat.  So how did you do that?”

“Holographic?”  Mike suggested.

“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Elizabeth said, and she tugged on Jake’s hand to take her out back.  Fortunately, just then Sage and Thyme, with their mother Cinnamon, all in their natural small fairy form, came to fetch the little girl.  This time, they sprinkled her all over with fairy dust and Elizabeth giggled when she lifted right off the ground and flew with the fairies down the hall and out the back door.

“Serena shut your mouth and get the party here.”  Jessica yelled, while Jake reached over and took her hand.  Jessica stared at their hands for a minute.

“Blockhead, how’s your dancing?” Jake asked.

Blockhead said nothing.  He just began to bounce up and down in a way that showed he had no sense of rhythm.  Serena interrupted.  “Hold it big boy.  Save it for when we get to the dance floor.”  She grabbed his football jersey and pulled him toward the back.

Jessica suddenly turned Jake to face her.  She looked him square in the eyes.  She tried to listen to her thumper, and she said, “I am loving you.”

“Well.”  Jake hardly knew what to say, so he returned the words.  “I am loving you, too.”

“Goody,” Jessica said, like a genuine fairy, and she locked her lips to his.  Jake was surprised for all of a second.

Tommy and Mike came back after a while.  A bunch of other kids from the high school came.  But neither Jake nor Jessica wanted to stop long enough to take a breath.

Greely Putterwig came out of the house, looking once again like an ordinary enough old man.  Mary had pulled up a chair and was quietly knitting, have gotten her needles and yarn from some unknown source, presumably by magic.  She gave the hobgoblin a look that he thought to explain.  He pointed at himself.  “You might call this my un-Halloween costume.”  He chuckled.

Mary merely smiled and patted the seat on the rocking chair beside her.  Greely sat and then stared at the witch for a few minutes before he spoke again. “So,” he said.  “Want to go out on a date?”

Mary stopped knitting and her jaw dropped.

“Then again, we could just get some DVDs and stay in and cuddle by the fire.

Mary’s face turned red, but she did not say no.

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.8, Misery and Freedom

The music was contagious.  Jake and Jessica could hardly hold their feet still, even when they were still down the hill and could not see a thing.  Cinnamon could not keep back.  She zoomed ahead, just to check things.  Mary floated along contentedly on her broom.  Jake took hold of Jessica’s hand to help her over a rough spot in the path and neither one wanted to let go after that.  They held on tight when they heard the wolf howling in the distance.

“Wolf, howling at the moon,” Jessica suggested, and she smiled at Jake and he returned her smile.  The moon was still very big and full and low on the horizon so it appeared to have some orange and even red in the midst of the golden light, and the face of the man on the moon was plain as day, also smiling.  Jessica looked shyly down where her hand held his.

Mary perked up her ears and when the howl came again she corrected Jessica.  “Werewolf.”  Jake and Jessica held on tight to each other after that, and Jake fingered the cutlass that rested at his side.

When they reached the top of the path where it let out into the great clearing and the stone circle, Mary was the first to see something, and it did not make her happy.  “Mister Stuffings!”  She raised her voice a bit and there was some scolding in her tone.  “Who is home watching the garden?”

A man turned and removed his hat, except it was not a man since it was made of straw.  “Sorry, Miss Procter, mum, but this is just once a year, if you don’t mind,” the scarecrow apologized.

Mary softened her look and Jake and Jessica knew by then that the witch was really a sweet old lady.  “I don’t mind.”

“Good,” They heard another voice hidden behind the scarecrow.  “’Cause even a doorbell needs to get out once in a while.”

“Jack!”  Jake and Jessica said it together, as Mister Stuffings the scarecrow stepped aside and revealed Jack-o-lantern on the ground, facing the circle.

“Hey, kids,” Jack said, but with the scarecrow no longer blocking their view, Jake and Jessica made no response.  They were already watching the dancers, taking in the music and wanting to get in the middle of it all.  Then Jake saw Elizabeth and shouted.

“Elizabeth!”

Elizabeth heard, turned her head and returned the shout.  “Jake!”  She let go of the fairy hands to run to him, but as soon as she let go, she fell the full six feet to the ground.  The music stopped.  Everyone gasped.  Cinnamon whipped out her wand and slowed Elizabeth’s fall, but since it happened so fast, she could not stop it.  Elizabeth hit the hard ground and scraped her knees and hands, and she began to cry.  Jake ran to her, Jessica right behind, and he held his sister in a strong embrace and cried a little with her.  Jessica hesitated for a second before she got to her knees and threw her arms around them both to join the hug and add her tears.  They had all had harrowing experiences on that Halloween night.

“How quaint,” Greely Putterwig said, as he stepped free of the crowd.  Jack stared hard at the man who no longer looked like a man.  His skin was green, which offset his bloodshot eyes, and the only other color was the two tuffs of white hair around his two pointed ears, just like Putterwig the man had around his not so pointed ears.  This Putterwig was very skinny, with a small trunk that he more than made up for with extra long skinny arms and skinny legs.  He had a pointed nose, a pointed chin, long thin fingers with pointed nails.  His feet were flat and wide and he had thick toes, to keep him from stumbling in the dark, Jake supposed.

“She is my sister,” Jake said.  “You can’t have her.”

Old Putterwig grinned a hobgoblin kind of grin.  “But I have her already.  Elizabeth, come here.”

Elizabeth who turned to watch what was happening, got to her feet, and with a “Yes sir,” she walked over to stand beside the hobgoblin.

“I got her fair and square,” Putterwig said.

“You tricked her.  It doesn’t count.”  Jake protested

“Son,” The dwarf called Nuggets spoke gently to the young man.  “Tricking is the hobgoblin version of fair and square.”

“You said you wished she would just get lost,” Putterwig raised his voice.  “You should thank me.  I am making your wish come true.”

“That’s not right.  I didn’t mean it.  Not like that.”

Oh, son,” Nuggets shook his head.  “You should always say what you mean and mean what you say.  No good will come from doing otherwise.”

Jake was tired of arguing.  He carefully pulled the cutlass from his belt.  “Then I’ll take her back.”  He found a small but strong hand on his hand, and it lowered the sword.

“No son.  That is not how we settle things here.  Please put down the sword before someone gets hurt.”

Jake lowered the sword and did not resist, but he fought his tears as he spoke.  “But what else can I do?”he asked the dwarf. “Elizabeth.”  He touched the cutlass tip to the ground and held out his free arm.  “We need to go home.”

Elizabeth only glanced at Mister Putterwig before she threw her arms out in response to her brother and said, “Jake.  Help me.”  She began to cry once again because her feet would not move.  Then she began to weep, and this was from a pain far deeper than any skinned knees could ever be.  In fact, any number of those in the dance began to weep with her, empathetic as so many of them were.

Cinnamon, a full sized, full grown woman, stepped up between Jake and Jessica and put an arm gently around each.  “Is this what you want, Greely Putterwig, to make this poor child suffer for the rest of her days?”

“No,” Mister Putterwig spoke in anger.  “She will forget.  In time she will forget all about that other place.”

“Bet it leaves a great big hole in her heart.”  Nuggets stepped up beside Jake.

“She will suffer mightily from that hole in her heart, and the empty pain will point at you.  Is this what you want, for Elizabeth to hate you forever?”  Cinnamon stared hard at the hobgoblin until he shrieked.

“You don’t know.  You have friends, and people who love you.  You all have no idea what it feels like to be alone all the time.  Sometimes, I am so lonely I can’t bear it.”  He was the one who was now holding back the tears.

“Why you silly hobgoblin.  I don’t know why hobgobs should be loners and so pigheaded and stubborn.”  Mary stepped up beside Jessica.  “Just look around.  You have a whole community of people who would be glad to be your friends, who are your friends, and some would be very good friends if you let them.”

“Yes.  That’s right.  True enough.”  Words came from every direction.

“Is this what you want?”  Cinnamon gave no quarter.  “For the community to despise you and turn their backs on you?  Did you really steal this child in order to hurt her?”

“No.”  Mister Putterwig shrieked again.  “I don’t want to hurt her.”  The tears came at last, unstoppable.  “I don’t ever want to hurt her.”  He got down on his knees and hugged Elizabeth and cried, and she hugged him right back and cried, too.  Everyone else remained still and silent until Mister Putterwig pulled back enough to say, “Go on.  You are free.  Go home to your mom and dad, and your brother Jake.”

“Really?”

Mister Putterwig tried to smile.  “Really.”  And he watched Elizabeth as she ran and jumped into her brother’s arms and Jake let go of the cutlass completely to wrap up his little sister.  Cinnamon stepped back so Jessica could join the hug and join in their happiness as she had joined in their sorrow.

Everyone was suddenly smiling and happy, and the music would have started again at any minute, but a small golden glow appeared in the middle of the circle, and it grew in size and shape until it turned into a beautiful woman, tall and slim, with long blond hair and sparkling light brown eyes, though sparkling is not usually a characteristic of brown eyes.  The woman was dressed in a full length, a well fitted gown of the whitest white, and she wore a cloak to match where it was hard to tell exactly where the gown stopped and the cloak began.  She wore sandals on her lovely feet, but to be sure, it was never certain if her feet actually touched the ground.  She looked happy, but she also looked like one who might get angry if anything ever made her unhappy.

“Lady Alice,” Mary curtsied.  All around the circle, the people bowed, or went to one knee, or went to both knees and lowered their heads and eyes.  Jake, Jessica and Elizabeth did not know what to think, except that they felt they ought to keep very still and quiet. Poor Mister Putterwig fell to the ground, prostrate and trembling. 

“All settled?” Lady Alice said in a voice as beautiful as the rest of her, but clearly she was not really asking.  She stepped up to Jake and touched his head as she named him  She named Jessica and brushed Jessica’s hair from her eyes like a gentle, loving mother.  She kissed Elizabeth as she named her and Elizabeth positively and literally glowed a rich golden color to match the moon.  “Now the fairy food will no longer affect you, and you are free indeed.”

Lady Alice turned to Mister Putterwig and smiled.  “L-lady,” Mister Putterwig stammered.  “I know I did wrong and I am so very, very sorry.  Please, show mercy.”

“I thought you didn’t care.”

“Careless words  Almost human words. Please.”

“Do not fret,” Alice bent down and lifted the Hobgoblin’s head.  “As my friend Will used to say, all’s well as ends well, but this play is not done.”  Lady Alice stood and smiled once around at everybody.  “There is a last act to this story, but I believe it requires a change of venue.”  The Lady clapped her hands, twice.  All of the people and creatures around the circle remained solid enough, but the Lady, the ground and the trees, the mountain and the hills, the stars and the moon began to fade from sight.

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.7, Dance and Time or Thyme

Elizabeth heard the music before she saw anything.  It was bouncy music that wiggled in her tummy and made her want to tap her toes.  One minute she was yawning, but the next her eyes were wide open and her feet were ready to dance.  When she finally reached the top of the hill, she saw big stones set in a big circle and all sorts of people and creatures enjoying the dance.  The musicians, imps or gnomes or dwarfs, or whatever they were, had guitars, mandolins, fiddles, pipes and plenty of drums.  The dancers included elves, all sorts of dwarfs, fawns, sprites, one big centaur who stood back and clapped, and people of so many different kinds, Elizabeth could not name them all, even if she knew what all of them were.  Best of all, there were fairies dancing in the circle, and Elizabeth wanted to run to meet them.

She did not have to run.  Two fairy girls zoomed up when they saw Elizabeth and asked if she wanted to dance with them.  Elizabeth wanted to shout, “Yes!” but she looked up at Mister Putterwig first.  “May I?”  She asked very sweetly.  Mister Putterwig smiled, after a fashion, as it seemed even he was not immune to the music.

“For a little bit,” he said, and then he looked down at her and tried to look serious.  “But then to bed young lady.”

“Yes sir,” Elizabeth said, and both fairy girls got big right in front of Elizabeth’s astonished eyes.  The one who introduced herself as Sage looked to be Jake’s age of about sixteen.  The one that Sage introduced as Thyme looked more like she was twelve or thirteen.  They each took one of Elizabeth’s hands and entered the circle with her.  In a few short minutes, they were six feet off the ground, giggling and laughing, Elizabeth right there with them, holding on, dancing on thin air and circling around the heads of the others.

###

Mary Procter was trying to explain and Jake and Jessica were trying hard to understand.  “Time and space don’t always work the same here as on Earth.  Three or four days can pass here, while on earth it is still the same day.  You might be here six or eight hours and find only an hour or hour and a half passed back home.  Then again, Six or eight hours here might be several days back home.  It varies.  It changes.  It doesn’t make normal kind of sense.”

“How long have you been here?” Jessica asked, and Jake understood it was a gentle way of asking the witch how old she was.

“I was born in 1669, and my brother Thorndike was born in 1672.  That was the year my mother died.  Father left me with foster parents when he moved to Salem and started over.  He kept saying he would come for me, but he never did.  He remarried, had other children, and then the trouble all started.  I was twenty-three, and not married when the trouble came.  Everyone knew I was a Procter.  It was no secret.  But when father got arrested in Salem Town, my foster family became afraid for me, especially since they knew I could do some things that were not exactly normal.  We moved to the wilds of New Hampshire, but the word followed us.  I would have been taken for sure and condemned if Lady Alice had not brought me here.”

“Yeah, who is this Lady Alice we keep hearing about?”  Jake hated to interrupt, but he had to ask.

“She runs this place and oversees all who are here.  I say she is as like to a Heavenly Angel as flesh and blood can be.  Sometimes she calls this place her loony bin, but the truth is she loves every blessed creature here, even the nasty spiders.  She says everyone deserves a chance to live.”

“So, you are three hundred and fifty years old?”  Jessica had been counting.

“Witches do live longer than non-magic folk, but not that much longer.  I am around ninety seven, give or take, but I think I still have a few more years in me.  That was what I was trying to explain about time.  Time here and on earth don’t move at the same rate.  To be sure, I might just as easily have lived to ninety seven while on earth it might have been seven or eight years later, like 1700 instead of two thousand and whatever year you say it is.”

Someone knocked on the door.  “Knock, knock.”  Jack-o-lantern shouted.

“Who’s there?”  Mary asked, like it was a well-worn game.

“Cinnamon.”  Cinnamon answered for herself.

“Cinnamon who?” Mary asked, but she was already getting up to answer the door.

“Cinn-a-min, can I come in?”

“Of course,” Mary opened the door.  Cinnamon squirted in and went straight to the table where she stopped, threw he hands to her hips and tapped her foot in the air.  Jake and Jessica looked down and to the side where they did not have to see the glare in Cinnamon’s eyes.

“Waiting right there, huh?”  Jake and Jessica held their tongues and took their scolding gracefully.

“It’s all right,” Mary said.  “The spiders found them and I thought it might be safer in here.  We have just been having some tea and stories.  Would you like some chamomile?”

“No.”  Cinnamon softened at the word, spiders.  “I found Eliza-BETH,” she said, and grinned at Jessica.

“Where?” Jake stood.  He ignored the jibe.

“She is safe.  She is fine. My two daughters have her by the hand and are dancing with her, now that they got over being scolded.  They are supposed to be sleeping you know, but they couldn’t sleep with you making all that noise.”

“I’m sorry.  You are right.  I’m to blame.  I am sure your daughters are good girls,” Jake confessed.

“I was with you until that last part,” Cinnamon responded.

“Posh.  She is joking,” Mary got her shawl.  “Sage and Thyme are wonderful girls.”

“Are we going there?” Jessica asked.  “What are they doing with Elizabeth?”

“Dancing.  It is the Halloween celebration.  I don’t really mind the girls being up tonight.  This night only comes once a year.  We can join the fun, if you like, and we can go anytime you are ready.”

Jake looked at Jessica.  Jessica stood to say she was ready.  “Now would be fine,” he said.

“Wait, wait,” Mary raised her voice.  “Let me find my broom.  I can’t walk up that old hill like I used to.”

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.6, Spiders Before the Witch House

Cinnamon sat quietly on Jessica’s shoulder until they came to a place where the forest began to thin.  The path they were on petered out as the ways opened up and the forest kindly let them walk around any number of trees.  Jake looked back, curious.  There was no sign of the wall or the cemetery and he wondered how it might have vanished so instantly and completely.  Jessica did not notice.  Cinnamon began to talk quietly in her ear.

“Are you and Jake loving each other?”  Jessica looked.  Jake had his hand on the cutlass, to keep it from swinging wildly in the woods.  He was looking all around, a wise precaution since this place was so full of surprises.

“I don’t know,” Jessica said.  “We might be.  We could be, I think, but it is complicated.”

“Why is it complicated?  That is a big word so it must be a big reason.”

“Not really complicated.  I had a boyfriend before.  But Jake is different. I don’t know.  I think he is real nice, but I don’t know what he thinks.  He hardly talks to me, and I don’t know what to say to him, either.  I don’t know what to think?” 

“That’s the problem.  You are using your thinker instead of your thumper.”

“What do you mean?”

“For fairies it is easy.  We don’t have room in our little brains for all that foolish human stuff.  When a fairy likes another fairy, she simply says, “I am liking you.”  Then he says, “I am liking you, too.”  and they become friends.  When a fairy falls in love, she goes right up to him and says, “I am loving you,” and he says, “I am loving you too,” and they become lovers.

“But what if he isn’t loving her?”

“That is very sad, and the fairy goes away and cries, sometimes for a whole day, before she can have fun again.”  Cinnamon adjusted her seat to whisper very soft.  “When a fairy truly falls in love, she says, “You are my heart.”  That is when the thumper takes over and the thinker can’t think of anything or anyone else.  And if she is his heart, they become a family.”

“That sounds so simple.”

“Why shouldn’t it be simple?”

“But what if she isn’t his heart?”

“Very saddest of all.  We don’t like to think about that, but then when a fairy says someone is her heart, it can be a father or mother or sister or brother or best friend forever, so it means lots of things.”

“I wish people were that easy.  Human people, I mean.”

“Aha!”  Cinnamon jumped up and Jessica felt the breeze from the fairy’s wings.  They tickled her ear.  “I know where Greely Putterwig lives from here.”  She got excited and spun around several times until she almost made herself dizzy. 

Jessica looked where Jake was looking.  There was a cottage some ways off, down in a hollow in the woods.  It had a warm and cozy glow about it in the night, and smoke rising from the chimney.  There appeared to be roses out front, and a stone walkway that ended at the front door.  Cinnamon ruined the lovely vision with what she said.

“The witch’s house.  Wait here this time.  I’ll be right back.”  And the fairy flitted off, again with such speed neither Jake not Jessica had a chance to protest.

Jake looked at Jessica and she smiled.  He did not know what to say.  “Some Halloween, huh?”  It sounded stupid to his ears.

“I know.”  Jessica took it well.  “A real fairy.”

“And goblins.”  He could go with this for a while.

“Real Pirates.”  She pointed to the cutlass.

“Zombie Pirates.”  He corrected her.

“And Indians.”

“And skeletons.”

“Oh, and an ogre.”

“And a real live ghost.”

“Dead ghost,” Jessica said.  “I feel sorry for Thackery.”

Jake nodded in agreement, but then he ran out of things to say.  Jessica merely looked at him until he felt a little uncomfortable.  He looked away, and this time, he was the one who screamed.  Jessica looked and joined him in the scream.  There were spiders, and they were at least two feet long, not counting the eight hairy legs.  There were plenty of them.  Jake and Jessica were surrounded.

Jake carefully got out the cutlass, though he almost cut himself.  “Put your back to the tree,” he yelled.  Jessica just yelled.  Jake began to swing the cutlass, wildly.  The spiders did not care or seem to notice until the one in the lead was cut through the head.  Blood and guts squirted, and then dribbled out.

“Over here,” Jessica yelled and Jake went to stand in front of her, while the spiders slipped into the long, moon-made shadows of the trees.  They could hear the click-click of their jaws all around.  Jake cut two more when they came close, but there were too many of them.

Jessica felt something drip on her shoulder and looked up.  She screamed again.  One was in the tree, over their heads, drooling.  Jake could not reach it with the cutlass.  Jessica tore off her orange vest and tried to slap it out of the tree,  She could not reach it either, but a green light came from just down in the hallow.  It struck the spider, and the spider fell to the side, rolled to its back and curled up dead.  Jessica screamed again before they heard a woman’s voice.

“I heard ye the first time.”  The woman sounded annoyed.  She was gray haired, a bit plump from age, and lifted her plain brown dress and apron as she struggled up the hill.  She had a stick of some sort in her hand, and the green light was emanating from the stick.  Three more spiders were zapped, like with green lightning, and the spiders decided to retreat.  When the old woman came to stand in front of Jake and Jessica, she took a deep breath, like she was winded from the climb, and then raised her arms and shouted something unintelligible.  The green light formed in a circle around the three of them and their tree before it shot out like a wave made by a pebble in a still pond.  No telling how many spiders suddenly keeled over and curled up.

“Okay.  They won’t be back this Halloween night, but you don’t belong out here.  You better come inside.  Neither Jake nor Jessica had to say “this is the witch from the cottage.”  The circumstantial evidence made that crystal clear.  Jake tried to wipe the cutlass clean and put it back in his belt.  Jessica ventured a small question.

“Your house wouldn’t happen to be made of gingerbread, would it?”

The witch laughed, a healthy human laugh and not the cackle they expected.  What is more, the witch showed a kind little twinkle in her eyes that helped them relax.  “Wrong season for gingerbread.”  The witch almost stumbled on a root, but Jessica reached out to steady the old woman.  “My name is Mary,” the witch said.

“I’m Jessica and that is Jake.”

“Don’t tell me, you are following a little girl named Elizabeth.”

“My sister,” Jake perked up.  “Do you know where she is?”

“Up on the mountainside with Greely Putterwig, the hobgob.  Don’t worry, she should probably be just fine.  I’ll take you there, but after I catch my breath if you don’t mind.”

“Are you psychic?”  Jessica wondered how the witch knew all this.

“No.  Tom the cat came by and told me.  Please, come in and have some tea.  I don’t do much magic these days, at my age.  It takes so much out of you.”

Jessica caught some movement out of the corner of her eye.  It was a perfectly black cat, sitting on the lawn, washing a paw.  Jake had his eyes focused on the jack-o-lantern on the front stoop.  He was just admiring the intricately, beautifully carved features of a very frightening goblin-like face when the face moved.

“Boo!”  The pumpkin face crossed its eyes and stuck its tongue out.  Jake, and Jessica, attracted by the movement, both let out a shriek.  “Did I scare ya?”  The Pumpkin asked.  Jake and Jessica nodded.  “Good, cause the old witch put me here to guard the front door, but if I had a body I could guard it so much BETTER.”

“Oh, Jack.  You are just fine the way you are,” the witch said with a kind smile as she opened the thick oak door,.  The inside of the house let out a warm light and inviting smell.  “Come in,” she said.  “Chamomile tea I think for this time of night,” and the all entered the house.

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.5, A Witch and a Bat and a Friendly Black Cat

Greely Putterwig hushed Elizabeth.  Elizabeth hushed but looked up in the old man’s face and wondered what she was hushing for.  They were once again among the trees, but this was more of a mixed forest of deciduous trees, firs and pines.  The trees were more spaced over the land than in the old growth forest, but the ground cover remained minimal.  It was like the old forest was thinning out.  It became a pleasant walk up and down little hills, rises in the ground, where the golden moonlight and innumerable stars were able to keep the world bright.  Elizabeth thought that even the shadows were not too bad, as long as the shadows did not move.

When they came to the top of a little rise, they looked down into the next dip in the land.  There was a quaint cottage, with roses out front and a vegetable garden in the back.  Elizabeth saw pumpkins growing there, and squash, and she was not sure what else.  The cottage was lit, and smoke billowed from the chimney which gave the whole thing a very warm and inviting glow.  Elizabeth very much wanted to go there, and tugged on Mister Putterwig’s hand, but the old man said no.

“That home belongs to a terrible, wicked witch,” Mister Putterwig whispered.  “Mary Procter has lived here for about three hundred and fifty years.  Her father, John Procter and his third wife, Elizabeth were condemned in old Salem Town for witchery, though there was no witchery in them.  It was Mary, daughter of his second wife that was the witch.  She escaped to the wilds of New Hampshire when she was twenty three, but the people were after her, and would have caught her if she had not come here.”  Mister Putterwig stopped babbling and wondered why Mary Procter should even matter to him.

Elizabeth tugged again to go toward the cottage, but Mister Putterwig was adamant.  “We can’t go there  If we do, she will take you away,” and he took her up the next rise in the land.

It was not much further before it became evident that the thinning forest was because the ground was becoming too rocky.  They were generally and gradually going uphill by then, like they were coming to high ground, and after a short way, Elizabeth saw the big, dark mountain loom up before her and block all the stars behind those heights.

“Where are we going?”  Elizabeth yawned. 

Mister Putterwig stopped at the top of a little hill.  He waved his hand at the distance.  “The eternal mountain.  There is a great and craggy cliff, full of all sorts of interesting caves and tunnels.  The dwarfs mine there and shape the iron into useful things.  The goblins live deep in the recesses of the mountain where they work in metals, gold and jewels.  The elves of the grove live not far up the way where they spin and weave the cloth that is shared all over Avalon.  There are others who live in and around the mountain, but…”  Mister Putterwig became quiet and they stopped walking.  “Stay here,” he said.

“Wait.  Don’t leave me, alone in the dark.”  Elizabeth clutched at Mister Putterwig’s hand.  She tried not to cry at the prospect of being left in the dark woods.

Mister Putterwig got down on one knee, then looked once around to be sure no one was watching.  He reached out and gave Elizabeth a big hug and said, “Don’t worry, child.  There is a light up ahead, and I want to be sure it isn’t dangerous.  You are safe here.  Can you count the stars?  No?  Well, why don’t you try.  See how many you can count before I come right back.  Okay?”  He stood and walked backwards for several yards before he turned and scooted up a well worn path.

Elizabeth fretted, but turned her eyes to the infinite stars in the dark sky.  She turned her back on the bright moon, which was full and seemed determined to stay big and low in the sky, a bright golden-orange globe with a smiling face.  But she fretted, because overhead there were too many stars to count.  She tried Jake’s counting method.  “One, two, skip a few.  Ninety-nine, a hundred.”  It did not help.  All it did was make her sad.  She missed her brother.  She missed her mom and dad.  She had never been out so late in her life, or so far away from home, and she was afraid she was going to be in big trouble when she finally got home.

Elizabeth jumped.  There was a rustling in the leaves and her eyes got big and focused on that one place, but she held her tongue and dared not move.  She heard a soft “meow,” and a pitch black cat came out from the trees to sit out of reach in the moonlight.  Elizabeth caught her breath and bent down with a smile.  “Kitty, kitty,” she said and held out her hand.  The cat came when invited.  She got to pet the cat, and the cat purred and rubbed up against her leg.  “You are a nice kitty.  Do you live around here?  My name is Elizabeth.  I live a long way from here, and I don’t think I know the way home.”

The cat jumped back at the sound of a twig.  It ran off when Mister Putterwig came into view.  “It’s all right.”  Mister Putterwig called before he arrived.  “It was just Nuggets the dwarf going up to the upper clearing.  He says they are having a Halloween party.  I said we might come, but it was kind of late for little girls to be out at night.”  He reached for Elizabeth’s hand, and she gave it, but not without a word.

“I should be home.  I miss my mom and dad.  I miss my brother Jacob.  I am getting sleepy.”  She punctuated her words with a big yawn.

“Child,” Mister Putterwig said in his kindest voice.  “I am taking you home.  Soon, you will forget all about that other place, and you will stay with me and care for me in my old age, and I won’t have to be alone.”

“Home?”  Elizabeth asked through another yawn.  She said no more.  She simply walked and began to climb the hill until Mister Putterwig stopped and looked up.  Elizabeth heard it too, a high pitch squeak.  Mister Putterwig made Elizabeth crouch down and he threw his body over  hers. Elizabeth heard the squeaking and then the sharp flap of leathery wings.  Mister Putterwig muttered something she did not want to hear.

“Vampire bats,” and the bats headed straight toward them.  Putterwig, the hobgoblin, was able to put up a magical shield of force around himself and his little charge.  The bats could not reach them, but Putterwig knew he could not hold out for long.  The bats, and they were big, made leathery snapping sounds with their wings, teeth and claws as they tried to get at the tasty morsels, full of fresh blood.  They rammed into Putterwig’s shield over and over.  Every time they struck, Putterwig let out a groan, like a man being punched in the stomach, and Elizabeth cried out, giving voice to her fear. 

The bats circled round and round, looking for a way in until suddenly they flew off.  Elizabeth heard a different sound, more like a deep screech than a high squeak.  Mister Putterwig slowly looked around as he lifted his head.  Elizabeth heard leathery wings that were much bigger than bat wings, and she hid her face once again in Mister Putterwig’s belly, afraid it might be a dragon.

One set of great wings landed nearby, and Elizabeth ventured a peek.  It was about three feet tall, with legs, and arms as well as wings, and the arms and legs ended in claws.  It had two little horns, and sharp, pointed ears to match the sharp pointed teeth, and it was all greenish-gray, and it was talking.

“Greely, is this the tike?  Don’t you know what the penalty is for stealing children?  I pity you when Lady Alice finds out.”

“I don’t care.  I don’t care.”  Mister Putterwig shouted back and  held tight to Elizabeth, like she was his protector rather than the other way around.  “We used to always take the discarded little girls to raise in their own community until they were old enough.”

“Yeah, six thousand years ago, and only babies.”

“I don’t care.  I am keeping Elizabeth.  She is my friend.”

The creature shrugged, but said nothing more as it took to wing.  Mister Putterwig started them walking again and muttered some more while they went.  “What do pixies know?  They live in caves and hunt bats to eat raw.  I wouldn’t expect them to understand.”  Elizabeth tugged on Mister Putterwig’s arm.  “What?”  He faced her and said it too loud and in much too rough a manner, which he immediately regretted.  Elizabeth temporarily shrank back, but at last pulled up the courage to ask.

“Are we friends?”

Old Putterwig’s face almost broke.  “Yes,” he said, without a doubt, and they walked, his face held high so the little girl could not see the tear that formed in the old man’s eye.

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.4, Zombie Pirates and a Free Floater

When Jake and Jessica got to the walkway outside the old growth forest, they were at a complete loss.  They had lost all footprints and indication of direction when they entered the leaf strewn forest, and now they saw two equal options on a rugged path lined by a six foot wall.

Cinnamon fluttered, hovered and turned her head to look one way and then the other.

Jake looked at the wall and wondered what was behind it.

Jessica was still wondering how goblins could be so scary and so hilarious at the same time.  Clowns, she supposed.  She knew some people were afraid of clowns.

“Wait here,” Cinnamon said.  “I have to check to find the right way.  Oh, and don’t go over the wall.”  She flew off, almost faster than their eyes could follow; certainly faster than they could frame a question.

“I was wondering, what’s with the wall.  Is it there to keep people out or keep something in?”  After the goblins, he could not help the spooky voice.

Jessica shook her head.  “After what we have seen this night, I don’t think any teenage spooky voice will ever scare me again.”

“So what is over there?”  Jake walked a little way down the path.  “Hey, it looks like a gate.  Cool.”  He was looking through the bars of the gate.

“What?”  Jessica went reluctantly.  “Cinnamon said don’t go in there.”

“No, she said don’t climb over the wall.”  He checked.  The gate squeaked, but it was not locked.  “She didn’t say we can’t go through the gate.”  He grabbed Jessica’s hand and pulled her in.  “Cool,” he said again.

“It’s a graveyard.”  Jessica resisted.

“But who could be buried here?  Aren’t you at all curious?”

“Not really,” Jessica said, but she followed him in about three rows.  The names seemed normal enough, but Jake took her hand again and ran her up a path to the top of a small rise.  From there, they looked out over a cemetery that seemed endless.

“Woah.”  Jake mouthed the word.  “Who are all these people.”  The graves continued, easily seen under a bright, harvest moon, until it became a gray line in the distance and finally turned black on the horizon.

“I don’t like this,” Jessica said, and she tugged to go back.

“Look.”  Jake noticed something three graves in.  It was a cutlass, and not entirely rusted as he expected.  He picked it up and turned to show Jessica when there was a rumbling at his feet. 

“John the Butcher Roberts”  Jessica read the headstone before she grabbed on to Jake to steady herself.  It felt like a miniature earthquake.  Then a head popped up from the grave, a dead head, definitely a pirate and he saw his cutlass.

“Ah, ha.  So that’s where I left it.  Hand it here, mate, and I’ll kill ya quick.”

Jake and Jessica ran.  There were Pirates rising in every direction, and the gate was cut off by stumbling zombies.  They tried for the wall, but there were skeletons dancing there.  They started to weave around the headstones, but the Pirates were waking up.

Jessica stumbled when the ground shook again beneath her feet.  Jake tried to help her up, but fell beside her.  Two gravestones rose up by their heads.  One said, Jacob, Jake Simon.  the other said Jessica Cobb.  Jessica screamed as the ground beneath them began to open into great, six-foot holes.  The only reprieve they got from the Pirates was when they were distracted by the oncoming Mohawk war party.  Then came their salvation.  A great roar echoed from the gate.

“Supper!”  A slimy, ugly ogre burst into the graveyard, drooling and ready to chow down on the dead.  The skeletons guarding the gate all screamed and ran for their lives.  One of the Pirates pointed and hollered a warning. 

“Avast ye swabs.  It’s Pusshead.”  The Pirates and Indians all scattered, and Pusshead roared right past the couple in pursuit.

Jake and Jessica helped each other out of their respective graves and ran for the gate.  Jake held tight to the cutlass, not knowing when he might need it.  Jessica cared about nothing but getting the wall between her and the zombies.  She slammed the gate with a vengeance once they were out and huffing and puffing.

“That was really stupid,” Jessica said.

“Yeah,” Jake agreed.  “But I got us a weapon.”  He swung it a couple of times which prompted Jessica to holler.

“Watch it.” 

Jake did not argue.  He loosened his belt so he could slip the blade in by his side.  Jessica watched, so neither saw the figure approach.

“Excuse me.  Pardon me,” the man said.  Jake and Jessica looked up, gasped and took a step back.  It was a ghost.  They could see through the man, though he seemed solid enough from the waist up, if translucent.  From his knickers down he became more transparent until his feet were utterly invisible.  But then, he was floating a couple of feet off the ground so he might not need the feet.

“I am sorry to bother you, but have either of you seen my wife?  Abigail Barrett by name.  We were traveling by coach from Boston to Brattleboro where I was invited to practice law, when we were waylaid by robbers in the wilds of New Hampshire.  Bullets were fired.  My wife slumped into my shoulder, and I thought there was blood on her forehead.  I leapt out to give the robbers what for, but the next thing I knew, I was lost in the forest and I can’t seem to find the coach.”

Jake was too stunned to talk, but Jessica was entranced by the story.  “My name is Jessica Cobb, and this is Jake, Jacob Simon.”

“Of course, we haven’t been properly introduced.  I am Thackery James Barrett, Esquire.  Harvard, class of eighteen twelve.  You seem like good New England stock.  Surely I am near my destination.” 

“I am sorry,” Jessica said.  “I know the road to Brattleboro, but I don’t know how to get there from here.”

“Alas, I spoke to a young lady just a short time past.  She was most polite, but could tell me nothing at all.”

“Elizabeth?”  Jake raised his voice.  “My sister.”

“Yes, I believe that was her name.  The fellow she was with seemed most unsavory.”

“She was kidnapped.  Do you know where she is?”

The ghost spun once around.  “I am afraid I cannot say.  These woods have me confused.  Thus I have wandered for some time today.  Do you know where the road to Brattleboro might be?

“Thackery.”  Jake and Jessica turned their heads at the sound of Cinnamon’s voice, but what they saw was a beautiful woman, perhaps in her mid to late twenties, dressed in a long, flowing, fitted gown walking slowly up the path.

“Most beautiful lady.  Have we met before?”

“Indeed we have,” Cinnamon said, and Jake and Jessica realized that was who it was.  “And you must go in that direction until you find the pine trees.  Then you will know you are close.”

“My thanks.  I pray I may return your kindness some day,” the ghost said and headed off into the woods.

“Cinnamon?” Jessica asked, though she knew the answer.  Jake just stared.  The fairy was inhumanly beautiful in her big form, with the perfect tan on perfect skin and eyes that sparkled and full lips that showed the slightest bit of a sly smile.  Then she was gone, and the fairy was back, fluttering her wings to stay aloft. 

“This is the right direction,” she said.  “You went into the graveyard,” she pointed and scolded Jake.  “Thackery probably did run into Eliza-BETH, but he has very limited memory retention.  The only thing he is able to really remember is his last thoughts, his thoughts for his wife, Abigail.  Shall we go?”

Jake and Jessica did not know what to say, until Jessica whispered.  “She does flit from subject to subject.  I bet she doesn’t dwell on things either.”

“I don’t,” Cinnamon heard.  “It’s a fairy thing.”  She came back and settled again on Jessica’s shoulder, though Jessica was a bit wary about having a full grown woman on her shoulder.  Jake was still taken by that vision of loveliness.  He would need a bit more time before his tongue unfroze.

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.3, Goblins Dance

Elizabeth and Mister Putterwig walked toward the light.  They had been walking through an old growth forest of oak, maple, elm and birch for some time.  The forest floor had some bushes,. brambles, thorn and briars, and plenty of fallen lumber, from twigs to whole trees, but mostly it was covered in generations of fallen leaves.  It was impossible to walk without crunching every step.

Elizabeth did not mind the crunch.  She snapped a few twigs on purpose.  She also liked the fact that they were headed toward the light.  She was not afraid in the dark when she was with Mister Putterwig.  He was a grown-up, and she trusted him to protect her.  But light was better.  The woods were kind of spooky.

Greely Putterwig was much more cautious.  If it was a fairy circle filled with all sorts of people and creatures celebrating Halloween, they were in trouble.  He did not think it was the dance because he did not hear the music, the enchanted kind that would make poor humans dance until they dropped.  But if it wasn’t a Halloween celebration, well, the alternative was probably worse.  “Confounded curiosity,” Mister Putterwig swore, and he hushed Elizabeth as much as he could when they reached a point where he could look out through the branches

A bonfire in a big clearing lit the night, and there were dancers of a sort.  They were goblins, and a couple of trolls, and Mister Putterwig found his hand automatically drawn to cover Elizabeth’s mouth.  The dancers were frightening, with horns and tails and snake-like eyes over tusks and very wide mouths with very sharp teeth.  There were noses and ears of all shapes and sizes, and they had claws instead of hands and sometimes instead of feet.  They wore rags and had skulls and human looking fingers and toes for necklaces and bracelets that sounded click and clack in a kind of rhythm under the moonlight.  Worst of all were the grunt, howls and shrieks that filled the air and obscured whatever ghastly music was being made on such odd instruments and drums.  Indeed, the music was mostly drums, and someone older than Elizabeth might have wondered where they got the skins for drumheads. 

Elizabeth didn’t think that.  When she wriggled her mouth free, she said, “They look like they are having fun.”

Mister Putterwig looked down at the little girl, astounded by her innocence.  “All the same, it would be best if we moved on quietly so we don’t disturb them.”

Elizabeth nodded.  She trusted.  And together they took three whole steps before they found themselves surrounded by three goblins and a troll.

“Greely Putterwig,” the goblin with the red eyes spoke with a haunting voice guaranteed to send chills down the nearest spine.

“Marrow, Worms, Maggot.”  Mister Putterwig named the goblins like they were old friends.  “And Big Tooth.  Haven’t seen you in a while.”  He named the troll.

“What have you got here?”  Marrow leaned down in Elizabeth’s face, but she was holding tight to Mister Putterwig’s hand and had her eyes closed.  “A little human girl.  Bet she’s tasty.”

 “She isn’t yours.  I got her fair and square.  She is my friend, mine alone, and belongs to me, so back off.”  Mister Putterwig growled.

Elizabeth ventured a look to see if Mister Putterwig was indeed her friend, but she saw the goblins and the troll and shrieked.  She threw her arms around Putterwig’s middle and buried her face in his belly.  He put his arms around her and did finally smile, and cooed that she shouldn’t be afraid and everything would be alright.

“What do you mean she is yours?” Worms asked.

“Where can we get one of those?” Maggot complained.

“Fairy food?”  Big Tooth suggested, and Marrow’s eyes got big.

“Do you know the penalty for stealing human children?” Marrow shouted.

“I don’t care.”  Mister Putterwig responded with a sharp look and a haughty stare.  “You touch one hair on her head and Lady Alice will know, and it won’t be from me telling her, either.”

“Boys,”  Marrow took a step back.  “I think we best leave this one alone.”  They all began to step back.  Marrow saluted.   “See ya around,” he said, and the goblins and troll went back to the dance.

Marrow took them all the way to the back of the bonfire and whispered so Putterwig would not hear with his good hobgoblin ears.  What Marrow did not know was Jake, Jessica and Cinnamon were right at the edge of the trees, listening.

“We can blackmail old Putterwig and get him to let us use his portal to the human world.  There are lots of children out on Halloween night.  We can scare them to death, and then we can feast.

“I want to eat so much I have to throw up to make room for more,” Worms said out loud as he began to drool.

“I claim the throw up,” Maggot yelled, and the other three gave him a disgusted look.

“Quiet.” Marrow slapped Worms in the forehead for talking too loud.

“Hey!”

“As for you,” Marrow grabbed Maggot’s earlobe and pulled so his head had to follow.

“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!”

Marrow let go and Maggot’s head clunked into Worm’s head.  There was a definite hollow sounding “Pop!” when they hit.

Jake and Jessica, who were terrified by the sight of the goblins, now had to keep themselves from giggling.  Cinnamon floated up from Jessica’s shoulder and sprinkled the two with some dust.  Jake and Jessica found their feet lifted off the ground.

“Walkies,” Cinnamon whispered, and Jake and Jessica found they could walk perfectly well in mid-air.  Of course, they made no crunching sounds in the air.

“Wait a minute,” They heard Big Tooth rumble.  “I smell fairy.”

Cinnamon simply said, “Runnies!”

###

“Come along,” Mister Putterwig said with his haughty nose still up in the air.  He took Elizabeth’s hand this time without her reaching for his, and they walked for a time is silence.  They reached the edge of the woods where a path skirted the trees.  Across the path was a big stone wall and that seemed a curiosity to Elizabeth.  She had to ask when they came to a gate.

“What is on the other side of the wall?”

Mister Putterwig took her to the gate where they could peak in.  “It is a place you don’t want to go.  It’s the infinite graveyard, and this being Halloween, it is the one night of the year when the dead rise from their graves.”

“Oh,” Elizabeth saw the grave stones and moved to Mister Putterwig’s other side so she had him between her and the wall.

“Now don’t worry.  They can’t go beyond the wall.  We are perfectly safe on this side.”  And he smiled again as he took her down the walk to the fens.

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.1, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Simon, all of seven-years-old, finished at 315 Bleeker Street, but when she went to the sidewalk, she saw her brother occupied with some big kids.  She did not interrupt, and decided to go to the next house as she had been taught.  She liked the house.  It was dark and spooky, the way she thought Halloween was supposed to be.  The unkempt yard cast all sorts of odd shadows across the walk, and the rickety porch squeaked under her steps.  She even found a big spider web in the corner next to the post, up near the roof, and she was impressed.

The old man was in the rocker, watching.  Elizabeth saw him from the front walk, so he did not startle her.  “Child,” he said.  “What do you want?”

“Trick or treat,” Elizabeth said her line and held out her shopping bag, and smiled.

“Trick or treat?  Trick or treat is it?  What a quaint custom.”  Mister Putterwig glanced ever so briefly at the young people out on the street and he thought he could easily make the little girl disappear.  “I have a treat,” he said and held out his hand.  It was the biggest, most chocolaty, gooey mess Elizabeth had ever seen.  “But only good little girls can have some,” he warned.

Elizabeth’s hand hesitated.  “I try to be good.”

“Wisely spoken,” old man Putterwig conceded.  “Try it.”

She did, and when the old man held out his other hand to take her hand, there was nothing more she wanted in the whole world than to go with this kindly old man.  When they entered the house and came out among the pine trees, Elizabeth had a question.

“Where are we going?”

“To a land of wonders and enchantment and magic, and keep walking.”  Mister Putterwig looked back in case he was being followed.

“The land of the fairies?”  Elizabeth sounded excited.

“I suppose there are some around,” Mister Putterwig made another concession.  “But once you eat fairy food, you become captive to the little ones, or in this case, me   Now, you have to do whatever I tell you.”

“Oh, yes.  But I don’t mind because you are such a nice man.”

Mister Putterwig’s face turned red and then purple.  “First of all, I am not nice.  I am grumpy and, um, mean.  I can be very mean.  And second of all, I am not a man.”

Elizabeth stopped and looked up into the man’s eyes.  He contorted his face with a big toothy grin and squinted his beady little eyes.  Elizabeth shrieked and looked away.  “There, see?”  Mister Putterwig sounded proud, like he proved his point.  “I told you I could be mean.”

“No, that isn’t it,” Elizabeth said.  “You looked like a clown face and I’m scared of clowns.”

“Oh,”  Mister Putterwig deflated before he looked up, sharply.  They heard Jake calling. “Eliza-BETH.”  Mister Putterwig barely got his hand over Elizabeth’s mouth in time.  “Don’t answer him.  Come on,  Hurry.”  They began to walk again and picked up their pace.  It was a few minutes before they slowed again and Mister Putterwig had a question.

“So, do you have a name?”

“Elizabeth.  Elizabeth Simon.”

“Well, Elizabeth-Elizabeth Simon, my name is Greely Putterwig, and I am a Hobgoblin.”

“I’m a fairy,” Elizabeth responded, happily.

“What?”  Mister Putterwig eyed her closely.

“My costume.  Don’t I look like a fairy?”

“Not too much,”  Mister Putterwig said, and seemed relieved.  “You’re a bit big.”

“But I got wings and everything.”

“I see that.  Turn around.”  Elizabeth turned and Mister Putterwig adjusted her wings to set them more squarely on her back.  “That’s better.  Now you look more fairy-like”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth said, and reached for Mister Putterwig’s hand, who took her little hand and almost appeared to smile.

They started to walk again.  The pine forest was not too dark, the trees not grown too close together.  There was plenty of room overhead for starlight to find the forest floor.  Elizabeth saw some snow on the firs and she could not help her thoughts.  “Do you know any Christmas Carols?” she asked.

Mister Putterwig stopped and looked angry for a moment, but one look into Elizabeth’s innocent face and he decided to think about it.  A hoot owl sounded out not too far from where they stood.  He started them walking again and sang, “Oh, you better watch out.”  He stopped there, and Elizabeth giggled.

“That’s not it.  It goes, “Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I’m tellin’ you why…”

“Stop, stop.  Stop!”  Mister Putterwig waved his big hands back and forth, shook his head and snarled.  Elizabeth stopped, worried that she got it wrong.  “You can cry and pout if you want to. Go ahead and cry.  And Pouting is an old family tradition, my family I mean.  “Oh, you better watch out” is the only part I sing.  There’s reasons for that we don’t need to go into just now.”

Elizabeth tried to nod and agree, but all she could do was scream.  An eight foot ogre stood directly in their path.  He was ugly, tusky, full of boils and puss and with more sharp teeth than anyone would consider reasonable.  He had long arms and short legs, all the size of tree trunks, and apparently carried a separate tree of some sort in one hand, which was his club.  He also had a spark of intelligence in his eyes which said this creature is fully capable of chasing you and eating you, though to be fair, the spark of intelligence was a very small one.

“Eliza-BETH!”  The sound came from a long way off, much further than before

“Jake!”  Elizabeth shouted back.  She recognized the voice.

Mister Putterwig looked back and said, “Quiet.  I said don’t answer him.  Now, run.”  They ran and Mister Putterwig mumbled.  “Leave it to Pusshead to ruin everything.”

Elizabeth was glad to run from the ogre.  She was a bit upset when the ogre spoke over her head.

“What are we running from?”

Elizabeth screamed and stumbled.  Old Mister Putterwig scooped her up and ran at a spritely pace.  In fact, even carrying the little girl, the old man ran fast enough to lose the ogre somewhere in the forest.