The following story is one I’ve been thinking about writing for years. It’s not really my usual genre of writing, but since it is Halloween and there was a sort of challenge for bloggers to write a short horror story, I thought I’d give it a try. It’s more fantastical than horrific, and since there is more than a single grain of truth to it, my protagonist’s name will be Melody. In the woods outside the town of Mistretta in Italy, there is a particular corner…
Melody looked at her watched and gasped. It was a quarter of five, and she’d now been gathering chestnuts for three hours. She had two huge bags full, but there were still so many lying around that she hated to leave them; if she didn’t gather them now, someone else would and that would be so many less than what she could have for the rest of the fall and winter. And yet, she had to get home, and quickly. Today was Halloween and they had the party that night.
She had ‘trained’ the girls well; they had been busily preparing for the party, putting up the decorations and preparing costumes and scripts for the ‘haunted house’, but she was the witch. And the Halloween party was not Halloween without her witchiness. Why, just the other day, as she was passing a group of children one of them came up to her and asked, “Mrs. Witch, are we going to be having the Halloween party this year?” When she’d answered in the affirmative, the little girl had skipped off to join her friends, nodding at them and giggling. A sense of satisfaction had gone through her that day: if she was to be remembered for something, at least it would be for providing fun for little children.
But now, it was late. She had meant to go home at least half an hour earlier, but when she was alone in the woods, gathering chestnuts, mushrooms or pine nuts, she usually lost all track of time and today there were so many chestnuts, probably resulting from last night’s tornado. Fortunately, she’d already made her famous poisonous mushrooms – the amazingly delicious pumpkin plus cookies that resembled the product they were named for – so all that was left to do was get herself ready for her bewitching role. But, before she could do that, she had to get past that corner…
It was on the fastest route out of the woods from the position she was in, and most of the time she had no problems taking it. Indeed, any other time of the day, she could take a short-cut across the corner, and take off a good ten minutes from her travel time. But it was almost five o’clock, and in just a few minutes… She had no other choice, though, because going the long way would add on an extra half an hour that she couldn’t allow herself today of all days.
And so, she walked. She couldn’t run, but even if she could, she wouldn’t because the ground was so uneven, with rocks and tree roots sticking up at odd spots. She hoped the strange feeling she got passing that spot wouldn’t grab her as badly as it usually did at this time of day. Had she left when she’d planned on, there wouldn’t have been a problem, because the eeriness of the corner appeared only at five o’clock. It wasn’t just the lighting – or lack of such – because the same sense was there in the summer, winter and spring, too, at five o’clock, rain, fog or shine. And, of course, the last rays of autumn sunlight filtering through the the yellowing leaves on the trees, caused oddly shaped shadows to ripple along the grassy slopes, hinting at things unknown and unseen.
Melody was almost there; although she could see it just around the bend, she would have known even with her eyes closed because of the cold tendrils of panic that gripped her heart. Today, though, the closer she drew to the spot the more she decided she would fight the usual tendency. She would teach them who would frighten who. Because, you see, Melody had a secret power; it was hers only on Halloween, which helped her be the best Halloween witch ever, and was the reason little children referred to her as Mrs. Witch. It was her laugh. Not an every-day-of-the-week laugh, but an evil-sounding, authentic witch’s laugh, the kind that causes children to hide their faces (which was why they loved it) and adults to tremble. And it only worked on Halloween.
And so, fighting against the corner’s chill (even Spike refused to chase any rabbit brave enough to run across that corner at that time of day), Melody gathered up her energy and laughed. The evil sounding, witchy laugh rang across that corner, issuing a challenge to those frightening, unknown forces of the pinewoods’ corner. As though by magic, a change came suddenly upon the corner. The mist drew back it’s chilling tendrils, the shadows drew back and though the sun had begun to go down behind the surrounding hills, its warmth slid easily in place of the misty cold. The birds began to sing in the branches, the raucous crows stopped cawing and peace returned to the beautiful corner of the pinewoods.
Melody smiled as she skipped through the woods, actually crossing the corner instead of going around it. Today, she could. Tomorrow? Tomorrow was another day.
© October 31, 2014 Mary Purpari . All Rights Reserved.