Fiction Holiday Horror

It is Halloween again—that eagerly anticipated last day of October, a day of tricks or treats, fright or frolic. The weather has become cold, the wind unfriendly, and the mornings heavy with frost. The sun sets earlier and rises later. The bright gold and vibrant red of autumn are enjoyed in their full splendor. The misty air mingles with hazy smoke from wood fires kindled indoors for warmth and from the burning of leaves and debris in the fields. Sports vie for attention. There’s always a game on this time of year whether one cares to watch, argue, mourn a loss or celebrate a win. 

But not everyone looks forward to Halloween. Teachers compete with harvest parties and oodles of promised candy as the excitement of distracted kids boils over into the classroom. Parents worry about outfitting just the right costume. Then their little Imperial stormtrooper changes their mind at the last minute and begs to dress as a wizard. With all the treats, dentists stay busy for the next few weeks. And we mustn’t overlook the paranoia of those who believe in the ancient links between the Halloween and the unholy and the undead. Imagine dwelling on such a superstition.

For me, October thirty-first or as I prefer to call it, All Hallows’ Eve, is the culmination of my whole year. So much depends on it. You see, my business, my stock in trade, depends on the revelry and the rabble rousers to make a killing. We depend on that titillating fear of the unknown, that air of suspended judgement that makes anything a possibility. As of tomorrow, the day when the Saints are revered, my efforts for the current year will have ended. All I can do is plan ahead and try to make the best of it.

I guess you could say that I am in sales, very high-end, glamorous and bordering on the forbidden, but sales, nonetheless. I enjoy my work immensely but the field is demanding, unforgiving and stressful when deadlines approach. I owe my employer greatly, because after all, it was they that entrusted me with my current position. Having made that clear I must add that they are a difficult task master. There are few acknowledgements for effort and no second chances. Rewards are fleeting because as one goal is reached, the next looms ahead. The relentless routine sucks my very life-blood. As I said, I love my job. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But often it feels as though I have. 

By nightfall, I’m primed for one last push to that big finish. Stepping outside, I see that the streets are filled with masked celebrants. As I stroll east and enter the downtown courtyard, I note that the partiers are congregated in small groups. That’s a shame as it’s easier to engage with them when they are alone or in pairs. As we pass each other, few make eye contact with me but I am not bothered by it. As they look in my direction, they may avoid my eyes but I notice their nods of interest and approval and I relish being out among them on this special evening.

I make my way to the perimeter of the grassy expanse and am greeted by a young woman who stops to compliment my attire. It takes but a few minutes of chit chat to gain her interest and soon she’s intrigued with my unique appeal. We part ways and as I walk away, she sits alone on the park bench we had shared. I feel her stare in my direction, her empty gaze full of abject wonder. She’s hooked like a fish on a line, I tell myself. 

Another hour of mingling amongst the crowd provides productive interactions with two young men and a thirty-something woman, each one of them enamored by our interactions. I leave my own special calling card and I have no doubt that we will see each other again very soon. One gentleman is so captivated by our conversation that he accepts my invitation to a get together later in the evening. His interest is piqued when I explain it’s a celebration. All indications are that we are on track to achieve our best year yet. 

By all accounts, I should be exhausted from the encounters I’ve enjoyed, but instead my energy has rallied. In a short time, the camaraderie of others within my circle will be a welcome diversion. We work hard. Each of us deserves to enjoy the fruits of our labors. I know that I certainly do. 

We converge in a predetermined meeting place, each with our invited guest. Greetings abound and we exchange introductions. Our task master gains our attention and raises a glass to the room and we all join in a toast. It had been a record breaking year so we are all encouraged to enjoy a smashing celebration. I salute my guest and we touch our glasses together. As he sips the concoction in his glass, I notice his reaction. Warm, full-bodied, heavy and intoxicating. I smile as I sip from my glass and look around at the faces of all our invited guests. Each and every one is filled with excitement, anticipation and just the slightest fearful curiosity. Surely they must know how much we welcome their presence. 

The lights are dimmed, the music begins and the merriment commences. In groups of twos and threes, attendees begin to exit the room for privacy and unless you are a regular to the scene, you wouldn’t notice that none of the invited guests are among those who return. It’s just the way it is, the nature of our events. You must realize, it’s the way things must be. The frivolity continues with abandon for as long as possible, down to the last allowed moment.

The man I invited to attend as my guest is nowhere to be seen but I’m not concerned. After all, our guests are invited to partake of pleasures as they choose, to share in the event and most importantly, to be shared. That’s the intent, you see. I congratulate myself on my successful year as I remember the individuals I’ve enjoyed this evening. They are literally the reason I am able to begin a new year. Their charge will be to seek out the company of others in this fashion and to continue in our well-established tradition. They will acknowledge me and honor my place as the one who brought them into the fold. Our lives will be forever bound together. Their lives, however, will never again be completely their own. 

I drain my glass once more and offer goodnight wishes to my remaining friends. As I make my way back to my place, my thoughts are of my former life, my former self. Memories are fading because it was so long ago. 

There are no remaining revelers nearby as I enter my home. All is still, eerily quiet and deathly cold. Exactly as it must be. At the stroke of midnight, I climb into the silk lined coffin that is my attempt at comfort and refuge. I close the lid and return to the troubled sleep of the damned.

October 29, 2021 14:43

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