an old Halloween legend

There’s an old legend that says if you come across a witch’s hat some place it shouldn’t be on Halloween, tip toe around it and leave it be. It’s growing.  Spell by spell, hour by hour, a new witch is coming to life in the shadows protected beneath it. She’ll be fully formed by nightfall. Mark the spot, come back to it as you trick and you treat, and you might just catch her flying off on her broom.

sugarbowlwizardhat

housekeeping pixies

I came upon a pixie’s wash basin hidden on the forest floor. Her laundry was hanging out to dry nearby but I didn’t want to embarrass her by photographing her unmentionables.

washbasin

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My pixie friend has inspired me to a do a little housekeeping of my own…

To begin with, I’d like to invite you to read my spooky story The Grave of Ursula Pendlethwaite, written for a local non-profit’s Halloween newsletter. It’s now up on their website where you can read it for free! Click here to head there now.

Secondly, October is almost over, and with it my Freewrite experiment. I’ve got a deadline coming up and outline work left to do before NaNoWriMo begins, so I’m tallying up my numbers and bringing the experiment to a close a few days early.

The proposed experiment was to test if using the Freewrite actually doubled my wordcount, as claimed by manufacturer Astrohaus.

Going into the experiment, I’d been writing an embarrassing 4 000 words per month since baby Nim was born. Before that, my monthly average of new words (editing doesn’t count for this experiment) was 13 645 words.

I kept track of my daily word count from September 16th until October 26th, broke it down to a daily average, and then worked out an average for a 30-day month.

Did the Freewrite double my wordcount?

At 28 942 words, it did indeed.

*hands a bouquet to Astrohaus*

How did your October go? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2017?

tales of moth and shadow

A moth fluttered against Levi’s bedroom window. He knew it was a Polyphemus moth because he’d seen it there the night before, drinking in the moonlight. It intrigued him enough that he looked it up in one of his great-aunt’s natural history books.

Old people had books like that, Levi noticed. All of his books were digital, but he liked the feel of pages turning, the sensation of hunting for information. His dad would have looked it up on some app if he was around. Great-aunt Eliza didn’t have a smart phone. She … no, they lived without them.

They’d called her on a landline to give her the news of his family’s demise, and she’d trundled out to get him in an ancient pickup truck more rust than metal.

Levi didn’t know his life anymore. He didn’t know his house, his bedroom, his school, or even his great-aunt. He wished he’d died with his family. His grief demanded it.

The moth fluttered again, a faint tapping of wings against the glass. Worried it might hurt itself, Levi opened the window. The moth flew in.

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It settled on his desk, staring at Levi, or so he supposed. Its fuzzy, orange body loomed like a lion’s mane around the moth’s small face, from which erupted two long, feathered antennae. Tan wings stretched to ragged tips, slowly shifting up and down while owlish eyespots winked in the evening light.

“What are you doing here, Mr. Polyphemus?” Levi flicked on the desk lamp to get a better look at the moth. Light spilled off the desk onto the floor. Shadows fled into their corners, whimpering. Levi paid them little heed.

One shadow reached out across the floor from underneath the dresser. It slithered along the floorboards, defying the physics of shadows. The farthest tendril of this shadow almost touched Levi’s foot, but he sat down on the bed and drew his feet up at the last moment.

The Polyphemus moth shifted to face the shadow.

“What is it?” Levi asked.

The moth didn’t answer. Moths don’t talk.

Levi leaned forward, catching a glimpse of the shadow reaching out from beneath the dresser. He froze. Something about that shadow set his spine alive with shivers and thickened his blood to slush.

Levi leaned back, willing his eyes away from the thing. He fixed them on the moth instead, which now stood perched, wings up and ready to fly, antennae waving. It stepped forward to the edge of the desk.

The shadow moved from beneath the dresser and oozed up the wall across from Levi. The light of the desk lamp had no effect upon this shadow. He watched with fascinated horror as it convulsed and shaped itself into his mother. She beckoned to Levi before morphing into his father and finally into his little sister.

He blanched in the light of the desk lamp as their resurrected ghosts writhed before him, cold, altered, and somehow not quite them.

The shadow turned into the car that shattered them to pieces and left Levi an orphan, living with his great-aunt and a landline and weird books about moths. It played out the scene before his eyes as his fists clenched at the quilt his great-aunt said she’d sewn by hand.

Levi caught his breath as the shadow took his own shape. The shape of a boy who wished he had died with his family. The shadow had come for him, he realized, come to grant his wish for death. Come to make him a shadow ghost like them.

For the first time, Levi felt afraid of dying.

He didn’t want his body burnt up in a crematorium while his great-aunt wept over him. He wanted to live, even if he had to live a different life than the one he’d expected, the one he’d planned. He had an aunt with a heart good enough to take him in and offer him what love she had to give. He could try this life. It might not be so bad.

“I want to live,” he said, his voice little more than a whisper.

The Polyphemus moth nodded once and leapt from the desk. Its wings fluttered fast enough to blur as it flew straight into the shadow of death.

The moth tangled the shadow in its tiny, barbed feet, drawing it further into the light. It began to shred the shadow, slow and methodical, between its feet. The shadow shriveled, writhing about the moth, but did little more than flick a bit of dust from the moth’s wings.

They twisted together in the air, the shadow growing smaller as the moth tore it into trifling fragments. The fragments wafted to the floor like ash and disappeared.

Levi watched with wonder as the moth finished up the last of the shadow and fell to the floor. The eyespots on its wings winked once and grew still.

Levi cupped the moth in his hands, unsure of why it saved him, why it came to help him, or how it knew.

For two days he left the Polyphemus moth atop his desk, hoping it would move or come to life again. He didn’t know how to check a moth’s pulse.

On the third day, Great-aunt Eliza gave him an old jar to preserve it in. She confessed to him she’d kept butterflies this way when she was young.

Levi placed the moth inside with care and screwed on the lid. He kept it by his bed, and never failed to say “Goodnight, Mr. Polyphemus,” before he shut the light and returned the room to shadows.

mrpolyphemus

Once upon a graveyard dreary

I’ve been storyhunting again, the baby in tow. My hunt took us all over. The best October tales are spiced with spooky flavors: crusty cobwebs, graveyard dust, eye of newt. The dark comes quicker, it stays longer. The death of autumn haunts the air. The stories, naturally, turn to the macabre.

My hunt was a success.

I traveled to many ancient cemeteries in search of my October tales. The dead were most obliging and the baby enjoyed the fresh graveyard air. We soon came across an intriguing grave stone marked with nothing but my own initials. A macabre tale waited just beneath it.

grave

In a second graveyard I found peaceful ghosts and an old tin man, but the stories had all been told. Or so I thought. When I checked through my photographs upon our return to story hunting headquarters, I discovered an odd door I somehow missed while we were there. If you follow the arrow, you’ll see it, not hiding at all, out there in the open and the ghosts.

graves2

Of course I plan to open said door in search of its story, but I will have to wait until the baby is not with me. Portals are hard on children, or so stories have led me to believe. Few are the risks I’m willing to take with her.

On a third wild hunt I found a moody universe I am only beginning to understand. For now I stare at in awe, the story an ethereal dream that isn’t willing to be translated into words as yet. I can feel it trembling, somewhere behind the image. It won’t be long now.

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The stories will be scribbled down, polished, and sent out into the reading world as part of my ongoing catch and release program. One, for a certainty, will be available to read for free upon it’s publishing date somewhere before Hallowe’en. I’ll share it here as it becomes available.

Happy hunting, happy haunting, and merry October.