Halloween Beyond: Beyond Last Year’s Haunt by Kate Maruyama
Last year, I wrote a Halloween Haunts about my favorite Halloween traditions at my friend Miguel’s house, and how I missed it so much during the pandemic. Last winter, I wrote a novella set against that very Halloween, starring Beto, the King of Halloween, based on Miguel.
The novella: Halloween Beyond: A Gentleman’s Suit, is part of a triptych of novellas by myself, Lisa Morton and Lucy A. Snyder. Each novella is its own story but all pass through a Halloween Superstore called Halloween Beyond and all our protagonists encounter a tricksy clerk there, named Maeve.
A Gentleman’s Suit takes place in the first Halloween after the pandemic, in 2021 when the kids were so happy to be out again, but there was this air of caution. Masks were worn, but Beto still featured his flaming pumpkin (featured in the book, picture included here), and little kids who had totally missed out the year before could finally dress up and see all the Halloween magic. In the story, Beto, the King of Halloween has bought one animatronic piece too many for his yard. The rest of the characters are fully fictional, but I did gather all of the Halloween stories our gang of kids (six of them across three families, who celebrated Halloween at Miguel’s house every year) and those stories appear as easter eggs (mini-pumpkins?) throughout the book.
This project came about when Lisa Morton, the world’s living expert on Halloween and dear friend invited me. I’m deeply grateful to Lisa because after I asked her to do a horror reading I was putting together in 2014, she introduced me to the Horror Writers Association. My first novel had just come out, and it was so nice to be welcomed into a community of horror writers already hanging out monthly in Los Angeles. I was thrilled by the constant support folks in the group were giving each other.
It was a bit intimidating writing a Halloween novella when the OG Halloween expert asked, but I had a lot of fun with it, capturing the feeling of Halloween in our specific neighborhood, the creativity of the local kids’ costumes, and the creativity of the front yard haunts throughout. And despite her expertise on the holiday, Lisa couldn’t see how a flaming pumpkin could be possible in Southern California. I was stoked to send her a photo of Miguel’s masterpiece. Surprising Lisa about Halloween is hard to do!
I’m grateful for Lisa’s generous spirit and I think of all the collaborations, sharing, fostering of ideas and support the HWA has given me over the past eight years and the friends I’ve made. The mutual support of the sweetest writers on the planet (I always tell folks we’re the sweetest because we get the scary shit out in the writing) is a happy place to grow one’s scary stories.
Halloween Beyond: Piercing the Veil, comes out October 21, from Crystal Lake Publishing. In the excerpt below from The Gentleman’s Suit, Lex’s dad Beto has just bought an animatronic figure of Death on a boat. Problem is, Lex has seen it come to life a few times since they bought it:
I looked up at the night sky which in true fog form was orange with light pollution.
A light caught my eye, and I looked down the street where someone in a shimmering robe was making their way toward me. When I say shimmer, you’d think I mean glittery or lit up like that wonderful jellyfish costume I’d seen earlier. Nope. The fabric on this costume glowed from within and rippled like it was made of liquid moonlight.
The costume crossed the street toward me, and I hoped to catch a glimpse of what made it so alive. When she started up our front walk to the house and lowered her hood, I saw that it was Maeve, only more so. Her hair was most definitely not stuck up with a pencil. It cascaded around her shoulders, entwined with living things made of light and greenery and branches. Without a mask she was more stunning, a nose strong enough to hold her enormous eyes, a wry mouth, and a mischievously pointed chin… Her skin, luminous in the Halloween store, now glowed with energy that crackled outward and through her hair? Or was that a trick of the night? Her cloak rippled and shimmered. Her smile was the same though when she saw me. She said, “You had a good night.”
I said, “I had a very good night.”
“I wanted you to know what it felt like to be seen for exactly who you are.”
Of course, it was the suit. “It was weird.”
“But you’re feeling yourself now, aren’t you?”
I nodded. “I don’t understand, I picked that costume myself.”
Maeve said, “We don’t have time. Three minutes.”
She motioned me over to her. The liquid cape was, leaking? Flowing? I said, “What is that cape even made of? It’s a total trip.”
She shushed me silently and knelt, the cape a puddle, at the edge of the lawn where our burned out jack o’ lanterns and candy wrappers littered the patch of grass in front of Death’s boat. As we knelt close, I breathed in; she smelled like earth, things growing, in the kind of way that reaches out to you on a transformative spring day…the kind that seeps through your sneakers and makes you run and jump for no reason at all. She smelled like life, the chaparral after a rain, the world gone green.
She said, “I need a favor for my friend here. I promised him.”
She ran her fingers through the grass and stopped, murmuring under her breath. The grass turned to water, deeper this time, and the jack o’lanterns bobbed in surprise until they caught water and sank. The few uncarved pumpkins floated around Death’s boat. There was a creaking noise, water flowing, and I noticed Death’s robes changing first. That cheap Halloween cloth gave way to a heavily hooded cloak, the gray plastic of his face filled in with genuine bone. The dark patches painted in were real holes in a very real skull like I’d seen earlier that night. Death turned his head and looked right at me. He then turned to Maeve and damn if his jaw didn’t drop a little. Maeve smiled and patted her side, which seemed an odd thing to do with a seven-foot version of Death. I looked back at him for his reaction, which was to step out of the boat and go to her. He turned and handed me his oar. For that’s what it was, in its real form. I took it hesitantly.
“What am I supposed to do with this?”
Death shrugged and said, “You know, make sure they pay their coins. Let them talk. Just get them to the other side.”
The other side of where? But the moment I took that oar everything shifted anyway. I wasn’t on my front sidewalk anymore. I was standing on the banks of a river, in some sort of enormous cave or space. A cave with no ceiling? My eyes followed the walls up into blackness and I looked above me into its void, thick and silent. My stomach sank in terror. My idea of the worst…that blackness. I looked back down to the dark gray black sand beneath my feet and scuffed my boots a little to remind myself I was in a place. I breathed. Maeve, in this environment, shone like the moon and her cape rippled in the blackness like it was part of it, crackling with the energy of everything around her. She said, “We won’t be long. You’ll hold the fort, right?”
“Hold the fort. Okay.” My voice echoed in the cavern.
She walked a few steps toward me with those green magical eyes set. As much as I’d felt seen in my suit, I was completely seen in this moment. She said, “You have a friend who needs you. Take the coins, get them across, we’ll be back soon.”
She turned. The tall, black-cloaked figure and the small one fell into step and within ten steps Death had turned into an enormous black dog at her side, and they were off down my street, down the beach, and then my street was gone, and it was only me and the boat and the cavern and the water.
Kate Maruyama’s novel Harrowgate was published by 47North, and her novella Family Solstice, named Best Fiction Book of 2021 by Rue Morgue Magazine was published by Omnium Gatherum. Her short work appears in Asimov’s Magazine, Analog SF, and Entropy as well as in numerous anthologies including Winter Horror Days, December Tales, and Halloween Carnival Three. Her new novella, Halloween Beyond: A Gentleman’s Suit, is out from Crystal Lake Publishing on October 21. She writes, teaches, cooks, and eats in Los Angeles where she lives with her family.
TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: Kate is giving away a signed, now limited edition of her novel Harrowgate! It has gone out of print. Email email@example.com for a chance to win.
Links: My website: katemaruyama.com
Preorder your copy of Halloween Beyond here: https://getbook.at/DarkTide4