“It’s not fair!” Eileen shouted.
“Don’t raise your voice to me, young lady,” her mother, Eleanor, responded. “I don’t care if all your friends are planning to stay out late on Halloween. You still have to be home by nine o’clock. That’s already an extra hour on a school night.”
“But I’ll be the only witch-in-training who’s not able to stay out late. No one is going to want to interrupt their Halloween fun to bring me home early.”
“The key point is you are in training,” Eleanor emphasized, “and you’re more likely to get into trouble with everyone thinking they can experiment with spells late into the night. Halloween is four days away. That gives you plenty of time to find someone that will bring you home. If you don’t find anyone, then I’ll pick you up. Now I don’t want to hear another word about it.”
Eileen gave a huff in useless defiance and headed to her room. “I’m old enough to stay out late,” she thought. “After all, I just turned fifteen.” As the night wore on, she hatched a plan to prove she could take care of herself. She would execute a spell to raise the spirits of her ancestors and send them to scare her mother. “When she sees how good my abilities are, Mom will have no choice but to agree and let me stay out late.”
The next day, just after dusk, Eileen stood in the middle of the graveyard laying out items she would need to cast a spell. “I’ll show her I’m old enough to stay out as late as I want to,” she thought to herself, as she remembered the argument with her mother.
A cool breeze made Eileen shiver as she finished arranging things on the grass. The small fire she started on an iron plate did not give off enough light by which to read the spell, so she turned on a flashlight. Eileen had a moment of doubt as she picked up the book of spells. After taking a deep breath, she opened the book and started the incantation. After saying each stanza, she dropped a different talisman into the fire.
Worms devour without a sound,
that which is buried beneath the ground.
Spirits dwelling in peaceful slumber,
come together in frightful number.
As demons roar and angels quake,
rise my ancestors, awake!
Smoke from the fire began swirling around and around, doubling in volume with each revolution, and rising in the air until it stood a good twenty feet above Eileen’s head. Fear began to make her nauseous, but the power of what she released kept her transfixed, watching the spectacle. Crackling sounds came from the cloud of smoke then lights flashed from within. The cloud began to swell then contract, then swelled one more time, until an explosive sound shook the headstones throughout the graveyard.
Eileen screamed, dropped to the ground and covered her head. After a few moments, she realized there was no sound except for her heavy breathing, in and out. She jumped when a woman’s voice with a cockney accent invaded the silence. “Hallo. Who are you?”
Cautiously rising and looking up, Eileen saw a gauzy apparition floating above her head. The spirit was an old woman dressed in Victorian clothes.
“I . . . I’m Eileen. Who . . . who are you?”
“My name’s Morna.”
Recognition came to Eileen. “You’re my great-great-great Aunt Morna. I recognize you from the painting in our house.”
“You’re my niece, you say. Well tell me why in the devil you woke me up.” The ghost flew down and put her face a few inches in front of Eileen.
Jumping back, Eileen replied, “I wasn’t trying to raise just you. I meant to raise all my ancestors buried here.”
“Well then, you must have done something wrong now haven’t you?” Aunt Morna put her hands on her hips and shook her head accusingly.
“I . . . I didn’t have quite all the right objects for the spell so I made some substitutions.”
“Substitutions? Blimey! It’s a stroke of luck you didn’t unleash the hounds of hell now, isn’t it?”
Feeling embarrassed, Eileen turned her head away. Her big plan to show her mother she could handle herself was falling apart due to this miserable failure of a spell. Then she thought, “Maybe I don’t need a whole flock of ancestors.” Perhaps she could salvage the plan by getting Aunt Morna to scare her mom.
Steeling herself up, Eileen turned back to the ghost and said, “Aunt Morna, I command you to fly to my house and give my mother a good fright.”
Morna responded with a raucous, cackling laugh. “Command me, she says. Give her mother a good fright, she says.” Again with the cackling laugh. “Why should I do a daft thing like that?”
“Um. Well. You see, my mother won’t let me stay out past nine o’clock on Halloween,” Eileen blurted. “And, um, you know, I wanted to show her I’m old enough to do what I want.”
“Stay out past nine o’clock? On Halloween? I never heard such rubbish. Not a minute past five o’clock for my daughters on Halloween or any other night. And mind you, if boys are around there had better be a chaperone.”
“A chaperone?” Eileen felt horrified at the thought of having to have an adult around whenever she was with a boy.
“Now you hear me girl, you gather this stuff up and go on home to your mother. Make sure you mind her, and stop this nonsense about raising your ancestors, or casting any other spell by yourself till your training is done. Do you hear me?” Morna raised herself up high and pointed a crooked finger at Eileen.
With her earlier sense of rebellion fading, Eileen responded “Yes ma’am.”
“Good.” With that, Morna started twirling till she was nothing but a tornado of smoke. Lights grew bright in the middle, and the vortex snapped into the ground leaving not a trace behind.
Eileen quickly gathered up her things and went straight home. She entered the house through the living room door and found her mother sitting on the sofa reading a book. Eileen thought about trying one more time to change her mother’s mind about the Halloween curfew, but she thought she saw a scowl come across the face of her Aunt Morna in the painting above the fireplace. So instead, she kissed her mother on the cheek and headed off to bed. “Goodnight Eileen,” said Eleanor as her daughter left the room. After finishing the chapter of her book, Eleanor rose to get ready for bed. Before she turned off the light, she whispered “Goodnight, Aunt Morna.”
I missed this beautiful story when it was first published. I read it today shortly after Halloween. As an amateur genealogist, I believe it’s a perfect story. Thanks for sharing.
Good ending! I’m still smiling. 🙂
I’m glad you liked it. Thank you!
I think we should have tagged this as “creative parenting.” Us moms need our Aunt Mornas. Fun and timely article, Sue.
Enjoyed your cute story.