FINAL HALLOWEEN SNEAK PREVIEW from Gilbertine & the Exchange (Volume Two)

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The ring on my hand glowed more brightly than ever, and my hand began to vibrate.

Letting both do as they would, I found myself hastily drawing circles of light round Angles, Roger, Ben and the piano bench, and finally myself. No sooner had I managed to do so then Ben, his face still wearing a maniacal expression, broke into Vladmir Rebikov’s Les Démons S’Amusent.

Out the fireplace they came. Duke Abigor, the leonine-headed cavalier demon with jaws of a giant lizard, and two rows of teeth, for dragon and lion alike, led the way, riding his winged draconic steed,  muscles bulging, brandishing a broadsword, as a boa constrictor coiled its way around one arm, and a cobra coiled its way around the other. Fully capable of pyrokinesis, he caused great flaming balls to fly from the fireplace all over the room. He sought to kill and eat without need or for any reason other than for a love of carnage itself.

Buer, the saber-toothed, rat-faced demon, followed directly after him, drooling blood, running about the room hyperactively as his multiple legs and feet ran in a circle above and below his head. A devouring maniac with no thought of his own except to gorge himself on as many victims as possible. His eyes shot indigo flames, as he talked hypnotically fast, seeking to freeze his victims’ minds into indecision, or even inaction.

 

Duke Agares, with skin, tail and teeth of an alligator, leapt out next, his hands and feet with talons of a hawk, beady eyes the color of blood glowing within his sphere like head and mouth like a stage proscenium with its double row of teeth. He ran about the room with the speed of an alligator, seeking to entrap and devour his prey.

Count Ronove brought up the rear, his oversized mouth, head and ears amplifying all evil thought or said in the world, his bulging arms and giant tail brushing aside all who dared silence him.

 

All the demons lashed out, trying to find any of us, as they danced a frantic demonic dance.

I stood still, hoping against hope the circle I’d drawn round me was large enough for me to stay within it even with a few slight twitches, worried what would happen if my limbs started to cramp, or if I fainted before the demons left the room. But just as the piece was nearly finished, a bright light flashed from the direction of the doorway, sending them all back to whence they came.

I turned around and saw Gilbertine standing in the doorway, a determined look on her face, with her new pendant open, white light issuing forth.

The frames were gone; Roger and Angles were reclining on their respective couches once more. Ben was seated at the piano, blinking confusedly, as if he’d come out of a trance. The room was back to the way it had been, with nothing to see out the window but the light of a full moon that wasn’t in our night sky, burnishing the branches of a forest that wasn’t in the park.

Ben grinned a bit awkwardly as Lois, Tamzen and Cindy entered the room; as near as I could tell, none of them had seen what had just transpired. Angles looked somewhat abashed; he took me aside. “Reggie ladt, I drifted off, just now” he whispered confidentially. “Think anyone noticedt?”

I shook my head, trying not to shake visibly as I collapsed on Angles’ newly semi-vacant couch.

“Man,” he continued, “you wouldn’t believe the dream I just hadt.”

I chuckled grimly. “Think I might at that, Frankie boy. Tell you wot: Don’t tell me wot you dreamed: I’ll tell you, tomorrow. You tell me f’I’m right.”

Angles raised his eyebrows. “OK, smart guy – you’re on.” He crossed over to Cindy.

Tamzen was standing in the shadows, her eyes very much aglow.

As Angles left, she moved in beside me. “You wouldn’t believe what went on up there just now,” she whispered.

Lois, Tamzen and Cindy all had similar miniature wooden chests in their hands. Inside each was a chain with a locket pendant, a strange gold coin for its lid, a pair of minute mother of pearl buttons for its latches. Each locket, however, had another, tiny gold chain dangling from it, a different charm hanging on each.

Tamzen’s had a diminutive ivory wishbone (for luck, Gilbertine said), Lois’ a minute silver anchor (to keep her safe and secure), Cindy’s a tiny geode (symbolic of the mystery and beauty lying beneath her surface). All of thanked her profusely, but I had a feeling something else was also going on.

I put on my pince-nez for a moment and looked at the lockets – all were shining, radiant.

I handed Tamzen the pince-nez, pointing to the locket. She looked, smiled, and handed the spectacles back, eyes still aglow, shaking her head.

“Don’t get me wrong, Reggie,” she whispered. “That little girl’s really starting to grow on me; but sometimes …”

Ben began to play Clair de Lune, a welcome contrast to what he’d been playing, as I asked Tamzen to tell me more.

She did, and it was quite a tale – no wonder her eyes were glowing.

 

© 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

Thus ends the Halloween previews (you’ll have to wait until next year to find out Tamzen’s tale). But, don’t go away. Come Thursday, we go back 30 months to the spring of 1962, and a different kind of wild fantasy world for the 10-year-old Reggie as we start Chapter 18 of The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One). Stay tuned.

The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One) and Walking Backward for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall are each now available from Amazon Books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) is expected to be available late this year. Gilbertine & the Exhange (Volume Two) will be available in early 2020.