“There’s all sorts of traditions connected to Halloween,” Melody Angel explained, “and some of them are similar to those on Valentine’s Day.”
“Why is that?” Harmony asked. “I thought Halloween was all about bad things: demons and witches, not boyfriends and lovers.”
Symphony caught the end of her friends’ conversation as they entered the Amber Room on Cloudbase, and looked up from her magazine in time to see Melody shrug.
“Maybe,” she suggested, joining in their conversation, “those boyfriends and lovers who swore to be true to you in February, have proved themselves less than trustworthy by October?”
Melody rolled her eyes and said: “Have you fallen out with a certain blond Bostonian – again?”
“I mentioned no names,” Symphony retorted. “Did I mention a name, Harmony?” Harmony shook her head. “See? I was merely pointing out that any wronged woman might want to conjure demons and witches in order to get her revenge on an unfaithful man.”
Rhapsody, who was writing a letter at the desk that ran along the higher contour of the circular stand-by duty room, looked up and chuckled. “I think that’d be over-reacting a little, Symph.”
“You think so?” the American Angel pilot remarked. “That must be because your boyfriend never gives you the worry of doubting his affections.”
Melody guffawed. “And neither does yours,” she reminded her compatriot.
“Didn’t say he did,” Symphony snapped. “I said ‘some boyfriends and lovers might be unworthy’.”
Melody threw herself onto the couch opposite Symphony and shook her dark head. “I agree with Rhapsody. I reckon it’d be over reacting.”
“What, exactly, do these traditions entail?” Harmony asked quickly, hoping to prevent another ding-dong row between Symphony and Melody.
“Oh, things like brushing your hair in front of a mirror by candlelight so that your husband’s face will appear behind you in the mirror, or peeling apples in one long piece and throwing the peel over your shoulder so it lands in the shape of your future husband’s name,” Rhapsody said. She put the lid back on her fountain pen and came to join the others. “I tried that once. I was staying overnight with a schoolfriend and we had a Halloween party.”
“Did it work?” Harmony asked.
Rhapsody shrugged. “I don’t know; I’m still waiting to meet a man called Ucslz.”
The others laughed.
“It’s all poppycock, of course,” Rhapsody continued, “but it’s harmless enough. My friend is adamant that it worked for her. She insisted that the apple peel formed ‘Oliver’, and she duly married the man who was her boyfriend at the time and whose name was – surprisingly enough-”
“Oliver,” the others chorused. And everyone laughed.
“Did it spell that?” Harmony asked.
“Well, it could have spelt anything you wanted it to, if you had imagination enough.”
“I am sure that there are spirits that guide our futures,” Harmony said quietly.
“I’m sure you get the future you make for yourself,” Melody replied, but not in an argumentative way. “Each to their own, Chan.”
Harmony nodded. “Yes, indeed.”
“So, would you chuck apple peel over your shoulder to see the name of your future husband?” Symphony asked her.
Harmony shook her head, smiling.
“Nolie, would you?” Symphony persisted.
“Future husband?” Melody hesitated. “No, but then I’m never going to get married. Growing up with five older brothers provides more than enough exposure to testosterone for one woman’s entire life. Would you do it, Kay?”
“Not much point,” Symphony said, with a surprisingly sweet smile.
“No, I guess not; you have your man all picked out,” Melody agreed. “How about you, Dianne?”
Rhapsody Angel smiled. “Well, it doesn’t look like Mr Ucslz is going to arrive in my life any time soon…so I might have to.”
Just at that moment, the Tannoy crackled and Lieutenant Green’s voice ordered Angel Two and Three to go out on their routine patrol.
At the end of her shift, Rhapsody was physically tired, but too alert for immediate sleep. She said goodnight to the other Angels and wandered back to her quarters from the Amber Room feeling that getting some rest was a good idea, even if she wasn’t sleepy.
It was generally agreed by all of the Angel pilots that the late shifts weren’t so bad, unless you were in Angel One just before bedtime. While you were always ready for immediate launch, there was very little to occupy your mind and the shift that lasted into the night always seemed the longest to Rhapsody. When it was really dark you could stargaze, but the twilight sky wasn’t dark enough and even the magnificent beauty of the sunsets became mundane after a while. The two standby Angels were able to keep themselves busy with paperwork or reading, but you couldn’t read in Angel One.
She switched on the lights, as the door of her quarters slid closed behind her, then she threw her uniform jacket onto the back of the chair, before stooping to unzip her flying boots and removing them. She had nothing that needed to be done and there was nothing she wanted to watch on the TV. With a sigh she remembered that she’d finished the book she was reading yesterday and hadn’t chosen a new one from the library yet.
On a whim, she went into the bathroom and switched on the shower. Stripping off, she wrapped her long, red hair into a tight bun before stepping in and luxuriating under the hot water for a while. When the warning light flashed to warn her that her allocation of hot water was about to run out, she switched it off and rubbed herself dry on the large fluffy towel that hung over the heated towel rail, wrapping it around herself and wandering back into her living space.
She switched the small table lamps on low and turned the main lights off, to make the room more restful. The only part of the room that was well lit was around her dressing table, close to her bed. Heading towards the bedroom area she noticed the bowl of fruit on her coffee table and, suddenly feeling peckish, selected a red apple from the bowl and took it with her to the dressing table.
She pulled the padded stool out and sat down before the mirror. Shaking her hair loose, she paused to take a huge bite from her apple before reaching for her hairbrush to remove the tangles.
She was daydreaming as she brushed, half of her mind counting down the obligatory 100 strokes her mother had always told her she ought to give her hair every night. She took another bite of the apple and reached for a tissue from the decorative box on the beside table to wipe the sweet apple juice from her chin.
When she looked back at her reflection in the mirror she gave a startled gasp.
Behind her, indistinct in the gloom, a pale and disembodied face hovered over her right shoulder. The heavy brow was broken by a livid scar that ran across the forehead and down onto the gaunt left cheek. The lips were torn and bleeding, and there was a greenish tinge to the unnatural pallor of the skin. But what made her heart stop were the eyes. Eyes that were deep-set, dark and red-rimmed. Eyes that were dead and cold.
Rhapsody’s heart pounded as she recalled the conversation of that afternoon. She dropped the hairbrush and stared horrified at the half-eaten apple on the dresser.
“Oh my giddy aunt…” she breathed under her breath. She blinked rapidly several times and was alarmed to see that the face had moved closer. When a cold hand touched her bare shoulder she actually screamed.
“Trick or treat, sweetheart?” said a well-known and much loved voice, rather indistinctly.
“Paul? Oh no, oh, Paul!”
She sprang to her feet, twisting round to face the apparition.
He was real and he was there, right in front of her.
In an instant, she realised that he wasn’t wearing his red tunic, and the charcoal grey of his uniform sweater was practically invisible in the gloom of her quarters.
“What’s happened to you?” she cried, reaching out a trembling hand. He caught it in his own – but the usual cool touch of his hand only made her more fearful this time.
“Dianne, what’s the matter, sweetheart?” he mumbled.
She looked away, tears blurring her vision. “Oh, Paul.”
His voice suddenly grew more distinct. “What’s up? I’m sorry if I startled you… well, I’m almost sorry.”
She looked up in bewilderment at the affectionate amusement in his tone. He was smiling. His handsome face was unblemished and the warmth in his blue-eyes was all she could have hoped for.
“Your face…” she said, struggling for words.
He held up a mask in his hand and shrugged apologetically. “Rick has been scaring the young women by leaping out at them all evening. I thought I’d borrow it and go trick and treating for myself…”
“But I thought… the superstition… the face in the mirror…”
His expression grew even more bemused at her incoherence. “What’s the matter, Di?”
“Paul Metcalfe,” she said sternly.
“Yes, that’s me,” he replied, smiling again. “I must say if I am going to get a treat like this every Halloween I shall be playing many more tricks in future.”
And then she realised what he was grinning at. When she’d sprung from her seat at the sight of the ghostly apparition, the bath towel had slipped down. She was standing naked before him, her long hair falling over her shoulders and only partially covering her breasts.
“Paul Metcalfe!” she began angrily, but the rest of the rebuke was smothered by his powerful kiss.
“Oh, this has to be the best Halloween ever…” he murmured, as he lifted her into his arms and carried her the short distance across to her bed.
And she was so relieved that her foolish fears were groundless, she had to agree with him.
Just a piece of fluffy fiction to celebrate Halloween and to give Captain Scarlet a good time over the festival – for once.
My deepest thanks got to Caroline Smith, who kindly stepped in the beta read this for me at very short notice and with her usual deft touch, rounded off the rough edges I had left. Any mistakes in the text are mine.
Thanks to Chris Bishop, for allowing me to post yet another last minute scribbling on her website. I know she is working very hard to get her own story finished and I am looking forward to seeing it on the site and reading it.
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons™ belongs to Carlton, the TV people, I think. Gerry and Sylvia Anderson created and produced the original series that gave so many children, of all ages, so much pleasure.
30 October 2011