31st October - Halloween Story -
By Alexandra Riera
© 2005 Alexandra Riera
It was stuffy in the room. The creature, if you could call it a creature, was sitting by the window mesmerized by the snow flakes that were hitting the pane softly in their descent. The hood was drawn forward and only his nose was visible. That is, if you really wanted to look at it. He had been sitting there for the past three hours.
Outside, not far away, another shape was making its way up the hill through the snow. It was a difficult task since it was dark and not even the moon provided a bit of light. No words came out, just a very deep breathing sound and every now and then an “OUCH!” The place for the meeting was getting close, he could already see dim lights in the distance.
Meanwhile, “The Creature” removed his hand from his lap and cleaned the window. Just for one second he had thought he had seen something approaching. In his distraction, he never heard Thomas come into the room. He jumped up as Thomas patted his shoulder.
“You gave me a fright old man! What’s up? I told you not to disturb me.” Said The Creature.
“There’s a man approaching the castle, should I let him in?”
“Of course. You silly man! We can’t possibly leave anyone outside at this time of year!
Thomas left the room.
The creature resumed staring at the window. He could finally see the shape approaching. It was much smaller than what he had thought it would be. He hoped it wasn’t a child.
Exhausted and almost frozen to the bone, the shape stopped in front of the huge wooden doors. With trembling hands he took a rock that was on the door step and as he was about to knock on the door, he saw the door open wide in front of him. To his surprise, no one was there to greet him.
Slowly; and very unsure of himself he entered the castle. Although the entrance was lit with candles, it was very dark inside. He could barely make out the shapes of sculptures, busts and paintings on the walls.
“Follow me, please, if you please of course.” Said Thomas from behind him. “You can always stay outside if you wish but I suggest you follow me. It would be better, yes much better.”
The little shape didn’t have time to answer as Thomas had already started walking towards a little door. He had no other choice but to follow him.
Thomas led the way through the door and proceeded to a long narrow stone passageway that was lit by torches. They went up stairs, downs stairs and even crossed an underground river where they took a little boat and followed the flow of the water until they reached a bay. Thomas didn’t invite conversation, so the little shape kept quiet all the way.
The scenery had changed dramatically. Instead of grey and dark grey he could see greens, of all different shades all mixed up in the rocks. They continued walking and eventually came up to a spiral staircase where Thomas took out a key out of his pocket and opened the low gate to the staircase. The staircase grew narrower and narrower as they went up until they had to crawl on all fours in order to get to the exit.
He could feel the heat burning him as he entered the room. There were four fireplaces with huge trunks of trees burning on all of them and in the centre of the room was a bath tub surrounded by candles.
“Have a bath. Warm yourself up and I’ll be back shortly so don’t take too long.”
Again, the little shape didn’t have time to answer. Thomas had left the room through a little door.
A few minutes later, Thomas was back with “The Creature”.
“I think it’s a child, master.” He said apologetically.
“Didn’t you ask him?” Asked “The Creature”.
“No. Sorry. He wasn’t very talkative, you know…”
The Creature turned his back on Thomas and continued to stare at the window. He hadn’t wanted a child to come. It was too dangerous for him and for the child; but deep down inside he knew it would be best.
“Prepare the cauldron” He ordered Thomas.
As usual, Thomas left the room quietly and went to a passage that led to the dungeons.
The cauldron was in one of the cells. Rats crawled around it chasing little mice away from the cauldron. The cauldron itself was very big, dusty and even a little bit rusty. Thomas had to pull the cauldron until he could get it onto a little platform with wheels. Then, he dragged it all the way to the experiment room where he cleaned it and filled it up with different coloured liquids. Smoke started to fill the room shortly after that and Thomas had to leave the room because he couldn’t breathe properly.
Thomas entered the room where the little shape was and saw him dressed up in the same clothes. He hadn’t changed.
“You’re wearing you old clothes…”
“Yes,” replied the little shape, “I like them and besides, the other ones don’t fit. They are too big.”
“Never mind, never mind,” said Thomas absently, “if you would just follow me.”
The little shape followed Thomas all the way to the experiment room. The passages were filled with smoke, his eyes stung and he could hardly see anything. He just managed to follow the other man by following the sound of his heavy wheezing. He knew he had entered a room because he had heard the slamming of a door behind him.
The room was full of smoke and he couldn’t see a thing. He could no longer see Thomas who, very gently guided him towards the cauldron. He just felt his hand on his shoulder gently pushing him forwards. Suddenly he heard the ruffling of clothes and unconsciously he turned around to see what it was, only to see nothing.
“You have come here to be an experiment.” Said a voice. “Remove your hood please. Let me see your face.”
The little shape removed his hood from his face and then saw a little light approaching towards him. It was a tiny light that gradually got a little bigger until he could make out the shape of a flame. A flame on a candle that was held by a warty hand. The little person shrank away at first and then decided to be brave and face up whatever was coming. In no time at all he saw it all at once.
The little shape jumped up in bewilderment. This was an ugly man in front of him. He had never seen one like this in his whole life. His nose was huge and disfigured with warts. His face was contorted as in agony and his hair…. His hair was all sticky, clinging on to his face as if it hadn’t been washed in years; and the smell, the smell was so disgusting he had trouble keeping his food in.
“AHHH!” Shouted The Creature as he dropped the candle.
“It’s a boy! Oh No!” cried The Creature as he tried to recover the candle, not realising that the bottom of his clothes were already on fire.
The boy tried to smother the flames on the Creature’s clothing with his bare hands, then he pushed him onto the floor and started beating the flames with his hood to no avail. The flames were getting bigger.
“Where are you?” He shouted at Thomas. “Yes, you. My guide… Where are you?” He shouted again. “Help me carry him to the room you took me to earlier on. Quick!”
Thomas, who had been sitting on the floor clutching his chest got up reluctantly and between them they dragged The Creature all the way back to where the bath was located. The whole place was filled with smoke now but the bath was still there, still full of water. They threw The Creature in the bath making a big splash.
“Arghhh!” Screamed The Creature. “I can’t swim, help me out!”
They did take him out of the bath but only after the flames were put out and afterwards they laid him on the floor. To the boy’s surprise, The Creature had changed. He was no longer ugly. The warts on his nose had disappeared and so did the ones on his hands. His face was peaceful and he didn’t smell bad anymore.
“Thanks boy.” Said the Creature, “you’ve saved my life and broke the spell. Thanks!” he repeated as he embraced the boy.
“It’s all right now… Don’t worry, you’re safe”
“No, we’re not safe,” replied The Creature, “the castle is on fire. It’s part of the spell.”
“Can’t tell you.” Replied The Creature.
“Never mind the spell,” said the boy as he got up, “if the castle is on fire we have to get out of here and call the fire brigade.”
The boy wasted no time at all in grabbing The Creature’s hand and making it for the exit only to realise he didn’t know his way out.
“Come on! Guide, take us outside! Quickly!” the boy shouted.
“My name is Thomas if you don’t mind, little boy”
“No, I don’t mind; and mine is Jules. So, there! Now, let’s not waist anymore time and lets get out of here. Fast!”
Thomas led the way with his heavy wheezing through the smoked filled corridors and passageways until they reached a terrace.
“There’s no exit here!” Cried Jules.
“The only way out,” said The Creature, “is through the well, but only one of us can reach the exit in time. You go Jules, you’re the youngest.”
“No way!” Said Jules. “There’s no way I’m going to leave you here, weird as you may be. We’ll all go down the well.”
Jules told The Creature to get in the bucket together with Thomas and once they were inside, he grabbed hold of the rope and they all descended. The ride down was very bumpy, the bucket was hitting the wall and cobwebs got stuck in their hair.
When they eventually reached the bottom, they found themselves in the same bay Jules had been when he had been taken by Thomas earlier on. Since Jules now knew where he was, he guided the others to the entrance of the castle where to his surprise he saw the flames had gone and so had the smoke.
“Well done Jules.” Said the creature, “You broke the spell and now I’m finally free. Thank you!”
“Oh. Sorry. Now I can tell you.” The Creature said as he sat down on an armchair.
“Long time ago,” he began, “in a far far away land, there was an arrogant man who thought he was the centre of the world and always expected other people to do everything for him just because he thought he was the most beautiful person in the whole world. One day, he upset the local witch to such an extent that she condemned him, I mean, me, to live for ever and ever until somebody was brave enough to look at my face without fear and even risk his life for my benefit.”
Jules didn’t know what to say and just sat motionless.
“I didn’t expect a child to accept my invitation.” Said The Creature.
“No, I didn’t get an invitation.” Replied Jules. “My friend told me that I would learn the ultimate trick for Halloween if I was brave enough to come here all by myself at night; and that’s how I came to be here.”
© 2005 Alexandra Riera