By Tina Glasneck
A part of me yearned for a new beginning,
but the shadows wanted their pound of flesh.
Nothing said ‘Happy Samhain’ like pumpkin spice, hayrides, and fake ghouls and goblins.
“Come on, Leslie. It’s Halloween,” I pleaded with my best friend to join my friends and me for the evening’s required festivities at the old pumpkin patch. Then, standing at her front door, I stuffed the grimoire we’d been using into my backpack and secured it on my shoulder. “We’re going pumpkin picking, and you love those things.”
A chill fell over me, and I rubbed my arms. Leslie’s apartment always freaked me out. The entire building, to be honest. Ghosts surely haunted it.
Leslie shook her head, causing her long, hot pink tresses to catch the breeze from the open window. “I can’t. I have something that I need to do. Like you told me, Samhain means the veil will be thin. A great time to connect with the other side.”
“Just be careful doing that. Your magic is still new.”
“Not like yours,” she chuckled. “I’m only interested in all of this to get the next book written. None of this is real.”
I hated to tell her she was about to fall into her own musings and would discover a world that she’d never dreamt of being true. But all in good time. I’d pulled enough tarot cards on her to know that her destiny was just around the bend. When the coffin closed on this stage, Leslie would indeed jump through to the next phase.
“Okay, well, I’m heading there with some people from my crystal group. If something speaks to me, I’ll bring it back for you.” My cell phone pinged, and glancing at the screen, I saw it was Simone letting me know she was downstairs waiting with the others.
I gave Leslie a quick wave, dashed down the stairs out to the street. The ambient sounds of New York city hit me—cars honking, people walking and bustling by, and the variety of voices mixing. The white four-door sedan honked. “Sunflower, you have me double-parked,” Simone called out.
Simone, Amy, Ryan, and Matt waited. Finally, I got in, onto the back seat, and Simone then eased the car into traffic.
We headed out of the city as pop songs played on the satellite radio. The conversation drifted from the last group meeting and crystal charging to malevolent fairies to even basic spell casting.
“I never leave home without my protective seasoning in my purse,” Simone admitted. “Some people carry hot sauce with them, but I love my blessed spices that make sure none of their negative energy affects my peace.”
She reached next to Ryan’s feet and pulled up her bag, which she plopped on his lap, all while still driving. Then, at last, she removed out a small container of what resembled garlic salt with parsley flakes.
“You stay blessed with a seasoning blend. What is that for, bland food attacks?” Matt pounded on his knees like he busily wished he’d stayed home to play on the drums tonight.
“We all have our personal practice,” I admitted. “Plus, what is the difference between ritual and faith? For some, belief alone is not enough.”
As if reminded, I traced my protective rune on my arm.
“Ritual is the expression….”
“Don’t start, Ryan,” Simone snapped and put the salt in her pocket. “No one wants to hear your blabber on spiritual colonization.”
I glanced at Matt, and he shrugged. It seemed like the two lovebirds had gotten into a spat before they’d picked me up.
Simone parked the car at the pumpkin patch. I took in the sight of the rows of pumpkins as we headed to the entrance. There, Simone gave the gatekeeper our tickets, who pointed us in the hayride’s direction.
“So, whatever we do, we see this through the end, right?” Simone asked.
“What do you have in mind?” I adjusted my backpack on my shoulder.
“There’s a part of the field that we need to head to. I visit this place every year. We’ll do a quick ceremony, and then we can get started. You guys all agreed, remember?”
We nodded. It was the price of admission, and what could go wrong with one minor spell?
Instead of making our way to the hayride line, we headed into the adjacent cornfield only to find a crop circle already cut out, leaving a perfect pentagram in the middle. Nearby, as if looking on, was a scary pumpkin scarecrow
We all headed to a point on the pentagram while Simone placed her candle in the center.
“Don’t you think we should use our own circle? We don’t know what someone might have already summoned.”
“Just stay where you’re at, or we’re going to have to start all over,” Matt chastised.
Simone chanted, and the others fell in tune. They swayed to the sound of her melodic voice.
Her white candle’s flame went out.
The cornstalks loudly rustled. Leaves fluttered on the breeze as if trapped in a cyclone of air, spinning until they crumbled into small pieces.
“Stop, stop, stop!” I called out, but they refused. The breeze pulled at me. Frozen in place, I could only watch the wind batter the surrounding corn, whipping Simone’s hair around her face.
The candle’s flame sparked anew, and the chanting finally ceased.
“What was that?” I asked.
Simone had done nothing correctly. She’d not summoned protection, the towers, zilch to make sure that whatever she did wasn’t out to haunt or hurt us.
Anger bubbled in me. “What you all did was careless.”
“Don’t be a party pooper, Sunflower.” Matt spat. “Out of all of us here, Simone knows what she’s doing.”
But I knew that too was untrue.
Instead of arguing, I bit my tongue, and we moved on back toward the pickup spot for the hayride. I watched a black cat dart in front of me and under the decorative carriage stacked with hay.
I reached out to pet her, and she meowed, coming closer. Her collar read Saga. “What a pretty name for a cute kitty.” The cat with spiky black fur ogled at me with her emerald green sparkling eyes.
Amy came over, and the cat hissed, darting off.
“Cats hate me,” she said, pulling her knit hat from her pocket and placing it on her head.
I glanced over my shoulder and found the guys huddled together.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “This feels weird.”
“Yeah, hope no one tries to harm that cat.”
Why would she say that?
Perhaps Leslie was right. I should have stayed home, too.
Waiting, the tractor finally rounded the bend, and we all got on it. It pulled us along, and we sat in silence until we reached the center of the field.
“Here’s your stop, and there’s the corn maze.” The driver let us out. “Make sure you’re back here by sundown when this place closes. Don’t be late.”
After a while, the shadows grew long. We’d spent the entire time walking through the maze. Finally, Simone and Ryan went off on their own, maybe to patch things up, while Amy, Matt, and I looked at the map to find our way out of the maze before complete darkness fell.
“Who drew this thing?” Amy complained, holding it up to the moonlight.
“Try the cellphone light,” I suggested and shined it on the paper, where we took another left. At this rate, we’d be here the next day, too.
I heard a loud, terrifying scream as Simone yelled Ryan’s name. We raced in that direction, only to see a thick vine breakthrough and snatch Ryan back into the corn maze.
“What the hell was that?” Matt asked. His voice trembled.
Amy’s face went ghost white.
I didn’t have any answers. My heart pounded in my ears while my eyes darted left and then right.
Another vine then shot out. This one with long spikes that wrapped around Amy’s neck, biting into her flesh. She struggled against the vine and squealed in pain.
A monstrous moan resounded.
“We have to go find Ryan,” Simone said.
“Nope, we have to get the hell out of here and find help before whatever got them catches us, too.”
For once, I agreed with Matt. I grabbed Simone’s wrist, but she refused to budge. “I can’t leave him…” she sobbed.
The corn stalks parted and out of the maze walls a man emerged dressed in dark coveralls, but where his head stood was instead a sneering jack-o’-lantern. Where his arms should have been, were instead long, thorny, and bloodied vines.
His vine-like arms struck out, snatching up Matt and Simone, lifting them high into the air until their feet dangled.
I raced away, ignoring the screams coming from my friends.
The black cat shot out of the cornfield. It darted around me, giving a piercing meow.
I tried to ignore her.
It scampered about.
“Okay, okay. I’ll follow you.”
I glanced left only to see more of the pumpkins sprouting from the ground with a loud pop, growl, and moan.
All of a sudden, the tractor appeared. I sighed in relief and sought to wave the driver down when a vine grabbed my ankle, knocking me to my knees, pulling me into the cornfield.
The monster scarecrow dragged me back to where he had my friends tied up toward the pentagram from earlier. With me now there, he used his thorns to poke and puncture us until he soaked the cornfield with our blood.
Then I remembered the seasoning salt. “Simone, the salt. Give me the seasoning salt.
She reached into her pocket and passed it clumsily to me.
With the salt in my hand, the black cat then reappeared at my side. It danced around me to then tap me on the hand with its paw.
Suddenly, words I shouldn’t have known filled my head. I uttered them with a voice foreign to me, as the aroma of cinnamon and cloves singed my nose.
Magic bubbled within me, tasting sweet like cotton candy on my tongue.
Caught up in the magic, I did all required of me.
Instead of focusing on my lack, strength filled my muscles. They tensed with each word. Adrenaline
After the spell was said, I tossed the salt onto the incarnated jack-o’-lantern with a loud clap.
It screeched as if struck by holy fire. The orange skin peeled, the vines rolled up, wilted, and released us.
“What the hell did you summon, Simone?” We all turned to her.
“I only asked for an unforgettable Halloween. How could I know?”
Just then, the ground puckered and cracked as vines and roots broke free, and a giant pumpkin appeared. With vines as its arms and legs, it dragged smaller pumpkins behind it. Its jagged teeth chomped open and closed.
I scrambled to my feet but was again unable to move. Around me, the ground glowed orange. In my struggle, my backpack fell and out of it, my grimoire fell open. Snatching it up, reading the page, sigils glowed. The air grew warm, reminding me of a Southern breeze, that Virginian sun, and bygone summers. For the briefest of moments, I heard my grandmother’s voice, “Believe.”
Simone pulled at me. “We got to go!”
Like that carnivorous plant, I’d started as a seed. The madness baptized me. Life germinated me. Lacking roots until I almost drowned in desperation. After the rain came the sun. It shone on me as hands of kindness, nourished me, bringing me up for such a time as this.
Yes, this was my time to shine.
“No.” I shook my head. I was tired of running from destiny’s call.
I ground my heels into the soft earth, feeling the magic of ole as if it supercharged my body. My skin buzzed.
Clenching my jaw, I stretched out my hand, stared at the pumpkins, and uttered the words that could either save us or damn us all.
And the pumpkins exploded into a thousand pieces around us.
Anew, the earth released its hold on me.
“Let’s head to the car now.” I found my footing and brushed off my legs when I suddenly felt arms around me, hugging me tightly.
“You did it,” Amy gasped.
In that field, we wept.
Every hero starts with their first battle, accepting the call and the proof that there are things worth fighting for.
On the way back to the car, I saw the black cat looking at me. I could almost swear that she waved.
As for pumpkins, well, I don’t think I’ll be having any of those anytime soon.
Seated in the backseat of the car again, the grimoire flipped open on my lap, and again the sigils appeared, this time spelling out Leslie’s name, with the symbol representing death.
With a stealing breath, I tapped Simone on the shoulder. “Drop me off at Leslie’s place. I need to talk to her tonight.”
For me to grow, the gods wrapped my fate up with hers, and death would be the beginning. After all, none of us will get out of this life alive.
Thanks for reading, Halloween Boo, a short story featuring Sunflower and Leslie from the Order of the Dragon Series. Learn more about Tina Glasneck at her website: www.TinaGlasneck.com
Want more of Sunflower? Grab your FREE copy of Zero Hour — https://BookHip.com/HWGVQXX
Today’s contest / giveaway is for a collection of seasonal goodies and books from Tina Glasneck!!
There are multiple ways you can enter to win, all included in the options of the Rafflecopter link below. (One includes downloading a FREE book from Tina!)
Contest starts today, and winner(s) will be chosen randomly on November 2nd. This is actually one extra day after our other winners are announced, so you have a little extra time to enter, and to share the contest with your bookish friends and family!!
ENTER VIA THIS RAFFLECOPTER LINK
Check out the Kick-off post HERE to see the full list of authors participating in our 2022 Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event. Links will be added to the main post each day when that author’s story goes live. Each post will include the inspiration image from a DeviantArt creator, the story, and the contest/giveaway info.