Finally, Hallowe’en has arrived and four friends are excited to leave the afterlife for that one evening! But then, the barrier between the worlds abruptly closes…
Genre: A children’s fantasy story for all ages.
An All Hallows’ Eve
The queue before them stretched out in both directions, all the way through the high-ceilinged tunnel. Behind them, a bright white light indicated their home. Ahead, the world beyond the queue seemed vague, blurry, translucent even.
This would be the first time Claudia, Amy and Flint would cross the barrier between the world beyond and the world proper with their friend James.
Even in the afterlife, once it’s September the thoughts turn to the holidays. Flint for one hadn’t shut up about it for the past two months.
‘Our first time! I can’t wait to hit a haunted house,’ he had said the first week of September.
‘I can’t wait for Hallowe’en! We’ll be able to throw a party at a graveyard. A proper graveyard party!’ he had said mid-September.
‘Oh my, imagine us, okay, imagine us… Tricking the trick or treaters!’ he had said at the end of September.
‘Flint,’ Amy had said at the beginning of October. ‘You do know you’re still a ghoul out there, right? A friendly one, but still, a ghoul. And I’m still a ghost. James will still be a vampire and while we still don’t know what exactly Claudia is, I’m sure she also won’t be able to dance like Frankenstein on the other side either.’
‘Monster,’ said James. ‘It’s Frankenstein’s Monster.’
‘Creature,’ said Claudia. ‘I’m no monster, neither is he. Creature. Plus I can always dance, whether I have an actual form or not.’
The four friends had rolled four pairs of eyes at each other.
But now Hallowe’en was here, they were impatiently waiting for the barrier to the world proper to open as it only did that one time a year. Slowly, the queue moved, letting everyone through one by one.
But then suddenly, the queue stopped moving.
‘What’s going on?’ a zombie ahead of them said, trying to look beyond the tall yeti in front of him blocking his view.
‘Someone slammed into the barrier,’ the yeti said as they heard footsteps hurry closer. Soon after a stretcher passed, then back again. The zombie laying on it had a grim looking bloody nose.
Acting quickly, Amy put her hand on James’s shoulder, pinching it hard and making sure her friend could not get away. It was just in time as the vampire’s eyes coloured completely dark and he was about to take his first leap after the patient.
‘Sorry,’ James said, hanging his head in shame. As he looked up, his eyes were back to their normal small-pupiled dark self.
Claudia shook her head as she watched after the injured fellow. ‘Still weird that some continue to bleed in the beyond.’
‘You don’t know the half of it,’ said Amy, eyeing James who pretended not to hear.
‘What’s happening Y-Man?’ asked Flint.
The yeti looked over the heads in front of him. ‘Nothing. Everyone is waiting.’
‘For what?’ asked Flint.
The four friends looked at one another.
‘Come on,’ whispered Flint.
Quietly, they made their way through the middle of the queue to the front.
One of the perks of dying was getting perfect night vision, so the four of them could see perfectly in the dark. Beyond the veiled barrier they saw a graveyard. An unassuming graveyard. A graveyard that could be anywhere with its graves, some crosses, some trees and some shrubs. Except for a couple of zombies and ghosts roaming around the graveyard after just stepping through the barrier, all was quiet.
‘Why is no one else going through?’ Amy asked the zombie guard. Deadly slow the pale woman turned around. A metal dagger with a rather beautifully crafted hilt was protruding from her neck.
The woman shrugged which made the hilt of the knife shiver like a bobble head. ‘Dunno.’
‘Anything we can do?’ asked Flint.
The woman shrugged again and the four looked at each other then back at the knife. They expected it to drill out of the zombie woman’s neck at any moment.
Frowning, the four of them hunched together, ignoring the complaints from the centaur behind them about jumping the queue.
‘What can we do?’ asked Flint.
‘Has this ever happened before, James?’ asked Amy.
‘Not in my many centuries here,’ said James.
‘What could it be?’ asked Claudia. The three of them turned to James.
‘I do not know.’
The four of them turned back to the barrier and all of them reached out with their left hands.
‘Wouldn’t do that,’ said the zombie guard.
Amy, Claudia and Flint retreated immediately, but James kept moving his hand forward.
Until Amy slapped it.
‘What did I say? No injuring yourself so you can drink your own blood! You know it’s not good for you!’
James huffed while the others registered the increasing huffs and puffs behind them. Everyone was getting impatient. They wanted to party, visit family or just roam the world proper for an evening.
From further back, Amy saw Yeti wave, so Amy waved back. But seeing Yeti’s nervous face she realised he wasn’t actually waving, but making her aware of something.
‘Oh, no,’ said Amy. ‘Father.’ She ducked between the rows of waiting mythological creatures and dead humans and made her way back to Yeti, followed closely by the others. Amy bumped into the yeti who didn’t even move an inch. She kept her head down, leaning into the snowman’s soft fur. Behind her, Amy’s friends kept their heads down too as they used the snowman for protection. Slowly, Amy moved around the yeti as her father moved past her, her head firmly pressed into the white fur. She hoped it would hide her from his sight. Unfortunately, the other dead around them had to move away from them to make room. It caught Amy’s old man’s attention. She could almost feel her father’s cold ghostly breath on her cold neck.
‘Amy. What are you doing?’
As she got up, Amy knew exactly how she’d find her father. In a smart black suit with a thin grey stripe, shiny black shoes, a thin moustache below a small but straight nose, one icy blue eye, another non-existent and his grey hair so tightly combed back not even a world proper hurricane would put a hair wrong. But above all: her father’s cold dead hands would be clenched in fists and sit on his hips while he pursed his white lips.
And so she found him.
‘Sorry dad, busy de-fleeing Yeti.’
‘Hey!’ yelled Yeti, stepping aside, freeing Amy’s head from his abdomen. ‘Who you calling a fleabag?’
‘No one,’ Amy said quickly. ‘I did not say you were a fleabag.’
‘That’s right. I might be a dead snowman, but I still groom daily, thank you very much.’
‘And it shows, Y-Man! It shows!’ tried Flint, but he only received a dirty look from the yeti.
‘What’s going on, dad?’
‘You tell me! What did you do?’
Amy felt a sting over her father assuming it was her fault. ‘I didn’t do anything! We just stood here, waiting and moving and then suddenly we still waited, but we didn’t move anymore. The barrier closed right before we got to cross!’
Her father’s right eyebrow rose higher than Amy had ever seen it go. ‘The barrier is closed? Did you say: “the barrier is closed”?’
‘That is what I said, yes. It is also true.’
‘Makes a change,’ her father muttered as he stomped away to the front of the queue. Amy set off after him straight away, her friends in tow.
‘Has this ever happened before?’ she asked as her father marched on.
Amy swallowed as they halted before the closed barrier. The graveyard on the other side of the veil was now all quiet. The dead that had become undead for the night had moved on, ready to visit old relatives, haunt their murderers or random humans at a haunted house.
Amy frowned. She wanted to haunt people at a haunted house too.
‘Guard, what’s going on?’
‘I hear the barrier’s closed?’
‘Looks like, sir.’
‘How did that happen?’
Amy Sr. sighed, his fists once more resting on his hips. Everyone waited as the Afterlife’s Chief Manager thought deeply.
‘Amy, put your hand through.’
‘I’m sorry, what?’ Amy could recall the fellow on the stretcher with the tip of his nose missing in her mind all too vividly.
‘Put it through. I want to test a theory.’
‘Can’t Flint test it? Or Claudia?’
Amy stepped forward and gazed towards the world beyond the veiled barrier. She swallowed, then raised her arm, but didn’t move it further.
‘All Hallows’ Eve doesn’t last a lifetime, you know,’ James said, looking bored.
Amy threw him a dirty look over her shoulder. Then she felt a pull at the tip of her fingers. ‘Uhoh.’
Without realising, she had moved her arm forward as she had looked over her shoulder. Her entire arm was now being pulled forward, followed by the rest of her body.
Amy closed her eyes and when the pulling had stopped and she reopened them, she realised she was standing in the graveyard. A gravestone stood next to her while her shoes were planted firmly in tall grass without actually trampling it. When she turned around, she stared at her father’s figure staring back at her from beyond a veil.
His words sounded as if he were under water. ‘Thought so,’ he said.
‘WHAT DO YOU MEAN?’ yelled Amy.
‘Will you keep it down,’ her father hissed. ‘Don’t alert the locals!’
‘They’ll think I’m in costume,’ said Amy, bowing her head towards her blood-stained summer dress.
‘You can come back now,’ said her father, stepping aside to make room in the tunnel for Amy.
‘What? No! You guys, come on!’
Flint took a step forward, but Amy’s father pulled him back.
‘You idiot boy,’ Amy’s father threw at him. ‘That barrier is broken! You could have made yourself disappear from our realm into nothing!’
‘I’m here, aren’t I?’ said Amy, frowning from the other side.
‘Yes, you are. But you are my daughter. They are not.’
Feeling deeply annoyed that she had to go back instead of head towards the closest party and muttering about the injustice of it all, Amy stepped back through. Instead of a pull, she now felt a push and bumped into Claudia as she arrived back in the beyond.
‘Now what?’ she said, turning to her father. Behind them the neat queue had turned into a chaotic crowd. No longer were the dead of the afterlife keeping to a line at the right side of the tunnel. They were now all standing in a half circle around them.
‘What’s going on?’
More mutterings came from the back of the crowd with an increasing loudness.
‘We storm!’ said a giant.
‘We run!’ said a mermaid, leaning over the edge of a water tank.
‘We push!’ said the zombie behind the snowman.
‘We push a newbie!’ said another vampire, instantly jumping towards Flint.
That last comment made Flint head for Yeti, who opened his large hands and made a stop sign to him. ‘No, no, oomph!’
‘I wanna party! Let me party!’ said the vampire.
‘I want to see my son!’ said the centaur.
‘I wanna haunt my ex!’ said the zombie.
‘Let us through!’ said the mermaid.
Amy’s father coughed before speaking. ‘Fellow dead, I understand your desire to pass through the veil from the beyond into the world proper, but I’m afraid a difficulty has arisen.’
‘What kind of difficulty?’ multiple voices echoed through the tunnel.
‘I am afraid someone in this tunnel has broken one of the realm’s most sacred of rules and until we find that dead being no one goes in or out.’
‘Except her,’ a ghost pointed his transparent finger at Amy.
‘Nepotism! Even in the beyond!’ shouted another from behind.
‘Yes, I’m sorry,’ said Amy’s father raising his hands apologetically. ‘It’s a blood thing.’
‘Still can’t believe blood is a thing in the afterlife,’ Claudia whispered to James.
The vampire turned back to her. ‘Thank god it is or I’d have disappeared from this realm into the unknown long ago.’
‘So, what do we do, dad of Amy?’ asked Flint.
‘Wait until whomever broke the rule comes forward. Then the barrier ban is lifted.’ He put his hands behind his back and looked around the crowd, waiting.
Amy looked from behind him. ‘Come on, fess up!’
‘Fine! I can’t do this anymore anyway,’ a voice suddenly called out from amid the crowd.
‘That was quick.’
Amy’s jaw dropped when she saw who it was.
‘It was me! I’m the reason. I broke the rule!’
Several loud thuds echoed across the tunnel as Yeti came bounding forward.
Amy stepped sideways, but she wasn’t on time and together with the snowman she tumbled towards the veil. She felt the instant pull and before she knew it, she fell down onto the damp grass of the graveyard. Her bum would have been wet if her form had had any substance in this world.
‘Y, what are you doing?’ she yelled after the snowman who had set off as quickly as they had crashed through the barrier after his admission. Amy’s friends were standing next to her already, heaving her up on her two undead legs.
‘Come on,’ said James and together they set off after the tall white figure heading for the main street outside the gate.
Dodging gravestones and trees, they sprinted after Yeti as a murmur appeared behind them. Now the guilty party had admitted to his crime, all the other undead were stumbling through the veil to head for their Hallowe’en memorials or celebrations.
‘Y-Man, waaait!’ yelled Flint as he was first out of the gate and onto the street. When his three friends had caught up with him, they saw their tall furry friend sit on a bench, his large hands in his lap, his head bowed down. As they came closer, they heard the big man sob.
‘What’s wrong, Y-Man?’ asked Flint, patting him on the shoulder. Claudia sat down on his other side and patted him on the arm.
‘You can trust us.’
‘I… I…’ started the yeti, but before he could continue the sobs became heavier and louder.
On the street, dressed-up people looked at the crying person on the bench, dressed in a big white furry costume, with a creature they couldn’t name, a vampire, a ghost and a ghoul next to him. Like the end of a bad joke, a man who walked by in a Zeus costume thought to himself.
‘It’s going to be okay,’ said Amy.
‘Just cry it out, big fella,’ said James, pulling a black and white handkerchief from his trouser pocket.
‘Then you can tell us what happened,’ said Flint.
Unfortunately, that last comment only made Yeti cry harder and his fur became wet and sticky.
‘There, there,’ said James.
‘It’ll be okay,’ said Claudia. ‘Together we can fix this.’
The yeti shook his head. ‘Too… bad. I’ll never be allowed back in. I’ll roam the world proper alone foreveeer!’
‘What is too bad?’ asked James in a soft voice.
‘What… I… did.’
‘What did you do, big man?’
‘I… I… I wrote a note to my mum and had Sammy the Ghost take it to her on one of her road trips around Indiaaa,’ Yeti said before sobs got the better of him again. After taking breathing tips from James, he finally regained some of his composure. ‘I just wanted her to know I was all right, but now I can never go back!’ he grumbled at the sky. ‘Never! I’ll have to stay here forever!’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘It is forbidden to contact anyone in the world proper, we all know that.’
‘It’s a note, Y-Man, nothing more. You didn’t show yourself to her or haunt her or terrify her.’
‘Well you saw what happened! Because of me many of us have less time with their loved ones tonight or less time to have a party in the world proper. Everyone will hate me.’
‘We don’t hate you,’ said Claudia.
‘In fact, we will help you,’ said James.
‘You… will?’ the yeti said, his shoulders shaking up and down.
‘Of course!’ said James.
‘We can make it our Hallow’s Eve Quest!’ said Amy.
‘But you wanted to go to a haunted houuuse!’ Yeti lamented before he started to sob again.
‘You’re more important to us than a haunted house, Yeti,’ Amy said.
Claudia rubbed Yeti’s wet arm. ‘Come on, big man. Let’s find that note of yours, destroy it and get you to come back with us.’
‘Sammy!’ said James, spotting the ghost exit the graveyard. ‘We need to ask you something!’
‘What?’ asked Sammy, bobbing in the air towards them like a white sheet hovering in the wind.
‘Where did you deliver the note from Yeti?’
‘Somewhere up north!’ she answered, as a man dressed as a centaur strolled on by.
‘How do you do that?’ he asked.
‘Optical illusion!’ answered Sammy.
‘Sweet!’ the man said before walking on, fake bushy tail billowing behind him.
‘Up north? Can you be more specific? If we don’t do this, he can’t come back with us and he’ll have to roam the world proper as a spectre for the rest of his eternity.’
‘Uuuurgh!’ said the ghost, motioning them to come closer to her.
As trick or treaters roamed the street, screaming and laughing around them, Sammy hovered over them as she recited the coordinates from her latest trek.
‘Thanks so much, Sammy, we won’t forget this,’ said Flint.
‘Don’t worry. Even if you do, I won’t.’
‘Enjoy your night, Sammy.’
‘Make sure the big man can come back. His mum seemed real nice. I bet she still has the note.’
‘I’ll give you a hug once we’re back beyond, Sammy!’ Yeti said, knowing his hugs were much appreciated, even by ghosts.
Their night vision was ideal in the dark of the evening around the Himalayas. After searching for hours in the forest they’d transported themselves to on Sammy‘s direction, they finally found her.
Ahead of them, amid tall pine trees and oaks, a fire sizzled. The fur of a tall white figure shone brightly in its light while everything else was shaded by the dark.
A gasp escaped Yeti’s mouth. ‘Mum!’
The yeti ahead of them looked up, red eyes piercing directly at them.
All of them swallowed. With a hand on his back, James reminded Yeti not to make a move.
‘We are here to retrieve the note, remember that big man,’ the vampire whispered. ‘She cannot see you, but you do have to stay quiet.’
The yeti ahead could indeed not seen them and continued to stare into the flames.
‘Where will she keep it?’ Flint asked Yeti.
‘There,’ Yeti said with a shaking white paw as he pointed to his mum who was now looking at something in her lap.
‘So now what?’ asked Flint. ‘We came all this way, but can’t do anything! We can’t make proper contact with someone in the world proper! And even if we could…’ Flint moved his hand and it went right through the thick oak tree and appeared on the other side of the tree trunk. ‘There’s this problem.’
‘Quiet,’ said James. ‘Just be quiet for a moment. I’m thinking.’
They all went quiet for a while. The only sound in the air was that of the crackling fire. There was no breeze, there were no birds, no predators out for a night hunt. All was eerily quiet in this Himalayan pine forest. The five of them seemed to take a deep breath at the same time. Not that they could inhale any of the fresh cool air around them, but all imagined that they had.
‘I got it,’ said James, and he whispered the plan quietly to the other four.
The yeti stared into the fire, cradling a piece of paper in her paw. She knew exactly what day it was and that around the world people would dress up as her and her late family. Now she was the last, she had no desire to mingle with the humans anymore. So, she sat by her fire, alone, in the dark, in the forest she called home for so long now.
A rustling in the shrubbery nearby made her look up. But the fire shaded the animal from her sight and she knew no man came here, so she turned to the piece of paper in her lap and fondled it.
A gust of wind passed over the fire and blew smoke in the yeti’s face. She reached for her eyes with her furry fingers and rubbed out the embers, eyes prickling fiercely and tears already streaming down the fur on her face. After a minute of blinking and rubbing, she was able to open them again. Putting her hands back down she instantly realised the note was missing from her lap. She jumped up and frantically started searching around on the ground, inside her fur and behind her. Then she looked at the fire and saw the last of the note disappear in the embers.
She stared into the fire, then sat back down, her eyes now stinging even more as she thought about the piece of paper.
The large hooked letters on it could only have been from her boy. She had wondered how it had gotten to her that morning a week ago, when she had returned from her berry gathering and had found it stuck on a nail in a broken plank she used as part of a roof above her den. The letters consisted of ashes from her fire smeared across a napkin littered all the way into her forest.
But now it was gone. But it was okay. Because she knew: her boy was all right. She smiled as the fire crackled on, warming her fur.
The four of them could only just reach each other’s shoulders as they gathered around Yeti for a group hug.
‘I’m all right. I’m all right,’ said Yeti, sniffling and wiping away some snot. ‘Thank you. Thank you all. So much.’
‘You’re welcome, Y-Man,’ said Flint.
‘It was our pleasure,’ said James while Claudia and Amy patted his fur.
‘Are you sure I’ll be able to come back beyond now?’ he asked, his voice trembling.
‘Definitely,’ said Amy as they set off.
Yeti threw a look back every few steps as the campfire became smaller and smaller until it was out of view altogether. Yeti sniffled some more. ‘Won’t I be punished though?’
‘Nah, dad’s pretty lenient. Once you explain.’
‘He is?’ said Yeti.
‘Yeah. Just follow my lead and you’ll be fine.’
‘Okay,’ said Yeti, walking in the middle and putting his arms around two of them on each side. ‘Thank you. I owe you all my undead life.’
As they transported themselves out of the forest to find the graveyard they had entered through, they counted whom of them had earned the most costumes.
But it was barely a contest.
Vampires were all over, in all shapes, sizes and forms. James walked around with a satisfied and smug grin on his face as they strolled along the busy main street along which the entrance into the graveyard was located.
‘These people have taste,’ he said as they re-entered through the gates. A little wobble in the air beneath a holly tree in the back indicated the portal that would transport them back beyond the veil. By now they were the only ones there.
‘I’ll go first,’ said Amy. ‘Make sure it’s safe to come back.’
Yeti swallowed and nodded. The four of them waited for Amy to return. She did within a couple of minutes.
‘All sorted. Dad’s annoyed, but forgiving. Come on, big man,’ she said pushing the snowman through first.
As the four of them remained behind, they looked at one another. The graveyard was quiet, but beyond the gates they could hear the shouts and laughs of children and adults. Looking at the church clock above their heads, they noticed it was one minute to midnight.
‘Better hurry,’ said James.
‘Yeah,’ said Amy.
‘D’you know what?’ said Claudia.
‘What?’ said Amy.
‘I haven’t missed the haunted house.’
‘Now you mention it. I haven’t missed tricking the trick or treaters,’ grinned Flint.
‘I admit, this evening has turned out to be quite meaningful for an old undead chap like myself,’ said James.
Together, they stepped through the veil, back to the world beyond, back to their new home and their new furry friend.