Here is a Halloween story I’ve been working on. I hope everyone is enjoying the season 🙂
It was autumn. A fact that was not easily discerned given where she lived in the country. But there were signs, not the glorious changing of the leaves as you would see once you traveled further north toward the New England states. No, down here, living so close to the Mississippi River the signs were more subtle. It didn’t even really have anything to do with the temperature; sometimes it was warm, sometimes chillier. But it was the end of October, Halloween weekend, and the dead leaves were crushed beneath her brown leather boots that she insisted on wearing regardless of the temperature.
It was late afternoon, and although she’d seen a stray car or two meandering down the narrow roads within the old Metairie Cemetery she couldn’t quite shake that overwhelming feeling that she was indeed alone, completely irrevocably alone.
She breathed in deeply. There was the smell of burnt leaves in the air, but she had no idea where it might have come from; then again the truth was that she didn’t take much time to puzzle it out. In some ways, real tangible ways at least that felt real to her, she was on a quest. It was a quest that defied logical reasoning, defied real world parameters. In fact she was stepping so far out of the box that it wasn’t even in her consideration anymore.
Truly it was an odd moment, a momentous one perhaps if she’d taken the time to consider it. Some might say it was a step into madness. But then again she’d always thought that she’d spent too much of her life factoring in what others might say or even think. All of that had proved to be a colossal waste of time. People were invariably too concerned with their own little corner of the world to really fairly consider anyone else.
Cynical? Perhaps, but for her it had proved true time and time again.She walked on, somewhat conscious of a slight chill in the air. Her boots continued to crunch down on the dead leaves and oddly enough that was comforting. “Why was she here again?” she asked herself.
Oh yes it drifted in as an intangible thought — the dreams.
He was standing there on the steps of one of the mausoleums, and if anyone knew New Orleans’ cemeteries there were countless structures like these, too many to enumerate. How her mind drifted. Depression her doctor had diagnosed with pills to soften its blow.
Only twenty-eight, too young for such an ailment.
It’s a disease, mindless, without mercy.
So could I expect periods of manic highs?
No, not for you, just the blanket of darkness, despair, but the pills will soften things, buffer its intensity.
She walked on, her heart heavy. But not to worry that was if anyone out there might be concerned. It was a familiar companion, this sadness. Because she’d stopped taking the pills, was it yesterday or was it last week? Stopped because she wanted to feel, feel something not just drift in that buffered, pillowed state where nothing felt like much of anything.
And then the dreams came of this place. Oh yes, he was standing on the stairs of the mausoleum, a tall thin man, dark hair, but blue eyes.
Did he speak?
Yes, no wait maybe not. But she knew what he wanted.
What was that?
This, for her to find him here as she was.
She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply that peculiar scent of burnt leaves. She had no idea which direction to travel in and yet in some ways it felt as though a thin rope were tied around her waist pulling her, somewhere, pulling.
You can’t handle it alone, you know this disease. You need the pills. You need the counseling.
And she’d stopped seeing the therapist as well. There was too much time spent on strategies to make her feel more normal.
What is normal?
To function within society.
Was she not functioning?
She walked onward considering perhaps that this was a waste of time. Perhaps the dreams were just products of her illness.
She turned a corner and stopped. Just across one of the narrow roads where rows and rows of mausoleums decorated the side, he was. Not standing, sitting on the steps that led up to one of the great tombs, a tomb with a stone angel perched atop on its roof.
Perhaps he was just a hallucination that man sitting there dressed all in black. One she’d seen before in the dreams. She stopped and waited, waited for something, some indication that he was not simply part of that blanket of darkness she carried around with her.
And finally he stirred turning his head and looking straight at her.
Their eyes linked and he straightened up a bit. The humidity made his back ache ever so slightly. No wonder they struggled with it so. The woman was still standing on the other side of the paved road and he wondered with distraction if she would bolt. Some did. Luckily, the little lane he’d picked was well-shrouded with trees and afternoon shadows, so it was not so very uncomfortable being here.
He clasped his hands in front of him and waited attempting to be non-threatening. She was young this one, young, thin girl with wide frightened eyes. She was considering if she could trust him. That brought a smile to his lips. Now there was a question. He tried to increase the smile to seem more welcoming.
His appearance he’d chosen carefully not so much older than her, perhaps a mere five to seven years. Some of the girls liked that, an older man to trust. But this one, this one hadn’t moved an inch since she first saw him.
There were limitations to what he could do. He couldn’t force the issue; that wasn’t the way. So he waited, this form, these bones certainly made it uncomfortable, just sitting on these granite steps. One could just feel the grief pouring forth from them. No wonder they struggled so, the ones like her. No wonder they lost courage. Lost their way, but then again there were beings like him.
She started to turn away, actually spun with her back to him. She did intend it. He could tell. He could feel it. Easier to shut doors than to open them. Maybe it was for the best, maybe.
But then he could feel a hesitation. Actually feeling a stiffening of those muscles, those bones in her back. And they pained her, yes in one so young, as his did perched atop these steps of sorrow.
And he knew before she did it. Knew that she would turn around and that she would cross the street and come to him. He wondered if it was the best choice for her. But it had nothing to do with him; after all it was her choice to make. And then she did.
Her breath felt painful in her chest as she crossed the narrow street. She had no idea what she was going to say. Chances were she’d look like a fool to him. But it wasn’t as though she couldn’t survive that. It had happened more than once in her life.
She crossed quickly so that she wouldn’t hesitate, wouldn’t have time to change her mind. Because it could happen and likely would if she dawdled. So head down, not entertaining this person’s gaze she rapidly crossed the street to him. Then stopped, stopped in front of the tomb whose steps she’d seen him sitting on seconds before.
Finally, she looked up and met his gaze. As in the dream his eyes were that strange pale blue color, his skin pale and hair, well black, short but thick and wavy. She hadn’t ever considered if he was handsome with his very sharp features, what he was, the way she would describe him was remote.
He didn’t look surprised. Just sat there waiting, she was sure for her to say something. That was it, he expected her to speak first. And it was clear she would have to or walk away.
She swallowed on a dry throat. “Do I know you?” she asked in a shaky voice that irritated her. She hated that, hated seeming so weak and ineffectual.
He stood up, stood up on his step and in doing so was literally towering over her. “It seems so,” he said quietly. Then fluidly in several movements had hopped off the stairs and onto the ground. He was still taller than she but there wasn’t that grand discrepancy any more. “Why don’t we walk,” he said lightly. And began to move forward before she gave an answer. So she followed him.
He was quick, lithe, sprightly as her mother would have said. She struggled a bit to keep pace with him wondering vaguely if she was being violently irresponsible. After all she knew nothing of this person, he could be, well he could be—
He stopped abruptly in the middle of the long stretch of cemetery road they’d traveled down. “There really is not a place to sit,” he muttered in his light crisp sort of voice, crisp like the autumn leaves she’d been pummeling.
“It’s a cemetery,” she said responding with a touch of awkwardness or was it just that she felt awkward. “Not a lot of sitting going on here.”
“Hmm, suppose not,” he answered but it almost seemed as though he were talking to himself. He turned a bit eying one of the larger mausoleums; she thought with a frown then settling down on a set of dark gray granite steps not so very different from where she’d initially found him. He looked up at her almost expectantly. “Aren’t you going to sit?”
“I don’t know,” she said with confusion. “Should I?”
He tilted his head a bit, studying her a bit she thought, making her feel horribly self-conscious. “Your choice,” he answered curtly. “I’m certainly not pushing.”
Her turn to frown. What an odd fellow. “Why were you in my dream?”
“Was it your dream?” he responded. “I mean really is that something you know that it was your dream.”
“I fell asleep and dreamed. What else would it be but my dream?”
“So territorial your lot, this is me, this is mine as if things or dreams really belonged to anybody. Breeds unhappiness you know all this owning of things.”
“What?” she frowned more deeply.
“We can talk about it more if you sit. I can’t have you standing there glowering at me, the way you are. Gives me a headache.”
“Really? I’m giving you a headache? Really?”
He smiled a bit. She saw it on his long thin pale face, just a trace of a smile. “No not exactly you, more all that stuff you’re carrying around — all the unhappiness and gloom. How do you manage carting all that around with you?”
She took a sharp breath. “Are you quite out of your mind?”
“Are you sitting now? Not pushing but perhaps you should sit. Standing there like that it’s causing problems. You’re not really hearing me from where you are. It’s not really working but it’s your choice, to sit or not.”
“Are you going to answer my question?”
“Your question, hmm, your dream, your land,” he sighed deeply and oddly she felt it as though she had expelled that breath. “Why was I in your dream? Well the answer is it wasn’t your dream or my dream. It was a dream and I was there.”
He nodded, “Well if I answer that why from where you are glowering there will only be more miscommunication. You might want to sit, the step isn’t really cold and this one isn’t as sad as the last, not as many tears here. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t caring just more understanding than fear and loss.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
He leaned back a bit on his granite step and patted the empty space next to him. “Your choice,” he murmured.
She considered, considered leaving, fleeing, saying something else. But she was tired so she sat down.
He was quiet. But he found that designation of “he” as profoundly awkward. But “he” had to remind himself, the body, the inability to travel within a thought. So confining, he didn’t really understand why she, the dark one sitting next to him didn’t feel the same. But when he said “dark” he didn’t mean to imply evil of any sort, but dark, sad, lost within the encasement of her own flesh.
“Don’t you even want to know my name?” she asked.
“Labels,” he mumbled. “No let’s begin now. You are new to me and I — well I am someone you just met. What would you call yourself?”
“What? Is this a game?”
“Do you remember games?”
She misted over. It brought her pain, remembering pleasure brought her pain. “I don’t know.”
“Hmm,” he found it perplexing but not unexpected. Caught in a place where everything is perceived as a loss. “You haven’t lost it. It’s still part of you.”
“What? What’s part of me?”
“That child over there.” He could see her clearly in front of them, playing joyfully with a ball, long dark hair tied back behind her shoulders, skipping and laughing, and playing.
“I don’t see anything,” she murmured.
“Look closer,” he said perhaps too harshly. That was one of his failings, impatience. “She’s right there, still near you, still shadows you. Could teach you a few things.”
“Teach me? Why would you think a child could teach me anything?”
“Children know how to live and then they forget it. Look again Autumn.”
She frowned, squinting her eyes as she looked forward. “Autumn? Why did you call me that?”
“That’s who you are.”
“Really? Dead leaves, things dying?”
He laughed. He enjoyed the sound of it, his own laughter. “Is that all you can think about Autumn, losing things, sadness, crushing dead leaves? Autumn is a time of sorting, clearing away what doesn’t suit you anymore to make room for what is important, new growth.”
“But what about winter?”
“A time to sleep, rest up, save up your energy, dream, until the new growth comes. That’s you Autumn, sorting, the time of choice. Who will you be in the spring? This lost soul who only sees loss, only sees sadness can’t see the joy dancing just a few feet away from her.”
She hung her head. He felt compassion, but hated waste. That was his flaw impatience. “Try again, see the little girl.”
She straightened up and opened her eyes staring ahead. He could detect the smallest flicker of a smile dance on her lips. It made her pretty.
“Ah hah,” he said rather jubilantly. “You see her now.”
“I think so.”
“Yes, yes I see her.”
“You must, she’ll teach you how to live again. How to choose, Autumn.”
“Yes well, leave scared behind with the old leaves.”
He nodded, “Yes better.” Lighter now, that heavy shadow around her seemed lighter.
She stood up, and he wasn’t surprised. Felt like he’d done what he could. She looked at him with more hope. “I know who you are.”
He smiled broadly, well that was well. Sometimes he questioned who he was himself. But it would be well once he got home. “Do you now?”
“Yes, you’re an angel.”
“Labels,” he murmured.
But then she smiled at him and walked away. He leaned back for a moment and breathed deeply in this thick air around him. He wondered how they didn’t all get lost, lost in this flesh, lost in this strange world. But somehow they didn’t. That was the spark of the divine that kept them going. He closed his eyes and willed himself home.
Copyright © 2014 by Evelyn Klebert