In the hills of the Appalachian Mountains lies a town has been forgotten by time but not by the spirits that come to call it home. These are the stories of Hallow’s Eve in Oden.
Sarah sat on the porch taking in the evening air as the mist slowly made its way over the mountains. It was almost time of year again, to put out the offerings, soon Hallow’s Eve would be upon the town, and she and all other souls had to make amends with a past they would rather forget. This year Sarah had opted for the full course meal instead of a light snack, all the favorite dishes of people she no longer knew anything about. She had no idea who would be her guest this year; at 53, she no longer worried who visited her. Twice it had been her cat that passed away when she was young, but for her, it was never those that she missed the most. She settled in her favorite chair that her grandpa had passed down to her and began to knit. Winter would soon be on the way, and there was no time like the present to prepare for the harsh weather ahead.
It had become traditional back in the days when the town was founded, some say it was founded by a witch and her coven, while others said it was the slaves who made this town of Oden. Whether the town was built by slaves or witches, no one was really sure, but one thing was certain every 10 years on Hallow’s Eve, the souls of those you missed the most would pay you a visit for a night whether you liked it or not.
Maybe it was the magic that preserved the land or superstition, but each time residents would leave this small town from fear of seeing those who had passed on and visitors would settle in for a year to gain the approval of the town. It was quite tricky; each year, only 2,348 residents would remain, and when the night was over, the number would neither increase or decreased. Did the souls stay or where souls were taken away? By the end of the night, one question would be answered; Who did you miss the most?
The Duncans had settled into their new house for two months when they first heard the rumor of Hallow’s Eve. They had never been very superstitious, but with their first child on the way, they had begun to wonder how they had gotten such a good deal on the house. It was a Victorian renovated house with four bedrooms and three bathrooms, perfect for what the future may hold.
A thick mist wrapped itself around their house, then a knock came at the door. There was silence, then a voice called out from the fog, “David! Open the door love, these bags are killing me!”. The voice sounded like his mother, but it couldn’t be. She had been dead for the past three years, and nothing they had tried could have prevented her slow demise. Cancer had been rough but nothing compared to watching her wither away when the chemo had stopped working.
David shook, holding back the tears, falling to his knees weak with fear and longing. Turning around to look up at his wife, wondering if he should open the door or be content with just hearing her voice again. His wife walked past him, aiming for the door and opened it, a gust of wind whipped through the house and sent papers that had once stood still flying in every direction.
His mother was there, the pain and anguish of losing her washed away like it was never there.
Sarah rose from the comfort of her chair and made her way to the kitchen to find her late husband and their three children that had passed 20 years ago, making a mess. She froze for a moment, taking in the familiar feeling that she had long forgotten. A tear trickled down her cheek as Sarah took another step forward, they turned to meet her, smiling as if they had been there the entire time. In a moment, she thought about the misery of those solitary years, how much pain she had felt, but for now, her heart was full.
He embraced her in his warm arms, lifting her into the air spinning her around as she cried and laughed. “Okay, okay, put me down Josef, let me take a look at you all” She turned, taking in their faces before she began to make a fuss. “Oh, how you have grown,” her voice croaked, giving away the joy she felt.
“Mom, you look so olddddd,” Ian giggled.
“Now, Ian, that is no way to address your mother,” warned her husband.
“But Dad, it’s tru-” Claire punched him in the gut before he could finish his retort.
Claire buried her face in her mother’s chest. “Hi momma, I missed you” and began to cry. “I tried to stay home that day, I really did, but Sam was scared and…and… and…” her voice stopped, and the sobs became louder.
Sarah smiled, holding her daughter once more, feeling her warmth had to be a miracle. Although she had grown into a fine lady, she still remained a child. Brushing her hair from her daughter’s face, she whispered, “Oh honey, it’s not your fault. Thank you for coming. ” Sarah turned her head to look at her second child, Sam, he sat in a corner silently watching the family reunion that he felt he had no right to be a part of since the accident was his fault. His mother took his hand and wept. She spoke no words, but she was just as grateful to have her family back if only for one night.
The house creaked. Melissa had not been looking forward to this night when the memories of her dad came crashing down on her. She knew who would come to visit her, but nothing in her was looking forward to seeing that mean old bastard once more. In the past few years, she had begun to remember the better times they had together: when he came to her college graduation with flowers and took her out to dinner or when he made her a birthday cake for her fifth birthday.
It was funny how the dead were idolized after their passing. And she had done the same as everyone else, remembering the good rather than the bad. Yet the nightmares still woke her in the middle of the night. The moments when he was so drunk that he disappeared for weeks on end at a time only to return with a heart full of hatred. Oh, he would yell, blaming them for his downfall, for the loss of his youth. The years had not been kind to him, and as karma would have it: he died on Christmas from a drunk driver. Her mother cried that day, maybe it was from the relief of being free or the loss of what her husband could have been. The years that passed were happier, filled with moments of healing and laughter, but tonight a rattling came at her window, and she knew.
The sound of empty bottles falling to the floor and breaking woke her, he was here. Moaning, staggering to his feet, he stood in front of her, drunk like the last time he was alive. She had hoped that he would visit her sober, but it seems that the afterlife had not been kind to him as it was to her. There was a moment of silence before he spoke, it came out slurred “mmmmmmmm bbbaabbbyygiiirrlll, why the sad face?” he grunted looking around. Melissa said nothing clenching her fist, waiting for the moment of anger to pass, it never did. There was a type of sadness in her gaze, this pitiful man died as he lived. Drunk.
When he noticed that she made no effort to step closer to him or speak, his mood turned sour, his drunken demeanor oozed darkness and anger, but not like her anger that was quiet waiting for a moment of strength. His anger was that of the damned; the house shook, giving way to the storm that raged within him.
” You never loved me! It was all that HAG’S fault! She raised all of you to disrespect me. Always going on and on about the bills and the baby. YOU ALL SUCKED ME DRY!” He bellowed, yelling any everyone and no one. As he yelled about his lost dreams and the lack of respect he received from his family, he failed to see his daughter’s face. Melissa had become– calm. The words her father spewed at her no longer did the damage it had once done.
“Get out,” she spoke in a low tone, almost a whisper. Her face remained calm, but you could hear the seriousness in her voice. She meant her words, and the world understood her. The house shook and creaked as if it would break into pieces.
And then he was gone.
Sinking to her knees, she began to sob, her nightmare was finally over. Her dad would no longer have control over who she would be in life. For the first time in 14 years, she allowed herself to have a glass of wine, raising her glass to the sky she made a toast to the man who had been a monster but in a small way had also been her father.
May he rest in peace, she thought as she laid her head down for the night.
In the morning, the newspaper would read about a new baby boy born to David and Rebecca Duncan, and it would mourn the loss of a Sarah Conway. This was the way of Oden, a new life began, and an old one ended.