I woke up, showered, and made the coffee. I swept my knife over the surface of the toast slowly, as if it were a scythe felling wheat in the field, and dwelled on the idea that today is Halloween.
"It just feels like it came out of nowhere," I told Wes. I licked the raspberry jam from the edge of the knife, just because it seemed appropriate to do.
"Well, we've been kind of busy, though," Wes said. "I mean, you've been doing cover letters and interviews and working on your projects, so it's not like you've been slacking."
"I guess," I said, "but it really doesn't feel like a holiday now. It feels kind of empty."
"It feels empty?" he asked. "Or you feel empty?
I looked at him.
And then I looked down.
I saw everything that had once been soft and vital inside of me slopped unceremoniously onto the floor, like pumpkin guts onto newspaper. My chest and my belly had been scraped clean, right up to the thin walls of my muscles.
"No wonder I feel so hollow," I croaked. The jar of raspberry jam was still on the table. I wanted to vomit.
Wes stood. "What's the legend behind jack o' lanterns? Why do people put candles inside pumpkins?"
I stood to meet him. "They put a light inside to ward off the evil spirits that roam the world on Halloween and keep the spirits from taking them," I said. I gripped the table's edge. "I have nothing inside me. I have no light!"
"Go," he said, nodding, as I ran for the door.
Because I woke late, I would only have to wait a few hours for children to appear in their costumes and begin their holiday missions. I used that time to taste the air and kick up fallen leaves, hoping that doing so would provide kindling for whatever flame might find its way inside me. By themselves, though, those activities weren't enough. I needed the holiday; I needed its spark. I wandered the neighborhoods and prayed that I would see enough decorations and trick-or-treaters before dark to cause something warm to start in the pit of me. I didn't want to meet the spirits as they came through town, sweeping their scythes over the streets as easily as if they were buttering toast. I didn't want to be found without my light.
* * *
*shrug* That's what I came up with at the last minute. Happy Halloween!