Continued from Night of the Cauldron: Part I, The Cauldron
The Turnip Lanterns
Margaret pulled her skirt free as she slammed the car door closed. Chuck moved around to join her.
"I didn't get anything on my skirt, did I?"
"Nothing there." He said without really looking. Margaret adjusted her bustier and secured her princess crown. Chuck, her Prince Charming, lit a cigarette and took a long draw.
"Gimme some," she said. He passed the cigarette to her and lit himself another, almost blowing his exhale in her face. "Really?" He turned away and examined the night sky. They smoked in silence but for the occasional labored exhale.
"Why are we even here?" He didn't look at her.
"We don't have to stay long. Let's just get through this okay." She pleaded.
"I'm gonna get drunk." He crushed his cigarette under his boot heel and blew away the last of the smoke.
"A little late for that." She glared at him.
"Fuck off." He moved up street towards the party. She followed behind him, but kept the distance between them. It was going to be a long night.
Margaret lifted her skirt slightly to scale the stairs to front of Jill and Thom's house. Chuck had stopped at the entrance, examining two large structures at the doorway to the house. As she approached, she could see that they were two large wooden panels that were part of a larger archway. Each panel was covered in an array of carved turnip lanterns. Several hung from the arch above them. They were crudely carved with silly smiles and odd expressions. Beyond the archway, the yellow light of the crowded house beckoned.
"Antique Halloween!" Chuck spat out.
"It does look kind of trashy," Margaret agreed.
Just then the ground seemed to vibrate with a deep rumble. There was a distant thump like gunfire. Chuck stumbled slightly and Margaret raised her arms to stay level.
"What the Hell?"
They both backed away from the entrance to observe the column of green flame that was rising from the next street over. Another couple dressed as pirates was approaching the house. The four stopped together to observe the spectacle.
"A little early for fireworks isn't it?" The man asked.
There was another rumble and the column began exploding at the top, filling the sky with sparks and small bits of flame. They squinted at the intensity. Soon a fine green mist was falling about them.
"This can't be healthy." Margaret grabbed Chuck's arm and pulled him towards the door, pulling out her phone to call the fire department. "Let's get inside."
"I wanna see" He jerked his arm free. His face flat and mean in the glow.
"Fine." She stormed away. She stopped under the archway for shelter. She couldn't seem to get a signal. She dialed again.
"Too late for that." Someone said. It was followed by a chorus of whispered giggles. She turned. The pirate couple had moved past her and inside the house. She moved around the archway to look in the bushes.
"Very funny assholes!" She looked back for Chuck, taking a step away from the house. He was still standing far out in the yard silently watching the fireworks. He smiled dumbly at the green sky. He seemed like a statue in the harsh light. More giggles. A chill ran down her back.
"He does not love you. He does not love her. He does not love himself."
Slowly Margaret turned around. The lanterns were all staring at her. All of their expressions had taken on a malicious intent. Faint smoke poured out of their eyeholes, mouths. They giggled again.
"She does not understand - does not understand - does not understand -" The chorus of voices echoed and jeered. The lanterns laughed at her, small flames emerging from their mouths and eyes as they did. She dropped her phone.
"She wants the truth - the truth - the truth -" Small bits of flame dropped from the edges of the lanterns mouths, singing the grass at the base of the archway. Margaret began to back away.
"Too late for that."
Chuck watched the column of flame dance and twist against the blackness of the night sky, a green tornado. He smiled despite himself. Distantly he heard someone screaming. He turned just in time to see Margaret, her dress an inferno. Her tortured face was blistered and melting, becoming a skull as he watched. She rushed at him, arms wide as if to hug him. He smiled and opened his arms to receive her.