I hate Halloween.
It sounds like a strange statement for a witch, especially since it is one of our sacred holidays, but what I mean is - I hate how my kind are portrayed at Halloween. Green skin, warts, riding around on broomsticks, it’s so degrading. And every year I have to embrace the cliche.
The Crimson Cauldron, my store, sells all manner of ‘witch’ items, so of course our biggest selling day of the year is Halloween. Which means I have to stand around like an idiot in my crappy costume and pretend like I’m enjoying myself. Well this year, I decided to keep to the bare minimum which means a hat and a black dress.
At least it’s nearly closing time. The clock on the wall says I have just over half an hour left of this madness, then I can go home and celebrate in my own way - with a hot bath and a glass of wine.
A little girl is watching me from across the store. Like me, she is dressed in a witch costume. She has a black dress over stripey tights and a pointed hat. Her mother has painted her face green and added a huge wart on her chin to complete the look.
Forcing a smile, I lift the tub of lollipops off the counter and hold it out to her. She shuffles forward, her eyes never leaving mine.
“Are you supposed to be a witch?” she asks me.
“I am, just like you.”
She shakes her head. “No, where’s your pointy nose and you don’t have any warts.”
I resist the urge to roll my eyes. “Not all witches look alike, sweetie.”
She reaches into the tub and snatches up a red lollipop.
“Millie,” a woman calls from across the store. The little girl heads back to her, unwrapping her treat as she goes.
I shake my head, annoyed that the myths will continue to get handed down to the next generation - but that’s better than the alternative. Humans finding out that we exist. Better we remain a myth.
The door opens and a well dressed woman enters the store. She is in her sixties, with carefully coiffed gray hair. When she spots me, she beckons me over. She isn’t my usual kind of customer, which makes me wonder if she is one of those do gooders who like to come in from time to time to tell me how I am doing the devil’s work. I do so enjoy those visits.
“Can I help you?” I ask.
“Yes, I see that you offer tarot readings,” she says.
“We do, would you like one?”
She nods, glancing around the store. She seems uncomfortable, which means she must be desperate to come here. There’s also something about her aura. I don’t think she is human.
“Of course. Beatrice! Watch the store,” I call to the goth girl behind the counter. She is not in costume, she looks like that year round. She works for me part time. At the moment she is glued to her phone, but I manage to get a grunt out of her as I lead the woman into the back room.
We take a seat at a small round table and I open the box containing my tarot cards.
“What is it you would like to know?” I ask.
“Well, my grandson left town a while back and I would like to know what you see in the cards regarding his future.”
Most people usually ask questions about themselves, when will I meet someone? Will I get the job? Things like that.
“Okay. Let’s see what the cards say.”
I lay them out, glancing at the woman as I do. She seems tense, gripping her purse that she has in her lap.
Taking a deep breath, I check out the cards. “Well I see there was some conflict, an argument which forced him to leave town.”
I glance at the woman and she gives me a tight nod.
“You want him to take his place in the world, but he had other plans. He has traveled extensively and is hard to reach.”
“Yes,” the woman says. “Is there anything else?”
She appears to be hinting at something. Is there something she expects me to pick up on? Concentrating hard, I close my eyes and an image flashes into my head. Letting out a gasp, my eyes snap open.
“He’s a werewolf. You both are,” I say quietly.
The woman smiles. “Good, then you are legit. I had to be sure.”
“This was a test? Why?”
“Because I need the help of a witch. I need you to perform a spell which will summon my grandson home.”
I snort. “Excuse me? Witches and werewolves do not get involved in each other’s business.”
“I understand that, but I am desperate. Lincoln is the next Alpha, his father is dying. He must come home and take his place or there will be a war.”
What the hell is she thinking coming here? It wasn’t exactly forbidden, but our two species did not mix. If anyone found out about this, I could be shunned in my community, branded a traitor.
“I’m sorry, I’m not getting involved,” I say, gathering up the cards.
The woman’s hand shoots out and grabs my wrist. “I can pay you.”
“Money isn’t the issue,” I reply, shaking her off.
She opens her bag and removes several bundles of cash and sets them on the table in front of me. It is enough to make me pause.
“Fifteen thousand. More than generous.”
It is. I think of all the ways I could spend that cash. It would help me keep this place open, pay for a few repairs. After a moment, I sigh and sit back down.
“No one can ever know about this.”
She nods. “Of course.”
“I’ll need a personal item of Lincoln’s,” I tell her, opening the drawer under the table to remove some spell items.
This is a bad idea, Rina.
She slides a gold soverign ring toward me. “He wore this up until he left. He didn’t take it with him. I imagine he didn’t want to remember where he came from.”
I pick up the room and find the crest for the Cresthaven pack stamped on it. They are the big league. Not a pack you want to upset. Glancing at the money again, I realize that I am willing to risk it. As long as the spell works, they are not going to do anything to me.
“Okay, this is more of a hex than a spell.”
The woman’s eyebrows disappear into her hairline.
“Relax. It will compel him to come back home and he won’t be able to leave until he performs a necessary task…” I look to her for the task.
“Um, he has to talk to me and hear me out. I can convince him to stay.”
I nod. “Very well.”
With the old woman’s eyes fixed on me, I perform the spell. It sends out a faint red smoke which will make its way to Lincoln, wherever he is in the world. He will feel an overwhelming urge to come home.
“The spell is done,” I tell her.
“How long will it take to work?”
“It’s working already. How long it will take will depend on how far away he is.”
The woman gets to her feet. “Thank you.”
“Just do me a favor? Forget about coming here again.”
She gives me a bemused look. “I wasn’t planning on it.”
After she leaves, I cash out and send Beatrice home. The store is a mess and it takes me over an hour to put everything back in its place. Normally I would wait until morning, but after performing the spell I feel filled with energy so I might as well burn some of it off now.
Once I’m satisfied the store is clean, I grab my purse from the back and let myself out through the back door, into an alleyway. It leads to the road where I park my car. I can hear fireworks in the distance, but otherwise it is pretty quiet. All the little darlings are in bed, sleeping off a sugar coma and there isn’t much of a nightlife in this town.
The alleyway is small and narrow. People warn me not to walk down it at night, but I don’t scare easily and it beats walking around the row of stores to get back to my car.
Before I can reach the end of the alley, someone grabs me by the arms and pins me against the wall.
“Witch!” he hisses in my ear.
At first, I assume it is a Halloween prank since I am still wearing the conical hat, but then I pick up on the same energy I got from the old woman. This guy is a werewolf. Fear grips me, is this some kind of retaliation?
“Get off me,” I cry, muttering a spell that sends him stumbling back.
“Why did you bring me here?” he demands.
“There is a spell on me. I can feel it. It brought me here and you are the only witch around.”
“Oh crap,” I mutter. I must have screwed up the spell. Bringing the guy to me instead of his grandmother. Wolves can track magical trails, I should have been more careful.
“It was an accident. Your grandmother is looking for you. I take it you are Lincoln.”
He huddles against the wall, his dark hair falling over his eyes. He is hot, but there is a strange intensity about him. “You need to take it off now. I have to leave.”
“Sorry, the only way to break it is to speak to your grandmother. Once you do that, you are free to leave.”
“You don’t understand, I’m being hunted, I have to keep moving.”
“Who is after you?”
“It doesn’t matter. Break the spell.”
“I told you, I can’t.”
He sighed heavily. “Then I guess I’m going to speak to my grandmother. Do you have a car?”
“Because you’re coming with me.”
He grabs my arm and drags me out of the alleyway. “I need to be sure it lifts. Now you can cooperate, or I can carry you.”
I yanked my arm away. “Fine! God, this isn’t worth fifteen grand. My car is just there. Let’s get this over with.”
He gave me directions and we arrived at the old woman’s house. We go up to the porch and knock on the door. The house is huge, but most of the packs have money.
I cast a glance at Lincoln, able to see him better in the light. He has a faint scar running along his jawline and he looks like he hasn't slept in days. He must have been close to get here so quick, what is he running from?
The door opens and an old man appears. “Master Lincoln. You have returned,” he says.
We step inside the house to a brightly lit foyer. “I need to speak to my grandmother right away.”
“Yes, sir. I will fetch her.”
We wait in the foyer for her to return.
“Lincoln!” the woman cries as she enters the room. “Thank goodness.”
“Grandma, you need to leave me alone. There’s a reason why I haven’t come home and I can’t stay,” he says.
Her face falls.
He turns to leave, but stops. “I can still feel the spell.”
“You have to speak to her, hear her out for it to break,” I tell him.
“I don’t have time," he snaps.
As if on queue, something slams into the front door. We all jump.
“Grandma, get out of here, now!” Lincoln orders.
“Who is that?”
“The assassins after me.”
“Assassins!” What the hell had he dragged me into?
“I was marked and now they won’t stop until the kill me.”
The door is struck again and it starts to splinter. I ready a spell.
God, I hate Halloween.
This is the opening chapter to a new book coming next year!
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”