what to do when it happens again

On the surface, everything is calm.

She feels calm. She drinks her tea, eats her breakfast, gets dressed, brushes her teeth. The children get ready for school with their usual fights and screaming, as though they don’t sense that this calm is not a safe one. Something is wrong, but something is always wrong. Every day something is churning deep, deep below them.our

They leave the house. She is alone. She makes herself another cup of tea.

She sits down at her desk, wakes up her laptop, checks her email. Nothing important. She settles in to work, still calm, her hands steady. Nothing is wrong.

At lunchtime, she submits her reports and stands up to stretch. There are leftovers in the fridge and she eats them at the table with her book, the one for her book club. It doesn’t hold her interest but she keeps turning the pages anyway.

The dishes go in the dishwasher. The kettle goes on for another cup of tea. She goes upstairs to the bathroom, then comes down again. Her tea steeps, and she looks out the window at the grey and brown of early spring, the squirrels skittering through the trees, the chickadees singing for mates. Nothing remarkable anywhere.

The timer beeps for her tea, startling her. It’s too harsh. She takes it back to her desk and sits down again, but this time, she can’t concentrate. The timer is not that big a deal, she tells herself. It just startled you. You should go for a walk, or call someone.

She stares at her computer screen. She picks up her tea, and her hands are shaking so badly that she spills tea on her lap. It burns, and she cries out.

Get a grip, she tells herself savagely. You’re slipping.

She slams her laptop shut. Takes her tea to the kitchen and dumps it down the drain. Goes upstairs to change her jeans.

In the bathroom, she opens the medicine cabinet behind the mirror. Her gaze is briefly caught by the neat rows of Advil and Tylenol and half-finished prescriptions. But she doesn’t need those; she needs the list on the back of the mirror.

WHAT TO DO WHEN IT HAPPENS AGAIN

There is a list of phone numbers, a list of activities, and a crisis protocol. Right beneath the heading it says IF YOU CAN’T DECIDE, FOLLOW THE CRISIS PROTOCOL.

She is surprised to find tears on her cheeks, but they shouldn’t be a surprise. She never wanted to do this again.

With a sigh, she takes the piece of chalk from its place on the shelf and goes back downstairs.

She pulls back the area rug and draws a wobbly circle on the hardwood. She writes the letters CMXI in the centre. She takes the first candle she can find, a disgusting “clean laundry” scented one, and lights it. She puts it down inside the circle. She gets her book club book and sits down in the circle to wait for help to arrive.

The Witch in the Woods

The rain lashed against the windows. Inside the house, a man writhed, gasping and soaked with sweat. In the hall downstairs, two women paced. One seemed more agitated, often pausing often at the foot of the staircase to listen until she heard the sound of a man in pain, then resuming her tread. The other, younger, sat in a chair deep in thought.

The doctor descended the stairs. “Well, I don’t know what more I can do for him. There is a witch in the heart of the woods who may have something that can help, but medicine has no power here.”

“Oh Doctor, you can’t be serious!” exclaimed the older woman. “The witch, if she even exists, is an abomination.”

The younger woman stood up abruptly, a new light in her eyes. “I will go to this witch.”

“Willa, are you sure? Think of the danger, and the weather!”

Willa nodded. “For my angel, I shall spare nothing.”

“May God protect you, and save my son until your return.” She collapsed into the chair Willa had vacated, seeming to swoon. The doctor bent over her in a minute, and Willa turned for the door to hide her contempt.

The stable boy saddled the fastest of Willa’s husband’s horses. “Let us see about this witch,” she said to herself as she stepped out into the tempestuous night.

She and her horse were soaked to the skin in minutes. The horse was anxious; it was difficult for Willa to keep her seat. It was an eternity before she found the first sign on the path to the witch’s dwelling. An empty cage hung from a dead tree, a desiccated form lying in it. Willa shuddered.

The second sign was a savage thornbush growing directly across the path. The horse was upon it so quickly that it could not stop; it leapt over it and nearly cleared it, but screamed as the thorns pierced its tender belly. When they landed, the horse had the bit in its teeth and Willa had no control. They plunged through the forest headlong, terrified, directionless. Suddenly the spectre of a huge snake reared up in front of them, and Willa was flying through the air.

She was dazed for a moment. When she looked up, she could see a trail of broken branches but no horse.

“Damn!” Willa picked herself up to continue on foot. She was still in a desperate hurry, but there was no other way. At least the rain was slowing somewhat.

Although that wasn’t quite accurate. Willa could hear the sound of the storm raging still, rain sleeting down, lightning casting the trees into spiky relief and thunder crashing violently. But around her was a gentle spring shower. It was warmer, too, and her soaking cloak and riding pants were beginning to steam.

She picked her way along the path. It was no longer a track through the brush, but an old stone road. She noticed ancient stone signposts now and again, and after a while they had lamps upon them. Strange lamps, not flames but steady, pale beacons. The stone road became a gravel drive, and Willa’s boots crunched along it until she came to what must be the witch’s hut.

It was like no hut she’d ever seen before. It had clear panels of glass set in the walls like no windows Willa had seen before. It was neither stone nor brick, but clad with long, pink strips. There was another of the unflickering light above the front door, which was elevated from the ground. Willa climbed the steps, marvelling at the construction of the house She knocked on the door.

A woman opened the door. She was looking at a small, oblong object in her hand that glowed blue. It was undoubtedly magic, and Willa’s doubts evaporated. She was in the right place.

The woman looked up and blinked at Willa. The witch  was dressed in odd clothing, a childish tunic that hid her shape only to her knees, where tight black breeches showed every curve. Willa was entranced for a minute, then pulled her gaze back up to the woman’s face. She wore windows over her eyes and her hair was piled on her head.

“How on earth did you find me?” she asked.

Willa’s mind raced to find the right words. “I… I was sent here for help. My husband…”

“Oh no, not again.” The witch, if she was indeed a witch, rolled her eyes as though this wasn’t the first time.

Willa was nonplussed.

“Who sent you?”

“The doctor. My husband is very sick, and…”

“Hmm. Not a priest, or a creepy old woman who lives in the woods?”

“You are the creepy old woman who lives in the woods. Except… you’re not very old.”

“No but seriously I need to know how you got here. You look Edwardian or something. And no, I am not an old crone.”

“In this time of crisis, the doctor sent me to find the witch in the woods, but the storm…”

“Oh, of course there was a storm. Alright, stay there for a minute. I’m afraid I can’t invite you in. Can you still see your forest? And is it still stormy?”

Willa looked back the way she’d come. It was difficult to see clearly, but the forest did seem to be there, still gripped in the tempest.

“Yes.”

“Good. So what’s wrong with your husband?”

“He can’t breathe. It started with a bit of blue around his lips, and now he’s gasping. There’s a pox on his skin and…”

“Stay here.”

The witch walked away, leaving the door open. Willa could see all manner of strange things in the house, and leaned forward to see them better. There were more of the flameless lamps, and thin ropes connected to the walls. It seemed plain, lacking tapestries and rugs, yet cleaner than any dwelling Willa had seen.

“You have to stay outside!” the witch called. Willa jumped back.

Soon enough, the witch came back with two tubes. “Here. You pull off this cap and jam it into his thigh, like this. This is a spare, in case it happens again, but figure out if he was stung by a wasp or ate a peanut or something and then never let it happen again because it’ll kill him. I’m not even sure you’ll make it back it time. You’re lucky I have these. Now run, and I hope it’s not too late.”

Willa ran. There was no snake, no thorn fence, and no cage. The track was almost impossible to see in the dark.

Dawn was breaking before she burst out of the forest. The rain had stopped but the trees were still dripping, and the light of early dawn lit up a fog that covered the ground. Willa staggered towards the manor and her husband, then paused. She thought for several minutes. Then she turned and marched back into the forest. This was her chance at freedom, and she was damned if she was going to let it pass her by.

Hallowe’en 1967: The Evening Post

James MacInnis picked up the thin folder his editor had given him. Someone had phoned in a scoop that a New England Town  had what seemed to be a very small-scale plague of insanity. James didn’t understand why his editor hadn’t brushed it off, and had no idea how he was going to turn it into a story.

Read more

Hallowe’en 2010: The Worst Party

Jessica tugged at her skirt, then told herself to stop. Halloween was her chance to let loose, be less buttoned up. She had to be comfortable in her costume if she was going to have any fun at all.

The doorbell rang, and the chorus of “trick or treat” was punctuated by giggles.

“Hi girls,” Jessica’s mom said downstairs.

She looked in the mirror one more time and hiked her skirt back up to where it belonged. You can pull this off, she told herself. You look amazing.

 

Read more

Hallowe’en 2001: The Last Night

   This was their last Halloween together, but none of them knew it yet. Mel knew they were getting old for trick-or-treating, but she wanted to do this one last group costume idea. Over the summer, Anna had introduced the group to her favourite show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’d taped a bunch of episodes onto VHS and they’d spent the hot summer days camped out in her basement watching her parents big TV.

  Mel was obsessed – quickly surpassing Anna’s obsession. She’d borrowed the tapes to watch some of her favourite moments again and again. She cast the four of them as the characters in the show;  Anna, of course, was the perfect Willow, Vic would be Xander, Samantha, despite being a girl, was kinda stuffy, so she was Giles and Mel was the only blond, so unsurprisingly, she was Buffy.

 

Read more

Dr Paris: Therapist to the Supernatural

Read part 1

“This is Dr. Andy Paris, recording this 14th day of January at 3:30 in the afternoon. My patient is Ms. Belledonte.”

“Good afternoon, Dr.Paris.”

“I need to inform you that I have begun recording my sessions. The recordings are password protected on my computer and will not be listened to by anyone else. Do I have your consent on that?”

“Yes. I suppose that is fine.”

“How has your week been?”

[a long sigh from Ms. Belledonte]

“He’s been following me again. Theo. I haven’t seen him in almost a  century and he’s started following me.”

“Where was it that you saw him?”

“He has a MAN BUN! A fucking man bun. And hipster glasses. He didn’t even wear those in the 60s. He has never been on trend. When I saw him in the 1850’s, he was wearing a tricorn hat like it was 17-fucking- 76. Where does he get off with this flannel and man bun nonsense?”

“So you saw him…”

“He used to do this, you know, he used to stalk me, follow me around all the time when we were both in Vienna.”

“And this was…”

“During the Black Plague. He got it in his head that this would be the thing to finish us off. He followed me around, seeing if I would catch it first. But of course I didn’t. Of course WE didn’t. I couldn’t shake him if my life depended on it.

“He’s been following you…”

[a cough] “Well.”

“Are you worried he followed you here?”

“He followed me…on twitter.”

“On twitter.”

“Well it’s bloody the same as following me down the street nowadays isn’t it? I just want to know what he’s playing at. Following me like this.”

“This seems to have had quite the effect on your week.”

“Not just my week, Dr. Paris. Not just my week.”

“No?”

“My whole fucking existence! I only see Theo once, maybe twice a century. He’s this… simpering idiot. This fool of a man. How he got to be an immortal, I’ve never figured out. But to have him following me on twitter changes our dynamic. Plus that fucking man bun.”

“Have you considered blocking him?”

[another long sigh from Ms. Belledonte]

“That’s… an idea. But, I don’t know… I don’t care. I don’t care about him, I don’t care about his stupid, immortal face. I just want it to go away.” [a long silence] “I mean, of course I CARE about him, he’s the only other immortal I’ve got. But I can only take so much of him.”

“So what happens next?”

“I just don’t know. I used to be the one who was ‘of the now’… maybe now it’s him. Maybe I take a rest for a decade or so.”

“A rest?”

“Just a… time off from being the most fabulous creature in the room, you know? A thousand years of trendsetting is wearing a little thin. Every move I make followed by everyone around me. Even you, doctor! I see you watching me. You’ve even stopped writing on that damn notepad”

“I did inform you I’d be recording these sessions. I don’t need to take as many notes.”

“You’re just as obsessed with me as he is. The entire thing is so typical of him. I was on twitter ten years ago. And now he’s on it just to annoy me. As if a thousand years of annoying me isn’t enough.

“Could I-”

“This week has just been the absolute worst! You mortals have no idea what it takes to maintain this level of sophistication. Justine – that’s my hair stylist – Justine is retiring! She just started doing my hair thirty years ago and now I have to find someone new. Again. My housekeeper wants to work fewer hours, just because she had a baby! Doesn’t she see how that inconveniences me?”

“Could I – “

“Everything is fucking wrong with everything. I think Theo is behind it all. He wants me to suffer. He wants to take all that I have!”

“Ms. Belladonte. Marina. Could I just ask you a question?”

“Fine.”

“How many followers does Theo have on twitter?”

“MORE THAN ME!”

“That’s what I suspected. Now, I know you want help with this. You’re coming here because you want to work on your relationships.”

“With mortals. Not with Theo.”

“Exactly. So, I want you to start by blocking Theo on twitter. Just for a week and see if it makes you feel better.”

“I guess.”

“I’m afraid our time is up for today, Ms. Belledonte.”

“Alright, Dr. Paris.” [a long sigh] “Same time next week?”

“Absolutely”

[end recording]

Dr. Paris: Therapist to the Supernatural Part 1

“Testing, testing. 1 2 3. This is Dr. Andy Paris, recording this 13th day of January, 2016. It is 8:30 on Friday morning and my first session of the day will begin as soon and my patient arrives”
“Actually, I’m already here.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry Mr. Green, it was difficult to see you in the full sunlight.”
[sound of papers shuffling] “So last week we had just begun talking about… Jane.”
“It’s like I’m invisible to her. She barely acknowledged I was in the room last week. Is that fair?”
“Are you sure she can see you? I did have some trouble when you came in.”
“She threw a pillow through my head the other night.”
“A pillow?”
“Yes! She yelled at me and threw a pillow. Went right through my head and hit the wall behind me.”
“What was happening at the time?”
“Well…” [a long pause] “Mr. Green?”
“I was in her bedroom.”
“Yes?”
“And she may have been trying to be intimate with her new husband.”
[a long sigh from Mr. Green] [papers shuffle] “I wasn’t going to visit her anymore! I had stopped for so long. Then I saw her coming out of a church, she was in this beautiful dress. I mean, it wasn’t white, so at least she wasn’t pretending I never… she got remarried! After all our time together! Even after I watched over her for…”
[sounds of sobbing] “Here, Mr. Green. Have a tissue.” [louder sobbing] “I’m so sorry, I wasn’t thinking. Of course a tissue wouldn’t help someone in your…situation.”[a pause, the sobbing lessens] “So you watched her for… [papers shuffling] three years post-mortem. Was she aware of you during that time?”
“I..I think so. She talked to me on occasion. But..”
“But?”
“I wanted her to move on! I hated to see her so sad all the time.”
“And when she did move on?”
“I didn’t know she had! I went back two weeks ago and there she was getting married! I was so angry. I thought she’d still be wallowing in her sweatpants and watching Netflix. And the worst part is this new guy…this new guy…I don’t even know him! How could she meet a brand new person and marry him!”
[a long pause] “Let’s get back to this pillow throwing incident that seems to have set you off this week.”
“Well…well…okay. You see… I started visiting her again after she got married. Mostly she was alone. I’d just sit on her couch.”
“Just sit?”
“Fine! I’d sit on her couch and look through our wedding album.”
[another pause] “…and?”
“And I’d leave it out. Open to the page of us with the word ‘Always’.”
“You seem to be having trouble getting to this pillow incident, Mr. Green.”
“It was so dark last week. The fog and the snow and the early sunsets. I felt myself slipping away. So I went to her. I wanted to see her just one last time.”
“And when you got there?”
“There were candles! There were candles everywhere and she looked so beautiful lighting them. I almost thought they were for me. Then HE came in. Silk boxers and a rose in his teeth. Bastard.”
“Sounds like they were having a very romantic evening.”
“It was romantic all right. I just…I just… I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I manifested. Appeared right in the corner and started knocking over candles. And that’s when she screamed and threw a pillow at me.”
“What happened next? Did you leave?”
“The pillow [a sob] the pillow [a sob] caught fire.”
“Oh my…wait…” [a shuffle of papers]“…is your wife named Jane Jackson now?”
“YES!” [uncontrollable sobbing] “YOU KNOW IT IS!”
“Mr Green? Mr. Green?”
[a click as the tape recorder is turned off, then back on again] “This is Dr. Andy Paris. Mr. Green has disappeared. His wife, Jane Jackson and her new husband Calvin recently perished in a house fire. Now that I have this information, I may be able to assist Mr. Green more beneficially. It is 9:45am on January 13th.”
[end of recording]