Li'l Ember: The Tale of the Smiling Jack O'Lantern (Chapter One)
Hey, hi, hello and Happy Halloween!

I wanted to do something special for EVERYONE visiting the Patreon, so I started this little story featuring Li'l Ember, our younger version of The Last Ember character, Ember Madison!

This is Chapter One of a short story set in the Li'l Emberverse that I'm giving away for FREE.

So I hope you enjoy the read!

 

LI’L EMBER: THE TALE OF THE SMILING JACK O’LANTERN

By Brant Fowler

CHAPTER ONE: Decisions

This day was to be a special day for Li’l Ember. She hadn’t been able to celebrate Halloween properly last year due to a sudden family vacation. Instead, she had spent last Halloween driving across country. Her parents never told her why they had to pack up and head out in such a hurry, but being a kid, she didn’t have much choice but to go along with the plan.

This year it would be different, though! Nothing was going to keep Li’l Ember away from trick-or-treating and gathering as much candy as she could humanly carry. She had devised a system involving two pails, one for each hand, a pouch in her costume for some extra pieces, and a back-up sack tied to her belt should she need the extra space.

“This is going to be the BEST Halloween ever!” Li’l Ember thought to herself as she sorted out the pieces of her costume across the bed. “No vacation, school is out early, and the sun is shining bright in the sky!”

As Li’l Ember considered her route for the coming evening, a head peered around the corner of her bedroom door. 

“Watcha doin’, kiddo?” asked Li’l Ember’s mom, Amaira, with a huge smile on her face. Ember’s mom had dark hair cascading down her shoulders, folding across her olive-skinned arms. She was tall and thin and had a pleasantness about her. She was a calm woman, preferring to discuss things instead of arguing about them when the cause arose.

Li’l Ember looked up at her mother, a wide smile on her face, her eyes glistening with excitement and said “I’m getting ready for tonight, momma! It’s going to be SO much fun! I can’t wait until Gaby gets here!”

Moving to the bed to sit on the edge, Amaira placed her arm around Ember’s little shoulders lovingly. Her smile lessened just slightly as she pulled Ember close to deliver some news.

“Ember, honey, I know how much you’ve been looking forward to this, but--”

“No, mom, please! No buts today! PLEASE don’t tell me I can’t go trick-or-treating!” Ember cried, pulling away from her mom, falling to her knees, her hands together in a begging stance.

“Ember…” started Amaira.

“I’ll do anything, mom, just please, please, PLEASE let me go!  I’ll clean my room for a week! I’ll take out the trash every single day!”

Amaira paused, considering her daughter for a moment. How could she say no to that sweet, innocent face? To be truthful, she didn’t even know what reason she was going to give Ember this year. There was no vacation or planned getaway. There wasn’t even anywhere they could go on such short notice. Amaira’s husband, Ember’s father, was working late tonight and wouldn’t be home in time to take a trip anyway.

Against Amaira’s better judgment, she found herself at the verge of caving to her daughter’s desires. After all, it wasn’t fair to ask her not to go for reasons she just simply couldn’t understand. And besides, Ember could take care of herself now with her newfound powers. Not like last year, when she was defenseless. Maybe it was time to let go a little.

Just as Amaira was lost in thought, Gaby, Ember’s best friend, came running into the room.

“Ember, Ember! Are you getting ready?!” shouted Gaby as she stopped to catch her breath. “I ran all the way here as fast as I could! 

“The door was opened, I yelled in, but nobody answered, so I came on up! I hope that’s okay, Mrs. Madison.”

“What? Yes, that’s fine, Gaby, I’m sorry.”

Ember hung her head low and sagged her shoulders. “Mom was about to tell me why I can’t go.” she said begrudgingly.

“What?!” Gaby exclaimed. “But you have to go! Everybody is going and it’s going to be so much fun!”

“Gaby--” Amaira started to interject.

“Mrs. Madison, I’m sorry, and I mean no dispuspect…”

“Disrespect.” Amaira corrected her, a smile creeping onto her face again.

“That too,” Gaby continued, “but Ember missed it last year and the year before that. We miss hanging out with her SO much, and it’s just not the same without her!”

This was all too much for Amaira. She was flooded with emotion seeing how much Ember’s friend cared for her and wanted so desperately for her to be a part.  She almost forgot about the danger she and her husband had tried so hard to keep Ember from. 

Not the usual dangers, either. Those, they had accounted for. Gaby’s parents would be chaperoning, and they were usually pretty responsible. The kids wouldn’t be going door-to-door either, but going to the mall where there were plenty of people and security guards all around. They had also instituted a buddy system, so that two children were always together and always accompanied by an adult. So Amaira wasn’t worried about those kind of dangers this time.

No, the danger that they had tried to shield their young daughter from since the day she was born just so happens to come out at this time of year. And with Ember’s powers finally developing, she was at greater risk than ever before! How could she let her little girl out of her sight on a night like this?

Still, the defeated posture and the sad look in Ember’s eyes broke Amaira’s heart. She couldn’t insist Ember miss out again on this fun tradition with such safeguards in place. Not to mention Ember’s powers, which might make her a bigger target, but also add yet another layer of protection. And Ember was strong. She could handle herself.

“O-Okay, Ember… you can go.” Amaira said softly.

Ember’s head began to raise as her eyes lifted toward her mother. She used her sleeve to wipe away a few tears that had escaped and sniffled a little as she composed herself.

“R-really? I can… I can go?!” Ember muttered.

“Yes, Ember, you can go.” Amaira said with a smile, and maybe some tears welling in her own eyes.

Both Ember and Gaby immediately threw their arms around Amaira, hugging her tight. 

“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, momma!” said Ember.

“Thanks, Mrs. M., you won’t regret it!” added Gaby.

As she hugged the girls back, Amaira looked up, contemplating what she had just agreed to, staring off into space concerned.

Quietly, she said to herself, “We’ll see, Gaby. We’ll see.”

END CHAPTER ONE


Like it? I hope you did. If you'd like to read more of this story, I'll be releasing it in chapters for Patrons at the "Word for Word" tier and above each weekday for the next two weeks

Becoming a Patron at that tier, by the way, gives you the opportunity to submit a writing prompt for a future short story!

And if you don't become a Patron, I sincerely hope you enjoyed this first chapter! I had a lot of fun crafting it and am thrilled to share it with you!

Best,

Brant