Continued from Night of the Cauldron: Part II, The Turnip Lanterns
Ghosts of the Tree
Jimmy ran down the sidewalk to the next house. His bag of candy sloshed at his side, knocking against his furry chaps. As he ran, his cowboy hat flew off his head.
"James Wallace!" His mother called, using the tone that meant he'd better stop whatever it was he was doing and wait for her instruction. He ran back to pick up his cowboy hat. He scooped it up and tried to get it evenly back on his head. Soon his mother was beside him. She leveled the hat and pushed it down firmly in place.
"Much obliged ma'am" he said in his best cowboy voice and grinned up at her. His mother smiled and directed him back towards the next house. He walked slowly in front of her with his legs bowed and his hands firmly on the toy guns at his sides. They both laughed. "Gotta go rustle up some candy!"
He moved quickly up to the door of the house, passing wonder woman and a fuzzy brightly colored bear. They smiled at each other as they passed.
"Trick or Treat!" He beamed at the older woman at the door. She smiled and put a chocolate bar into his bag. "Thank You ma'am."
"You're very welcome pardner!" She smiled. "Herbert come to the door! We've got a bona fide cowboy out here." An older gentleman appeared at her side and placed his arm around her.
"Well so it is. Would ya look at that. I like like the cut of your jib Sir!" They all smiled.
"Ma'am, Sir," Jimmy said and tipped his hat to both of them in turn. "Ya'll have a safe Halloween. This night sure is fulla critters!" He aimed his cap gun into the darkness and clicked the trigger. It popped loudly with a small puff of smoke as the cap ignited.
"Thanks for keepin' them critters at bay pardner! Good luck out there on the range!" The older man put another chocolate bar into Jimmy's bag and winked at him. Jimmy grinned and fired two more shots into the darkness. He ran to where his mother waited at the end of the yard. They both waved goodbye to the older couple and continued down the sidewalk.
Jimmy skipped just a few feet a head of his mother towards the next house. He bounced up the small set of steps and up the sidewalk. He paused. The house was dark except for a circle of glowing ghosts that hung from a tree. They swayed gently in the breeze and twirled slowly. As he watched, one turned towards him with a frightening sorrowful face. Jimmy scrunched his own face up, not understanding the sinking feeling in his belly. The Ghost bobbed and continued to stare at him. He took two steps back.
"Jimmy sweetheart, I don't think anyone is home there. Let's go to the next one." He rushed to his mother and hugged her waist. "You okay sweetie?"
Before he could answer, there was a deep distant rumbling as the ground shook slightly. Several streets over a bright green flash reflected off the trees. They both turned to watch as a column of green flame shot up into the sky. Sparks shot out from it and danced. There was another deep boom and the column shot higher, beginning to twist like a tornado. Jimmy felt his Mother's heart beat quicken. She took a firm hold of his hand and moved down the street.
"Come on. One more house and then we'll go to another neighborhood." Their shadows danced across the lawn, darker green against the pulsing light of the glow. A green mist began to descend around them.
There was an empty section of land before the next house. It was so densely packed with trees it could easily have been forest. Jimmy pulled out his flashlight to light their way in darkness. Halfway along his hand caught on a bush and the flashlight flipped out of his hand and behind them. He let go of his mother's grip to retrieve it.
"Ooops. Sorry Mom." The flashlight had fallen under a bush so he had to get down on all fours to get to it. He stretched and grabbed hold. He stood up and began to dust himself off. As he did he glanced back at the dark house and the ghost tree. At first he couldn't find it, but the green fireworks flashed again and he saw the outline of the house. He looked about but could not find the ghost tree. He stepped away from the wall of foliage for a better view. The ghosts were gone. The sinking feeling in his belly rushed in again accompanied this time by a cold tingling at the back of his neck. "Mom."
Behind him Jimmy heard a noise like someone drinking a lot of water at once and a raspy creaking like an old wooden door. He turned, dropping his bag of candy. The beam of the flashlight arced across his mother's prone body. She was at an odd angle, draped across the curb. The four ghosts from the tree were floating just over her, their bodies flowing out like the petals of some terrible pulsing flower. His mothers face had grown wrinkled and as he watched her eyes turned white and sunk back into her head. She began to shrivel, her arms and legs curling up towards her torso like a mummy.
"Get away from her!" Tears streaming down his face, Jimmy took a step forward and swatted at the nearest ghost with his flashlight. His hand passed harmlessly through the ghost's body. It lifted its bloated face up towards him and grinned maliciously. There was a noise like a strong wind and Jimmy felt himself grow weak. He raised his hands and backed away as the ghost raised up to follow. One by one the others joined. Jimmy turned back towards the dark house and ran as fast as he could. The hungry ghosts trailed behind him like kites, pulled along by the weight of his fear.