“The Real Headless Horseman” By Roh Morgon
My earliest memories of our favorite holiday revolve around waiting impatiently in my homemade costume for the evening to get dark enough to go trick-or-treating. The frenzied rush from house to house with my friends, amassing our candy hoards in pillowcases, was fraught with laughter and squeals of childish terror during the spookiest night of the year.
When I was twelve, my family moved from our little Orange County suburb in California to a semi-remote canyon just thirty minutes away. We might as well have moved to the moon, as far as I was concerned. There were only two other homes in the area that was my new neighborhood; neither one had children and were both located nearly a half-mile from my house.
But I don’t recall minding much. My brothers and I adopted the trees and hills as our new playground, and though I missed my two best friends, I filled my time climbing the oaks, catching lizards, reading, and riding my horse.
And we had no neighborhood in which to trick-or-treat.
Yet that Halloween is my all-time-favorite.
Because I spent it in Sleepy Hollow, and saw with my own eyes the horror and madness of the Headless Horseman.
Sleepy Hollow, a tiny community nestled in the middle of Carbon Canyon, was about two miles from my house. At that time, there were no more than a few hundred people tucked away in the surrounding hills. It had a 50’s era gas station with a single pump, a small grocery store, and a smaller church. The nearest school, miles away in the outskirts of Chino, meant that us canyon kids spent hours on the school bus each day.
Halloween in Sleepy Hollow turned out to be a special day for the locals. The volunteer fire department opened its bay doors to the community’s children, its lone fire truck displaced by a cauldron filled with water and floating apples, pin-the-tail-on-the-devil, and other Halloween-themed games. Orange and black crepe paper streamers crisscrossed the open-beam ceiling from which white tissue ghosts dangled; cardboard witches and skeletons and bats festooned the walls.
Costumed kids of all ages darted and scampered through the transformed Halloween wonderland, their laughter echoing into the cool night air outside. I hung back, feeling a little too old for such antics – and a little disappointed to have been robbed of my trick-or-treating.
But there was an undercurrent of excitement beneath the kids’ play, an intensity woven throughout the normal thrill of the evening, and I began to notice the adults shared it. Expectant looks into the outer darkness were followed by tentative footsteps easing outside, stopping at the farthest reaches of pooled light beyond the open doors. Quiet mutters caught my attention, and words like “time” and “which way” piqued my interest even more.
As I slipped through the restless forest of adults gathering at the night’s edge, their murmurs grew louder, more excited, and children’s names rang out through the cool air.
I heard hoof beats, traveling at a fast trot, their metal shoes resonating against the asphalt road.
And the bearer of those hoof beats came into view.
He was midnight black, huge, with a wild mane and billowing tail.
But it was his rider who stole my breath.
His rider, dressed in a long, black coat, with a grinning pumpkin for his head.
They thundered up to the waiting crowd, he and the horse, and the horse reared, and with a maniacal laugh, the rider tore the pumpkin from his shoulders and dashed it to the ground at our feet.
And with another demented cackle, he and the horse galloped off into the night.
I’ll never forget that Halloween.
And over the years, as I’ve escorted my children – and later, grandchildren – through crowded suburban streets filled with Disney and comic book characters in pursuit of candy treasures, I think back on my canyon life, and that night in a tiny, hillside community, and wish for simpler times.
TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: Roh Morgon is giving away three digital copies of Watcher: Book I of The Chosen (2nd ed.). Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title HH Contest Entry for a chance to win.
BIO: Roh Morgon dreams up her dark tales while driving the roads of California’s Sierra Nevada foothills. She’s best known for her vampire series, The Chosen, which includes: Watcher: Book I of The Chosen; the 1840s historical horror novella The Last Trace; and the novella The Games Monsters Play, an extended version of the story that originally appeared in High Stakes: A Vampire Anthology. Roh can be found haunting her website at www.rohmorgon.com, Facebook, and Amazon.
NEW FICTION FROM ROH MORGON
WATCHER: Book I of The Chosen – second edition
Available from Amazon on October 7, 2017
Edited by Jodi Lester, the second edition includes new content and a new cover. For those unfamiliar with this work, here is a short description:
Sunny Martin’s been a monster – or so she thinks – since the night she was drained of her blood and left for dead. But when she falls in love with Nicolas, the mysterious leader of The Chosen, she discovers a startling truth behind her savage nature which may force her to choose between her heart and the last remnant of her human soul.
What Amazon reviewers are saying:
“Roh Morgon ensnares her readers by evoking dark and erotic images of gorgeous and lethal characters as they hunt, seduce, and feed . . . Watcher is a story you can gorge yourself on, but it won’t leave you sated for long . . .”
“Watcher: Book 1 of the Chosen is a suspenseful story told with such skill I wanted to consume it in a single read.”
“If you think there is nothing new, fresh and original in vampire fiction, you haven’t read Watcher: Book 1 of the Chosen . . .”
“Move over Anne Rice, a new ‘Queen of the Damned’ is born.”
“Watcher is a vampire tale to savor. Like a fine wine, it’s deliciously rich and warms you to the core.”
” . . . was hooked by the third page, and read it all in one sitting (the first time).”
“This book has a little of everything . . . There’s mystery, suspense, action, fantasy, romance and love of family . . . The twists and turns in this book are unending and the final pages surprised me.”
RUNNER: Book II of The Chosen – new release
Available from Amazon on October 25, 2017
This sequel to Watcher continues Sunny’s story as she struggles to find her place in the world. Below is a short description:
Fearing the end of her life as she knows it, Sunny Martin—neither human nor Chosen—flees into the wilds of Montana. But an increasing need for answers about her origins soon drives Sunny back to the only one who may have them—Nicolas. During her journey, an encounter with a dangerous foreign Chosen reveals an unseen side of their society, and as his obsession with her begins to trigger reciprocal feelings, Sunny’s forced to make yet another choice between her heart and her soul.
Read an excerpt from Runner: Book II of The Chosen by Roh Morgon
It’s Halloween night. The San Francisco streets and clubs are filled with witches and zombies and vampires, but no Chosen. If there’s any night they’d prowl among the humans, this would be it.
I’ve spent hours drifting from club to club, searching for the real monsters beneath the elaborate costumes. A silver-sequined mask is my only concession to the holiday, though my hunting blacks and black leather jacket seem to blend in well enough.
Disgusted with my futile quest, I decide to check out the Cat Club for one last look before heading out of the city to hunt.
The place is packed. The pungent clove oil I’d dabbed on my face and throat, reinforced by that in my locket, is doing its job, and though I’m wading through living bodies pulsing with human blood, I’m able to keep my reactions to it at bay.
But I’m having a little more trouble with the mass of flesh pressing against me. Fortunately the music is loud enough to cover the near-constant growl rumbling deep in my chest. My aversion to being touched by humans has increased, it’s taking everything I have not to clear a space around me with teeth and claws.
I spot a gap next to the wall and work my way through the crowd to lay claim to it. A couple to my right dressed as a gothic Raggedy Ann and Andy ease back to give me a little more room and I settle in against the crudely mortared brick.
A black-caped figure to my left turns and regards me with eyes as dark as night. He flashes me a leering grin, his yellowish fangs in sharp contrast to the white of his teeth.
My breath catches, then slowly escapes.
They’re fake. His fangs are fake. Plastic.
Rolling my eyes, I turn away and stare out at the masquerade madness convulsing through the club.
The feel of the air surrounding us abruptly changes. I look toward the door and stop breathing all together.
A stir ripples through the masses as four costumed figures enter, drawing every gaze in the club. Their elegant 17th-century garments appear to be the real thing, with details that only my eyes are likely to pick out in the dim light. Two stately females, blonde and auburn curls tumbling to their shoulders beneath wide-brimmed hats, glide into the room, their brocaded gold and ruby gowns sweeping the floor. Two males follow, sporting doublets and matching breeches in indigo and ivory. Their pale faces are bordered with shoulder-length hair, pointed goatees, and wide mustaches, no doubt the fashion of that time.
But it’s not the costumes that have stolen my breath.
The air shimmers around each of them in transparent swirls of amber and violet, shot with fine threads of various other colors. I’ve felt Chosen auras before, but this is the first I’ve seen them. I recognize traces of Nicolas in them—these Chosen are of his lineage.
I push off from the wall and move toward my quarry.
As one, their haughty gazes shift in my direction and appraise me from across the room. Several lips curl, and the shorter male smiles, and with no further expression, they turn about-face and stroll out of the club.
Elbowing my way through the crowd, I reach the door and shove it open. As I step outside, I run into a broad, black t-shirted chest.
“Excuse me.” I start to push past him, but he steps in front of me again.
I look up into golden eyes perched above a hawk-like nose and wide cheekbones. Full lips part and tug to one side, allowing me a glimpse of the fang behind them. Crimson flashes in his pupils and I ease back, hands up in surrender.
“Hey, I don’t want any trouble.” I yank off my mask and let it fall to the sidewalk. The costumed Chosen behind him slip into a waiting limousine.
But they’re no longer necessary—not with this one standing barely three feet away. I just hope he doesn’t intend to kill me.
He’s studying me, his arms now folded across his chest. Thick wrists each bear a wide silver cuff, Native American in design. His skin is an odd color, reddish-brown with a dusky undertone, and his black hair is pulled back into a braid. He’s tall, about six-five, a little taller than Nicolas. But much broader, more muscular.
An aura dances around his body in shades of deep forest green. It feels strange. He’s not of Nicolas’s lineage.
I move out of the doorway and notice a pair of Harleys parked at the curb. One of them holds a beefy, leather-jacketed biker with wild, curly red hair and a matching beard. He grins. His fangs aren’t plastic, either. A bright russet aura hovers about him like a glove, bearing no hint of Nicolas.
A chocolate-skinned waif pokes her head out from behind his back, hazel eyes shining above a wide smile, then she scrambles down off the bike. Clad in brown chaps and a dark green leather jacket, she saunters toward us, cleaning her nails with a small dagger. She’s no more than four- foot-five, maybe four-six, a petite pixie with a mop of kinky hair the same chocolate color as her skin. Her energy, absent any trace of Nicolas, glimmers a deep purple.
A child? The Chosen would bring someone so young into this life?
Her jacket swings open to reveal a pair of perky breasts beneath a pale green tank top, startling me as I realize this is no child.
My gaze returns to the silent Chosen in front of me. Something about his scent tugs at me, something familiar, but I can’t place it. His golden brown eyes bore into mine and red flashes within their depths again, accompanied by a low growl and a masculine desire I can taste as though his blood runs in my veins.
Alarmed, I take another step back.
“So, Taz, has she said anything yet, or is she as tight-lipped as you?” The tiny Chosen’s birdlike voice carries a hint of French, or Spanish, or both. She drags the tip of her blade across his massive, denim-covered thigh as she walks past him, and I’m struck again by how big this red- skinned Chosen is.
I tear my gaze from him and look down at the childlike female now standing before me. Opting for my current alias, I offer a half-bow and introduce myself.
“My name is Sonya.”
“Chia. And this here’s Taz. That’s Redd.” She waves the dagger to-ward the obvious bearer of that name.
“So, Sonya. What’re you doing here?” Chia pricks her fingertip with the dagger. A drop of blood wells and she sticks her finger in her mouth and sucks on it as her green-flecked hazel eyes scrutinize me.
Against my will, I glance back up at Taz. He takes a deep breath and I can’t help but notice the size of his biceps. He could crush me with little effort.
“I’m looking for someone.”
“I can see that.” Her sarcasm breaks the spell and I look back down at her. “But I’m pretty sure
this big Indian’s out of your league. You’re a little too prissy for him. He likes it rough, don’t ya, Taz?”
“Shut up, Chi,” he growls, glaring at me. “Who you looking for?”
The question, though logical, catches me off guard. I’d expected to deal with Chosen of Nicolas and Alina’s lineage. I’m not sure what to reveal to these “foreign” Chosen.
“The Chosen who got in the limo—who were they?” I ask, avoiding his question. My chances of getting to Alina might be better through them.
Taz’s large frame suddenly looms over me, reeking with the promise of violence. “Who are you looking for?” he repeats, his menacing tone underscored by red-lit eyes. Wrong approach, asshole.
“It’s none of your business.” I glare up at him through a scarlet veil. “We’re done here.”
I turn to leave and nearly trip over Chia. Her blazing eyes and bared fangs transform the pixie into a diminutive demon from hell. She hisses and crouches as though to spring, nails and dagger ready.
The burly red-haired Chosen materializes behind Chia.
“Come now, lass. Sonya, is it? You surely don’t want to piss her off.” A faint Scottish brogue accents his words as he gestures down at her with his thumb. “She might be just a wee Creole, but she can fight like the Devil himself. I’ll not go against her.”
Outweighed and outnumbered, I clench my fists and suppress a snarl. “I’m looking for … Alina Dăneşti.”
The Scot lets out a booming laugh. Chia relaxes her aggressive posture, but only a little.
“Are ye now? And what business might ye have with her?” He hooks his thumbs into his jeans pockets and tips his head. His eyes are russet brown, and his freckled skin, though pale, still bears a faint ruddy hue. A broad nose rests above his thick red mustache and beard.
“It’s personal.” I smile at him, hoping he’s the leader of this group.
Taz, standing behind me, snorts. Chia growls and spits on the side-walk.
The ringing of a cell phone breaks our little standoff. Redd pulls it out of his jacket pocket.
“Yeah?” He pauses, listening. “Yeah, it’s under control. We’ll wait here.” He shoves the phone back in his pocket and looks up past me. “We gotta roll.”
“You go on. I’ll take her back to the house.” Taz grabs my arm.
My other one flashes out with nails extended. I growl and spin out of his grasp, leaving him with four bleeding lines across his cheek. The wounds seal up immediately.
Ignoring the snarls behind me, I stare into those golden eyes. To his credit, he makes no move to touch either his cheek, or me.
“I’m not going anywhere with you.” He grunts.
“Suit yourself.” Taz turns and saunters toward the bikes. A long ebony braid swings against his broad back.
I fold my arms and glance at Redd as he passes. Chia skips behind him, then turns and walks backward, grinning at me as she motions with the dagger across her throat.
Taz pulls on a half-shell helmet and a pair of sunglasses, and straddles the sleek black chopper, kicking it to life with one stroke. Its thundering sound echoes off the buildings, reminding me of Nicolas’ Cobra. Redd mounts his bike, its twin tanks and fenders gleaming a burnt orange in the moonlight. Chia hands him a half-helmet and puts on her own, then climbs up and vanishes behind his bulk. The big Scot steps down on the kickstarter and his Harley adds its roar to the first one.
A limo slowly cruises by. It looks like the same one the costumed Chosen disappeared into only a moment ago. The window lowers briefly and I catch a glimpse of blonde curls framing a delicate pale face. Redd, sporting dark glasses along with his helmet, salutes the car, turns on his headlight, and shifts the bike into gear. Chia shoots me the middle finger as they take off after the limo.
I look at Taz sitting on his Harley, arms crossed, waiting.
No real choice here. I’ve been searching too long for any sign of the Chosen to pass this up. Swallowing my pride, I walk over to the rumbling machine.
“I’ll follow you in my car.”
Taz pulls off his glasses and gives me a hard stare.
“Not gonna work that way. Get on.” He jerks his thumb over his shoulder, pointing to the backless seat behind him.
“What if I’d rather not?”
His harsh laugh indicates I probably don’t want to find out. “Thought you wanted to find Alina.”
That I do.
With a deep breath, I nod and climb on behind him.