Welcome to Day 6 of our Halloween Spooktacular, Please give a warm welcome to Stan Hampton Sr.
We’re in the second decade of the 21st century. How so very far we’ve come in science and technology. We can photograph atoms and molecules, and photograph some of the very early galaxies when the universe was merely hundreds of millions of years old. We can explain much of the universe in cold, scientific terms. But it wasn’t always that way.
There was a time when ghosts, goblins, and trolls prowled the world. No, I’m not referring to the Lord of The Rings. I’m referring to the time before Halloween was named, codified, and placed in an all- purpose index of celebrations.
The timeless festival of Samhain was the forerunner of Halloween. It was at a time when the world was ruled by beliefs handed down from generation to generation. Samhain was the dividing line between the end of summer and the end of the harvest. Days grew shorter and the air colder as winter advanced on ancient lands of dark forests, isolated villages, and isolated homes. Scattered across those lands were the crumbling stone ruins of the Roman Empire, by then the details forgotten of its former glory. Crumbling, overgrown by nature, the ruins were the dark homes of things that prowled unseen except when glimpsed from the corner of the eye, or ventured forth when the sun sank behind forested horizons or nearby mountains.
Twilight marked the time when people retreated to their rude homes and the comfort of their warm, brightly lit fireplaces. Sometimes the door or the window shutters rattled like something was testing the security behind which people retreated. Or maybe it was only the chill, night wind.
Maybe it’s still the night wind that rattles doors and windows; oftentimes Halloween night seems to mark the dividing line between the end of a chilly fall, and the onset of a cold winter. That night the streets are filled with happy children traipsing from home to home with their goodie bags. Little voices shout, “Trick or treat!” at opened doors. They laugh at brightly lit pumpkins, Halloween decorated doors and windows, and even costumed adults doling out handfuls of candy.
But what of later that Halloween night when the streets are deserted, and everyone is safe and sound behind locked doors? What silently lopes, or hops through the darkness? What drifts with the wind? Perhaps it’s something unknown, something horrific. Or perhaps it’s an old friend, a familiar who knows us so well, yet has lurked out of sight our entire lives without us ever knowing it.
“An Appointment in the Village Bazaar.” Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper Anthology.
Ed. Nancy Kilpatrick. Edge SF & Fantasy,
Forthcoming October 2012.
Behind them, such a deep contrast to the land before them, the valley they emerged from was a lush garden of green grass, brush, and trees.
“No shit,” Caleb, who usually didn’t swear, gasped as sweat, mingled with the cold thin drizzle that fell from gray clouds, trickled down his face. The platoon spread out and eyed an ancient narrow trail that wound through the trees to a wide, rutted path that led to the village.
As the soldiers slipped through the trees, Caleb thought they resembled unearthly creatures moving through a blighted medieval landscape; each wore a camouflaged Kevlar helmet, Individual Body Armor weighted down with heavy ammunition magazines, first aid kits and combat knives, and grayish- green Army Combat Uniforms with dark elbow and knee pads. Each wore the trademark dark ballistic eyeglasses that hid the eyes and gave the impression of emotionless, less than human faces. They carried M4 Carbines with Close Combat Opticals, M249 Light Machine Guns, and M203s, a 40mm grenade launcher mounted under an M4.
He knew that in their minds, and in reality, they were the meanest SOBs in the valley, or any valley. He felt safe in their presence. It was a much needed feeling after almost being killed by an Improvised Explosive Device three days before.
“Don’t know how much drawing you’ll get done on a shitty day like this,” Chief commented as he ground the cigarette under his boot heel.
“That’s why I brought my Nikon,” Caleb patted a black bag nestled against the side of his IBA and first aid kit. His drawing kit dangled against his right hip, just above his holstered 9mm pistol. “If I have to I’ll take photos, maybe do some color pencil drawings…”
An Appointment in the Village Bazaar
SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren, and a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). He served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Army National Guard in October 2004; he was mobilized for active duty for almost three years after his enlistment. He continues to serve in the Guard, where he holds the rank of staff sergeant. He is a published photographer and photojournalist, an aspiring painter, and is studying for a degree in anthropology—hopefully to someday work in underwater archaeology. He has wanted to be a writer since he was 15 years old; his first short story was published in 1992, after which it wasn’t until 2001 that he had another short story published. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories, and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy (forthcoming), Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand- alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. As of December 2011, he became the latest homeless Iraq war veteran in Las Vegas, Nevada. Remember to comment to earn more entries in our grand prize giveaways! a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway