Jake slipped out of his bedroom window, carefully stepping across the gables until he reached his sister’s window. He rapped softly on the glass, then harder when she didn’t respond.
Lexi threw open her window, nearly knocking eleven-year-old Jake off the roof. “What are you doing out here? Mom and Dad will kill you if they catch you.”
He scrambled into her room, “I found it. I found the map.”
“The one I told you about, the map to Halloweenland.”
Flopping down on her bed, Lexi sighed, “That’s just some story in a book.”
“No, that book wasn’t in the library before, and I followed the clues, and I found the map.” Jake held up a worn piece of parchment.
Lexi’s eyes widened, “Give me that.” She stared at the parchment, then said, “This can’t be real, Jake, somebody’s joking.”
“I’m going to find it.” Jake snatched the map and started to climb out the window.
“You come back here,” Lexi yelled as loud she dared. When he kept going, she jumped up, “Wait, I’ll go with you.” Ten minutes later, they were running toward the forest.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Yes, look…” he pointed to map illuminated by his flashlight, “it says to find the gnarly forked tree, first find the stack of rocks.”
They walked for a few minutes, until Jake squealed, “It’s the rocks.”
Next to the path was a stack of five smooth rocks, and as they approached, the stone began to glow. Jake and Lexi watched in awe as the stones lifted from the ground, then commenced to drift along the path. Exchanging furtive glances, they followed.
The stones danced through the forest, until reaching the forked tree. Lexi grabbed her younger brother’s arm, “Okay you found the tree, now let’s go home.”
Jake pulled his arm loose, “No… we have to go on… Halloweenland has to be here.” He raced ahead, and her fear building Lexi followed.
The deeper they journeyed into the woods, the thicker the underbrush became. A misty veil hung in the air impeding their vision but Lexi was certain the twisted trees were watching, following their steps. The soft hooting of owls nestled in the trees and the rustling of leaves underfoot harmonized with their ragged breathing.
An enormous tree loomed in their path. Jake and Lexi screamed as beady eyes the color of flame appeared along the tree’s forked trunk. Hugging her brother tightly, Lexi tried to pull him away, but she was unable to move. Chills shimmied down her spine and Jake whimpered as the tree spoke, its voice gruff and intimidating.
“You are trespassing. State your business with the Council.”
“W-what council?” Lexi barely recognized her own trembling voice.
The tree boomed, the sound reverberating through the forest. “The Halloweenland Council.”
Jake said, “I found the map. It led us here.”
“Umm…,” the tree replied, “you found the map, did you? Well, that changes everything, the Council is awaiting you.” The tree shuffled out of their path revealing twinkling lights and the outline of a tall spire silhouetted by moonlight. As they hesitated, a tree branch gently propelled them forward.
Neither of them uttered a sound as they followed the path. An imposing carved pumpkin seemed to mark the entrance to a village, tall candles lighting the way. They passed a trio of gossamer ghosts standing guard in a small cemetery and a rickety wooden house as they approached the large structure, a clock set at midnight adorning the tower. A tree next to the gate leading into the building whispered for them to enter.
Lexi pushed her brother behind her as she passed through the wooden double doors. Her breath caught as she viewed the gathering within the chamber. Witches and wizards, ghosts and goblins, milled about chatting, accompanied by black cats and leathery bats. Lexi heard her brother whisper ‘cool’,’ but she thought this was anything but cool.
At the sound of the creaking doors opening, silence descended over the room. From a podium in the center of the floor, a tall witch walked toward them. Lexi was surprised to see the witch’s robes were made of silk, her pointed hat trimmed in jewels. More surprising was how lovely she was, and that she was smiling. Despite the friendly demeanor, Lexi once again stood in front of her brother, shielding him as best she could.
Using her most grownup voice, Lexi asked, “Who are you?”
The witch replied, “I am Emelda, the ruler of Halloweenland. Please do not be afraid, we mean you no harm. Your brother knows that, don’t you Jake?”
Jake stepped from behind his sister, “How do you know my name?”
Emelda extended a long slender finger, tracing Jake’s jaw. “We leave clues each year at the library hoping to find the one child who responds. Jake is the first in many years to understand and follow the clues that led him to us.”
“What do you want with him?” Lexi’s heart was racing and all she could think of was how to get to her parents for help.
“Please, do not be alarmed, my dear. We are nothing like your tales of horror. We are kind and peaceful beings. However, your Halloween celebrations based on our culture entice us, and we enjoy participating. We never intend to scare anyone, although it does happen, we simply wish to join the fun.”
“I don’t understand.”
“We are an old race, here long before humans evolved. Modern civilization shunned us, and we retreated into this hidden domain discovered by the few who share our heritage. Only on Halloween can we mingle with our human brothers and sisters without fear. We offer you, Jake, and your sister, the opportunity to travel within both worlds.”
Jake turned to his sister, “This is way cool, say yes, please.”
Lexi gazed at the smiling faces, feeling more at ease than she thought possible. She answered, “Yes… this is pretty cool after all.”
Written for a weekly challenge on Writers Unite ( Facebook group) https://www.facebook.com/groups/145324212487752/ ….
Image proided by Writers Unite, not intended for commercial use.
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