October 21, 1476
The breeze rustled through my hair, my dark hair curling around my forehead. It was a warm autumn evening; roads littered with amber leaves, the ocean reflecting the lavender sky. Equestrians were taking an evening stroll, the horse’s manes flowing in the wind, and salesman pushing carts crunched the leaves underneath the wheels.
“Wynn! Get over here, Mother needs help unloading the hay!”
I sighed, got up from my spot in front of the sea and ran inside our house, the air switching from fresh to vulgar.
Mother owned 5 horses: three female, two male. They were named Patrick, Kiana, Jule, Izzy and Harry.
Izzy was my favourite.
She was an albino horse and held bright blue eyes, brighter than the Irish sea or my cousin’s hydrangea. Her coat was thick and soft like sheep’s wool, but much smoother and shinier. For some reason, she only ate hay, apples and corn.
All of which gave her indigestion, so she pooped in any stable she found first.
Liam, my oldest sibling, had absolutely no idea why I liked the horse, but he didn’t understand me anyway. Cara, my second oldest sibling, understood and taught me how to take care of the horses when I was little. She explained to people who I was, what I liked, what I did. . . she told them because I was the most introverted person you would meet.
A salamander would be more talkative than I was.
Some not-polite adults, like the salesman named Conor at the market, kept bugging my parents about my name choice.
“Why did you name him Wynn? People get really confused.”
“What type of name is Wynn?”
“I think a better name would've been Sean, or Finn, or Cillian . . . but I think Sean is the best one.”
That last one was my own arrogant, not-so-kind Uncle Sean.
I sigh when I think of him.
My third oldest sibling, Lara, despised horses.
She hates the manure (who doesn’t?), the smell of the hay, even their silky soft coats.
I leapt over rocks and holes that led the way to our small, humble home when Lara shouted, “Wynn, you slowpoke! Mother’s back is hurting, so you need to unload all the hay now! The horses are going to starve!”
Says the person who wouldn’t get in a 3-meter radius of the horses.
“Okay, can you wait 5 seconds?” I asked, pausing right in front of Lara to catch my breath.
I trudged over to the cart behind her, which was filled with about 50 pounds of hay.
I sighed at all the work I would have to do when Lara shouted, “Are you complaining? I’ll tell Mother to skip your oatmeal today and give it to me. I’m older, after all.”
I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. The hay scratched my arms, causing lots of little rashes to start up. I calculated that if there were 50 pounds of hay, I could carry 5 pounds per trip so I wouldn’t be late for supper.
Which was a lot.
I carried my first load into the barn's corner where we stored all the hay. I plopped the hay on top of the others, eager to get the weight off my arms while the horses trotted over to fight over it. Izzy nuzzled my face with her nose before diving into the feast with the others.
“I might not be able to ride after dinner today, Izzy. Mother will need help cleaning up the table.”
Izzy kept on munching, so I kept transferring the hay to the barn until the sun went to sleep and the fish went to bed.
“Okay, Wynn can go to sleep because he helped with the hay, but the rest of you have to clean up the dishes!” Mother announced.
Lara, Liam, Cara and my little brother Karl groaned.
“No fair!” said Lara. “I also helped with the hay earlier!”
“No, you didn’t!” I protested.
“Stop please,” said Mother. “Wynn can go, Lara can’t.”
Lara grumbled once again.
“Toodleloo!” I exclaimed, walking out to the barn.
My siblings glared at me.
I slept in the barn because one, I didn’t want to share a bed with my siblings in the house and two, I got to sleep with Izzy. I decided to go right to sleep because I was exhausted.
I walked into the barn and up the stairs to the attic, breathing in the familiar smell of horses. I rearranged my hay bed so the top resembled a pillow when I heard a Neigh! from the bottom of the stairs. It was Izzy, saying she needed a “Goodnight!”.
Another thing about Izzy - she couldn’t go to sleep without me saying goodnight.
She was interesting.
I ran down the stairs, grabbed her lead and led her back to her stable. I guided her in and closed the wooden door, staring into her ocean eyes.
“Goodnight, and sweet dreams!”
I had no idea if horses had dreams, but that’s past the point.
She made a sound - purring? - and closed her eyes. I patted her neck and walked back to my own bed, the barn now deathly quiet.
I covered myself in hay, snuggled tight and whispered to myself, “Sweet dreams.”
I woke up and looked around frantically. The sky was still black and the horses were still asleep. The sound was coming from the stairs.
I stood up, frightened, picked up a nearby stick and pointed at the stairs.
Something was there.
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
I backed away slowly, just inches away from falling off the attic, when she revealed herself.
She was wearing a black hood, her skin in a putrid gray and teeth the colour of daffodils. Her eyes were black too, an evil smile plastered on her face. Her skin wrinkled as her smile grew bigger as she lifted her hands, trying to grab me.
“It’s your turn now, sweetie.”
Cold hands gripped my neck, freezing my body as she pulled me closer and closer. Clack. I dropped my stick. My only weapon.
“Scared, aren’t you?”
I couldn’t respond. She brought me closer and closer to her face, so close that I could see her eyes, black as ink or a bottomless pit. She tugged me so near that I was sure that she would eat me when she abruptly stopped.
“Hmm. I have found something unexpected, but don’t worry. I’ll be back.”
She walked forward so I was dangling over the attic’s edge, and let go.
The last thing I remembered was landing with a thud, her words echoing in my head.
“Is he okay?”
“He’s got a concussion!”
“No fair, now he doesn’t have to help Mother with dishes!”
“Karl, stop! He’s been unconscious for 3 days, he must be starving!”
I blinked my eyes open, meeting 4 pairs of eyes, along with the barn roof.
“MOTHER! He’s AWAKE!” Cara shouted.
I heard the clunking of shoes right before Mother met my gaze with tears in her eyes.
“Wynn! I was so scared! Why did you have to trip over the attic edge? Why?”
I held my hand up, signalling for her to stop. “ . . . I d-didn’t t-trip.”
Mother looked at me, confused. “So, how did you fall?”
“H-her . . . s-she had me and then . . . and t-then she l-let g-go of me on . . . on t-the edge.”
My family looked very concerned.
“S-she had b-black eyes . . . g-gray skin and a . . . a black hood and . . . yellow t-teeth.”
Mother looked frightened.
“Um, I think you’re mistaken, Wynn, you probably tripped . . . yes. You tripped.”
“Wynn, we don’t have time for ‘buts’ right now. What you need is some food! I’ll give you double the amount of oatmeal and milk!”
I tried to protest but gave in and said, “. . . okay.”
Mother smiled in triumph.
“People, get Wynn inside the house! Extra milk for everybody!”
There was a loud shuffling and arguments about who would get the most, but in the end, I got to the house safely.
A big accomplishment for my family.
“Wynn. Wake up. It’s supper time.”
I rubbed my eyes open, yawned, and realized the moment my family brought me home, I had ate and went straight to sleep. I looked up dazedly into Cara’s eyes and asked, “How long was I asleep?”
“You woke up in the morning, so . . . 10 hours?”
I stared at Cara with bulging eyes.
I had - literally - missed the whole day.
“Well, are you gonna get up? If you don’t get to the table fast enough, Liam’s gonna eat your oatmeal faster than you can say ‘clean out the stables’!”
“Okay, can you help me up? I’m dizzy,” I responded, sitting up and feeling the world spin. Cara helped me stand and hooked her arm under mine. She led me out of the room to the table and asked me quietly, “So . . . how did you really fall?”
I took a pause and whispered, “What I said was true. There was a ghost.”
Cara gulped nervously and said, “Okay. If you say so. Do you wanna sleep with me tonight?”
On any other occasion, event or circumstance, I would’ve said no.
This was different, so I said, “Yes.” as confidently as I could.
Cara nodded and helped me sit down when the daily arguments began.
I sigh when I thought of my family, but they’re everything I could ask for.
Don’t tell Lara that.
“Time for bed!”
We all shuffled to get to our sleeping accommodations when Cara helped me up from the table, the world was spinning super fast again.
“Do you want the left side or the right?” Cara asked, leading me to the room I had been in before.
“The left or right side of the bed,” Cara repeated, “Which one would you like?”
“I don’t mind.”
“Well, I’ll give you the right side, because it should be the right choice,” Cara said, nudging me with her elbow.
Cara helped me lay down on the bed, and then she draped over a thin blanket on top, immediately making me drowsy. She cuddled underneath the blanket beside me and said softly, “Goodnight, and sweet dreams!”
It was a restful night with no disturbances, the only sound that could be heard was Cara’s slow breathing.
Until she struck.
I was having fabulous dreams of pelting manure at Lara when I felt wrinkly, cold hands on my neck, which jolted me awake. Her eyes were uncomfortably close now; closer than last time.
“Are you ready?”
I was fully awake, staring into her eyes and surprisingly not frozen, which meant I could talk.
“. . . for what?” I asked timidly.
“I’m taking you with me,” she said. “Where the demons lurk and where the others are waiting.”
“The others who I took. I choose one every Samhain; you should be thanking me.”
“Because I’ll let you do what you want in your last days. I don’t normally warn my victims, but you’re an exception.”
“W-when will you come back?”
“On the night of Samhain. You have 7 days; make them worth it.”
I woke up with sweat trailing down my forehead and my eyes wide open.
I was gonna die in 7 days.
“Wynn, are you okay?” Cara asked while folding the blanket onto the floor.
I stared at the ceiling.
“Wait,” I said, getting up from the bed with my eyes on the floor. I walked out of the room, seeming hypnotized.
I was gonna be gone from this world in 7 days.
“Wynn! Wait up!”
I ran outside and into the barn, searching for Izzy. She was the only one who could help me. I looked in the stables . . . nothing. I raced to the pile of hay. Nada. I checked every single spot in the barn, but Izzy was nowhere to be seen.
7 days. 7 chances.
Cara pulled my shoulders to face her. “Are you okay?”
I looked at my feet.
“Um . . . I’m stressed about Samhain.”
“Why are you stressed?”
“Uh . . . because we have to carve pumpkins and I’m scared of cutting myself.”
“Okay, well, can I help you with that?”
“No,” I said, much too quickly.
“Um, okay. Want me to leave?”
Cara nodded in understanding and walked out of the barn.
I swirled around at the sound and found blue eyes which were framed by pearly white fur.
She neighed again and I ruffled her coat, making her neigh more, which made both of us happy.
Then I realized why I was there.
“Izzy . . . I’m only gonna be alive for a week longer.”
She roared and lifted up her hooves in protest, but I settled her down and said, “It’s okay Izzy. I’ll try to spend my last day with you. I promise.”
Izzy nudged my cheek as if asking And then what?
I don’t know Izzy. I don’t know.
The sun was setting, the fish were being tucked into bed, and I was crying.
It was Samhain. The pumpkins outside were glowing and people were dressed up, waving around their sticks to ward off spirits, but I knew that wouldn’t help.
I knew that no matter what they did, the ghost would come back.
I knew I would die.
I didn’t keep my promise to Izzy because Mother said, “We need this for Samhain!” or “We need that for Samhain!” so that I had no time to do anything else. She cared about the useless holiday more than me.
Tiny little rivers flowed down my face, turning the hay underneath me wet and soggy. Izzy laid down beside me, her mane drenched in salty water.
If I couldn’t keep a promise to the thing I love most, what was the point?
“Time for bed! If the harvest is good, you’ll all get extra corn!”
I laid down next to Izzy on my hay bed, closing my eyes and thinking.
About how I couldn’t keep promises.
About how I got picked for the worst thing ever.
About how I wouldn’t be there for the harvest or the extra corn.
I closed my eyes thinking about anything and everything.
Deep in the night, when all were asleep, she came. She wrapped her hands around my neck, stealing my breath away. She swept me away, like a rose petal on the breeze.
To the place with the others were waiting and where the demons lurked.
To where all us lost ones would reunite.
To where I would be forever happy.
I drifted away like a rose petal.
October 31, 2019
“Alexa, you have to! Who wouldn’t want to go trick-or-treating on a day like this?”
“I wouldn’t!” I yelled, "I have better things to do!”
“Well, what are they?”
“I’m not telling!”
“As long as you get out of the house, I’m fine with it,” said Mom.
I ran up to my room which was adorned with art pieces and medals from horse races.
Where would I go? I don’t have any friends, not since Grandpa passed, He was my saviour, my guardian angel. He was my friend. I couldn’t replace him; it would be unbearable.
Go to the graveyard, the voice inside my head told me. Visit him. Halloween’s the best time, isn’t it?
The graveyard was inside a weird barn. A barn. Why a barn? It would be too much. Grandpa passed last year, isn’t it too soon?
It’ll be good for you.
I tried to argue with myself, but then I realized that it would be good for me.
I hadn’t seen him in a while, so I decided I would go.
It was cold. People dressed up in different costumes seemed full of warmth, but it didn’t help.
I followed everyone along the main path, trying to blend in when I strayed off to the old barn near the seaside.
It was way off the path. I had to jump down a mini cliff to get there. The sunset was a beautiful blur of yellows, pinks and purples. The grass was well cut, the trees were rainbow, and there was the barn.
The old, shabby, 5-century old barn.
The red paint was flaking and the doors were weathered and worn. The windows looked unforgiving and the sign looked similar.
Seaside Cemetery Barn, Est. 1450
How I hated that old sign.
I walked inside, the headstones planted in neat rows, engraved the names and dates of whom souls they held. Decayed flowers were everywhere, the smell not pleasant. Most of the flowers were blue, like delphiniums, but there were 2 graves with pink roses: Grandpa’s and one from long ago which was illegible.
I jumped up, startled. “Who’s there! If there’s anyone there, show yourself. It’s dark.”
“I’m Wynn. Who’re you?”
“Alexa. Are you a ghost?”
“I’m more of a leftover soul, but here I am.”
A thin, wispy shape appeared out of the darkness. It was a boy, not that much younger than me.
“What’re you here for?”
“Grandpa,” I said quietly, “Wanted to check on him.”
Wynn nodded and slowly faded back into the darkness, leaving me alone. I kneeled next to the roses and felt them. They were delicate, like me, but the stems were tough.
I’m surprised I didn’t cry. I just sat there, touching the roses. I felt Wynn appear in front of me, but I didn’t move.
“I used to think I was like a rose petal.”
“That’s what I was thinking about too.”
“We’re all like roses, really. We’re tough and delicate, but we don’t show it.”
“Everyone is a rose petal. We look pretty and independent, but we’re really delicate if you look closer.”
“Like a rose petal,” I whispered.
“Like a rose petal,” Wynn whispered back.