As you know, my name is Snuff. I’m a watch dog. My master Jack and I live near the outskirts of old Salem now. It is a wondrous place full of bright views and dark memories. Perhaps that is why were drawn here for this one.
Then again, perhaps not.
I say that I am a watch dog, for it is my job to watch. To watch and to know. For instance, it is my job to watch one of our latest acquisitions: a great troll my master acquired for our purposes during this latest conflict. It is also my job to know when Jack requires something of me. He often asks me to fetch things for him. One of the tools, like the wand or the knife, or various ingredients as he goes about his work.
Much of his work is done at night, though the reasons are varied. We are the keepers of a variety of curses, and those play their part in our timekeeping, but much of the work must be done in the late hours simply by necessity.
It is not yet October, and for that I am thankful. October is always a draining time for us, not least of all an October such as this. As so many that have gone past, this October the full moon will rise upon the night of the 31st and dread things may be done during such a night. I have stood beside Jack for many such events now in an effort to prevent the worst of these things. So far we have always been successful, though often only just.
This Halloween may prove a different sort however.
As is my duty, I watched. I watched many things, with special attentions for the heavens. Thus, twas I who noted the abnormal patterns in the sky one night and I who brought the peculiarity to Jack’s attention. Through the use of a few techniques that he has learned over the years, he was able to determine with certainty something that I had already calculated in my own enigmatic way. There was to be a full moon on Halloween this year, though it should have been some years still before another one. Oft they are decades apart, and I confess it has been some time since the last one, but the suddenness of this one had caught us unprepared.
Thus we found ourselves visiting many places about Salem, which we had divined to be the focal point for this occasion, in search of a great many ingredients for the master’s work. Under normal circumstances Jack is able to be quite selective in his gatherings, having years to plan for these events. Necessarily we have been a bit rushed about this one and he has had to take chances that he would ordinarily avoid.
Fortunately I have found that the American police, such as they are, seem to be far more lax in their duties than their European counterparts. We have not been hassled a great deal while Jack procures his ingredients.
I, of course, stood watch during our first visit to a graveyard.
A ghostly light bobbed slowly some distance before me and to the left. Periodically its glow all but vanished in a manner which suggested there was another figure beside it that occluded its light from time to time. Someone with a lantern no doubt, though a pale one to be sure. I was keeping special attention upon it when a voice broke through my reverie.
It is not often that someone is able to sneak up on me. I wondered if I were getting too old for this kind of work.
“I wondered if you would see the signs. It’s good to see that you’re still as sharp as ever.”
I craned my head to see who was speaking and I found myself staring at a large black rat. He had approached downwind of me and even so must have approached with no small amount of stealth to have arrived undetected in such close proximity. Even so, I found myself delighted with his presence.
“Bubo? Is that you?” I exclaimed.
“It is. It’s been so long, I wasn’t sure you’d even recognize me.”
“Of course, of course. But what brings you to America?”
“Why, the Game of course.”
“Oh? Here to join us again. Seems a long trip for an event most would go to great trouble to avoid. I thought you had remained behind at the old place in Soho.”
“I had. I stayed there for years. I had planned simply to stay there until I grew old and died. You and Jack left the larder well enough stocked for me to live out my days there in relative comfort. But I never grew older and I never died.”
“Do you know the reason for this?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.
“No. Or at least not entirely. I suspect it had something to do with the Good Doctor’s work while I was about his place, but more than that I can’t really say.”
“Well it is good to see you.”
“And you,” he replied.
I heard a strange note, high pitched and vaguely musical, that came to me upon the wind.
“Ah, I must go,” said Bubo and he scampered down the tall and faded tombstone upon which he had been standing.
“But I thought you were here for the Game?”
“I am, Snuff.”
It dawned on me then what he was saying. He hadn’t come to help Jack and I, as he had once some years ago. He was here as companion to one of the players.
“Whom do you serve then, Bubo?”
“The Piper,” he said and began to scurry away amid the fallen leaves and the nighttime shadows.
“Opener or Closer?” I called as he vanished into the darkness.
“Tut, tut,” I heard from some way down the hillside. “You know better, Snuff.”
And then he was gone, leaving me with considerable things to think about.
“Come Snuff,” Jack said to me a few moments later. “Our work here is done.” He held a small sack that rattled quietly as we walked and he held the knife in his hand, starlight dancing in the runes upon the blade. Ordinarily, he never carried the weapon in the open like this. He must have felt as uneasy as I, which worried me.
On the way home I smelled other dogs, and birds winging overhead seemed to laugh as they passed us. This would be a strange game indeed. Perhaps it were best explained day by day.