Walpurgisnacht Freebie

As usual, I’m giving away my much reprinted story ‘Walpurgisnacht’; click the link on the name if you’ve not read it yet and you can download a PDF of the tale. And watch out for witches flying off to the mountains tonight!

Walpurgisnacht Hirsch

Story for a Sunday: Fluorescence

Here’s my bit of urban spookiness called “Fluorescence.” This short story appeared in The Harrow back in July 2008 (appearing now thanks to the Way Back Machine). If you like it, you might want to check out the others in Unquiet Dreams.


Story for a Sunday: Tangled Up in Some Sort of Cerulean Hue

cateblan1scope_468x680Bob Dylan: Nobel Prize Winner — bet you didn’t have a fiver on him. Nine years ago I had this tale published in the tiny lit journal Ephemera. Did anyone notice it was a bunch of Dylan lyrics somewhat altered mashed up with a little Marlowe? No, probably not. But it amused me. I have not read it now as I think it might be painful. But you can read it.

Tangled Up in Some Sort of Cerulean Hue

She was a beauty, all auburn curls, doe eyes, and hippie garments. But I think it was chiefly the eyes, moist and beseeching, that made me forget my usual caution and help her out of that sticky situation, but—like the man said—I guess I used a little too much energy to do so. What is it with some women? They cling to whatever wind blows the most hot air. She was with a jerk, I applied a little leverage and next thing I know, she was stuck on me. Not just stuck—glued, applied, corkscrewed into my entrails—she showed no signs of budging. Which was why I found myself standing in that solitary grove with books of Albanus and Bacon and a big old Latin bible that I could sort of read, inside a chalk circle, ready for conjuring.

Bobby swore it would work. I guess I should have considered the logic of that assumption, but I was too busy daydreaming of life post-hoc. I was an idiot. Gravity is the destiny of us all. Suckers.

The borderline separating my circle from the mundane should have been safe. Well, for that matter, the charm itself should have produced rather different results. I guess that’s where better reading knowledge of Latin would have helped, but it was never so easy for me. There were so many distractions: crickets rhymed shrieks back and forth while the trees’ limbs guffawed an obscene parody of their song. The stupid wind kept blowing the pages back and forth. For all I know, now that I think on it, I managed to conjure two different rituals into one.

I really just wanted to peel off that persistent drag. She was nice enough at first, but I never did take to the clingy types. As the sun descended like a slippery egg yolk down the cobalt sky, I was already picturing my new life, free from the eternal bondage—eternal since Tuesday—of that woman who wanted to keep hold of my shoelaces and drag along behind my sorry carcass for an apparently indefinite period. I knew I was in trouble when she fluttered those too long lashes at me and murmured in my ear how happy she was. I didn’t even blink, but I knew I had to start planning right then.

It only took a few days to assemble the necessary materials. Thank the gods for the internet, which I mean to say, thank science—or technology or whatever. I don’t know how it’s done. It might was well be magic. But I found local shops with the needed ingredients—even dog tongue, which turned out to be some kind of herb. That was a relief. I might be able to hurt a woman, but never a dog! Damn, they’re innocent creatures. Not that I meant to hurt her, just kind of discourage her, turn her off. Give her something else to worry about and let me go. Now she’s just going to think I pissed off and left her. I guess that would be irony.

It seemed so perfect. I felt like some medieval Merlin, necromantic books before me, the world under m spell. Bobby said he’d had such successes with his chanting and such. Surely it would work just as well for me. It’s all in the book. Why would it matter who said it? Yeah, sure, I know what you’re thinking—pronunciation. Yeah, maybe—then again, maybe it was the wind and those pages. The back pages of the book were pretty thin and the wind kept blowing like it had it in for me from the start. It wasn’t possible to tell at first whether it worked or not.   It’s not like I would have seen her disappear like some cloud of smoke. There was no clap of thunder or buckets of rain descending. But it wasn’t too long before I knew that I had got my signals crossed and all was not well. Beware of Latin—dead languages don’t care who they screw.

From the indigo darkness, something hit me from below. Never did see what it was—some creature lacking shape or natural order—but its impact was immediate and bruising. Knocked me clean out after seeing stars that were not part of the navy canvas of the night sky. Gone, over and out, no balls, no strikes, just error—good night, nurse.

I woke up on the side of the grove, flies droning around my head. I knew something was wrong because the sound made me hungry. Everything looked a lot bigger and before I could give myself a stern talking to, I was beginning to realize that things were worse than mere failure. So here I am, stuck. In my present state I can’t even touch the books I read. What’s the likelihood anyone will stumble across them and read just the right spell? What’re the odds that anyone will listen to me in present state? What I wouldn’t give for her to be so determined to find me that she comes out here, calling “Jimmy, Jimmy,” and recognizing me and restoring me back to what I was. I wouldn’t even leave her then, no, I’d be an honorable man after that. Really, you have to believe me. If you see her, you know, maybe if she hasn’t gotten over me, hasn’t begun to curse my name and all my sex, well, maybe give her some hope. She might be living there in my cruddy old apartment, thinking I forgot all about her. It’s not true. She’s all I think about now—well, her and the damn crickets. They turn out to be pretty tasty. But if you see her, you can tell her that now. I’d love to have her come find me. I want her to want me. I want to be me again, even with her hanging on me all the time. Hell, I’d welcome it. Tell her.

And if you see a toad, say hello. It might be me.

Recorded Live: Fur Baby

I will be busy grading today — probably all day — so if you need entertainment, here’s a live recording from yesterday’s 2nd Sunday Open Mic at the Arts Center in Troy, NY. Yes, I really read this story on Mother’s Day. A bit on the dark and creepy side, so if you don’t like that —

Thanks as always to Nancy Klepsch and Dan Wilcox, our fab hosts and the folks new and regular who show up to share their work. I highly recommend it.

If you want to read the original story, drop by Spelk Magazine, thanks Gary Duncan. Sign up to get a little flash fiction in your inbox every day.


Walpurgisnacht Hirsch

Tradition now to repost this story which appears in Unquiet Dreams. It’s been reprinted a few times. One of these days, I should do an audio version…


Walther knew. But he could not resist, what ten-year-old could? Every year was the same. Grandmother Dunkelhaus would shake her finger at him and warn, “Walpurgisnacht, the devil’s night—you stay indoors. Devils, witches, ghosts—they come, they get little boys, eat you.” Then she would snap together her shiny wooden teeth—clack!—as if she knew the flights of witches first hand.

But this year—tonight!—he would know, he and Elsa. “We must see,” they had promised one another. Walther slipped out this afternoon, to sleep a while in the orchard as Elsa had suggested. The nap should help him stay awake tonight. He had put apples in his rucksack and a handful of matches—also Elsa’s idea. She swore she would sneak away with a lamp. He looked around the room; never know what you might need. His woolen cap and sweater would keep him warm—spring was on the calendar, but not in the night air.

Downstairs his family gathered round the fire. Its crackles and sparks echoed up here in the garret, where they all assumed their youngest slept. But Walther waited for Elsa, his rucksack on his shoulder, his eyes eagerly seeking through the darkness. A movement: only leaves, caught by the tempestuous wind, they whirled and danced, begging someone to join their waltz. Walther cocked his ear back toward the group downstairs but heard only the familiar murmuring argument, Gran and Grandfather arguing still, as they had these sixty odd years.

Another whispering movement, this one with legs. Elsa beckoned from the oak tree, almost disappearing in its enormous girth. Walther lifted up the window silently, swinging himself over the sill, hanging for a moment, then dropping to the ground ten feet below and rolling as he hit the ground. The apples would be bruised.

“Wally. Here.” Elsa swung a lantern by her side. A battered rucksack lay at the foot of the gnarled tree. “Did you bring the matches?”

“Yes, a lot of them. Good kitchen matches, wooden.”

Her grey eyes caught the moon’s bright glow and reflected it back to him despite the fading bruise below her left one. Elsa’s face, wind-swept and tear-stained, tilted up at him, her decisive chin jutting out. “Let’s go,” she said, taking his offered hand.

The two children ran between the darkened trees, feeling the limbs bend down in concern as if trying to stop their flight. Out of sight of the house they slowed their pace, their breaths making curlicues in the night air.

“Did they suspect?” Elsa asked, wiping her dripping nose.

“No, no one even checked on me—not that they normally do,” Walther hastened to add, a man after all at age ten. “And no one noticed that I was gone this afternoon either. I feel quite awake.”

“I got this too,” Elsa said and stopped to root through her rucksack. She pulled out a flask that had perhaps seen action in the Great War. “Coffee. Help us stay awake. It’s cold,” she added with regret, “But I think it will still work.”

“I’ve never had coffee before. Well, once. I sipped my Gran’s coffee. She said it would put hair on my chest.”

“Did it?” Elsa shook the flask and the contents sloshed noisily.

“No,” Walther kicked the ground, wishing he had thought to bring coffee. “But I did feel stronger.”

“Come, we have to walk faster. It will be midnight soon.”

“Did you bring a watch?”

Elsa halted and whirled around. “Damn!”

“Elsa, don’t swear. God will punish you.”

“God doesn’t know I exist.”

“God knows everything.”

Elsa laughed. “Such a good little boy, a good little boy.”

“Am not. I’m grown up.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that—never had coffee, never can swear.”

“Do you think we should go back and get a watch?” Walther asked, trying hard to change the unpleasant subject.

Elsa pondered the question, pulling her wool socks back up over her knees which looked bluish and cold by the light of the indifferent moon. “No, I’m sure we’ll see them all. It should make quite a ruckus after all. Your Gran says she hears them all the way in your house.”

“I think Gran fibs though,” Walther admitted.

“Perhaps she exaggerates, but come on, it has to make a lot of noise, all that dancing and drinking and wild songs. I’m surprised that we haven’t heard it in the past.”

“We were too young,” Walther said wisely. “Now that we are older we will go and see it for ourselves and we will be able to tell the others all about it. How envious Marta and Lulu will be when we tell them.” Walther could see himself telling them, pretending to be bored by it all as if Walpurgisnacht came every night and he had flown with the witches a thousand times or more.

“We’re here,” Elsa said quietly. Walther roused himself from his daydream, saw the cold granite wall of the cemetery before them and shivered. Suddenly the adventure seemed less welcoming than his warm goose-down bed.

“How do we get in? The gate is locked.”

Elsa stared at him. One eyebrow arched upward in the derision he knew so well. “What? You can jump out a window but you can’t climb a fence? Boost me.”

Walther bent over dutifully and clasped his hands. Elsa put one ill-fitting shoe in his palms and vaulted up, giving Walther a brief glance of her switch-scarred thigh. “You should have worn trousers. You’ll be cold.”

Elsa regarded him haughtily from the top of the wall, but said nothing and swung her legs over. He heard her landing ‘plop’ on the other side. He shrugged off his rucksack and threw it as gently as he could over the wall. Elsa must have caught it, for he did not hear it land. Inhaling deeply, Walther gathered himself and leapt. In vain his fingers fumbled at the cold surface and he slid back down. One two three, and again inhale—this time his fingers caught and, feet pedaling like mad, Walther pulled himself up to the top of the wall. Down below Elsa waited, her hair touched by moonlight, her eyes grown large in the darkness. Someday we will be married, Walther thought helplessly, then threw himself down to the ground beside her.

“I know where we should go,” Elsa hissed, whispering as if the dead might hear. She led him over to the Wahlberg crypt with its big angel and mourner’s bench. They lit the lantern and sipped the coffee, which both declared delicious, so delicious that they would save it for later. Walther put his arm around Elsa to try to keep her warm and was almost at once asleep.


The sound that awoke them was neither a cry nor a scream, but a song. It was not a melody they knew. Suddenly conscious, Walther mistook the singing for his father’s snores, reached for the covers he must have kicked off—and suddenly noticed where he was. Elsa’s jaw hung low, her mouth forming an ‘o’ as she stared at the scene before them.

Witches, mad witches, gathered around a sparkling bonfire, chanting their happy praises to the night and waving sticks about. Corpses danced—a waltz, a mazurka, a reel of unknown origin, their wasted limbs carelessly free as they swung their partners high and laughed and bowed. Were they devils over there?—demons, maybe—that leaped about in some wild game, running back and forth, hiding behind the crypts, their shaggy hindquarters a curious surprise attached to their manly torsos. And there! In the sky, barely over the goat-men’s heads, ethereal will-o-wisp women, seemingly made of little more than moonbeams and dust, whirled and swooped and shrieked in glee. The night was alive with shouts and motion. Everywhere they looked some ghoulish creature jigged or crooned or guffawed with pleasure. Joyous music rose—from where did it come? There! The few spindly trees that usually hung silent and brooding over the solemnity of the graveyard, tonight rubbed spidery branches together for a cricket’s song, a lively tune that led the dancers and lifted the spirits.

“Walther,” whispered Elsa, breathless, “It’s all true.”

“Stay back,” Walther hissed, grabbing her hand. Elsa turned in surprise, her eyes a-glitter with the dazzling scene before them. “You don’t know what they’ll do! Evil, Elsa, they’re devils.”

“Ha,” Elsa shook off his grip, “They’re not devils. Devils don’t dance.”

Walther stopped to consider this logic and she, laughing, ran from him to join the revelers. At once a space broke in the ring of dancers, hands reached out to welcome the little girl into the circle. Around and round the open grave they wound, throwing laughter and cries up to the skies, a merriment of sinless delight.

“Come back,” Walther said weakly and even the gentle breeze did not carry his words far. But he could not make his feet move. The words of the Reverend Lochrie bound him fast—such beings were demons, they imperiled your soul. No matter that their raucous, giddy sounds beckoned in endless joy. Happiness was not to be trusted; the way of God was hard.

Yet Elsa danced—and laughed—imagine! Elsa laughing. The bonfire flickered in her face, her eyes—rapture flew from her lips as song. But still his feet were lead, were stone. Grandmother Dunkelhaus’ words came unbidden, “They get little boys, eat you!” Walther realized he had clutched his rucksack protectively before him as if its battered sides could shield him from the devil’s spawn. Elsa took no such precautions. Her rucksack lay behind him on the bench, abandoned.

Then the clock began to strike.

What time was it? How long had he stood transfixed by the spectacle? The second bell and the dancers stopped, dropping hands with a palpable reluctance and many wistful glances. A third chime and the witches stamped on their roaring bonfire, swatting at it with their sticks and brooms, still caught by their infectious laughter and dancing away from the lively sparks. A fourth chime—how many more could there be? Was that the dawn peeking over the edge of the world so soon?—and the goat-men and the whispering sprites sprinted for the cover of the woods at the far side of the cemetery. They called back and forth, promises of revels yet to be, stories of the night that was.

Fifth bell and the witches mounted, each testing the winds with a wet finger in the air, each choosing her own course. There! A very old witch, surely two or three hundred years by the look of her wrinkles and her grey, tasseled locks, but with the gentle face of somebody’s grandmother—despite a leering scar that raked her kindly cheek. She offered a hand to Elsa, who took it gladly, without looking back.

That broke the spell. Walther’s feet moved and he thrust his rucksack from him, running pell-mell to catch her, to stop her—maybe, just maybe, to join her. But the final bell was ringing and Elsa was waving, a grin lighting up her face as if the bonfire now burned within her heart. Elsa, Elsa; he couldn’t even yell her name, it was too late, she was gone gone gone like the last echoing knell of the bell. But two words echoed back, two words of magic, flying from the receding spark of fire. Two words that gave him hope, that made his heart yearn and the dreams live yet in his breast.

“Next year!”

Unquiet Dreams by K. A. Laity - 500

I’m Sensing a Theme

More than enough for pie!

We have a couple of feeders at the house. Yesterday we were suddenly deluged with a huge flock of these guys. I’m thinking the red tail that’s been hanging around might want to tell a few friends. Otherwise it’s going to be a lot of pies!

Birds seem to have become a theme of late. Or is it for a while? I notice I have a category ‘birds’ for the blog, so it’s come up before. I’m teaching a prose writing class this term and using Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird as our text. It’s almost Valentine’s Day, so I have The Parliament of Fowles on my mind. But it’s been this way for a while: for a long time it was all wombats, then it became all wolves and for some time — maybe since Ireland, maybe before — it’s been all about birds.

I even have bird-themed publications!

My crime story ‘Mandrake and Magpies’ is in the current issue of Lit Noir; it takes place in Galway and features a location I really hated, which is the walk out to where the special Garda office is for immigration issues. You may recall that I had to repeat that journey a few times. (-_-) There are also offerings from Mr B and pal B.R. Stateham in this issue.

My story ‘Rook’ gets an outing in the latest Broad Pod along with an excerpt from Ellen Larson‘s The Measure of the Universe. This story also takes place in Galway (hmmmm) starting at Bohermore Cemetery and then ambling down to the Corrib. It’s also available as a video with pictures of the town. Of course it’s in my collection Unquiet Dreams, available from Tirgearr.