â€œWhy are you so gross, Cousin Maureen?â€ Gordon said.
â€œH-hi, Cousin Maureen,â€ Edward said.
â€œYouâ€™re not a cousin,â€ Donald said.
â€œWhy, you children shouldnâ€™t be out on a night like this,â€ Cousin Maureen said. â€œDark things be loose on nights like this.â€
â€œWell, why are you here?â€ Donald said.
â€œYouâ€™re so brave for cominâ€™ up here,â€ Cousin Maureen said.
â€œUh-huh,â€ Donald said.
â€œOh thank you!â€ Edward said, smiling at her.
â€œCâ€™mon on, now,â€ Cousin Maureen said. â€œAhâ€™ll take yâ€™all back ta the house where etâ€™s safe.â€
â€œNo!â€ Donald said.
Gerdie ignored the woman and tried to read what was written on the altar. They symbols were Hyperborean but the letters didnâ€™t spell out words. They seemed to be more runes that letters to write something. Maybe it was some kind of enchantment on the rock. That was her best guess at least.
â€œListen,â€ Cousin Maureen said. â€œI donâ€™t wanna kill you, but I will if I must. Youâ€™re not powerful enough to stop me.â€
â€œC-c-c-cousin Maureen, I-I-Iâ”€â€ Edward said.
â€œSo, you shouldnâ€™t even try,â€ Cousin Maureen went on.
â€œI-I-I-I didnâ€™t - I didnâ€™t even think that-that-that-that murder was on the table,â€ Edward said.
â€œThis boyâ€™s being rude,â€ Cousin Maureen said of Donald.
â€œNo, itâ€™s on the altar,â€ Gerdie corrected Edward.
George rolled his eyes. Girls were so dumb.
â€œListen, youâ€™re all family,â€ Cousin Maureen said. â€œYouâ€™re all descendents from me. Iâ€™m your great-great-grandmother. And as family, I love all of yâ€™all.â€
â€œThen why you trying to kill our parents!?!â€ Donald said.
â€œI-I thought you were our cousin,â€ Edward said.
â€œYeah!â€ Donald said.
â€œNo, that was a fib,â€ Cousin Maureen said.
â€œIâ€™m your great-great-grandmother.â€
â€œA thousand years old or something!â€
â€œOnly a hundred and twenty six.â€
She smiled condescendingly at him.
â€œWell, thatâ€™s a long time!â€ Donald said.
â€œI was betrayed by my husband,â€ she went on. â€œAnd murdered by him and his brothers. Because they found out about my beliefs.â€
â€œThey why you trying to kill our parents? They donâ€™t know!â€
â€œBecause, once the ritualâ€™s finished, Iâ€™ll be alive again. And once Iâ€™m alive, I can raise you and provide you with a loving home.â€
â€œIâ€™ll teach you magic. Iâ€™ll school you in the nature of my faith. Iâ€™ll help you attain powers you canâ€™t possibly imagine.â€
â€œBut I like my mom and dad!â€
â€œTheyâ€™re holding you back, boy.â€
â€œNo, theyâ€™re not!â€
â€œI draw well. They teach.â€
â€œAll you have to do is wait â€˜til morning. Letâ€™s go back to the house.â€
Cousin Maureen turned to Alice.
â€œWhat about you?â€ she asked.
The little girl looked at her for a moment, frowned, and then turned so her hair fell between her eyes and Cousin Maureenâ€™s, cutting her off from her. Alice was torn though, because she wanted to know but she also wanted her mother and other relatives back.
â€œEdward?â€ Cousin Maureen said.
â€œWhy you gotten kill â€˜em?â€ Donald said very quietly.
â€œI-I-I-I-I think an alternative solution should be sought out,â€ he said. â€œâ€˜Cause I donâ€™t - I-I-I-I-I donâ€™t think I quiet agree with the moral - the moral implications of it.â€
â€œWell, we can sit here and talk about it as long as you want,â€ Cousin Maureen said.
â€œHuh-uh!â€ Donald said. â€œWe donâ€™t got long.â€
â€œYou got plenty oâ€™ time,â€ Cousin Maureen said.
â€œNo, we donâ€™t!â€ Donald said. â€œTheyâ€™re gonna die in the morning because youâ€™re mean!â€
â€œYou got plenty of time,â€ Cousin Maureen said again.
â€œI-I-I-I think I will a-a-a-a-agree to talk once you - once you turn the spell off,â€ Edward said.
â€œWell, how â€˜bout you?â€ Cousin Maureen said, turning to Gerdie. â€œLittle Gerdie. My great-great-grandchild?â€
Gerdie just fiddled with her little handkerchief filled with Hyperborean coins.
â€œWhat about you, little boy, youâ€™re from around here?â€ Cousin Maureen said to Gordon. â€œYou have great potential.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know you, witch!â€ Gordon growled.
â€œThatâ€™s so rude,â€ Cousin Maureen said. â€œThatâ€™s so rude. You rude boy! What about you in the shadows over there?â€
She looked past them all where George stood away from the group. He looked a little confused.
â€œGeorge, you dummy!â€ Gordon said.
â€œYou shut up, Gordie!â€ George called back.
â€œWell â€¦â€ Donald said.
Edward stopped and picked up a handful of dirt off the ground.
â€œAll right,â€ Cousin Maureen said. â€œAll right. There. Itâ€™s stopped. Itâ€™s stopped now.â€
â€œNo, itâ€™s not!â€ Donald said.
â€œWe can talk as long as you want,â€ Cousin Maureen said.
â€œYouâ€™re a liar!â€ Donald said.
Edward looked at the cauldron but nothing seemed to have changed.
â€œYouâ€™re a rude little boy,â€ Cousin Maureen said to Donald.
â€œWell, youâ€™re a liar!â€ Donald said. â€œYouâ€™re mean to us too! You tried to kill our parents!â€
â€œShush,â€ Cousin Maureen said. â€œTheyâ€™re not important.â€
â€œY-y-y-y-youâ”€â€ Edward said.
â€œYes they are!â€ Donald said.
â€œâ”€you - you told a fib!â€ Edward said.
â€œWhat have you done with them!?!â€ Alice said.
â€œTheyâ€™re safe,â€ Cousin Maureen said. â€œTheyâ€™re sleeping.â€
â€œNo, theyâ€™re not!â€ Alice said.
â€œNo, theyâ€™re not sleeping!â€ Donald said.
â€œWe read your diary,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œYou put them to sleep and theyâ€™re going to be asleep forever!â€ Alice said.
â€œThatâ€™s so rude, to read another personâ€™s diary,â€ Cousin Maureen said.
â€œWe didnâ€™t know it was yours,â€ Donald said.
â€œItâ€™s still rude,â€ Cousin Maureen said.
â€œIt just looked like an old book,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œWe didnâ€™t know,â€ Donald said.
â€œYouâ€™re bad children,â€ Cousin Maureen said.
â€œWe thought it was Grandpaâ€™s,â€ Donald said. â€œIt was old!â€
â€œYou are rude, rude children!â€ Cousin Maureen said. â€œBut I can teach you some amazing things.â€
â€œParents,â€ Donald said. â€œNo. Leave them alone.â€
Edward walked over to the cauldron and Cousin Maureen suddenly screeched loudly, changing into a strange, stinking semi-corporeal floating corpse. Gordon, Alice, and George were all shocked by the terrible transformation and the horrific thing that stood before them. Alice dropped her jack-o-lantern and it didnâ€™t break when it hit the ground but rolled over. The candle within went out.
Donald was right next to Alice and grabbed up the pumpkin, snatching the candle out and lighting it on the fire, scorching his hand a little, and shoving the candle back into the jack-o-lantern. Gerdie, next to the horrible ghost witch, shined the light from her pumpkin on the apparition. The light apparently burned the ghost and she shrieked in pain.
â€œYou bad little girl!â€ the witch said.
She floated to Gerdie and swatted at her with one hand. Gerdie ducked and as the ghostâ€™s hand passed by her face, she could feel a terrible cold coming of it. It was like the coldest, most bitter winter wind ever. Edward dumped dirt into the cauldron. Nothing apparently happened, which confused him as he thought his trying to put dirt into it in the first place was what caused her change in the first place.
Donald stepped forward and shined the jack-o-lantern on the witch, burning her.
â€œYou can do this, Donald!â€ Simon called, following him.
The other children wondered, for the briefest of moments, if he followed Donald around all the time and encouraged him.
Gerdie continued shining the jack-o-lantern at the witch, burning her even more. Then George charged across the clearing with a scream, baseball bat held high in his hands. He brought his baseball bat down on the witch woman while shrieking â€œLeave my mom alone!â€ The bat passed harmlessly through the witchâ€™s ghost and crashed against the altar. He cried out in pain from the sudden impact he didnâ€™t expect.
â€œYou gotta use a jack-o-lantern, dummy!â€ Gerdie said. â€œYou canâ€™t hit ghosts!â€
The witchâ€™s ghost flitted around the altar and to the cauldron.
Uh-oh! Edward thought.
She reached into the boiling cauldron, scooping up a handful of the misty green wisps within.
â€œYouâ€™re a bad boy,â€ she said in a deep, rough voice, pointing at him her other hand.
She flung it at Edward who let out a shriek of terror. The strange wisp missed him, flying by his face. He thought he heard a maniacal, inhuman laughter from within as he passed.
Giggling goo? Edward thought.
Gordon ran over to the cauldron, pulling out the jar of applejack theyâ€™d prepared and opening it.
â€œHey, Maureen!â€ he called to the ghost. â€œWhat would happen if I poured this in the cauldron?â€
Alice drew out and opened her switchblade knife but wasnâ€™t sure what to do. She had seen Georgeâ€™s ineffective attack and watched Gordon with his bottle of poison.
â€œUh â€¦â€ she said. â€œUh â€¦â€
She moved towards Gordon.
Donald moved to the ghost and shined his jack-o-lantern at it. It burned her. Gerdie moved towards the witch, shoving the other children out of the way and shining her jack-o-lantern light on the ghost, burning her.
â€œYou are terrible children!â€ the witch cried out in a horrific voice.
George looked around unsure what to do since his baseball bat didnâ€™t seem to hurt the ghost.
â€œYou old â€¦ you old bag!â€ he cried out.
He smashed one of the poles over and over and over again with his baseball bat.
â€œGimme. My. Mom. Back!â€ he shouted each time he strike the pole.
The pole shattered under the youthâ€™s attack.
â€œWhy donâ€™t you do it and find out!â€ the witchâ€™s ghost said sweetly to Gordon.
She reached into the cauldron again, pulling out more of the nasty-looking wisps and flinging it at Donald. When the wisp hit him, he felt it clawing and biting at him as if it was alive as it dispersed into thin air. It burned and was horrific.
Gordon dumped the moonshine in the fire, hoping to douse it. Unfortunately, the alcohol in the poisoned applejack fed the fire and it roared and burned blue for a few moments. The stench of rotten flesh filled the air. Gordon got a big face filled with stinking smoke and turned green, putting his finger to his mouth. He stumbled forward and puked into the cauldron.
â€œGordie!â€ Edward cried. â€œGordie, I appreciate the effort but alcohol is flammable! Thank you!â€
â€œI even knew that!â€ Donald said.
Alice, standing next to Edward, picked up the jack-o-lantern heâ€™d placed on the ground when he got the dirt. She shined the light on the witchâ€™s ghost and burned it. She shrieked once again.
Edward looked around, realizing the dagger theyâ€™d found hidden in Great-Grandpa Silasâ€™s room might be magical and, if so, might be able to harm a ghost even if other material substances couldnâ€™t. He also realized the other thing that might be able to harm a ghost â€¦ was another ghost. He thought Gerdie had the knife but didnâ€™t see it on her.
â€œBlack knife!â€ He yelled. â€œOn the witch! Simon!â€
He pointed at the other ghost.
â€œGet punching!â€ he cried out.
Simon looked confused.
Edward put his foot on the cauldron and tried to push it over. He could feel the heat under his shoe and the cauldron didnâ€™t move at all. He was not a strong boy, however.
Donald ignored the goo still upon him and shined his jack-o-lantern on the witchâ€™s ghost, burning her more. Gerdie took the knife out of her pocket and held it out to Alice. Alice grabbed it while George beat on another pole.
â€œThatâ€™s mine!â€ the witch ghost said to Alice.
She flew around George and tried to slap Alice but the freezing hand missed her.
Gordon ran over by Edward and tried to shove the cauldron over with his foot as well.
â€œOh!â€ Edward said. â€œTh-th-thank you - thank you for the assistance!â€
The two boys working together, shoving the cauldron with their feet. It tipped but then tipped back.
â€œGeorge, get over here and help tip this thing!â€ Gordon called.
â€œWhat!?!â€ George said.
Alice slashed the witchâ€™s ghost with the dagger. She was surprised to feel resistance against the dagger when she struck the incorporeal corpse. The witch screamed. Clear ectoplasm spewed from the wound and then dripped off the ghost.
â€œSimon!â€ Donald said. â€œGo hit her!â€
â€œI â€¦ I â€¦ I â€¦ Iâ€™m scared!â€ Simon said.
â€œDonâ€™t be!â€ Donald said. â€œJust get over there! Just do it! Just do it!â€
Simon nervously jumped from foot to food and shook his fists in front of him, anxious.
Gerdie shined her jack-o-lantern on the witchâ€™s ghost and the horror shrieked again as the light struck her. With a scream of anguish and rage, she faded away into nothingness. The altar stone stopped glowing and Simon faded away at the same time, though Donald could still see him. It became much darker on top of the hill, even the flames dimming almost immediately. The strange mist in the cauldron flew out and vanished in the woods. It appeared to be filled with just gunk.
â€œYou could write out the symbols,â€ Gerdie said to Edward.
â€œOh!â€ he said. â€œLet me get out my note - my notebook.â€
He dutifully copied the symbols into his notebook. Gordon told George to help him tip over the cauldron.
â€œDammit Simon!â€ Donald said.
â€œI was scared,â€ Simon said.
â€œSimon, you didnâ€™t help,â€ Donald said.
â€œI was scared,â€ Simon said.
Alice got out her switchblade and the magic knife and compared them. The blades were about the same size.
â€œWell, Cherise, I guess you got a friend,â€ she said to her switchblade.
She tucked them both away.
Gordon and George pushed over the cauldron and all the nasty liquid within poured out and down the hill.
â€œWhy?â€ Alice said. â€œWhat are you doing?â€
â€œBecause!â€ Gordon said.
â€œWhat is that?â€ Donald said.
â€œEw ew ew,â€ Alice said. â€œWhat are you doing?â€
â€œBoy-boy-boy, I-I really thought we wouldâ€™ve - I really - I really thought we would have done that a little bit sooner,â€ Edward said. â€œItâ€™s embarrassing.â€
â€œWhat are you talking about?â€ George asked. â€œWhat do we do?â€
â€œI think itâ€™s okay now,â€ Donald said.
â€œOur parents!â€ Alice said. â€œWe gotta check on them! We gotta make sure that theyâ€™re alive! That theyâ€™re okay!â€
George pointed at her and nodded.
They walked back down the hill, Edward staying to copy the symbols and Gerdie and Gordon staying with him. Donald, George, and Alice went down the hill towards Great-Grandpa Silasâ€™s house. The three who stayed caught up to the other three in the cornfield. Gerdie got her jack-o-lantern from where George had put it by the tree.
At the house, they found everyone still sleeping. Gerdie shook Great Grandpa Silas.
â€œWhu?â€ he said.
Then he grasped his head.
â€œAw â€¦â€ he muttered. â€œThat applejack had a lot more in it than I thought it would.â€
His eyes were red and bloodshot.
â€œYou were right Grandpa, it was the witch!â€ Gerdie said loudly. â€œThe witch cursed your applejack.â€
Great Grandpa Silas shushed her.
â€œJust â€¦ Iâ€™m going to bed,â€ he muttered. â€œI â€¦â€
â€œHereâ€™s your keys back,â€ Gerdie said.,
â€œOh,â€ he said. â€œOh, thank you. Tell me in the morning. Youâ€™re a good girl. Tell me in the morning.â€
He wandered up the steps, holding his head with his hand, obviously suffering a terrible hangover.
Gerdie went to her parents and woke them up.
â€œGerdie, go to bed,â€ her father said.
â€œGreat Grandpaâ€™s right!â€ she said.
â€œYouâ€™re not in bed. You need to go to bed.â€
She got them up and to one of the makeshift beds prepared for them in the house.
The other children woke their parents, all of whom suffered from what seemed like terrible hangovers: splitting headaches, sour stomachs, and feeling generally awful.
â€œNo wonder thereâ€™s a prohibitin,â€ Gerdie said.
Edward looked over his notes of the symbols and found his jack-o-lantern was still in fine shape. He set Lâ€™il Ed out on the front porch safe and then got Gerdie to show him what the symbols heâ€™d copied meant. Gerdie did her best, but she was very tired.
Donald had gone to the kitchen and got the apple jack jug that was left. He took it out into the back yard and poured it out, then flung the jugs away. The place on the grass where he poured the applejack turned black, much like the trail theyâ€™d found in the woods. He returned to wake his parents.
â€œDon, what?â€ his father said.
â€œYouâ€™ve been sleeping,â€ Donald said. â€œYou â€¦ just slept here. You need to go to bed.â€
â€œOkay,â€ his father said.
His mother and father headed for their room.
â€œYou drank too much,â€ Donald said.
â€œI know,â€ his father moaned. â€œI know.â€
â€œIâ€™m more used to wine anyway,â€ his mother said.
â€œThat sounds like a good idea,â€ Donald said.
Alice let her mother sleep and curled up by the fire herself.
* * *
The next morning came far too early for any of them. Thursday, November 1, 1928, was a cool but very sunny and pretty day. All of their parents still had terrible hangovers and more than one of them swore off applejack for life.
They had a big breakfast together but only the children were willing to eat the fried eggs, sausages, bacon, and hash browns. The adults mostly stuck to coffee and toast. Alice had eight pieces of toast with strawberry jam.
â€œDo you still see him?â€ Alice asked Donald. â€œYou know: Simon? Anymore?â€
â€œHeâ€™s right here,â€ Donald said, pointing to empty air.
â€œUgh,â€ Alice said.
Simon waved at the girl who waved back at where she thought the ghost might be.
â€œShe can see you still!â€ Donald said to Simon.
â€œNo,â€ Alice said. â€œNo, I canâ€™t see him.â€
â€œOh,â€ Donald said. â€œYou waved at him. Donâ€™t lie.â€
Gerdie told Great Grandpa Silas about their adventure and he listened but obviously didnâ€™t believe the girl. Despite the other children backing up her amazing story, he merely smiled at her.
â€œThatâ€™s a great story,â€ he said. â€œThatâ€™s a good Halloween trick.â€