Happy Halloween…or what have you…
Here I sit, October 30th, anxious and giddy as most kids get for Christmas. I love Halloween. I always have. Even before I came out of the broom closet as a witch and a Pagan, I loved it. Never for the candy or the costumes (though…hey, free candy and a chance to dress up! Score!) but because I am now and have always been a history geek. And a story geek. I grew up in a haunted house and have lived in them off and on since leaving home. I have heard stories of haints and spooks and specters since…well, forever. I’ve seen ‘em, talked to ‘em and hidden from ‘em. I write about ‘em now, maybe in some attempt to corral the spookies in my head in to some form of order? I know that, as I sit here and finish Wild Hunt and Maxwell’s Demon and work on edits to some short stories, no amount of work can keep my thoughts from turning from the fictional ghosts and demons and things that go bump in the night to the ones that I heard about my whole life and I wonder if those pinpricks on the back of my neck are just my mind playing tricks, or if I have an unseen editor looking over my shoulder, silently critiquing my depiction of what lies across the veil. Even now, writing this, I can feel them peeking in, wondering when I’m getting back to the faeries and wights and leaving the ghosts alone for a bit!
Since it’s Halloween, I thought I’d share with you a classic scary story, one passed down from storyteller to storyteller and can be found in many books on folklore. This is one particularly popular in the South, where I’m from and where my family has lived for several generations, since all sides immigrated here ages and ages ago…
Once, there was a young man walking home from courting his sweetheart some ways away. He got caught in a sudden downpour and decided to hole up for the night in an old, abandoned house. Carefully, he made his way across a rotten old porch, dodged some nasty spider webs and finally managed to get into the old parlor. Furniture stood, dusty and faded, facing the ancient hearth. It took some doing but he managed to get a fire going with the remnants of the woodpile the long-gone owners had left inside. Soon, there was a merry blaze going and he was drying off and warming up. He must have dozed off because the next thing he knew, a small black cat was before him.
“Is Bill here?” the cat asked, surprising the young man and making his heart race.
“Uh… no, he sure ain’t.”
The young man could only stare! It must be a dream, he decided, and pinched himself. Nope, he was wide awake! A few moments later, a larger black cat came in and sat down next to the first. “Bill here?” the larger cat asked. “Nope, said the first. Not yet.” The young man was paralyzed with fear! The cats stared at him with bloodshot, yellow eyes, licking their lips. Soon, a third cat joined, this one big as a hunting dog. “Bill here yet?” it asked. “Nope,” the first two replied. “Mmmm…” Now three cats were staring, licking their lips, waiting… A fourth cat lumbered in, it’s steps so heavy it shook the floor. This cat was the size of a pony! It shook dust off it’s fur and smelled of blood and the grave, it’s eyes big as dinner plates as it sniffed the young man from head to toe and curled it’s lip. “Bill here?” it rumbled.
The young man shot to his feet and ran out the door. “No! And tell him I couldn’t wait!”
Happy Halloween, poppets!