Marta ran her fingers along the granite plaque. Icy cold to her touch, the grooves of the engraved letters tickled her bare fingertips. She admired the onyx colored cow statue, a symbol of peace after a ninety-year land dispute.
The engraved words memorializing the story of the Maplethorpes and McGraws stirred her insides into a restless melancholy. She felt a twinge of jealousy because they had history; generations of roots. All she had was a past that ensnared her future in a nearly invisible thread, like an insect caught in a silken web.
What a tangled web we weave…
“Shut up!” she shouted, clapping her palms over her ears. The plastic “Halloween Town” banner flapped overhead. As she strolled down the street, paper candy wrappers crinkled under her steps. The Trunk-Or-Treat celebration long over, Main Street was like a ghost town, except for one lit storefront. The neon “Nightmare Before Christmas” sign glowed in the dusty air.
She touched the jagged scar under her left eye, the ridge dividing her eye from her cheek, her heart from her soul. Always, she remembered the one who fought back.
A murder of crows cawed overhead. Marta dropped to the ground when they swooped down at her head like a massive black hatchet blade. They disappeared into the shadows of the moon. Her heart pounding, she stood and dusted her knees off. A scarecrow moved as if lifted by a breeze, but the air had become eerily calm. She shivered, but continued her journey to the light. Like gravity, she couldn’t resist.
Ghosts of the past- dark souls, former lovers haunted her thoughts. She’d freed them from the tether of earthly bodies and they repaid her every Halloween. Newspapers dubbed her the Black Widow of the Colorado Plateau, but they didn’t understand. She’d been gifted (or cursed) with the ability to feel a soul’s darkness by touch. Her lovers hadn’t always been dark, but once she grew weak from their touch and tasted the bitterness on their tongues, she knew they had to die.
Her hand rested on the door handle. A ripple of pain shot through her scar. She pushed the door open. Instead of a bell, a skeleton clattered against the glass as the door swept closed behind her.
A skeleton cat curled by the door raised its head. A shiver slid down Marta’s back. Milky white apparitions swirled around her chanting, howling, “Our freedom is a prison.” She knew all five of them. Samuel, John, Patrick, Brad, and Marco. There should be one more…
They herded her deeper into the store. She stumbled on a skull, but something stopped her fall. Her gaze trailed up the red velvet arm, to a snowy white beard.
“S-santa?” She pushed from his grasp. Another dark soul. The encounter sapped her strength. He held her arm, channeling her energy. The skeletal fingers resisted her attempts to break his grip.
“You claimed to slay dark souls, but the darkness is your own.” Santa removed his fur-trimmed hat and then peeled off the rosy-cheeked mask. A skull, smashed on the left side confronted her.
“Jack!” She gasped, feeling dizzy. The one who fought back.
She brushed the throbbing scar on her cheek. It burned and oozed sticky lava. She pulled her hand away and blood dripped from her fingertips.
“You sent six of us to Hell to pay for your sins,” Jack whispered.
She collapsed into a heap.
“Six years in prison doesn’t exonerate your soul.”
She writhed in pain, her fingers transformed into hissing snakes and her hair, an angry nest of spiders.
“You have a new sentence.”
Marta’s eyes glowed red. “What is it?”
“Six hundred and sixty-six years with the Master.”
She vanished into a wisp of black smoke. Jack held an ornate vial out and the darkness swept inside. He corked the opening. It clanked against the other glass vials when he dropped it into his burlap bag.
A raven slid out of the cuckoo clock. Twelve guttural “crucks” signaled the end of Halloween.
Jack smiled as he slung the bag over his shoulder. It had been his best soul-gathering season since Babylon.
This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which has two parts. Write a piece in 750 words or less, 1) Using the following sentence anywhere in the piece: “Main Street was like a ghost town, except for one lit storefront.” and 2) with some reference to the video prompt, which was the Nightmare Before Christmas song, “This is Halloween.”
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