Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Halloweenish tale The Man with the Crystal Ankh, a story of a violinist who is contacted by spirits while she plays. This month’s prompt is very Halloweenish as well: write a scary story using the words dress, light, dark, pumpkin, ghost.
by Val Muller
They call us witches. It’s because they don’t understand. They can’t conceive of something so far advanced, so beyond and above them, something their primitive science can’t explain, and so they call us magic and they call us dangerous. And me sent to search among them.
One thousand years I was granted to find you. Not long for us, but dozens of lifetimes in the place you went. And so I knew you would be hard to find because you would always be changing—and on top of that I had the entire world to search.
I knew where you’d begin. A forest in the north. Isolation. The complete opposite of home. Where else would a rebellious girl go to escape her mother? I sensed you there, but by the time I arrived, so many had been slain by invading armies that you were already gone. The inhabitants here are so brute.
I heard of a revolutionary named Hildegard of Bingen, one who had dreams and visions, who possessed an intelligence that others did not. That was you, I knew, but you passed before I could get to you. Your lives on this world are like those of an insect, and almost before I can sense you, you’re gone.
I heard rumors of someone named Joan of Arc, another revolutionary, a leader like you were destined to be.
Always there was something in my way and I was never able to get to you in time before your deaths. Travel on this world is tedious and slow. Bodies are so heavy here. All the while, my eternal light pressed against the body I borrowed, wanting to escape the dark confines of the flesh. How I longed to return to our world of light, or even to reveal my true form and become a god to the primitive beasts of this world. But I remembered the Queen and kept my promise and remained hidden in flesh.
I smelled your Essence during the cruel witch trials, where people like you were burned. People they feared. Some were of this planet—ones who could see beyond their time. Others, like you, were visitors whose incarnations here were cut short by the fearful brutes. The panic of those massacres made the moments I had to find you fly by too quickly, in too much of a blur.
I knew I would find you eventually.
I followed your Essence to the New World, where I could tell you had been a Native. You passed of old age before I could find your body, but I stayed on the land awaiting your return. When another wave of witch trials arose, I knew you had returned as well.
I sensed you leaving the grave of an infant born to the colonists, one who died moments after birth. Soon after, I heard your laugh in a child’s babbling, but there were so many lives flying about that I could not pinpoint you before your next death.
My one thousand years were drawing to a close, and I knew they would summon me back again. I could not fail. What would they say if I failed to bring the Queen’s daughter back from her escapades on Earth? Losing my job was the least of my worries. I would likely be recycled back into the ether with the hopes that I’d be reincarnated as something more useful to the Queen.
I was not ready for that.
I intensified my searches. I gave up physical comforts. I walked through green fields of summer and smelled the air for you. In crisp, cool mornings I walked through wheat fields wet with dew, and I sensed your presence close by. I tried to make note of every single second, to detect every day of yours that would pass. That level of concentration is barely sustainable, but I caught your essence. It was moving.
I followed the trail into a city. I wouldn’t think that the Queen’s rebellious daughter would want to return to so industrial a place, one so similar to what she’d fled from in her own home. It seems that the Queen’s love for cities and urban populations was part of you as well; perhaps you were showing your true nature and coming into your own. I hoped you were ready to return.
I followed you all the way to New York City. It was the month of October, which for me is the mere blink of an eye. I forced myself to concentrate on every single second so that the mere moment of the month felt a longer. As I slowed down, I realized that people were dressed differently: some wore masks, some had painted faces, many wore dresses that did not seem to fit this era—some of the dresses were reminiscent of my earlier time on this world. Something was strange and I knew you were behind it.
At first I found it hard to locate you in such a large population, but then I remembered how it was on our home, how everyone packed into a huge city has their Essence vibrating through the air the way the people here leave ghosts of themselves even after they have gone. All I needed to do was listen closely enough and I could isolate yours. And so I did, and I found you in the basement of a large building. The building rose and stretched to the stars, toward our home, but the stairways into the basement led away from it. The steps were lined with large pumpkins, each carved into a face that did not belong on this planet. Indeed, those grinning visages reminded me of home.
One of them was carved to look just like your mother.
I held my breath to listen to the night, and I learned it was you after all, throwing a Halloween party. I’d read of it in a book once, and it made sense. Halloween is the closest the people of this world have come to understanding our ways. The line that blurs life and death is so fluid, yet in their world death seems so sudden and final. They don’t understand the true nature of things, the constant renewal and rebirth. They don’t understand that their energy never truly disappears, that we are all of us made of brilliant light that shines through all our iterations.
But on Halloween they come a bit closer to this epiphany. Their tiny minds open to what they would otherwise consider witchcraft. Magic. So of course it is fitting that I would find you there.
When I enter the basement, loud music resonates, and bodies dance everywhere, writhing in pleasure and even in pain. Bodies reaching out to each other, bodies dressed in whimsy and creativity, bodies free to express themselves. I know, of course, that you are behind that, too. I know that this is your party, and so I look on stage and indeed there you are in a dress befitting the Queen’s daughter, a dress like a queen herself would wear. There you are, leading them through sound, with your Essence resonating in every pulse of the music. You sing to them of our ways and your ways. I hold my breath to hear your words, and there it is: our native tongue, chants that in other ages led to your death at the stake. You have them all in rapture now. They have accepted you.
I look over the writhing bodies, and my eyes catch yours. Instead of fleeing as you I thought you might, you keep on singing and your earthly lips break into a smile. I let myself dance, too, but only for the blink of an eye. I know after the party is over, we are going home.
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Dorothy Colinco: www.dorothycolinco.com
CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/