All Hallows’ Eve: Part 2


Photo by Fergus Quigg

The witch’s shop

“Hello Willow,” the man drawls. I stare at him with unbelieving eyes. “How did I get here—who are you—where am I?” A thousand thoughts race through my pounding head, trying to make sense of what is happening to me. The green-eyed man gestures for me to sit on a weathered wicker bench close to the fireplace. “Please, have a seat. I want to show you something.”
His voice is unnatural, but it seems that everything about him is abnormal. He seems inhuman—slightly too tall, teeth slightly too pointed, skin stretched too tight over bones. His eyes, though, are the most unusual. They are so green they glow. If you stared into them for long enough, you would notice that they swirled, a hypnotizing whirlpool of emerald and amber. He was beautifully twisted looking, almost angelic.
As I sit, my stomach stops churning, and my senses clear. The green-eyed man walks over to the hearth, and with an inaudible mumble, he tosses something into the fire. Suddenly, the raging fire quiets, and the embers begin to twist and morph into a scene of the world as I knew it, beautiful and green. Not this nightmare I had awakened to.
The man wipes his hands clean on his faded jeans and sits next to me. “I have to show you something, Willow,” he repeats. I raise an eyebrow. “What could you possibly show me? I don’t know you—I don’t even know where I am,” I retort, an edge in my voice.
“Listen.” He’s speaking sharply now, with a sense of urgency that makes my pulse quicken. “You’ve seen the horror outside: the death, destruction. Everything is in ruin, and this is just the beginning of the end. If you think you’ve seen the crux of all evil, you are terribly mistaken. What you’ve seen is only a fraction of what is to come.” The gruesome grin that had been stretched across his face is now gone, and his emotionless eyes stare me in the face with a soul crushing intensity. “I brought you here. You, Willow—you are going to be the one to stop the apocalypse.”
And with those words, the embers of the fire twist and glow again, this time roaring up, displaying a nightmarish scene. I stare into the flames, and I grow sick. After what seems like an eternity, the fire dies again, instead depicting a cozy living room. The room is furnished with plush furniture, soft rugs, and family portraits. Everything is picture perfect, except for the sacrificed animals littering the floor. Among the poor creatures sits an average-looking woman. She is middle aged, gray streaked her blonde hair and wrinkles lining her face. She sits in the middle of the room, groaning and screeching gutturally in an infernal language. Her eyes roll into her head as it thrashes around.
I tear my eyes away from the fire scene and look at the green-eyed man. “Why are you showing me this? What’s wrong with her?” Concern laces my voice.
“Three days before Halloween, this woman was possessed by something. I don’t know exactly what, but whatever it is, it used her to rip the fabric of space and time, and unleashed untold horrors into this world. Now this woman is dead. Human bodies are fragile, and the possession slowly ate at her, like a cancer.” He looks at me, waiting for a response that would never come. I’m too shocked to say anything. “I’m telling you this, Willow, because you can stop her—or the thing possessing her I should say. Drink that.” He gestures toward the glass in my hand. “It will take you 12 hours back in time, right before the collapse. Find the woman—her name is Mary Graves—and save her, and consequentially the world, from whatever beast is possessing her.” And with those words the cheshire grin reappears on his face.
“Wait, how do I stop her? What do I need to do?” As I question him, he gets up, turns on his heel, and disappears from my sight. My mouth gapes open in disbelief, and after taking a minute to compose myself, I shrug my shoulders and lift the cup to my lips. The liquid shines so brightly that it hurts to look at, so I close my eyes and throw the entire volume back in one gulp.
I’m in the forest again.
This time the sun shines brighter than an exploding star, and the wind screams around me. The sixth sense kicks in again, and I feel the cutting cold rapidly warm to melting heat, icy rain cut my skin, then an intense heat melts my skin.
Awakening with a gasp, I quickly gain my bearings. I’m back on my floor, chained to the ground. Panic rushes over me and I feel the devilish itch to cause chaos. I grit my teeth and mutter an incantation that frees me from the floor. And with painful determination to save the world from the treachery I had seen, I stand.
Hunching my shoulders against the biting air, I walk aimlessly around the town. Thoughts race through my head, trying to devise a plan to help poor Mary Graves. It isn’t her fault the world is going to end. “This is my duty,” I think to myself. As I walk, I feel a jolt of pain course through my bones. My mind is overtaken with thoughts to cause chaos, a black scribble of mischief to create, things to ruin. I shake the feeling off and take a breath of air.
I take a pause, and I spot the house on the hill. I feel the call of the stained glass windows, and I think back to my conversation with the green-eyed man. Suddenly, a plan begins to form in my head, and I start towards the house.
As I step inside the decrepit old manor, I finalize my idea. The inside of the manor has been converted into a make-shift apothecary and smelled like mothballs and decaying roses. A fine layer of dust covers every surface. I stalk over to the far end of the store, where all the dangerous potions, herbs, books and keepsakes are stored. I reach up to the highest shelf in the very back corner of the store and remove the Deadly Nightshade. A shadow of anxiety passes through me. I close my eyes, take a shuddering breath, then start quietly towards the register. The shopkeeper, an ancient woman with a milky blue eyes and steel gray hair, crookedly grins at me. She wordlessly rings me up for the poison, then almost imperceptibly tosses another item in the bag. I try to protest, but the hag simply looks me in the eyes, shakes her head, then ushers me out of the store.
It takes almost no time to track down Mary Graves, so the sun is just starting to set as I walk up to her front door. I knock once, just out of habit, then I turn the handle and walk in. The smell of death instantaneously hits when I step over the threshold. As I progress further into the house, the terror I feel grows tenfold. Poor animals strewn about on every surface, pentagrams and words in archaic languages are scrawled across walls, doors, and windows. Finally, I make it to the living room, holding my arm across my face to block the smell. The scene is the same as I had seen in the fire: Mary Graves writhing on the floor, screaming and muttering. Around her are the remains of demonic concoctions, charred bones, blackened herbs and plants, and shattered glass. The state of her body, though, is worse than I could have imagined. Her hair is matted and dirty, and it seems like chunks had been ripped out at random. Her eyes are entirely milky red, her teeth ragged and chipped. The skin on her face and hands is cracked and graying, her clothes torn.
The instant I step into the living room, her head snaps towards me, her mouth curled in a vicious scowl. I have to act quickly. I race over to her, taking the nightshade out of my bag. Mary lunges towards me, gnashing her teeth and pulling at my hair. In the struggle, I shove the entire bottle of Deadly Nightshade into her open mouth. Fang-like teeth crush the bottle, causing the contents to pour out. The poison works quickly. Mary convulses and her mouth starts to foam. I pull out the witch’s gift—a small glass vial—at the perfect time; seeing that the host body is dying, whatever had been possessing Mary releases her and begins searching for a new host to jump into. The swirling black cloud escapes Mary, darting directly into the bottle. I let out a breath. Whatever this evil was, it is now contained, sitting in the palm of my hand.
I rush to dial 911. While the magic of my people may have worked better, another curse is not what this woman needs now. After calling an ambulance to Mary Graves’ address, I stalk out the door, muttering a silent prayer. Torn in guilt, I can’t bring myself to leave the lawn. I need to be sure Mary would be okay. So hiding in the trees beside her front porch, I wait for help to arrive.
But as I wait, that evil glimmer makes its way into my head. Some part of me wants to open the vial, release whatever was inside onto the world- the perfect twisted end to All Hallows’ Eve. I struggle, only barely controlling myself, when suddenly I feel a presence to the side of me. Surprised, I spin around, only to be faced with someone very tall, wearing a sweater and faded worn jeans. I look up and stare in disbelief at inhuman green eyes.
“Hello again,” the green-eyed man says through his usual cheshire grin. “Why are you here?” I ask him numbly. Without a word, he steps forward and snatches the vial from my hand, sliding it into the back pocket of his jeans. As I protest, trying to get it back, he simply shakes his head at me.
“You can’t take that, it needs to be kept somewhere safe.” The sounds of sirens become louder as an ambulance and a barrage of police cars pull into the driveway. “I don’t even know what it is…” I explain, trailing off to watch the scene in front of me unfold. In another world, I hear the green-eyed man mutter, not unkindly, “It would be safer away from you.”
Although his remark frustrated me, I don’t argue. I am too engaged in watching EMTs flood out of the house with Mary laid out on a stretcher hooked up to countless machines as they load her into the back of the ambulance. I’d have to wait and check the news to see if she made it, but it seems her chances are decent.
I flip around again to face him and say, “Why should I trust you? At least I know myself; I don’t even know you.” With that, he takes another step towards me, shoves a piece of paper into the pocket of my jacket, flashes a smile at me one last time, turns on his heel, and disappears.

Read our next issue for the third part to this haunting story…