In every direction, the horizon. No island, no lighthouse, no battered ship with its vengeful tempest; just a thousand miles of open ocean and one tiny skiff. The stars are bleak, cold points of light in a domed and Moonless sky. Mage stands motionless in the center of the skiff, waiting. An internal clock ticks slow seconds by as the stars overhead complete a minute revolution. When the night and the ocean and the far stars are all in place, she finally stirs.

“It’s time.”

Daren, hunched over the skiff’s oars, lifts his head and eyes the captain silently. Gazing out across the calm water, Mage speaks in a rare voice: deep, slow, weighty. Awed.

“Humanity’s most potent weakness is how powerfully it fears,” she says. “And that fear manifests in so many twisted, malformed specters. Know what to look for and the nightmares are all around you, discarded childhood insomnia and the paranoia of adults who remember the cold thrill of terror but can no longer place its source. All those monsters in their alleys and closets and forests, lurking beneath beds and stairs and bridges, are just waiting. An entire army of ghouls restless from disbelief and hungering for purpose.”

Mage takes hold of a long black cord around her neck and draws out from the folds of her coat a small silver whistle.

“Shall we give them a purpose, my dear?”

She raises the whistle to her lips and sends one long, shrill cry out across the glassy sea. For a moment all remains still and silent, but then the skiff begins to bob gently as the ocean beneath quakes and ripples. Thick black tentacles twist in the watery depths.

“The unemployed of all midnight Europe shivered in their stone sleep and came awake,” Mage recites. “Which is to say that all the old beasts, all the old tales, all the old nightmares, all the old unused demons-put-by, and witches left in the lurch, quaked at the call, reared at the whistle, trembled at the summons and in dustdevils of propulsion skimmed down roads, flitted skies, buckshot through shaken trees, forded streams, swam rivers, pierced clouds, and arrived, arrived, arrived.”

Something passes high overhead, veiling the stars in an expansive darkness, but it is not an errant cloud.

Mage laughs.

(Note: Mage was quoting from The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury. You should read it; it is all sorts of delicious Halloween wonderful.)

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  1. Pingback: #1202 | Only Fragments

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