Solitary Soul

Ellen Telfer sits on a bench, the same bench at the train station on King Street every single day of the week.

She is there  when it is raining she is there when it is unseasonably hot or cold. She is there when the first train pulls in and she is there when the last train leaves in the evening.

No matter how crowded the platform gets or how many people wish she would move so they could have the bench to themselves – Ellen stays seated. This bench is her place and she holds it with her silence which is as steely and formidable as the locomotives that roar by every half hour.

The morning commuters and the evening commuters, the security guards and the station agents have gotten so used to seeing Ellen Telfer that sometimes they don’t notice her at all.

Now you see her, now you don’t and now you see her again looking right through you.

 

It was two days before Halloween when a new commuter joined the 1513.

Mary Morse was not like her fellow passengers.

She didn’t have a phone, she smiled at you not through you and she spent her commute either reading an actual book or staring at all the faces she wanted to stare at that were sitting around her because everyone for the most part spent the train ride staring into their hands.

It was like she was the last person in the world and she could walk into any house or building and try on clothes or go through drawers or sit on the furniture because nobody was there to stop her.

There was nobody left to care.

 

On Halloween Mary Morse swung off the train and hopped onto the platform and she ended up right in front of Ellen Telfer who was planted on her bench.

Mary stood there staring at Ellen until she saw stars and was able to take some air into her lungs so that she could yell but her body decided it needed that air and she remained silent.

Ellen Telfer, the lady on the bench was not alive and Mary Morse didn’t understand why she was the only one on that platform to notice there was corpse with it’s melting face and the bugs and flies flying and crawling all around her and the crows sitting above her and flapping their wings and chatting excitedly- “look!” they seemed to be saying, ” Someone down there sees it too!”

” At last!” The Murder of Crows replied.

Mary Morse was trapped in that crowed, she was  in danger of being swept away by a tidal wave of humanity shoving it’s way through the King Street Station with their eyes focused inward and their heads bowed down mechanically following a path carved into their brains, etched in their DNA,  each person wired into their own reality- lost in their very own Universe, obliviously  falling through Space on their own.

Mary Morse got her footing back and she pushed her way up the stairs and she fought to way to the street above and when she was topside she did yell and she screamed but it didn’t matter to anyone around her.

No matter how loud she yelled, nobody heard her.

Not a single solitary soul.

 

 

 

 

 

The Mystical Madame Esme

Halloween Night

Seattle, Washington

1973

 

” No Felicity. No. Not this again.”

Felicity was digging her heels in, like she did every Halloween in front of one doorway or another with a tastefully handwritten  printed placard taped on the window  inviting you in for a ‘consultation.’ with- who is it on this night?

Madame Esme.

Why not Archie thought to himself. Why the heck not. Last year it was Madame Francesca and the year before that The Amazing Zephron.

” Felicity, this never works, it will never work and you’ll spend the rest of what should be a festive night for the both of us crying over spilt milk. Come on old girl, it’s Halloween. Let’s kick up our heals and maybe have a little fun for once.”

Felicity gave him that look- the one that said we have had a lot of fun and look at where it’s gotten us.

When she was sure he heard, or rather saw that, she continued:

” I have a feeling about this one Archie. I think this is the one that will help us -please don’t turn away Archie. Look. ” she took his hand and placed it on the glass door. ” Can’t you feel that?”

Archie closed his eyes and his lip curled back. He tried not to gag. ” Felicity. Something is sticking  to my hand and it’s sticky.”

Felicity’s eyes welled up a little and she let her tears, cool to the touch Archie knew, roll down her cheeks. ” Please Archie. Let’s try. What can it hurt? Maybe tonight we can talk to our Son. Maybe tonight is the night we can find him and  he’ll forgive us.”

Archie loved Felicity. He loved her weird taste in music and the way her eyeliner always ended up getting smeared so her eyes ended up looking like they were melting and the way she always poked herself in the chest when she put on one her Great Grandmother’s many broaches that were shaped like Bumblebees and said, ‘oh it stung me the nasty thing.”

” Oh Felicity. Ok. We’ll try. Again. ”

He held the door open and Felicity went through first.

Madame Esme by far, had the best fake British accent Archie had ever heard. Both he and Felicity had grown up just outside of London, but that was a long time ago and they have lived in the States for so long that only the faintest hints of their old life came through when they spoke. Still they could spot a fake accent in a heartbeat and Archie for one was ready to write Madame Esme off right then and there.

But not Felicity.

They followed Esme into her Parlor- it was lit with candles,  the windows were shuttered and there were ferns  hanging from the ceiling in baskets . All around the room there  were shelves lined with little jars full of dried herbs and plants and shells. A cat was asleep on an ‘offering table’ next to  silver box with slit on the top.

With a little bow, Esme invited them to sit at the table in the center of the room.

After they were seated, Madame Esme leaned forward and looked deep into Felicity’s eyes after first  looking  into  Archie’s less then amused ones. ” I think for you, we will use the Crystal Ball.”

” It’s very pretty. I think that’s a  wonderful choice.”

Madame Esme remembered to learn forward and to gaze with intensity from Felicity’s face into the crystal before she dramatically  took Felicity’s  hand into her own . But she did she pull  back a little when looked up and she thought Felicity’s eyes were melting. Before she broke character all together she realized it was her eyeliner it was smudged ,  apparently the  lady did not have a steady hand.

Esme ( aka Edna  Phillips ) took a deep breath, she looked up and wondered if she remembered to turn the coffee maker on before the  couple came in and then she closed her eyes and dove into the Crystal Ball remembering to let her earrings and bracelets and necklaces swing and jingle as she leapt.

”  Close your eyes and imagine that we are standing in front of an elevator in the lobby a  grand old Hotel ”

” I’m seeing the elevator in the Marsten, what are you seeing Archie?”

” Felicity, shhh.”

“The doors open and together we move into it. The doors shut and a button on the panel lights up and we start to move slowly up  to the top floor.”

Esme opens her eyes and  looks into the crystal ball and she says, ” We’ve stopped.  I see the door opening, I see someone standing there, wrapped in shroud. It’s falling away from the figure. This gentle Spirit has been waiting for you with a full heart for a very long time. ”

” Who -. Oh no Archie. Oh NO!” Felicity reached for Archie and if she could have moved fast enough she would have been out of her chair before anyone could stop her.

Esme reaches out to Felicity and takes her hand and gently encourages her to sit down. ” Don’t be frightened. This Spirit means you no harm. He has a message for you.”

Archie puts his hand on Felicity’s shoulder. ” Listen here Madame Edna ”

Esme dropped Felicity’s hand. ” What did you say?”

” You’re scaring my wife. Now fun is fun and it’s the night for it. But  I can not tolerate…-”

” It’s someone who loves us very much? Only one person could say that without laughing. Our Son. But in the end, we even let him down. We should have never gone out to the Circus that night. We got a little tipsy you see  on the way home with some Gin we bought from the Bearded Lady and on the way back…”

Felicity  reached for Archie and she took his hands in hers and lifted them to her cheek. ” We had an accident. At the Bridge. And we lost our Son, he was only five years old and he is the only other person we loved more then we love each other.”

Esme was on firm turf here. ” Your son says all is forgiven and that he has known great peace.”

Felicity dropped Archie’s hands and she lowered her head down and sobbed. ”  Our poor Son. He was such a gentle creature. Two Devil may care people like us should never have produced such a  lovely soul.”

Madame Esme aka Edna Phillips went into Earth Mother mode. She dropped the dramatic gaze, she fluffed her hair just a little, just enough to let the scent of lavender fill the air. ” But he loves you and we wants you to know that he is waiting for you, that he will be there when the time comes. ”

” But he’s gone. He lived an entire life without ever knowing how much we have missed him. ”

Edna echoed ” You left him and he lived an entire life? ”

” Our Son is dead Archie. I really thought we’d find him first and that we could say we were sorry for leaving him and now he’s dead and he’s on the other side and we will never be able to…” Felicity grappled for the right words and found none.

Her sobs were heartbreaking.

” He wasn’t in the car Felicity and that is all that matters. He wasn’t in the car with us that night…Now calm down. I’m pretty sure that Madame Edna here got her wires crossed and  she stopped the elevator at the wrong floor and had a chat with the wrong Spirit.

It wasn’t our Hamish, I’m sure of it and nobody we know has ever, geeze I can’t believe I’m going to say this- rode the elevator to the top floor, so I’m sure Hamish is fine. He’s probably out there right now with his  Grandchildren, he might  have a dozen of them by now. I’d bet the farm that they are out there right this second celebrating Halloween. Our favorite holiday. Just picture it Felicity. Our Hamish with his big wonderful family laughing and happy and Trick or Treating. I’ll bet he even has that dog you always wanted him to have.”

”  I wanted to give it to him for his Birthday that year. I wanted to name it Champ.” Felicity hiccupped and covered her mouth with her hand.

” I am POSTIVE”  Archie glared at Esme ” that Madame can  gaze into her crystal ball, ride the elevator and find a spirit who can tell us where to find Hamish so we can pop in and see how he’s doing.”

Archie’s eyes  burned like coals and before she could cry out Archie was on Esme’s side of the table – she wanted to look anywhere except for Archie’s face because Sixth Sense or not she knew what she was going to see wasn’t going to be good. So she looked down  and that’s when she saw water was pooling at Archie’s feet and  she turned away and looked across the table and saw  small slow moving rivlets of water  were streamimg from Felicity’s forehead and into her eyes and that her eyeliner was running down her cheeks.

“Give it another go Edna. What have you got to loose? Two lost  Devil may care spirits like me and my wife are game for another try. Are you?”

 

 

 

 

Uncle Percival’s Birthday Present

Seattle Washington

October 31, 1960

Dora June wasn’t an exceptional 14 year old and she wasn’t unexceptional either.

She was just sort of always there, like that box of baking soda you put in your fridge and you forget about it until one day when you’re looking for the mayo or maybe some something cold to drink and there it is and you say to the faded box of soda, ” Hey, where did you come from?”

It wasn’t the greatest place to hold in the world or in your own family, but Dora June didn’t seem to mind her almost non-existent status. She thought of herself as a Ghost In Training. Plus it was always fun to sort of see that look of confusion when people had when they realized Dora June was standing right there and for some reason they just didn’t see her.

It’s like when you’re picking your nose because you really, really have to do it and think that no one is looking, but TA DAH, they are.

So when Dora June asked her Mother if she could have a party, a Halloween party with maybe five of her friends and party food and games, Wilhelmina looked up from her cup of coffee- which she thought she was drinking alone in her kitchen in genuine shock.

First of all, she was surprised Dora June had any friends and second of all- she couldn’t shake the thought because it nagged at her-how long had Dora June been standing there watching her drink her coffee before she looked up and noticed her?

Dora June’s little brother, who had just turned 13, right after Dora June turned 14 was named after their Dad, Sydney.

Everyone called him  S.J.

S.J. was the type of kid you noticed- he was always jumping his bike over ramps at the end of the street that he and his friends built. He never walked, he trotted and ran and one summer he even found a dead body in the woods behind their house.

The ladies in her Mom’s Coffee and Cigarette Clutch called S.J. a charmer and joked about marrying him off to one of their daughters and S.J. would say something back like he’d rather marry one of them…ha.ha.ha.

Dora June, the Ghost in Training would be standing right there the entire time her Mom’s friends gushed over her brother and she wondered if any of them would look at Dora June and make a joke about sons who she could marry one day.

She would hitch a sigh and guess not.

Dora June, the Ghost in Training did have friends- she had met three of them at the library and the other two when she was out looking for tadpoles at Lake Townsend.

Alice and Gerty, Irene, Gordon and Freddy and Dora June weren’t outcasts, they weren’t bullied, nobody pranked them or egged their windows or tp’d their trees . For anyone to do that, they’d have to notice you and nobody ever seemed to Dora June or her friends.

That Halloween though, the night of Dora’s Party was the night all of that changed.

Halloween treats like cookies and candy were set out on the tables in festive bowls shaped like pumpkins and cauldrons around the living room, there was more food set on serving platters and trays in the dining room and there were pumpkins on the porch and in front of the fireplace.

Dora June had done most of the work herself and she even hung up cutouts of witches and black cats.

But Dora June and her guests weren’t interested in the food, or the decorations. They didn’t even bother to dress up in costumes.

When Dora June was sure her parents had retreated to their bedroom for the evening after the last Trick or Treater stopped by and the porch light had been snapped off ( more then likely they had forgotten Dora June and her friends were even in the house ) Dora June went up to her bedroom and came back down with a box in her hands.

” It’s here.” she set the box, which was wrapped up in bright slick paper decorated with cakes and candles and a topped with a bright yellow silk ribbon, on the dining room table.

Freddy reached out and touched the elaborate silk bow. ” It was a birthday present? ”

Before Dora June could answer, the front door opened and then slammed and S.J and two of his friends walked in- one was a girl in braids. Dora June saw that S.J.’s other friend looked like a taller and somewhat hairy version of the girl in braids. . Her brother Dora June guessed.

They were all holding pillow cases and plastic pumpkins full of candy that were no doubt the property of some very broken hearted Trick or Treaters-S.J when you came right down to it was a jerk.

The three of them sort of slunk through the living room and into the dining room and were about to grab some food when S.J. noticed the present on the table.

” Your birthday was last month. Have you been sitting on that all of this time?” S.J. asked in the smarmy tone of voice he used when he offered to run away with one of their Mother’s friends and marry her.

Dora June laid her hand on the still wrapped present. ” No, I haven’t been sitting on it. Does it look like an egg to you? Do I look like a hen to you? Why don’t you leave S.J.? I don’t want you here. Not tonight.”

S.J.’s friends looked at him expectantly. They were sure he was going to take his weirdo sister down in flames. But he didn’t. He just motioned for them to follow him back to the kitchen.

Dora June followed them and shut the kitchen door behind them.

When she came back to the dining room she sat at the head of the table and her friends took seats after her. ” This is a present from my Great Uncle Percival and his wife Mariana Mote.”

The table had been set with punch and cookies and finger sandwiches cut into pumpkin shapes. Dora pushed her plate to the side and made room for the gift. ” Great Uncle Percy told my Grandfather to give it to me for my 14 birthday, but that I shouldn’t open it until Halloween. It’s been in my closet in the top shelf.”

Her guests sat patiently as Dora June continued. ” Well, as you know my Grandfather died 3 years ago and Uncle Percy died before I was even born, but Grandpa told me where my gift was and said Uncle Percy knew he could count on me to keep my word and wait until Halloween of this year to open it.”

Dora June added. ” And use it.”

” Why tonight?” Freddy asked, why couldn’t you actually open it on your birthday?”

For the first time, maybe in her entire life Dora June let a little ripple of emotion move across her face. ” Well, it was on Halloween night that Uncle Percy died performing his famous magic trick, the Burning Coffin. Aunt Mariana died trying to save him.

Dora June’s friends had wished over the years that they could have had an Uncle Percy who had been a famous magician who had performed in places like Egypt and New Orleans , Mongolia, Italy, Canada and Peru and even in Chicago- (which is where he and Mariana died back in 1939) and that they had his posters designed and printed by Percy’s oldest brother Lewis, hanging up in their rooms the way Dora June did.

They were sure she had some of his props and costumes too, but she hadn’t shown them those things, yet.

Dora June began to carefully unwrap her gift and when she was done she folded the paper and wound the ribbon around her wrist.

They all looked down in front of Dora June.

The box was long and thin and unlike the wrapping paper, the yellowed slightly damp box showed it’s age and it turned out to be as fragile as it looked because the box fell apart when Dora June pulled the lid off of it.

She carefully lifted something out lightly wrapped in what turned out to be a delicate lace veil. Then she set her gift on the table.

” Where is the rest of it?” Gerty asked.

Dora June shook the veil and something fell free and landed on the table with a little thunk.

It was a planchette , and it was not molded from plastic. Not this planchette. It was molded from something a little more earthy.

Dora June’s gift was a Ouji Board.

” Do those really work Dora June? ” Irene asked as she reached out and touched the side of the board.

Dora June moved the board a little closer to Irene and nodded. ” Go ahead, You can touch it. Look. See? This board has all of the letters and numbers carved into it, it’s not painted like the common everyday ones you can by in the store. ”

Gordon added, ” Yeah, the toy store. They stack them next to the Monopoly ”

” This, ” Dora June said ” is the real thing if it’s from Uncle Percival and Aunt Mariana”

They all moved closer to the board.

The edges of the board were scorched and so were the edges of the letters and numbers.

” It smells like smoke, ” Gerty told Alice and they all agreed.

None of them were surprised.

” So who are we going to- you know. Summon?”

Dora June thought for a moment. ” Well. It’s Halloween. So I think I’m going to summon an evil spirit. It’s Halloween. It’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel. The world is full of them and ghosts tonight and no way can we miss if we aim for one of them.”

” Makes sense.” they agreed

They took their places at the table and just as they placed their fingers on the planchette and Dora June called out her invitation to the dark spirits of Halloween to join them, the lights flickered and then went off.

A second later they flashed back on.

Dora June worked her jaw from side to side.

She went on:

” Who is here with us? ”

WE-ARE

“Are there evil spirits here with us tonight?”

YES YES YES YES YES YES

The planchette flew from under their fingers and took it’s own place at the left of the board. It was a second, just a breath after it came to rest, the lights in the dining room and living room flashed began to madly off and on , the basement door banged open and shut as if it trapped in a hurricane and in the middle of the flashing lights and banging that was now coming from the walls too, Dora June jumped up from her seat and slammed her hands on the table and screamed ” Damn it SJ! Cut it out!”

SJ and his friends fell through the kitchen door and landed in a heap in the dining room.

He took a breath to stop himself from laughing and then he took his sister down not one but by an entire factory of pegs exactly the way his friends had expected from him earlier in the evening

” Who is here with us? ” Could you have asked a dumber question? And you got an answer right? None of this stuff is real. You guys moved that bone thing around with your own brain waves or something and I know that’s true because you got a boring stupid answer that matches your stupid boring face.”

S.J. and his friends were laughing at them, for the first and only time her brother ever really saw her, he looked at her and laughed so hard he wet himself.

Dora June was about to take the board off of the table and bash it across her brother’s face when a tall man and woman with long dark hair and soft caramel colored skin flared up, like a flame on candle hit by a cool draft, from the shadows at Dora June’s feet.

The man rested his hand gently on Dora June’s shoulder and Aunt Mariana said, ” She received an answer to her question. There are evil spirits here tonight. Three of them. I suppose her next question to us will probably be-”

“What she wants done with them. ” Uncle Percival said.

Honored Guests

Photo A.M. Moscoso

Last year I took this picture just before sunset on Halloween.

It had been such a clear beautiful day.

I could have cried.

Where were the dark clouds?  Where was the chill in the air? Why was everyone strolling around with cold drinks in their hands?

Had the world gone mad?

Yes. I decided. Yes it had.

 

 

But this year, this Halloween is different.

The skies are dark, it’s chilly, it’s going to rain, and dare a hope for a little fog?

I do.

Here is the reason why.

I was walking through SODO with a Chinese menu ( no kidding ) in my hand when I turned down an alley and saw this:

 

Photo A.M. Moscoso

Could it be

the Werewolves of London

have made it to Seattle in time for Halloween?

I think they have and I think they made it just in time to make it spectacular.

 

Photo A.M. Moscoso

 

Daily Addictions Prompt: Signal

The Year My Halloween Mask Tried To Kill Me

 

My parents used to take us to either Kmart or Woolworths to choose our Halloween costumes.

I liked Woolworth’s just fine, but I liked Kmart more because they sold popcorn and Icees .

Those delicious  snacks made up for the fact that no one was going to see my costume that I spent HOURS deciding upon because it was always cold and I had to wear a coat and I hated the mask so it ended up on top of my head and it worked it’s way to the back of my head and that little elastic string that went under your chin ended up around my neck where it tried, with great effort to strangle me.

At some point I  did take my mask off and ended up either carrying it or stuffing it into my treat bag- the funny thing is I kept those masks from year to year and I wore them  every single chance I got. I can tell you one thing- my Dad and whichever one of his parents he finagled into Trick or Treating with us weren’t going to carry it for me because that’s not what they were there to do.

I guess they were there to see what treats I got so that they could decide early in the evening which ones they thought looked  ‘ suspicious ‘ and may have been tampered with. I can’t count how many times they saved my life on Halloween night. I come from a family of heroes, let me tell you.

 

One year I talked my parents into letting me go with my friends, Bonnie and Laurie up and down our street- with the promise that once we did that we would come back to our house and my Dad would take us to the other streets.

The great thing was that this was in the late 60’s  and the plan was that me and my friends would hit the house two doors up and Trick or Treat ‘ The Hippy House”

That’s right, we lived two doors from a genuine Hippy house where the police brought people home and left them passed out on the lawn. Where one guy used to tell me from behind sunglasses, that had I think colored lenses- ones that he even wore in the dark- to ‘stick it to the man’ on my way to and from Kindergarten in the mornings.

The Hippies had set up a haunted house.

Me and my friends had watched them getting it ready all week long. We were out of our minds with curiosity because we had never seen them move around so much and had never seen them up during the daylight before.

On Halloween night we stood in line and when we got to the door my Sunglass Friend was without Sunglasses because his face was painted up like Frankenstein’s monster.

We stood there staring up at him in all of that greasepaint and in his great costume ( we may have been a little scared to )and promptly forgot what to say.

So Bonnie just held open her treat bag and said ” Thank you. ”

A girl, she was very pretty and always wore black chokers with little flower charms was wearing a dress that looked like something my Grandma would have worn  which I didn’t get then but I get now said. ” Hey, it’s Halloween. What are you supposed to say?”

The lights went on.

I pulled my mask back down, I may have howled like a dog because that’s what I was that year, and I screamed ” Stick it to the man!”

I had to go home after that visit because Frankenstein’s Monster emptied most of the candy from his bowl into my bag.

 

Costumes are more elaborate now- and I’m pretty sure they’re non-flammable and the masks won’t kill you by strangulation but I have to wonder if that sense of danger coming from our killer costumes and parents who told us that our candy could have been poisoned so they were going to take it and throw it away gave an extra thrill to the night that kids just don’t get anymore.

I hope not.

Halloween is that one night you can put on a mask, be who you want to be and get rewarded for it.

With candy.

How wonderful is that?