The spirits had taken a break, but mankind had not. Every year, October 31st would give them a chance to swap places with the most dreaded monsters of a child’s nightmare and the children would do their best and sometimes would even give the spirits a complex. Well, this year was no different. The children were busy painting their faces and giving their clothes a makeover.
Some did succeed in scaring their old neighbours while some succeeded in impressing the circus clan. In short- it was Halloween!
With baskets as big as a witch’s cauldron, they set out in the dark to trick or treat their neighbours and gather all the gummies and candies their baskets could hold.
It was 11 pm in the city of Paris. All the children were in their beds sleeping peacefully, unaware of the fact that the caries causing bacteria had set out to build a big empire in their mouths…
But only one child was awake. A tiny figure wandered through the lonely streets of Paris carrying an old rusty pot without a single candy and had no costume on except for a ragged black cloak which looked as though it might fall apart any time. This was no time to wander…. alone. The mysterious figure was almost swallowed by the darkness when the moonlight came to its rescue. Everyone had gone to sleep except one person. A small dilapidated house stood in the middle and a tiny speck of light was coming out of it. The moonlight travelled towards the figure, revealing its face. It was a boy.
“Rat-a tat- a tat” the boy knocked on the door of the dilapidated house.
“Who’s there at this hour?” a croaky old voice boomed. The door opened. It was an old man.
“What yeh think yeh doin here yeh filthy little brat?”
“Trick or treat,” the boy whispered.
“Ha! Trick or treat! You silly little junk of a boy!”
“Yeh think I believe in your fairy tales! Get lost you-”
Before he could finish his sentence, the boy spoke softly, “No sir. You don’t have to believe in fairy tales, I despise a lot of it myself. But yes, do believe in ghost tales.”
“By the way sir, you didn’t answer my question, “Trick or treat?”
“Ha!” the man grunted. “Alright, I say trick! Now then shoo off. I know you can’t trick me!”
“As a matter of fact, I can trick you sir” the boy said slyly.
“Oh yeah! Who are you by the way? Some kinda ghost?”
“No sir” the boy whispered and revealed his face for the first time. “I am Jack, Jack the Stingy.”
All of a sudden there was a flash of bright light! The man found himself spinning and instantaneously everything was still- absolutely still!
The man was lying flat on his back and could hear his heartbeat in the eerie silence. He looked around- everything was dark. When he tried to get up, he banged his head against something hard and was filled with terror.
“Where am I?” He whispered to himself and tried to feel his surroundings. He was gripped by fear when he noticed that he was in a box – which to him resembled a coffin……
“Aaaahh!” he screamed and began to panic. He started banging against the wooden surface and shouted, “Help! Help!”
With much difficulty he managed to lift open the lid and somehow struggled to the surface. The surrounding outside the coffin was no better than the inside- perhaps worse.
The man now wished that he were resting in peace rather than staying outside for another night. He looked around with fear-laden eyes and saw that he was in a place very different from his. The sky was orange – the orangest orange he had ever seen and all the trees were spookily curvy. But there was something that made his legs wobbly- there were huge gigantic pumpkins hanging from the trees and much to his horror, each had a mouth that curled up into a dreadful smile, eyes which glowed dangerously and an expression- which could prove to be fatal for chicken- hearted ones….
Suddenly, he heard a voice-
“Hello Mr. Anderson.” The man turned around in a flash and was shocked to see the same boy- the one called Jack- sitting on the top of a mountain of pumpkins and smiling slyly.
“Who- who are you a-and how do you kn- know m-my name! Where am I?” The old man stammered.
“Tut- ttut! I see you are horror-struck Mr. Anderson! I thought that I had become quite famous or rather infamous by now. But it seems that your world is a host to a bunch of ignoramuses like you!” The boy went on, “Ok let me give you a hint, do you remember any boy who had tricked the devil? A boy who had compelled the devil to turn into a coin? Don’t you know anything about me?”
The man stood still, processing the information. He soon realised that he was none other than Jack- Jack of the Irish tales.
“But- but,” he stammered, “It was just an Irish tale, wasn’t it?”
“Ha!” Jack mocked, “A tale?”
“A tale is nothing more than an excuse given by humankind for something which is too abominable for it to digest, isn’t it? Humans-silly creatures, aren’t they? Don’t want to believe in things that are out of their restricted boundaries of imagination?”
The man was still- except for his legs which were wobbling like a slice of Christmas pudding…The man was dumbfounded. “But this land—wh- what’s it?”
Jack looked around the orange land, the pumpkins and closed his eyes as if recollecting a painful memory.
“Hundreds of years ago, when the angels and the devils had denied my entry into heaven and hell, I set out to build an empire of my own, an empire which would be ruled by me, an empire which would be guarded by the pumpkins- Jack-O-Lanterns- as you humankind call. Welcome to my kingdom Mr. Anderson….”
“Is this real or am I hallucinating and- and- these pumpkins- are they real?”
“As real as the nose on your face!” – Jack laughed and all the pumpkins started laughing devilishly- “Ha-ha! Ha! Ha-ha!”
The man pressed his hands against his ears and screamed, “Stop! Stop! Stop!”
“Ha ha ha! Mr. Anderson –let the fun begin.”Saying this, Jack clapped his hands and disappeared. All the pumpkins jumped high in the air and attacked the man. The man started running and behind him a whole lot of pumpkins were chasing him! How the man ran and ran and huffed and puffed. In a flash, a pumpkin managed to get hold of his trousers and tore it into shreds, but the man didn’t stop running. Fortunately, he had left the pumpkins behind and had unknowingly entered a dense dark forest. He sat down and heaved a sigh of relief. He thought that he was saved, but no…. he was wrong.
While he was running, he toppled over something and fell. “Oww”.
Something was moving below him. He sat there terrified. Suddenly, a giant root emerged from the ground and grabbed his neck.
Hundreds of roots started erupting from the earth and hitting him at various places. A thick root hit him on his right cheek and it began to bleed.
He struggled to free himself but he couldn’t. He was out of breath. Finally with much difficulty he managed to free himself and began to run. He was tired, his face bleeding but there was no stopping……
All of a sudden he heard a whoosh above his head and looked up to see a dreadful sight. Hundreds of witches were zooming from all directions and were cackling loudly.
“Here’s our treat- attack!”
The man got up and scrambled to his feet and began to run. He was sweating all over and tears were running down his cheeks.
“Help! Help!” he screamed.
It was getting dark and the moon loomed up against the dark sky. But the witches were still chasing. “Attack witchy gals!” and all the witches zoomed down. One of the witches grabbed the man by his scruff and put him inside a huge cauldron hanging from her broom. All the witches laughed loudly and said, “Today we will be having human pie!”
The man didn’t know what to do. As he tried getting out of the cauldron he tripped and fell off the broom.
“Aah” he screamed.
“Splash!” he fell into a pool.
When Mr. Anderson looked around himself, he saw that he was floating in an orange pool.
“Ah it’s good that the witches are gone,” and heaved a sigh of relief. Suddenly he felt the orange pool turning a bit warm.
He sniffed, “This- this smells like pumpkin juice.”
“Ha! Ha! Ha! Right into the bubbly cauldron!” All at once, the witches zoomed down and formed a circle around him. Now he was trapped.
“Let’s have human soup today! Ha! Ha! Ha!” The witches screeched.
“Time to add the ingredients! Hooray!”
“Maple leaves, raw pumpkin pulp, wings of bats, cat’s tail!”
All the ingredients went in the cauldron and were stirred.
“Please help me! Please help! Aaaaaaaa”
He woke up with a start. He was in his bed and was sweating all over. It was November 1st (7:00) in the morning. He looked around himself with fear-laden eyes.
“Whoa bad dream!” He got up to freshen up. As he looked at himself in the mirror, he noticed something. He had a scar on his right cheek -a fresh red scar! For some reason he felt giddy after seeing it. It resembled the scar – the scar he had got in his dreams, while trying to escape from the giant root. “No …..It can’t be….”he whispered to himself.
“I …I must have hurt myself in my sleep unknowingly.” This thought cheered him a bit ….
As he sat down on his chair to take his breakfast, he saw something lying on his table. It was a tiny piece of parchment. He picked it up. On it was written something. It read-
“Hope you had a lovely TRICK” – Jack
BY NAYAAB SUHEL.