Authors: Daphne Skinner
Under the orange disk of the moon, in a place called Halloweenland, the creatures of the mght were busy. Grinning jack-o'-lanterns danced in the graveyard. Werewolves howled. Corpses, vampires, and witches joined their voices in a ghoulish chorus of glee. Tonight was their favorite night of all--Halloween!
And it had been a splendid one. As they gathered down in the center of town to celebrate, everyone agreed on that. They also agreed that such a night would not have been possible without the help of their leader, the king of Halloween, Jack Skellington
Everyone cheered wildly as Jack stepped into the town square.
"You were a scream, Jack" called a vampire.
"It was terrifying!" added a werewolf.
"You're a witch's fondest dream," cackled two of Halloweenland's gnarliest crones.
They cheered again as the Mayor clapped Jack on his rickety shoulders.
"Thanks, Jack!" boomed the Mayor. "We owe it all to you! Why, without your leadership--"
Jack cut him off. "Not at all, Mayor," he said with a hint of impatience--or was it something else? in his voice. But the Mayor didn't notice that anything was wrong. He was too intent on keeping the crowd's attention focused where it should be: on himself.
"It's now my pleasure to give out the wonderful prizes," he announced. "Our first award goes to the vampires, for most blood drained in a single evening. Congratulations, Fanged Ones!" he boomed as the audience cheered. "Second prize," he went on, "is to the Dark Lagoon Leeches, who also have a real taste for blood... ."
The crowd cheered again, and Jack took the opportunity to slip away. It was strange, but all the applause made him feel terrible. He needed to go someplace that would cheer him up. He headed for the graveyard.
He was so preoccupied that he never noticed the frail, melancholy figure of Sally the Rag Doll watching him. Sally was sad, too, and with good reason. She had been created by the town's official Evil Scientist.
Try as she might, and she had tried many times, Sally couldn't seem to escape from him. Although he was confined to a wheelchair, he guarded her jealously.
Sally sighed and leaned against a tombstone. She had tried to escape tonight, but once again the Evil Scientist had stopped her. Well, he'd almost stopped her. In their struggle Sally had even pulled off one of her own stitched-on arms before getting away and running here, to the graveyard.
An arm was a small price to pay, thought Sally, especially since she was an expert seamstress and could always sew herself back together. She just
to get free of the Evil Scientist. But how?
Her unhappy thoughts were interrupted by the sight of Jack Skellington walking along slowly, his bony shoulders hunched and his skull hanging low. Sally couldn't believe her eyes. Jack looked almost... sad. But what could he possibly be sad about? He was the Pride of Halloweenland!
She soon found out. Jack's bony feet carried him so close to where she sat that she could hear every word he uttered. To Sally's
astonishment, they were words of woe and weariness, boredom and frustration.
"Year after year, it's the same routine," he told his little ghost dog, Zero, who floated alongside him, his jack-o'-lantern nose gleaming. "Terror. Shock. Shrieks and moans. I scare the bravest of the brave. But I've grown so weary of the sound of screams, Zero. They leave me cold. I can't help but wonder why I bother at all." Jack sighed heavily. "I'm sick and tired of scaring everyone. I want to do something... different."
"But I just don't know what it is," he told his little dog. "Why don't I know what it is, Zero? Why?"
Sally's rag-doll heart melted. Jack suffering, just as she was. She stood up, wanting to reach out to him.
"I know how you feel," she whispered under her breath, almost hoping he'd hear.
But it was too late. Lost in his sorrow, Jack had gone.
Now a tear rolled down Sally's face. As best as she could with only one arm, she began to pick a bouquet for the Evil Scientist--a bunch of deadly nightshade, with it she would make a powerful sleeping potion. Maybe then she could escape.
The next day's weather was perfect for Halloweenland. The skies were dark and gloomy, and a bone-chilling wind blew restlessly through town. Of course, most folks in Halloweenland didn't notice the weather. They were asleep. Night was their time.
But the Mayor was awake. He had important things to take care of. At an hour when all good witches and werewolves were dreaming wicked dreams, he was bustling across town in his hearse, with one thing and one thing only on his mind: the plan for next year's Halloween. And for this he needed Jack.
The Mayor stepped out of his hearse at Jack's tower, his arms laden with blueprints, lists, and plans. He rang Jack's bell once, then half a dozen times, but got no response.
"Jack!" he called. "I've got the plans for next year's Halloween! I need to go over them with you, Jack, so we can get started!"
"Jack, please!" he called, a note of desperation creeping into his voice. "I'm only an elected official here. I can't make decisions by myself. I need you, Jack!"
The Mayor began to get angry. Like most politicians, he was a two-faced creature. Depending on his mood, his head would swivel
from a smile to a frown. Frowning at the moment, he shouted in his most commanding voice, "Jack! Answer me!" But this didn't work, either. As it slowly dawned on the Mayor that Jack was not at home, a cluster of worries sprang up in his busy brain. Where was Jack? Was he missing? And if he was, what would happen to next year's Halloween?
The surprising truth was that Jack didn't know where he was, either. His mournful meandering had taken him far from Halloweenland, miles from anything familiar, into a deep, dark forest. But his gloom was so overpowering that he paid no attention to his surroundings. It wasn't until Zero barked at him impatiently that Jack stopped. Then he looked around in confusion, as if waking from a dream.
"Zero! Where are we?" he asked. The little dog whined. He was lost, too. A soft wind sighed through the trees.
Jack saw that he was in a clearing lit only by the faintest starlight. The enormous trees around him were like none he knew. Doorways were carved into their trunks. And mysterious symbols were carved into the doorways. Jack had never seen anything so strange.
"What is this?" he murmured to Zero, examining each tree in turn. One doorway bore the sign of an egg that was decorated with stripes and flowers. Another was carved with a great big heart. A third was carved with a four-leaf clover. But the doorway that truly fascinated Jack bore a tree on its trunk--a tree festooned with ornaments and topped with a star. He moved closer.
The doorway rattled on its hinges, as if inviting him to open it. How could he resist?
Jack pulled the door open. For an instant there was only silence.
Then a cool gust of wind, like a giant icy hand, wrapped itself
around Jack and drew him inside. He screamed in terror, but only Zero
Then the door clanged shut, and not even Zero could help.
Jack's bones stirred. He found himself lying on something cold, yet oddly soft and comforting. His eyes opened. First he saw a night sky sparkling with stars. Then he saw... white! It was everywhere, blanketing the ground, the trees, and the houses with its soft glow.
Jack picked up a handful of the stuff. It felt cool and powdery, and it shaped nicely into a ball. What is this? he wondered, throwing the ball into the air and watching it land nearby with a small, satisfying thud.
Whatever this stuff was, he liked it! Jack leapt to his feet, suddenly feeling light as a cloud. He couldn't wait to explore.
This town, he realized very quickly, was nothing like Halloweenland. People on the streets were singing. Children were throwing balls of the white stuff at each other and laughing. The trees were covered with bright ornaments and topped with stars. And inside cozy little houses people sat together talking, reading, singing--even hugging and kissing! Jack kept walking, enchanted
by everything around him.
Before long he noticed something else. He hadn't yet heard a single scream, only laughter, and sweet music. The smells wafting toward him through the crisp night air were delicious--cakes and pies, not swamp gas, smoke, and witch's brew. And children here, Jack saw as he looked into house after house, all slept peacefully, untroubled by nightmares. They were happy. Everyone here was happy!
Jack could not keep from smiling. He was happy, too! Amazing! What is this? he wondered. And then he saw the sign:
"Christmastown?" Jack murmured to himself. "Hmmm . . ."
Back in Halloweenland, nobody was smiling. Far from it. There were frowns, there were groans, and there were moans, because Jack was still missing. This fact was causing everyone a great deal of worry.
"We've got to find Jack!" the Mayor told the crowd that had gathered in the town square. "There are only three hundred sixty-five days left till next Halloween!"
"Three hundred sixty-four!" yelled an especially worried Werewolf.
"Is there anywhere we've forgotten to check?" asked the Mayor. "Think hard. Tell me."
"I looked in the crypts," said a vampire.
"We opened the tombs," called the witches.
"I scoured the cemetery," said the werewolf. "But he wasn't there."
Worries deepened. Moods darkened. Where was he?
"It's time to sound the alarm," said the Mayor.
The wail of a cat screeching was the town's alarm. The distant noise reached Sally's ears just as she was whipping up a very special
brew. Her private name for it was Sleeping Potion Soup, though when she served it up to the Evil Scientist she simply called it lunch. It was full of deadly nightshade, and if the doctor drank it, he'd sleep for a week.
be nice, thought Sally as she set a steaming bowl of the stuff in front of the doctor. Then I could get away. For good.
"Have some" she urged. The doctor sniffed it hungrily, but then put down his spoon. "Frog's breath!" he snarled.
"What's wrong?" said Sally innocently. "I thought you liked frog's breath." But inwardly she quailed. She had used frog's breath to disguise the smell of deadly nightshade. Had she used too much?
"Nothing's more suspicious than frog's breath," said the doctor. He dipped his spoon into the soup and held it up to Sally. "Until
taste it," he told her, "I won't swallow a spoonful".
Sally knocked the spoon out of his hand with a nervous giggle. "I'm not hungry," she said.
The doctor fixed her with his most malevolent glare. "You want me to starve, don't you? I'm weak. I'm old. And you owe your Very life to me!"
"Oh, don't be silly," said Sally. She bent down as if to pick up the spoon, then reached into her sock and pulled out a slotted spoon instead. She dipped into the soup and noisily pretended to slurp up a mouthful of broth.
It worked! Thanks to the slotted spoon, the soup fell back into the bowl, but the doctor didn't see. Sally breathed a huge sigh
of relief as he grabbed the bowl away from her and started eating hungrily.
"See?" she said as he gobbled it down. "It's scrumptious." A hopeful smile crept over her rag-doll face. Soon, she thought. Soon I'll be free.
Back in the town square, hope was as scarce as bat feathers. Despair, however, was readily available. The Mayor, who lay sprawled atop his hearse, had more than enough for everyone. As dusk fell he stared up at the darkening sky in desperation. Where was Jack?
No One knew.
Then, just as a sliver of moon appeared in the sky, a distant bark was heard. It was followed by a strange rumbling sound, a sound that gradually grew louder and louder.
"Zero . . . ? Jack . . . ?" The Mayor barely dared to say the words aloud. He sat up. The crowd stirred.
The rumbling became a dull roar. Jack, driving a jaunty red Christmastown snowmobile, zoomed into the square. Zero followed, his nose all aglow, barking with excitement.
A ragged cheer went up in the square. The Mayor, wavering between relief and irritation, naturally chose irritation. "Where have you been?" he snapped. "We've been worried sick!"
"Call a town meeting and I'll tell you all about it!" answered Jack with a smile.
Jack was still smiling as the town hall filled up a few hours later. He had great news to tell, and everyone seemed a bit confused, but eager to hear about it. Sally, fresh from putting the Evil Scientist to sleep, pressed forward with the rest of the crowd. As Jack stepped up to the podium, a murmur of interest and excitement swept through the hall. But when Jack tried to describe Christmastown, the interest turned to puzzlement. Christmastown? What was that?