“It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream—making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams…no, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence—that which makes its truth, its meaning—its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream-alone…” — Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

All Hallows’ Eve

The night that all black cat owners dread was falling, slowly like a dark spell cast over the neat conical roofs and casting shadows oozing among the garishly brightly-painted houses. And there she was, silhouetted against the deep crimson of the twilight, a graceful figure gliding like a dark tear drop across the street. A vision of mournful beauty, clad in a black gothic Victorian gown and ribboned top hat. Her eyes were bound over with a silk sash. She held up a dark parasol as she pushed an antique carriage with a black cat. She was outlined against a foreground of flame-red picturesque leaves falling slowly, hailing her like crimson debris. The hems of her embroidered frilled gown trailed on the pavement as she shuffled awkwardly on cradling a black cat lovingly. She shivered at the cold caress of the October wind as two sinister figures stepped out from the alleyway and trailed her furtively.

None other than Phil and Ben, two unsavoury denizens of the otherwise straitlaced and conservative town. Eager for coveted acceptance into a local youth Satanic cult, they accepted the initiation challenge of catching a stray black cat and bringing it to the town park to be sacrificed.

When the two darkened their doorway, the local animal shelter sporting golden pentagrams, the staff was rightfully suspicious of their request to adopt a black cat and adamantly refused their request. They were sullen and rejected as a blood-red sunset enflamed the sky…until they saw her, a majestic dark vision in the dusk. Hailed by blood red autumn leaves, she paused suddenly and turned, alarmed by a sound. She lingered. They suppressed chuckles.

Before petting her cat fondly, she turned again and recommenced her walk, silhouetted like a dark teardrop against the deep crimson of the twilight with a predatory gleam in their eyes. They closed in…

“Hey, Miss…” Phil chimed in.


“We’ll take that…”

The cat hissed and cried out.

“Put it in the sack Ben! Run!”

“No!” she wailed.

Urban legends and rumours surrounded the infamous park and Ben wavered in front of its dark threshold before Phil called out irately to his awkward accomplice and he was immersed in shadow and dread.

She cried out after them in anguish; her shrill agonised pleas echoed and re-echoed amid the thickening trees, lingering amid their lengthening shadows amid the thick grove of trees in the lengthening shadows. They felt themselves more in the depths of a forest than a park albeit one built cosmetically over an old pioneer and miner’s graveyard.

The Park was built over an old, abandoned miner’s cemetery; most of its tenants were owed to scarlet fever and cholera epidemics that decimated the community the cosmetic measure of classical marble statues replacing the makeshift weathered crosses and eroded tombs. In another misguided aesthetic touch, classical-style marble statues were built standing like ghosts in the pallor of moonlight…they were discoloured and cobwebbed by neglect, standing like sentinels in expectant vigil…

A solitary moonbeam infiltrated the canopy of trees…shrouded in spider webs like ghostly banners, ensnared flies writhed in masses…

Meanwhile, the Satanic cult members waited impatiently for Phil and Ben.

“Hey, you think those clumsy fools actually caught a black cat?” “Sandor,” their aspiring cult leader sneered.

“They texted me. They said they did…”

“We’ll give them a few more minutes…”

“They actually going to be allowed to join us?”


He cursed after reading a text.

“Those idiots! It’s supposed to be a stray! It’s not supposed to belong to someone!”

“Sandor” looked up awkwardly at Endora, their “High Priestess,” standing aloof from their gathering, and she was undeniably beautiful, her cascade of raven hair gleaming in the apparitional spotlight of moonlight.

“What would it take to impress her?” he brooded.

He stood up silently.

“I’ll get a cat for us!” he declared.

“Hold! No cat shall perish by your hand!” a voice accustomed to command cried.

They stood up in alarm as a regal figure in a sumptuous green embroidered cloak appeared, seemingly escorted by a retinue clad in medieval attire.

“What is this? Shakespeare in the Park? Who are you freaks? Wiccans?”

“Druidesses, actually…the blood of cats will not be shed this night.”

“Oh yeah? And who is going to stop us?”

“Do you not know where we are?”

“A park…”

“Is that all?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s built on an old cemetery. Tell us something we don’t know…”

“That you are going to perish this night. We did not come here to trade words with lackeys of a goat god…you never entertained the possibility but…he’s real…your theatrics and morbid play-acting are meant merely to shock your elders…he is, though, and you will be sent to him tonight, broken and blooded…you have been playing with fire, oceans of it…”

“There are so many of you…” Sandor whispered.

“You see others? Some of the dead here among lowly miners were bandits, cold-blooded thugs driven to madness and murder by lust for gold….”

Gold…gold…gold…” the word echoed ‘til it was chanted in choir.

“Driven mad by avarice, they killed men in lowly places and stripped them of gold…”

“Gold…gold…” was uttered hungrily, madly by disembodied voices.

She sang then, not in verse but incantation, rallying and necromancing the dormant spectres in a voice like venomed honey.

“Hey! Something grabbed me! It has me!” one of the Cult members screamed.

Skeletal hands shot out of the ground like carnivorous plants…

“Gold! Gold!” raspy voices chanted.

Skeletal figures appeared tearing at the gold jewelry they wore and trying to pry it from their mouths and tear rings from their noses and ears.

From an aerial perspective, an owl watched curiously as people trashed around on the ground, in tortured pain as if fighting off invisible attackers…

“We shall purge this place of the desecration and evil you have brought here…” Endora announced.

“You…you’re with them?? You were my friend….” Sandor said in a betrayed voice.

“I allowed you to believe so…you see…you were merely the bait….

“I’m Sandor, Lord of…”

“You are Curtis Clifton from down the road, and you are nothing…”

“She comes! She comes!” they chanted in unison…

“Cut the Halloween show…”

“Halloween? Samhain, actually…and sacrifice is called for…”

“We will have a cat for you….”

“Oh, not a cat…the gods demand something else entirely…they crave only the best of mortals…but you will have to suffice. Let the ritual begin.”

Meanwhile, Ben and Phil approached the appointed spot…

“Did you hear something, Phil? Sounded like screaming?”

“You’re imagining things Ben.”

Gorgeous, graceful figures appeared suddenly, beckoning to them alluringly, laughing melodiously…

“Hey, I didn’t know there was a party here tonight!” Phil grinned.

The mysterious women gestured to follow as they pivoted to run, luring them deeper into the wood.

“Hey, Phil…something is not right…where did they go?” Ben whined.

Their melodious laughter and music haunted the air…yet all they saw were statues of nymphs and satyrs posed in a circle, in the midst of a cavorting bacchanal. The garlands of flowers they saw on the flowing blonde hair of the girls were now on the statues with the same facial features and smiles.

“Okay…this isn’t right…” Ben insisted.

The faces of satyrs in various contorted poses like a dance frozen in time ringed them in eerie danse macabre. They were eerily granted the illusion of slow motion by the interplay of shadows.

“Are you sure this is the place, Phil?”

“Yeah, yeah…” Phil growled dismissively.

“Hey, guys! We’re here and we got the cat! Guys…it’s us…Phil and Ben…”

The echo of their names seemed like a dark rumour traded between the living sentinels of trees. All the urban sounds faded and in the depths of the heavily-treed park, it felt like they were in the remote glade of an old forest. They stood in eager anticipation for the initiation ritual…

“Hold!” a harsh voice commanded.

“You would desecrate our shrine on this night of all nights? You know what tonight is and where you’re standing? Alas, you’ve awoken them….”

Phil yelped in pain as the cat lashed out and agilely scaled the tallest statue overlooking the revels. His golden eyes smoldered an intense red by torchlight and it bared its fangs in a hiss.

“Hecate…our Lady…” the Druidess invoked, the hoarse voice not her own. Her expression was transcendent and eyes irisless, as if possessed and transfixed by a dark vision.

Ben and Phil were struck down suddenly by some unseen force…they opened their eyes reluctantly. They weren’t bound, not by ropes anyway…yet strangely, they couldn’t move…nor utter a scream.

Hordes of spiders that spun their webs over the statues began to crawl down and on them. They could feel the small claw-like legs on their arms and torso. The statues had been beheaded and now bore the skulls of horned animals.

“Cats are sacred to the goddess and, therefore, sacred to us…your brotherhood has been sacrificing cats. We can’t have that…”

“Where are they?”

“They have been…dealt with…worry about yourselves…a lot…”

“We’re…we’re sorry!” Ben whimpered.

“Not yet…let the ritual commence!” she called out, raising her robe-shrouded arms with a flourish.

Bonfires roared up from the ground casting the pale statues in harsh crimson light. As if restless shadows were granted form and face, hooded figures materialised amid the statues, like pillars of a dark shrine.

“Bridget Bishop…does the name…mean anything to thee?”

“Sure…everyone in this town’s heard of her…she was executed as a witch….”

“Was she?”

A graceful figure appeared as if a revenant conjured…

“That’s the girl we stole the cat from!”

“Is it? So sure of everything?”

The figure confronted them was dressed in an old colonial Puritanical smock and blindfolded. The blindfold was slowly removed to reveal gouged-out eyes…the tortures they inflicted upon her were terrible…she bowed her head and wept tears of blood, sobbing while ghostly, disembodied chanting haunted the air, before suddenly raising her head. Her eyes were those of a cat.

“Jesus Christ!”

“Such language from a devil worshipper..hardly time to be making enemies….

The Dark Goddess takes many forms to bestow blessing and pronounce curse and retribution….and what form shall thee take then, goddess?”

Her followers bowed their heads and chanted.

“Ahh…good choice, my lady…”

Something stirred in the darkness then as the spinning of the spiders increased feverishly. A great sharp rose from its lair, in the rank depths of a cistern where bodies were reburied in an unmarked mass.

“Your humble mortal servants take their leave…”

Three eyes like crimson headlights appeared. Great segmented clawed legs pulled a massive body…a gigantic black widow spider emerged. Its bulging black thorax and abdomen marked with a crimson dot like a reopened wound.

“Behold…she comes hither…”

It chattered to itself excitedly, before advancing on them…she chose only one and bound his body in a web…mummifying him. A golden cat mask was placed over him.

“A history lesson while you wait. As for your wretched accomplice…now he joins the others. Shall we weigh his heart then?”

Clay cat-shaped pots waited for the rites of mummification to receive his organs, along with an array of sharp surgical instruments. The priestess put on a silver-clawed gauntlet to help remove the needed organs, for their dark voyage to judgement and afterlife…she touched her palm to the heart and conjured a vision of it being weighed on a scale against a feather…before a grim jackal-masked figure, his eyes smoldering crimson as the scaled tilted away from the feather.

“Is that bad?” Phil asked desperately.”

“Very bad, indeed…very, very bad…”

A great gargoylian shape advanced.

“Goddess.” She bowed low…

The great spider crawled over Phil, and he saw himself mirrored in the depths of the crimson eyes blubbering for mercy before the spider plunged its fangs into his torso, injecting venom. He writhed violently, shuddering spasmodically, his mouth frothing convulsively before laying still…

“That venom will dissolve him from the inside out, then darkness will claim him…just as it did his soul….”

The great spider dragged his corpse away to feed.

“He isn’t dead yet…before then he will be eaten alive…by hundreds of little mouths and he will feel all of it. Hark! The dark mother feeds her brood…”

With the last of his dimming senses, Phil felt himself raised by silvery strands high into the canopy of dark trees. Then the rope was severed, and he fell into the mass grave pit, wedged awkwardly till skeletal hands raised around him to grasp and pull him down…the hole glowed red like a portal to the underworld.

“You…you just sacrificed my friend!” Ben cried.

“Sacrifice? He was never a sacrifice, dimwit mortal, merely food.”

He heard Phil’s tortured cries echoing in the slimy den of the giant spider as small, sharp mouths gorged on his flesh ‘til the venom finally dissolved his organs and putrid black fluid flowed from his mouth, then the great spider submerged in the bubbling dark water carrying her prize down. Her face showed no emotion, as set as the marble statues around her, and he rebuked her for it…

“You were unmoved by the girl’s cries when you stole her cat…and what did you intend for the helpless creature?”

He looked then from the cat’s perspective, diminutised, so that the dark clad and pale-faced figures of the Satanic cult a dagger poised over him. She raised her hand over his chest, the tempo of his heartbeat like the climax of a ritual.

“Hmmm….Do you think you’re redeemable? Not yet…one more lesson….”

Ben awoke suddenly, disoriented and groggy…he still couldn’t move…yet now the bindings were ropes and there was a crowd chanting, “Witch! Witch! Burn them! Burn them! Her and her familiar! The demon cat!”

He found himself transported to a town square in medieval Europe. He saw the blinded girl bound to a stake in a medieval-looking square…she cried for mercy…for her and the cat, nailed in a sack to the stake…struggling inside…they were oblivious to his presence…

Suddenly, the ropes were cut by a mysterious hooded figure. A grim black-masked figure advanced on her with a torch to ignite the kindling piled at her feet….

“Well…what are you going to do about it?”

“Stop! Let her go!”

“Hold. Unhand her…” she translated…

“If you are going to start a fight for her, phrase it properly…” she continued.

“I…I don’t have any weapons…”

“You have me here. Tell me what to do, or your soul will burn next…”

“I’m sorry….”

“You almost sounded sincere…alright, no point in being a sadist…you’re sincere already…. that will suffice for me and Her. That and your whimpering is tedious…”

She raised a pale graceful arm as if beckoning, moving them in flamenco motions, conjuring…

“Many other girls and women were burnt here, their protests of innocence drowned out by chanting crowds and then by their own screams of agony as the flames at their feet rose…they just need to be summoned to be avenged…”

The pyromanced flames swayed like charmed serpents before being granted form and face. Crimson figures of women morphed from the writhing flames…

They appeared like red ghosts before the cowering crowd…and enveloping the executioner, running burning alive towards the crowd, like a screaming red ghost.

“Cut her bindings, Ben. Get the cat for her…”

The bell tolled midnight then from the looming gothic cathedral steeple as leering gargoyles looked on in demonic glee. The bells echoed in deep sombre tones as he helped her down from the stake, severing her bindings.

“Here…here’s your cat….”

“Thank you…”

He rubbed his eyes blearily…disoriented…

“You’re…the girl from the park…”

She had been weeping on the porch, surrounded by consoling friends. She stood before him…in her gothic gown…eyes still bound with a black slash…

“I’m…I’m so sorry…” Ben stammered.

“What for?”

She undid the sash and her green eyes beamed back at him.

“It was for a protest…I’m not blind…”


“Thank you so much for returning the cat. I love her so much.”

“Here is your cat back…I am so sorry….”

She hugged him gratefully…

“Thank you…”

And he stood awkwardly before returning the hug, tears in his eyes.