Welcome! If you've found your way here, you've probably come to read a bonus scene that goes with my stand-alone novel "Devils' Day Party" which you can grab here. If you haven't read the book yet, I highly recommend avoiding this story since it contains spoilers.
"Devils' Day Party: Devil's Night Bonus Scene" (C) C.M. Stunich
I’m not looking forward to Halloween.
And not because I don’t enjoy a glass of apple cider, a bowl full of candy, and a movie marathon with jack-o-lanterns grinning in the windows. It’s because the night before Halloween is known as Devil’s Night which, in my opinion, is far too similar to Devils’ Day.
“Are you okay?” Barron whispers, curled up on the sofa beside me, sketchbook in hand. He’s been drawing macabre things all week, people in masks dancing revelry around a wild bonfire. The thing is, I can’t decide if he’s drawing a Devil’s Night celebration … or if he’s remembering last month’s Devils’ Day Party. One of these celebrations takes place tonight, the thirtieth of October, which is the day before Halloween in all its macabre glory. The other was last month, on September twenty-fifth.
I remember it well.
Most especially because I lived it over and over and over again.
A shiver takes over me, and I shrug, dipping my hand into the bowl of candy and coming up with a peanut butter cup. It’s not the usual Reese’s because my moms are weird sometimes. It’s like, an organic, all-natural health food version. I unwrap it and pop the entire thing in my mouth so I don’t have to answer.
Of course, that doesn’t change a damn thing because Barron is staring at me from his dual-colored eyes. One is blue, like a summer sky bereft of clouds. The other is as brown as the sweet earth of our family garden, frozen over for the winter and waiting in quiet contemplation for spring.
“I’m fine,” I say finally, pausing when I hear the sound of a car door outside. I set the candy in Barron’s lap and head for the door, opening it to find both Calix Knight and Raz Loveren waiting for me. My heart gets stuck in my throat as it always does when I see the boys after a separation of any length. They say dogs can’t tell time, that if you’re gone for fifteen minutes or fifteen days, they’re as excited to see you as if it’d been fifteen years.
That’s how I feel right now, desperate, aching, wanting. My hands tremble, but I still them in my skirt.
“Hey,” Raz says with a sharp grin, lifting a familiar red devil mask up to his face. As soon as he does that, I feel it inside, this strange twisting sensation, this primal fear. I’ve told the boys what happened to me, but I’m not one hundred percent certain that they believe it.
One month ago, I was trapped, living a single day on repeat.
And now, here we are, on a holiday that’s similar enough that I worry it could happen again. I could crash. I could die. I could live the same day so many times that I start to wonder if I’m even really human anymore.
“Put that down,” Calix says simply, reaching back and grabbing Raz’s wrist. He glances back at me with eyes the color of a raven’s feathers, as mysterious and haunting as one of Edgar Allan Poe’s works. Raz clutches the mask in tight fingers and cringes slightly, like he’s just remembered what happened last month.
I mean, to him it didn’t happen, not really. But every now and again, one of the boys brings up something that happened on a day they’re not supposed to remember. Yet, they do. They all do, in some way or another. And knowing that I wasn’t alone during that time period makes things that much easier.
“Where are your moms?” Raz asks, his eyes as red as the moon tonight. There was a wildfire nearby, and the smoke of it has colored the moon into something spectacularly spooky, as twisted as the night itself. Devil’s Night.
“They took my sisters to a party at a friend’s place.” I shrug, and then smile. “But they know you’re picking me up. No worries. You won’t have to face their wrath.”
Raz shrugs and shoves past Calix, like he isn’t totally afraid of my mothers. Last week, he climbed in my window and we ended up getting naked before Mama Jane burst in and threw a handful of condoms at us. It was mortifying, to say the least.
“Do they know we’re taking you to the Crescent?” Calix asks, referring to the nearby hotel where we spent one of the most magical evenings of my life together. He told me, in French mind you, that he’d belong to me. Always. He said that part, too, the always bit. My cheeks flush, but I flip my purple hair and pretend like I don’t remember that night either.
“They know,” I promise, and then I turn and leave the boys to wait for me while I don my costume.
And my mask.
Because it isn’t Devil’s Night without a costume and a mask—even if the magic I feel now is eerily similar to the wicked power in the air last month.
It won’t happen to me again, not as long as I remember everything that I learned.
Tomorrow is not promised to anyone.
Be kind, always.
Except … on Devil’s Night, of course. Because it’s known as Mischief Night for a reason, right?
The dress I’m wearing is one that I made myself, a sheath of black silk with a slit up the thigh. It pairs well with some black wedges and a pair of sparkly demon wings that Mama Cathy made from paper-mache, black paint, and glitter. Fuck-loads of glitter.
We’re inside the Crescent Hotel now, on a special version of their regular ghost tour. Usually, you go with a group, and you stay with a group. Tonight, they’ve opened up the entire place for guests to explore.
In the basement, down a long, dark hallway past the spa, there’s a morgue.
I kid you not.
There’s a reason the Crescent is considered one of the most haunted places in America.
“Back in the day, this crazy guy named Norman Baker bought the property and promised he could cure people of cancer,” I say, standing just outside a large metal door that leads to what was once a freezer. Yes, where they stored bodies. I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried. “A lot of people died on the property, so they added the morgue to keep up with the demand.”
I shiver as Raz runs both hands over my shoulders and gives them a squeeze. Just the touch of him excites me in ways I never could’ve imagined. I used to be … not afraid of him, because that isn’t the right word. But wary. Nervous. He was an enemy, not a friend.
And now, he’s a lover.
Calix, Barron, and Raz.
All three of them.
And they don’t seem to mind sharing either.
“What the fuck is all of this?” Calix asks, standing in a black suit and top hat in the next room. I grab Raz’s hand and drag him over to the wall of shelves, stacked with old glass jars that are filled with strange substances. Some of them even have … things floating inside. They haven’t been tested, but carefully preserved here. It’s speculated they might hold human tissue, organs, or even tumors.
How … Devil’s Night appropriate.
“This was all dug up on hotel property during a renovation,” I say, gesturing loosely at the wall. I know far too much about this town and all of its sordid history. It’s a hobby of mine. “Likely from Norman Baker’s time here in the 1930s.”
Calix turns back to me, a black leather devil mask on his face. I’ve got one on, too, but mine is white and covered in glitter. Everything is better with glitter.
“There are ghosts here?” he asks in that succinct, easy way of his, like he has all the time in the world. Or maybe just like he owns it. Pretty sure he thinks he does. I shrug and move over to where Barron is sitting, in a room with several long benches. There are a few other people in here, but most of the guests at the Crescent tonight are too chicken-shit to come down to the morgue the night before Halloween.
He’s wearing all black, his face painted like a skeleton’s. Pretty sure it’s an homage to a famous gang from Oregon known as Havoc. I find it strangely appropriate. Better than Raz’s costume, this all black get-up with colored glow-in-the-dark tape that makes him look like a skeleton from afar. It's far creepier than it sounds, this slash of bright color in the dark of the morgue.
“Have you ever seen a ghost?” Barron asks me, his hand stained with charcoal. He’s sketching here, of all places. And the thing that he’s sketching, well, that makes me nervous. It looks like me. Standing in the morgue. With a spirit hanging over my head. I flick my attention over my shoulder, but all I see is Raz, standing in front of a placard describing Norman Baker as the charlatan that he was.
“I haven’t,” I say cautiously, wondering if there’s a point to this. With Barron, there’s always a point. He doesn’t say things unless he means them. That’s why each word he speaks is so special, so goddamn poignant. “But I believe in them. After what I went through, how could I not?”
Barron nods, like that was the answer he was expecting, and then pauses, the pages of his sketchbook rustling in a breeze that shouldn’t be there. We exchange a look and he cocks an eyebrow.
“There was nothing more to that,” he says, glancing over at Calix as he moves into the room to stand beside me.
“Nothing more to what?” Calix asks, and then the lights go off. A girl in the back of the room shrieks, but it only takes a second for the power to be restored. “Devil’s Night trick?” Cal asks, because he loves to play them. Him and Raz, especially. Shit, what am I saying? All my boys like to play tricks. It’s part of the reason they love the Devils’ Day Party so damn much.
And one of the reasons why I always hated it.
“Gotta be,” Raz says, stepping up to join us as the other couples in the room flee like there’s a ghost on their ass. I mean, there could be, down here in the dark and the damp, in the fucking morgue. “You told Karma that we brought the projector, right?”
I give him a look because I do know. He and Calix spent several thousand dollars on this fancy new projector that gives roughly the same quality as the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. They want to use it to scare people tonight, but I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Something lands on my hand, and I brush it off, noticing a fat, white moth take flight and flutter in a lazy circle around the single light in the room. It reminds me of the butterflies I saw during the Devils’ Day party, the ones that seemed to signify that something monumental was going to happen.
As soon as I see that, I know.
I’m ready to leave.
“Can we go upstairs please?” I ask, trying to keep my voice steady. Maybe it seems silly, but after everything I went through, I know the universe contains endless possibilities. Ghosts are certainly one of them. “Maybe eat at the restaurant?”
“Eat at the restaurant?” Raz says, giving me a sharp look. “This is Devil’s Night. We have much better things to do.” He looks me over in a way that suggests that at least some of those things have to do with getting naked, preferably without Mama Jane around to throw condoms at us.
“If you take me to dinner, I’ll go to the cemetery where the party’s being held and help you set up the projector.” I shrug as Barron stands up from the bench seat, his dual-colored eyes taking in the room with keen interest. Of all three of them, he was the most in tune to the strange things that were happening to me. That, and he remembers much more than the other two.
“You’d do that?” Raz asks as Calix rolls his eyes and sighs dramatically. He pretends to hate Raz, but I saw the two of them kiss. I mean, they were doing it for my benefit, but neither of them looked entirely put-out by the act. “Go to the school party? You hate school parties.”
“I’ll go,” I agree, wondering if he’s right, if I still hate school parties the way I used to. But no, I don’t think so. I used to hate those parties because I was an outsider, set apart from everyone, the butt of every trick, every game. Now, I’m dating half of the fucking Knight Crew. “But seriously, I want to get out of here.”
“Deal,” Calix says, taking my hand in his and giving it a slight squeeze. Our eyes meet and I know just by looking into them that we have a future together. What that future might hold, I don’t know, but that’s half the fun. Trust me: going into each day knowing what it will bring is a nightmare I never want to see again.
He takes my arm as the other boys lead us from the room.
As we’re headed for the hall, I glance back, just once, and see that the white moth has followed us. A shiver travels down my spine that I do my best to ignore, turning back to look at Calix. It feels like something is watching us, and even though I know I shouldn’t do it, I look back one more time, like Orpheus and Eurydice as they tried to leave the Underworld together. The god Hades gave them one condition: don’t look back.
But I do.
And I see it.
There’s a woman in a white dress standing near the doorway, one gloved hand resting on the doorjamb. The moth flutters around her head once, twice, and then I blink and both she and it are gone.
“Are you okay?” Calix asks as I turn back ahead, the blood draining from my face. Like I said, the world is endless and full of possibility, isn’t it? “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I say nothing, because there really is nothing to say.
Sometimes, strange things happen that you can’t explain.
Things like getting trapped in a single day on repeat.
Small, almost indiscernible kernels of magic.
And they’re all around us, if only we care to look.
“I’m wonderful,” I tell him, giving his hand a squeeze and letting out a long exhale. I make myself smile as Barron and Raz glance back at me. “Just perfect. But also, whoever talked me into coming out on Devil’s Night deserves a kick in the nuts.”
The boys laugh; we have dinner; we go to the party.
And then we spend the rest of the night in bed, just the way I like it.
The next morning, I don’t remember seeing the woman in white.
But Barron draws her, as he always does. And when I look at his art, sometimes I remember her, too, but only for so long as I’m looking at his sketch. That’s life, mysterious and inexplicable. That, that is what makes it the most beautiful of all.