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The Misty Valley
by Margo Fallis
Volume 1 Chapter 1


“Poe, come out from under the bed!” Mrs. Merlin knelt and pulled up the bedspread. “Poe! You can’t stay under there for the next month. Come out on your own or I’ll come and get you.”

     Poe scooted as far back against the wall as he could. “No, Mom. Tomorrow is October. I’m scared.” He saw his mom lay on her tummy. She gave him a stern look. “You asked for it. I’m coming in.” Inch by inch she slid on her back until she was face to face with her son.

     “I know it’s a frightening time for you; it is for all of us; but it’s part of living here in Misty Valley. This is our home and we just have to deal with it. It’s stinky under here.” Mrs. Merlin slid out from under the bed, stretched and pulled the curtains open. “It’s beautiful today. The hills are green and the trees are covered with red and gold leaves.”

     “Yeah, for now; but tomorrow that all changes. I hate October.” Bruja, Poe’s orange tabby, trotted into the room and jumped on his bed. “Get used to it, Bruja. For the next month you have to stay inside.” The cat snarled and hissed and ran back out of the room. “See, even Bruja hates October. Why do we have to live here?”

     “It’s been like this for a thousand years. My grandma had to deal with it and so did her grandma. Ever since Witch Lilith’s ancestor put a curse on Misty Valley because one of the residents in town insulted her, it’s been this way. Every year during October, we have a month of Halloween ghouls, zombies and vampires. Our lawns change from green to black. The trees die, the sky changes to a weird pastel orange and every creature you can imagine walks our streets. It’s going to continue this way until someone in that family makes it right with Witch Lilith’s family”

“Whose family was it, Mom?”

“Old Mr.Death’s family. One of his ancestors punched a witch in the nose because she made fun of his name.”

“Gosh, Mom. Who can blame the witch. I wouldn’t want the last name Death. You’re just asking to be teased!” Poe giggled. “That’s probably why Witch Lilith has the ugliest nose in the world.”

“We can’t change anything. Maybe one day Mr. Death will get sick enough of this October hubbub and fix everything. Until then, we deal with it. Misty Valley has been our family’s home for generations. We can’t leave. Our jobs are here. Your father has a good job working at the Post Office and I enjoy being a school teacher.” She saw Poe’s frowning face. “Everything is fine during the day. It’s only at night that we have to worry. Just make sure Bruja doesn’t get out. Would you like to help me fix supper? Your father will be home soon. Oh, by the way, gather up those dirty socks under your bed and put them in the hamper. They smell like rotten cheese.”

     Mr. Merlin came home on time, carrying several bags of cat food, cat litter and a handful of letters for his wife. After supper they watched a show on television and when the grandfather clock chimed eight times, Poe went to his room to get ready for bed. He climbed under the covers and waited until his mother had come in to give him a kiss goodnight. When the door closed behind her, he grabbed his pillows and heavy blanket and crept under the bed.

     Poe woke up to Bruja licking his face. “Go away, Bruja. Stop that.” He kicked the blanket and pillows out and rolled from under the bed. After tossing them on top of the mattress, he ran to the window. “Oh no! It’s October.”

     Instead of the normal rolling green hills, there were jagged candy corn mountains with orange, yellow, and white stripes. Everywhere Poe looked, he saw lean black cats slinking about and furry bats heading for the caves. The street was lined with jack-o-lanterns that had evil grins and sinister eyes carved into them. Poe pushed his face against the window to look down the street. The cemetery was full of tipped-over coffins and half-broken headstones. When he looked up at the clouds, Poe grunted when he noticed the clouds were gray, and instead of an azure blue sky, pale orange stretched from horizon to horizon. They weren’t just puffy gray clouds; they were shaped like skulls with gaping holes for eyes.

     “Mom! It’s October.” He dashed into the kitchen and threw himself into one of the chairs. On the oval table sat a plate of pancakes and a small glass pitcher of warm maple syrup.

     “Help yourself,” his mother said. “I can make more pancakes if you want them.”

     “I wonder if Prysm wants to walk to school with me today.” Poe chewed his pancake; syrup dripped from his chin. “I wish I didn’t have to go to school in October.”

     “Come now, Poe. It’s safe in the day. I’m sure Prysm would love to walk with you. She does every other day. If you want you can both tag along with me.” Mrs. Merlin fluffed Poe’s dark brown hair.

     “Uh, no thanks, Mom.” He wiped his mouth and ran upstairs to get dressed. A few minutes later he was standing by the back door. “Thanks for the pancakes. I’m going to pick Prysm up. I’ll see you at school.” Poe threw the door open and ran next door. When he rang the doorbell, he was happy to see his friend ready to go.

     “Hi, Poe. Have you looked at the sky? Those clouds give me the creeps.” Prysm gasped and grabbed the door. “Oops. Don’t let Bella outside.” She nudged the cat indoors. “That was too close. I keep forgetting we have to be extra careful now.”

     “I hate October, don’t you? You know what I hate the most?” Poe pulled his backpack over his shoulders. “I hate that haunted house.” He pointed to the top of the highest candy corn mountain. “And I hate Witch Lilith. She’s an ugly hag with warts and green hair.”

     “I don’t hate October. I think it’s sort of fun. I’m not afraid of the bats and black cats or even Witch Lilith. As long as I keep Bella inside and am in my room by dark, that’s all I care about. I think on Saturday we should climb those stairs up to the haunted house and look inside. My brother, Shayde, says it’s cool. He did it last year with his friend, Drake, and nothing happened to them.”

     “They’re twelve years old. We’re only nine. They can run faster and Shayde isn’t afraid of anything.” Poe walked to the edge of the grass. “Look at our lawns. I happen to like green grass, not black grass. It’s so ugly.”

     “You can say whatever you want. I like the change, except for the trees. I’ll never get used to black and orange leaves and I don’t like the spider webs and spiders that hang from the branches.”

     “What about the ravens and crows, or the blood rivers with piranha swimming in them. Not me. I guess we’d better hurry and get to school. My mom will be watching for us.” Poe took off running, followed by Prysm.

     After school they ran home as fast as they could, being sure to be safe in their houses before the sun set. Poe was relieved when both of his parents came home and locked the door behind them. Mrs. Merlin pulled the curtains shut in every room and made sure the windows were closed and locked. Bruja fell asleep on the living room couch, hidden under a pink, lime green and white afghan that Mrs. Merlin’s mother had crocheted. The family ate a supper of mashed potatoes, meat loaf and corn and then Poe went to his room to do his homework. As he sat at his desk he heard a loud moaning sound.

MMMMMMMMMMMMMOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNN

Poe gulped. “What was that?” Dropping his pencil on the carpet, he sat still, waiting to hear the noise again. A few moments later the moaning sound echoed through Misty Valley.

MMMMMMMMMMMMMOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNN

     At first Poe was so afraid that he threw himself under his bed, but his legs went numb so he pushed himself out, turned off his bedroom light and crept to the window. He fell to his knees and pulled the drapes apart, just a crack. “Yikes!” He yanked them shut again. “Skeletons.” After taking a deep breath, he found the courage to peek again. He sat in silence, careful to keep well hidden and watched as a dozen skeletons in a row walked past, their bones clanking together. Following them came the mummies, wrapped in dirty white bandages and only a few slits to see and breathe through. Bats swirled around them, pecking at their empty eye sockets. Poe’s gaze went to the haunted house. Another loud moan belched from atop the mountain.

     MMMMMMMMMMOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNN

“What is Witch Lilith doing?” Suddenly a face appeared through the glass window pane right in front of Poe. He screamed, pulled the drapes together and hid under his bed. “Oh no! The Frankenstein monster saw me!”

     His bedroom door flung open and his mother rushed in. “Poe? Are you all right? What was that scream for?” She glanced at his bed. “Poe? Where are you?” Mrs. Merlin let out a long sigh. “Are you hiding under the bed again? Poe, come out of there.”

     Poe stuck his head out. “Mom, a monster looked in my window. It saw me. I was peeking outside and it saw me.”

     “You know the rules, Poe. No monsters or any other of the October creatures are allowed to come into our homes unless they are invited. At least the witches allowed us some protection! I don’t believe it applies to Mr. Death’s house. I know he has many problems with uninvited bats and zombies. Serves him right though. So, you don’t need to worry.” She sat on the bed and patted the blanket. “You’ll be fine. Tomorrow’s school and you need to get to sleep.”

     Taking comfort in his mother’s words, Poe pulled the covers over his head and dozed off.


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