Saugus.net

Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2000
Adult Winners

Second Place



Our second place winner in the Adult category is Margery Hunter of Saugus. Ms. Hunter tells us that she has not published any other writings; Midnight is her first.




Midnight

by
Margery Hunter



Does anyone really know where cats go at night when they are on the prowl - especially this time of year?

Midnight - what a cat! He was the neighborhood delight. All the children who walked past his home on the way to and from school always stopped to say hello to Midnight. Even after a crummy day at school or after the dreaded dental appointment, all the children wanted to be near Midnight. There was a reassuring energy that flowed from Midnight to anyone who came to visit. It was something special Midnight possessed that made the neighbors and the children want to seek him out - it may have been his especially soft and smooth black fur, the twinkle in his eyes or the way he purred. And, Midnight was just as cherished and loved by his family (who thought they owned him, but in actuality it was Midnight who owned them). The neighborhood was peaceful and calm during the time that Midnight was around. But restlessness stirred and something evil was approaching.

The myth, and we think it is a myth but will never know for sure, is that ages ago when the land meant everything to the Indians who lived upon it, the Indians had a periodic ritual in order to keep sacred the earth that was a gift to them. The earth was life itself. The Indians knew this and it was one of their never-ending duties to keep the ground clear of evil and destructive forces. The Indians made it a practice to capture the thoughtless and vacant soul of the one who chose to harm the land, then cleanse and release the soul back to the human body from whence it came. If the soul was beyond redemption, a curse of unknown power would befall the reckless soul forever, or the punishment could be even worse than a curse. The Indians knew they could only gain possession of this soul through interaction with an animal. This animal had to be a cat, whose stalking ability and agility were the right combination for this task. The Indians would select a special cat to hunt and search for the greedy souls who chose not to honor the earth. Midnight had been the chosen animal for the past several years. Midnight had passed the simple challenges that were presented to him. One year something needed to by done about the partying humans who left nothing but trash, broken glass and litter strewn about. A few deep wails and a growl or two just outside the campfire light and some strategic rustling of the bushes a few nights in a row were enough to move these careless young ones away from the woods. Also, thanks to Midnight's efforts another year, mysterious holes appeared in the paths of the dirt bike riders, who were marking the ground with trail after trail of ruined landscape. These riders stopped coming after awhile because of the unexplainable accidents that occurred with alarming regularity. These were just minor injustices done to the forest, but this year it was biggie. Development plans (or should I say over-development plans) were in the works for houses and roads to take over the land. This was not right. The time was coming.

The search for and choosing of the most perfectly wretched soul starts months before the crisp Fall air is filled with the smell of hay and apples. The search usually began in the springtime when the earth was waking from the long winter. The quiet months from spring into summer this one particular year were uneventful (but that was soon to change). April's warming sun on Midnight's black shiny coat activated the side of him, as in other cats, that we don't usually get to see or understand. A cat's primeval instincts go far beyond that of any human knowledge. A cat just senses when it's time, and Midnight was no exception to this ability as he set his thoughts on this particular year's ritual cleansing of evil against the sacred earth. His daily task of touring the dwindling forest started with a sniff of the air, a long listen to the stories from the blowing leaves on the trees and embracing the quietly flowing vibes from the richly renewed water stream that covered the area. How peaceful the past years had been with freedom to roam and explore. Exploring is what cats do best when there is room. As the forest decreased, the anxiety of Midnight deepened and no one would want an anxious cat around - if you knew what is good for you. Midnight's diminishing freedom to sooth his lust for adventure has had an ill effect on him in recent months but this may soon change. For the better? Time will tell.

More and more Midnight sensed that destruction by blasting, digging and paving would soon come upon this land protected by the Indians and something must be done. There was a familiar waft of evil, coming from over the hill, which was becoming stronger daily. It was hard to decide what had to be done about it and a single cat posed no real threat. Maybe it was time to start preparations by checking out the situation and the evil involved. Midnight needed a closer look to see what was actually happening, so he made a daily pilgrimage into the woods and he crept silently among the underbrush so as not to be noticed. Each visit to the forest lead him closer to the place; the place where the forest would receive the first injustice. This place is now etched forever in Midnight's mind.

As the chilling Fall winds began blowing with more and more urgency, Midnight's first task was to greet the others from whom he drew his strengths and inspiration the Indians. After the gathering at the top of the hill was complete, the tribal dance began. It continued until late in the evening with Midnight in the middle of the circle on the special bed of straw and flowers that the Indians had prepared especially for him. The Indians inhaled the smoke from their peace pipes and magically transferred their energies to Midnight through the intricate waves of smoke that spewed forth. The Indians danced and sang for what seemed to be forever with prayers and echoing chants that would bring forth protection of the cat. The Indians passed along their heartfelt request to Midnight to try to stop the pain they felt as the earth was being used up by greed. Once the message was clear and after the tribal ritual had ended, the Indians withdrew from the circle and were gone in an instant with only a slight chill of mist left in the air, but Midnight knew what he was expected to do now. It was only a matter of time.

Stealthily, Midnight roamed the floor of the forest with the invisibility of a ghost. The Indians new this trait in the cat would help them accomplish the task of freeing the earth of evil spirits. The Indians were confident that they had chosen the correct form of life to do the investigating. Quickly and quietly Midnight strolled amongst his favorite trees and bushes in preparation for the right time to come, making sure along the way that his claws were adequately sharpened on tree bark from the fallen trees which lay randomly along the forest floor. Midnight's claws were now two inches of pure menace. Day after day Midnight traveled from the edge of the woods towards the sound of trucks and men. Barely a twig snapped nor a branch moved while Midnight explored. The activity of those men and the unnerving sounds of the forest being slowly destroyed had been louder and more annoying lately and that was what had caused Mother Nature's unrest, as well as what was causing the same restlessness in Midnight. His duty now was to remove this unwanted element in the forest. Midnight approached closer and closer to the evil each day. Staring and waiting, waiting and staring was something Midnight was good at (and remember that staring from a cat is a sign aggression). During his daily investigations, there were times that Midnight thought these evildoers saw him, but nothing was ever done to him. Once Midnight thought he heard, "Oh. It's just a cat!" Good, Midnight thought; they do not suspect anything! Even though it was now nearing the end of October, the ultimate destruction of the earth was just getting started. Midnight must plan his attack. The time neared.

Gathering the proper mixture of nature's bounty was a necessary step in preparing the anti-evil potion. Midnight gathered the grasses, flowers and weeds into a small pile in the hole he created in the underbrush near a vernal pool at the site of the activity. Among the vegetation used for this potion were hyacinth bulbs (nausea, vomiting), lily of the valley (racing pulse), water hemlock (convulsions), Jack-in-the-Pulpit (intense burning of the mouth and throat), wild cherry bark (gasping, prostration), nightshade (intense digestive disturbance and nerve damage), a generous dose of digitalis (irregular heartbeat, mental confusion), and a single rosary pea (death). There were other ingredients but they are still part of the secret recipe the Indians entrusted to Midnight. Cats generally are immune to these plants, but Midnight took great care not to crush any of the ingredients in his mouth as he carried them to the site. After the wondrous ingredients were gathered, they had to combine their poisonous attributes to make a potion that no man could escape. Early morning rains over the next few days blended the ingredients into a fine mush. The Indians were proud of Midnight's skill.

There was a final meeting between the Indians and Midnight. The spirits of the forest were being summoned to give strength to Midnight and his courageous efforts. Midnight alone was given the honor of saving the forest and he began his final countdown to eliminate the evil ones. It was determined that these evil ones were beyond redemption and a simple curse would not be adequate. If anyone were to listen carefully to the noises in the forest this one particular night, a slight wind-driven wail could be heard for over two hours. It may have been the wind; it may have been Midnight. No wonder so many people are nervous of the darkness of the woods, but it is only the truly ill-hearted and greedy souls that need fear the darkness. Only the evil destroyers of land should worry.

Chilly evenings had taken over the area quickly as the days flew by. The leaves had done their annual color show, but now were falling rapidly to the forest floor to generate a new layer of nourishment to the plants and the continuation of life. As the forest prepared for its annual winter's rest, Midnight prepared for his ultimate plan.

While traveling to the place where the poisonous potion was waiting, Midnight had fleeting flashes in his memories of the children who loved to play with him and of the family who took him in as a kitten and gave him a good home for all these precious years. This was a dangerous task for Midnight and the chances were slim that he would survive, but he knew he was the hope for the future and this deed must be done. Creeping along the edge of the brush this last day in October, Midnight felt all his hairs bristle from end to end as he heard a truck motor turn on then off. Midnight crept on quietly to wait in the brush. Movement broke the silence and the one who was destroying the earth jumped out of his truck and he lifted its hood. The moment drew closer as Midnight readied for the attack. Midnight found the place where he made the potent mush. Slowly he dragged all four of his paws through the deadly concoction making sure his finely honed claws were fully extended. This ensured that a good dose of the mush saturated between the pads and the claws. Now Midnight must wait for the proper moment. There was little motion under the hood of the truck other than some muttering, so the time was NOW. Midnight charged out of the bushes at the evil one and gave a final effort to propel himself into the air with the biggest leap he ever took. At this same moment, Midnight let out a bone-chilling, shrill screech that made the evil one turn towards the noise. With his claws fully extended with the poison waiting, Midnight gave his last effort to attach himself to the head and shoulders of the evil one. SUCCESS. Midnight drew strength he didn't know he had when the contact was made and the evil one was impaled by over a dozen needle-like claws of poison. There was a short struggle, but the evil one was able to grab Midnight by the neck and fling him into the brush. Soon though, the poison was working and the evil one fell to the ground in writhing pain. Torture and suffering were good enough for this evil soul as this was the same pain the earth was feeling because of its destruction at the hands of this uncaring and greedy soul.

It wasn't until morning that the evil one was found. Apparently he was trying to write something on the ground with a stick that looked something like "everyone must leave this hallowed ground alone." Midnight had made a valiant effort and won. The sacred forest had been saved and serenity once again overtook the neighborhood.

Since that fateful night, every midnight in October is dedicated to this brave black cat. A gentle blessing is given by the Indians in honor of the cat that had sacrificed himself in order to help future generations enjoy their land and make the forest peaceful once more without the threat of greedy souls who are only out to destroy. Be forewarned, though, that evil destroyers of the earth will have to pay a big price, because Midnight is still out there somewhere prowling. Don't turn your back near the forest at night if greed and evil fills your heart. No one ever saw Midnight after that fateful night, but you can be sure that every October 31st, you can hear the faint wailing in the wind and the rustle in the leaves. Midnight is the reason why black cats are honored on this day. But, watch out if you sense a cat is glaring at you or if you hear hissing and see a black cat arch his back with its hair standing on end. This is a warning sign that you need to improve your unacceptable ways.

Not all cats have the courage that Midnight did on that October 31st. Thank you Midnight.




Continue to the 1st place story




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