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!

Advertisements

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

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.

Nepenthe

“One swallow.”

“Are you sure about this?”

“Absolutely.”

Leda held the opaque vial filled with milky white potion up to her eyes, examining the contents warily.

“I’m tired Rue,” she murmured softly, almost inaudibly.

“Drink Leda.”

Leda’s eyes flashed away from the vial and found Rue’s pale blue ones, making a desperate plea. Rue was calmer than ever.

“Trust me,” Rue commanded.

Hesitantly at first, and then suddenly boldly Leda lifted the vial to her lips and sipped. Continue reading

Vanquished Glass

All the glass in the world has vanished. The tall grasses thrash against my bare legs, dress pillowing and sucking against me alternately. Shelby is beside me, both feet planted firmly on the ground for the first time in his life.

The moment this strikes me, I can’t help but look over at him and shout over the wind, “How does it feel to stand?”

“A little dizzying,” he says, grinning back. “Lot farther to fall.”

Shelby’s the kind of person who loves the ground too much to realize he was born with wings, says Mr. Mellark. Whenever provided the opportunity, he always chooses to sit on the ground, sit on something, or even just lean.

But today, tonight, he stands with us. We all stand in a line on Cherry Hill, holding hands. Except for Shelby and me. He didn’t offer it, and I don’t feel like taking it, so I just let Aunt Josephine clutch my other hand fervently. I try not to look at her, because she’s the type of person who would notice, but I can tell she’s crying. A lot of people are.

And singing.

It started out as a dull rumble, as we were marching out to the hill.

It was barely dark out when we all left our homes and banded together on the road, in one lumbering mass. Somebody near the front began a song, one of the sweet, melancholy folksongs that were made for campfires and nights of endless chess tournaments and knowing that you were part of something much more immutable than yourself.

“Why are we signing?” little Connie, barely awake, asked, tugging on my hand.

“With the proper high note,” said Mr. Mellark, contemplatively, striding beside us with his smoothly gnarled walking stick, “a signer can shatter glass.”

The Wall lies in the valley below us— or what is left of it. It looks more like a trail left behind by Connie, who didn’t realize she was tipping the salt container upside down. Nothing but a strip of white powder from up here— maybe a few sparkles if you squinted your watering eyes against the wind.

“What does it look like?” comes a croaking cry on the other side of Shelby. Blind, old Addison had, when he was very young, elected Shelby as his favourite. Intricate descriptions of the world he’d lost sight of was his favourite treat, and he was always instructing us children not to tell him that the moon was shining, but to “show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Shelby doesn’t say anything for a long time, and when I turn my face toward him, I see he has his face in his hand.

I swallow, reach out, and pry his wet hand from his wetter face. His April-storm eyes blink at me, red around the edges, scared and hopeful and alive. I wrap my fingers around his hand and squeeze.

“What does it look like, Shelby?” I say.

A shuddering breath rips through his body.

He says, “Freedom.”

“Mr. Addison,” I shout, as wind buffets us, “blue moonlight glints on the winding trail of shattered glass.”

Shelby squeezes my hand back.

I’m waking up.

I feel it in my bones.

We don’t know what lies before us. We never knew what lay beyond the Glass Wall. But it is ours. Whatever the future holds, it belongs to those who sang until the prison glass came crashing down.

The ones who see the glint of light on broken glass, because the moon shines for us tonight.

Part Three: A Traditional Halloween Tale

Cidney Ellen had nearly arrived when she noticed her slipper was missing.

“Oh fiddle,” she said and turned around to search the soggy sidewalk she’d walked up. She hadn’t gone far when a large, lumpy toad hopped out of the dead wet grass and plunked down in the middle of the side walk.

“Hmm,” Cidney said, considered it an omen, and turned back in her original direction toward the steepled mansion at the top of the sodden hill. There was a certain… oh what was it? Cattiness? Yes, perhaps it was that, though she really felt the word unjust to feline-kind everywhere, after all, some of the gentlest friends she’s ever met were cats… but there she was, letting her thoughts wander away from her again. And anyway, there was a certain cat-like-ness in the air tonight, too. Cattiness, and something more: a creeping disinterest in reality.

Unusualness.

Hobbling up the front steps in just one slipper, Cidney straightened her glittering tiara, brushed down her ruffly, white, and soaked skirts, and rapped on the door in a rhythmic way.

One minute. Two.

Cidney began exploring the porch. It really wasn’t so bad of a place when you got down to looking at the roly-polies in the paint cracks of the window sill, or the way the creeping myrtle was curiously beginning to wind up the sides of the porch. Even the sharp October wind was alright because at least it wasn’t playing games with you. It shocked you down to the bone, but then that was that. Cidney didn’t even wish she’d brought a coat.

All except the pumpkin. It was a bit disheveled-looking, with lumps in unusual places, and sat forlornly on the edge of the top step, water droplets still pooling in the little divet at the top. Even if it had been the most beautiful pumpkin in the world, Cidney still would’ve shuddered. She couldn’t stand the sight of them; not since the accident.

The door burst open and a hand darted out and grabbed her.

“We need your help!” Wendy greeted her without ceremony, yanking her down the feebly lit main hall.

In the rooms they passed, Cidney caught glimpses of all sorts of unusual sights. A scarecrow doing a jig on the ceiling, and a nurse chasing after him with a needle and thread, catching his limps as they fell off. A werewolf howling at the little squares on moonlight on the floor. A long, rectangular, suspicious-looking box rattling and thumping from the inside.

Wendy dragged Cidney all the way up to the attic, an unusually spotless room, just for tonight. A dozen mice were dusting and scrubbing the floors and walls, even though they already shone to polished perfection. A tight-lipped, severe looking middle-aged woman sat in the lone armchair in the middle of the room, a compact mirror lying open in her lap.

“We must hurry, my child, it is almost midnight,” the woman said, beckoning Cidney forward.

Cidney knelt before the woman, and took the mirror the woman pressed into Cidney’s cupped hands. There was a certain resemblance between them, not exactly in their look as in their manner. Both seemed to have their heads in the clouds of a world that had long since passed them by. The cadence of their movements. The gestures of their voice.

Cidney closed her eyes and inhaled. Wendy and the woman looked on, and nobody spoke. Wendy glanced at her watch.

“11:59,” she warned.

“Cidney—” the older woman pressed.

“I’m trying! It isn’t working!”

“You must wish harder!”

The mice all spun in unison, and froze, as if they felt it. The gleaming wooden walls shivered. Moonlight grew brighter from the single oval window at the back of the room. A faint scent of roses tingled in the air.

“Midnight,” Wendy announced, frowning at her watch. Everyone exhaled together, even the mice.

All that work for nothing. She was never going to break the spell.

“We’ll try again next year, my child.” The woman patted Cidney on the arm with what she seemed to think was a consoling touch.

Dejected, Cidney nodded, and got to her feet. “I’ll help you clean up,” she told Wendy, who only shook her head.

“They were fine this year. Only one minor mess in the kitchen from the cowboy. And they’ll all have settled down by now.”

Cidney and Wendy descended together, walking back past the rooms of young people sprawled flat on their backs, waking up foggily and scratching their heads, murmuring confused statements to each other that weren’t even all the way to questions. The usual.

Wendy smiled sympathetically and waved a quiet farewell to her friend at the door.

“Happy Halloween,” she said by way of apologizing.

The words were finally starting to feel less foreign in her mouth, so Cidney turned and replied, “Happy Halloween.”

In the brisk moonlight, she hobbled back down the sidewalk, wishing for the millionth time she’d never said yes to pumpkin anything.

 

Part Two: A Traditional Halloween Tale

Jack Alander was the first to arrive, and he resented Hal from the cuff of his pointy collar to the hem of his billowing cape for having had the forethought to show up late.
“You know, I really hate this stupid costume,” Jack muttered to Wendy.
“I do wish you’d try to enjoy yourself.”
“I don’t know why I’m here.”
“Because, you make a handsome vampire, Jack.”
Jack looked disinterested. “I think I’ll go for some more punch.” Continue reading

Part One: A Traditional Halloween Tale

Hal Winchester was nearly the last to arrive. It was the perfect Halloween night which meant that the sky had poured buckets, complicating the drive up the dark, unfamiliar road until the old, red Chevrolet could fight its way through the mud no longer and refused to carry its passenger any further.
Grudgingly Hal had marched the rest of the way across the inky lane, wondering why he had bothered with this scene at all. And as it was the perfect Halloween night, by the time Hal reached the front door of the looming mansion, the rain had ceased to fall and a bright full harvest moon illuminated the thoroughly drenched young man.
He paused on the front step and glanced at the windows nearest the door, but a curtain hid the interior of the small mansion from view. As a cool wind blew across the back of Hal’s neck, he shivered, rubbing his hands together and smiled to himself.
How spooky, he thought, grinning. It was as if this all was straight out of a movie—the mysterious invitation, the anonymous host, the isolated mansion.

Continue reading

Ghost at the Window

The trouble is, no one really understands what it means to be a ghost. Firstly, some people are stuck under the false presumption that we are here of our own accord, like out of all the opportunities Eternity has to offer we’d choose to stay on this same, miserly planet. It’s not that we’re trapped here by a curse, or that we stay behind just to haunt some poor souls with our suddenly bottomless store of free time. I’ll tell you one thing, this certainly isn’t leisure, if that’s what people think.

Continue reading