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Halloween Writting Contest Entry

The following story was submitted as an entry in The Wanderer's fourth annual Halloween Writing Contest.

"The Tale of Laurel McReeve" by Melanie Santos

A cold, steady rain had been falling since noon, each raindrop a nail in the coffin of Laurel McReeve's happiness. Trick-or-treating was out of the question, her mother insisted. "Maybe we can go to the movies instead?"

Laurel was devastated. Mrs. Geddes had spent all month teaching her fourth-grade class about the origins of Halloween: about the Festival of Samhain and All Hallows Eve, when the souls of the dead came back to mingle with the living for one night. Now Laurel could only sit helplessly by the window - in full ghost costume - and hope for the weather to break.

By nine o'clock, the little girl was desperate. Not a single child had come to their door all night, but Laurel felt certain that trick-or-treaters were out collecting candy elsewhere. Perhaps down in the village? It was less than a mile's walk from their house. The idea was made even more tempting by the fact that she could cut across the big cornfield down the street and be there even faster.

Laurel didn't wish to disobey her mother, but it was Halloween. If she pretended to go to bed and then sneaked down the fire escape ladder outside her bedroom window, she could be downtown trick-or-treating and then back in her bed before anyone knew she had been gone. She could not resist the temptation of her own genius!

The rain had subsided to a drizzle, but Laurel was surprised at how cold it was outside. Halfway down the ladder, she realized she had forgotten to bring a jacket or a flashlight, but there was no going back now. The streets were all but deserted and since there was no moon in the sky, it was darker than she had imagined. Still, she trudged on, shoes already soaked by the puddles she could not see to avoid.

The vast cornfield lay ahead. Laurel had crossed it before, but in the brightness of daylight and when the corn wasn't as tall as it was now. The ground was soft and wet and it seemed to grab hold of her shoes with each step. She was more than halfway there, though, she reminded herself. She had to keep going . . .

The cornstalks were rough as they brushed against her face, but Laurel couldn't help walking into them. She couldn't see a thing in the pitch blackness. She should have come out of the cornfield after a while, but she had somehow gotten turned around and couldn't tell where she was. With each muddy step came the terrifying realization that she was lost. Tearfully, she kept walking and dreamed of the comfort of her warm bed.

Suddenly, she was out of the cornstalks and into the open, but there were no houses or roads or streetlights - just rows and rows of stone monuments. Laurel had wandered into a cemetery. Despite the cold, her face was hot and her throat burned. Exhausted, she knelt down on the wet ground and prayed for someone to find her.

Too dizzy to stand, she collapsed at the foot of a gravestone. The wind began to swirl around her as though she was surrounded by a flock of birds, hovering over her, watching. The voices of the wind seemed to call out her name: Laurel ... Laurel ... don't be afraid.

All at once, she was flying, being carried through the night by forces unseen. Over the cemetery, over the cornfield and finally, back to her house, her home, her bed. That is where her mother found her later that night: feverish and rain-soaked, a graveside flower still clutched in her small hand.

Many have doubted the story told by Laurel in the days following her adventure, but listen closely this Halloween and you may hear trick-or-treaters recite the rhyme they invented about her:

This is the tale of Laurel McReeve

Who went trick-or-treating on All Hallows Eve.

A cold rain was falling and gave her a fever.

The old cemetery was where fate would leave her.

The ghosts and the spirits who all were a-flight

Took pity on Laurel and saved her that night.

Whether you doubt it, whether you believe,

That is what happened to Laurel McReeve.