Halloween Friday Flash #4: Soul Cake

Celeste pushed her silver Mercedes through the fog, her lights baring only a light spray of mist and a few feet of red clay road.

They had tried everything, she and William, and now the desperation had pushed her over the edge…all the way to Blunt County, Georgia. Blunt  was a speck of a town at the end of a thin dirt road with four sheriff cars, two funeral homes and one dark secret.

Checking her iPhone GPS once more, Celeste mashed the gas pedal up a hill and pulled into Hammish Park. The fog thinned. The sun was retiring. The pine needles on the trees surrounding the lake were on fire with the sunset. Celeste stepped one black heel on the gravel lot and then the other, shut the door and walked to the lake. Water soothed her. She had always preferred the surreal effect of the sky’s reflection in water over the stark real thing.

Suddenly a large black shadow swept over the lake, startling her. She reached for the gold and diamond cross tucked in the soft indent at her throat. Celeste glanced up quickly. Peach hues of emptiness and silence greeted her. Confused, she moved her gaze back to the lake. The shadow swept by again, a black form with a wing span as large as a bus. She fell back as she once again quickly looked up. Nothing. Scrambling to get back to her feet, she couldn’t help but look forward. Now hoards of shadows moved on silent wings, riding on the surface of the lake, circling, crossing paths. Still nothing above to cause such a display.

Celeste threw the car in reverse, kicking up gravel as she backed up and tried to breathe through the panic. There was no way she was waiting for her contact there.

A mile down the road, she hit the town. Charming white houses with peeling paint and sagging porches were planted in neat rows.  She parked under a tree and killed the engine. She could find the house herself.  As she searched the net, the sidewalks began to come alive. Tiny witches, cats, superheroes, fairies, big and little kids began to appear from the fog with glow stick necklaces and loud, palpable excitement.

She couldn’t help but smile.

One day.

Her resolve stiffened and after another few minutes of searching, she found the story and address she needed. Only two blocks away. She decided to walk, the fog was too thick and she didn’t want to take the chance of running over any kids.

By the time she reached 617 Banyan Drive, her feet ached and her heart beat in her ears. She knocked with a shaking fist, stood up straight and stepped back.

Footsteps. A sliver of yellow light escaping as the door creaked open. A hand pushed a basket of candy through the opening.

“Take just one, please.”

“Oh.” Celeste leaned to peer inside. “I’m not trick or treating. I,” she paused as the door opened a bit more and pale eyes peered at her from beneath cottony gray hair. “I came for your help.”

“I see,” the words delivered on a sigh. “Come in, then.”

The sound of distant laughing and taunting ceased as Celeste stepped inside and shut the door.

“Have a seat in the living room. Chester is harmless.” Celeste glanced around the quiet, one room home, lit only by candles flickering on every surface. Didn’t the woman need to know anything about her? “Well, go on. I’ve got some baking to do.”

Shrugging, Celeste removed her heels and left them by the door. She suddenly felt overdressed.

She swept her hands under her gray pencil skirt as she took a seat next to an elderly gentleman reading the paper on the sofa.

He smelled musty and looked at her with large, watery brown eyes. Was that pity she saw?

“Lovely of your wife to help people the way she does.” Her voice sounded too shrill. She cleared her throat. “It’s an amazing gift.” Was she trying to convince herself it was real and not just tabloid fodder?

The doorbell rang and Celeste startled, then laughed at herself. “Trick or treaters. How fun.”

Was that a black shadow sliding across the wall? She blinked hard but that only made it slip into the kitchen. She rubbed her eyes hard. The stress was really getting to her.

*     *     *     *

An hour later, her eyes flew open and she sat up, unable to remember where she was.

“Oh!” She cried, embarrassed as the woman sat patiently in a rocking chair across from her, holding something in her lap. “I fell asleep? I’m so sorry. How rude of me.” She stood and then sat back down, feeling the room spin. “I don’t feel very good, actually.”

“You need to eat something.” The woman pulled a red cotton scarf from the plate in her hand and Celeste stared at the tiny golden pastry.

“It smells delicious.” Indeed it did. Scents of honey, cinnamon, nutmeg. “What is it?”

“Soul cake.” She stood slowly, balancing the plate carefully as she closed the gap and held it in front of Celeste like an offering. Celeste picked it up carefully with a thumb and forefinger and placed it in her palm. It was still so warm.  “It is very important you don’t chew it.”

“Don’t chew it?” Celeste felt it swell in the palm of her hand, like a rising breath. “What’s inside?”

“Put it on your tongue and let it melt. Keep your mouth closed.”

Celeste did as she was told. The outer pastry melted like sugar. She was expecting something like pudding or maybe lemon filling, but there was…just heat. Fire that moved down her throat, her stomach, filled her lungs…her womb expanded, fluttered, pulsated with new and unfamiliar warmth.

“I can…feel something,” she whispered, laying her palm against the flatness of her belly. She rose, feeling stronger and full of energy. “It worked? Just like that? I don’t know how to thank you.” She reached up and felt the gold and diamond cross. She slipped it from her neck and tried to give it to the woman.

The woman’s eyes darkened, swirled like oily smoke as she grinned.

“No, you keep it, my dear.” Chester chuckled, opening the door to reveal a toddler in a red devil costume holding out his candy bag.  “You’re going to need it.”

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  1. #1 by Marisa Birns on October 29, 2010 - 2:52 am

    Oh, quite well done! The sinister tone throughout unnerved. And the last sentence brought a shiver of foreboding.

    Great piece to add to Halloween reading!

  2. #2 by John Wiswell on October 29, 2010 - 6:16 am

    It was good to have you back in #fridayflash rotation for October, Shanon. I hope you’ll keep it up. This one has a little spice and reads nicely.

    minor note: “light” appears twice in the first sentence. “faint” could substitute for the second usage.

  3. #3 by marc nash on October 29, 2010 - 7:48 am

    very spooky & vaguely unsettling

    marc

  4. #4 by Deanna Schrayer on October 29, 2010 - 8:14 am

    Shannon, this is absolutely packed with tension. Exactly the kind of scary story I like – blood and gore only imagined rather than thrown in the reader’s face. Spooky!

  5. #5 by Sam Adamson on October 29, 2010 - 2:46 pm

    Ohh now I like this! Perfect for Halloween – real witches, possibly vampires or other scary shadow forms and, unless I am very much mistaken, Celeste is pregnant with something ‘orrible. *rubs hands in glee* I so hope there’s going to be a sequel.

  6. #6 by soesposito on October 29, 2010 - 3:18 pm

    Thanks, guys! They really did used to give out things called soul cakes. I immediately thought of a soul inside a cake, of course…lol. I think I will make some for Halloween 🙂

  7. #7 by ~Tim on October 29, 2010 - 9:46 pm

    This is the yummiest flash I’ve read this week.

  8. #8 by Ruchira Mandal on October 30, 2010 - 8:49 am

    So-ominous! your really did build the suspense right from the beginning there.

  9. #9 by Kari Fay on October 30, 2010 - 5:52 pm

    Fascinating story… very atmospheric, too.

  10. #10 by Jason on October 30, 2010 - 8:31 pm

    The shadow imagery creates a spooky bridge between worlds. Wonderfully creepy Halloween story. Will not think of baked goods the same way again.

  11. #11 by Kath on October 30, 2010 - 11:56 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed this & loved how you build up the suspense. I want to know what the black shadow is? At the lake, I thought it was a creature; in the house, I thought it was the devil or one of his servants. And soul cake? Oh my! When she lost consciousness, I thought they might have sucked out her soul and baked it in a cake or swopped hers for someone else’s, but it’s the soul of a new life – and I have a feeling that when that little bundle of joy arrives, she’s going to have her hands full dealing with it! Spookily good story.

  12. #12 by Icy Sedgwick on October 31, 2010 - 10:58 am

    Oh that’s an interesting take on the soul cake. If people made them to honour the departed, why can’t they also herald new arrivals? Very clever. Very descriptive writing.

  13. #13 by Laura Eno on October 31, 2010 - 12:18 pm

    Oh, dear…what an ominous portent of things to come. 🙂

  14. #14 by Steve Green on October 31, 2010 - 1:32 pm

    Very sinister, is there a follow-up on the horizon after the little errr “budle of joy” makes an appearance?

  15. #15 by Eric J. Krause on October 31, 2010 - 7:51 pm

    Very cool story that gets creepier and creepier as it goes. And that last line is brilliant.

  16. #16 by Lyn Thorne-Alder on November 1, 2010 - 3:02 pm

    Ooh, well done! The malice hinted at, everything very sideways and yet so clear!

  17. #17 by Laurita on November 2, 2010 - 11:07 am

    You built a very creepy mood and kept it the whole way through with subtle little details, but that ending. Wow! Awesome story.

  18. #18 by karenfrommentor on November 4, 2010 - 6:21 pm

    oh the last line sealed the deal. Really nicely done.
    *shivers*

  19. #19 by PJ Kaiser on November 20, 2010 - 1:02 pm

    I hope there’s a sequel to this one, Shannon – very spooky story.

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