Kage Baker loved Halloween. It was probably her favourite holiday, despite the fireworks of July 4th and the buttered rum delights of Christmas. Halloween, or more precisely the month of October, was her heart’s delight. It was the pivot of the year.
Mine, too. Being born in June and July as we were, we must have been conceived in the autumn. I always felt especially attuned to it, as if the autumnal twilight had somehow been visible in my mother’s womb. It does seems to be have affected us both, although Kage preferred the aromatic dust and warmth of Harvest, thank you very much: long golden sunsets and yellow lights in the windows when the sun was gone, the smells of cider and fallen leaves and a hot dinner on the air.
We used to take walks or drives at twilight, especially in Autumn, and admire the lure of lit windows and busy kitchens as we passed: Kage loved looking in other people’s windows.
“Look there, they have those weird ceramic ducks on the wall!” Deep breath … “And they’re having Italian food for dinner. I’d use more oregeno than that.”
“Mmmm, their roses are still blooming …”
“Ha! First Halloween lights of the season, look!”
Sometimes as we strolled along, critiquing our neighbors’ place settings, Kage would have sudden revelations:
“A lot of operatives would walk like this, staring into people’s windows,” she would say. “Memorizing lives. Sometimes a particular house will grab someone’s fancy and they’ll research it all the way back to the day it was built, and learn all about it. Just for a hobby.”
“Not someone like Joseph.”
“Naw, he’s a tough guy. But he’d take pets, you know, like adopting the Pelican Inn through the years. It’d be people like Lewis. Or the older, crazier operatives.”
“Or you. You do that, you know. You’re doing it now.”
“Oh, screw you, I’m just brain storming.”
Ultimately we’d come to wherever we lived, and pause on the sidewalk to stare up at our own windows. If the parrot noticed us out there, loud bugling velociraptor calls would commence; if not, it would just be lamplight and lace curtains.
“Looks like a nice place,” Kage would observe. ‘Though the grass needs mowing.”
“I could do that tomorrow.”
“Okay. Let’s break in and sleep here tonight.”
And we would. Sometimes literally, if we forgot the keys; otherwise with much mugging and giggling and yelling at the bird to Hush up! while we got the door open. One of the many, many reasons we should have had the cops called on us, and somehow never did.
I realize now our neighbors must have gotten used to us. This produces a weird mingling of relief and chagrin. I guess we were a little odd to live near.
I do recall that one of Kage’s favourite games in October was to speculate that it was the one month when strange people could be as strange as they liked: there was a Gahain Wilson cartoon to that effect, and endless science fiction stories where Halloween Night is when Miss Carmichael answers the door without her mask on … she loved that idea, Kage did, that all the Others were wandering the streets then.
Looking in the windows. Commenting on the decor. Wondering where that pretty tablecloth came from. Eldritch creatures have domestic habits, too, you know. I know – Kage told me all about them on October nights.
Tomorrow: spirit meals.