GUEST POST: All Saints’ Day Celebration By Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey

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The harvest season was a fabulous time for friends and family to gather at Wolfgang’s mansion, tucked away in the mountains of Zürich. Mother Nature’s blazing reds, vibrant oranges, and startling purples painted the tree leaves around the property, visible from every open window of the home. In between various community activities, Haddy conducted impromptu history lessons with any children willing to listen.

Smoothing her navy jumper before she sat down, Julie asked, “Why don’t we celebrate Halloween, Momma?”

Haddy smiled at her youngest daughter, noting the bows in her and Petra’s ponytails remained secure as the children scootched closer. “We don’t celebrate Halloween because of its pagan origins. The tradition began as the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. Then in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Over time, All Saints’ Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain.”

The older boys, Eric and Bruno, snickered as the most senior, Quentin, asserted, “Ha! Can you imagine trying to repel ghosts wearing costumes and dancing around a bonfire? How could they believe such nonsense?”

Petra and Julie appeared pensive yet remained silent. Petra reached an arm around her sister as if to reassure any fears.

Haddy eyed the always vocal Quentin, turned her chin up with her eyes focused, and countered, “We don’t wear costumes or dance around a bonfire since we Europeans have learned to lock our ghosts away where they can’t harm people.”

The boys went silent and they appeared to digest the comment. Moments later, Eric cautiously asked, “Like, … locked in a room? Like the door upstairs on the third floor, Uncle Wolfgang keeps locked. That room has a ghost?”

Haddy’s experience with children, especially handling the boys, masked her expression and shrugged. Inwardly she was delighted that the brothers and best friend Bruno looked a little worried. She knew Quentin was the leader of the younger kids and wouldn’t give up quickly with his rebellious disposition.

With a lackluster voice and squinched-up face, Quentin looked at his aunt and challenged, “There are no such things as ghosts. You’re telling silly stories like this to frighten small children. I’m not a child scared by old tales of ancient rituals. I’m 13! I don’t believe a ghost is locked upstairs in that room.”

Haddy brought a hand to her throat in mock concern touching her ivory cameo secured at the top of her starched blouse, and half scolded, “Promise me, Quentin, you won’t try to unlock that door to see for yourselves. It’s difficult to capture and hold such a fearsome creature like the spirit in that room.”

Petra’s blue eyes were wide as saucers looked toward her mother and, with lip shaking, asked, “Why do we have a ghost? Where did it come from? Will it try to harm us?” Julie tightly clung to her sister.

Haddy studied all their faces, thinking of the next portion of her story. She rose and smoothed the gathers of her skirt. “Let’s go into the study and get a cup of mulled cider. Then I suppose I should tell you about Morath.”

The children, fans of warm beverages before supper, hurried ahead of her to secure their favorite spots in the room. The setting sun’s fiery blaze streamed into the study, complimenting the colors of the warming, recently lit fireplace. Haddy inhaled the scents of burning oak, piney decorations artfully placed, and maple candles flickering near the warmed cider with hints of cinnamon. Each child carefully prepared plates with warm brew cups, a couple of shortbread cookies, and a napkin before settling into familiar spots on the large leather sofa and matching chairs. Haddy noted with a proud grin that no drops spilled or crossword passed their lips.

Stirring her tea slowly to ensure their attention, Haddy began, “Morath was a wealthy but mean-spirited merchant. His handsome features and physique were wasted as no woman would tolerate his cruel streak. In all transactions, he argued and spoke horribly to people. One day he decided if he built a huge mansion, he might win the hand of some young lady. As the house was under construction, he proclaimed far and wide his desire for someone to share it with him as his wife.”

Haddy looked around, making sure her audience was focused as her voice lowered.

“Local women scoffed at Morath’s offer, but it didn’t stop word from spreading throughout the region. One day a young lady strolled up to the work site leading a milk cow. Her dark hair flowed over her lithe frame, perfectly matching her ebony black eyes that missed nothing. However, she had a harelip birth defect. It made her speech difficult for others to understand her. Following several attempts, she finally conveyed to Morath that she was there to take up his offer. The milk cow was her dowry to prove her intention.

“Morath, unable to respond, kept staring at her twisted mouth.

“Finally, she asserted,’ My name is Jenny. Yes, I have a harelip. I’m exactly like you. No man in my village will have me because of this defect. Yet, no woman wants you because of your mean-spiritedness. I may have this facial fault, but I can be a loving companion who brings you a wedding gift. If you accept me, we’ll work together and be happy.’

“Something shifted inside of Morath. Remarkably, he could no longer see the defect. He silently took her hand. They wasted no time getting married. Jenny worked daily with the construction team, following Morath’s instructions on the mansion’s details. Every day Morath fell more in love with Jenny. He even grew attached to the milk cow he nicknamed Pfennig.

“As the structure neared completion, the couple grew excited at living in the beautiful home together. Unexpectedly, disaster struck as the brick masons were trying to finish the facings of the fireplaces as their last task. Getting brick up to the third floor required a platform and a pulley. A whole load of brick broke the rope and sent all the blocks raining down on Jenny, who was below supervising. She was gone in an instant.

“Devasted, Morath wept inconsolably at her burial. He unceremoniously paid the contractor and moved in shortly after the funeral. The townspeople found him a few weeks later dead by his hand. His note told of his grief and desire to join Jenny. That locked door on the third floor is where they found the poor man. The realtor who sold us this property said never to open the room as Morath and Jenny dwelled there as tolerant ghosts but not to disturb their peace.”

Mesmerized, the captivated girls huddled close together. Eric and Bruno were equally wide-eyed and fascinated by Haddy’s narration. Sounds of the crackling fire and clinking of her spoon as she stirred the refreshed tea barely disturbed the quiet. She looked under her eyelashes at the leader, wondering how much he believed. Quentin appeared in thought and a bit unsure of the idea of ghosts in Uncle Wolfgang’s home.

“Aunt Haddy, how can ghosts be locked in a room? That makes no sense for beings that supposedly pass through walls.”

Haddy knowing she’d made progress, delivered her best maternal smile. “Quentin, they stay in there to be together. The door is locked, so people don’t intrude, like you children,” she added with a chuckle, “who roam everywhere. It’s been that way as long as we’ve owned the home.”

Sensing he was unconvinced, she decided to let him brood in silence.

“Children, you may have one more cup of cider if you wish while I go see to dinner. No more cookies, as I want you to enjoy the good food. I’ll be back in a while if you have more questions about Morath and Jenny.”

Haddy added a log to the fire and headed toward the hallway opening. Lamps and candles glowed brighter as the sun vanished. The room was more shadowy, with flames from the blazing fireplace. She heard the children nervously discussing her tale as she made her way to the kitchen.

Quentin watched Haddy disappear, ending her footfalls before deciding the next steps. He rubbed his hands together and grinned at the plan forming in his mind. Facing the others, he waited until they quieted. “Who’s with me? I’ve got a pretty good idea where the key is to that room. We’ll go see if there are any ghosts.”

Petra, Julie, and Eric squealed in alarm at the challenge.

One of the boys raised a protest—thirteen-year-old Bruno.

“You’re going to do it again, right, Quentin? Not listen to your elders. Drag us along on another crazy adventure. This time you think we’re ghost hunters!”

“What’s your point?” After a few moments of silence, Quentin persisted, “Oh, I see; you four are children. I’m the only one who is ready to be an adult. I’m not going to stay down here cowering, believing in ghosts.”

Bruno relented, “As usual, my friend, I don’t have enough common sense to say no. Lead on, oh mighty troublemaker.”

Eric dutifully followed his older brother Quentin out the door. Eric projected a look that said I’m scared, so don’t let me do this to Petra and Julie from the shadowy hall; however, that encouraged the girls to keep up with the boys.

True to his devious nature, Quentin secured the key from the bureau drawer near the end of the hall. Nervously the team tiptoed up to the third-floor landing and stood in front of the locked door. Quentin felt beads of sweat on his forehead, with second thoughts flitting through his mind. He turned and eyed the entourage, realizing there was no going back.

They froze for several minutes, gathered in the dimly lit area at the opening. Quinten heard their breathing increase with tiny squeaks from the girls. He assumed everyone’s imagination placed different pictures of what they would find behind the door based on Haddy’s story.

Quentin barely controlled his shaking fingers as the sound of the key seeking the lock rattled before it drove home and successfully turned. The old bolt groaned as it retracted. Quentin twisted the doorknob, then pushed open the door. He entered with the four children glommed onto his back, moving as a united front.

They heard Quentin’s hands patting the walls seeking the light switch when a splat of cold blob dropped onto him. He let out a howl. His short gasp frightened the others, who bunched closer behind him, shoving him further into the room. The hallway light glowed enough to lighten the empty room revealing a ghostly apparition sailing around inside with a soft light emerging from the far corner. Sounds of heavy boots moved toward the children on the wooden floor. This sound alarmed the youngsters into action. They turned to exit just as the door slammed shut.

Images emerged in the glow of light from the moon through the windows distorted in the old beveled mirrors. Growing terror, evidenced by deep inhales and squeaks, disturbed the silent space. The sound of an eerie voice murmured, “Who disturbs our quiet peace? Are you here to sacrifice someone to end our loneliness? Come, which one of you will join us?”

Quinten succumbed to his moment of terror, but he groaned, unable to move his feet to run.

Haddy’s friendly voice behind them announced, “Great special effects, don’t you think, children?”

As one, they jumped then abruptly turned to see Aunt Haddy with Otto and Uncle Wolfgang grinning at the frightened children, ready to give reassurance and comfort as needed.

Summoning his self-control and looking trapped like a wayward thief, Quentin asked, “This was yet another lesson learned, wasn’t it?”

Otto, the girls’ father, laughed and countered, “Quentin, what did you learn?”

Sheepishly he admitted, “I should be more mindful of the stern warnings of elders.” Then he added, “I also need to expect the unexpected and plan to defeat the improbable.”

Wolfgang laughed. “I doubt you will ever be more mindful. But I can believe your second comment.”

Petra asserted, “I learned this is the last time I ever follow Quentin’s plans.”

The adults chuckled, knowing this lesson would stick until Quentin thought of something new.

HERE’S A PEEK AT THEIR LATEST RELEASE:

The Enigma Gamers

Today’s digital landscape sets the stage for vicious gamification to flourish. Avatars give anonymity to ferocious players from the darknet. The winners of these cyber gladiatorial games show no mercy in their hostage for profit mode. There is only one choice—pay.

Cyber Assassin Technology Services (CATS), cyber heroes of the digital landscape, pull out all the stops to locate and punish the criminal cyber freebooters. Unique attack vectors appear unrelated, yet there is a common thread of outrageous ransom demands that requires onsite support.

CATS, an offshoot of the R-Group, are an elite squad of cyber sleuths that use groundbreaking techniques to eliminate corruption and crime. They provide security support to cities, businesses, and common services for organizations around the world.

Powerful technologies in unscrupulous hands, even with online games, become a catalyst for cybercrimes—causing pain and turmoil in both the real and digital realms. Shrouded by perceived anonymity, the unconscionable evil doers are not as untraceable as they believe.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Charles Breakfield is a technology expert focused on the areas of data security, networking, voice and anything digital. He enjoys writing, studying World War II history, travel, and cultural exchanges. For fun he enjoys wine tastings, Harley riding, cooking extravaganzas, and woodworking.

Rox Burkey is a technology professional who reviews technology and business problems to help clients create a path to deliver best in class customer and workforce experiences and meet business goals. She is a fan of Learning new technology, enjoys writing white papers but loves creating fictional stories.

Together, Breakfield and Burkey, have co-authored twelve fictional thrillers in the Enigma Series, a historical fiction novella, a cozy mystery novella and nine short stories with more in the works including a next generation R-Group series. They leverage their knowledge of technology to weave compelling relevant contemporary stories filled with cyber threats, mystery, suspense, romance, humor, travel, and intrigue. Reach out directly Authors@EnigmaSeries.com and visit their website for story and audible samples, free downloads and latest release information.

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Her fiction writing has received the Author / Ambassador at Library Journal Self-e Authors, Winner Queen of the West Reader Favorite Award, Amazon Bestseller - Historical, Double finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Mystery and Humorous Categories. Writing humorous cozy mysteries and romantic comedy, Jocie can find humor in most everything, even when she shouldn't. She lives in the Midwest on Dust Bunny Farm with her family.