The Iron Writer Challenge #179
2016 Summer Solstice Challenge Championship
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Alis Van Doorn, Mamie Pound, Dani J. Caile, Daniel J. Sanz, Tina Biscuit
An orchard (you must state the type of orchard: apple, pear, peach, etc)
Metal doors on a school building
The invitation was hand written and wax sealed, slid under her door.
“The pleasure of your company is requested.”
The directions led her down a twisting, wet trail, along the thick of the bayou. A late hurricane near the Keys bewitched the air, sent her hair flying all around, like one of the long-dead apparitions that appeared in the windows of the ruined hotels.
Tupelo Trees, standing knee-deep in in the brackish water, looked like skirted, gnarled, old women, sprouted from the underworld.
And the behemoth, orange moon seemed complicit.
Chills danced along her spine. A dark forboding tinged her every thought.
But just as all seemed lost, she spotted a small cabin at the edge of the water.
She knocked on its metal doors.
No one answered.
She drew her velvet cape closer and knocked again.
“Who’s there?” Said a voice, low and smokey.
Instead of answering, she shuddered, imagining the beasts swimming under the dock,
and banged again. The sound reverberated past her, into the wading trees, who swallowed it and zippered shut.
And now stood silent, watching and waiting.
The door slid open. Before her was a man with the blackest eyes she’d ever seen. Darker than the depths of the Mississippi.
His accent reminded her of the dock traders and the bearded pirates that sailed into the harbor, their tongues, a music of French and Cajun.
His teeth were brilliant, white and pointy. And while his smile was wide, his eyes were solemn, arresting.
She couldn’t find her voice.
Behind him, three other men sat at a table, holding cards. A haze of blue smoke hung above their heads.
“Most people say ‘trick or treat’,” he said.
“I must be lost,” she stammered.
His house was dark, only a blazing fire in the hearth and candles, even at the card table.
“I must be at the wrong house. Are you…?”.
His dark beauty,…she was unable to look away.
There was a razor nick just under his jawline, so beautifully placed, it almost seemed purposeful.
He raised a hand to cover it.
“Maybe I’ve made a mistake,” she said.
Electricity crawled across the sky, silhouetting the orchard of Spanish Moss hanging from the Cypress. Thunder rattled the glass.
“You got my invitation?” he asked.
“So it was you?” she said.
“I’ve been watching you for so long. I can’t believe you’re actually here.”
“Watching me?” She felt faint.
“I meant waiting for you…” he whispered and kissed her hand.
And she found herself unable to think of much of anything, except his beautiful mouth. She wanted to draw closer to this complete stranger. Wanted to inhale him.
Her mind raced with fear and an insatiable hunger, unknown to her before now.
“Oh, blackest night, what trickery have you played? What spell must have you allowed the moon, that I hunger for this madness, surrender to its will?”
Without any other word, he slipped his hand behind her neck.
And she did not try to stop him.
In the darkness, a Screech Owl’s desperate cry echoed across the water, disappeared into the night.
Daniel J. Sanz
It was Monday morning and Conrad Brown’s fingers were already bleeding. He grimaced and clutched the ratty sponge in one hand and a can of mineral spirits in the other. His knees ached from the tile but the obscenity of the black marker had about scrubbed away.
He straightened under the protest of cascading crackles in his spine and wrapped a towel around his wrinkled fingers.
His voice echoed between the lockers of the school hallway. He relished the graffiti free-wall while he could. Any moment these halls would be a stampede of self-entitled, ungrateful larvae and he could foresee himself scrubbing the wall again before the day’s end.
Flinging the towel into the trash, he gave the receptacle a satisfying kick before shuffling back to his custodial cart.
Pushing it past the scribblings of ghosts and jack-o-lanterns that adorned the walls, he stopped to pick up a black and orange streamer that had freed itself from its scotch-taped binding. He cracked a frown realizing today they would be dressed up as the little monsters they were, on a sugar high.
Conrad looked ahead to a giant cartoon mural sprawled across the yellow bricked wall. “Arlington Park Little Hyenas” arched overhead the titular mascot, adorned in a cowboy hat and a beaming grin.
“Oh how you mock me!”
Conrad glared at his imaginary adversary. “How you laugh at me! Judge me! Watch me waste away into this servitude!”
He used to love that hyena, years back when he bounced around these halls, but now he couldn’t stand its sight. It reminded him of a fonder time in which afternoons were spent riding bikes, playing stickball, and picking apples from Montgomery’s Orchard.
Conrad scoffed at the memory. “The only apples kids appreciate these days are made of plastic and glass.”
He leered at the hyena.
“I’ve had enough, I’m done!”
He looked down the hallway towards the exit.
“Why do I stay here? I should have quit a long time ago!”
He drew in a deep breath. All he had to do was walk through those doors and he was free.
But it was too late. They kicked open against their metal frames and the thunderous boom rolled over him chased by the hollers of the incoming hoard.
A flock of waist-high goblins, trolls, and witches flooded in, reeking of insubordination and Butterfingers. He closed his eyes and waited for them to pass. His only solace was the thought of freedom as he exited that door and ignored the sea of candy wrappers that was surely waiting for him.
Suddenly he felt a small tug on his arm. He glanced down and a little ladybug stood before him. A hyena-like smile spread across her red painted face. She held a box of mini cupcakes. Orange frosting with black sprinkles.
“Happy Halloween Mr. Brown!” She handed him one of the cakes and scrambled off.
The bell rang and the halls fell quiet. Conrad stood there, staring at the cupcake. He looked back at the mural and sighed.
“Well what’s the hurry?” he asked, crouching down to pick up a candy wrapper.
A Story of O
O bountiful orchard, flourishing well. We furrowed your rows, in days that have gone. We planted your seeds, and built three strong walls; the gates of the school completed the square. Now, they are rusted, remember their squeal. The burgeoning children, who poured out to play, they tended your whips, and nurtured your heart. The whips spread out branches, a new ring each year – so did the children, absorbing the light. They played in soft snow, which melted to blossom. They knocked off your buds, with frolics of summer. Soon came the autumn, you offered them fruit. Before apples fell, was Halloween time. First it was strange, you thought it was dark; faces were painted, so frightful, yet fun. Your halcyon days had barely begun. O orchard, you were so young.
The river was filling, the reservoir full. The clouds were so black, obscuring the sky. The lightning discharged, forks tearing through gloom. Your fibrous roots trembled; the rumbling began: your trees were predicting, the deluge to come. The riverbanks burst, collapsing the church, torrential cascades tumbling through town. Houses were spilled, as though they were toys. We thought of the children, marooned in their class. Helpless we watched, and prayed for their lives: twelve children perished; twelve spirits lost.
We buried small caskets, in your tender care. You were our last hope, which wasn’t enough. We left you as pasture, for travellers’ succour. We still come to visit, the graves of the past; we still bring you flowers, to show that we care. They brighten the spot, where nothing else thrives. Your walls are entwined, with ivy and moss. Our bodies are old; the trail is so long.
O orchard, we miss them, on this hallowed night. We feel the dead rising, no longer with scorn. Those twelve, tiny mounds, rustling with leaves: the quilts you provided, keeping them snug. Their bones are so heavy; they struggle to run. They dreep from your branches, their cold fingers warm. Halloween songs purge water from lungs; cries become laughter, and pain becomes sun. They dance through your avenues, spreading joy as they go. Children cavorting, under canopies green, reclaiming memories, they laugh at the moon. The metal doors drum, as they bang them for fun. The teachers are gone now, and so is their school. Of course they don’t know that; we’re sure you won’t tell. Give them their night, to play in your boughs; shelter their innocence, and don’t tell a soul.
The peduncle snaps; your last apple falls: no longer forbidden, forever unpicked.
Dani J Caile
Me and the gang were having a good ol’ get together for Halloween night, just like when we were young. Tom couldn’t make it, he was on duty at the Police station, tonight of all nights, but Arthur, Dave, Andy and Josh filled the living room with their noisy, rowdy behaviour. Except Josh. He’d taken a seat by the window and stared out at the night sky, looking forlorn. Thankfully, there were no plans to revisit any apple bobbing like we did back in ’99 after stealing a basketful from Mr. Wilson’s apple orchard down on Church street, but we were going Trick-or-Treating.
“Eh, Bob! I’ve got your costume here!” said Andy, throwing a Wonder Woman top into my face as I entered from the kitchen. Arthur and Dave had already chosen theirs; Batman and Robin, respectively. Andy was Superman, of course.
“Why do I get to wear the girly costume?” I asked, throwing them a few cans of beer. I attempted to pass one to Josh but he was oblivious to what was going on around him. A crumpled Spiderman outfit lay next to him on the sofa.
“Because you’re a girl!” screamed Andy, accompanied by laughter from the other two. The boys chinked their cans together and drank. Josh broke their silence.
“Oh, Moon, rise and let your cooling light douse my burning heart of pain; if you pity me, seize my desires, my hopes and smash them to the stars of the night!” whined Josh.
“What’s his problem?” I asked. Out of the five of us, Josh was the smartest, but unfortunately looked like a monkey’s arse.
“He fell in love with ‘you-know-who’,” said Dave. He wiped beer from his mouth and chest bumped Arthur.
“But she’d never go out with him,” I said. Andy dived on me and forced a long, black wig onto my head.
“Tell him that,” said Dave.
“Oh great, that’s all we need on Halloween night, a bleeding heart!” said Andy.
“Quiet, he might hear you,” I said, swapping my costume for his. Before anyone objected, I was Spidey.
“So? Are we ready to go out on the town?” screamed Andy.
“Hell Yeah!” we cheered.
I counted four, including myself.
“Where’s Josh?” I asked. Something was bashing the inside of my head with a sledgehammer. “Anyone seen him?”
“Not me,” said Arthur, a hollow voice coming from the bowl of the toilet.
“I thought he was with you,” said Andy. Dave was still zonked out on the sofa with some green vegetable stuck up the back of his trousers. A mobile phone rang, it was Andy’s. After searching, we found it under a pile of empty cans in the corner.
“Yeah? Uh-huh? Oh. Right.” Andy dropped his phone in his pocket and headed for the door.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“It was Tom.”
“What does he want?” asked Arthur from the bowl.
“He wants to know why Josh is dressed up as Wonder Woman, completely drunk, moaning on about some ‘moonrise’ and chained to the metal doors of our old school building. Anyone coming with me?”
“Lily, hurry up!” called Lily’s mother, voice just this side of pleasant. Lily gave a final twirl to her hot pink troll hair point, pleased with her adorable troll dress, creatively shortened a bit, the matching tights, gave her pointed troll slipper boots a blissful smile, and her mind full of Sam’s reaction, sailed downstairs, all fetching troll glory.
“Lily! Now!” Her mother’s voice now on the other side of pleasant.
“Coming!” She troll pranced onto the front porch, stopped short. “Riley! Where’s your troll costume?”
An eight year old scary clown puffed out his chest and said “I’m too old for that. I’m a killer clown! I’ll scare everybody!”
“Well, where’s your candy pail?”
The small killer clown slapped his forehead and raced off to get it.
“Lily, I know you planned on meeting your friends after trick or treating, but you’ll need to stay with Riley afterwards, answer the door.” “Daddy’s working late, he won’t be home till about nine.”
“But why can’t you be here? It’s Halloween! It’s not fair!”
“I’ll be at the rectory, tomorrow’s All Saints. Just catch up with them after the bonfire.”
Realizing argument was futile, Lily sighed dramatically, the sigh of put upon 16 year olds everywhere.
Joining the neighborhood trick or treaters, a sixteen year old troll doll, a tiny killer clown, walked hand in hand.
Dark fell, and soon they were home, diving into candy, answering the door.
By nine thirty, still alone; Lily was getting anxious. She’d have to catch up with everyone by short-cutting through the old apple orchard to the abandoned school. Not her favorite way, spooky even on clear summer nights. If she didn’t leave now, Sam wouldn’t get to see her costume. Which was the whole point.
Lily looked at Riley, currently on a sugar high.
“Riley, I need to leave now, I’ll barely make it even cutting through the orchard. Promise you’ll stay here, not answer the door until Daddy gets home?”
Riley nodded, Lily turned off the porch lights, locked the door and took off running, never noticing the tiny killer clown following.
As Lily reached the orchard, the moonlight dimmed. “Come on, don’t be such a baby.” Lily told herself, trying to ignore an increasing dread. Lily picked up the pace, certain she heard branches moving.
Suddenly she stopped, hearing something behind her. To her left she saw a pair of glowing red eyes, shrieked, took off running.
Just then she heard a desperate little voice choke out “Lil, wait!”
Lily turned, a tiny, terrified killer clown running, sobbing into her arms. “Lil, there’s something back there, something bad. We gotta hide.”
Picking him up, Lily ran for the school, hoping to make it around the side to the open field and bonfire. But the bonfire was out, the field deserted. Frantically she looked for a hiding place. Suddenly she saw a pair of metal doors in the ground leading to the basement. Dropping Riley, Lily yanked hard to no avail. They were stuck.
“Lil.” Riley was pointing behind her, finger shaking.
Lily turned around slowly.
Something was there, impossible to see, equally impossible to miss the menace that seemed to shiver the air.
“Leave us alone! Whatever you are, you are not getting my brother or me! Now go, go back to the cemetery. I banish you in the name of all that’s holy, good and true, go now or face your due.”
Suddenly, the air was clear again, the moon came out from the clouds and Lily and Riley ran.
They took the long way.