07 Dec Creepy Green Light
“Creepy Green Light”Written by Jim Goforth Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 26 minutes
There was no longer any joy to be found in All Hallows Eve; not for Ash, not this year. What was, once upon a time, his very favourite holiday and time of the year, was now a time of despair and desolation, all pleasure and thrill leeched from it, leaving him empty, rendered in shades of deep, dark despondency.
Because this year would be his first All Hallows without her. Gabrielle. His soul mate, his love, his everything. She, who shared his passion for this holiday, in fact, the one responsible for his love of it, the woman who instilled everything about it in him. All Hallows Eve was always their time, the pinnacle of yearly holidays for them.
It wasn’t the over-commercialised bullshit it had become, the Halloween aspect, the trick or treat traditions twisted from ‘souling’ prayers for the dead, or ritualized begging, into children traversing neighbourhoods seeking candy from houses or playing pranks if the sweets weren’t forthcoming. Not the customs of dressing up into costumes, even this taken from masks to fool spirits, way back in the mists of time, morphed into an excuse for a ridiculous parade of costumed buffoons. Nor was it pumpkin carving, blazing bonfires, bobbing for apples or any of those things which had become synonymous with the holiday.
No, for Gabrielle and Ash, All Hallows Eve was a time to revel in the darkness, the creepy, the sinister or otherworldly. Time to bathe in the potential malice of the night, hark back to the original foundation of Samhain, and acknowledge that this was the time when the veil between the worlds of both the living and the dead were at their thinnest; when the potential for long dead spirits to return was optimum.
While others were out involved in drunken gatherings around bonfires or engaging in ludicrous costume parties, congregating for the evening at faux haunted houses or other purported areas of urban legend under the guise of scaring themselves and each other witless, in what was really a thinly veiled excuse to get fucked up and hopefully laid in the process, and younger children flocked on the streets in their trick or treat ensembles, Gabrielle and Ash followed their own agendas.
The overt commercialism, the sheer tackiness, the complete warping of the holiday’s original purpose, perpetuated by firstly horror themes, then all sorts of media, never bothered Gabrielle and Ash, for they celebrated it their way. They had no desire to be included in any of the other appropriated customs or threadbare excuses to drink, party and hope an orgy might be forthcoming. They had each other. And together, every All Hallows Eve, they sought out the places where those dead souls would be, where they might appear, were they to break through that thin shroud between worlds, where the two overlapped, converging in the land of the living.
Cemeteries, graveyards, and ancient churches were the most favoured domains, even places of purported death, such as the long deserted park by the river where, it was said several folks had lost lives to foul play. One particularly thrilling All Hallows Eve, the pair even managed to sneak into the town mortuary in a hope that restless souls would see that special October date as the time to come through and potentially wreak havoc.
However, it was the dark chilling buzz of being in a deserted cemetery which most drew them like moths to flame, the sensation of sitting together, drinking wine, smoking, often playing with Ouija boards and similar objects with designs on increasing the likelihood of spirits, malevolent or otherwise, surfacing. Surrounded by potential visitors to the land of the living, their human husks long since deceased, entombed and rotted away, Gabrielle and Ash delighted in their dark pursuits and their shared morbid desire for the dead to walk the earth.
Enraptured by the possibilities, buoyed and buzzed on wine, they would more often than not strip each other naked and make love amidst graves and mausoleums, in frenetic intoxicated couplings they hoped might further enhance the journey through the deadcloak.
Freaky encounters, potential spectres or at least those dreamed up through inebriation and dark thrills were rife each time they indulged in their favourite yearly activities, and though the spirits ultimately never crossed those overlapping boundaries, it never dampened the enthusiasm of the duo. Each year they resumed the same pursuit, seeking out new potential places, certain they would eventually have the returning dead revealed to them.
But not this year. And never again. Gabrielle was dead.
No longer would she be chasing restless souls on All Hallows Eve with her dark-loving beau, drinking wine and fucking in the boneyard, dabbling with the occult, hopeful of accelerating spectral uprisings.
Six months prior to what used to be the greatest calendar night of Ash’s life, a late night car accident landed Gabrielle in hospital, in critical condition. Comatose, suffering massive trauma and injuries, Gabrielle awoke, just once while Ash remained by her bedside. She murmured to him, in a voice so faint he could barely hear the hushed whisper and then she died.
While he deduced that she professed her love to him with her dying breaths, her actual final words revolved around some sort of green light, telling him not to be afraid of it, or that she wasn’t afraid of it, he really couldn’t tell. Then she was gone and she’d never say anything to him again. Half a year gone and he wasn’t over it, hadn’t come to terms with her departure, never would. His life was crumbling dust, a bleak wasteland of desolation and loss, and the onset of All Hallows Eve was going to be the pinnacle of misery.
The streets of Cinnamon Grove were already awash with trick or treating children, masquerading as goblins, ghouls, vampires, witches, all manner of supernatural beings or even characters from popular television shows, books or movies. The original spooky themes employed as costumes had spread wide to encompass almost anything as a suitable costume, so it wasn’t unusual to see Powerpuff Girls or fairy princesses, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or cowboys walking alongside Monster High characters or things derived from Harry Potter; almost anything was fair game; it wasn’t a case of adhering to the spooky, it was just a mass dress up collective.
Clearly, some of these kids parents had gone to great lengths or pains to create their offspring’s ultimate costume, either that, or spent exorbitant amounts of money for an outfit which might only be worn the one time with the kid probably wanting to be something else the following year, while some had barely given it any thought or attention whatsoever.
Amidst the kids in comprehensively detailed Predator outfits, SpongeBob get-ups or Barbie garb from head to toe, were the kids who’d had their ghost costume created with the classic white bed sheet tossed over their head and a couple of eyeholes cut in it.
Ash saw it all, but nothing sank in or registered; none of the passing amusement and joy he and Gabrielle would have found in it as they set off on their own adventures effected or touched him now. Just the sight in general speared his heart like a big jagged spike of ice, left him cold and apathetic, reminding him of so many things that hurt. Gabrielle should have been with him as he trudged along the streets, arm linked in his, her sweet, intoxicating perfume wafting around him, mingling with those clove cigarettes she loved to smoke, her laughter ringing in his ears.
While she never bought into the costume ideologies, the notion of the old masking ideas transformed into children’s costumes, she was particularly impressed by those kids with the more macabre outfits. Those who seemingly maintained the logic that it should be something of an ominous night, not a frivolous fuck around. She’d point out her favourites as they cruised on their way, taking their time to get to their destination, always waiting for dusk to fall.
But she wasn’t here. There was nobody with him to appreciate the creepy little boy dressed as Baron Samedi, or the girl decked out as Michonne from The Walking Dead, complete with two other co-operative little friends on chains, comprehensively made up as captive zombies. So while he saw it, it washed bleakly over him, stealing what once would have been a time of uproarious laughter or approving comments away, to replace it with a void of futility and wretchedness.
It wasn’t only kids who chose to dress up; teenagers, even adults, engaged in the traditions, seeing the prime opportunity to throw themed parties or engage in all manner of behaviour. For some, that obviously meant ultra slutty.
As Ash walked along the street, head bowed, balled fists jammed deep in the pockets of his jeans, an oblivious ghost amidst hordes of attired adolescents and costumed children, with only two destinations in his head, a trio of heavily made up young women accosted him, teetering into his trajectory on the sidewalk on ludicrous stiletto heels.
One was a French Maid, her skirt so short it barely covered the globes of her ass, fishnet stockings adorning her legs and her cleavage threatening to bust every button on her supremely tight top. Another was in a Catwoman suit so tight and sleek it clung to her body like a second skin. It was evident she wore next to nothing beneath it, with each curve of her form accentuated in great detail. The third was dressed as Juliet from the video game Lollipop Chainsaw, complete with the severed head of her boyfriend, Nick, attached to a belt around her waist, the apparent rubber mannequin head bouncing up and down as she pranced, her pleated and incredibly short cheerleader skirt flipping up and down as well, unashamedly displaying nearly nude buttocks in a tiny pair of underwear.
Ash acknowledged their presence through the fog of thoughts crowding his mind; sublime, beautiful memories of Gabrielle colliding with the terribly tragic in a twisted marriage. The churning miasma dissipated long enough for him to realise they were in his way, essentially barricading his further progress to destination number one.
They were all blonde and buzzed on alcohol, each of them carrying, and drinking from, cans of pre-mixed vodka drinks, capering into his way to a soundtrack of manic laughter and intoxicated retorts. They could have been in their late teens, they might have been several years older, around his age, and they might even have been much younger; he couldn’t really tell. Their overly made up faces, slathered with eye shadow and mascara rendered it almost impossible to pinpoint them in terms of exact age. Bright red lipsticked smiles partially drunken mirth, potentially lustful, flashed at him from beneath black rimmed eyes.
“Hey, you’re cute!” French Maid slurred at him, the least attractive of the trio looming in close, peering with bloodshot eyes, making Ash wonder how much vodka she’d already imbibed to arrive at that conclusion. With his dark hair hanging lankly and a shadow of unshaven stubble shrouding his cheeks and jawline, face otherwise pallid with black circles of fatigue heavy under his eyes, Ash didn’t imagine he was the archetypal pin-up to draw cute comparisons with.
“Trick or treat,” Catwoman winked, raising her can in a toasting gesture before tipping it to her blood red lipstick lips and downing it in a remarkably unladylike fashion, stumbling a little and splaying her black rubber encased legs as she sought to empty the container.
“Either way, it means the same thing,” Lollipop Chainsaw added with a lewd throaty chuckle as she too zeroed in on Ash. “Trick or treat.”
Ash faltered, not finding many words, but a stream of unintelligible gibberish. All of a sudden it seemed like he was staring at three Gabrielle’s, her face replacing all of those on the trio of blonde bimbettes. Lollipop wore that face he knew and loved best, Gabrielle, beautiful, raven tressed and unmarked. Catwoman, though, featured the visage of his lost love at her worst, bloodied, bruised, extensively damaged with automobile trauma, and French Maid was the worst of all. Gabrielle in death, skin pale alabaster, swathed in bandages, her hair limp and languid, as she’d been when she finally slipped away from him for ever.
He would have screamed, aside from the fact that he still couldn’t seem to locate his voice; it felt like such a long time since he’d last used it. Instead, he uttered something of a garbled exclamation of mingled despair and shocked horror, hands automatically flying up to ward off the plaguing images.
The trio of Gabrielle countenances dispersed, replaced by the original faces of the three tipsy blonde women, each now wearing a variety of bemused or scornful expressions.
Ash broke their ranks, pushing hastily between Catwoman and Lollipop, barely aware that he was waving his arms like a drowning man, floundering desperately for the surface of the water. Voices carried after him in strident affronted tones.
“Hey, these are sexy outfits, you know!” French Maid called out abrasively. “Sexy, not scary! Sexy!”
“Guess you miss out then,” came from Catwoman. “Trick or treat meant you could have had a whole bunch of candy in your mouth. You could have tricked with us, or you could have had yourself some real fine ass sexy treats! And you won’t be finding any candy sweeter than this wherever your ass is going!”
“Ah, forget it,” Lollipop advised her companions, sounding the most coherent of the trio. “Probably gay, anyway. Seems like all the cute ones are gay these days.”
A series of homophobic epithets followed on Ash’s heels as he tripped, stumbled and rushed away, on up the sidewalk, but it flooded over him with no effect or even comprehension. His attention completely shot, he barrelled into a congregation of costumed trick or treaters, almost sending a small Shrek monster ass over teakettle.
“Shit, Mister! Are you drunk?” The rotund little green-garbed urchin berated him in a shrill voice.
“Not yet, Yoda, not yet,” Ash replied. “But I sure as hell plan to be, very soon.”
“I’m Shrek, you stupid asshole alco!” The kid shouted at him and aimed a vengeful kick at Ash’s shins. It missed by a long shot and he ended up sitting on his green Shrek butt on the concrete, while a couple of his companions-Monster High’s Frankie and what looked like a miniature werewolf-sniggered at the outcome.
“Damn, nice kid, you are,” Ash muttered, hurrying away before somebody decided to yell out something about him being responsible for the pintsized ogre upending himself on the ground. Gabrielle would have really gotten a kick out of that Monster High ensemble, he lamented as he departed the scene in a rush, also biting down on his tongue to prevent a few choices words regarding hopes of that little Shrek bastard ending up with razorblades in any of his candy.
He was at the liquor store almost before he realised; the disturbing encounter with the brazen promiscuous young women, and then the clumsy bumble into the mouthy brats, both temporarily successful in derailing most of his forlorn thoughts of the person missing from this Halloween evening, but stepping inside brought them all rushing back.
Part of his and Gabrielle’s tradition for All Hallows Eve was spending relaxed time perusing the shelves, coolers and wine racks in the bottle shop, mulling over what to stock up on for boneyard boozing or cemetery sipping, waiting for twilight to emerge. They both had a preference for reds, so they’d debate over what looked best, what suited the mood, the knowledge of where they were going to go and what they were planning to do once they exited the store, always kicking in illicit tingly thrills, sparking great excitement in them both. Wine was, more often than not, the drink of choice, but occasionally it was spirits too, naturally. Ash was responsible for coining the completely lame joke that perhaps if they elected to imbibe in spirits, maybe they stood a better chance of attracting the spirits or drawing them out of their deadworld. It was a tired, inane line and he certainly wouldn’t have ever been the first to use it in some context, but Gabrielle loved it all the same, delighted by his ridiculous humour.
The concept of wiling away time surrounded by bottles and bottles of all kinds of alcohol, just poring through them looking for the right one, talking together and making evening plans might not have meant too much to others, but it was their tradition and it was all part of the fabric used to create their All Hallows tapestry.
Now it was just Ash, feeling alone, adrift and lost in an establishment which used to bring him so much simple happiness.
Still, he was here now. Ensconced in the first of two destinations he had on this forsaken night, and not about to alter his own determined plans, regardless how much he felt like running out of here and away from so many flooding memories. It wouldn’t matter, he couldn’t run away from them anyway. Six months gone and the pain was still as sharp as ever, ragged and raw, especially tonight. It wouldn’t ever go away and he sure as fuck couldn’t hope to outrun it.
Unlike any of the preceding October evenings, Ash didn’t waste time in here, he didn’t wander around gaping in awe at things, or finding amusement in the collective of Halloween wines always rolled out around this time of year; there was nobody to share the experience with any more. It was simply a case of grab what he came there for and get the hell out. Nobody wanted to see a despondent, gloomy soul traipsing listlessly around an establishment filled with liquor on a night when everybody else was out trying to have spooky fun, and more to the point, it looked fucking suspicious. Ash didn’t want attention from anybody. Not wary bottle shop proprietors, not fat, green, little goblins and their candy-collecting friends, not busty blonde, ass flashing costumed sluts. Not anybody.
He made his selections easily; he already knew which aisle to walk down to find what he sought. An Elk Creek Bone Dry Red Cabernet and The Velvet Devil Merlot, the former because it had become a favourite of Gabrielle’s with its creepy, but cool skull label, and the latter, merely because he couldn’t see any other suitable red with the theme of the evening. They always picked at least two bottles, almost always reds, and tonight would be no exception, though, of course, it was like no other Halloween. It was the worst Halloween in the entire existence of Halloweens as far as Ash was concerned, but his mind was made up. Just like he’d said to the obnoxious midget Shrek out on the street, he was going to get himself drunk. Fucking hammered. Far away from all these costumed clowns, partying teenagers and idiot adults pandering to the whole commercialised holiday.
From the town centre of Cinnamon Grove, with its hive of activity, colour, and garish costume characters, Ash made his way through the place with his last solitary destination in mind. The same place he’d been going to without fail for six months now. Scairall Cemetery. Gabriella’s grave.
No flowers this time, no keepsakes, nothing to lay on her grave as mementos tonight. No spine-tingling traditional spirit chaser plans or desires to be in the right place at the right time when those world boundaries overlapped. Just a pact Ash made with himself to honour the memory of what they used to do. He would be drinking in the graveyard, drinking with Gabrielle. Or at least drinking with her memory, while she lay cold, interred in the embrace of the earth, never to indulge in the celebration again.
‘Maybe, I scored a bad batch of Bone Dry and I’ll wind up with a severe case of alcohol poisoning,’ Ash thought with more than a twinge of bitter resentment. ‘A fatal case. Then I’ll be able to join Gabi’.
Musing morosely over the whole celebratory tradition the pair of lovers had cultivated over several years, he realised he’d never really contemplated, until now, how strange, morbid, or indeed, disrespectful, others might have viewed their methods of enjoying the night. It wasn’t as though they’d ever desecrated grave sites or knowingly caused any wilful damage or anything of the sort, but the whole notion of getting inebriated, tinkering with Ouija boards and cards, and having sex on the cemetery grounds, could hardly be viewed as the pinnacle of good taste.
Ash knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he would be horrified by the thought of daring couples tipsy on wine or stoned, fucking on, or around Gabrielle’s grave, even dancing on it, perhaps inadvertently breaking things, whether it was in their initial plans to do so or not. He wondered what he would actually do if he turned up to find just that sort of scene greeting his arrival. Every way he imagined he would react, spying some pair of naked writhing young drunks atop the final resting place of Gabi, would involve some kind of furious righteous anger, but he suspected if it really did come to that scenario, he would more than likely stand there in a stupid fugue, frozen, stupefied.
What seemed so right and normal for Gabi and him a year ago, seemed so different from this lonely perspective now. Maybe even a little wrong…
And he hated his mind wandering in routes where he started questioning what had been some of the greatest moments of his life.
As he left the main part of town behind in the distance, the sounds of laughter, gleeful shouting, traffic noise, and other conglomerations of sound which were fundamentally a torment to him, faded away into a mingled indistinct hum. It left him drenched in quiescence with his austere ruminations, but that was how he preferred it to be. Silence didn’t chase the ghosts from his head, but it was better than being faced with immediate All Hallows Eve sights that possessed the ability to throw him right back to this time last year, the year before and further back, each time with Gabrielle present.
The sudden abrasive bark of a dog burst out of the shadows somewhere nearby, triggering a jolt of panic in Ash, setting the hairs on the back of his neck on end. He cast alarmed eyes around, seeing no sign of the aggressive-sounding canine. The sudden snarl of sound, strident and close made his palms sweaty, and snapped him temporarily out of his pensive ponderings, enough to be concerned he was about to be attacked by some feral beast lunging from the undergrowth around here.
Breaths came in fast shallow huffs as Ash tried to pinpoint whether the animal was loose, or if it was actually restrained some short distance away. It hadn’t emerged yet, so he was hopeful of the latter, though the sobering thought that it may now be stalking him from its shadowed position had him hurrying along as fast as he dared.
Eventually, he came to the conclusion that the dog was somewhere behind a fence, in a yard or chained up, or was somehow otherwise preoccupied, and not about to launch a sudden attack on him, and he let out a shaky laugh as he slowed his pace back down to a normal walk.
How incongruous of him to suddenly fear for his mortality or be concerned by the imminent threat of some perceived dangerous canine, when less than a minute prior, he’d been wishing death by alcohol poisoning upon himself. Still, croaking in a sodden intoxicated coma, passed out on the earth, was probably a better way to go than having fangs buried in his throat, but then again, being essentially entombed in the twisted metal wreckage of an automobile accident was hardly the number one choice for shuffling off the mortal coil either.
With that, Gabrielle inevitably crept back into his thoughts. Back when they were together on these intrepid expeditions there was no fear present in either of them, no matter what creepy places they frequented or what potentially dangerous areas they travelled through. With possible risks and unseen threats lurking around any corner, it didn’t matter. They were invincible, untouchable, bolstered on bravado and the intoxication of each other’s company, revelling in the night and whatever menace might crackle in the air around them.
Yet here he was, jumping at shadows, just about pissing himself at the suggestion a rabid stray might have him in its sights. He and Gabrielle encountered far worse over the handful of years they’d strengthened this annual mission into something to look forward to with unbridled delight. They’d been tailed and stalked by malevolent hobo sorts with motives unknown, threatened with rape and bodily harm by carloads of young hoodlums, had mentally deranged meth addicts accosting them, not to mention the multiple close calls with police and other forms of security, the unbalanced grounds keeper of Cinnamon Grove’s other main cemetery, just to mention a handful, and not batted an eyelid, no fear crowding either one of them. Untouchable.
Even those folk who donned genuinely scary Halloween outfits, intentionally out to terrify innocent passers-by, or strolling lovers, trick or treating kids, anybody at all, by secreting themselves in dark alcoves, shadows, wooded areas, and alleys with nefarious plans to spring out and engender terror, causing potential heart attacks, urgent needs for underwear changes or the like, couldn’t phase Ash and Gabrielle. They looked forward to it, tried to anticipate what fiendish being might be hiding trying to put the frighteners into them, and where they might come from. They got it down to a fine art too, nailing the best surprise zones and most of these pranksters were predictable, returning to the same places time and time again.
Now, if one of them abruptly lunged from the darkness, screaming like a demented banshee or cackling in the fashion of an unhinged lunatic, Ash felt as though his heart might just stop on the spot, regardless of his prior knowledge of their usual haunts, the fact that he might be expecting something to happen. Without Gabrielle, his bravado was gone. Without her, his everything was gone.
Recent rains in the couple of nights prior had left the ground in Scairall Cemetery muddied and soft underfoot, the grass slippery and still damp, despite a solid day of sunshine. Making his way through the quiet darkness, dusk having well and truly settled its shroud over the place, Ash did so cautiously, aware how treacherous it could become. The fact that he was fully intending on drinking himself into some state of oblivion seemed irrelevant; the potential peril presented to a hapless drunken soul was infinitely worse than to a conscientious sober one, but he had no immediate plans to get up and start walking out of the place after he finished off these bottles of wine. He figured he wouldn’t be in any state to. He would lay there in maudlin misery, lamenting, reminiscing, sharing All Hallows Eve with his absent love as best he could, and deal with everything else the following day.
“It’s me, Gabi,” he murmured as he sat himself down beside her grave, ignoring the sodden mush of moist earth beneath him. “I’m back again. I’ll keep coming back every day, until I’m there in the ground with you. Which would be a whole lot sooner if I actually had the balls to put myself where you are. But I don’t. I don’t have anything without you. Remember how we used to be so fearless, unafraid of anything on this night? Well a dog almost made me mess my shorts, can you believe it? A damn dog! After all the spooky troll bums, the gangsters, the Halloween monsters, all of it, and I’m scared of shadows now?”
Cracking open the Bone Dry he stared at the pale skeletal figure on the label under the moderate moonlight afforded to him and then splashed a good measure of wine across her grave.
“To us, Gabi. To our night. This is our night. Was our night.”
He tipped the bottle to his own lips now and drank deeply. The desolate ache of loss squeezing his heart, lodging a lump in his throat, brought prickles to his eyes.
He talked and indulged in the wine, running a mournful monologue as inebriation stole up upon him and loosened his tongue further. He fully expected, at some stage, to break down and cry bucketloads of tears in his increasingly drunken state, but they never came. Perhaps he’d expended whatever reservoir of tears he had to cry over the past six months, for though his litany of constant talking to her silent grave ranged from deep impassioned avowals of love and how much he missed her, to the almost accusing and angry at her for leaving him here alone, stripped of all the joy, strength and carefree attitude he’d once possessed, his anticipated blubbering never eventuated.
All around him, the air was full of the scents of the trees, oaks, maples, mingling with the sweet aroma of the wine, familiar smells which seemed to seep deep into his lungs, dragging him back to the better times spent immersed in them. The only scent missing was that of Gabrielle’s clove cigarettes. And of course her perfume.
She was missing.
“Gabi, this was our night. Why can’t you be here with me? I’m not strong enough to do anything without you any more, I don’t want to spend All Hallows Eve apart. This is our night, goddammit! Why did you have to go? What’s the green light, Gabi? What were you trying to tell me, before…before…you went away? This was supposed to be our night. Forever!”
Ash scarcely acknowledged that he was yelling now, his voice ringing out across the still of the night and the deathly silence of the graveyard, resonating with a timbre that bounced echoes back off mausoleums, was captured in trees and swirled back around him.
The Bone Dry was long gone, he was making solid headway into the Devil’s Merlot and his inhibitions were shredded away from him, the fear of raising his voice dissipated, leaving him sprawling on her burial place screaming at the gravedirt. “I don’t want to be apart! You can’t leave me alone on our night…”
His voice, trapped in the trees, mocked him until finally he splayed his length atop the moist soil of the tomb, the Merlot bottle tipping from fingers which felt as though they lacked the strength or cohesion to properly grasp, spilling trickles into the ground. Time may as well have stood still or stretched itself out into some sort of eternal vacuum, now nothing but a profound, mocking silence all around as he lapsed into a final drunken quiescence, gazing bleakly into the night sky with blurred vision. The bouquet of aromas, once so comfortable and thrilling to be surrounded by, continued to filter into him, with inexorable relentlessness.
In this shadow domain, her shadow domain, he lay hopelessly drunk, haplessly lost. His head spun with unremitting persistence, half brought on by his wine glut, half brought on by the tangled emotional web of thoughts crisscrossing over themselves and weaving together.
He stared at the sky, trying to focus on the pale yellow orb of the moon. The green orb of the moon.
Green? What the actual fuck? Ash stared, first squinting, then trying to push his eyes open wide. He rubbed the back of a hand across them, unconcerned by the damp soil and fallen leaf matter clinging to his skin, but after all of that, he was still gazing up at a moon distinctly green in colour.
Had he somehow inadvertently ended up with a bottle of absinthe, by some bizarre stroke of misfortune, instead of the wines he thought he’d selected?
Ash twisted his head to the right slightly, enough to see the discarded Merlot, just a mere inch or so from his outstretched fingers. Even with his foggy vision and spinning head, he could still see enough of the devil fork on the label to realise that one was what he was sure he’d brought with him, albeit seen in triplicate.
He shook his head, trying to dissipate the shroud of haze enveloping it, managing to shift the top half of his body enough so he was propped up on elbows, gazing down towards his feet, where the empty Bone Dry bottle rolled after he drained it. It too, was precisely what he’d bought at the liquor store, no hallucination inspiring absinthe having supplanted it. The skull on the label grinned insanely back at him. Then it wasn’t merely the Bone Dry skull.
It was the face of Gabrielle. The bony cranium on the wine bottle seemed to shine through her visage, making the image of her appear translucent, spectral, as though the bone structure was showing starkly through her flesh. It was a horrifying sight, even more disturbing to him than witnessing her at her worst, swathed in bandages in the hospital bed, face swollen and blackened with bruises.
Ash knew he’d overdone it on the wine, big time. Green fucking moons, dead faces superimposed over skulls. This was not how he’d foreseen this desolate night panning out. All his despair and bleak emptiness had been supplanted by irrational fear and paranoia.
Beneath his awkward frame, splayed in that position which was neither sitting nor lying, but somewhere in between, the grave dirt shifted. It dropped down in a dip as if the recent rains combined with the weight of his body atop it for a prolonged period of time were sufficient to collapse it downwards.
He moved rapidly, scrambling away and off the edge of the grave, the sudden alarm at having the sodden earth disintegrate underneath him, and somehow plunge him down into a tomb, regardless who it belonged to, chilled him to the bone. It shot a bolt of sobering clarity through the inebriated fuzz which formerly packed around his brain like alcohol soaked cotton wool. The thought of capsizing into the dirt, having it dislodge and pour down over his trapped body, filling his mouth, streaming into his nostrils, deadening any attempts to scream and entombing him with a corpse, while his useless limbs flailed to free him and only managed to rain more damp death dirt down, flooded him so comprehensively with terror that he almost felt completely sober, sweating profusely.
A great crack had emerged along the length of the grave, right in the centre where the shape of Ash’s body left an indented imprint in the soil, and though the ground was still very damp, the zigzagging fissure was clearly defined, with no soft edges or crumbling dirt falling in upon it.
As Ash stared in horrified fascination, wondering just how much damage his prone figure on top of the grave had done in conjunction with the softening precipitation, he saw wispy trickles of green vapour misting up out of this crack. Watching those creepy green tendrils of fog emanate from the fracture in the earth, he wondered exactly what the fuck he was looking at.
Was it a result of the pressure of his body on the grave somehow disturbing the coffin below to such extent where some kind of gases were escaping from it? Had the wine he’d splashed so liberally over the earth seeped through, reacted with something below, somehow managed to get into an improperly sealed coffin and adversely created this unusual phenomena by coming into contact with embalming fluid or some such shit?
Ash acknowledged just how insane and stupidly ridiculous that probably was, but in his state of intoxication, just about any explanation could be a perfectly reasonable one; after all, he didn’t have any answers that sounded as though they weren’t asinine. He also came to another conclusion while he sat there, horrifically mesmerised by these trailing mists, that while he couldn’t explain the source of this, he could explain the green tinge of the moon. It came from none other than this strange spectacle right here; this escaping of greenish vapour from Gabrielle’s tomb.
While he’d been sprawled in drunken misery atop it, wallowing in morbid desolation, the haze was rising from the ground, swirling up around him and he was too lost in his stupor and laments to know, only seeing the strange colour of the moon as the mist crossed over the face of it. Now he realised that, knew it wasn’t a case of somebody switching his wine with absinthe, or any one of the other stupid notions which clamoured in his brain, but he was still at a loss as to why the aberration would pour steadily from the cracked grave earth. If it was some form of gas, he imagined it would have a pungent odour accompanying it, but aside from the smell of damp earth in conjunction with those other aromas, leaves and trees, there was nothing untoward or unpleasant assailing his nostrils.
The green was billowing out now, creating a cloud and his stupefied eyes saw that it was iridescent; indeed, not so much as a cloud of vapour, but more of a creepy green light.
Though it was, or had been, a mild autumn eve, the air around Ash felt very abruptly bone chillingly cold, as if he were out here in Scairall Cemetery in the freezing dead of winter. The atmosphere was completely still; there were no sudden gusts of cool breeze suddenly kicking up. The leaves in the trees encircling this cloistered patch of graves where he remained, were unmoving, and no patches of dark cloud had drifted across to shroud the face of the moon to signify some more periods of icy rainfall might be coming.
The spreading green mist…no, not a mist, the light…now fanned out so extensively from that gaping crack, which seemed impossibly wider now, that it enveloped him, wafting all around. Though panicked cogitations rushed him, considerations that perhaps it was toxic, or radioactive or in some horrible way detrimental to his health to be in it and sucking it into his lungs, he found he didn’t have the power to move. Entranced, he stayed still, so much so that he was fundamentally frozen, rooted to the spot.
He supposed the alarming drop in temperature must have been attributable to this freakish phenomena, but couldn’t fathom how or why.
A human hand reached up out of the widening crevice in Gabrielle’s grave.
Ash shit himself. Not quite literally, but as good as. His heart jolted with an erratic spasm that felt as if it were taking a jackhammer to the insides of his chest, attempting to bust the cage of his ribs in a bid to be free, either that or send itself into a coronary..
He scrambled backwards, crabbing completely away from the grave, an eerie high-pitched whining noise escaping from his lips. The slick, damp grass was treacherous beneath him, even in this hunched half-seated positon low to the ground. Both hands slipped in it, landing him on his back. He was sweating so copiously now that the skies may as well have opened up and drenched him in a sudden downpour, albeit one which left him clammy and so glacially chilled that it felt as though a freeze was invading the very marrow of his bones.
The hand protruding from the open grave was a small delicate one. A female hand.
It was joined by another one. Gabrielle crawled up and out of her tomb.
She emerged in that luminescent green glow, rising right up and free of the broken grave dirt, not floating like a spectre, but walking with feet flat upon the ground. Nor was her figure in any way transparent, hazy or ghostly; she looked as solid and as real as she’d been prior to that fateful late night drive.
Ash saw no graveworms slithering or squirming insidiously from any busted holes in her cranium, no leaking fluid, brain matter, or decaying flesh, nothing to indicate she’d been interred deep underground in a coffin, deceased for six months.
His mouth gaped open, tongue flapping soundlessly like some useless hunk of meat.
“Are you…? Am I…? What the fuck is happening to me?” He finally managed to choke out, mostly in a stream of gibberish, some actual words appearing amidst his nonsense.
“Come now, Ash, do you really think I’d let some trivial little thing like being dead keep me from celebrating our night?” Gabrielle asked, more than a hint of mischievous humour loitering in her tone.
Ash shook his head so hard he thought it was about to topple off his shoulders, but he couldn’t shake the vision away. Gabrielle was standing right there before him, having just crawled up out of the sodden soil prison of her grave.
“Are you…? So…what? You’re…dead…”
“Of course I’m dead,” she said. “But I’m not about to let that stand in the way of our night, now am I?’
“This…cannot be real.” Ash declared. “This isn’t real! You…aren’t real.”
“Yes, it is,” Gabriella said, sounding a little affronted that he’d even suggested otherwise. “It’s All Hallows Eve, Ash. The night when the dead can walk the earth among the living. You know that. It’s what we always sought on this night.”
“But…no. No, it never happened for us. We never saw the dead walk the earth, we never encountered any spirits. It’s not real and it doesn’t happen.”
She was so close to him now that that he could smell not moist grave soil, rotting flesh or the stench of decay, but the heady aroma of her perfume blended with a faint waft of clove cigarettes. The aromas missing from the bouquet at the beginning of his evening here by her graveside, brought to him by some freakish, unspoken, but granted wish.
“It is happening though, sweet Ash. It is happening. Have a look around you.”
Those small, shapely hands, tipped with long, slender fingers, reached out to him, taking his hands and urging him up. He found himself standing, whether he wanted to or not. He did as she suggested, casting his eyes all around, peering through the diaphanous sheen of green light cocooning them.
Scairall Cemetery was no longer the deserted domain of quiescence it had been when he’d arrived, escaping the Halloween mayhem of town. It was teeming with movement, unsettling and unbelievable activity, and if Ash lacked comprehension of the various things already witnessed thus far tonight, what he was seeing now really fucked with his head.
Graves were splitting open as far across the fields and span of the cemetery as he could see, the doors to ornate mausoleums cracking open, tombs and simple resting places being disturbed from within. Each unsettled place disgorged its occupants, some even seemed to appear out of thin air, blinking into existence in this shadow domain, solid shapes taking form in areas where previously nothing was.
Unlike the vision of Gabrielle, not all of these All Hallows souls were unmarked or undamaged, or in any kind of pristine condition. Many wore the gruesome memories of their deaths, some reprehensibly violent and hideous, others were in complete states of nudity. Slashed throats dribbling blood, battered heads with misshapen form and brain leakage, bruised, discoloured flesh and lacerated skin adorned many, while others looked as though they could simply be mistaken for visitors to the graveyard, rather than long term residents.
Inconceivably, some of them also carried implements in their hands, things like long bladed knives, axes, lengths of chain, even coiled loops of rope. Gazing with disbelief upon this, Ash knew these particular souls were not seeking to celebrate the eve among the living with plans of good natured harmless fun.
His blood was sluggish ice water in his veins. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the hideous mass exodus of the cemetery, watching as the whole ensemble of risen dead swarmed and made their way towards Cinnamon Grove, and wouldn’t have, until a cool hand touched his face, dragging his vision away from the sight.
“Now, do you see?” Gabrielle asked him, penetrating his eyes with a fierce intensity that was unnerving. “I told you not to fear the green light because it meant I would be coming back to you. On our night. To celebrate it together. And here I am.”
“Does…what does that mean? Does that mean…you are back? For…good?”
She drifted in closer to him, the cool touch of her hands feeling like ice on the skin of his face, the green glow shrouding all around them in a perpetual drift. Her mouth was mere inches from his and when she kissed him, the scent of her perfume slithered up into his nostrils, the taste of clove cigarettes on her lips. Then she drew back, still fixing him with that piercing gaze.
“No, Ash. But it does mean we never have to spend All Hallows Eve apart ever again. We can always be together. Just like you want. Forever.”
Then her hands trailed from his face, down his body, wrapping around him in an embrace so tight it felt like bones would crack and shatter.
Only then did it truly dawn on him what she meant. He didn’t know whether to scream in panicked terror, or cry with joy to realise that she was right.
He did neither, as she dragged him through the swirling green light and down into her grave.
The disturbed grave dirt settled back down above them.
All of the other denizens of Scairall Cemetery would find what they sought down in Cinnamon Grove, but Gabrielle had exactly what she wanted.
Now she and Ash would spend every All Hallows together. Forever. In her shadow domain.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableCraig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
🔔 More stories from author: Jim GoforthPublisher's Notes: N/A Author's Notes: N/A
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