Fall, 2001
24-Hour Short Story Contest
2nd Place Winner!

She shivered violently while running through the cold night air. Orange, yellow and red leaves crackled beneath her tiny shoes when she stepped on them. Why hadn't her father picked her up from school as he promised? Now she'd be late for her own Halloween Party.

The Long Walk Home

by Holly Cieri, Chambersburg, PA

It was another usual day at school. The same homework being handed out, with more words to memorize and numbers to be added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided. Who was the 14th President of the United States, and what did he do for our country? Does anyone care? The only thing on the students' minds right now is: "what are we going to dress as for Halloween?"

Emily was like so many other children her age, looking forward to a holiday where she could dress-up as anything or anyone. She personally preferred dressing as a ghost. It was the one costume she could wear that was all white and still somewhat scary.

As she walked out of the school building, the air was crisp and cool. The smell of burning leaves was in the air, and it just felt like fall. Emily had waited patiently as the bright summer nights shortened, and the warm air was replaced with chilling breezes. Her favorite holiday was just days away now, and tonight was the night of her family's annual Halloween party. Her father had planned to pick her up so that she would have time to get ready for the party, but Emily didn't see him. She began to walk the short trip to her house, just five blocks from her school.

She was happy to see that the skies were growing darker in the evenings, and her family's party would once again have that perfect, spooky feeling. As she looked up into the autumn sky, she noticed thick clouds that only let a few small rays from the early evening moon pass through. The trees along the all-too-familiar streets were shedding their colorful leaves, and every branch seemed to be dying.

She picked up the pace as she headed to the intersection of Maple and Fifth. Her mother always warned her about this intersection, and Emily remembered those warnings as she watched the headlights speed by her. She briefly heard the honking horns and harried cries of the drivers as she headed through the intersection, hurrying on her way to the party. Then the lights seemed to gradually disappear, and she left the intersection behind her.

She noticed her neighbors were raking leaves, and Emily wondered why they were removing all of their Halloween decorations. It felt as if she had been traveling this road for days, and all she wanted to do was get to the Halloween party.

She shivered violently while running through the cold night air. Orange, yellow, and red leaves crackled beneath her tiny shoes as she stepped on them. Why hadn't her father picked her up from school as he had promised? Now she'd be late for her own Halloween Party.

In the distance, Emily saw her family. "I've finally made it!" she thought.

She noticed her Grandma Betty wearing an all-black witch costume. And Aunt Sara was hiding her face behind the hat with the black veil. Uncle Tom dressed in his usual "monkey suit," although Emily never understood why he called it that. It certainly didn't look like a monkey to her! Emily's parents had chosen to dress quite formally, looking somewhat like the Adams Family. The whole scene was quite eerie. "It's perfect for a Halloween party!" she thought.

Emily noticed that all of her relatives showed up for the occasion, and they all wore dark clothing, adding to the spookiness of the night! There was even one man she recognized from the church, and he was wearing a huge cross.

As she walked through the rows of tombstones and up the steps, Emily heard the loud, screeching sounds of the old organ playing. "They really went all out for this party," Emily thought. Inside, the guests we seated as they listened to her father welcome them to the party. "They even got a real casket for the party and everything," she laughed.

She noticed a beautiful woman dressed in an all white costume - the only person dressed in white - watching her every move. As she made her way toward the casket, she couldn't help but notice that the body in the casket looked very much like her own. This party was really starting to get creepy, and Emily's eyes soon filled with tears. The strange lady dressed in white came over to her, gently stroked her long blond hair and said, "why are you crying, my child?"

Emily looked up with glossy eyes and spoke softly to the lady, "Where's my Halloween Party? Why didn't my father come to pick me up?"

The Angel knelt down and looked into the child's innocent eyes and whispered, "The Father has sent me to pick you up and take you home." And with those words, the Angel rose and grasped Emily's hand. A beautiful white light appeared and the two of them began to walk toward it.

As they entered the light, Emily heard her father's desperate voice whisper to her mother, "If I could have only left that meeting five minutes earlier, I would have been there to pick her up? she would never have left the school? that car never would have?."

What Holly won:
$250 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)

Contest guidelines are HERE.


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