The End of October   November 9th, 2012

This started out as an idea I’d had since Halloween, which had bounced around in my head until I was finally able to put it together into a complete scene. It’s more of a mood piece than a story-driven plot, but I really like how it came out. It takes a couple of (non-mystical) memories I have from October nights and turned into a sweet love letter to Autumn and Halloween.

I am currently writing furiously to keep up with the word count for NaNoWriMo, so I didn’t have a chance to fully proof read this, so I’m sure there are typos in it.

The End of October
by Will A. Sanborn, 11/05/12

It was late at night and I needed to get up for work tomorrow, but I still took the time to drive out to the farm before heading home. The family-run farm in my old hometown had made it a tradition for the past several years to have a display of hundreds of jack-o-lanterns lit up in their fields, spread out alongside the road. It was always a treat to see and I wasn’t going to miss it.

I’d been out trick-or-treating with my sister and young niece earlier in the evening and still had warm memories of that fun. The other parents had been amused that I’d dressed up in costume, as a hippy, complete with a goofy wig of poofy hair. The kids loved me as Peace Man and it was a blast running around with them as they went through the town. It was wonderful getting to relieve the spirit of Halloween and have an excuse to do so while sharing it with my niece.

I’d left the car packed at the edge of the farm and I let my mind wander on those happy thoughts as I walked along the road and looked at the myriad of pumpkins scattered through the field. It was getting late and some of the candles were starting to burn out, but enough of the jack-o-lanterns were still lit. There was a crescent moon out as well, which gave a faint glow and lit the landscape up in wash of silver.

It was starting to get cool, but the cold of November hadn’t settled in yet, so I was comfortable enough in my fleece pullover. There was just the hint of winter to come, but for now the magic of autumn still hung in there air. I whistled softly to myself as I continued to meander my way down the road. It wasn’t that late and I could afford to tarry awhile longer. I had the drive home, but the moon and memories of this and other Halloweens would keep me company. I was the only one out this late. The farmhouse was dark and the night was quiet. It was nice to be able to enjoy the scene for myself. Fall was my favorite time of year, the brief magic period before the coming winter. I breathed in and caught the sent of dried leaves on the air and let out a contented sigh.

By the by I realized I’d wandered past the end of the farm and had come to the small graveyard which bordered it. I paused, as I looked out over the graves, for I’d forgotten this cemetery was here. Even when I’d lived in the town as a boy, the farm was quite some distance and I’d only come down this road on occasion.

The night was still and the scene was peaceful. I stopped and looked at the old stones lit in the glow of the moon. It just felt right. It was still Halloween after all, even if midnight was approaching. I closed my eyes and sighed. The setting was perfect. Gothic but not spooky.

A snap of a branch jarred me back to my senses. I snapped open my eyes but froze in position. I held my breath for several long moments, my ears straining to pick up any other sounds. I’d almost relaxed when the noise came again.

I spun around and I choked back a cry. There shambling toward me was a skeleton!

I jumped back and at the same time raised my arm. I’d kept my maglite flashlight off to enjoy the night scenery, but I flicked it on as I brought it up as bear as a weapon. The flashlight’s bright beam caught the strange figure full in the glow, illuminating it in harsh light.

I gasped again, then stared at whatever it was which stood before me. The strange creature had halted its approach, but it’s body language showed neither fear or aggression. Instead it just looked at me.

I blinked my eyes, but the image didn’t change. What I’d taken for a skeleton had been partially due to the setting I’d found myself in, but was also a decent guess given the bizarre anatomy of the figure. The creature before me was roughly man shaped, but skinny and it’s body looked to be made of dried sticks, right down to the rough bark of its skin. Its arms were long and thin, ending in dangling fingers which looked brittle and knobby.

Its eyes watched me and its rough mouth twitched in what could be a smile. A glow flickered in its eyes and I was reminded of the jack-o-lanterns I’d so recently been enjoying. It continued to stare at me as those embers sparked to life to burn brighter.

“It is late. I didn’t expect to find any of your kind still out here this night…” it said as its face took on more of the glow which spread out from its eyes. Its voice came out low and raspy and reminded me of trees creaking in the wind. It sounded vaguely masculine and maybe betrayed a slight hint of amusement.

I didn’t hear any menace in its voice but I still felt a shiver run through me. I paused searching for a response and was surprised to feel an awkwardness stealing in to replace the fear.

I force out an uneasy chuckle. “Well that’s me, I’m a night owl.”

It made an a low sound which after a moment I realized must be a laugh of its own. I saw the flame in one of his eyes flicker in a gesture similar to a wink as the matt of tiny branches adorning his head rustled on their own without the aid of any wind.

“Such a charming expression, but then you humans have always been so imaginative. It is good to see that still continues…”

“I uh…” I fumbled for words before finally just asking, “so you’ve been around for that long then?”

The flame in his eye winked again and this time I was sure his mouth twisted into a smile. “But of course, we’ve been with you since the beginning, before that even. We were tending to the world before your kind came along.”

“Tending to the world?”

He didn’t answer, but instead turned and gestured to me with a sweep of his arm. His long fingers curled, beckoning me to follow him as he tottered toward a nearby tree. He reached out his arms and stretched his fingers up towards its branches. I heard the rustling in the leaves even though I felt no breeze.

Without thinking I shut off the flashlight and blinked for several moments as my vision slowly adjusted to the darkness. When my sight returned I saw both the figure and the tree lit up in the silver glow of the moonlight. The leaves of the tree were pulsing with a faint blue glow.

I watched as the glow around one leaf in particular intensified. There was a small flash and the leaf detached from the tree. It was followed by several others, but not all of them. The branches rustled for several more seconds and there were more bursts of quiet energy as more leaves fell to the ground. In the end the night was quiet once more and the tree still held on to some of its leaves.

I let out a heavy breath and he turned to look at me. “It is not quite time yet, the cycle continues, but it moves at its own pace…”

“Winter isn’t here quite just yet, eh?”

He simply nodded at that, but I saw the flame grow a little brighter in his eyes.

I watched him as he looked at me, wondering what to say. “So why is it that I can see you? Is tonight really that special?”

I heard that low rasping chuckle again as he regarded me and his mouth formed an even bigger smile. “I know you’ve heard the tales though these days you must think they are all play for the little ones. Tonight is one of the times when the veils between the realms is weakest and such things are still possible. There is magic still left in this world even if not so many can still see it.”

I nodded as I thought back to the stories of the origins of Halloween. I felt a shiver run through me as I realized the implications of it and my location. I turned my head and cast a nervous gaze back over the silent cemetery.

“Is there anyone, anything else around out here that we might run into…?” my words trailed off into the stillness of the night.

“No, it is quiet. You don’t need to fear the dead… The folklore has its truth, but all these spirits sleep wherever it is that dead men go. The souls can sometimes return, but these grounds are old and quiet. There are no links between these people who used to be and the living world.”

I heard my exhale again as I relaxed. I paused looking over the moonlit-washed gravestones for several moments. “So where do the spirits go then?”

“I do not know. It is not my domain. Everything turns in its own way, but I am not a part of that cycle.”

“So what can you tell me? What is it all about?”

“It is life, the cycle of slumber, rest and then rebirth. It is the feeling I caught on you as you stood here, taking solace in the night. What more is there to understand?”

“It’s magic” I heard myself whisper.

“That is a good word for it,” he replied, his raspy voice low and soft.

I closed my eyes and listened to the stillness of the night. The moments lingered and I heard a rustling breeze pick up in the leaves. The breeze was soft and cool against my face as it rippled the fleece of my pullover. There was only the slightest of chill in the air, a hint of the coming colder days, but for now it was perfect. I breathed in deeply and caught the sweet scent of drying leaves.

When I opened my eyes however many minutes later. I was alone, standing next to the tree half denuded but still holding onto its remaining leaves. The time was the present and the cycle would continue onwards.

It was quite and the night still as I made the slow walk back to the car. I fought to grasp at strands of meaning hanging just out of reach, before I finally relaxed and let the feelings just wash over me. There would be time later to ponder things out, for now I had the wonder of the night before me and a nice long drive home to bask in the glow of the moon.

As I walked by one of the pumpkins sitting on a fence post near the edge of the road I caught a flash of light. The candle inside reached the end of its wick and sputtered to life for one last burst of brilliance. Seen from that angle, it looked for all the world that the jack-o-lantern had winked at me.

This entry was posted on Friday, November 9th, 2012 at 4:33 am and is filed under Fiction, Mood Piece. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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