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Birthdays

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Kennington, London, October 31st, 1993 

The sky was almost entirely devoid of sunlight now, though not of light. Overhead, sheets of colour rippled across the upper atmosphere as the world's magic field interacted with its magnetic field and the air. Ceri knew this, even at seven, but right now she did not care one jot because she was far too busy running to the next house, clad in a red bodysuit with a pair of fake horns on a headband, and a plastic pitchfork gripped in one hand and a plastic carrier bag from Sainsbury's in the other. She had a tail too, though it was currently knotted around her thin waist because she had already tripped over it once. 

Mrs Short's house was the last place they would be going to tonight. The Rastafari temple and the squats along St. Agnes Place were not noted for handing out sweets, and anyway the temple was nailed up tight by now, like more or less every other supernatural site in the country. Ceri's friend Jenny Li banged on the door and they waited. Jenny had an awesome Oni costume, even if Ceri was not sure what an Oni was, or why Jenny's costume was so awesome. There was certainly a lot of face paint involved and... 

'Well what have we here?' Mrs Short said, cutting off Ceri's train of thought. 'A scary demon... two scary demons, and a werewolf, and a skeleton... My how terrifying. I'm sure you've all done a wonderful job of keeping the spirits away.' Well, yes, so far, so good. While the sky overhead was flaring with blues and greens there was little evidence of anything nasty down on the street yet. 

'Hello, Mrs Short,' Tanya said. Tanya was the skeleton, and the most forward of the four children, and had been doing most of the talking. She actually came from one of the squats, but just about everyone on the street knew her and she had been friends with Ceri since moving in. Not many people were friends with Ceri, so people forgave her a lot just for that. 

'Who's in there?' Mrs Short asked, plucking at the werewolf's rubber mask. 

'It's me, Tony Brough,' the werewolf replied. His voice was a bit muffled and Ceri was pretty sure he only knew who was asking because Tanya had said so; the visibility out of the mask was pretty restricted. 

'Lovely,' Mrs Short enthused. 'And Tanya Keyes, and little Ceri Brent. I don't know this one though.' 

'Jenny Li, ma'am,' Jenny introduced herself. 'I go to school with Ceri and Tanya.' 

Mrs Short reached for a carrier bag of sweets. 'Well, let's give you terrible monsters some treats,' she said. Ceri was happy that she was getting to that part. Under the tight, red suit her forearms were starting to tingle. 

'Thank you, Mrs Short,' the children chorused, and a few seconds later they were running off toward High Towers. The wards around the fence line were already shimmering with orange light. Ceri put on a burst of speed; she hated going through the wards when they were active, it made her arms sting. Tanya knew, and her longer legs carried her ahead of the little red demon to push the gate open so that Ceri could run through. Even at that speed she gave a yelp of pain and rushed onward to where her mother was waiting in the doorway with open arms. 

'Come in, children,' Marion said as she scooped her daughter up and carried her inside. David was waiting just inside, ready to close the door. The Brents allowed their daughter out on Samhain, to be with the other children, but they stayed indoors where it was safe. Halloween was a time for children, mortal ones, normal ones. Supernaturals who went out after dark were not safe. Bad things could happen to them. Sometimes very bad things could happen to them. 

For now though, it was their daughter's birthday and her friends were in the big house with the strange illusion which made it look haunted. Marion had done some work inside and illusory ghosts and will-o-the-wisps were occupying the hall, and there were little joyful screams. High Towers was the place to be after dark on Halloween. Outside the world was full of spirits, maybe even demons, but within these walls it was safe and full of the laughter of happy, partying children. 

October 31st, 2002 

The problem was, he did not even seem to know she existed. His name was Paul Heaton and he had gorgeous blue eyes and thick, black hair. He had the looks of a movie star and he was just sixteen, which was how old she was now. On this very day, in fact. Outside the wards were flaring orange and even red in some places. It was quite a bad Samhain. Ceri had even heard her father saying that he thought he had seen a real demon outside the wards. Then they had rung around the parents of the children there and the birthday party had turned into a sleepover. 

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