Halloween is tomorrow, but this particular tale takes place in the early hours of the 31st of October so it’s best enjoyed the day before. In the UK, that’s when summer time ends and the clocks go back to give us our early darkness in the evenings. I wonder if any trick-or-treaters will venture up the driveway this year? They haven’t managed it yet. Which reminds me, I have to put those pairs of mini red glowsticks in the trees tomorrow. Have to get them in the spirit in case they do decide to visit.
So anyway, here’s the story. It’s in ‘The Darkness at the End of October’, available on Amazon and Smashwords.
The Door Ajar
“We’ve been here three days. It hasn’t bloody worked. Let’s go home.” Jim started packing his things into his rucksack.
“Well, give it a few minutes. We’ve spent all this time setting it up.” Billy kept his gaze on the fire in the centre of their pentagram. “Maybe it just takes a while to get through the dimensions.”
“It’s ten past midnight. The demon was supposed to show up at midnight. Nothing has happened. It’s all bollocks. We’re never going to get rich by wishing for it, Billy. We’re going to have to work for it like normal people.” Jim pulled out the tent pegs and collapsed his tent.
Billy studied the book in his hands. Had he misread something? Pronounced a word wrong? Was there something missing in their carefully constructed pentagram? A wrong stone, a misplaced candle, anything? No, it was all as it should be and yet the demon had not appeared to claim this book and give them riches in return. What did the demon want with the book? Who cares? Billy and Jim just wanted the money.
He sighed. Jim was right, they were never going to get rich the easy way. Although camping out in the woods for three days while finding specific rocks to form the pentacle was hardly ‘the easy way’. Billy read once again the first instruction in the book – The demon must be summoned in the first minutes of Samhain, after the last stroke of midnight.
Then it would be trapped in the pentacle and they could bargain with it. It wants the book, and it will give them absolutely anything for it. Here they were, in the first few minutes of Halloween, and all their effort had achieved nothing. Billy sighed again. It had all been a waste of time. He closed the book and joined Jim in packing up their camp.
“Well, it was worth a try.” Billy tried to hide the disappointment in his voice as he dismantled his tent. “At least we had a fun camping trip.”
“Fun?” Jim spat the word. “Camping at the end of October cannot reasonably be described as ‘fun’. It’s bloody cold out here, and we’ll be too knackered to enjoy the Halloween parties tomorrow night. We’ll be lucky to get home by two o’clock in the morning.”
“We’ll have a lie-in. We’ll be fine for the parties.” Billy placed the book carefully in his rucksack. He’d have to sneak it back into Marchway Library on Monday, before anyone noticed he’d stolen it.
“Hurry up.” Jim rolled his tent away and started strapping it to his rucksack. “I’m not waiting for you if you take too long. I want to sleep in a real bed tonight.”
“Okay, okay, I’m packing.” Billy folded his tent. “Come on, Jim, you were all for it until now. We both thought it would work. We both fell for it.”
Jim stared into the darkness of the woods. “Yeah. You’re right. It’s not your fault. We both believed in it.” He lowered his head and traced his shoe in the dirt. “We’re both losers, and we’d better get used to the idea.”
“Oh it’s not that bad.” Billy finished packing his gear. “We got caught up in a bit of fakery, that’s all. I mean, how many people got caught up in scams before? And still do. It doesn’t make us losers.”
“Huh.” Jim strode to the pentacle. He kicked one of the outer circle stones into the central fire. “You’re probably right, but it feels like failure right now. We did everything we were told by that book and it was all rubbish.” He closed his eyes. “We’re supposed to be anti-establishment and we just spent days following rules from an ancient establishment. We probably don’t want to tell anyone about this.”
Billy laughed. “Since we did it with a stolen book, we definitely don’t want to tell anyone. I’ll sneak it back into the library first chance I get.” He finished packing, hoisted his rucksack onto his back and with one last glance back at the pentacle and the dying embers of the fire within, he followed Jim along the trail to home.
As they approached the lights of town, Jim broke the silence. “Well there’s one thing we can be happy about. When someone finds that pentacle, they’ll wonder what the Hell was going on.”
Both laughed. Billy checked his watch. “Ten to one. We’ll be home and asleep by half past, I reckon.”
As they reached the main square in their small town, Jim glanced up at the town hall clock. He squinted. “What time did you say it was?”
“Ten to one.” Billy checked his watch again. “Well, it’s almost one now.”
“That’s odd.” Jim pointed upwards. “The town hall clock says midnight. Are you sure your watch is right?”
“Must be. It’s one of those radio watches. Picks up a time signal and sets itself so it’s always right.” Billy frowned at the town hall clock. “Maybe it stopped?”
The front door of the town hall opened and old Charlie Simmonds, the caretaker, stepped out. He closed and locked the door behind him.
Jim and Billy gave each other a quizzical look. This was pretty late for a caretaker to be at work.
“Hey, Mister Simmonds, I think your clock has stopped.” Billy waved from across the street.
Charlie glanced up, smiled and shook his head. He walked over to join them. “No, lads, it’s fine. I’ve just been setting it back for the end of Summer Time. The clocks go back tonight, you know?”
Billy showed his watch to Charlie. “I’ve got one of those radio ones that updates itself, and it says it’s one in the morning.”
“Yeah, but officially the time doesn’t change until two a.m., and I’m buggered if I’m waiting up until then. Everything is closed, everyone’s asleep – apart from you two lads and me – and the clock will be right in the morning. So I don’t have to get up early to change it.”
“So what’s the real time?” Jim wrinkled his nose. “I mean, is Billy’s watch or the clock showing real time now?”
Charlie pursed his lips. “A lot of people get confused about that. It’s actually simple. Summer time, daylight savings, is one hour ahead of the real time. The real time is in the winter, it changes on the last Sunday in October, when we’re on the ‘one hour back’ time. The time on the clock up there is the real time. Billy’s watch will change over after two a.m., and it’ll then say one a.m. So we all get an extra hour of sleep tonight.” He slapped Jim’s shoulder. “Well, assuming you two plan to sleep tonight. I certainly do, so I’ll say goodnight.” He walked off, whistling, into the growing fog.
A cold chill ran through Billy. “We were an hour early. We missed it.”
“Would it still work? I mean, you read the spell, we set everything up. Do you think the demon is there now? And where did this fog come from? It’s getting really thick.”
“If it’s there, it’s trapped in the circle.” Billy looked back the way they had come. “Maybe we should go back. If it’s stuck there it’s going to be pissed.”
The colour drained from Jim’s face. The image of the rock he kicked into the circle’s central fire replayed in his head. “It’s not trapped. I broke the circle.”
Billy continued to stare back at the way they had come. Jim followed his gaze. In the distance, a red blaze glowed. Getting stronger and bigger. Or maybe not bigger. Maybe closer.
The fog intensified. Something was coming, and now it had no need to bargain for what it wanted.