October 30, 2014
A cock crowed in the chilly morning air as dawn rose slowly across the frost-nipped valley of Scarecrow Pass whilst trees glistened as sunbeams kissed them gently. Spiders spinning cocoons of the night’s catch cast strangely eerie shadows on the ground as beetles collected old discarded husks from the spider’s web, rushing to stash them under dew-dampened leaves. Birds welcomed the new day with song never foreseeing the events destined to fall upon the town of Spooksville after sunset.
You see, ‘twas All Hallows' Eve once again and a Hunter’s Moon would rise. A full moon on Halloween only happens about every twenty years and Spooksville hadn’t celebrated the holiday since the disappearance of young Jeremiah two decades ago. However, this year a huge costume party was planned hoping little Jeremiah would find his way out of the forest under the light of the full moon.
Waiting all year for this special day to arrive, morning started in Spooksville with decorations being hung around the town square. Jack-o-lanterns and scarecrows made from corn stalks were scattered about the square’s four corners. Spider webs, made from cotton, were hung from lamp posts creating a terrifying allure. A stack of dried wood over ten feet tall stood in the center of town to be set ablaze at dusk, certain to contribute to the frightfully unsettling atmosphere of wishful expectation.
Children couldn’t wait for trick or treating to begin as they excitedly ran about town scaring each other. Boys jumped out from around corners or darkened rooms yelling “BOO” and girls retorted by shrieking as they all ran away laughing. Meanwhile their mother’s baked pies and apples dipped in caramel as their fathers set up tables and chairs and built a makeshift stage. Yes, the Halloween party was expected to be a howling good time.
As the air chilled and darkness squeezed last traces of daylight out of the valley someone lit the bonfire. Flames grew quickly, engulfing the wood pile and casting a warm glow through the center of town. Pint-sized ghouls dressed in their ghoulish best and witches in pointed hats and green noses began slinking about in a spooktacular display of spine-chilling terror under the moon light. As midnight crept closer the children continued to scream and frighten each other as the music began and their parents danced. In the midst of the festive chaos, the thoughts of Jake, Jeremiah’s pa, drifted to his son...so young and lost so many years ago.
As the town clock chimed midnight an owl screeched as a horse whinnied just beyond the fire’s glow. Turning to look in that direction Jake saw a lantern dancing in the air. Startled Jake attempted to get Sheriff Slaughter’s attention, but he was dancing with his wife near the stage. So Jake stood his ground and waited to see more clearly who, or what, was coming. Slowly a gypsy’s wagon materialized out of the darkness and Jake fired a warning shot in the air. The music stopped suddenly as everyone quickly glanced in the direction of the decrepit carriage which stopped just out of the light’s grasp.
Jake could barely make out an old woman dressed in layers of scarfs and gold jewelry, peering at the onlookers with beady eyes. “Saw ye fer. Got sumptin o’ yers.” she rasped with a toothless scowl.
Jake declared, “You ain’t got anything of ours.” She nodded and Jake thought he heard her bones creak. Then she stomped her right foot on the board beneath her feet. Warily the door on the back of the coach swung open. Gasping, the townsfolk unconsciously took a step back as the sound of a pair of boots thumping the ground echoed in the surrounding forest.
“Now...now...you just stay right there. We don’t want any trouble. We’re jest tryin’ ta have a little Halloween party for the youngin’s,” Sheriff Slaughter spoke up this time.
But the boots kept walking...slowly. Their gait unsteady as one stepped and the other drug through the dirt in a horrible limp. Thump...scrape...thump...scrape...around the side of the wagon. Still too dark to see clearly, the Sheriff put his hand on his gun belt. No one dared breathe as they squinted into the darkness toward the eerie scraping sound. Leaning closer Jake tried to make sense of the shadowy figure. A boot stepped into the light...thump. Jake peered harder. Could it be? Was it possible? Surely his mind was playing tricks on him. The light was too dim to be certain. “J-J-Jeremiah?”
The crowd gasped. A woman shrieked and fainted. The stranger’s mouth opened and closed; then opened again as if searching for words. Jake took a step forward, then another. Tall and slender the stranger made strangling noises as if trying to take a deep breath. Then unexpectedly from the depths of his belly the stranger marshalled his voice and roared a gut wrenching “HAPPY HALLOWEEN!”
Have a safe and Happy Halloween everyone! Love, hugs and smiles...