The Curse of Blackwood Hollow: Part Three

Being dead, you know, gets confusing sometimes. I have to really work at things alive things don’t have to worry about. Like sitting on chairs. I only ever need to for Sybil’s sake, so I seem more like a person and less like a thing. Or like remembering the dimensions of human space. Humans have a lot of rules. Walk on the ground. Sit on things, not through them. High fives are supposed to kind of hurt and make a sound. Use past tense for things some things and the future tense for others. I always mix them up. Everything is present for me, and things don’t end where humans say they end and begin where they say they begin. That’s a thing you learn as a former human. Things is jumbled. All jumbled up. Everything.

I say that a lot to Sybil, and she thinks she gets it, and maybe she does get it more than most.

I can’t really say that I’m old. Sybil can say it, and does say it. A lot. I think she must be making jokes that are funny to humans, because she laughs a lot when she’s referring to my age. I don’t get them. I don’t feel old. I don’t really understand time anymore. Like I said, people have a lot of rules. For some reason it comforts them.

Not that I can say I’m much better off, being beyond the rules. I get wretchedly lonely. I talk with the trees sometimes. That’s a perk. And I have Sybil. But sometimes she misunderstands me and I never know what to do about it besides wandering around the earth and letting myself flow through underground places and high, unreachable-by-humans places.

The worst is a recurring moment called All Hallow’s Eve. It’s hard for me to separate seconds from the ones before and after, and days from years. But I always know when All Hallow’s Eve is now, and I hate it every time it comes.

Every time, I go to my gravestone, and Sybil goes with me.

I go to Blackwood Hollow graveyard—sorry, I guess I should say went. I went with Sybil to the little patch of dirt and weeds where us “old folk” are interned. I wasn’t the only one buried there, but I’m the only ghost. I don’t like to think about it.

I laid my hand against my gravestone. It took all of my concentration, and all of Sybil’s. I can’t do it without her. Then, suddenly, I feel the cold. In an instant, I feel the boundary of the stone. I feel where it begins and ends. Humanness seeps back into me. It’s a terrible feeling, in a way, like accepting a chain around your neck. But there’s always lurking in my mind the reason I must retain the feeling of limits, of a body. Why I must fight to stay on this earth.

I’m waiting for someone.

Now I feel the groundedness, the rules flood through me. I am renewed/ re-enslaved. Things can be both. That’s another thing you learn. A lot of things are quite simply “both.”

“I feel eyes.”

Sybil looks—looked at me judgementally. I didn’t mind. There was no point to.

I tried to explain. “Not… my eyes. His eyes.”

“Whose eyes?” she asked.

I closed my eyes and focused. My eyes. So I could feel them! That felt a bit good. “Someone watches.”

Sybil scowled out at the dark graveyard. She didn’t like people doing underhanded things. I was pretty sure she didn’t like people, period. “Who?”

I put a hand on her shoulder, and reveled in it. I could feel her shoulder. I could feel my hand. “Pretend I am still here. Talk. He will not see me.”

Sybil did not say anything for a moment, but after I moved away, she began muttering conspiratorially to no one.

He did not see me approach his tree. He did not see me loom behind him. He only heard my voice when I boomed, “Puck” and raised my hand.

It had to be done, every All Hallow’s Eve. That was the price of my staying. I had to do its bidding on this one night, and it always asked for blood. I hadn’t liked Puck from the beginning, but if I could have then, I would have told him to run. I raised my hand and brought it down until I felt his face split beneath my nails.

He howled unlike anything I’d ever heard, and I couldn’t help wondering what he was exactly. Then his eyes closed and his head fell back, but he wasn’t dead—I would know. So I went back to Sybil and told her to get him help. I had other things to do.

I went to the top of the hill, and sunk down beneath the earth, and waited for it. It got darker and darker, and the stars refused to shine, so I knew it was coming. At last it came, and I spread the blood before it. The blood sank into the earth and I knew it was pleased. A whisper ran on the wind, and for just a moment, I could feel the back of my neck. It crawled.

You do not wait in vain. She is coming.

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The Curse of Blackwood Hollow: Part Two

For the record, I never believed he was a ghost. That would’ve taken a level of reclusive ignorance that even I, Blackwood Hollow’s teen troglodyte and tea-leaf reader, could not claim to possess. When he showed up two weeks prior to the incident, even if his highly unoriginal “the entire world bores me” air hadn’t announced his mundane humanity, the Hollow’s Tribune did by running a brief profile on Blackwood’s two newest residents: a single mother and her son escaping the bustle of the city. This I considered to be pretty sure proof of nonspirithood.

So you may be wondering why when the kid with the raven black hair and freckled pixie nose sat down at our lunch table I played along. It wasn’t the first time some peer of mine had the brilliant idea to pretend to be some kind of spirit, like I couldn’t tell the difference. When you’ve spent the greater part of your time consorting with spirits, these sorts of occurrences are inevitable. I like to think they keep me grounded to humanity in their harmless devilry, or reaffirm why I choose spirits for company instead of other mortals.

Anyway, Puck is a name for mischievous spirits (which he would know, were he literate enough to read Shakespeare), so maybe this is why I forgave the newcomer. I was slightly disappointed to see him so soon in league with Wesley and George, the two most unoriginal teenage boys imaginable, but something in the earnestness with which he played his ghost-part brought an honor to his impish namesake I could not ignore.

“I’m Sybil,” I said, and extended a hand to shake.

“Puck,” he said, momentarily forgetting himself and his corporeality and stretching his hand forward. He stopped at the last moment, holding his palm up to the cafeteria light over head as though he were seeing it for the first time. “Do I seem…translucent…to you?” he asked.

I heard Jakob whisper something in my ear and forced a straight face. “Yes…yes!” I leaned so close to Puck’s hand that my nose almost touched it, and celebrated in the look of anxious discomfort that seeped through his face. “Yes! You seem very transparent to me.”

Jakob didn’t like Puck from the beginning, but to tell you the truth, I was looking forward to having a flesh-and-blood human friend, for at least a short while, even if it wasn’t a real friendship.

I have been a Seer for as long as I can remember, which exempts me from most monotonous human experiences like Homecoming or studying for SATs, but that also means that I don’t get human friends who I can actually high-five or introduce to the somewhat psychotic aunt who lives in the downstairs bedroom of our two bedroom shack.

See, I didn’t want him to get hurt, just like I’m sure he didn’t want to hurt me by pretending to be a ghost and all. In fact, I didn’t even know he followed me to the graveyard.

I guess now I should explain a bit about Jakob.

Everyone pretends that Coots on his tractor is the oldest resident in Blackwood Hollow, but Jakob is older. He was buried in Blackwood Hollow graveyard before Coots was born, which gives you an idea of how miserable and lonely he gets.

Once a year, he goes to visit his gravestone, and once a year I go with him. Once a year, All Hallow’s Eve gives him back a small part of his fading corporeality, and he can set his spirit hand against the cool gray surface that bears his name, and linger over what it is to feel. Once a year.

Then, one year — this year — Puck is there. And if there’s one thing the spirits of Blackwood Hollow don’t like on All Hallow’s Eve, it’s a spectator.

 

Read Part One by Acton

Happy Halloween!

The Curse of Blackwood Hollow: Part One

It started out as a prank. For most of us, that is. To tell you the truth, I wish I had never gotten involved, honest-to-God. Plainly I wish I had never even moved to Blackwood Hollow in the first place.

I should start telling the story from the beginning really and tell you just how everything ended up in this miserable mess, but you’re probably dying to know how I got this monstrous atrocity of a cut on my face. Well, if you could see me, that’s what you would be wondering. So I think I’ll skip ahead to the end for a moment.

The cut is all purply and pulsing and the doctor’s say not to take off the bandages because I might faint again and that it’ll probably leave a scar. It spans the side of my face just above my right eye and I kind of love and hate the idea of having a scar. For one it would make me look pretty devil-may-care but also, I think my face was just fine before Jakob decided to decorate it. Oh and it hurts like a—well, I better not say.

How did I get it, you ask? Well to be perfectly blunt, I was attacked by a ghost in the Blackwood Hollow graveyard. The police say I’m not thinking clearly because the cut is so deep and because one of the guys involved in the prank (the cops have the audacity to attribute the grand title of “friend” to him without my consent) was found with a flask in his jacket pocket.

I swear I didn’t drink, officer. I’m not into that kind of stuff anyways. The only reason I got involved in the first place was because I’m not one to pass up a good prank and it genuinely sounded harmless.

Back to the beginning. My mom and I moved to Blackwood Hollow about two weeks ago. Mom was looking for a fresh start and I didn’t have a choice. You see, I’m a junior so mom figured that transferring to a new high school wouldn’t be so bad as long as it wasn’t my last year or anything. I think she’s regretting that now.

I don’t know what Blackwood Hollow is like during the rest of the year, but in October it’s like living in a harvest festival. There are pumpkins everywhere and this old guy, Coots or something like that, drives his tractor around town offering free hay rides everyday.

Don’t get me wrong, I like pumpkin patches and corn mazes as much as the next guy but the whole thing came across as a little over the top. Mom thinks it’s absolutely adorable and has been saying things like “small town community” with overwhelming adoration ever since we arrived. I think it’s a bit obsessive.
Blackwood Hollow is small enough that people forget that there’s a world outside of it. I don’t. We used to live in the city.

There’s town meetings every fortnight and lots of retired old people who have nothing better to do than stop you mid-street and talk your ear off for quarter of an hour before saying, “Lovely to meet you Jack” before continuing their hunt for the next young victim.

My name’s Puck actually. For some reason elderly people don’t think that’s a real name so they opt for calling me names like Jack and Buck—I don’t see how Buck is more of a name than Puck but there you have it.
I think Puck means something like ‘one who makes bad decisions’ or ‘one likely to get punched in the face’—I can’t say for sure but it would certainly fit my experience.

One thing you have to understand about me is that I get restless fairly easily. I don’t like to cause problems or anything like that, but I do like to keep things interesting and entertaining. I’m no stranger to the principal’s office, but the police station, that’s something new.

I know mom will chalk up my behavior to the influence of my new “friends” and let me off the hook. Heck, I’m going to blame it on them too.

Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that this story really begins with me finding Blackwood Hollow a touch too boring and a certain girl named Sybil.

My first day at Blackwood High was going poorly. If I was the kind of boy who admitted to things like being scared, I would’ve said that I was terrified out of my mind. Everyone was gawking at me like they had never seen another human before in their life and the teachers wanted to haul me up to the front of every classroom to interrogate me in front of my peers.

By third period I couldn’t take it anymore. Some pushover called Mr. Douglas asked if I felt like coming to the front and introducing myself which was going to be the third time that morning. I said, no I did not feel like it. He said, oh come on, it’ll just be a sec. I said, no thank you.

Mr. Douglas blinked at me. Some of my classmates grinned because I was being what adults like to call “smart-alecky.”

Mr. Douglas cleared his throat. “Everybody, this is Puck. He’s new to Blackwood Hollow. I’m sure you’ll all give him a very nice welcome.” He didn’t look like he wanted me to have a nice welcome. “Anything you’d like to add, Puck?”

I shook my head. I didn’t dare open my mouth again because I was liable to say something offensive and it looked like I had already made Mr. Douglas’s naughty list.

I think that was the moment I caught the boys’ attention. I think that’s when people began to suspect what I was all about.

In fourth period, I saw Sybil for the first time and I thought she was a complete nutter. The reason she caught my attention is that she didn’t gawk at me. She didn’t even look at me once.

That makes it sound like I have a ginormous ego, but like I said, I didn’t want to be gawked at. It was just weird, that’s all.

That was the first sign that Sybil was different.

She happened to be in my sixth period class too and that’s when I found out how truly loopy she was. She just lost it. I mean, she just started giggling for apparently no reason and she was fixated at a place behind the teacher’s desk even though Mrs. Bradshaw was on the other side of the room.

I could see her blue eyes moving with whatever invisible thing she was watching and I came to believe she really thought something was there. She stifled another laugh.

“Weird, isn’t she?” one of the girls sitting next to me whispered, following my gaze. “I hear she still thinks she has an imaginary friend. Certainly doesn’t have any real ones.”

Nobody else seemed to notice or care much about Sybil. I guess they were used to it by then.

Finally, in seventh period I left to “use the restroom” and wandered the halls when I turned the corner and found Sybil standing alone at her locker, facing an empty hallway and having a whispered conversation with nobody.

The whole thing was so strange that I couldn’t help but obsess over it just a little. If she was truly mental, why was she allowed to roam the school? It was in that moment that Sybil became the entertainment I needed in this boring new town.

The next day, the boys caught me staring at Sybil from afar and that’s when things really got underway. I was sitting in the cafeteria at a table alone when suddenly I was engulfed by their pack. One of the boys, Wes, sat across from me and folded his hands on the table like he had a proposition for me.

There was no point in denying that I had been watching her, so instead I asked coolly, “Does she always eat alone?”

“She’s not alone, she’s eating with Jakob,” Wes replied with mock seriousness, eyes glinting with mischief.

“Jakob?” I murmured curiously. I remember thinking right away that Wes had a punchable face. Some people just have punchable faces, maybe they can’t help it.

“Her imaginary best friend,” Wes explained, snickering with the rest of the boys.

I stared at them. “Is something. . .wrong with her?”

Wes, who by now I was certain was the official or unofficial leader of the boys, shook his head. “Besides that little quirk, she’s as sane as I am.”

I frowned, intrigued by my new information. “So she still believes in imaginary friends?”

Wes nodded. “Don’t believe me?” He leaned forward and I knew whatever trouble he was up to was coming. “Why don’t you go over and introduce yourself to her? You’re new. Tell her nobody else can see you either.”

Okay, okay. So I know this sounds absolutely cruel and I don’t want you to get the wrong idea because I’m not a cruel person. But come on, how often do you get to pretend to be imaginary? And I was curious. I wanted to know if she would actually believe it.

So without a word to Wes and the others, I stood up, strode across the lunchroom to Sybil and sat down diagonal from her.

Her blue eyes flicked in my direction and I could see a slight crease in her forehead as if she was puzzled.

I was slightly nervous but when I caught her gaze, I feigned surprise and whispered urgently, “Can—can you see me?”

Sybil’s mouth hung open for a moment. “Why shouldn’t I?”

I jumped to my feet—at this point Wes and the others had moved closer in order to hear everything—and stood in front of one of the boys, George. I waved a hand in front of George’s face dramatically and dutifully, he pretended like I wasn’t there.

Sybil’s mouth widened. “Sit down, what are you doing here?”

I obeyed and sat down beside her, heart pounding. “I’m not sure.”

“Are you a ghost?”

“I’m not sure.”

Sybil eyed me suspiciously. “I’m Sybil,” she said finally.

“Puck.”

I caught Wes winking at me out of the corner of my eye as he led the group away. I didn’t feel any guilt yet. All I felt was a thrill and the overwhelming curiosity about Sybil. Little did I know that come All Hallow’s Eve, things were going to get very very out of hand.

And that’s how this horrible story begins.

Read Part Two by Ellis

From a Recovering Cynic

How many times
can I make this wrong decision?
(it can’t be a mistake
if I do it with such precision)

How many times
will I return to this same sadness?
(who knew thinking rationally
could be riddled with such madness)

How many times
must I long for something more?
(it hurts, knowing what I could’ve had
–it was offered me twice before)

I am tired of disappointment
and I am tired of resistance
(perhaps that is why I must preserve
these idealizations from a distance)

Now many times I wonder if I can
preserve the potential they claimed to see
somehow prove the metaphorical finger I’ve worn so long
isn’t the only thing the world will see of me.

– E

Fading

I am a house with no one inside

but that sole inhabitant that years ago died.

With my ghost voice I called and invited you in

that someone might live in this house again.

 

But the visitors that come never stay

and these ghost gray lips grow grayer gray

till the day they are not heard anymore

though I still sit screaming behind the door.

 

– E

An Image

The light shines through the shutters
revealing the yellow latticework
that is invisible in the daylight
and what if the shadow shapes of what is not there
are the outlines of this invisible world
available only to the waking few?
they feel the latticework on their face
now on their hand
and wait for some small shadow to climb it
a burglar in the night.

-E

When she breathes a chilly breath

When she breathes a chilly breath
and folds in on herself
and her branches like arms quiver
and the leaves dance and shiver
When she wraps herself in a sunlight shawl
and wears a silver moon cap to sleep
and all is painted red and gold
and the leaves tumble from her hold
When she tethers the short daylight scarf around her neck
and her tears leak from cracks in the sky
then open your door, she is here
and welcome, welcome, Autumn my dear

Parking Garage Humans

 You feel them coming first, before anything else. It starts somewhere in the back of your mind, somewhere you don’t really pay much attention to until it’s the only place in your mind that has your attention. It’s like your mind is a glass of water and you miss the fact that vibrations in the ground are sending small rippling waves across the surface. The surface breaks and the water sloshes out of the bowl and you sit up with a jolt. That’s how it begins.
 Next your heart begins to beat the slightest bit faster. You can’t help it. It’s not nerves or anything like that, it’s just part of the effect and that’s all. It feels like the earth is trembling and the concrete beams in all directions will shake themselves loose. So you feel that they’re coming.
 Maybe you try to ignore it or maybe you sit up and stare out your window, but either way, they have your attention now. That’s when you start to hear them. Windows down or windows up, it’s amazing either way that the glass hasn’t all shattered.
 You feel the vibrations in your very bones and your ears try to make sense of something so loud you can’t quite understand exactly what it is you are listening to. The noise (or if you are feeling generous, the music) grows louder still and you hear the additional and occasional squeal of tires, the revving of an engine.
 Finally, you see them. More often then not you feel surprised and maybe a bit disappointed because you were expecting a red Lamborghini or a yellow Mustang or at least something black and sleek. But all you see is the green Honda civic or the silver Volvo or mom’s old minivan and a very small figure sitting behind the dashboard, clutching at the steering wheel with one hand, hoping it doesn’t vibrate out of grasp.
 The tires let out another squeal, and likely they do too, as they take the curve in the parking garage a bit too quickly and narrowly dodge the concrete walls. They pull away and out of your sight. The noise becomes incoherent once more. Once again, all you are left with is the thumping in your chest and in your body and the pounding in your ears until all becomes still and silent.
 Once again it is as if nothing has happened, as if there have been no disruptions to the water in that bowl in the corner of your mind and not a drop has been spilt, but you think something.
 You think something usually related to ‘need for attention’. Words like ‘ridiculous’ or even just ‘wow’ float in and out. And maybe you think, this is how we humans must look to the rest of the universe and all the other creatures in our world. Maybe we are parking garage humans in a world of quiet creatures watching us from the windows of their cars.

Stripped Away

It was too much to gaze
upon the glory of God
All left in a reverent daze
Knelt our human skins, awed

But if they gazed instead at me
stunned and blinded, we who fell
surely would speechless be
at the soul inside the human shell