Hallowmas: Free Fiction for Fyretober November 1, 2023

The headless horse tumbled to a halt right in front of Wayne and Wanda in the middle of 28th St. As they watched, it became a headless red devil, a seven foot tall wooden statue in the middle of the road. That was no match for 28th St. traffic. An SUV and a Prius swerved madly around it, almost colliding with a red Mazda that passed them. But the semi that sped behind them had no chance to avoid the obstacle. It crunched right over top the figure, all eighteen wheels crushing it, kicking up splinters that flew everywhere. The driver screeched to a halt as fast as he could, but he had a full load. It took nearly a block before the truck and trailer halted.

Wayne and Wanda were still looking at the falling splinters when Carol and Sean rode up on the black steed. Paula came from the other direction on the gold. Both horses were stumbling, heads down, eyes half lidded.

Paula sat astride the gold, spurs at the ready. She was breathing heavily, but not as heavily as her mount. “We’ve won,” she said. “They surrendered.”

“An’ a good thing for them,” Sean said as he slid down from the black horse’s side. He smacked the flat of Caladbolg against his palm, and rainbow light glinted from its edge. “I took out the biggest of ye. I can take you out too if ye force me. I recognize this blade now.” He looked into the big black eye of Carol’s mount. “Which king did ye steal it from?” When the horse made no reply, he said, “Well, I’m a better thief that ye. I’m stealin’ it back.”

Wayne walked up to where he could look both horses in the faces. “You’ve lost, right?” They started to shimmer, but he held up a hand. “No, you can stay horses. That’s fine. This is your natural form, isn’t it?” The horses nodded again. “And if you’re defeated, you’ll leave us alone, right?”

The horses paused, so Sean added, “They have to, Wayne. They have rules. They can never interfere with us again, or it will be their deaths.”

Wayne looked at the horses again. “Never?”

The horses nodded again.

“Then get the hell out here. And just so you know, I can see the signs now. I can see your influence. I’m going to teach my friends, and others. You won’t be able to play these kinds of games anymore. You should just return to your woods and sulk for a few hundred years.” He swallowed. “Or do like Harvey said you should’ve in the first place, and leave for the stars.” Then he raised his fist defiantly. “But we’re coming there, too. Stay the hell out of our way.”

Paula climbed down from the golden horse. Sean held up an arm and took Carol’s hand, and she slid down into his into his embrace, kissing him warmly.

But then Sean relaxed his grip just enough to raise Caladbolg and slapped the black horse’s rump with the flat of the blade. “Get out with ye. Go!”

The horses stumbled away, hardly able to even to lift their feet. They stepped out into 28th St., but traffic seemed to part for them now. As the friends watched, the horses stumbled up the hill to the east. When they reached the top, they just kept climbing until they faded away.

Then Wayne noticed that Wanda was talking to an EMT team that had arrived. They stood around Kevin’s body, all three of them shaking their heads. Meanwhile the semi driver was nearly back to the site of his crash, and he had his camera out, recording everything.

Sean and Carol pulled Wayne into their hug, and Wayne pulled in Paula, who was crying uncontrollably. Paula said, “I was… I was just getting to know Kevin. I really… I really think I liked him.”

Wayne nodded. I’m sure you did. And you would’ve… The stories I could tell you about that man… The stories I could tell you…”

“I hope you do,” Paula answered, wiping tears from her eyes.

Then Wayne looked at his cell phone. “Oh, hey. It’s still Halloween. Wanda!”

Wanda looked up from her conversation, and Wayne waved her over. Wanda nodded, said a few final words to the EMTs, and trotted over to join the group hug.

 “Let’s go in and get some cider from Myra,” Wanda said. “It’s not too late to… It’s not too late to wish Emil a happy birthday.”

“We don’t need to go in for that,” Wayne answered. He pulled free from the hug, and he mimed pouring from a jug into glasses and passing them around. He mimed lifting his glass, and the others did the same. “Happy birthday, writer man. You saved us all, buddy. Maybe you saved the world.” They all tipped their glasses.

The imaginary cider was delicious.

The End

Thank you for joining me for this wild ride!

This book started as the Fyretober challenge for Fyrecon. It wasn’t a book then, it was just a challenge: 31 days of story prompts, and write a flash fiction piece (250-500 words or so) for each prompt. I knew I could do that. 500 words is less than 20 minutes of dictation for me.

But the stories got away from me. I tend to write long. My average is around 2,777 words per story.

And then the stories got away from me again. Somewhere around day 6 I realized that even though these stories seemed disconnected — indeed, seemed to be from three or four different story universes — they could be one complete novel written with no more plan than the story prompts.

Eventually, as I discovered the story, it became its own plan. Around the middle of the month, the prompts stopped fitting the emerging storyline. So I waved them goodbye, and I followed the story. Still I had no outline, no plot. I had some ideas of things that could happen, and I had an idea that this was a Collider story, in which different characters follow their different storylines to a massive Collision, which changes everything. I researched topics that came up in the writing and found new prompts to follow. But right up to the last line, I was discovering elements and events that I never planned.

Today, November 1, writers around the world are launching into NaNoWriMo, a challenge to write a novel in a month. Thousands of them will succeed, and that’s a great accomplishment. All credit to them! So I haven’t done something unprecedented by any means. But I do take pride that I worked “without a net”: No planning, no outline, just a headlong rush through a brand new story landscape.

It was exhilarating! I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you did, be sure to thank the people who inspired and supported me in this endeavor.

Jenna Eatough and DawnRay Ammon of Fyrecon for creating the prompts and encouraging me to keep writing.

Editor Bill Emerson, my first reader, for serving as my sounding board and my prompt.

Dean Wesley Smith for encouraging me to write without planning, as exemplified in his book Writing into the Dark.

James Artimus Owen for teaching me not to be afraid of a challenge.

The late Ray Bradbury for teaching us all to just keep writing the words.

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