A/N: I know it's summertime, but I think of the oddest things at the oddest of times

A/N: I know it's summertime, but I think of the oddest things at the oddest of times. This is really just to see if anyone likes it, and if I should continue.

And now, it was night, and the darkness dripped to the stars, through the sieve of the city. Grids of blazing white and ruby red, brilliant beams bisecting the primal blackness.

Speed between the skyscrapers, darkly reflecting everything but themselves, fly through the parks, desolate and alone, the cold moonlight, tainted and befouled glowing orange on a bitter frost, creeping fingers, like strangling ivy on a failing house. See the trees, stately bulwarks, still gamely clinging to their autumn finery, now broken and ragged, in tatters, torn by winter's cruel caprice.

The city's lights do not reach far on this night; swallowed by the darkness, greedy, hungry. Waiting. The day of the dead, when restless spirits rise in the Spectral Hunt and ride behind their sovereign lord, the one of Sunset Kadath, the promise of orange kisses hanging in the air.

Samhain wraps around the world, cloaked in autumnal finery, hailed everywhere. Here for a day, gone for a year and more, only to dance back with the autumnal hailing, slipping back through the endless spaces between the empty seconds, his regal cloak spread once more over the world, his breath the scent of woodsmoke and just a hint of frost, and always, always, at the very edge, just touched with the corruption of over-ripe corn.

Rainbowed cities no longer understand him, the neon glow drowning his insidious lights, their stink drowning his own, but in the woods he is known, and felt, and feared, and loved.

In the nameless towns, that huddle together as if for protection, the houses listing, drunkards, orange light spills out into the blackness, illuminating twisted trees and tattered leaves, the rictus grins of jack-o-lanterns writ large in the night.

Over the graves and the church there flickers the Halloween light; uncertain, wavering, gas-yellow in the world of orange and black, shifting, changing, dancing. The spire wears a dress of spitting radiance, the iron cross glowing darkly, yet the mullioned windows reflect naught but the silent graves, sombre and quiet.

Nothing disturbs Samhain night.

Somewhere – maybe everywhere – in a circle of graves, the unmarked ones of scarecrows long past, those who had died; in a way, all those who had died on Samhain night – when the lantern-jack lights blaze brightest, when fear and anticipation and uncertain delight reach their peak, then Halloween is summoned, pulled from his dreaming-world of uncertain twilight and wavering suns, of orange and black kisses and Harlequin dances before the pumpkin throne, to stalk the world anew.

His heralds are always the first, the shadows that flash and flicker at the edge of sight, those harbingers of the twilight that race and run before the sun turned wavering and weak, the yellow of an old oil-painting.

Samhain's presence is a weight on the world; everything is drawn to him. Surreal is the world he moves in, heavy and primal, heady with the thrill of fear. Deeper, richer, fuller. Old – not for him is the bland, stretched terrene, the migraine flicker of augmented reality and the glow of programs, he harks back to the dawn of consciousness, the first primordial fear of the things that screamed in the night, beyond the flickering orange firelight, whose teeth glowed like molten bronze as they prowled the edge, the razor-terminus of life and death.

The rich, lambent gold of falling leaves ride his vanguard, the rustle as each lands makes his step a symphony of endless sound, rippling across the world. His boots clack on the ground with the sound of branches snapping, oilily glowing glossy leather.

Samhain Halloween is what he wants to be seen as; one blink an English gentleman in black and crimson, sword-cane just sliding from an impaled pumpkin, gloves as white as snow, face eerily blank, another instant of sliced time a wild youth, plum velvet and blooded crimson, rich rose-gold glinting, hair a feral mass of jagged scarlet flame, red tears falling on a dead-white face, incongruous top hat clasped nonchalantly in one plum-gloved hand, teeth skinning back in an insane grin.

Another, the scarecrow king – battered hat and clothes, leaking stuffing, regal as only a scarecrow who has seen the sleeting of years can be, his cane setting the autumn fires.

Yet again, and a Harlequin dancer stands there, red and black, androgynous and eerily beautiful, killing cards and killing smile and killing cane.

And now, Halloween's current form, whirling from the marshy gases, burning with a wavering yellow flame that gives neither heat nor real light only lends shape to the amorphous darkness.

A lithe figure, barely out of childhood, thin to the point of emaciation, dead-white, corpse-colour. Slender, elegant fingers, painted nails, filed to killing points. Saturnine Halloween, a shock of orange hair, aristocratic eyebrows arched in disdain, just a hint of the lantern-jack grin tugging at bloodless lips.

Dressed all in orange and black, coat swirling about his ankles, silken cravat rich and full and pumpkin-shade, a fire-opal cane in one hand, patterned with ragged butterflies in blazing rose-gold. In the other, a witch-light, flaring and hissing.

Human, for a given value of human. A mistake many make, until they meet the eyes of Halloween. Filled with autumn fire, leaping orange, glowing in the night, sending the blood tattoo's eternal trickle to sparkling light, promising deadly tricks, demanding beautiful treats.

A pack of cards glitter as he moves; Lady Luck favours him, she longs for orange kisses, sparingly given ecstasy. The cards dance to his tune – blind chance senses his presence and waltzes to his madman's music, at least for a while.

At the side of him appear the snap-apple hounds; black as treacle, shining dully in an ethereal light, featureless save for obsidian claws, bat-like wings and mouths full of obsidian spires.

Samhain Halloween smiles, his manic rictus, and breathes deep of the cold, crisp air, like wine with fear. He exhales, devil-flames flickering in the depths, a long, serpentine tongue flickering out to taste the intoxicating air. His breath smells like woodsmoke, and frost, and overripe grain.

Smoke wreathes his form; he pulls heavily on a pipe spun from the bones of the Samhain dead, the coals crackle spitefully, spitting orange embers.

He steps forward; a wind strips the leaves off the trees and whirls them in an elaborate dance about him. The snap-apple hounds glide forwards, wings barely moving.

They won't be seen, he won't be seen, at least, not unless he wants to be. A flash of an insane face, rose-gold teeth glowing like liquid flame, a flicker of blood oozing permanently from his tattoo smeared on a wall, more.


Now, there are a million villages to visit, a hundred thousand towns, a handful of cities. There are fires to set, and fires to dance by, fires to sit by in the flickering light and share a stolen moment of humanity, to feel, just for a moment, the delicious warmth of the flames at one side and the glorious chill of the endless darkness behind, shielded from mortal view by the corkscrewed trees and louring houses, a boundary line of lantern-jacks beaming into the night.

No time to stop for a breath of air beautifully fouled by smoke, but time enough to sit and feel, just for a moment, the companionship of the flames, then to vanish in the whirling smoke and frantic shadows, leaving only a lingering memory, and a nameless fear.

But Halloween is not evil; twisted, yes, insane in the eyes of many. Those who worship, truly, even unknowing, find candy and luck in their bags – safe from Halloween's wrath under the bright and brooding gaze of the jack-o-lanterns, safe from the horrors birthed at year's end from deflowered shadows and broken summer dreams.

And Halloween's laugh echoes down the halls and hollows of the world, slipping through the cracks in the firmament, finding the chinks in the armour of men, to plant the seed of insanity, another rank of honoured madmen to swell the Halloween Host.

Halloween's caper takes him across the world, through village and over moor, bestriding oceans and riding effortlessly over mountains burning with orange flame.

For many things, Halloween has a stately landau, drawn by nightmare-steeds in pumpkin-trains, a demon coachman and scarecrow footmen.

Not tonight – he rides the night on his own, his laughter echoing among the high ridges and lonely lakes, ringing back in the minds of men and beast. His cane, a lance of flame in the arctic light, stabs down; smoke rises in plumes from the forests far below.

Jack-o-lantern grins paint flickering shadows across the fleeting face of the moon. The clouds glow, a sickly yellow.

Soaring down on wings of smoke, puffing from his long-handled pipe, he alights in a neglected alleyway. The snap-apple hounds land on rooftops nearby, medusan hair waving oilily, their obsidian teeth and claws glinting.

Lights flicker, unwatched, unwanted, in the vacant office blocks that reach, yearning, to the cloud-filled heavens.

It's raining, and the drip of the drops echoes up to the uncaring skies, the gurgling drains running with the delicious delirium of debris and effluents, rainbowed chemicals with eighteen syllables in their names, bright and brilliant and shining and new, the sparkling foam on an ancient and unending wave.

Streetlights cast orange light into the blackness, the roar of the city, a great beast, howls without, red and white tearing across the urban void.

Halloween leans against a lamppost, his long coat flashing momentarily in the light, his hair sent to an angel's halo, his pipe spitting flame. In centuries past, he'd recline on a chaise longue and chat with Voltaire, Berlioz, Bergerac…all dust, now, dead and gone into history. Now, he leans on a lamppost and listens to the uncaring world.

There are footsteps. There are never footsteps. Halloween shifts; his pipe spits and crackles, masking the sound.

Click. Click. Clitter-clack.


Down twisting streets and turning alleys, down into the boiling rat race that swarms, maze-like over the surface, echoing the snaking sewers that seethe and slip and snarl up at the world above.

The air is thick, cloying, orange-and-black by turns as I flash under the harsh lights, some pasted with pumpkin faces, leering, in deference to Halloween.

It rasps in and out of my lungs in harsh, heaving gasps, fuelling my madcap dash through the nightmare city.

Halloween, Halloween, everywhere Halloween. Halloween tricks and Halloween treats, Halloween hatred disguised in Halloween masques, Halloween balls and Halloween routs.

Halloween pain; red devils chasing, jeering, words like lances, fists like sledgehammers, bruises like flowers.

Laces trailing, boots clacking on the uneven stone, dripping and treacherous with unnamed slimes, I take another corner.

Behind me the red light from the lantern-jack streams into the wet air, and search programs are out looking for me – flaming skulls in the night. My hair's a mess, blonde strands plastered to my head, hanging in wet rattails about my face. My blood is singing, the primal song of fear run run run fight run run to safety run run run away far far far away run run no fight fight fight flight run! I listen; tearing through the nameless ways of the city whose darkness fills the earth in the middle of blooming light, my coat flying behind me, makeup – black kohl lines on my corpse-white face – running in streams, as I flee from the cruel lantern-jack's masters.

This one is quiet, this…forgotten space between the buildings. A mound of rubbish is piled up on one side, desiccated bags spilling rotted garbage over a rain-slicked pavement, the drains gurgling, blocked by chemical suds.

But that smell is drowned, by one of autumn bonfires, and a curl of white smoke, the flash of an ember, just on the edge of sight.

I whirl, but there is nothing and no-one there. At the corner now, right at the top, wavering on the edges of sight again, is a slab-muscled gargoyle, featureless save for bat-wings and the rippling muscles and obsidian spire-teeth, glinting in the orange light.

I turn, to see if my pursuers have found me, this some part of their cruel blood-games, and again the smell of autumn flames billows. This time, I catch a glimpse of a shock of orange hair, alabaster skin, the spitting pipe and fire-opal cane, before it vanishes as I hear the pounding feet and see the devilish red grin of the jack-o-lantern chase. No programs seem to be running, no Halloween software pranks in space, nothing. A dead zone in the augmented city.

I turn away, pressing myself to the lamppost as the baleful glow illuminates the alley mouth, and stare straight into burning eyes.

I scramble away, fearful. "W-who are you?" My voice is weak and high, hysterical, bordering on mania.


The figure sighs, and turns, one half thrown into high relief, the other dark and hidden.

"Who is but the form, following the function of what, and what I am is what you are wanting to ask."

"A-all right, then," I say warily – this is Halloween, who knows what freaks crawl out of the woodwork – "What are you?"

He takes a long drag of that volcanic pipe before answering, a cataract of embers falling from it. They don't seem to burn him. "They call me Halloween." Good god, his voice was like rich French brandy, smooth and deep. "Lord Halloween would be more accurate, but since I tend to walk the earth on one day alone, they forgo the title. I am Halloween, then, Duke of the Marshes, King of Sunset Kadath, Royal Sovereign of the Orange and Black, Grand Marquis of Madmen, Prince of Harlequin Dancers." He says it perfectly seriously, and turns to face me fully.

I gasp; under his left eye, curling around it, elaborate and abstract and unsettlingly organic, a long cut swirls, some form of tribal tattoo gone wrong. It oozes blood, continually, over skin like translucent alabaster, under eyes that blaze like a pumpkin fire.

I begin to back away; a crazy, lurking in his alley, obviously. Halloween, indeed. Probably high off whatever's in that volcanic pipe. He breathes out again, and the smell of smoke puffs out – not the nicotine stench of cigarettes, sharp and unpleasant, nor the richness and power of cigar fumes, nor the sweet sickliness, repulsive and attractive in one of drugs, but the clean, dry smell of burning timbers.

A red grin strobes across the alleyway entrance once more as I back towards it.



A city kid has stumbled into my alley, looking back continually, afraid. Like a little mouse when the scarecrows come alive once more and hound them through the fields; the autumnal vengeance on their summer bliss.

He's dressed for Halloween – a rarity, here – but it's ragged, in tatters, and not by design. Bruises flower up his side, across his pretty face. There's a red welt on one side. A handprint. Four crescent-moons of brilliant mortal blood. So pretty…

He presses himself up against the lamppost; I don't think he's really seen me – most mortals don't, unless I want them to – but this one then turns and stares straight through the glamour.

And, predictably, asks the usual question. His sight grants him an honest answer. "Halloween," I reply, and follow it with my titles. No-one ever uses them any more, not in the mortal world, but I still cling to them, old names and duties so comfortable, like a second skin. He raises an eyebrow – not as well as me – and backs away, his pretty face wary. He looks cold, too, and frightened, alone and desperate.

He flashes a glance back to the alley's entrance, just as a red jack-o-lantern grin flashes across it. Fear floods his face.


"I wouldn't venture out there, if I was you," the loony says, idly taking a pull of his pipe. His voice is refined, completely at odds with his surrounds. He looks like he belongs, though. An ember lands on a maroon glove, and sits there, glowing. Nothing burns.

"Your friends-" there was a mocking, sarcastic twist to it "-are looking for you, pretty." I freeze, my feet stuck to the slimy stone as if by glue.

"They must be very worried about you, to be searching like that." His voice is flat and monotonous, but the twisted humour is there. "Looking in every alley, every doorway. Every rubbish bin and skip they find." He takes a few steps forwards, his boots clacking on the stone. "I wonder, pretty, what they want you for. Tell."

I hesitate, frozen, a deer in headlights, caught between strobing red and steady, blazing orange, luminous, spilling light across my face. The loony doesn't seem to blink. There's no white to his eyes, I note suddenly, dizzily; it's all different shades of orange and black.

Contacts? I think dazedly. The fumes on his breath and the adrenaline of the chase make my head spin.

The world begins to sparkle at the edges, falling water turning unearthly crystal. So pretty.

"Pretty, what do they want you for, hmm? A little old for tricks and treats now, aren't we? Not that I'm objecting, but." His laugh is low and wicked.

I snap back to him, the present. The hellish red glow at the alley mouth grows brighter, threatening. I can hear laughter, and ringing footsteps.

I turn, to run once more, but the alley is a dead-end, a high, blank factory wall towering up to the obscured stars, computers flickering inside, unheeded.

The mists swirl and part, and the jack-o-lantern's glare finds me. Footsteps drawn nearer and nearer, the drunken laughter rings to the pits of the city. I shiver, afraid, transfixed in the crimson glow.


"So, the pretty is afraid of the Halloween revels, yes?" He smiles, an insane grin, and I back away from the crazy. Towards the lantern-light.

A burst of laughter, raw and raucous, freezes me.

"He's 'iding in 'ere," comes the drunken cry. "C'mere, you." An uncoordinated hand gropes for me, slug-like fingers snatching.

The loony's eyebrows rise. "Perhaps the pretty is more afraid of the revellers than the revels, then. Hmm, pretty?"

I squeal as the hand finds me and tries to pull me back; there's a sudden pressure on my shoulder and I'm suddenly immovable.

"The pretty hasn't answered my question," the crazy stated, his voice flowing like brandy.

"Gerroff," cries the drunk, and calls his friends, the red lantern-light glowing. I'm paralyzed.

"Pretty," he murmured. "Is this why you run on Halloween night?"

I nod, carefully. He grins, an insane grin, lips skinning back from bronze teeth. "Well, we can't have that," he says, softly, as the rest of the lantern-jack men crowd in.

"Gentlemen," the loony says, completely unafraid, staring straight at dumb idiots marinated in drink and adrenaline programs, "the pretty is mine. Back off."

While I'd ordinarily object to any declaration of ownership, this intervention was a welcome one.

They swear at him, and his eyes blaze. One gloved hand dips into the orange and black greatcoat; a pack of cards twinkles in his plummy hands, and he smiles like a knife.

"Anyone for cards?" he asks – they take a swing at him – the cards leap and dance, dolphin-backs at dawn, mother-of-pearl squares flashing and flaring in the light, as though on gossamer wires. One falls, spraying bright blood: it splatters on the dark stones, blackly shining, and decorates the walls in abstract whorls, curls and curlicues of transient life.

Another is gashed across the stomach by a leaping Joker; intestines boil from the long slice. The storm of playing-cards continues, slicing and dicing, some Halloween mockery, terribly real.

The loony looks on with faint interest and the very mildest frown of concentration as body bits slide out of the maelstrom, jellied purple and rich red. I turn away, sickened.

"Pretty?" he asks, seemingly concerned. His eyes are wicked, his grin a slash in a bloodless face.

"Stop!" I shriek. No-one deserves that death.

"What for, pretty? They're learning their lesson. No-one gets hurt on Halloween night."

"You're killing them!"

The loony shrugs. "So what? Teen delinquents, high on drugs and cheap beer. No-one'll miss them. Me least of all. Nice people shouldn't be hurt on Halloween."

"No-one should be hurt!"

The crazy man – woman? How the hell am I supposed to know? – stares at me in genuine confusion, their pipe forgotten, though still smoking and spitting spiteful embers, despite the rain. "Oh, all right," he says, though reluctantly; the playing cards stop their dance and fly back to the pack, a school of silvery light.

A final, spiteful lash of the stuff burns on their foreheads; a thick black brand is impressed on their foreheads; an elaborate, curling H entwined in a jack-o-lantern's savagely grinning mouth. I blink – it's still there, a strange brand.

O-kay then. Freaky loony. Run away!

His voice drifts back to my ears, through the dripping sounds of the rain. "Halloween night is sacred, pretty. There's nothing to fear from Samhain. You are safe."

I don't look back. One freaky incident is quite enough for me, thank you so very much. If I look back, no doubt I'll be pulled into some world as crazy as him.