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“A Tale For All Hallow's Eve”

David Bowlin

A glowing moon shown down from a sky that was darker than the dirt covering the freshly dug grave. The woman felt weary to the bone. Her daughter was dead, without any explanation. "Natural causes" just didn't cut it; how could a perfectly healthy child die of natural causes? She wondered if her daughter had been a human sacrifice by the Cult of 13 Satanist Believers that had been haunting their small village. There was no way to know.

Or was there? Some dark part Cheryl's mind whispered that there was a way to find out, if only she could accept the consequences.

With the grace of motherhood, she placed a single possession on the grave: a small rag doll, her daughter's favorite. She wasn't a superstitious woman, but perhaps her daughter could enjoy this last gift of love, somehow, somewhere. "I love you, my sweetness," she whispered to the dirt that covered her daughter.

She stood and started back to her small, lonely cottage at the end of the woods.

* * *

Along the way, Cheryl made up her mind to find out the truth, and damn the cost to her immortal soul! Her child, her precious little girl was dead, and she would not rest until the killer (for she was sure there was one) had paid for it.

She made her way by moonlight to a dark and damp cave in the deepest part of the woods. Growing around the edge, she found some small purple plants with yellow buds. She picked four of these, already uneasy about what was coming next.

The water was boiling over the fire, and the purple and yellow plants gave off a tangy scent that burned Cheryl's eyes. She dipped an old, dented metal cup in the water and set it on the floor to cool. With dirt from her daughter's fresh grave, she made a pentagram in the middle of the small cottage, the only light the blazing fire at her back. Outside, rain had begun to fall, and a howling, tormented wind beat against her door as if it were trying to get in to eat her very soul. Perhaps it was.

The pentagram was complete, the potion was cool enough to drink. Cheryl stepped into the protective magical symbol with the drink and chanted the words of an ancient ritual learned from her grandmother long, long ago. Her grandmother had been a powerful witch, but Cheryl's mother had forbidden the arcane knowledge from being passed on to her daughter. This bit of magic was learned in secret, among others. For the first time in her life, and the last, she was sure, Cheryl was using the dark magic.

The old medireview prayer poured from her lips in holy reverence, and she drank the steaming brew in one gulp. The cottage looked surreal, fading away into blackness around her. The wind quieted, and was gone. Nothing remained but the pentagram, now glowing a deep, bloody red.

A whispered voice from behind her cut through the darkness like a knife through the belly of a pig. "Who has dared disturb me, and for what unholy purpose have I been awakened from the depths of Hell?"

A voice so low she could hardly hear it herself, Cheryl answered as the demon walked in front of her, being careful not to touch the glowing pentagram. "I have called thee, Brutal Master!"

"Why have I been called, Human?" The eyes of the demon blazed with Hell fire. Smoke curled from its tusked nostrils and puffed from its hideous mouth.

Cheryl shook from fear, but her voice was rock steady. "Knowledge, Master! I wish to know who or what killed the innocent child from who's grave this pentagram is made. See! It glows with her blood that must be avenged!"

The purple-tongued demon licked its blistered lips. "And what shall be payment for this knowledge?"

Last chance to back out, Cheryl thought. Last chance...

Before she could change her mind, Cheryl blurted out the words that would condemn her for eternity. "My soul, Master. My body and my soul! When my vengeance is complete, they will be yours forever."

"It is agreed, Human. Break the pentagram, and I will give you the answer that you seek."

Slowly, very slowly Cheryl scratched away a portion of the pentagram with her foot. The demon could now enter the sacred ground on which she stood to claim its payment.

Hunger burned in the demon's eyes as it started forward. Cheryl screamed as the demon's answer sank into her mind. "The child died of fright, Human. She dreamed she saw a demon coming for her mother..."

* * *

A hand reached out and grabbed Jack around the neck. He screamed and dropped his grape tootsie pop to the dusty, stony ground.

Samantha, Jessica, Monica, and Ricky laughed out loud, albeit a little nervously, at Adam's scaring of his friend.

"Scare you, kid?" Adam asked Jack. "Bet you almost wet yourself."

"Jerk," Jack replied. "Hey, Ricky, was that a true story, or is it another of your mythical folk tales?"

All eyes turned to the small, rickety cottage a few yards away. Dust and cobwebs hung over it like a corpse's blanket.

"My old man says it's true, so I guess it is," Ricky said. "Only one way to find out, though." All eyes turned back to Ricky. Jack could have sworn Ricky's eyes briefly glowed a fiery red, but it could have been the reflection of their own little fire. "Let's see if we can find that little girl's grave...”