Prompt: the smoke hung so think in the library’s rafters that she could read words in it

All Holly’s Eve

Holly was in on the scheme. She helped Jarrod set up the mysterious boxes with the magical switches and mystical buttons.

“I’m so excited for you,” she said again, giving him another hug.

He blushed. “I wish I could take you with me.”

She playfully punched him. “Stop that!”

“I know, I know. You’d only go with me if I love you, and I don’t love girls.” His baritone boomeranged through the library rafters.

“Miss Lovington will be so pissed.”

“She’ll get over it when I send her my first movie.” He held up his hands as he announced, “Special effects, Jarrod West.”

“I still think it’s magic.”

“It’s just technology, babe.”

She swatted him again.

Jarrod finished hooking everything up, and they descended the ladder to set up downstairs. The library had been a church originally, built by a self-made Italian immigrant, who imported marble for the floors, quartz for the altar, and the finest granite for the walls. Rails were added to the walkways in the rafters when the high school reluctantly let go of religious education in public schools.

Holly relished the irony of decorating the church for Halloween, her favorite holiday. Jarrod’s blueprints made no sense to her, so she anticipated the theatrics along with everyone else. Except she loved him as her friend, whereas others appreciated only his talent. Being a gay teenager who looked like a lumberjack in a little redneck high school was tough.

That night, she helped him carry up the bag that held, as Jarrod put it, the unknown quantity, his parting gift to his fellow high school students. Next, Holly arranged all the Halloween books chosen by Miss Lovington, lining them up with the ambient lighting strips for her “spooktacular” display. She placed fun-sized candy bars in front of the books, and she ate a couple. Jarrod finished upstairs alone, wishing to reveal his farewell to her this evening. Something thudded behind her, startling her.

“Sorry. Only way to get it down.” She widened her eyes at him in mock anger. His laughter bouncing off the walls rewarded her effort. He climbed down and attached the piece he’d dropped carefully to the wall, pulling the wires taut. “In the dim light, no one will see this. Close to midnight, when most of the people are in here—“

“Cuz it’s the end of the tour.”

“Right. That’s when you push the button.” He pulled her to the wall and pointed her own finger at the button.

“Okay, okay, I get it.” She snake-eyed him. “Won’t you be here?”

He grinned. “Yeah, I’ll be upstairs. Remember, don’t let anyone see you push that button.”

Just before the tour started at 9 pm, Holly and Jarrod supervised the placement of smoke machines on the outer walkways of the rafters. After quick instructions, Jarrod turned them on and set them to build gradually. Then Holly followed him downstairs to watch him work his magic with the laser lights. A few people drifted in, but hung back by the door, waiting to see Jarrod’s special effects.

As the smoke built, Holly could actually read the short passages in it. Miss Lovington had agreed to horror classics, Frankenstein, Dracula, and some less famous works. No Stephen King or Clive Barker. Absolutely no gore. She had conceded to Poe, so the lights frequently spread his words through the swirling haze.

Enchanted by the miracle of technology, Holly missed Jarrod’s departure, but assume he’d gone upstairs. She mingled with the Halloween revelers, oohing, aahing, and reading aloud at random intervals. With only a half hour cycle of quotes, Holly quit re-reading, getting excited again with newcomers. Fellow students who never spoke to Jarrod praised his work to Holly. She held her tongue.

Stifling a yawn, she checked her watch – 11:30, almost time. She could hear the tour guide outside the door telling a large group about the origins of the library. Then the guide continued with a few ghost stories the planning committee had conjured for the event. After a moment of silence, they were ushered inside. Holly stayed back to give room for everyone to witness the laser light show. Then she pushed the button.

Thunk! Jarrod’s surprise hung from the rafters over their heads, swinging wildly at first. As it stilled, the group gasped at the face of Jarrod lit up by laser on the body hanging above. As she stared, horrified, someone kissed the top of her head and whispered in a soft baritone, “I do love you, my friend.” She looked around, but he was gone. On his way to his uncle’s in LA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *