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The Ghosts of Hallowe'en

Many children believe Hallowe'en is for just one night. But no, it lingers and hides and may suddenly reappear at any time. 'Any time?' 'Yes, any time.' Do not step out alone tonight and if you do stay in the light for in the dark there lurks a curse evil, mean or even worse. You have been warned...

...‘Hah-Haaa’ cried a woeful hag swooping low and slashing at a pretty tree until nought remained but a sorry heap. ‘Now, who’ve we got here?’ she cackled swallowing the remains of a croak pastille ‘Another brave boy I’ll be bound daring to cross this hallowed ground.' 'Who sent you child, why have you come on this night of all nights just in time for the fun?’ Pausing for a moment to consult her dying-eye witchdamp crystal and the misty souls trapped therein. ‘I understand,’ she began again ‘that mummy told you that there was nothing to be scared of in the dark would that be correct by any chance?’ ‘Well, yes, yes,’ admitted Billy heart racing, ‘I suppose she may have mentioned something along those lines.’ ‘Well, she was wrong laddie,’ interrupted the hag, ‘badly wrong and how wrong you may soon judge for yourself by feeling the full rage of the dark and meeting some of the ‘things’ that inhabit the dark and of whom mummies can know absolutely nothing and daddies even less.’

A worried moon peeped nervously over the horizon silhouetting a pointed hat with an ample brim, a curvy nose and a curly chin that when she spoke through fungy teeth, spat out sprouts she ate last week. ‘Nothing to be scared of in the dark eh’ screamed the hag again, ‘well, well, well, if only mummies knew,' 'why there’s stuff out here in the dark that isn’t anything until it wants to become something and when it wants to become something it can be anything it wants – do you understand child?’ Billy quickly nodded in agreement hoping against hope that this was just a bad dream but of course it wasn’t, how could it be when something wet and slimy had just wrapped itself around his arm and with a raspy tongue was anxiously hoping to draw blood.

There’s no limit to what the dark can do’ continued the hag, ‘and no limit to where its icy fingers may extend.' ‘It might want to be a chilly-spot hovering over your bed to cool down your blankets and blow through each thread then again it might want to be a scary noise or something whispering in your night light – putting your hands over your ears does no good – it gets in your head that way, better to sweat it out and listen in the hope it might go away – but I can assure you it won't.’

What’s that?’ Pressed the hag suddenly. ‘Something touch your cheek did it?' 'Quick, lay on your tummy, flat to the ground, don’t make a move, don’t make a sound, it’ll soon pass, with a swish and a sweep, don’t breathe an inch, just pretend you’re asleep.’

Hello, was that a swish of a cloak at the end of the bed, a finger-of-fate or a pirate long dead?' 'Muddy pulpits! 'We’re talking spooky here.' 'Not your average scary by any means, but eyes of dead fairies that spy in the night, that watch from the corner ‘til dads out of sight, that peep over pillows and tug at your hair, to keep you awake with a terrible scare.' 'Not to be messed with if you know what’s good for you, but then, few children do.’

At the darkening of the shadow-lamp is when the phantoms rise, when spirits walk and bogles stalk and namby pambies cry, when eerie is aloft, below, and comes in from the sides, and refuge is a hard found place, there’s nowhere you can hide.' 'A waft, a draught, a coffin laughed, now here comes something weird, a legless corpse, on a headless horse and all things you’ve feared.’

But I digress’ declared the hag. ‘It’s time for me to go now and time for you to… Aaaaaahhhhh’ – The departing scream was over-excellent and full of spite, spit and terrible toothache before once again Billy found himself alone in the dark.

Petrified Billy could do no more than look on through pan-sized eyes as the darkest dark he’d ever seen descended from a dark machine and moulded itself around him, filling the cracks with haunted ladles of phantasmagoria darkening, deepening and thickening all the while, like a ghostly goulash bubbling with ooze-dumplings and spider-tripe – a heart-stopping change that Billy knew spelt trouble.

Risking a finger into the night Billy probed the frowning void ahead and fell backwards in a heap when unseen fingers reached for his and something pinched his nose and poked him in the eye. Dark, that terrible state wherein according to mummy ‘there’s nothing to be scared of’ had suddenly come alive and was no longer simply a place struck by the absence of light – but something far more sinister.

In measures of indescribable creepiness Billy felt the horrors of the night closing in. A multitude of whispers met his ears sissking, swissing and zizzing in intimate conspiratorial embrace. He heard witches casting their fearful spells, hands falling off withered limbs. He heard the raspy wrench of a dead-watch regulator being wound and the lingering cry of a blood-bladder cyst. This was surely not your usual comic book nightmare, whatever he’d stumbled into, whatever held him captive, presented him with no ready means of escape, no curious talisman to appeal to and no ancient ritual known only to a ‘whatnot’ that might bring him easy relief. What held him here – clearly had no intention of letting him go.

Confirmation came at once when from every direction dark forces began to assemble. From ‘Creepy-Couture’ came some of the oldest gowns from their shabbiest wardrobes each with matching fever gloves and gammy-bag. Misty jars bubbling with entrails-elixir hovered between the headstones tipping generously when called upon to administer refreshment. Goblets were raised and frighteners exchanged in an atmosphere of ghoulish giddiness and phantom banter and a bell in the gravedigger’s hut spoke in bongs. Muffled melodies rose from the resting place of the Red Hot Pocus whilst decaying fingers and thumbs tapped and snapped to The Dark Harp Fantasy Band and finally, the Mistress of Misery (Aleata Rawe) briefly interrupted proceedings to curse everyone for coming. ‘Verily, verily I say unto all ye buried here about this wretched place at this unsafe hour, come forward from thy long-drop and show thyself so that by order of the fundatorial odours vested in me I may know thy scent.' 'Witches, phantoms, chillies and freaks charge thy goblets for the toast is Hallowe’en.’

©Joseph G Dawson