FwitchescovenSarah had begged every year since she was five to go. Sternly warned by her mother not to tag along this year, Sarah ignored her pleas and fled out the door. “Who wants to hand out candy, anyway?” she mused. Quickly catching up to her older brother and his friends, she followed in silence. Joining the group despite the scowl on her brother’s face, Sarah anxiously bit her bottom lip to avoid asking “How far away is it?”

“Hmph!” Sarah muttered instead under her breath, bravely attempting to boost her failing confidence. At each step trepidation grew and Sarah’s doubt swelled as hastily as the night air chilled. Although, she was nine and tall enough to ride the rollercoaster at the fair. Certainly, that meant she was old enough to go to a haunted hayfield!

As they wandered out of the neighborhood she considered turning back as the wind gusts grew stronger. Yet, tucking her chin in her scarf to keep warm she kept going. After what seemed like an eternity she lifted her head and shuddered. Suddenly, it was pitch black. Streetlights seemed scarce. Glancing around frantically in a feeble attempt to find something she could recognize, her spirits sank. Nothing looked familiar. Not wanting the others to think she was a scaredy-cat she mumbled softly, “How much farther?” Her voice cracking like rotting wood.

“Almost there.” gruffly replied Stan, the oldest member of the group. Stan was also the self-appointed leader and a self-appointed jerk as far as Sarah was concerned. Plus, he sounded annoyed that she’d asked. Making her annoyed that he ‘sounded’ annoyed. “Sigh, staying home handing out candy wouldn’t a been bad.” she thought taking her mind off the enveloping darkness.

Rounding a curve someone shouted, “We’re here!” Sarah made her way around Bethany, her brother’s girlfriend, to get a better look. Instinctively taking the little girl’s hand Bethany felt her shaking. Sensing her anxiety, she bent down and cooed softly in Sarah’s ear, “Sweetie, it’ll be allright. I promise.”

Sarah’s eyes widened. The biggest Jack-o-lanterns she’d ever seen adorned both sides of a ragged stone entrance. Flickering flames behind their grimaces cast eerie shadows across a bed of bloodstained straw. Adding to the eerie ambience huge hairy spiders and leathery bats were tangled in cobwebs draped across haybales. Dressed in a hooded black robe concealing his face, stood a figure holding a long wooden pole with a shiny blade strapped to it. Sarah was sure blood dripped off its tip.

“Cool, the Grim Reaper. Hump! Doesn’t look scary to me.” Her brother brazenly huffed. Just then the ominous figure turned and burning red eyes glared in their direction. Sarah unconsciously took a step behind Bethany. Gripping her hand tighter Bethany said, “Come on little one, it’s just a costume.” Sarah wasn’t convinced. Those eyes looked too real. Yet she dutifully followed as the group walked toward the entrance. A slower pace than the excited jaunt there, Sarah noticed.

Hesitating for only a moment, Stan finally spoke, “Six and a runt.” Sarah scoffed at his remark and tugged on her brother’s coat for a rebuff. “Come on, man.” Was his only reply. So much for big brothers, Sarah thought as they crossed the threshold and entered the haunted hayfield…and stopped.

The walls of hay were stacked high. Darkness crept closer. The silence made everyone uncomfortable. “Come on!” Stan finally uttered, trying to remain calm. Suddenly, a ghost appeared. It glowed. Girls screamed. Boys hugged the opposite wall. Sarah was crammed behind everyone and didn’t realize what had happened. However, Bethany hugged Sarah’s arm closer to her as the group followed the ghost who motioned with a wave.

The crisp sound of dry hay crackling under their feet chipped at the silence like tiny chisels. Lanterns placed randomly along the wall created unnatural shadows throughout the path. Spiders scurried back into hiding as they approached. Still looking down, Sarah noticed the ghost leading the way didn’t have feet. Or legs! Alarmed, she tugged on Bethany’s arm. “N-n-no feet.” She stammered, pointing a shaky finger. “Shhhh…it’s just a costume.” Bethany whispered, never taking her eyes off the group. Sarah pulled back, but Bethany tightened her grip and compelled her forward. Suddenly, a crow squawked close by, while a wolf howled in the distance sending a shiver up Sarah’s spine. Her heart raced. “Why hadn’t she stayed home?” her mind pleaded.

The path twisted to the left, then curved right, unexpectedly narrowing, forcing everyone into single file. Unspoken collective consciousness put Sarah in the middle. As the corridor widened each step became more terrifying. Falling back Sarah had lost sight of Bethany. Fearing she might scream, she pushed her fists tight against her mouth. As the group continued, she could barely make out shadows in the dim light illuminating the ghostly Spectre. Her mind screamed, “WAIT!” but her mouth didn’t open.

Time froze, yet the shadows vanished. Sarah was abandoned…in the dark. Eight-legged creatures crawled across the ground. Something bigger scampered over her boot. She screamed, but no sound came out. Her heart was pounding. Her blood reverberating in her ears.  “They’ll come find me. They’ll come find me,” she repeated, eyes closed. But she had to get out. And she had to get out NOW!

Running blindly, she thrust her arms in front of her to maneuver through the winding path. Left, right, right again, then left. Finally, Sarah sensed the darkness around her lifting. An orange glow was pushing the blackness back. Afraid to continue, yet more afraid to stay, she took a tentative step…then another. Titling her head Sarah thought she heard a low hum. Inching closer the silence which had engulfed her began to fill with a rhythmic sound. Singing. She thought…confused. “Who would be in a hayfield singing?”

Almost as fleetingly as the thought floated through her mind Sarah burst out of the maze and found herself staring. Creatures hovered over a huge caldron. Ugly, unspeakable creatures were chanting, not singing. Something about boiling trouble…or did they say double? Sarah’s mind was reeling. Where was her brother? Where was Bethany? She couldn’t see anyone. Blinded by the brightness of the massive fire, she could only make out shapes reciting the same words. Blinking her eyes…she squinted. Blinked again and peered across the clearing.

Silence fell abruptly. They’d spotted her. Sarah slammed her eyes shut and shrank against a haystack wishing herself back home. The sound of rustling movement told Sarah they were coming closer. She closed her eyes tighter. Desperately tying to will herself to scream.

“Sarah. Sarah, open your eyes.” It was her mother’s voice. But, but, what was her mom doing here. Sarah took a deep breath…then slowly opened her eyes.

“HAPPY HALLOWEEN!” everyone shouted in unison. Sarah fainted.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween everyone! Love, hugs and smiles

Smile, it looks ghastly on you!

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