30 OctThe Night Our Kids Danced with Death

grim reaperSome of my children became roll playing game (RPG) enthusiasts. They would gather with a group of friends every now and then and spend a Saturday on some quest while sitting in the family room eating junk food. I would hear humorous observations about these quests in the days that followed. It made me curious. Once, soon after my oldest son was married, I was invited to his house with this group of friends to play a quest. It involved being in a Walmart that came under attack by some super villains. I have to admit, it was a lot of fun. Perhaps it was this experience that planted a seed in my head to create a live action RPG.

My idea was tied to Halloween. I love autumn with its colors, crunchy leaves, crisp air, and Halloween. Halloween has always been special to me. It is a time for imagination and creativity. The costumes, the ghoulish decorations, the jack-o-lanterns, are positive and fun, and bring a happiness and excitement to my heart. My writer’s mind started working on a Halloween story in which I weave parts for my children.

After years of thinking on this, and doing nothing, my mind switched over to making a role playing game for Halloween.  Five of my children grew up and left home as I perused this idea. I made the mistake of telling this idea to my thirteen-year-old daughter this year. She took hold of this idea and wouldn’t let go. I was committed to making it happen whether I liked it or not.

She invited thirteen of her friends over for an autumnfest celebration. She didn’t tell them about the special activity we had planned. Everyone met in our secret garden where we had tables set up and a fire in a fire pit. They carved jack-o-lanterns, ate sloppy joes, and roasted biscuits on a stick. I brought out a camp stove on which we made caramel apples.

It was dark by this time and the activity was ready. The activity was much more complicated than I had realized at first. There were many things needed to make it work: actors, costumes, a story line, props, assistants, timing, and communications. Most importantly, it needed players who were willing to play parts they had not been informed about.

My son and daughter gathered all the kids around a fire under the guise that I was going to tell them a story. This was partially correct. Little did they know this was a story they would have to live to finish.

I stepped up to the fire and began to read an account of a group of adventurers in search of immortality and eternal life. They were so close as to call each other brother and sister. It went on to describe their travels and adventures through mines, lairs, and dark towers. They fought creatures of evil utilizing each of the members’ skill so successfully that they never lost a soul. I named each of them in the story with fantasy versions of their names. I was happy to see them respond as their names were mentioned. They moved into character as naturally as breathing.

The story brought them to the Levanti Homish (Levan is their home town) where they felt safe and let their guard down. One night around a fire, after a good meal, the shadow they hadn’t known was following them, silently stepped in and took one of their own.

At this point my daughter-in-law, Alex, dressed in the shrouds of death, stepped out of the shadows into the firelight. The kids had no idea who this shrouded figure was. Their eyes went wide and their attention switched from Death to me and back again as I kept reading. Death stretched out her hand to one of the kids (pre-arranged) and took off into the shadows. Death dropped a note as she went.

If you love purely enough; If you have the courage; If you are willing to risk your lives to save your companion who has fought so valiantly on your behalf, take your journey to the yard of graves and there find a message left by your companion at the beginning of her journey to the Land of the Dead.

In spite of the fact that the kids hadn’t been told this was an activity they instinctually knew what to do.

“We have to go to the graveyard,” one boy said with excitement.

“Really? Now,” asked a girl, sounding nervous and enthused at the same time.

They gathered into a group and off they went into the dark. I was so excited that it was working.

Death had taken the girl inside the house where she was happily watching Horton Hear’s a Who. She had told me she would be glad to die because she didn’t like the idea of walking around town at night. My wife had taken my adult son to the grave yard, three blocks away, and set him up. He was to lay like a dead man on a grave with candles around him. The candles were in lanterns, but they wouldn’t stay lit due to the gusty wind (which really added to the effect). The moon was nearly full, so it didn’t make that much difference. My wife had brought a battery powered candle as an afterthought, and my son held that with the note.

After the kids dropped by one of their homes for jackets, and for sticks that two of the boys pretended were weapons, they made their way through the dark (and our little town is very dark at night) to the graveyard. They knew they were looking for a note, but how to find a note among all the tombstones at night? There are many solar powered “ghost lights” a various graves across the graveyard, but they spied the candle which was a tad brighter and made their way there. They didn’t see the body until they were upon it. They were thrilled by the creeps they felt. Finally they were able to pull the note from the dead man’s hands.

You have passed the first test proving your courage and showing the seeds of pure hearts. Next you must travel to where Fallen Angel lives. There you will find Death waiting. One of you must dance with Death itself before the music ends to save the soul of your companion.

I wasn’t sure they would know where to go, but my daughter was in on this and could make a suggestion if they needed it.

“I know where Angle lives,” one of the boys cried out.

My daughter’s mouth dropped open. She didn’t know boys could be so smart.

The exited the graveyard and started the five blocks to where I was helping Death get set up. We were in the dark yard of a friend, Angel’s, house. I tried to light a candle in a lantern, but it was still too windy. I was very happy for the full moon, otherwise they never would be able to see Death. I hid behind a tree with my phone and speaker on which I had the Dance Macabre (Dance of Death) ready. I had death out in the moonlight standing like a statue.

We heard them coming. They were speaking loudly, laughing, and discussing the graveyard. I could hear just the right amount of creepiness mixed with fun in their voices.

“Look. The Shrouded Figure!” one of them yelled.

“It’s so creepy,” said another.

“One of us has to dance with it.”

“Not me.”

“I will.” One of the boys volunteered. Brave soul.

I started the music which they could just barely hear in the wind. It had the right, other worldly effect. The group of kids on the road stood silently as they watched their companion enter through the gate and approach the Shrouded Figure. They danced and then Death gave him a note.

He silently went back to the watching group.

“Was it a guy or girl?” I heard someone ask.

“A guy,” he answered.

That made me laugh. While they went to one of the few street lamps to read the note I called Death back behind the tree with me.

When they read the note and looked up one said, “Look! The Shrouded Figure is gone.” This really excited them. The note said:

You are brave, indeed. You have danced most gracefully. Death is satisfied with the purity of your heart. Your journey ends where it began. Go find your companion and help her rise back into your world. She is anxious to return to you. As a reward, the golden apples are yours.

We heard them walk happily back up the road to find their companion. I called my wife and had her take the dead companion out back and hide her under my son’s gilly suit (a camouflaged blanket like soldiers might wear).

The kids arrived, searched, and eventually found her. When Death and I arrived home we found some of the group coming back out front.

“Is it over?” they asked

“Yes,” I said, “it’s over.”

They were disappointed. They wanted it to go on and on. Still, they went back and enjoyed the golden apples (caramel apples).

It was great success. This idea for a live action Halloween RPG finally became a reality.

About Tory C Anderson

Tory C Anderson is the father and Dad of eight children. He has been employed in telecommunication and computer technology for 25 years. Like most men, Tory has many plans for his life, but he has found that his family has been taking up most of the space. He feels no regrets. Tory's latest Young Adult novel, Joey and the Magic Map is out. You can read more about it here: http://www.ToryCAnderson.com