Happy Holloween, Heathens
Click here to take the Heathen Season Quiz to find out which Heathen is your perfect match.
The NF Gang voted, and here's a passage from the unnamed ghost from chapter one in Hollow Heathens.
PASSAGE FROM CHAPTER ONE
The dull sign was hardly visible from the narrow, empty road. The dim headlights from my silver Mini Cooper turned into my only flashlights as I slowly drove past the faded sign. Rain had rusted the sharp metal edges that read the town name, and under it, POPULATION 665.
As I passed, the last number transformed, blurring into 666.
I rubbed my eyes. I was tired, seeing things. Right?
I continued onward, creeping along the eerie dark road tunneled by looming trees. Famished vultures littered the path like roadwork, fighting over a dead carcass and painting the street in blood and black wings. Ruthless with hunger, the birds hardly moved out of the way nor seemed threatened by the Mini Coop crossing their path. I crawled forward, and for the next three miles, the trees dwindled on both sides, dissolving into tombstones on my left and a rundown children's park on my right.
The translucent moon hung high above, illuminating a rusted iron sign arching over the only way in … and the only way out.
My Mini Cooper sputtered from the exhausting journey across numerous state lines, and I paused at a stop sign before the roundabout to canvas the small town I’d only heard of in stories. It didn’t look like it belonged in the beautiful state of Maine. It was as if the Devil handcrafted Salem’s Lot with a black-feathered quill and ebony ink on a tattered canvas, then blindly dropped his creation in amusement to see what could come of it—how the people would accommodate. And they did.
The engine stalled, but I was too focused on what laid before me to care. Antique lamp posts glowed from every corner of the sidewalks. And under the midnight sky—where watercolor-gray clouds smeared before a galaxy of stars like a sheer veil—townspeople walked through the heart of Weeping Hollow, casually up and down the gloomy streets as if it were completely normal at this hour. At almost three in the morning. At the start of August.
A chill slithered through my veins. After twenty-four long years, I'd finally returned to the place I was born, and the very place my mother had taken her last breath.
I twisted the car key, praying to hear the single most delicious car sound of the motor being brought back to life. The engine stuttered a few seconds before it finally took, and I slapped the steering wheel before circling the gazebo. “That’s right, baby. We’re almost there. Just a few more miles.”
Gramps lived along the coastline, the sea cliffs and open waters a backdrop for his historic blueish-green coastal home. I’d seen the house before from an old dusty box I’d found in our attic back in Texas. Marietta, my nanny, had caught me sitting on the aged hardwood floors in the attic, sifting through the old photos. I’d once asked her if we would ever return to the town in the photos—the town from the stories.
“You can’t go back unless it needs you, moonshine,” she had said, crouching down in front of me and taking the photos from my fingers.
Marietta was a crazy old hag; velvety skin, eyes black and beady, with thick Kenyan accent. She had spent her evenings on the porch, rocking in her chair and sipping from her Moscow mule mug with a dark omen in her eyes.
Marietta and I were frightening to most, rumored to cast spells on boys who dared to come near me. In high school, it was better to be on my good side than bad, fearing my witch of a nanny would prick her hand-made fabric dolls if anyone caused me harm. I never spoke out against the rumors, not after what they had done to me. And also, a part of me believed they were true.
Like Gramps had written in his letter, a lone key was left for me in the mailbox. I parked the car along the side of the street, leaving my baggage behind for the morning. The sound of waves crashing against the sea cliffs filled the eerie silence as I walked up the front porch steps. My feet froze when a hair-raising glare landed on me. I felt it first, then reluctantly turned my head.
A tall woman, thin and fragile, stood on her front porch next door in a raggedy white nightgown. Her wiry gray hair poured over her shoulders, and her long boney fingers gripped the railing. Dark eyes pinned to mine, and my muscles flinched beneath my skin. I forced my hand up and offered a small wave, but the old woman didn’t remove her intimidating gaze. Her grip on the railing only tightened, blue veins popping beneath her ethereal skin, keeping her frail body from being blown away by the slightest breeze.
I fumbled to get into the house. The wind through the keyhole iced my fingers, and the key jammed perfectly into the lock when another cold wind blew, whisking my white hair all around. Once inside, the heavy front door shut behind me and I fell back against it, closing my eyes and sucking in enough air to fill my lungs. The old musty scent seeped up my nose, coating my brain.
But I'd made it. I'd finally made it to Gramps.
It was colder inside the house, too. My knobby knees shook, needing more than a thin layer of black stockings under my pleated shorts to keep me warm. But despite my body's reaction, the cold felt like home.
I reached behind me and locked the door.
Clang! Clang! Clang! Sudden striking bells pierced the quiet, causing me to flinch. My eyes popped open, and my gaze fell upon a cherry-wood grandfather clock casting a monstrous shadow across the foyer. Over the deafening song ringing in my ears, I dropped my head back against the door once more and tucked my tangled hair behind my ear, laughing lightly at myself.
The bells died down, and the old house came to life.