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A Consummation Devoutly to be Wished

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Jack remembers bones between his teeth. He remembers screaming and watching mortals flee before him, opening their doors with a flick of his finger and slipping in betwixt shadow and light. He remembers recoiling when he first gazed upon the desecrated harvest, grotesque faces carved into precious food, dancing away and edging back until he realized that the lanterns were but a pantomime of power.

Then he awakens. He’s Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, and he smiles at Sally as she sleeps and kisses her brow. He arises and dons his stripes and tie, as he’s done since time immemorial.

Sally remembers stitching together a suit of red velvet with spider silk and fear, omens cascading around her in tea leaves and rat guts. She remembers hanging it in Jack’s closet, a warning about hubris and a reminder to trust her instincts. She remembers watching it turn the color of tacky blood then edge into shadow.

Sometimes Jack looks at it, running his hand down its soft sleeves before pushing it aside and grabbing another pinstriped suit. Last Halloween the stripes were red upon black; this cycle they're orange. She suspects next time they’ll be white again, or gone altogether.

Jack explores the forest, sneaking out of his domain and into the Others’ territories. He studies them, observing the best way to steal a bird's gobble along with its skin — the witches cackle when he demonstrates — and appease forest spirits — Sally delights in the reek of the colorful eggs.

He rambles through the Holidays-That-Were, entranced by their melancholy. However, he no longer tries to herd their faded residents back to Halloween. He knows, now, that they will not join with his ghosts and regain their vigor, and he has no wish to watch another disintegrate into whispers.

Sally explores Halloween. She slips into the forgotten catacombs beneath her city, reading tomes in abandoned libraries, tasting grave dust as it sinks into her body. She goes deeper still until she’s at right angles to herself, standing in other Halloweens and watching a kaleidoscope of Jacks. Jacks who are impossibly gentle, psychopomps who dance behind Death and guide souls home. Jacks who make her freeze like prey, lumbering behemoths who sate their appetites with anything that moves.

She leaves them when the tunnels close behind her, but sometimes — sometimes she wonders what kind of Sally she could be.