Autumn: All Hallow’s Eve Part One.
You have now met some of the more prominent residents in the magic garden, and forest, but it is now time to meet those who are members of a community of rare and often maligned creatures. Those that write horror stories, delight in scaring young children, (and adults too if truth be known) with blood, decay and things that go bang in the night. Even those who practice the art of healing, are not excused from the propaganda of those who are ignorant and cruel.
The Storyteller had been their protector for centuries, providing them with lands, unwanted by farmers or other locals, where they could live in peace. There was one condition to this arrangement, and that was they must work in harmony with their nearest neighbours in the village of Freakish. Over the last couple of hundred years, an understanding had been reached between the villagers and those who preferred to walk in the shade. I would like you to meet a special friend of the Storyteller who has a tale to tell about Halloween.
Bethany looked around her cosy cottage and smiled with satisfaction. The lanterns around the walls glowed eerily; candlelight flickering through fangs and gaping wounds in the flesh of the pumpkins. The table was laid with fresh baked treats; the result of many hours toiling over her wood stove. A large pot now bubbled away on top of the said appliance. A wonderful aroma of rosemary and thyme filled the air with an enticing promise of tender meat and dumplings.
Of course you could not have a Halloween party without lots of sweet pastries and candies, and these too added atmospheric colour to the festive table. Blood red velvet cupcakes competed with the dark chocolate of the Devil cake, and green whipped cream glistened in a skull shaped bowl.
Her friends would be arriving shortly; making their way carefully along the path in the forest in the dark, and then through the narrow opening in her protective hedge. A woman living alone in a remote cottage needed to be careful of intruders, human and creature. The poisonous oleander was perfect for that purpose; both beautiful and deadly.
Those who were welcome and came to her for remedies, and for the mushrooms that she grew so abundantly in her garden, were given the knowledge of safe passage. Those who were uninvited or strangers, were warned by a sign along the path; ‘Minefield’. That usually did the trick!
Bethany turned her attention to her outfit. She loved her little black dress that came out for parties. For her age she had very good legs, even though she said so herself, and whilst her hips were a little wider than they used to be, she still looked spell-binding. She laughed to herself; her cat Cecil stirred and stood up from his preferred position in front of the wood stove. She walked across, stroking his arched back as he wound around her aforementioned legs as if agreeing with her assessment.
‘I hope you’ve rested up Cecil, it will be a very busy night,’ she gently massaged the cat under his chin. ‘Lots to do yet before the guests arrive so we had better get a move on.’
The cat moved over to the red velvet sofa and leapt nimbly up onto the soft cushions. With his paws tucked beneath him, and a gleam in his eyes, he watched as his mistress continued her preparations.
The first to arrive, as the sun set below the mountain behind the cottage, was Viktor looking stunning in a black velvet tuxedo with a cape that swung from his shoulders. He walked in without knocking as was his want, and did a twirl just inside the door.
“What do you think you ravishing creature,’ he flashed his pearly white fangs. ‘Do I look terrifying or just incredibly handsome?’
Bethany cocked her head to one side and felt a slight stirring of interest. No, best not go there as it would only end in tears; hers. Besides it was probably the result of drinking too much ginger and honey-mead whilst she was putting on her makeup. She thought she had overdone the potent root a little and it tended to make you feel a little saucy.
She went over and gave Viktor a hug. ‘You look stunning as always my friend,’ extinguishing the look of yearning in his eyes as she emphasized the status of their relationship.
He smiled ruefully. ‘The others are right behind me all dressed up in their most appropriate Halloween finery,’ he laughed as his fangs flashed in the lamplight. ‘We will certainly give the villagers their money’s worth this year.
Just then the door was pushed open and her other friends arrived in a group. Zenia and Zoran in their decaying Zombie outfits emerged into the room first; emanating an aroma that competed with the smell of the stew rather unfavourably.
Bethany wrinkled her nose and reached behind her for her homemade deodoriser made from geranium and peppermint. The two lovers entwined their bony fingers protruding from the end of their tattered costumes, and oblivious to the mist of floral scents that encased them, went over to admire the food laden table.
Behind them came her best friend. Geraldine was not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination but she was the life and soul of the party. Bubbly and a teller of tall tales, she was not in the slightest bit ghoulish as her makeup and costume would suggest. Bethany gave her a huge hug and stroked her friend’s green and red highlighted long hair.
‘Ger… You look stunning tonight,’ she stepped back to admire the entire ensemble. ‘That purple and blood stained dress suits you so well.’
Arm in arm the two women headed for their other friends who were already sipping mead and chatting away by the table. As the evening wore on, the food, and probably too much elderberry wine, was enjoyed. Laughter filled the small cottage as their plans for this Halloween night were discussed and enhanced.
As the clock struck nine times, Bethany clinked her empty glass and called for order. With some delay her friends ceased their inebriated conversations and stood waiting for her pronouncement.
‘It is time good friends, to wend our way through the oleander and the forest to the village and pay our respects. You know the terms of our agreement with these good people. We live safely here amongst them, but we must, this one night within the twelve months, frighten the life out of them, so that they appreciate the lives that they have for the rest of the year.’
Costumes were straightened and her friends assumed their most fitting expressions for the occasion. Glasses were put down on the table and one by one they filed past Bethany who was now holding the front door open to the cold night air. Apart from Zenia who gave a little hiccup as she passed by, the group was silent.
However as Viktor sidled past he flashed his fangs at Bethany and whispered close to her delicately pointed ear. ‘You needn’t think that clove of garlic on a chain around your neck is going to stop me.’
Bethany smacked him on his shoulder and he laughed as he exited the cottage.
Exasperated, but not totally immune to his charms, his proposed conquest moved to the cupboard by the door and extracted her broom. Checking that her hat was on straight, she draped a long cloak over her mini-dress and turned to the red sofa.
‘Come along Cecil, you lazy moggy, hop on; we have places to be and fun to be had’.
©Sally Cronin image Tales from the Irish Garden.
To find out just how the friends will frighten the life out of the villagers.. tune in next Saturday.
©Sally Cronin image 2018 –
I hope you have enjoyed and will join me next Saturday for part two of this chapter..
My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.
One of the recent reviews for the collection
I’m guaranteed to experience laughter and tender emotions when I read a book written by Sally Cronin. In her latest, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, she shares a dozen or so short stories and a few poems that focus on the absurdities of life and all the moments that live to teach us something new. I try to convince myself to only read one each night, but an hour later, the book is finished. Perhaps her next collection will include a theme of patience!
Undoubtedly, my favorite is the first story in the lot. All the rest had something amazing to live up to: Sometime in the future (hopefully VERY distant), an automated device is hooked up to EVERYTHING the narrator does. When she wants to order a few grocery items that might have a little too much sugar and fat in them, everything falls apart. Seriously… how many times have we all had this scenario happen in the most briefest of moments — the one where someone says, “Buy the diet item” or “You don’t really need to eat that, do you?” Take it up or down a million notches in this story. No matter what angle our protagonist tries, the computer has her beat.
Life is definitely like a bowl of cherries. It is sweet and sour, you’ve got to go through a hole bunch to find the best one, and if you consume too many pits, I hear there’s an arsenic concern to consider. Luckily, if you devour this particular bowl of cherries, you’ll have some witty stories to share at a dinner party or a fun little tidbit to announce on your next conference call. Cronin completely had my in hysterics over what happened in the first story, and at other times, I smiled and laughed… teared up a bit at the generosity of some and the thoughtfulness of others.
This is everything you want in a short collection of tales about the reality of life. Well worth the purchase and download. Highly recommended. And it reminds me why I’ve grown to love this author’s work. We all need a little bit of her wisdom and humor.
You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021