Outside, decomposing leaves heave and tumble uncontrollably in the remorseless New England winds. My anxiety begins to bloat to a grotesquely distorted level. A solemn fear agonizingly churns within my body. Ushered in by the light of the Hunter’s Moon, a tsunami littered with years of gruesome nightmares, threatens to rise up from deep in my soul, and wash away the flimsy shreds of my sanity. It is October 31 – Halloween. Tonight the foreboding caller comes again.
This Grievous Day
With malicious disregard to my resistance, the biting chill of autumn advances onward in its annual mission to fracture what is left of my 83-year-old spirit. As I always have, I will protect my sister from the specters that rally tonight to come for her. It is not her time.
Mentally, I prepare by taking a defiant stance against this grievous day. It does nothing, though, to stop the spirit that disrespectfully freefalls into my reality. From the confines of its miserable otherworld – the unseen cunningly makes its way through the veil. It attempts to pilfer from the living what is no longer available to a human in spirit form.
The Barren Cornfield
Peeking out the rickety window over the sink, I check to make sure the lock is secured. I am tense. Moving the food-splattered, yellow ruffled curtain aside, I scour the horizon of the dingy brown, barren cornfield. To get a better look at the wood line to the left, I stretch my neck so I can see. Something is moving there.
As dusk surrenders to day’s end, the light promptly changes. I realize what I see is a doe. The graceful animal ambles across the bare, craggy field. She stops, turns, and looks precisely in the direction of my window. Does she see me?
Sensing no danger, she persistently moves on to the woods. I wonder if she will bed down there for the night. Wishing for naught, that her majestic presence brought me some sort of comfort or spiritual something – I bid her well on her journey anyway.
“Tea in three, darling”
It is 7 p.m. I boil water for my sister’s cinnamon spice tea. In a well-used black mug I snatched out of old man Dewey’s outdoor junk pile on Tuesday, I pour myself some blackberry brandy. I study the mug. What was left of the writing – appeared to say Las Vegas.
“Matthew Dewey never stepped foot out of this lousy town,” I sputtered. “Maybe one of his snotty, rich kids went to Las Vegas… he sure didn’t.” “I doubt he’s ever even been to Maine.”
I give a half-hearted shout to my sister, “Tea in three, darling.” At that moment, I jump and gasp simultaneously. The sound of a mellifluous whisper floating across the small kitchen startles me.
Turning quickly to face the door leading to the narrow back stairs, I spill the brandy. Instantly my chest is tight. My heart pounds erratically and I clearly feel its displeasure in being so distressed.
As if it will help me to hear, I cover my mouth with my hand and hold my breath. In case it moved, I scope out the entire kitchen, while straining to locate the voice.
The teapot launches into an aggravatingly loud, shrill whistle. It assaults my ears and I jerk. The brandy spills again. This time it spots the sleeve of my favorite white cotton sweater.
Terrified, but not taking my eyes off the upstairs door – I stretch my shaking arm as far as it can reach, and carefully remove the screeching teakettle from the burner. I have to leave the gas flame burning. As the cooling kettle returns to a tolerable hissing sound – I am acutely aware and ever disappointed about what is happening. I say a hushed oh, no.
From a corner of the kitchen where the broom rests, my sister’s frail and delicate voice calls out, I must leave you. I stare at the empty corner. I want to dash to the den to check on my sister, but I am paralyzed with fear.
Again, I hear my sister’s voice, but this time she is laughing. Come with me, Sylvie. Please. I have to go now.
Like always, the tone of her voice is slightly brittle, but sweet as honey – and she laughs. Still, it frightens me. Surprisingly, though, and for the first time, I think I feel like I want to concede this battle to the unwelcomed caller. I am tired.
The sound of glass shattering stuns me. Blackberry brandy trickles down the wall. The straw of the broom, drenched with brandy, drips in thin, burgundy streams onto the floor. As fast as my blasted feeble legs allow, I rush to the den. My sister’s chair, always closest to the warmth of the fire… is empty.
Casey Jensen reads a romance novel while sitting at the bedside of her great aunt Sylvie Lawson. Sylvie’s doctor said her time is short now. Seconds before midnight, Sylvie ultimately surrenders to death’s call.
Casey says her farewell. She is secure in the knowledge that Sylvie, guided by the light of tonight’s Hunter’s Moon, joins her beloved sister, who also passed away on Halloween 16 years ago.