Celeano Press just released What October Brings: A Lovecraftian Celebration of Halloween. The anthology features fiction by me, Storm Constantine, Arinn Dembo, Cody Goodfellow, Nancy Holder, Brian M. Sammons, Ann K. Schwader, John Shirley, Chet Williamson, and more.
Here’s the first part of my story, “Cosmic Cola”:
Millie leaned her forehead against the back window of her stepfather’s new Toyota van, morosely watching the weather-beaten, navy-on-white “Welcome to Marsh Landing!” sign approach and recede. Welcome to what? There was little but some bone-white dunes and shuttered, peeling bait shacks so far. Nothing she’d learned about the isolated coastal town in her school’s library made her feel any better about moving here. Population: 20,000. Primary exports: fish and Cosmic Cola. Total Dullsville.
It was probably one of those stuffy communities that forbade trick-or-treat at Halloween. Marsh Middle School was barely half the size of her old school and didn’t have any Girl Scouts troops she could join. It didn’t even have an orchestra. She’d only just started playing violin and already she was going to have to quit, probably.
Quitters never got anywhere in life. That’s what her grandfather Ernest always used to tell her anyhow, before he had a stroke and quit living. In the months before he died, he’d argue about physics when he was alone in his room, as if the empty walls were his audience.
She could play her violin in her room and pretend she had an audience, she supposed, but her bedroom walls wouldn’t tell her if she dropped a note, or if her bowing was scratchy, or if her phrasing was awkward. So even if she kept going on her own, she wasn’t sure she’d get anywhere anyway.
If she was honest with herself, giving up violin didn’t bother her nearly as much as the notion of giving up Halloween. It was her favorite holiday, even better than Christmas, though she could never say that out loud. Her mom would say it wasn’t ladylike to prefer Halloween over Jesus’ birthday. And her love for it wasn’t just because of trick-or-treating.
It was the one night when all the things she dreamed of seemed like they could actually become real. The one night when she didn’t have to always be nice and demure and could be something besides a girl from a little town in a flyover state. She could be a ghost. A witch. A werewolf. Something mythical, something to be feared and respected. Running down the street in her costume, she could close her eyes in the frosty fall air and just for a moment imagine that plastic teeth and waxy paints were enamel and skin, and she could go anywhere at all that she wanted on her own. What was Christmas compared to the chilly frisson of becoming?