By E.D. Wivens, October 2009
It was the last day of October and the usual suspects had collected a lot of old pallets together in a huge pile at the far side of the nature reserve and then set fire to them.
The party was by now in full swing and every so often a rocket whooshed up through the chilled air and into the dark sky, leaving a dazzling trail and then brilliantly exploding. Back on the ground, other fireworks would flare like incandescent peacocks as the crowd cheered. Explosions rent the air and in the distance dogs barked and car alarms sounded uncontrollably.
The kit and I clambered up onto a discarded armchair and looked at the gathered crowd, trying to match up the familiar faces with their partners and offspring.
We could make out the Boss as he failed to organise the whelk stall and the Editor as he tried to monopolise the punch bowl. Over to one side the Head of Public Relations was threatening to impale somebody on a plastic pitchfork.
"I don't see Ms Savage from Human Resources anywhere", said the kit peering through the smoke.
"She doesn't usually come to these works parties. I suppose we might see her fly over on her broomstick later, if she's not too busy cursing someone."
The kit shuddered at the thought and looked up at the nearly full moon. "It's odd you should say that. I feel that there's all sorts of things around tonight," he said.
"Things that go bump in the night?"
"No things that make no noise at all in the night."
"A bit like me then", said a voice from a particularly black piece of nothingness.
A pair of green eyes and a narrow grin emerged from the shadows. Fortunately they were attached to a large black cat. "Call me Spooky", he said, "Sorry if I startled you."
"No problem", I said nonchalantly from behind the kit. I stepped forward, and tried to get my fur to go down again. "Pleased to meet you. I'm Edgar and this is the kit."
"I know. Have you come for the barbecue?"
"We thought there might be an odd sausage roll or discarded burger going begging."
"Come on then", said Spooky leading the way. Behind me the kit followed pretending that his raised heart rate was entirely due to potential sausages.
"I've not seen you around here before", I said as we made our way between some discarded paint tins.
"No you haven't, but I've been around for a long time."
The kit, who had been pushing his way steadily through the undergrowth, was suddenly aware of hot breath to his left. He turned and came face to face with a grinning demon, its eyes blazing and its mouth filled with a fiery glow. He leaped into the air.
"Pumpkin lantern", explained Spooky. "The young humans carve them and use them to light up the place. You'll get used to them after a bit."
"They used to be made from turnips and the occasional real skull", he continued. "The pumpkin is a recent American introduction just like 'trick or treating'."
"What's 'trick or treating'?" asked the kit.
"Well it's where young humans go and knock on somebody's door and ask for a treat on the basis that they will do something unpleasant if they don't come up with the goods."
"It used to be called 'demanding money with menaces'", I added.
"Excuse me for a moment" said Spooky wandering over to a taped off area where the Health and Safety guy was trying to read the instructions on a large firework with the aid of a match.
"So what's it all about then?" asked the kit.
"Well", I said, "it's a bit of a mixture really. The dummy on top of the bonfire is meant to be Guy Fawkes who was an early parliamentary reformer. Unfortunately he got found out before he could set off the gunpowder and came to a grizzly end."
The kit stared at the effigy tied above the rising flames and squinted slightly. "Was he related to the Head of Accounts then?"
"I don't think so. I heard somebody telling the Boss earlier that the dummy's appearance was just a coincidence. The fireworks are really for old Guy as well, but they're five days early."
"Right, so that explains the dummy and the fireworks. What's the other part about then?"
"Samhain", said Spooky joining us again.
"Sam who?" asked the kit.
"Samhain. It's a Celtic festival that marks the start of the dark half of the year and is also a celebration of the harvest. It's also the time when, according to Celtic lore, the boundaries between this world and the next are at their thinnest. It's when the departed are honoured, and a time when supernatural beings and spirits can enter this world and mingle with its inhabitants."
The kit swallowed hard and I felt my fur begin to stand again.
"Over the years", continued Spooky, "Samhain became christianised into 'All Saints' Day' or 'All Hallows' which falls tomorrow and 'All Souls' the day after. That makes tonight 'All Hallows Eve' or 'Halloween'. Ah, we've arrived."
We had reached the barbecue and watched as the young humans were handed sausages and burgers in bread rolls. Fortunately they were so enthralled by the fireworks they often allowed the food to drop to the ground. Their parents naturally forbid them to retrieve the morsels on the basis they were 'dirty'.
It seemed a shame to just leave them there so we instigated a clean up campaign.
"Care to join us in half a burger?" I asked Spooky.
He shook his head and started to walk away. "No not for me. I'm off to see what I can pick up at the sheltered housing in St. Peter's Close."
"Well it's been a pleasure", I said.
"See you later", added the kit.
Spooky stopped, silhouetted against the glowing embers of the bonfire, and looked back.
"You will", he said.The author and owner of this work is E.D. Wivens. See http://www.katzphur.co.uk/ for more details.