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Walpurgisnacht by K. A.

Laity

Walther knew. But he could not resist, what ten-year- old could? Every year was the sa at hi e. !rand other "unkelhaus would shake her #inger

and warn, $Walpurgisnacht, the devil%s night&you stay indoors.

"evils, witches, ghosts&they co e, they get little boys, eat you.' (hen she would snap together her shiny wooden teeth&clack)&as i# she knew the #lights o# witches #irst hand. But this year&tonight)&he would know, he and Elsa. $We ust see,'

they had pro ised one another. Walther slipped out this a#ternoon, to sleep a while in the orchard as Elsa had suggested. (he nap should help hi awake tonight. *e had put apples in his rucksack and a hand#ul o# stay

atches

&also Elsa%s idea. +he swore she would sneak away with a la p. *e looked around the roo , never know what you sweater would keep hi night air. "ownstairs his #a ily gathered round the #ire. -ts crackles and sparks echoed up here in the garret, where they all assu ed their youngest slept. war ight need. *is woolen cap and

&spring was on the calendar, but not in the

But Walther waited #or Elsa, his rucksack on his shoulder, his eyes eagerly seeking through the darkness. A ove ent. only leaves, caught by the

te pestuous wind, they whirled and danced, begging so eone to /oin their walt0. Walther cocked his ear back toward the group downstairs but heard
1

only the #a iliar

ur uring argu

ent, !ran and !rand#ather arguing still,

as they had these si2ty odd years. Another whispering #ro ove ent, this one with legs. Elsa beckoned

the oak tree, al ost disappearing in its enor ous girth. Walther li#ted o ent,

up the window silently, swinging hi sel# over the sill, hanging #or a

then dropping to the ground ten #eet below and rolling as he hit the ground. (he apples would be bruised. $Wally. *ere.' Elsa swung a lantern by her side. A battered rucksack lay at the #oot o# the gnarled tree. $"id you bring the $3es, a lot o# the . !ood kitchen *er grey eyes caught the hi atches?'

atches, wooden.'

oon%s bright glow and re#lected it back to

despite the #ading bruise below her le#t one. Elsa%s #ace, wind-swept

and tear- stained, tilted up at hi , her decisive chin /utting out. $Let%s go,' she said, taking his o##ered hand. (he two children ran between the darkened trees, #eeling the li bs bend down in concern as i# trying to stop their #light. 4ut o# sight o# the house they slowed their pace, their breaths air. $"id they suspect?' Elsa asked, wiping her dripping nose. $5o, no one even checked on hastened to add, a e&not that they nor ally do,' Walther aking curlicues in the night

an a#ter all at age ten. $And no one noticed that - was

gone this a#ternoon either. - #eel 6uite awake.'

$- got this too,' Elsa said and stopped to root through her rucksack. +he pulled out a #lask that had perhaps seen action in the !reat War. $8o##ee. *elp us stay awake. -t%s cold,' she added with regret, $But - think it will still work.' $-%ve never had co##ee be#ore. Well, once. - sipped +he said it would put hair on y chest.' y !ran%s co##ee.

$"id it?' Elsa shook the #lask and the contents sloshed noisily. $5o,' Walther kicked the ground, wishing he had thought to bring co##ee. $But - did #eel stronger.' $8o e, we have to walk #aster. -t will be idnight soon.'

$"id you bring a watch?' Elsa halted and whirled around. $"a n)'

$Elsa, don%t swear. !od will punish you.' $!od doesn%t know - e2ist.' $!od knows everything.' Elsa laughed. $+uch a good little boy, a good little boy.' $A not. -% grown up.'

$4h, - don%t know about that&never had co##ee, never can swear.' $"o you think we should go back and get a watch?' Walther asked, trying hard to change the unpleasant sub/ect. Elsa pondered the 6uestion, pulling her wool socks back up over her knees which looked bluish and cold by the light o# the indi##erent oon.

$5o, -%

sure we%ll see the

all. -t should

ake 6uite a ruckus a#ter all. 3our

!ran says she hears the

all the way in your house.'

$- think !ran #ibs though,' Walther ad itted. $:erhaps she e2aggerates, but co e on, it has to all that dancing and drinking and wild songs. -% heard it in the past.' $We were too young,' Walther said wisely. $5ow that we are older we will go and see it #or ourselves and we will be able to tell the others all about it. *ow envious ;arta and Lulu will be when we tell the .' Walther could see hi sel# telling the , pretending to be bored by it all as i# Walpurgisnacht ca e every night and he had #lown with the witches a thousand ti es or ore. his and ake a lot o# noise,

surprised that we haven%t

$We%re here,' Elsa said 6uietly. Walther roused hi sel# #ro daydrea , saw the cold granite wall o# the ce etery be#ore the

shivered. +uddenly the adventure see goose- down bed.

ed less welco ing than his war

$*ow do we get in? (he gate is locked.' Elsa stared at hi . 4ne eyebrow arched upward in the derision he knew so well. $What? 3ou can /u p out a window but you can%t cli b a #ence? Boost e.'

Walther bent over duti#ully and clasped his hands. Elsa put one ill#itting shoe in his pal s and vaulted up, giving Walther a brie# glance o# her switch-scarred thigh. $3ou should have worn trousers. 3ou%ll be cold.'

<

Elsa regarded hi

haughtily #ro

the top o# the wall, but said nothing

and swung her legs over. *e heard her landing =plop% on the other side. *e shrugged o## his rucksack and threw it as gently as he could over the wall. Elsa ust have caught it, #or he did not hear it land. -nhaling deeply,

Walther gathered hi sel# and leapt. -n vain his #ingers #u bled at the cold sur#ace and he slid back down. 4ne two three, and again inhale&this ti e his #ingers caught and, #eet pedaling like ad, Walther pulled hi sel# up to oonlight,

the top o# the wall. "own below Elsa waited, her hair touched by her eyes grown large in the darkness. +o eday we will be

arried, Walther

thought helplessly, then threw hi sel# down to the ground beside her. $ - know where we should go,' Elsa hissed, whispering as i# the dead ight hear. +he led hi over to the Wahlberg crypt with its big angel and

ourner%s bench. (hey lit the lantern and sipped the co##ee, which both declared delicious, so delicious that they would save it #or later. Walther put his ar around Elsa to try to keep her war and was al ost at once asleep.

(he sound that awoke the song. -t was not a

was neither a cry nor a screa

, but a istook

elody they knew. +uddenly conscious, Walther

the singing #or his #ather%s snores, reached #or the covers he

ust have

kicked o##&and suddenly noticed where he was. Elsa%s /aw hung low, her outh #or ing an =o% as she stared at the scene be#ore the . Witches, ad witches, gathered around a sparkling bon#ire, chanting

their happy praises to the night and waving sticks about. 8orpses danced&

>

a walt0, a

a0urka, a reel o# unknown origin, their wasted li bs carelessly

#ree as they swung their partners high and laughed and bowed. Were they devils over there?&de ons, aybe&that leaped about in so e wild ga e,

running back and #orth, hiding behind the crypts, their shaggy hind6uarters a curious surprise attached to their barely over the goatade o# little anly torsos. And there) -n the sky, ingly

en%s heads, ethereal will-o-wisp wo en, see oonbea

ore than

s and dust, whirled and swooped and otion. Everywhere

shrieked in glee. (he night was alive with shouts and

they looked so e ghoulish creature /igged or crooned or gu##awed with pleasure. ?oyous usic rose&#ro where did it co e? (here) (he #ew

spindly trees that usually hung silent and brooding over the sole nity o# the graveyard, tonight rubbed spidery branches together #or a cricket%s song, a lively tune that led the dancers and li#ted the spirits. $ Walther,' whispered Elsa, breathless, $-t%s all true.' $ +tay back,' Walther hissed, grabbing her hand. Elsa turned in surprise, her eyes a-glitter with the da00ling scene be#ore the . $3ou don%t know what they%ll do) Evil, Elsa, they%re devils.' $ *a,' Elsa shook o## his grip, $(hey%re not devils. "evils don%t dance.' Walther stopped to consider this logic and she, laughing, ran #ro to /oin the revelers. At once a space broke in the ring o# dancers, hands reached out to welco e the little girl into the circle. Around and round the open grave they wound, throwing laughter and cries up to the skies, a erri ent o# sinless delight. hi

$ 8o e back,' Walther said weakly and even the gentle bree0e did not carry his words #ar. But he could not Aeverend Lochrie bound hi your soul. 5o ake his #eet ove. (he words o# the

#ast&such beings were de ons, they i periled

atter that their raucous, giddy sounds beckoned in endless

/oy. *appiness was not to be trusted, the way o# !od was hard. 3et Elsa danced&and laughed&i agine) Elsa laughing. (he bon#ire her lips as song. But still

#lickered in her #ace, her eyes&rapture #lew #ro

his #eet were lead, were stone. !rand other "unkelhaus% words ca e unbidden, $(hey get little boys, eat you)' Walther reali0ed he had clutched his rucksack protectively be#ore hi #ro as i# its battered sides could shield hi

the devil%s spawn. Elsa took no such precautions. *er rucksack lay on the bench, abandoned.

behind hi

(hen the clock began to strike. What ti e was it? *ow long had he stood trans#i2ed by the spectacle? (he second bell and the dancers stopped, dropping hands with a palpable reluctance and any wist#ul glances. A third chi e and the witches

sta ped on their roaring bon#ire, swatting at it with their sticks and broo s, still caught by their in#ectious laughter and dancing away #ro sparks. A #ourth chi e&how any the lively

ore could there be? Was that the en and

dawn peeking over the edge o# the world so soon?&and the goat-

the whispering sprites sprinted #or the cover o# the woods at the #ar side o# the ce etery. (hey called back and #orth, pro ises o# revels yet to be, stories o# the night that was.

Ci#th bell and the witches

ounted, each testing the winds with a wet

#inger in the air, each choosing her own course. (here) A very old witch, surely two or three hundred years by the look o# her wrinkles and her grey, tasseled locks, but with the gentle #ace o# so ebody%s grand other& despite a leering scar that raked her kindly cheek. +he o##ered a hand to Elsa, who took it gladly, without looking back. (hat broke the spell. Walther%s #eet #ro hi , running pelloved and he thrust his rucksack aybe, /ust aybe, to

ell to catch her, to stop her&

/oin her. But the #inal bell was ringing and Elsa was waving, a grin lighting up her #ace as i# the bon#ire now burned within her heart. Elsa, Elsa, he couldn%t even yell her na e, it was too late, she was gone gone gone like the last echoing knell o# the bell. But two words echoed back, two words o# agic, #lying #ro hope, that $5e2t year)' the receding spark o# #ire. (wo words that gave hi s live yet in his breast.

ade his heart yearn and the drea

D(*E E5"D

This story and m a n y other m a gical tales can be found in the collection UNQUIET DREAMS available fro m Tirgearr Publishing .

FUnqui e t Drea m s is the long, deep plunge in the coldest 6uarry in the woods, the lingering look under the rotting wood at all the writhing li#e there, the stare into the abyss until one reali0es so ething is staring back.F & +. A. Bissette

GH