A few writers are ushering in Halloween with original stories pulled from their dark imaginations. Read with the light on, and enjoy.
It’s All Bunk
The Fayette County Fair was so picturesque. The sounds of people screaming as rickety rides twirled them about added to the excitement of the hawkers calling out for suckers to try their shifty games. I don’t know why I loved to visit the fair year after year, but it drew me every time.
As I walked up the midway, I noticed a hand-painted sign. Its faded, peeling paint announced Veritas the Witch. I should have walked right on past, but for some reason I stepped to the fore.
An old woman sat in the booth selling spells and curses. Another sign, sitting on the worn wood of the counter, said she would guess your occupation correctly or you’d win a prize. I watched as she looked deeply at the hands of a young man who had accepted her challenge.
Veritas manipulated his meaty paw, turning it over and tracing the lines with her boney pointer finger.
“We have a coal miner,” she announced.
The man lowered his head and retreated from her booth in defeat.
My inner skeptic goaded me forward and I looked into her gray eyes and whispered, “Good guess. Probably ninety percent of these men are coal miners. You could probably see the black residue under his nails. It’s all bunk.”
“An unbeliever!” she announced to everyone who was near.
“A realist,” I corrected as a small group gathered near.
“And what would it take to make you see the truth, Mr. De Murral?” she asked in a loud voice.
Great. She knew my name. I’m a well-known local scientist who has spoken out against the paranormal. I’d been in the paper and even published a book on the subject. She had to know me from one of those.
“Good guess,” I conceded. The crowd was eating it up. Trying to of think of a magic feat she could preform, I immediately remembered playing Dungeons & Dragons when I was young. “Summon a demon,” I declared.
The crowd gasped at my words, but the old crone didn’t hesitate. “That’s a very dangerous request,” she said while scratching her pointy chin with her long nails. “I can’t endanger the crowd. Meet me in my tent and I’ll prove my legitimacy.”
The people behind me voiced their disappointment at not being included as I accepted her challenge.
Her tent was very macabre, painted with imagery associated with her dark arts. Inside, it was even more bizarre. Glass jars and bottles held all sorts of strange and disturbing artifacts. It reminded me of scenes from all of the old spooky movies I’d seen in my youth.
“Nice place,” I joked as I moved through the dark, dreary interior. “Can I have the name of your decorator?”
“I can assure you that it’s all quite real,” she mumbled as she sat at a small, round table in it’s center. “Come and join me.”
I slowly moved forward across various rugs bearing ornate designs. I recognized many pagan symbols adorning each before sitting in the chair she had indicated. It was all part of the show, I assured myself as I wiggled on my seat.
“What, no crystal ball?” I asked, uncertain what to expect next.
“This is a summoning,” she chided. “There’s no need for such instruments in this instance.”
“Listen, Veritas. We don’t have to go on with this charade,” I explained. “I’ll let you off the hook. I won’t even publish anything about tonight.”
She stared at me with a growing, toothy grin. As she scratched her long, pointed nose, I thought she was considering my proposal.
Then she emitted a low cackle as she pointed at me and said, “I’ve read many of your articles.”
“Oh,” I moaned. “I’m sorry if you didn’t find them to your liking.”
“They’ve brought much pain and anger to many of my sisters.”
This was becoming uncomfortable. Here I was, about be confronted by one of the people I’d spent so much time debunking. I should’ve never accepted her offer.
“Once again, I’m sorry. But I was just informing the gullible public about the fraud your kind perpetuate.”
“Fraud!” she hissed sharply. “Those people you exposed aren’t my kind. They’re leeches who use our name for their own gains. They have no power.”
Choosing my words carefully, I continued, “And you are so different? Using a simple process of deduction to guess someone’s occupation. Telling a person what they want to hear and calling it their fortune.”
“Don’t associate me with those simpletons,” she said, waiving a skeletal hand dismissively.
“Then why are you at a fair in a rundown booth? If you have such arcane powers, why not use them to your advantage? Conjure a big house and vast riches? Your very presence here proves you have no powers.”
“It’s time I show you the truth,” she said with fire in her eyes.
Beginning to rise, I proclaimed, “It’s time I was leaving.”
“So, you don’t want to know.”
Her words held me. I was ready to leave, but for some reason I held my ground.
“Fine,” I said, dropping back into my seat. “Summon me my demon.”
“As you wish,” she cooed.
Immediately, the lights dimmed. Candles lit, as if by themselves. Moans sounded all around as she began to chant.
“Nice effects,” I mumbled. “You’re going to have to do better than that.”
Veritas didn’t respond. She maintained her rhythmic chanting, increasing her cadence every second. I could feel the very air tingling with energy. I couldn’t figure out how she was doing it. Lifting a corner of the table cloth, I checked for some mechanism producing the effects. There was nothing there.
That’s when all of my Dungeons & Dragons experiences came to mind. Having failed to find any logical explanation and starting to panic, I pleaded, “If you’re summoning a demon, where’s the pentagram to contain it?”
As my last words left my lips, she suddenly brought her spell to its conclusion. Cackling knowingly and sensing my absolute distress and terror, she howled, “It’s woven into the rug your chair’s sitting on!”