HALLOWEEN HEARTH STORIES: Part Two
Happy Halloween and a hearty welcome to all you ghoulish readers and ghostly Parliament pals! It is time for PART TWO of the Halloween Hearth Stories Event! Don't forget to grab your favorite Halloween treats and make yourself comfortable as we descend into these tales of mayhem, mischief, and devilish delight!
Remember, as a part of our Halloween celebrations, we will be hosting a GIVEAWAY! One randomly selected winner will receive a physical copy of a Parliament House Press book (US only at this time). Additionally, three randomly selected entrants will receive an electronic copy of a Parliament House title, open to international entries!
For more information on the giveaway, check out the details here!
For Part One of Halloween Hearth Stories, click here!
And now it is time for the main event, the pièce de résistance, the grand finale—THE STORIES!
BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON by A. J. Vrana - The Hollow Gods (The Chaos Cycle Duology, #1)
(prompt: The ghosts in the house don’t want you to leave.)
Worm stared down the dark, dusty corridor. It’d been some time since the sun tucked itself below the splintering frame of the westward-facing window, and the house now creaked like a sunken ship. But that didn’t matter because Worm was a raccoon, and raccoons loved the night. When the humans rolled out their treasure in large, blue bins and retired to their towers, Worm knew it was time to feast. There was never any need to follow them inside when they left the only redeemable thing about them at the end of the driveway, waiting to be picked up by the giant treasure-muncher on wheels.
This time, however, curiosity had gotten the better of her. She’d always wondered what the inside of a human den looked like, and this one had all its windows broken. The little flappy doors humans used for their servant animals—the poor, collared beasts—had grown out of fashion, leaving fewer methods of entry. So, when Worm spotted a broken window with no jagged pieces, she couldn’t resist getting a glimpse of the other side.
SOUND AND SILENCE by Kristin Jacques - Marrow Charm (The Gate Cycle, #1)
(prompt: Repetitive, scary sound with no apparent source.)
The first night, the Lord of Seven Smiles disappeared into the bowels of his estate, secluded by wood, stone, and standing. Azzy was escorted to her room—a small spare space so much like the room she once occupied Below, and yet, so different.
“Would you care to rest before the evening meal?” The head servant was obscured through a smoky haze that hid her features, another surprise to find magic so exposed when she’d spent a lifetime hiding it. Azzy stared.
“Yes, thank you,” she said, bowing her head. The servant left without a word. Azzy observed her new home with no small amount of chagrin. It was a pleasant change from the dirt and danger of the road but did little to ease the ache in her chest at what she left behind to get here.
LILLY AND QUINCY MEET THE PUMPKING by Nick Vossen - The Swansong Conspiracy (The Eldritch Twins, #1)
(prompt: Strange things are afoot at the cemetery.)
“Show me the text again. What exactly did Sean send you?” Lilly plucked the phone out of her brother’s hand and started hammering on the touchscreen. “Strange things are afoot in the cemetery?” Lilly’s eyes shot over to Quincy. “Sounds a bit vanilla, doesn’t it? Two days ago a changeling made me an Arcadian lunch and it was… well, amazing! How’s that for strange?”
“And yet here we are…” Quincy smirked
“And we’re in Savannah, you know? Saying some strange stuff is happening in the cemetery here is like saying a lake is full of water.”
“Lilly...” Quincy tried again.
Quincy nodded towards the unusual orange glow coming from behind a small hill in the middle of the cemetery. The iron gates in front of them creaked eerily from a gust of rising wind. There was a full moon tonight, but it was obscured through patches of thick rainclouds. “Look at that,” Quincy told his sister. The orange glow brightly pulsated once or twice and with it, the electric lights around the cemetery flickered. Something was indeed afoot.
WAKE HIM GENTLY by Nikky Lee - The Rarkyn’s Familiar (The Rarkyn’s Familiar, #1)
(prompt: Walking alone in a graveyard.)
Terry’s shovel sank into the earth. With a practised pressure on the handle, he levered out the dirt and pitched it over his shoulder. A waft of damp and mildew followed in its wake.
“You’re doing it wrong.” Mrs. McCaulen watched him from over the lip of the grave. “See there? The side’s not straight.” Her translucent finger caught the moonlight as she pointed at the wall of earth, at the patch where tree roots deformed the edge. “And it needs to be bigger.”
Terry sighed. “With respect, Mrs. McCaulen, people aren’t going notice how manicured the hole is.”
The middle-aged ghost sniffed, and her hands clasped and reclasped until Mr. McCaulen drifted in, his aged arms wrapping around her shoulders with a squeeze.
“It’s fine, love.”
“It needs to be perfect.”
EYE OF NEWT: THE HALF-HANGED LADY by A. M. Wright - The Shrike & the Shadows
(prompt: Ghost hunters/paranormal investigators...)
At twelve, Newt wasn’t a fan of people - living or dead. Desperate people seeking the other side and the spirits waiting in limbo were drawn to him in the worst of ways.
His ‘other’ conceded on behalf of the dead, seeing as it was an anomaly of itself; the result of an accident that befell Newt one year ago. A constant companion, it lived inside of him, still connected to him by the fragile pieces of a split soul frayed at the edges. His ‘other’ was the twin brother he’d never wanted, and this made Newt different. Unlike his classmates, he was strange in a way they would never understand.
Because of that, he kept to himself. They would leave him alone - his peers and the undead that clung to them.
BANAL MISCHIEF by Erica Farner
(prompt: Something wicked this way comes.)
All Hallow’s Eve. All Saints’ Eve. Samhain. Or, worst of all, Halloween.
Whatever the hell you call it, I hate it. Children prance around in DIY costumes to beg for sweets; teens throw frat parties where they wear lingerie with animal ears and get sloppy, plastered drunk; and adults perform séances, hoping to channel a spirit in need of help when in reality, they’ve gotten ahold of a poltergeist with a penchant for wearing human skin like his own little costume.
As one of those poltergeists, that’s the scenario I run into the most. Everyone’s suddenly qualified to contact the Other Side, simply because they bought a Ouija board, and it’s October 31st.
THE THIEF by Kassandra Flamouri - In the Dark of the Moon
(prompt: Steal from witches...)
World Coven Headquarters October 31, 2050
The portal spat me out like a hairball: with a lurch, a few horking heaves, and, finally, a wet splat. I staggered to my feet and bent over, hacking up a few things of my own onto the center of the pentagram.
"Acantha Morningstar to the Director's office. I repeat, Acantha Morningstar to the Director's office."
"Better hurry." A circle attendant handed me a towel soaked in lavender water. "The Director is in an absolute fury."
"Hecate's tits," I grumbled as I wiped my face and neck. "Why?"
THE GANG GETS ROCKY by Winnie Lyon - The Curse of the King
(prompt: Vampires and Werewolves and Mummies. Oh, my!)
“I think I forgot my comfort zone back in Shipley Hollow.”
Holly finishes the last swipe of baby pink over my lips and nearly smears it with the gentle kiss she plants right after.
“I think that’s where it belongs,” she says. “You’ll do great.”
“It’s almost midnight,” Peter says, readjusting the musty brown jacket he was given. It belonged to one of the graduated seniors, who received it from a senior before him.
The rest of the cast is finishing up getting ready, and Janice, the junior who directed, has just run back to the booth to start the movie. It’s Halloween night, and the Bond College production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is moments from beginning.
Shockingly, it was Peter that roped us in.
LOST IN THE WOODS by Nicolle Knapp - Hook and Crown (Hook and Crown, #1)
(prompt: Lost in the woods.)
Darkness swallowed the secluded part of the woods where an escaped convict in a stolen prison guard uniform crept quietly through the underbrush. There shouldn’t have been anyone else around, not so deep in the woods where there was nothing around for miles. That’s why he chose these woods as his haven after escaping the prison a few miles North, and why he was so shocked when laughter echoed off the trees around him. Dropping into a crouch, the man’s head snapped side to side as he took in his surroundings.
About twenty yards ahead of him, a little girl was wandering through the trees. Her bare feet made no sound on the forest floor as she circled the base of a massive pine tree. The simple white dress the child wore was filthy and ripped. From the looks of the girl, she had been in those woods for quite some time.
REFLECTIONS IN THE WATER by Nicholas J. Evans - Order of Dust (For Humans, For Demons #1)
(prompt: Superstitions turn out to be real.)
Eyelids force open by my unforeseen will.
I scratch at my chin to punctuate a wide yawn; the sour liquor smell of my breath singes every nostril hair I own. Seven o’clock, my early morning ball of fire is barely awake over the canopy of rooftops but still just enough to pour through my crooked window blinds. I stare at them, at the golden yellow rays that brighten the unkempt bathroom of an equally unkempt man, and they stare right back at me. Typical. My foot brushes away disheveled piles of grimey garments from my bathroom floor until I hear the familiar tink-tink of a glass bottle rolling over porcelain tile, and I nearly smirk down at it as if it were a dear old friend.
My eyes meet the mirror, just for a moment, before bending down to the bottle.
CASTLE IN THE FOG by M. Dalto - Beginning’s End (The Empire Saga, #3)
Once upon a time, there was a Princess who fell in love with her Captain, but such was forbidden by her father, and therefore their trysts needed to be kept secret and hidden.
Because of this, the Captain and the Princess took advantage of the king’s frequent absences, and the two would steal away for an extended time alone together whenever they could.
One day, the Princess informed her handmaiden that she was traveling to the nearest province, and the Captain would assist her along the way. The maid insisted she come as well, as her venture would take her more than two days, but the Princess brushed her off and continued on with her plans to leave with the Captain.
THE ONE WHERE ALAN CONJURES A SPIRIT by Danielle Roux - Shades of the City
Two Years Ago
“Are you sure this is going to work?” Alan asked, doubt dripping from his voice onto the floor, much like the caramel he was attempting to stick onto an apple. He set the mess onto the baking sheet, wiping his hands on his purple and orange striped apron.
“It’s always worked before,” Kazuki scowled at the apple, which was mostly devoid of caramel. He swatted aside a wisp of his black hair and lit the cigarette he’d been holding in his mouth. His dark eyes flickered with the red-orange pinprick of the flame. “Maybe these apples are broken.”
“Broken?” Alan smirked at his choice of words. “I mean... I guess they could be. Should we try another to be sure?”
“I mean, what else are we going to do today?” Kazuki exhaled smoke, returning his smirk.
“I can think of
THE WIZARD OF NORTH CREIGHTON STREET by Chris Patrick Carolan - The Nightshade Cabal
(prompt: Weird new neighbors seem suspicious.)
“That’s him,” Mrs. Rachel Pritchard said, her voice barely above a whisper. She jutted her chin toward the man at the counter in a most unsubtle manner. “He’s the one I was telling you about.”
Miss Abigail Moseley chuckled at the display as she poured some milk into her tea. “Rachel, dear, I do hope you’re not trying to be discrete,” she teased. “I swear, you’ve all the subtlety of an ox in rutting season.”
She glanced over to the counter where the fellow, whoever he was, fidgeted uneasily as he waited for the clerk to fill his order. He was on the thin side, and it seemed to her that his suit jacket fit overly snug through the middle. With his long nose and high cheekbones, he struck her as looking rather bird-like.
Though not, she decided, entirely unhandsome.