Halloween Flash Fiction Event: Jan DeLima

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Thank you for joining us for this Halloween Flash Fiction Event story from Jan DeLima. I can’t wait to see everyone’s response to THIS story!! You’ll see why, when you read. 🙂 The image is a stock photo from a DeviantART artist who specifically allows it to be used on outside websites, with credit and links posted. Big thanks, to both the author and the artist, for sharing. (The graveyard picture belongs to Jan.) Now… on to the story…

The Dark Sentinel
by Jan DeLima

This is the account of an actual event, but you can decide if it’s mystical or merely the product of a storyteller’s imagination.

October 30, 2013 Salem, Massachusetts

The rising sun cast a tangerine glow on the quiet streets of Salem, chasing away shadows as the merrymakers rested in their beds. Candy wrappers and Halloween favors littered doorways and gutters like forgotten confetti, mere remnants of the revelry from the previous night. In Salem, the celebrations of All Hallows’ Eve lasted throughout the month, but the mornings granted a brief calm before the crowds arrived.

In the evenings, tourists walked in processions holding candles while listening to tales of ghosts and witches, and the haunted history of the ground they covered. Lines of partygoers wrapped around corners, waiting for tours, or attractions that promised horror-themed amusements. Fog hovered over walkways, a mixture of fake chemicals from machines and true mist from the earth. The old and the new combined, much like this legendary city.

Teenagers rallied in groups, sporting barbed jewelry and monster contacts to repel the bullies who mocked them. Shops touted love spells and magic wands. Booths offered prosthetic fangs for those who truly wanted to play in the dark. And psychics gave spiritual guidance, for a price.

But that was Salem in the evenings, and this was morning; the eclectic chaos had yet to begin. And since this place wasn’t my home, and I was but a tourist, I wandered the cobblestone streets in search of a coffee shop, a highly necessary endeavor on any morning when my beloved coffeemaker wasn’t close at hand.

A statue caught my attention, a Halloween prop, nothing more, except it called to my creative nature. It was a life-sized gargoyle colored a gray so dark it appeared black yet strangely luminescent. It wasn’t faded or chipped, as painted plaster might be, so I assumed it was made of plastic. I approached, drawn by some base instinct to take a closer assessment.

I was in the historic part of Salem, on a side street that led to the Old Burying Point Cemetery. The remains of several judges and accusers connected to the tragic witch trials rested in these hallowed grounds, when the innocent victims had not been allowed such burials. A memorial for the men and women wrongly executed encircled the yard, their names pounded into the protruding ledges along the surrounding stone wall. A groundskeeper gathered battery-operated tea lights that honored their memory at night. True flame candles seemed more fitting, but I understood the reason for caution.

demon_by_bluewatervalley-d81k7bpThe plastic gargoyle had no seams, as one might find on a sculpture mass produced from a mold. That was the second anomaly I noted. Its skin had a night creature’s sheen and I began to question if was composed of something more organic than plastic. Black leather perhaps, kissed by the dew of dawn? I dared not touch it, and that was yet another oddity, at least for me, because I was a curious person. The statue sat on the back portico of a brick building, with bat-like wings tucked close to a carved body—a sentry overlooking one of the most infamous graveyards in America.

The legend of the gargoyles came to mind. Were they not the protectors of hallowed ground, mounted to cathedrals throughout the world? Soldiers of divinity, but not the beautiful angels who stood at heaven’s gates. No, gargoyles were the sentinels who flew in darkness. Half human, half monster; they danced with evil to protect unclaimed souls. The back porch where I stood was a far cry from any church, but of all the sacred graveyards of the world, this one might need the most protection. There was sorrow here; I felt it in the quiet calm of daybreak, freed of the commercialized haze that muddied the essence of this city. The tears of innocents had nourished these grounds.

Shaking off my morose thoughts, I snagged my smart phone and took a photograph of the proud gargoyle. Pride denoted emotion, though the statue earned its anthropomorphic eminence when all that appeared on my screen was white haze. I took another snapshot, then another—but with no valid results. As any reasonable person might, I assumed it was a malfunction of techonolgy. To test my theory, I walked a few paces up the street and snapped a photograph of the graveyard. A perfectly clear image of ancient headstones appeared. Camera was functioning fine.

Determined now, I returned to the life-sized gargoyle statue. Grotesque was a more apt title since it was freestanding and beautiful in a deliciously dark way, with a toned torso of a creature that flew often. The artist of this statue had added unnerving details, even veins along its neck and sculpted muscles as if it were indeed partially human. So real, it seemed to hold its breath as I leaned forward. I attempted another photo, only to return another image of white haze.

My feeling of unease grew, and it did not escape my notice that the gargoyle had been molded in a position to pounce, motionless but ominous all the same, and I could not help but imagine the impossible. For if it was real, and if it stood—the creature would be much taller than me, and I was hardly petite.

A cold breeze brushed across my nape at that moment. Goosebumps rose on my flesh, due more to the fact that the fallen leaves around the gravestones remained unmoving. It was a disturbance of the unseen. A warning. Or just as likely, it was but the musings of a storyteller grasping at threads. A fantastical tale had already begun to weave in my head. Slowly, I lowered my smart phone and backed away, feeling watched but not approached, like walking uninvited into a party where my presence wasn’t welcomed.

And while I was a logical person, I was also superstitious enough to be wary. And more pressing, I wanted coffee. So I left the dark sentinel alone to guard his graveyard in peace and continued my search for caffeine. However, I was a fantasy writer, and like many authors with a smart phone in hand—I simply couldn’t let the experience end without a tweet.

***

Author’s note: For reasons unknown I couldn’t get a clear picture of a gargoyle statue overlooking one of the most infamous graveyards in America, and on the day before All Hallows’ Eve.

My tweet remains on my twitter feed @delimajan on October 30, 2013: In Salem. Trying to take a picture of a life-sized gargoyle. All pics are blank. Really creepy. Apparently, he doesn’t want his pic taken.

Below is the photo of the graveyard a few paces up the road that came out perfectly fine. The gargoyle was the most realistic Halloween prop I’ve ever seen, and every photo I tried to take of it came out like white haze. It was really creepy!

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Happy Halloween! Jan

About The Author

Jan lives in Maine with her husband of twenty years and their two teenage sons.  Unlike many authors, Jan didn’t pen stories at an early age but has always been a dedicated reader.  She loves stories and storytelling.  It wasn’t until after her children entered school that she began writing.  Raised in a military family, she lived in different countries such as Thailand and Germany, but home base has always been Maine.  She brought a mixture of all her experiences to her first published novel, blending castles and Celtic lore with the wild nature of her home.
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For news and updates (or more than you ever wanted to know about the author’s life) please visit her blog at http://jandelima.blogspot.com

Also:

You can meet & greet with Jan in February, as she is one of the Featured Authors at Coastal Magic, an urban fantasy and paranormal romance convention in Daytona Beach, FL.

About The Artist

Image: Demon

Artist Page: BlueWaterValley http://www.deviantart.com/art/Demon-486351637

3 Comments

  1. Comment by Eleanor:

    Creepy, Jan. Lol
    Happy Halloween!!

  2. Comment by Jan:

    Jennifer, thank you so much for hosting this event—and for inviting me to comment!

    Eleanor, when a gargoyle picture was one of the options I couldn’t resist. 🙂

  3. Comment by Jennifer:

    You’re SO welcome, Jan. Thanks for doing it, I LOVED your contribution!!

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