A Halloween Tale (Revised)
I wrote the original version of this Halloween story in 2007. I liked the story and decided it was time to do a rewrite on it and post it for this Halloween, 2014.
Druckel sat deep in the Black Forest not far from the Austrian border. The old cobblestone road with much damage matched perfectly with the dilapidated town hall that it led to. The small guesthouse a block away seemed to be the only business still thriving, at least the bar which sold a passable beer made locally. The royals who once enjoyed quite summers in this town had long since moved on to new playgrounds leaving Drucker in their dust. Even the forest around Drucker seemed somehow depressed and dilapidated.
Some of the people who were born their had now moved out and most of those who remained were considering doing the same. The tall, elegant man standing in front of the town hall smiled as he observed all this. It looked to be everything he wanted to complete his plan. He quickly notified his agent to buy the empty castle on the outskirts of Druckel. His name was Baron Von Bierstein. At least that is the name he was using and no one questioned it because he was very good at making lies seem real. The Baron was a wealthy industrialist who had made millions in manufacturing and selling bombs, ammunition and explosives. But he was much more than a businessman, much more as the people of Druckel would soon learn.
The castle was quickly purchased and, when the word got out to the people of Druckel, they welcomed the news that Von Bierstein was buying the old castle with plans to restore it. None of them had ever heard of Baron Von Bierstein but the trucks loaded with antique furniture and many other expensive items being delivered to the castle made them happy. As they people of the town hoped, the Baron hired many to help restore the castle: stone masons, carpenters, electricians, carpet layers and others. The Baron was spending quite a lot and the town was doing well. They did start to worry when one worker was killed and tree others injured seriously in different accidents during the renovations, but before they could start thinking about it too much, the work was complete, and just two weeks before Halloween.
At first, the Baron tended to keep to himself, so many were surprised when he announced that he would throw a Halloween party, a Masquerade Ball, in the castle and all were invited. The people of the town loved the idea. They all started thinking about costumes. There would be werewolves and vampires of course. Witches and goblins as well. Perhaps a fairy princess or two. The coach of the local high school made himself a genuine leather loin cloth so he could go as Tarzan. The biology teacher was going as a gorilla. The banker thought it would be funny to go as a beggar. Even the children were invited and were all making or getting interesting costumes. There wasn’t a single person in town who wasn’t planning to attend the party, perhaps because of the promise that there would be a big surprise at the end.
Finally the big day arrived. Everyone put on their costumes and headed to the castle. As they entered the foyer, most stopped and stared open-mouthed at the transformation the old castle had undergone under the Baron. The old glory days seemed to be back in the castle with all the genuine antique furnishings and the restoration of the walls and the artworks left in the castle. A few noticed that among the beautiful artifacts, there seemed to be more than a touch of darkness with statues of ancient demons and tapestries depicting fictional monsters, often killing people, but they quickly turned back to the party and ignored it.
The Baron only had a few servants, so rather than a formal dinner, a buffet had been set up in the large dining hall. It consisted of an eclectic mix of traditional and modern foods, local specialties and exotic dishes from foreign lands. This was not a land of vegetarians, so no one seemed to notice that the buffet consisted of mostly meats from just about every animal known, and some none of the people of Druckel had even heard of. Exotic animals from Africa, Asia and America and strange fishes from many islands. The food, strange as it was, tasted good and the guests devoured it with relish. An odd, but pleasant music from a live band filled the background and everyone was dancing and having a great time. Some of the guests wondered why the baron was not wearing a costume since his invitation had clearly said it was a masquerade, but they shrugged it off.
Soon it was midnight and the fun quickly came to an end. The baron stood on the bandstand and pulled off the mask they did not realize he had been wearing. Under that pleasant human face, was the dark, leathery skin of a demon. Red eyes, long teeth and small horns sticking out of his head completed the new look. At first, some thought the baron had finally put on a costume, but when they realized the truth, they started screaming and running for the door, trying to tear off their own masks as they went, but it was too late. The masks would not come off, and this resulted in even more screaming and panicking, while the baron just laughed. Soon the people stopped even trying to remove their masks and calmed down. The Baron had cast a spell over all of them so that soon after midnight they would all forget who they really were and would think that the character they came disguised as was their real self. The spell worked very well. The banker now thought he was really a penniless beggar leaving the baron free to take over the bank. The coach thought he really was Tarzan and the spinster started behaving like a real prostitute. Those dressed as vampires began to crave blood and the werewolves began howling. Little girls dressed s fairy princesses began flying around the room twittering like birds. The young man dressed as a porn star took off what little clothes he had been wearing and started doing an erotic dance on the stage. All the others took on the personalities and behavior of whatever type of person or beast they had dressed as. While the baron continued laughing, his servants opened the doors and let the confused residents of Druckel out into the streets. Free of the castle, they nonetheless remained trapped in their new roles and looks. And while they were caught up in their own fantasies, the baron was free to loot the town and move on, after casting spells so no one would remember he was ever there of course. Perhaps the people of Druckel will return to normal and remember who they really are some day. We can only hope.
I would like to say this story is complete fantasy. Trick or treat! Unfortunately, that is not the case. While the town of Druckel and Baron Von Bierstein are fictitious characters, much of the rest of this story is true. Many centuries ago we put on masks, costumes and mud pie bodies and many of us have become so accustomed to them over the centuries that we have forgotten who we really are: Eternal spirits. A few are starting to remember. Hopefully, others will follow. And maybe the masquerade ball that we think is real life will finally end.