There were two things Nancy noticed on her walk. One of these was the periodic falling of flowers from the sky, like rain from a singular cloud.
The other, was the dogs. While there were lots of others out for a stroll, strangely there were more dogs than owners. The single dogs were friendly, but were all entangled with the task of sniffing down some unknown trail. She frowned at the implications and decided to watch the ground instead.
They got a few hundred yards down the road and found a large circular courtyard with a large fountain filled with coins, gardens, and beautifully decorated cobblestones. A couple emerged from a nearby house outside of the central area. The man in question was tall and imposing, but had a big-bellied laugh that made his petite wife, and everyone else who was around for that matter, smile at its infection. The small woman looked in Nancy’s direction, and recognition stirred in her eyes. The tiny woman waved to Nancy excitedly. They were her parents.
The house was similar to her own, but had different qualities. Outside, she was sad to see, were less flowers. Inside, however, was like a museum of their life together. A desk, filled with her father’s old stamp collection. Shelves with her mother’s favorite knick knacks, some which were replicated in her own new home. Even shelves of souvenirs from numerous trips around the world. Despite all the reminiscent decor, what drew Nancy’s eye was the presence of a calendar on a door similar to her own. It had no visible marker and was open to the month of December. She supposed the door, like her own, was also locked.
“There is a calendar on a door in my house, just like this one. What does it mean, mom?” Nancy asked, pointing towards the calendar. Her mother and father were milling around the house as they always had, making things welcoming for company. Her mother straightened a few pillows on the couches and her father was creating some sort of cocktails over by the kitchen counter.
“It’s your window…to the living world” She sighed, “It is a curse. It is a blessing.” Nancy’s mother sat down on the couch and crossed her legs.
Nancy moved across the room and sat on the couch opposite her mother. “So I can see them? …My family?” Nancy paused, thinking, and leaned forward on her knees. “Didn’t you want to see me?”
The old woman patted her knee and gave her a smile that didn’t hint at her age what-so-ever, “You will understand when it’s your turn, my dear. But to put it simply, we are granted one evening a year to visit the living. It is a day you know well, and one you have always fascinated over with those horror movies of yours. All Hollows Eve, or Halloween.”
Nancy’s eyes lit up in excitement, but only briefly.“What if…no one comes? And why only once a year?” She asked and put her head in her hands.
“It’s a risk you have to take. But you will grow used to the feeling when a loved one is near. You will feel in your bones when someone stands at your headstone. And on that day, when the time comes, if someone is there, or not, you can decide to go through.” She paused as she took her fresh made martini from her husband. “We wanted to see you, and your brothers, but no one ever came in the evening at quite the right time. We were like ships passing in the night. But we saw someone once, it was your Aunt Margaret. We were so ecstatic to see her, but we couldn’t stay long.” She finished and took a sip from her drink.
“Nancy,” Her father chimed in and presented a fresh cocktail, “If you could visit every time you felt them near, you would live after death thinking of nothing else. You would lose yourself, become obsessed. It is to protect us from ourselves, and protect the living from the same fate.” He sat down next to her on the couch and placed his arms around her.
They stayed like that for a while. A fraction of their family was rejoined and the spoke for hours. They continued to chat about other things, Nancy’s life, her family, her cancer. Her parents death, how they lived through it all these years. There was an endless supply of words to be shared to make up for the time they had lost. They didn’t dare waste any other moments that afternoon, and all the ones to come.
Before their final farewell for that particular evening, her mother left her with a warning. “Though we live in a place without evil, we must beware the shadows. They do not threaten us but they threaten the living. And they too can visit the living world, but only through us. They are drawn to the presence on Earth of souls that found their way. You are a beacon to the lost and hopeless. They never found their way and became lost to the darkness, never finding peace or the home for their soul. Though they won’t get you here, they can follow you on your travels and on Earth. They will grab you if given the chance, and use your body as a vessel to attack the living, all while you watch through tainted red eyes, trapped in your souls mind. They come unexpectedly, and they come in waves, a sea of darkness.” She said as she gave Nancy a hug and lead her out the door.