"But mama! Oy don't want to go to bed!" Cried the little brown headed boy, pouting as his mother tucked him in. Beside him, the last fingers of the sun finished setting as the ducked behind the horizon. His mother let a small smile slip. The corners of her mouths upturned as she sat on a stool at his bedside. "Why do I 'ave to stay 'ere? You always let me go out after dark!" He complained.
"Oh don't fret love. I'm only doin' this fer yer own safety. And besides, you can go out tomorrow! First thing, what do you say? Hmm?" She leaned over and tickled her child, blowing a raspberry on his exposed stomach as he giggled, laughed, and begged for mercy.
"But why tonight mama? Why can't I go?" He asked again, eyes puppy dog wide as he pleaded. Sighing, the woman known as his mother parted and patted her gown as she prepared herself.
"Well, there's this old ghost's tale me laddy. One about a peculiar girl in a kingdom far far away." She began.
"Mama, is this another scary story?" He asked, voice filled with skepticism.
"No, no me laddy. I swear it on me own mum's grave. Once upon a time, in a village much like ours, there was a girl. As springy as a young buck and as beautiful as a cherub." She started, her child let out a singe 'blegh' of disgust.
"Oh quiet now you! One day you'll be ogglin' the ladies like all the other raffle." She chided, smiling as her son crossed his arms.
"She was the life of the town! Greeting all the newcomers and making them feel welcome, baking and making treats for everyone. She was a fine young one."
"So what happened mama? Did she get possessed? Oh! Oh! Did a werewolf get her?" Asked the boy, curving his fingers like a wolf's claws and snarling. Chuckling at his display, she tousled his hair.
"No, no me boy. Something worse." Her son's eyes flew open as he leaned forwards. The sun now fully behind the horizon, the last retreating dregs of light finally gone.
"She fell in love."
"Fell in love?! Ugh! Gross!" He cried, shrinking back under his blankets.
"Yes me dear. With a tall handsome vagabond, coming in from the dusty deserts of the west. She instantly fell in love with him, and for the next year, they stayed in her little hovel. Content with what little they had. The whole town adored them, showering them with coins as she danced and sang, and he played along side her. Even the spirits came to hear them play and dance. The old willow wisps and the revenants, the old demons coming from the dusty mausoleums and the still born baby cherubs descending from on high. They all came to watch the two, and the love they saw drew emotions not felt since their flesh passed." His mother's voice had grown dreamy and soothing, the child now relaxed against his pillows yawned once.
"What happened next?" He asked. Instantly regretting it as his mother's eyes darkened.
"The jealous spirit of a wizard, he who had long sought the affections of the girl seethed with rage at the love between the two. Vowing vengeance, he charmed the man to his catacomb with promises of untold riches for his wife. And as soon as he got there, the venomous old ghost cast a curse upon him. The flesh on his bones aged away and his fine features were reduced to ash as he died on the cold floor." His mother's seemed to come from a million miles away as he sat there. Her once dreamy voice now hard and bitter.
"In the guise of a dog, he carried her husband's ashes gave it to her as a preset in the form of powdered make-up. He told her; "have this my dear, a combination of the finest flours will forever preserve your glow." The poor lass didn't even know she was donning her husband as she sat that day, humming happily to herself as she put it on. Nevertheless, days went by and she became worried as her love hadn't returned from his crusade. The few revenants who saw the atrocity committed, grew as heart-broken as the young woman as they saw he worry eat away at her beauty. Bruised purple bags hung under her eyes were they hadn't been before. Line marks appeared around her mouth from the hard line she drew, sitting in front of her hovel day after day, waiting for his return. Finally, the spirits broke their silence, coming to her one night and pouring out their recounting of the horrid event." His mother stopped, panting as she struggled to catch her breath.
"Did she cry mama?" He asked. In response, his mother closed her eyes, sighing with remorse.
"She cried, my love. For seven days and seven nights, the village heard her lamenting and sorrowful mourning. Her cries of denial and her rage filled curses as she cursed the gods for taking everything she ever had in the world. And on the eighth day, there was silence. Curious, the townspeople came to her little house." His mother stopped.
"And?" Asked the little boy.
"They found her with a knife through her heart my boy. A mask on her face, and the finest cloths she had laid all over her. A note they found showed that she had eventually offed herself. Not able to bear the thought that she had donned her love and worn him. Not wanting to recognize his death. They say that her death marked the end of the town's happiness. But." She stopped once again.
"But what mama?" Asked the child, his eyes wide as he stared with rapt attention.
"On the day of her funeral, as the morguemen carried her to her crypt, the ghosts came out of their haunts once more. Joining amongst the living as they too wept for their lost minstrel. And on that day, her spirit rose from the casket, leaping in front of the assorted party of wailers and mourners. "Come now you silly bunch! Onwards to a new day! Onwards to a new life! Onwards!" She cried over and over again, leading the people of the town and the dead on a merry parade. A festival of such grandeur was laid out that it's said even the spirits became flesh once again. And they danced, sang, and laughed. All of them, till the morning's light they all sat under a tent and carried forth merriment in the shadow of death. And in the morning, the spirits left, carrying the heart of the town with them, never to be heard from again." She finished.
"Mama! What's that?" Asks the little boy, racing to his window.
"That, my boy, is the parade of the mad. Those spirits who choose not to sleep, and instead lie awake. Those who've never seen peace in their lives, and those who refuse to see it even at the end." Even as she spoke these solemn words, she couldn't help but smile at the sheer insanity of it all. Friendly spirits?
Walking over to the window, she drew a gold coin from the pockets of her gown. Handing it to her son who stared at it in wonder. "We throw them in honor of the little pauper girl Pipsqueak." She called him by his nickname. "I didn't want to tell you until you were older, but I guess now is as good a time as any." Stepping back, she watched him toss it to the fanfare below. The little coin lost in the sea of gold that glittered int he streets.
But as soon as he did, the girl at the head stopped the parade to turn to him. Her big pink hair curling over her face as she picked it up and stared at it.
After a few minutes of staring, she brings it to her lips and kisses it, flashing a big grin in his direction as she scurries off to rejoin the already retreating group of wraiths.
"The blessing of the Pink Lady! I never thought I'd ever see it with me own eyes!" Called his mother as the little boy smiled at the parade, already passing out of site as they climbed the next paved hill. All of a sudden, he felt a bit of weight in his pajama pockets. Reaching down, he found the little gold coin he'd tossed to the woman below.
"May your travels and song be as loud boisterous as your soul. May you have many friends, and may find the person which destiny has bounded you too." His mother beamed proudly as she finished the chant.
And as the boy yawned, too tired from the night's surprises, his mother chuckled. "It's said that it comes every turn of the century. So I doubt we'll ever see it again. Though, it was still a nice surprise wasn't it?" She turned to find that he had already made his way to his bed, tucked himself in, and was now snoring loudly.
"The blessing of the Pink Lady. What an auspicious thing to have happen to my lad." She cooed, pulling the sheets up to his cheeks as she left his room. "Though, I doubt that's the last of them. Don't you think so Pipsqueak?" She asked the sleeping figure once. Giggling as she closed the door behind her.