Halloween is nearly upon us. As such, the Board would like to remind everyone of our time-honored traditions. As usual, the trick-or-treating hours will begin at exactly 6pm and will end at 9pm. We will also be hosting a pumpkin decorating contest on the Town Common at 7pm. All children from ages 1 to 16 are expected to wear the official costume. This year’s costume is a Ghost. You can purchase the town approved costume at any of our town’s fine retail establishments. Please remember to return home with exactly as many children as you left with. Anyone caught with extra children will lose their parental rights for the year. Those children will be placed in other homes. Don’t leave unwanted children on the Common. We don’t want to have a repeat of last year. If you would like to volunteer to stay late for any children who are not taken, please contact the secretary to the Board. If you would like to keep your current child or children, be sure to keep a firm hold on them throughout the evening. Otherwise, they are considered available for trade. Be sure that all children are wearing their health advisory wristbands so their new parents are made aware of any medical conditions or allergies they may have.
Breccan looked up from where he sat sharpening his sword and frowned. He could hear the voices of strangers over the normal sounds of the small village.
“-to march on Londinium.”
He cursed softly and stood, grabbing Octavia by the arm as he went.
“Get inside.” He whispered the words in Latin and she looked at him in surprise. They had largely switched to speaking his language as she’d been making progress on learning it.
“What’s going on?”
“There are strangers here from another clan. If they realize…”
“They’ll kill me.” She said it matter of fact and nodded. “What about my things? If they look inside…”
“I’ll make sure they don’t.”
“It will be fine, Octavia. Now please, just stay safe, alright?”
She nodded reluctantly and went into the house.
“Who was that woman?”
Breccan looked up from where he sat. The man speaking to him was a handspan taller than he stood and carried a spear in his hand.
“The one you just hid. Don’t lie to me, boy, I saw you.”
“I am no boy,” Breccan growled. Then he processed the rest of what was said and sent a silent prayer to his mother. “And the woman you saw is my wife.” The words tumbled out naturally and he hoped and prayed his lie wouldn’t be caught. “She’s got some Roman blood and I didn’t want there to be a misunderstanding.”
No, there certainly weren’t any lies in the last part. Octavia definitely had at least some Roman blood.
The man with the spear scowled, but when Breccan stood and met him look for look, the man backed down. But Breccan’s nerves were still humming. Too close. They had come too close.
Breccan burst into the small house as soon as the strangers were gone.
She looked up, concern plain on her features.
“Are they gone?”
“They are.” He closed the distance between them. “Are you alright?”
Octavia nodded silently, trying to hide the fear that had left her shaking while he’d been outside.
He smiled slowly and drew her into a quick hug, just assuring himself that she was alright. Much to his surprise, her arms went around his neck and she returned the hug like someone who needed one desperately.
“What are we looking at?”
The archaeologist frowned and turn to the historian. The historian poured over their notes, a matching frown on their face.
“I’m not sure. It appears to be a copper panel. I see signs of tooling here, but it looks much more advanced than I’d expect to see from pre-iron age people…”
The archaeologist nodded.
“That’s what I was thinking. Do you have any record of…anything like this?”
The historian skimmed the readout on the digital pad and then shook their head.
“We don’t have much information about this region before the Great War. But maybe this is the same structure as the torch we found on the seafloor? It’s certainly close enough. Maybe some sort of sun deity?”
After a long moment, the historian and the archaeologist stood together once more by the large green panel of copper. The archaeologist rested a hand on the copper.
“Did this place have a name before we moved in?”
The historian skimmed the digital pad once more.
“The only one we have left is…New Amsterdam?”
She had always known where her family’s money had come from. Even as a child, even when they thought she was too young to truly know what her father’s business was, she had known. She had seen it in the shadows in his eyes, in the way he always made sure to trundle the whole family off to church every Sunday, and in the way he never looked at graveyards. So when Isabella’s father was murdered when she was fifteen years old, she wasn’t too surprised. She missed him, of course, but she wasn’t surprised. When you lived outside the law, you died outside the law. But when her mother and older brother both followed shortly after and in the same gruesome ways, Isabella DiBenedetto began to worry.
With all the money from her accounts in a bag on the passenger’s seat, Bella split town alone. She had only gotten a few miles past the city limits when her phone rang. She hesitated for a moment, then answered.
“Gattina, I know why you’re leaving, but that won’t make it stop.”
Bella winced and pulled her car over to the side of the road. She wasn’t really surprised that her Great Aunt Maddalena knew she was gone. Everyone in the family knew that she was a Strega. More importantly, everyone knew that they should listen when Great Aunt Maddalena spoke.
“What do I need to do, Zia?”
Bella’s tone was full of respect and resignation, but her hands shook.
“You have to appease the spirits. Keep driving, go to the coast and buy a house. One that isn’t finished mind. Once you’ve done that, let me know.”
“Grazie, Zia. I will. I promise.”
“I know you will, Bella. It’s that, or wait for the Shadow Men to come for you too.”
Alan only barely saw the woman standing at the side of the road. The night was dark and she had almost become just another shadow. He pulled over and rolled his window down, smiling at her brightly.
“Hey there. Everything alright?”
She looked at him with tearstained eyes, expression uncertain. Then a tentative smile wavered onto her lips.
“I just need a lift to the next rest stop. My… I got left here.”
Alan nodded slowly and leaned over to open the door.
“Hop in and I’ll get you there.”
She slid onto the passenger’s seat and slammed the door.
“Thanks.” Her voice was soft and she looked down again. “I’m Jessie.”
And off they drove. She huddled in her seat, rubbing her arms and trying to warm herself. Every so often, Alan would glance over at her. Finally, he looked and she met his eyes steadily.
“You keep doing that.”
He laughed, just a touch of a blush coming to his cheeks.
“Sorry. I just…” He smiled, clearly embarrassed. “This might sound silly, but I thought you might be a ghost.”
Jessie blinked and her eyes went wide. Then she started laughing. He leaned over and turned the heat up then, giving her a smile.
“We should be there in a few minutes.”
A few minutes later, they did pull into the rest stop and Jessie got out of the car.
“Thank you so much.”
She turned to shut the door and thank Alan, only to find that the car was gone. Looking around, she tried to find him again. She thought she would recognize that car anywhere, but it was nowhere to be seen.
With the Autumn season coming upon us once again, it’s a great time to remind everyone to always carve your jack-o-lanterns safely. During this festive time of the year, many families find themselves with sudden and unexpected new members. These pumpkin patch children, while frequently a surprise, are perfectly safe. No reliable method has yet been found for determining whether or not your pumpkin will reveal a pumpkin patch child when carved, but here are some important pieces of information just in case.
First and foremost, be sure to separate your pumpkin patch child from the jack-o-lantern as soon as possible by severing the root that connects them. Be sure to leave an inch or so attached to the child. This will form something similar to a human belly button. Failure to properly separate pumpkin patch children is the leading cause of rot in growing pumpkin patch children.
Remember, of course, that pumpkin patch children are a special breed. They require a diet rich in spice, gourds, caramel, apples, and candy. Without those essential nutrients, they will wilt. They can eat the same diets as most humans, but without the addition of these special foods they won’t grow as hearty.
Do not be afraid of your pumpkin patch children. While they may surround themselves with ghosts, witches, spirits, skeletons, and spiders, do not be alarmed. They take enjoyment from these creatures and feel a camaraderie with them. Raised with love and care, a pumpkin patch child will never do you harm.
Should you encounter a pumpkin patch child who appears to have black eyes, alert the proper authorities immediately by placing an image of the child and exactly three pieces of candy corn in a bowl in the dark of the moon. The child will be reclaimed by the spirits of Halloween and will do no further harm to mortals. The human family that was gifted that pumpkin patch child has already been punished for their transgressions, do not be concerned.
“Charles! Why is the toaster in the sink?”
Kylie shouted, hands on her hips in the kitchen. Sheepishly, her boyfriend appeared beside her in a puff of smoke.
“It began to smoke. I applied water to the flames.”
She looked again and sighed, rubbing her temples.
“You have to unplug it, love. Or the water’s just going to make it catch on fire anyway.”
Charles frowned slightly, brushed his hair back behind his horns again, and stared at the toaster.
“Will it? How unusual. Is it a factor of the electrical nature of the device?”
Kylie pulled the plug and turned to lean against her boyfriend.
“Some days, you’re damn lucky you’re pretty.”
He wrapped his arms around her with a sigh.
“It’s not like we had electrical systems in Hell, Ky.”