Everybody Has a Folk Tale...
I step outside as October greets me. A crisp, cool air brushes across my cheeks, giving a misty life to my breath. As I stroll down the uneven sidewalk I notice the changing scenery everywhere. The bright oranges on the forest above and the dried leaves crunching like breaking backs under my feet. Slow moving shadows crisscross my face as I glide under the remaining foliage, those last leaves still refusing to let go--Hello Halloween!
A high pitched squeak turns my head to reveal the graveyard’s entrance, an old iron fence. The gate is open, swaying back and forth like a wind chime made of broken glass. At last the sidewalk ends and I stand before the old entryway, behind which endless headstones appear like stars in the sky. I walk past the perfectly uniformed grave sites and my pulse quickens. Just as the sun is sinking I reach the old, crooked forgotten headstones. A chill runs up my spine.
Imprints in the mud precede me, announcing that I will not be the first to arrive this twilight. I throw my blanket across my shoulder and press on, matching the tracks left before me.
You see, it is tradition in our small theater company that on the night before Halloween the members gather here. Every year we convene in this lonely graveyard to exchange mysterious stories from the previous year. The burial ground is unique for its location, deep in the Jersey Pine Barrens where the dew levitates above the grass touching our faces with a dream like presence. A haunted place where the cedars stain the swamps with their blood red tannin. Animals rustling about are our only soundtrack after the sun sets. After the fire is lit, only our faces can be seen and the dark needle-clad wood line surrounding us.
I love the fall.
It always brings us together to bond over spooky legends. October is the month for weird encounters. The Jersey Devil is notorious for circling the pines in search of livestock and weary travelers. You all know the story; born the baker’s dozen of the Leeds family. It’s hard, leather wings hugging the air, lifting the animal high above the trees. Its goat like face and kangaroo body soaring in the darkness! Haunting its prey and patiently waiting for the opportunity to strike. The very thought of it quickens my steps.
The grass is wet. I slip walking over a wide grave-mound, my fingers clenching the damp blades giving me a sense of stability…and mortality. At last I reach the open pasture between me and my actor friends. The temperature has dropped again and I grab my black fleece from my backpack. The ancient cemetery wears the remaining dusky rays like a patch-quilt. I run through it playfully, breaking the eerie beauty with my shadow. Then the rest appear in the distance, standing around a small recently lit fire.
As I approach and take in the scene, I am reminded of the countryside of Tarry Town, New York, where a similar secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow exists. The haunting atmosphere invades my imagination and I can almost see the spectral rider searching for his head. I collect my thoughts and keep them buried. I do not want to be Ichabod Crane, the old school master that the legend speaks of. Riding “heavy-hearted and crestfallen” through dark woods similar to these, meeting his fate at the hands of some evil; never to be seen again. I continue walking but thankfully see no headless horseman tonight.
Up ahead I can see the smoke rising and hear comforting laughter of my fellow performers. Another actor waves his arms like a man lost at sea and shouts “Where have you been? We’re all ready!”
I pull the blanket from my shoulder and lay it neatly on the crisp grass. Moments later the warmth of the campfire hits my face, warming my cheeks. I hold my palms just outside the dancing flames grasp; our Halloween season has finally begun!
Our director shushes the crowd like a rattlesnake and holds the flashlight’s beam in the only reasonable manner, under his chin. He removes an old book from his bag and opens it’s fine leather cover.
“Now that we are all here, I can finally tell you our story— The peculiar story of Riddlesbrood himself. A creature as intangible as our shows—Not the thing-in-itself yet surely…still a thing! So sit back, and I shall tell you how Riddlesbrood was born."