A Halloween TalebyDaisyMontoya©
It is Halloween. I am very tired. I just want to go home and rest. And maybe hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.
I walk out of the building. Sam Smith walks up beside me. He is one of the nicer fellows from the engineering group. I enjoyed his company at lunch sometimes. He asks, "Mattie, Do you want to go to a Halloween party tonight at the Eastside Inn? Most of the real party-animals plan on being there. You should blend right in." My name is Matilda Czemcke; everyone called me Mattie. I am the chief accountant for supply side business.
"No, thanks, Sam. After the time we have all spent together the last few weeks, I just want to spend a quiet evening alone." It has been a very long couple of weeks. We have just installed the hardware and software for the new corporate accounting system. The four week schedule of installation, hookup, run-in, debug, trial runs, data dump and start-up was compressed into a two week ordeal. But we finally got it done; it was up and running. I was happy just to go home for a break. It was Halloween. I had really wanted to sit in the recliner and rest for the evening.
"Ah, come on Mattie. I can't see you sitting alone and entertaining the kids as the troll around and extort candy from you."
I reply acting disgusted, "Sam, I love Halloween. When I was a kid, we used to go around for hours and fill bags with goodies. Maybe you should get out more and see the simple things of life."
"Okay, okay. You go ahead and spend the evening in peace. You know where we will be if you get bored. Bye."
I stand at my car and wave, and then I open the door and hop inside. Finally, the trials and turmoil are over. Now, off to my safe haven.
In a couple of hours, the trick-or-treaters would be out, and, as much as I did not want to bother with it, I had some candy in a bowl by the door. My condo was tucked away at the end of a housing development. The development was small as we were about half a mile outside the town. Behind my condo is a one hundred foot wide section of trees and another small development behind them. I see their lights from the back door.
We did not get too many kids out on Halloween in our neighborhood. Kids just did not go trick-or-treating anymore. There was a dance at the high school, and I saw a couple of houses that looked like parties were going on as I drove home. The Eastside Inn parking lot looked fairly full. Maybe I should have stopped. I had wanted to go, but I was so tired I did not feel like I could make it through another long night.
I am sitting in the recliner, looking at the clock. It says 6:39. Twenty-one minutes and the official trick-or-treat time begins. The town had instituted a voluntary two-hour Halloween time several years ago. For the most part, the kids and their parents complied with the time limits. I determined that I was not going to answer the door for anyone before seven o'clock. The phone rings. Who can that be? Do I really want to pick it up? Ring. Ring.
I pick it up. "Hello."
There is a voice with a gravelly sound and seems to be far away. "Hello, Matilda, this is Grandpa."
My only living grandparent was my Grandpa Vladimir. He always called me Matilda. He was the only person who I would allow that privilege. He still lived in the mountains in Romania where my dad's family had lived before immigrating here. I was born just after they arrived in this country. "Hi, Grandpa. Why are you calling me now? It must be very late where you are. Isn't it after midnight?"
"Yes. It is late, but I had to speak to you. Do you still live in the condominium?" Grandpa had visited me a couple of years ago. He had never liked the idea of me living alone in the condo. He always mentions it every time we talk.
"Yes, Grandpa, I am still here. Are you okay? Nothing is wrong is there?" I did not want another lecture on living alone in the condo. I enjoyed my talks with Grandpa. He told me a lot about the old world and its customs. It was always fascinating. As far as I knew, his health was okay. I hoped that had not changed.
"I am okay. I am calling to remind you of this season."
"What?" I reply not understanding what he wants.
"It is Halloween night."
"Yes, Grandpa. In just a few minutes the trick-or-treaters are going to come by. I already have some candy out by the door now."
His voice sounded worried. "No, I do not want you to open the door for anyone. It is the full moon tonight on Halloween night. That is not good."
"Oh, come on Grandpa. It's just a bunch of little kids wanting some candy thrown into their bags. We do it every year over here."
"No, you do not understand. When Halloween and full moon occur together, it is the night that the Kuddvik Wizards seek out three sacrifices. The wizards are very powerful and they prey on woman like you. They carry woman off to their castle, torment them and then behead them. You have a lineage that goes back directly to one of the wives of the evil lord of the Kuddviks. You must be careful. You must be safe. Please go somewhere and stay with someone. You cannot be alone."
Was he serious? "Grandpa, there aren't any wizards around here." Who are the Kuddvik Wizards anyway? Why does he have to bother me with scary stuff on Halloween night? "Besides, there are a bazillion kids walking around trying to load up on candy and sweets. I can't imagine that a sacrifice will be taking place with all this traffic."
"I am worried for you. This is not a good night for a woman to be alone. Can you not go to a friend's house or into town to a business or a restaurant?"
"Grandpa, I'm too tired to go back out again. Don't worry please. There is nothing to worry about. There are no sacrifices going on here tonight. There are too many people around for something like that."
"I wish you would go somewhere. I called you because I cannot sleep. I have been overcome with worry. These are not legends and myths. They are real. The evil lord of the Kuddviks really existed. He went mad when his wives died suddenly and his minions continue to serve him even now."
I am not going to take this seriously, but I had to get him settled down and off the phone. I glanced at the clock: 6:52. "Grandpa, I will go somewhere, okay? I don't want you to worry. I will go and stay with someone here in the neighborhood. Will that be okay?"
"Do not lie to me. Are you really going?"
I did lie to him. "Yes, I'll go as soon as we hang up. Okay?"
"You must go. This is not a good night. You will not be safe if you stay alone. You are Romanian -- the wizards will know that."
"Okay, Grandpa. I will do it. Now, I must go okay? Please don't worry about me. I will be fine."
"You must go somewhere. Please, I am begging."
"Grandpa, I will go. Now, you take care, okay? I am going now. Goodbye."
"Goodbye. And leave right away."
"I will. I love you Grandpa. Now go to sleep and relax. I will be fine. Goodbye." And I hung up the phone.
Just what I needed: a spooky story just as I was sitting down for trick-or-treaters. I wasn't really going anywhere. There would be half a dozen visits from kids tonight, then nine o'clock would roll around and I would hop into bed and get some sleep. Oh, well. He meant well. I still could not comprehend the culture he had grown up in. Wizards, sacrifices, Halloween, goblins, ghosts and witches - I chuckle thinking about it when the doorbell rings: bong.
I can hear kids giggling outside. I open the door. "TRICK OR TREAT," they all shout together. There is a witch and a ghost. There is a boy dressed up like a psycho hatchet murder victim. There is an adult back on the sidewalk saying "Don't forget to say thank you."
"Oh, my, don't you all look scary." I plop a couple of candy bars into the each bag.
"THANK YOU!" they all say together. They scurry off as I watch them. I shut the door, put the bowl of candy back on the table and walk over to the recliner and sit. I get a little foggy and kind of doze off when I hear: bong. There are more kids!
I jump up to the door and open it. "TRICK OR TREAT," they shout. It is two little girls dressed like princesses. They are so cute.
"Aren't you two beautiful?" I drop some candy into their backs.
They curtsy and say, "Thank you!" They turn around and walk off arm in arm.
The phone rings. I move over and pick it up and say, "Hello." I hope it is not Grandpa calling me back.
"Hello, Mattie. How is the trick-or-treating going?" It was Sam. I can hear some racket in the background.
"I am doing fine. It appears you are partying just as you said you would."
"Yeah. It is spectacular."
"I am sure. You had better have a designated driver appointed."
"Mattie, you know I will do that. Why don't you come on down to the Inn. Everyone is missing you."
"No, I am fine here. There were just a couple of cute little girls come by. There were little princesses."
"Okay, Mattie. I guess that's fun -- at least, for you anyway. Well, we will let you get back to your evening. Try not to get too crazy."
"Have no fear, Sam. I will be fine. Good night." And I hang up the phone.
I do really enjoy Halloween. I had gone out when I was a kid every year. It was fun running into other kids from school and seeing the various costumes. Then I think about Grandpa's call. He is so silly. I am not going to bothered about his ridiculous Eastern European mythology.
I thought about it for a few seconds and went over to the bookshelf. Grandpa had given me an old book on traditions and folklore. Since he had already tried to spook me, I decided I would look up the story on the Kuddvik Wizards. I leafed through the book. It was several hundred pages and written in a hard-to-read script. Ah, there is it was: "Kuddvik (also Kuddvik Wizards)." I read:
"The Kuddviks lived in and around a castle in the east section of the Carpathian Mountains in what is presently near the borders of Romania and Moldova. The Kuddviks' Central Asian homeland is not known. They migrated to the Carpathian Mountain region in the 13th and 14th centuries following the decline of the Hun Empire. The Kuddviks were a relatively peaceful group who farmed the low mountain steppes. They were led by a council elected from the group for staggered ten year terms each. There originally was not a single leader of the people. In 1655 the nominal leader of the council, Povniv Morsesle, took a more firm control of the region and began to regulate the culture with the help of a small group of advisers, or, as they were called, wizards. The wizards were purported to have magical powers and were totally in subjection to Morsesle. Morsesle had three wives: Martha Hamilton, Matilda Czemcke, and Ahram Mullaman." Maybe Grandpa was right: I was in the royal line! "In 1657, Morsesle's three wives died within hours of each other from the Black Death. Regardless of the cause, the proximity of the deaths has raised doubts about the authenticity of that part of the story. Morsesle mourned the losses deeply. Eventually his deep remorse became worse and he fell into depression followed soon by insanity. The next year, on All Hallow's Eve, his insanity drove him to have his wizards kidnap three woman, bring them to the castle where they were tortured, sexually abused, and beheaded. The most commonly told version of this story said the beheadings occurred one at a time followed by the striking of a large metal gong. The decapitated bodies would then be thrown into a fire, and the heads would be stored in a hallway deep inside the castle as gruesome reminders to Morsesle. He continued this ritual for the remaining twelve years of his life. Rumors have persisted that the coven of wizards continued with the ritual after his death. There were occasional reports of missing females in the nearby areas that have been attributed to this, but little evidence exists to support the claims. In 1825, a group of so-called wizards were found living in the old Morsesle castle. The Austro-Hungarian government sent a detachment to remove these interlopers. Somehow, they became aware of the coming detachment and left the castle heading westward. If they still exist, their whereabouts is unknown. Rumors continue to swirl in the region as to whether they still exist; there have been reports of activity at the castle around Halloween. However, the castle remains deserted to this day."
There was a picture of it on the page. I looked. The castle was dark and appeared to be in a dense forested area. There were two large towers on either side of the gate. The moat was overgrown with weeds and filled with mud. It certainly looked deserted and decrepit. The picture had a note: 'file photo, Jun 1997.'
I lay back in the recliner and looked up at the bookshelf. I begin to doze off again and the book slips out of my hand and lands on the floor. I jump back awake and the doorbell rings: bong.
I open the door to another chorus of "TRICK OR TREAT." Three of the kids are yelling; they are all dressed as clowns. The fourth kid just stands there and says nothing. He is wearing a black robe with a hood. I can hardly see his face. The first three say "Thank you." The fourth boy just walks off. I watch them as they go on down the street.
I look at the clock: 8:05. I am just over half-way done. I will sit back in the chair and rest a bit more. I sit down and get cozy and I can feel myself starting to doze off yet again when I hear the sound: bong.
I get up and go open the door. There is a tall figure dressed in a long black robe with a hood. I can barely make out the features on his face; even his eyes are all black -- no whites at all. This is one thorough make-up job. "Good outfit," I say jokingly. "Another little boy just stopped here and had a very similar costume." Then I think for a moment and say, "Are you looking for him?"
The figure stands there and says nothing. I am getting a little nervous now so I reach for the door to close it when, suddenly, he reaches out his arm and wraps his hand around my throat. I am frozen for a moment. I do not know what to do. Even if I did, I am too petrified to move.
I blurt out, "Let go of me." I take his arm with both of my hands and try to wrestle his hand off my neck. He begins to pick me up by my neck, but there is no pressure on my neck. What is going on? My feet are off the floor and I seem to be floating. I am still holding on to his arms. "You need to let me down right away." I am really getting scared.
He does not speak, or even flinch in any way. He starts walking into the condo holding me off the ground as it were. I wrestle harder trying to get his hand from around my neck. Behind him, I see the door swing shut by itself and the lock engages by itself. I think he is going to take me to the bedroom and rape me. I struggle more.
The figure continues straight past the hall to the bedroom and heads straight for the back door. I cannot see behind me, but he does not hesitate as he walks out onto the back patio. The back porch light is not on. He walks, holding me up by the neck somehow levitating me, to the edge of the woods.
I look at him. His facial expression, at least that I could discern, had not changed whatsoever since he had come through the door. He turns all the way around so that my back is to the condo.
He sets me down. I am barefoot and the ground is cold on my feet. I hunch over scared to death and try to resume normal breathing. He turns around, lifts his hands up and looks up toward the full moon. He screams for about five seconds. The neighbors are going to hear that one. But no time for that; it is time for me to get away. I turn to run back to the condo and halt at what I see. The condo is gone. All I see are trees. The only light is from the full moon. My mind starts to spin. No, stop that. I must regain focus. I have got to get out of here. As soon as my brain tells my body to move, the figure has his hands on both of my elbows pulling them together behind my back. He manages (somehow) to tie rope around each elbow holding them almost together. Then he binds my wrists together.
The figure wraps his hand around my throat from the back and levitates me again. I am dangling there looking into the trees where my condo had been. Actually, I look back where the whole neighborhood had been. It is not there.
The figure pulls on my pants. They come apart at every seam and fall to the ground. He touches my panties and they do the same. He lets me down a bit and pulls on my t-shirt. It, too, comes apart at the seams and falls to the ground. I am now naked and being levitated by a strange figure, dressed from head to toe in black. He sets me back on the ground. He takes a thick round wooden ball with one hand, somehow pushes my teeth apart with the other hand and pushes the ball into my mouth. He pulls cords attached to either end and ties them around the back of my head. I look around; I cannot tell where he gets the gag or the cord. He takes another cord, wraps it three times snugly around my throat and ties it off. He takes the loose end, turns around and pulls me into the woods (or what I am guessing is deeper into the woods. I have no idea where I am).
What could be happening? Suddenly, it occurs to me: Grandpa's warning and the book on traditions and folklore. No, it cannot be! This is the twenty-first century. The Kuddyiks were dispersed and the cult destroyed one hundred ninety years ago. (Or so they thought, maybe.)
We walk on, he moving ahead saying nothing, and me, behind pulled by the cord tied to my throat. It did not occur to me to talk or even to scream. The wooden ball in my mouth would muffle anything I had to say. I should be trying to pull away, but my instincts tell me it will not do any good.
We walk over small hills, dried up creek beds and through grass openings in the woods. I stub my toe every now and then on a rock or stump. But, when I stumble, the figure does not flinch or even check to see what is going on.
I think we have been walking for over an hour. The figure has continued to move along, slowly and steadily, with no regard for me whatsoever. The hills are getting a little bigger and harder to climb as we walk up and down the trails. However, the light from the full moon is bright and I can see the trail plainly.
Up ahead, I see a dim yellow glow. As we get closer, I can see a large building. There are several windows that are lit in that same dim yellow glow. We get closer still and two large towers begin to appear out of the mist. The windows all appear to be lit by candles. There a candles in each of the towers and a large gate. I gasp. This is the castle I saw in the picture; it is the Kuddvik Castle. I try to stop, but the figure pulls me along. This cannot be. We are three thousand miles away from the castle. I was just sitting in my condo less than two hours ago.
We get close to the gate and the castle looks different. The moat is filled with water. The walls look clean and new. The gate lowers as we approach. I can smell the moat water. It is swampy. I hear a toad croaking somewhere. A crow flies overhead. The figure pulls me along into the castle.
This has got to be a dream. I cannot possibly have traveled to the Carpathian Mountains. And who, or what, is this strange figure that has been pulling me through the woods. Grandpa spoke of wizards. That cannot be. That is myth and folklore and has no place in the twenty-first century. But I am naked and bound, being pulled through the woods and into a castle in a faraway land. My mind cannot decipher the facts that surround me.
The figure pulls down a long corridor. It is plain other than torches mounted on stands in the wall every ten feet or so. He pulls me into a room almost at the end. I look around. There are four large torches on the walls. There is wagon in the middle of the room with a long wooden plank standing on two A-shaped wooden frames. The figure picks me up and sets me on the back end of the plank. He pushes my head down so I am lying on my belly on the plank. He ties the loose end of the cord that is around my neck through a hole in the plank down to a ring on the frame of the wagon. I can only move my head to the left or right, or I can look straight ahead; I can barely see behind me. He pulls each leg down on either side of the A-frame and secures my ankles to the outside of the posts using cord tied through a hole in the posts.