Monday, September 24, 2018

Wild Carrot: My Offering for All Hallows

I have decided to not continue work on Elysia House for Halloween because it's a little too dark for my current mood and I have decided to ultimately make Elysia House another tale in my magical house series joining the likes of Coventry House and Mirthstone Hall (formerly known as Yew Manor).

In its place, I offer you a somewhat lighter story of terror to add a chill to these cooler October nights as All Hallows draws near, a tale of such horror, such tension, you are encouraged to have 911 on speed dial.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, my parole officer, and my court-appointed psychiatrist, I offer for your perusal my Halloween offering:

Wild Carrot
by Alan Loewen

I attend the local college here in town, my major helping me reach my goal of being a writer. Unfortunately, as you all know, every college student is required to take those classes deemed electives; classes purposed to give a more varied learning experience to eager students.

As you also know, most elective courses are worthless, taught by the idealistic, the innocent, or the doomed with such titles as Feminism in Watership Down, Zen and the Art of Basket Weaving, or The Religious Experience of Anime.

Looking over the list, I saw the classes as nothing more than a waste of my valuable time and scholastic loans. Eventually, I settled on The History and Science of Vegetarianism with the assurance there would be a hands-on cooking experience. Surely the course couldn’t hurt and cooking for any bachelor is a valuable skill.

However, the professor assigned to the course didn’t much care for his expenditure of time either and turned the responsibility of teaching over to one of his more gifted undergraduates.

And that is how Anne Lace entered my life.

Anne. A walking vision of beauty. A living example of a bewitching changeling from the land of fairy. With skin the color of fresh cream, her green eyes shone out of a face surrounded by a cloud of hair blonde almost to the point of pure white. She had a cute, little button nose that had a tendency to twitch when she lost herself in a cooking demonstration. For me, she defined grace, purity, and perfection.

A shy and tenderhearted child, she promised everybody A’s in the class. A dedicated vegetarian, she would expound for an entire hour on the passionate secrets of okra, the arcane ritual of preparing miso, or the wonders of lettuce.

Strangely, Anne’s health appeared to be frail. Once a month, she would call in ill and the disgruntled teacher who was obligated to teach the class would either make us memorize the Latin names of plants or show us videos bootlegged from The Cooking Channel. 

One by one, bored students dropped out of the class content with their assured passing grade until in the end there was only Anne and me. 

Anne and me. What a lovely phrase. 

And love blossomed among the soybeans and marinated tempeh.

One day, I confessed my devotion to her over a mound a French cut green beans. She stared at me, her lovely eyes brimming with sudden tears. With a sob, she fled the room and disappeared where I knew not.

The next day the regular teacher showed up in a foul mood, informed me that Anne had quit and that I could just take my passing grade and do him the honor of never showing up again.

I left dedicated to finding out where Anne had fled.

My first stop was the Student Center where discrete, attractive bribes and carefully worded threats loosened a number of tongues. Anne, it seemed, lived with her widowed father on the old family estate on a moor just west of town.

My first thought was, since when do we have moors in the United States? My second was that the day was quickly coming to an end. Possibly I could reach her home in time and profess my adoration to her with a walk among the rising of the full moon.

My car broke down less than a mile from her home. Fortunately, the sun was still a good half hour from setting. I turned my face toward the dying light of day, determined to reach Anne’s ancestral home before nightfall.

As I trudged my weary way over the moors, I wrestled with the reality of my circumstances, unable to shake the unbearable feeling I was nothing more than a character in some cliche-ridden melodrama written by a hack.

Suddenly, interrupting my troubled thoughts, the Lace Mansion rose before me, its bricks blackened by the years, candlelight streaming out of the windows making them glow like eyes.

Keeping the vision of Anne’s face before me, I pounded on the imposing front door. Moments later, it creaked open revealing an elderly man stooped over with age, his voice cracked with the ravages of time. “Begone, sirrah,” he said, his voice rising in fury, “Begone from the star-crossed home of Lace!”

“Now, now, Menkins,” came a masculine voice from behind the aged apparition. “We first check and see if he’s a Jehovah’s Witness and then we scare him off.”

A handsome man in his late 50’s dressed in a velvet smoking jacket came to the door. He looked at me quizzically. “Interesting,” he said, “You boys normally come in twos. Come, come now, where is your Watchtower Magazine?”

“I am not a J.W., sir,” I replied. “If I assume that I am talking to the father of Anne Lace, I have come to speak to your daughter.”

The man turned pale. “No,” he said. “My daughter cannot speak to you now. She is ... indisposed.”

Suddenly, from inside the house came a scream and a wail of terror. “Father!” I heard Anne cry. “Father, the moon rises!”

Pushing my way past Mr. Lace and his arthritic servant, I bounded my way up the stairs to the second floor, ignoring their urgent cries of warning.

In a room, I found Anne standing in a cage, the only furnishing being a large crate of vegetables.

She grasped the bars, her delicate fingers reached out for me. “You should not have come,” she said, tears pouring down her blushing cheeks.

Suddenly, she turned even paler, her trembling fingers pointing to the open window. “Look! The moon rises and my fate is revealed.”

As her father entered the room, the light of the rising moon spilled into the room like divine judgment. Her features began to meld and remold. I stepped back in confused disbelief while Anne’s father softly wept, his face turned to the wall.

“She’s ...” I gasped, my mind reaching for words to express my shock. “Anne’s ... Anne’s a bunny rabbit!”

Anne stood before me: twitching nose, green eyes, and long pink ears. A big, white, fluffy cottontail popped out of the back of her jeans. Beatrice Potter would have wept for joy.

I felt her father’s hand on my shoulder. 

“Even a girl who is pure in heart,
And says her prayers at night,
Can become a bunny when the wild carrot blooms
And the moon is big and bright. 

“Shapeshifting is a curse of the Lace family,” he groaned. “It strikes only the women.”

He turned away, his voice breaking into sobs. “Anne’s sainted mother, rest her soul, at the light of the full moon would turn into a ... “ He shuddered at the memory. “She would turn into a Chihuahua.” He turned to me, his eyes filled with horror. “Nobody should ever have to see a human-sized Chihuahua.”

I looked at Anne who looked back at me. I had to admit, after the initial shock wore off, that she really did make quite a cute rabbit. 

I slowly reached into the cage to the box of vegetables and gave my love a cabbage.

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