posted on Oct, 25 2006 @ 07:17 AM
No offence to any practicing pagans or wiccans meant, I just used a little poetic licence.
Toby was twelve years old the day they made Lucy Goodrich Halloween Queen. The children all helped dress her up in class after lessons finished that
afternoon, draping a shimmering gown of deep indigo over her head and laying a garland of entwined evergreen fronds on her long dark hair. Miss
Sutherland looked on fondly, taking photos and explaining the meaning and symbolism of what they were doing so even though it was fun it was still
kind of like having a lesson. Toby thought Lucy had never looked more prettier, especially when she smiled at him but it was a sad kind of smile.
Once Lucy was dressed Ms Sutherland took her to the hall where she sat on a throne made specially by the children for the occasion by coiling gold
wrapping paper around an old chair and festooning it with sprigs of beech, oak and elder twigs sprayed silver. She sat looking on while the children
filed past her bowing their heads solemnly before rushing off to change into their costumes. That year Toby went as Spider man, he’d wanted to go
as an alien but there were no more costumes left in the shop and Mum wasn’t that good at making costumes. Mum had been distracted for a few weeks
now anyway and when he came home and told her that this year Lucy Goodrich would be Halloween Queen instead of a Halloween king like they sometimes
had, she began crying so that Toby thought he’d upset her by not being good enough to be Halloween King.
The children milled about the hall, Lucy up at the far end on the stage, looking very apart and special. Miss Sutherland took more photos, and told
them that Lucy was very special indeed, that she was privileged. Dusk was draping smoky curtains across the windows and lights winked on in the
village beyond the school yard as she and the other teachers led them out through the double doors. Toby watched as four men from the village came
into the hall and placed Lucy and the throne on to a wooden litter, then hoisted it onto their shoulders. Toby and the rest of the children trotted
down to the school gates in a clatter of footsteps and excited chatter and lined up in double file, the men walking with Lucy aloft to the front of
The gates opened and Toby craned his neck to see the village high street jammed with people come to watch and take part in the Halloween parade. Lots
of grown ups were dressed in costumes too, clowns and hobby horses, witches and giant pumpkins falling in behind the snaking line of children as they
wound through the street towards the common at the far end of the village. As they walked Toby could hear flutes and bells and a fiddle sawing merrily
away. Miss Sutherland had told them the village parade was a very old custom, going back a long long time and that once the church had banned it for a
time but these days nobody was very fussed about the church at all. The parade passed it now, its graveyard abandoned and overgrown, a lone yew
curling and stretching in supplication towards the broken stained glass windows as the swirling, colourful mass cavorted past in the fiery, amber
torchlight towards the common. The discordant jangle of sound seemed to swell as they crossed the road towards the dark grasslands fringed by looming
The people began to fan out, the procession breaking and spreading like coloured mist across the common. A large bonfire leapt and crackled as shadowy
figures dipped and swayed and chanted around it’s glowing edge. The men took Lucy to a raised dias where the mayor and members of the village
council waited` not in their usual suits today but clad in long, white gowns, smiling as Lucy was brought to them. The mayor stood behind her as she
sat facing out onto the milling crowd, her classmates lined up in the front row waving to her happily. He raised his hands for silence and the chatter
and music siphoned away into the black night, an owl hooted expectantly.
“Welcome once again my friends,” he began. “Another year, another Samhain festival and, as it’s so every seven years, a special one for our
community, a chance for us to give thanks and show our gratitude for all the good things granted to us.” He placed two protective hands on Lucy’s
shoulders. “And this special year we have a very special little girl who will help us to do this.”
There were spattered applause and some cheers but Toby was aware of a growing tension in the air. Two of the other white clad men had moved either
side of Lucy as he spoke, the chanting from the fire began to spread out through the crowd like a contagion.
“This year we give thanks,” the mayor continued. “Thanks to the All Father who rose once more and rescued his people from the Christ usurper,
thanks to Lugh the shining one who’s light falls towards earth….and most importantly a gift to the triple Goddess who shows her face to us as
mother, maiden and hag and bestows gifts upon the land and makes it bountiful and blessed.”
The mayor ducked behind the chair, the chanting swelled urgently in the chill air and Toby’s eyes locked with Lucy’s. Fear flared in them briefly
before closing in resignation as the mayor straightened and raised his right arm high with an evangelical smile. “And to her three faces we offer
the three deaths!” he cried.
He swung the mallet in an arcing curve into the back of Lucy’s head, the chanting in the crowd fractured into spattered exclamations of awe as she
slumped forward, caught by the men on either side.
“Remember she feels no pain now!” Ms Sutherland walked quietly up and down the line reassuring the children. “She’s going to be with the
Goddess, all is well!” but Toby heard a keening, muffled sob from somewhere in the crowd and knew it was Lucy’s mother, then the chanting lurched
into life drowning all other sound as the Mayor began the process of garrotting the girl. Toby blinked back a tear and raised his eyes towards the
jewelled carapace of the night sky. He knew Lucy was special and destined to be with the Goddess but he would miss her shy smile and the way the sun
slanted through the classroom window to burnish her hair copper on golden October afternoons.
When they were absolutely sure Lucy was dead they lowered her reverently from the dias towards the eager hands that grasped her and passed her
onwards, over the heads of the crowd towards the fire and the third and final death. Toby watched as her limp, raggedy doll figure hung suspended for
a moment in the chill air before crashing in a shower of sparks into the heart of the flames, heard the roar of the crowd and realised his mothers
tears had been not of reproach but of relief.