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GOLDEN TAROT: Nine of Wands

The Night Watch

The night constable walked through the empty streets; his footfalls clacked on the cobble as he approached the cemetery. People said cemeteries were places of silence and tranquility, but he disagreed. The cemetery at night was as noisy as any city in the daytime. Owls hooted in the trees, crickets chirped and, if one paid attention, one could hear the soft scurrying sounds of rodents among the graves. To the constable, cemeteries were full of life; he often rested on the bench beside the wrought-iron gates flanked by stone angels. 

People asked if it didn’t scare him, but, in his thirty years of treading the vicinity, he’d witnessed nothing odd. Nothing spooked him, not even the mist which sometimes hovered over the graves and cast an eerie atmosphere. 

“What would the dead want with me?” He said, “Most people were good in life, why should they bother me?”

With a tired groan and a stiff back, the night constable sat on his bench, arms spread out along the backrest, and gazed skyward. The moon shone bright, and the stars twinkled. He even recognized a planet, though he was unsure which. He loved watching the stars from this spot and contemplated the Northern Cross bright above him. His mother used to tell him stories about the constellations as they sat out on the field by his childhood home. 

A black mass passed across the moon, and, as it crept, blocked all light. One by one it blotted out the stars, as if someone had placed a cloak over the dome of the sky. 

A dense silence settled over the cemetery; only the dim gaslight at the street corner provided an anchor of reality in this new thick darkness. All sound ceased. It oppressed and discomforted. 

The constable’s heart beat and pumped loud in his ears. What’s happening? He thought, and tried to call out, but though his mouth moved, no sound emerged. 

Out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed a light, and, thinking it might be a lantern, turned in the direction. He discerned a green orb, perhaps a comet, yet it hovered much too low on the horizon. It brought the silence with it, and the constable watched it approach. 

The light entered the cemetery and, like a billiard ball, bounced from grave to grave. It then ascended to the sky and disappeared, taking the strange mantle with it, as if someone had pinched a handkerchief off a table and flung it into the air. The moon shone again and the stars, one by one, turned on and twinkled. The night sounds resumed, and the world plunged back into normality. 

“Will-o’-the-wisps,” his wife shrugged when he explained. 

He shook his head. That light came not from this world.

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TAROCCHI DELL’OLIMPO: 4 of Chalices

Elysium

 The battle raged, thunderous with destruction, despair and human cries of violence. Lucius, shield in one hand and gladius in the other, cut men down one by one. The sweat and muck in his eyes made it difficult to see, and he hoped he slayed only the enemy. Rain fell hard, and each drop stung his face; it cooled his body though it pinged off his armor. 

Lucius found himself alone, ensnared in the sudden hush of the surrounding dead. In this temporary calm, he wiped the grime, sweat and rain from his eyes, looking this way and that. Had the battle ended? A strange silence had befallen the field and Lucius thought he might be dead and on the threshold of Elysium. 

Lightning flashed and struck the ground nearby; the vibration snaking up his legs. Lucius blinked, and, astonished, glimpsed a young woman in a strange yellow cape standing in the middle of the battlefield. She had appeared in the flash and now glanced around, confused. 

For a moment, Lucius thought she might be a witch and raised his sword to slay her, but his dark eyes met hers and Lucius froze. A shock of short black hair framed her thin and dainty face, white as marble. Long dark eyelashes outlined big blue eyes which shone with fear and wonder. Eyes fixed on him, she extended a gloved hand, reaching for him. 

Thunder clapped and the clamor of war broke the eerie enchantment. Out of the corner of his eye, Lucius caught the menacing figure of an enemy, turned and stabbed him dead. The young woman remained, confused and frozen to the spot. A sword rose behind her, ready to strike. Lucius rushed to her side; he pushed her to the ground and killed the enemy. She screamed, covered her head with her arms and rolled herself into a bright yellow ball. Lucius kept fighting, aware of the delicate figure at his feet, careful not to trample her. 

Another lull. Lucius pulled her up by her elbow. He placed his shielded arm around her and ran with her into the nearby forest away from the onslaught; her body warm under his protective embrace. 

Lucius pushed her against a tree and told her to stay there. She freed herself from his grasp, hopped up and grabbed the nearest branch. He watched amazed at her nimble movements as she climbed the tree. She stopped on a fat branch and huddled against the trunk. Those big blue eyes shone at him through the wet leaves. Thunder and lightning flashed, and Lucius prayed for Jupiter to spare the tree from Vulcan’s bolt. Their eyes met one more time, and he returned to the fray. 

The battle soon died and the young woman clambered down from the tree. She walked among the dead, looking for her savior. She found him caked in blood and mud. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she wiped the blood from his closed eyes. He groaned. Her soft giggle of relief sounded like heavenly music in his ears. He opened his eyes and smiled into those bright blue irises gazing down at him. 

“Lucius,” he whispered and pointed to himself. 

The young woman took his hand in hers and raised it to her lips. 

“Miriam.”

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THE GODDESS TAROT: XVIII The Moon

Arcane

Derek stood before the bookcase and sighed. He scanned the spines searching for the book stated in his handwritten note. It didn’t help that the borrower had only provided the title of the book. He’d checked the catalog and the only reference was “occult”, which had turned out to be an extensive section in the library basement. He was on his third bookcase. 

Aha! Derek checked his note again and retrieved a dusty book with strange symbols on the cover and titled “Necromancy, Wizardry and Dark Magic” in big bold letters. He sneered as he perused the pages; pure balderdash and poppycock. 

He heard a strange rumble far away and wondered whether a storm was coming. Derek shrugged and tucked the book under his arm. He turned to leave when the ground shook and flung him into the bookcase. The lights flickered, and the books rattled in their shelves; a few tumbled onto the floor. When the tremor ended, Derek rubbed his shoulder and sighed. He set the requested book aside and bent down to pick up the fallen books and reshelve them. 

One lay open, and, as Derek reached for it, a cold draft blew through the aisle and flipped the pages. Derek squinted as he tried to read the writing. He didn’t understand the language, nor the alphabet. Something crept up his spine and tickled the back of his mind. 

He sat cross-legged on the floor, and without touching the book, stared at the pages. He sensed he could almost read the writing, as if he’d once known it but had forgotten long ago. The pages then turned to an illustration. 

A baby in swaddling clothes left behind at a doorstep. Derek examined the picture and wondered why it brought feelings of déjà vu. A memory flashed; he sat in the kitchen with his mother, snacking on milk and cookies. 

“You found me on the doorstep,” he’d said, matter-of-fact. 

“Of course not,” his mother had smiled, “you were born in the hospital. I know, I was there.”

The memory ended and his mind focused on the picture. Though he couldn’t see it, he knew the doorstep belonged to an earthen home with people around a warming fire. 

The picture moved, and Derek, frightened yet curious, wondered whether his mind was tricking him. The door creaked open; an old woman peeked out. She saw the baby, picked it up, gazed left and right, and cradling it, took it inside the hut. Derek’s heart thumped, as long-forgotten dreams flared and burst into puffs of haze in his mind. Could he be the baby?

“Derek! Are you down there?”

The boss’s voice plunged into the basement and broke the spell. Only the strange writing remained on the page. 

“Coming!” He yelled. 

Derek closed the book; the cover was old, leather-bound, weather-beaten and title-less. He put it back on the shelf, at the very end where no one would notice it. He grabbed the book on magical crapola and walked toward the stairs, reluctant to climb them. 

The library closed and Derek, the last to leave, snuck down to the occult section, retrieved the book, hid it under his jacket and took it home. 

Moonlight shone as he pulled into the driveway, its eerie silvery light an omen, which Derek felt with every cell in his body.

“Once in a blue moon, Derek,” Grandpa’s forgotten voice whispered in his memory, “a book comes along that changes your life.”

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ALEISTER CROWLEY THOTH TAROT: XIX The Sun

Premonition

Rainer sat on the topmost rock of the hill. The sun shone bright in the sky and warmed him. He was shirtless and the soft breeze cooled his skin and gave him goosebumps. He loved sitting in the sunlight and being out of doors, rain, snow or shine. 

The breeze turned cold, and the wind strengthened. A storm cloud rolled through the baby blue sky towards him. It darkened the land below it. Rainer stood and faced the cloud; soon it would obscure the sun. 

“Someone’s coming,” he murmured. An eagle swooped down and alighted on the rocks nearby. It screeched at him. 

“Show me,” Rainer said, and the eagle flew heading east, towards the storm. Rainer sprinted down the mountain, nimble as a cat and eyes on the eagle. Now and then he skipped from rock to rock, his footfalls soft and silent on the barren ground. Rainer followed the eagle into the woods; it led him to the riverbed. 

He stopped on the bank and listened to the river as it flowed over the rocks. Rainer glanced around him, straightened his neck and sniffed the air. The night before he’d heard two bangs, and the acrid chemical stench of gunpowder had overwhelmed him. Now the gunpowder was faint, but the humid wind brought with it blood and fear. 

The storm cloud blocked out the sun and Rainer’s spine tingled with foreboding.

He turned to the eagle, “I will wait inside tonight.”

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OLD ENGLISH TAROT: 9 of Cups

The Cotillion

All eyes stared at the handsome young man as he entered the doorway. There was something strange and mystical, almost ethereal about his presence. His tall, lean figure graced the door while his black hair shone in the light cast by the flickering candles on the chandelier. His piercing blue eyes under long lashes glanced around the ballroom. Even the musicians stopped as he crossed the room. 

Women smiled. The girls, the belles of the ball, dressed in colorful dresses, high hairdos and lace gloves, fanned themselves and giggled as he glided past them. They fluttered their eyelashes attempting to get his attention. Older men grinned with mischievous glints in their eyes, while the young men, dressed to the nines in high collars and tails, smirked and scowled. 

The beauties all gasped as the young man approached a seated young lady with her head lowered. He extended his hand, and the lady, gaping with eyes wide and cheeks afire, obliged. He led her to the dance floor; she stumbled on his arm. Ladies giggled as the conductor a-hemmed and the music resumed. 

The handsome stranger and the young lady began their dance while all other couples stood and watched. The young lady, plain and clumsy, spun and swirled like a princess on his arm. Her face glowed with her beaming smile, while her dull eyes sparkled with delight. She became the most beautiful lady in the room. 

When the piece ended, he thanked her, led her back to her seat and bowed. He then approached the young lady seated in a corner by the drapes. She was a chubby girl with the unfortunate body of a barrel. Her heel caught her dress as she stood, and ripped the hem. She stomped to the dance floor, clinging to his arm. 

The dance began and once again his grace and charm turned a bumbling wretch into the most gorgeous girl in the ballroom. Dance after dance, plain girl after plain girl, each uglier than the last, for a few shining moments became the most radiant beauty of the night. 

The natural beauties squirmed and smirked. It seemed when he danced he drained them of their beauty and, as long as the music played, their features contorted into ugliness. One old man, the grandfather of the first dancing partner, noticed this enchantment also befell the young men. The handsome grimaced and raged out of jealousy, while the plain gentlemen, delighted by the occurrence, shone with dignity and composure. While the music played, beauties and beasties learned how the other half lived. 

The clock struck midnight. Thunder boomed above the musical din and lightning flashed, casting the ballroom into an eerie blue light. 

The patrons gasped, all eyes fixed on the dance floor. The young man had vanished. Only a pile of glimmering pearly feathers remained in his place.

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GOLDEN BOTTICELLI TAROT: 9 of Swords

Sounds in the Night

Andrea sits up in bed with a gasp. Something has woken her. She listens to the sounds of the night. She hears the soft tinkle and pitter-patter of Goliath, the noisiest cat alive. He’s found something and is playing with it all over the house. 

Andrea lays her head back down on the pillow and stares at the ceiling. Soft moonlight streaks across her bedspread. Something is wrong, she knows it, but sleep is heavy and soon her eyelids close and she dozes off into an uneasy slumber. 

Andrea kneels inside a gothic church, the vaulted ceilings high above her, the crucifix enormous and imposing. Statues of angels with swords in hands surround her, as if ready to protect the sanctuary and those within it. Footsteps approach, yet no matter how hard she tries, a soft, yet firm vise does not allow her to turn. 

“Who is it?” Andrea utters with distorted words. She knows those footsteps, they belong to someone who’s missing, someone she yearns for and wishes were with her. The church nave is long and Andrea knows the footsteps will soon be upon her. Chills crawl up her spine as she waits. The footsteps have changed and are now ominous and discomforting, and Andrea wonders she should feel so afraid in a church.

A rough hand clamps down on her shoulder and Andrea screams, gasps and awakens to find Goliath sitting on her chest, gazing at her. 

“Meow.”

“Goliath, you scared me!” Andrea reaches out from under the covers and strokes him between the ears. Goliath purrs and closes his eyes into tight slits. Andrea is dozing again when Goliath stands up, ears back, spine arched and stares at the doorway. 

Andrea’s heart races and the hair at her nape stiffens. She listens. She hears the tinkle-tinkle of someone rummaging around the kitchen, familiar footsteps and the opening and closing of the refrigerator. Andrea gazes at Goliath, stiff and immobile. The footsteps ascend the stairs and a tall mass appears under the open door. Andrea screams, Goliath hisses. A car whizzes by and casts its moving lights upon the wall. When the light reaches the doorway, it’s empty, save for the glint of a something draped around a bloody neck. It’s a fleeting moment, but Andrea sees a beloved smiling face missing in war and destruction. The face vanishes, and Goliath relaxes, he sits, folds his front paws beneath him and cuddles next to Andrea. 

Andrea puts her arm around her cat and silent tears fall down her cheeks, recalling the sound of Peter fixing himself a midnight snack. She lays still until sleep overcomes her. 

Sunlight streams through Andrea’s window when she opens her eyes. She has a vague recollection of the night. Goliath is asleep on the empty pillow beside her. A knot forms in her throat. She reaches over to stroke the cat, it brings her peace. Her other hand is in a tight fist. As she opens it, Peter’s dog tags fall out. Andrea gasps and sobs, clutching them to her chest. 

The doorbell rings. She knows what the sergeant on the stoop will tell her… Peter is found. Peter is dead.

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BRUEGEL TAROT: XVIII The Moon

The Dark Cottage

Laura opened her eyes and glimpsed light creeping in slits around the windows. She moved her fingers on the coarse fabric of the blanket. She touched her side, her wound bandaged. 

Laura gazed at the ceiling as her eyes adjusted to the darkness and wondered where she was. She remembered staggering to her feet by the river and running, moving as fast as she could. She remembered thinking the others would come after her and her urgency gave her strength, yet befuddled her sense of direction. A cabin or a cottage had shone in the starlight, and Laura remembered stumbling to the door. Had she knocked? She was now lying on a bed, safe indoors and warm. 

Laura tried to sit up and a pang of sharp pain made her wince. She inspected her surroundings. The room was dark, save for the slits of light from the shuttered windows and doorsill. The embers of a fire glowed on the far wall and Laura distinguished a pot or cauldron hanging above it. Her heart sped and thumped in her chest. They, her devils, had fires with hanging cauldrons. She discerned the dark stone of the fireplace framing the glowing embers. Eerie figures stood like black masses against the wall; she hoped they were a table and chairs. 

Laura felt woozy and closed her eyes for a moment. Her body hurt, and she was thirsty. A glass filled with liquid sat on the nightstand and Laura wondered if she should drink. She reached for it and sniffed it. It had no scent and Laura hoped it was water. As she drank, she caught sight of a pair of yellow fiery stars watching her from the corner. A rough breathing, like a whispered growl or a cat’s purr, came from the direction. The eyes were too big to be a house cat, and she perceived a big black mass occupying the entire corner and part of the far wall. 

“Who are you?” Laura whispered. 

A red flame-like tongue flicked out, and the mouth, shining with jagged pearls, gaped open in an audible yawn. Laura remembered a bearded young man had opened the door. Maybe he had a big dog? Laura passed a hand over her eyes and stifled a yawn. Still woozy and sleepy, she slid down in the bed and closed her eyes. 

She heard the padded feet and the clack-clack of claws on the floor and thought the dog was approaching. Then, she noticed the distinct sound of booted footsteps by the bed. She tried to open her eyes, but fell into a deep sleep instead.

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TAROT DRACONIS: 10 of Pentacles + XII The Hanged Man

The Card Game

The body swayed in the howling wind as the noose creaked on the gallows’ crossbeam. The distant scurrying of a rat the only sound on the empty square. 

Hangman glanced out the window and sighted the dangling body in the pale moonlight. He sighed. He hated the job, but the little ’uns had to eat. 

“You gon’ play or not?” Deputy called. A soft moan sounded through the jail.

“He must be wakin’ up,” Deputy murmured and Hangman, shuffling into a chair opposite, shrugged. The town drunk was always waking up in their care. 

Deputy shuffled the cards and dealt. Firelight flickered from the wood-burning stove by the wall. Deputy’s keys jingled in the cavernous dark of the jail. They played round after round with only the soft crackling fire for comfort and the occasional moaning for sound. They spoke little; the aftertaste of the hanging lingered, dense and stuffy. 

“Very easy to get away with murder in these parts,” Hangman flung coins onto the table. 

“Sheriff insisted,” Deputy shrugged and gazed at the window. Sheriff had bent over backwards to pin it on the poor devil swaying in the wind. He shook his head. 

“Town bayed for blood, Sheriff gave it to ’em,” Hangman said, “made no difference ole Paddy Corcoran was born wrong, dumb as a box o’ rocks he was. Three families slain in their homes…”

“Dang it!” Deputy threw his cards on the table, “This ain’t right, Paddy never hurt no one. He was innocent as a baby with the mind of a child.”

Hangman nodded. 

“Who’s gon’ take care of his Ma? She a cripple an’ all.”

Hangman shrugged. He hoped the dead held no grudge against him. He only did his job; the little ’uns had to eat. 

“Who d’you reckon done it?”

“Sheriff.” Hangman whispered the words and an icy draft blew through the jail. The lantern on the table flickered. 

“Best keep that to yourself,” Deputy murmured, “can’t prove nothin’.”

Hangman nodded, “an’ he’s Johnson’s brother, they own the town.” 

The name slithered out if his mouth in a steam of contempt. The Johnsons owned the mine, the mercantile and the law. Why did they need more? It’s no coincidence the Ruth Farm was the most prosperous, the Millers bred the best horses, and the Cranes owned the saloon. Hangman and Deputy left their certainty unspoken, though, by the glint of their gaze, they agreed. The whole town was now in the hands of the Johnsons. 

A faint creak stopped the game. Hangman and Deputy glared into the darkness, cards still pressed to their chest. The lantern flickered, dimmed, died and rekindled with an odd green flame. 

“Christ!” Deputy exclaimed and fell off his chair. He faced the doorway, and Hangman, watched the blood drain from Deputy’s face. His spine tingled as he forced himself to turn. 

In the doorway stood Paddy Corcoran, tall and chubby, hands folded on his chest as always, yet, instead of dull brown, his eyes blazed with the same eerie green light. 

“Well, butter m’butt and call me a biscuit,” Hangman said through gritted teeth. 

The dead man, bloated and purple, exploded into a gruesome guffaw. Hangman dared a grin, Paddy always used to laugh at that. 

“Wh-what d’you want?” Deputy stammered. 

“We couldn’t stop ’im, Paddy,” Hangman said, his voice steady. Paddy wasn’t the first dead to appear to Hangman. 

“Who?” Paddy’s voice was hollow, crypt-like.

“Sheriff. Can’t prove it though.” Deputy regained his composure. 

“Where now?” 

Hangman jerked his head towards the cell, “Sleepin’ it off, as always.”

Paddy walked past them, his footfalls silent in death, unlike the heavy stomps he’d trod in life. Hangman and Deputy watched him disappear into the dark jail. Deputy righted his chair and sat. 

A terrified scream cut through the darkness, then silence. The lantern flickered and rekindled into the regular yellow flame; the fire in the stove crackled. Hangman and Deputy returned to their card game. 

No one cared the sheriff died drunk in the jail cell.

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TAROCCHI DELL’OLIMPO: 3 of Chalices

The Lark at Dawn

Alondra sits in her damp cell and buries her head in her hands. Through the tiny window she glimpses the moon as the sky lightens. Dawn approaches and Alondra kneels and prays with pleading eyes fixed on the moon. 

Dios,” she whispers in Castilian, “please help me. I have done no wrong.”

Light crawls over the land and creeps through Alondra’s window. She passes her fingers under the tiny ray, as if trying to touch it, but feels no warmth. 

With a thunder of boots and a rattle of keys, the jailer, a greasy heavyset man, opens the cell. He grabs Alondra’s arm and pushes her. Alondra stumbles onto her knees. 

The jailer grabs her hair, and forcing her head back, whispers, “If you’d accepted my offer, you’d be free now.” 

Alondra clamps her jaw. She refused to exchange her freedom for sex and only the charges against her kept the jailer from forcing her. She thanked God every day for her mother’s native English, for nothing could scare an evil man more than a woman speaking in tongues. 

The jailer drags her by the hair until she stands. A crowd has gathered and Alondra catches a fleeting glimpse as the jailer throws her into the brightness. Half blind and forced to kneel before the priest—this so-called holy man who dispatches brutality and torture in the name of God—she gazes up at him. He smirks down at her. 

“Last words?” His words slither.

Alondra spits in his face. 

The executioner, expressionless, grabs her and pushes her onto the pyre; the crowd chants “Sorceress! Heretic!”.
He binds her to the stake as she faces the multitude. They were once her neighbors, her people, but now they have turned against her. Her eyes fix on Rolando; he grins. He’s done this, she knows, because she refused him. Beside him stands Sans, her faithful old servant, beaten and dirty, with head bowed and glimmering tears on his cheeks. Alondra understands Rolando has confiscated her land and possessions and forced her people into his service. He’s traded my life for land, bastardo.

She raises her head and sneers at Rolando; her red curls, once fiery and luscious, now grimy against her cheeks. 

“God will smite you,” she says, her words lost in the raucous crowd yet glaring in her piercing blue eyes. 

A boy pushes his way to the front. Their eyes meet and Alondra notices his strange clothing; baggy coarse blue stockings rumpled at the ankles. He wears a short tunic with a strange crest of a white dog with black ears laying atop a red house. His ankle boots are white and red with black laces, unlike any she’s ever seen.

“Light the pyre!” The priest commands. 

Alondra soon feels the heat of the flame, yet, despite the smoke in her eyes, she stares at the boy. Alondra does not scream as the fire sears her skin. 

The boy takes a stone from a small pouch and tosses it onto her feet. It is cold on her toes and its coolness crawls up her body, as if she’d stepped into freezing water. She recognizes the carved line down the middle and grins; it is the rune of Ice, this knowledge also her mother’s legacy. The fire no longer burns her flesh. 

“Come with me!” The boy yells in a language resembling her mother’s. 

She nods. 

He throws another stone at her feet, this one carved with a crude R—the rune of Journey. The boy jumps into the pyre and embraces Alondra as wind blows around them, and the world spins until screams and fire fade away.

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ALEISTER CROWLEY THOTH TAROT: 7 of Wands, Valour

Grave

Moonlight shone through Mandy’s window in long skeleton claws across her unicorn bedspread; shadows cast by the tree outside, still bare though spring had arrived. The tree as ancient as the graveyard adjacent her house.

Mandy sat on the corner of the bed, huddled against the headboard with the comforter drawn up to her chin and her brother Mick’s baseball bat beside her. 

Tonight was the scary night. It came twice a year when the light and the dark were equal… and this was the scary hour. The soft rustling of the wind through the half-open window billowed her white curtains. Soon, just at the darkest moment, the voices would begin. 

Mandy closed her eyes and held her breath. She slid her hand out from under the covers and gripped the bat. The wind stopped, and the curtains settled against the wall like a dying breath. 

“Help me,” a soft voice whispered. 

“Pardon me, do you have the time?”

Hooves clopped and wheels rattled in the night. 

Mandy wormed herself to the window, her back scraping against the wall, knuckles white around the bat. She peeked out. 

A multitude of people crowded the yard. Women in long dresses and hoop skirts danced with men in long pants and tailed coats. Two soldiers faced one another swords drawn, one in a blue jacket, the other in red. A man wore a metal breastplate, puffy pants, tights and a pointed helmet; he leaned against a long heavy gun. They went about their business, unaware of the darkest hour and of the frosty graves on which they trod. A car sputtered by, and Mandy glimpsed the crank necessary to start it. A train horn blew and chugged in the darkness. 

Most nights, Mandy leaned on the windowsill and watched them, unafraid and taking in every detail. At seven years old, she now knew the difference between a barouche and a stagecoach, a musket and a rifle, a cloche hat and a bonnet. But tonight… the stench of rot and decay wafted into the room. 

Mandy gasped and pulled herself away as yellow, baggy eyes and rotted teeth peered through the glass. Greasy long hair flattened against the saggy cheeks; a tattered top hat sat crooked on the head. Only on the scary night, he came. 

“Let me in, child,” his voice sounded like a creaking door. 

“No,” Mandy whispered.

“You know you want to,” he cooed and chills ran up Mandy’s spine.

“No,”

“We’ll have such fun,” he hissed. 

Mandy pressed the bat against her, as white skeletal fingers slithered over the sill and into the room, reaching for her bare feet. 

She drew herself up into the tightest ball and whimpered, “leave me alone.”

“I want you,” he sneered. 

The ghosts were now silent and a dense evil had fallen like a rotten, lingering mist. The fingers closed in on Mandy and she felt the icy bone on her skin. 

The door slammed open and Mick burst into the room. He seized the bat and brought it down on the spectral hand. It retreated through the window. Mick faced him. 

“Leave her alone.”

“She’s mine!” The rotted teeth bared.

“Never!”

A cloud passed across the moon and the graveyard fell into momentary darkness. When the sky cleared, the graveyard was empty; the phantoms gone. 

Sunlight peeped through the window and shone on Mick and Mandy asleep, their hands clasped around the baseball bat between them.