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I spend most of my time daydreaming and creating otherworldly tales steeped in myth, magic, and romance. All of my heroes have long hair, and my heroines are strong-willed. Prior to being a writer, I played bass guitar in an all-girl hard rock/metal band in southern California. When I'm not writing, editing, or reading, I enjoy practicing target archery.
 

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Doorway by Kelley Heckart

In the spirit of Samhain, here is a short story I wrote in honor of the original meaning of Halloween.

The Doorway
By Kelley Heckart

32 BC:

Mist covered the ground, swirling up around the stone altar that stood as a silent sentinel beneath the massive oak trees. A full moon illuminated the sacred grove revealing a woman lying motionless on the altar, and seven robed figures moving sunwise around the altar.

Beneath the hoods, their faces hidden in shadow, seven pairs of lips moved in chant. The beautiful and haunting voices melded together, floating as if borne on wings up through the trees and into the night sky.

The woman waited in anticipation for the cold blade of the dagger to pierce her heart, sending her soul on a journey to her next life. Her dark hair was streaked with gray, framing her gaunt face and her blue ceremonial robe hung on her diseased body. This body would not house her soul much longer. She was honored to leave the world in such a way. Without fear, she clutched her favorite brooch in her hand.

One of the figures broke from the circle and stood before the altar. The others continued to chant.

Long, ringed fingers reached beneath the robes and came out clutching a bronze dagger.

“On this eve of Samhain when the veil between the realm of the dead and the realm of the living is thinnest,” the gruff voice rumbled. “We send our sister from this life to the next. May her journey be filled with wondrous light.”

The chanting grew louder and faster. The dagger arced down toward the woman. Just before the whetted dagger reached her chest, a bright blue light appeared, opening like a doorway and enveloping the woman. The blue light vanished and the stone altar was empty. The woman was gone.

****

With lights flashing and siren wailing, Officer Duncan Murray rushed to a call he had just received—a 211 in progress.

It was Halloween and a full moon filled the night sky. He thought to himself that this was probably the first of many calls he would answer tonight.

Fingers gripping the wheel and adrenaline rushing, he sped along the winding, tree-lined road that passed the creepy mental hospital. He shivered when he saw the white ghostly figures of the lions that guarded the entrance.

The moon passed behind clouds, causing instant darkness.

She appeared out of nowhere in front of the speeding police car. With no time to stop, he heard the sickening thud and his car skidded to a stop near the entrance to the mental hospital. His heart pounding, he called for an ambulance and informed dispatch that they would have to send someone else on the 211 call.

Jumping from his squad car, he knelt next to the broken woman. The flashing lights of the squad car reflected the look of shock on his beardless face. He searched for a pulse, but there was none. Her wrist was cold as stone like she had been dead for hours. How odd, he thought. His trained eyes scrutinized the body, noting the strange blue robe.

A man appeared from between the white stone lions that guarded the entrance to the mental hospital. He wore a rumpled blue coat and he mumbled something.

Duncan turned to the man. “Do you work here?”

The man nodded. “As an orderly.”

Do you know this woman?” Duncan asked in a voice filled with authority.

The man stared in shock at the woman’s body, shaking his head.

The flashing red and blue lights on the squad car cast an eerie light on the whole scene.

“I s-saw this woman walking through the h-hall. I didn’t t-think she was a patient, but she l-looked crazy to me.”

What makes you say that?” Duncan’s eyes shifted to the woman.

“Well, look at her. S-she is wearing that strange blue robe and s-she kept muttering some gibberish to herself.”

“What sort of gibberish?”

The man thought a moment before giving his answer. “Something like Sow-in, Sow-in.”

That wasn’t gibberish, Duncan thought, his eyes shifting back to the woman’s body. That was the Celtic word for Halloween. A strange feeling crept over him.

The man continued his story. “I tried to stop her and s-she looked at me real w-weird like and I couldn’t move...like I was paralyzed.”

The man’s story sounded really weird, but Duncan had a feeling that the man told the truth. For some odd reason, Duncan thought back to the stories his Grandma used to tell him about his ancestors in Ireland. She told him that one of his ancestors was a powerful Druid priestess and that the Druids were known to make human sacrifices on the eve of Samhain to bring balance to the world.

“I guess w-we will never know the madwoman’s s-secret now,” the man muttered to himself.

The poor man was in shock. Duncan was feeling a little shaken up himself. He leaned against his car for support.

This place had always given him the creeps. According to old legends, the area used to be an ancient burial ground that even the Indians stayed away from. Supposedly it was still haunted. He didn’t believe in ghosts so he couldn’t understand why he suddenly wanted to leave this place.

The radio in his squad car squawked and Duncan reached into his car to answer it.

The sound of approaching sirens echoed through the night.

“Uh, Officer?” The man stared past Duncan’s shoulder at the spot where the body lay. “The b-body is gone!” he shouted.

His mind in a whirl, Duncan knelt next to the spot where just moments before a woman’s body had lain. He stared up at the moon now free of the clouds, his blue eyes dazed. He had just received disturbing news over the radio. The officer who answered the 211 call in his place had been shot and killed.

Something on the ground caught his eye, gleaming in the splash of moonlight. He bent down and picked it up, his hand shaking. It was a golden brooch with intricate spiral designs—the brooch that had belonged in his family for centuries, the brooch that was buried with his Grandmother.

A chill crawled up his spine.
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