TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
A strong, biting wind sent vibrant yellow leaves and candy wrappers flying. The gray mansion with peeling paint appeared to be abandoned but muted lights appeared in the windows every night. The neighborhood children hurried by the old magician’s house with their lit pumpkins. Nobody dared open the rickety gate, and venture to the front door. If only they knew the real story…
(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)
Each year on All Hallow’s Eve, the lights in the old mansion shone weakly through tattered curtains. Trick-or-treaters skittered past, not daring to open the rickety gate and venture to the front door. Except this year, one soul was brave enough to approach the wizard’s house.
Monsters, ghouls, and witches watched as Lili, in her pink tutu and satin slippers, moved slowly, her white cane tapping up the uneven walkway. She worked her way up the sagging steps but paused before knocking. She turned back to the street, her dark glasses reflecting the flickering flames from the jack-o-lanterns. Her friends watched a moment before urging her on with harsh whispers. She turned on her toes, ever in character, and raised a hand to knock.
Her knuckles barely scraped the peeling wood before the door creaked open before her.
“Well, hello,” a voice sounded from inside. It reminded Lili of old leaves rubbing together, scratchy and dry.
“Trick-or-treat” she said, falling into a plié and turning her head slightly.
“If those are my options, I choose a trick,” the voice came again, closer this time.
“That would honestly be my choice as well.” Lili smiled. “But aren’t you the magician? I’m sure your tricks would be better than mine.”
“I am no magician.” The voice sounded tired. “Just an old man cursed with purpose.”
“Cursed is a strong word around here,” Lili chewed her bottom lip.
“It is indeed.” The man coughed, air rattling in his chest. “That’s quite the costume you’ve got there.”
“Thanks. I tried to get all the details right.” She ran her fingers over her hair to ensure none had escaped the tight bun and adjusted the glasses to sit better on her nose.
“You’re the first soul to set foot on my porch in quite some time. I’ll have to see if I have anything for you.”
His footsteps disappeared into the house. Lili leaned inside, sniffing and listening. Stories of the disappearances were from many years ago. So many years that it was impossible for this to be the same man.
Something popped and crackled next to Lili’s ear, the smell of ozone surrounding her. Further inside, she heard a loud thump.
“Mister? You ok?” She licked her lips as she slowly stepped inside. After no response, she took another step. Her small body tensed with anticipation.
“Yes, my dear.” The voice sounded right next to her ear. “I’m much better now.”
The voice was the same, yet different. Gone was the old leaf scratchiness. Instead, it was filled with relief.
Lili scrambled back towards the door, but instead of an opening, she ran into something solid.
“Ah, yes. I’m sure you heard those small electrical charges I set up to cover the scent of the salt.”
Lili ran her slippers along the edge of the wall behind her, feeling the grains through the thin material. She fell to her knees, pressing her fingers along the floor, desperate for any small opening.
“Damn these tiny fingers,” she growled. “And this pathetic nose.”
She stood, breathing heavily. Her costume began to rip as she rose to her full height, taller and taller. The tutu and slippers tore, along with the smooth, pale skin, replaced with dark fur. The dark glasses clattered to the ground, revealing saggy, wrinkled skin where eyes should have been.
A chair creaked next to her. The man took a sip of tea before returning the cup to its saucer.
“Ah, there you are. No use hiding your true form on my account. I’d much rather you be comfortable. We’re going to have a lot of time together, you and I.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you, old man.” Her voice hissed as her hooved feet stamped out of her shedded costume. She shook the annoyingly tight hair from her curved horns.
“You already have, my dear. The instant you stepped through that door.”
“What are you talking about?” She turned back to the wall, feeling for the door. She found it closed and locked.
“Every year this damned house and I visit your dimension. Some years a brave soul enters, but most years not.”
“Take me back. Now!” Lili’s tail thrashed behind her, sending a table and his teacup to the floor.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. I told you, I’m no magician. I have no control over this house. I’m as stuck here as you are.”
“Stuck here? For a year?”
“A year is nothing to me. I have lived more years than you’ll ever see.” Lili smiled, her tongue flicking through pointed teeth. Her head tilted as she sniffed him out, the scent of his blood more enticing than any treat. “But I promise you won’t see the end of it. Probably not even the end of the day.”
“This year will be a new beginning for you. We’ll wash those bad thoughts right out of you.”
The old man jumped into the air as Lili lunged towards him. He came down on her back, clamping a silver collar around her neck. She screamed, clawing at the metal as it burned into her skin.
“Fool.” Lili panted. “No one’s been able to exorcise me in the past and you’re no different.”
“This is no exorcism. More of an intervention.” He sat back in his chair. “Lesson One- Let me tell you about our Lord and Savior…”