Halloween Spirit

Continuing the challenge from writers’ group to write a spooky Halloween flash fiction (under 1,000 words) story.  I couldn’t leave Christopher M. Palmer to have all the fun ^_^

-Jessica Donegan

from openclipart.org by j4p4n

It’s too early to feel the chill in the air or to see the leaves burn, but the cloaked figures know it’s the perfect time to prepare. As the grain rolls into the full harvest and man rests in his power, they pick the perfect location: an abandoned lot. Was it once a Circuit City? No one remembers, technology’s wheel spins far faster than the natural turn of time.

 

Vague chalk markings and a quick chant bless the hollowed building. This is the chosen vessel. Common elements like graveyard dirt, salt, and water charge the structure.  A shadow of intention settles.

 

Weeks pass, mundane as all those before them. Do more crows rest in the lot? Who can say?  Even if the sky shadows with dark wings, what does it matter? Anything is better than those fat pigeons with dull eyes. Perhaps rust colored markings grow in the parking lot, but isn’t that part of the lot’s decay? If the strange shapes look like markings, they must be a construction crew’s notes. Wouldn’t it be nice if the city did something with this eyesore before the building collapses in on itself and becomes dangerous to the locals? The strange script must mean revitalization.  

 

Days grow darker. Mid September arrives unnoticed by the masses. The back-to-school frenzy distracts, and then it’s a matter of settling into their new normal. Familiar change pulls everyone toward the quiet peace that settles in most homes until Thanksgiving. If anyone watched the shadows grow in the old lot, they’ve forgotten it in their rush.  Those contractors never acted on the strange red scrawled notes. No demolition or construction came to fruition. The effort stalled. Are they tied up with the inspectors?

 

It’s a shame we won’t see the new building before Christmas. Who was hoping for a custom sporting goods store or a boutique that showcased their style or a toy store for the kids? All pointless pondering: it will not happen in time for Christmas this year.  

 

The cloaks smile, in growing twilight. Crows cawing drown out the chink as they cut chained doors. They slip inside the building. Cobwebs scrawl their own spells across the rafters. Rats scurry, but they’ve already feasted on poisoned bait. No point to bring in hunters when time will do the work.

 

They bring the salt and water from before, reinforcing the foundation, but it’s time to add spirit to their intent. Passion, movement. Sage smudges burn in each of their hands. The cobwebs shrivel in the heat and the coven laughs. The chanting rises, relentless. Fluid movements of the group become harsh choppy waves. They part and flood the old shopping aisles. Blood runs free as the group scratches and scrambles for those last moments of life. Sacrifice is necessary, they will die, but not alone. The building fills with endings. First the failure of some long defunct chain, and now the organic viscera of blood. Sage ashes float across the floor like restless dust bunnies. Energy builds boiling: the wicker man will rise.  

 

Bright banners adorn the re-purposed building. Orange as the dying sun and the dark smoke of the reaper rise in the public’s perceptions. Smiles of the young at heart curve across the mass’ faces as they drive by a once abandoned lot. Frowns fill frumpy prudish faces.  

 

A Halloween store,” they think, “it’s the fleeting fancy we needed.”

 

And Halloween Spirit reaches out to embrace the masses. A waving ghoul extends its arms by the entry. Tall air blown dragons hold fire in their eyes as their wings flap with impressive mechanizations. Ghouls drag plastic carcasses across the floor, startling inattentive adults and terrifying little children. Movie characters of the moment peel manic, terrifying laughter. It leaves no pop culture reference of the moment unmined. A spectacle of capitalism as much as love of the holiday.

 

Pimpled disinterested teens staff registers. When they aren’t too busy watching their phones, they make jokes at the expense of their clients. Don’t these people know Halloween isn‘t for sale? It’s a time of pranks, mayhem, and fear. A $90 costume won‘t make the experience. Fools, all the casual shoppers.  

 

But they invoke the Spirit and it sits with an arcane sentience. Watching its patrons and worshipers alike. Disguised as a common retail front, it plants seeds in all is customers.  

 

As the moon rises luminous and night takes hold, the cloaks gather one last time. Fire cleanses their summoning as they wail and dance. Tearing clothes, pulling hair, and shredding skin. The end arrives and they embrace the darkness as the embers burn out. Autumn is a natural conclusion, like old age.  Their Elder God demands humanity pay its price each year.

 

The uninformed populace laughs and goes door-to-door gathering treats.  Older revelers pose at the bar in full Hallow’s Eve regalia. For some unfortunate few, those who fell to the siren’s call of a certain store front, their soul will be stolen away tonight. Smile wide and drink deep from life because in the twilight sits every man’s end. Death, like Damocles’ sword dangles.  In this end, those few costumed in an unknown deadly contract will see the truest face of All Hallows Eve.




 

October Call for Submission Round Up

It’s that time of the month again!  The time I round up all the open calls for submission I can find.  This time around I took a queue from Chris’ post on Dragon Con and only added calls where the writer is paid at least $.01 a word.  Until I looked for it, I didn’t realize how little some of these venues pay.

Oct 15th

Shifters United: 20,000-35,000 words on urban fantasy involving shape shifters ideally non-traditional variety pay is a royalty structure

Oct 24th

NonBinary Review: up to 5,000 words that have a clear connection to Dante’s Inferno could be the themes or the characters or setting.  pays $.01/word

Oct 31st

Heroes of the Apocalypse: 5,000-15,000 words with stories of “end of the world” author’s choice of how the end happens but the heroes must fight against the end of the world.  pay is royalty based.

Our Loss Anthology: up to 8,000 words on loss/pain looking for a creative way to incorporate the theme pay is a profit sharing thingy

The Realm of British Folklore: There doesn’t appear to be any word count but he is looking for British Folklore theme.  No specification on traditional vs more modern settings.  Pays $.01/word

Barking Sycamore: up to 1,000 words creative unthemed issue that appreciates neuroscience diversity, queer, or poc characters. pays $.01 word

PseudoPod: 1,500-6,000 words looking for horror, dark, or weird fiction pays $.06/word 

Nov 1st

Spring Song Press: 1,000-10,000 words “Steam and Laces Steampunk anthology” fantasy speculative fiction.  Pays $.01/word

Millhaven Tales: 2,000-8,000 words winter guidelines are action/adventure/western payment is a royalty based scenario 

The First Line: 300-5,00 words “As we trudged down the alley, Cenessa saw a small ___________” pays $25-$50

Concrete Dreams: 5,000-10,000 words on urban/modern fantasy is a kickstart campaign with a poorly laid out website (which is why I linked to HorrorTree instead of their junk site) but they plan to pay $.04/word

Unlocking the Magic: 3,000-6,000 words in the fantasy genre (no scifi) Looking for the common stereo type of the mentally ill person being susceptible to magic, but using self care to enhance instead of threaten their abilities. A healthy look at how magic/religion/ceremony can play with mentally ill pay is $300/story