Last Sunday I introduced you to the alternative folk who lived at the edges of the Storyteller’s magic garden..Chapter 17 All Hallows
Autumn – Chapter Eighteen – All Hallow’s Eve – Part Two – Freakish Village prepares for the Zombies
Down in the village of Freakish, the villagers had been preparing for this night for the last week or so. Mothers slaved over costumes for their children, often biting their lips to prevent a slip of the tongue when pricking their tender fingertips with a needle. Every year one of the residents of the community on the hill would act as consultant, and this year Zenia and Zoran had both volunteered.
With pegs on noses, the mothers had gathered for a meeting to discuss the best way to make the costumes, and as an outcome, all the rags and old unwanted garments were gathered together and picked over by the consultants and placed into piles. They explained that some of the clothes would need to have cuts placed in strategic places, such as over the knees and thigh parts of the trousers for the boys. They also suggested taking already tatty shirts and ripping the sleeves and collars off and perhaps a couple of buttons. For the girls, they suggested that the mothers sew together oddly assorted coloured rags into shift dresses with ragged hems.
With the main costume out of the way, the committee moved onto the decoration phase. Mrs Dumphries, who made the dyes from the local plants, said she would take care of the reds, greens and dark browns required. Mrs Stipple who was married to the local butcher promised to get thin strips of cow hide to dye and hang from arms and legs. The thing that made them all scratch their heads was how to find a way to copy the dollops of flesh that hung so decoratively from Zenia and Zoran’s faces. Miss Fortescue, who acted as backstage makeup artist for the local dramatic society, said that she would take care of that little problem on the night.
Well pleased with the progress of the Freakish village preparations, Zenia and Zoran assured their friends that the night was going to be one of the most successful in decades.
As the sun set and the moon rose high in the sky, the villagers dressed their children in their costumes; with some taking the extra precaution of placing garlic amulets around their necks. They knew that those who were different from them, meant no harm, but just in case one of them got a bit carried away, four strong men were provided with sprays of frankincense and marjoram, which whilst not fatal, was known to give 99% of all zombies and ghouls the heebie-jeebies.
If past Halloween nights were anything to go by, these precautions were unnecessary, and as the villagers laid out tables of pumpkin fritters, apple pie, goat’s cheesecake and fresh cream, they chatted and laughed excitedly. Around them the children of the village, hideous and foul smelling, raced around trying to pick bits of artificial skin from each other’s bodies. The odd squeal indicated where an unfortunate child had some of his own ripped off over enthusiastically.
The church bell began to toll and a figure was seen to flit in and out between the gravestones. The game was on, and suddenly screams and howls of terror filled the village square. Dressed in robes of white, with a flaming torch in one hand and a dismembered head in the other, a man raced towards the knot of families as they stood frozen outside the community hall.
With a fearful screech, the creature skidded to a halt in front of the terrified villagers and threw the head at their feet. In the light of the torch a diabolical face could be seen glowing gruesomely with green and red slime. With a cackle a disembodied voice lashed into them.
‘Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha….’
Mrs Dumphries, with her hands on her hips advanced towards the rotund prankster, noting in passing that the bodiless head was made of papier-mâché.
‘Father, you nearly frightened us all to death, whatever were you thinking, we weren’t ready yet!’ She wagged her finger in his face, and with a collective sigh of relief, everyone surrounded the priest and patted him on the back.
It was now time for the real fun to begin, and everyone piled back inside the large hall and sat cross-legged in a circle. Miss Fortescue and the committee blew out all the candles and joined their friends on the floor. You could have heard a pin drop, and even the children sat quietly in petrified silence. After what seemed like an hour, but was only really a few minutes, they all heard the creak of the main door as it was pushed open by an unseen hand. A window at the back of the centre banged shut, and a sudden rush of soot was heard as it settled with a thump into the grate. There was a sharp intake of breath as a cold slimy hand brushed against a man’s cheek, and Mrs Dumphries shrieked as she felt the gentlest of bites against her neck.
The children were of course completely delighted by the whole shebang, and the ghouls and pranksters paid particular attention to making their parents scream and cry out for mercy. Small packets of sweets were left in the laps of the youngsters along with little practical jokes for use during the rest of the year. If you have ever wondered where itching powder and whoopee cushions came from, now you know!
An hour later and every one of the villagers had been scared half to death, and Bethany decided that they would indeed be much more grateful for their lives in the year to come. She relit the candles, and with a massive sigh of relief, and nervous laughter, the villagers got to their feet, with one or two stalwart men required to get the fat little priest upright.
Cecil the black cat sat on the mantle above the fire yawning with boredom, having seen it all before many times. Bethany and her friends went from person to person shaking hands and hugging some of those they had known for decades; patting eager children on the head, complimenting them on their magnificent costumes.
It was time to hit the party food and whilst Zenia and Zoran did not usually partake, they gladly passed amongst the guests, topping up glasses with the amber nectar. The Storyteller had been hiding in the community centre kitchens for the main festivities to finish. To be honest he had a bit of a dicky heart, and was not sure he could take all the frivolity. However, he had brought a surprise for the gathered villagers and their visitors, and huge cheer went up as he appeared followed by his band of musicians.
He asked Bethany if she would join him for the first dance and with grace and much admiration they executed a Viennese Waltz perfectly. The Storyteller gestured to everyone to take to the floor and soon there was a heaving mass of men, women and children prancing and reeling, rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ and twerking in time to the beat.
As the church clock struck midnight, the visitors shambled away to the hills where they would remain out of sight for another year. Bethany was cornered by one or two of the ladies, and with Cecil waiting impatiently by her broom; she dispensed some pre-prepared potions that she knew were always in demand. Miss Fortescue in particular was very keen to find a fragrance that she could wear behind her plump little ears to attract Jack Hammer the local blacksmith.
©Sally Cronin – Tales from the Irish Garden 2018
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