span style=”font-weight: 400;”>THERE WERE THREE MORE HOUSES left before Frankie Kleetus felt ready to return to his home at the end of the block. So far, he had ventured down his main street, which was just north of his house and between homes that he was familiar with; those that were certain to give him a fair amount of candy and an even fairer amount of attention.
“Trick or treat.”
“Wow. Don’t you look…scary,” said the blonde-haired woman standing in the doorway.
She reached out and gave Frankie a handful of chocolate bars that she dropped into his opened bag. After five years of dressing in costumes and trying to be as scary as possible, Frankie wanted to do something different. Tonight, he decided to dress as a pig that had been slaughtered and to accomplish this, his mother bought him an old pig costume and some plastic knives that Frankie cut in half and pasted the handles onto his portly body. He painted red around the wounds and he did this until he believed he looked more grotesque and disgusting. Some people thought it was amusing while others saw it as ridiculous and weird. However, Frankie didn’t give much thought to the people who disliked his costume. He didn’t make it for them, he made it for himself, and so long as people shuddered or reacted to it in some way, then Frankie believed it was done well. He had lots of candy in his bag.
This year, he received more Halloween candy than he ever had before, and he believed it was a result of the houses he chose to visit. The one that Frankie wanted to visit next was the same one that he visited with his friends. An elderly woman resided there. She sat near the window and rarely came to the door, not even when Frankie and his friends threw eggs against the glass, and not even when they knocked on the door to irritate her. She was a quiet lady but she would shout and scream whenever Frankie and his friends trespassed onto her property. Some of Frankie’s friends would make jokes about how she was a witch or some other sinister hag that tried to cast spells on them. It was a sensible assumption. When she chased them, she would talk funny and make weird gestures with her hands. Yet, Frankie didn’t believe in witches, and neither did his friends, and if she did have candy, then Frankie would be sure to ask for it.
Frankie waited near the door but instead of being greeted by a person holding a bowl of candy, he was welcomed with a vacant, dark, and quiet hallway.
“Uhhh,” said Frankie,
There was no one nearby and not a single sign of candy anywhere and if he had to guess, he’d say that the door opening was nothing more than a simple accident.
He peeked his hand inside and tried to see into the home.
His voice echoed into the space before simmering and vanishing within.
Frankie was standing in the hall and surveying the space with his bag of candy and waiting for someone to answer his call. He checked the rooms to see if they were like those he had ventured to before, with a sofa or television, if there were tables and chairs, but the space he was walking into was too dark, and he could not see anything other than what was in front of him, a space illuminated by scarce amount of light.
Frankie proceeded into the house, passing by a table with a vase before he moved into the kitchen, one with a table and chairs. On the table was a tablecloth as red as the fake blood painted on Frankie’s costume, and in the center, was a bowl of candy that Frankie rushed towards the second he spotted it.
“Yesss,” he said. “More.”
He plunged the candy into his sack and packed it in for as long as he could but stopped when he heard the basement door creak open behind him. Frankie’s body became ridged and he could feel chills on his arms and shoulders. He didn’t bother to speak. He didn’t care if the old woman was home or not. She never did anything to him then, why would she do something to him now? He stood at the top of the stairs and looked down. His shoulders quivered and he could feel his heart beating. He listened closer, trying to hear where these noises were coming from and if they were really happening or just the result of his overly active imagination.
“Hee-hee-hee,” a voice chuckled from beyond the stairs.
Frankie heard it, but when he heard it the second time, he noticed a full-sized chocolate bar sitting on the stop of the stairs.
On Halloween, it was rare for houses to give full-sized chocolate bars, but if there ever was a house that did, kids would flock to it like vultures hovering over a rotting corpse. Frankie rushed to this candy and peeled off each wrapper and took in their scent. It was amazing. He had felt an impulse to gorge himself before but never like this. He felt as though the candy was calling to him, and as he shoved it into his mouth, he felt an instant craving for another as soon as he was done.
“Mmmm,” he said. “Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmm.”
He swallowed the chocolate and licked his fingers.
“Heeee. Heeee. Heeee.”
The bickering persisted and Frankie crunched the wrapper and threw it down onto the floor. He stepped down the first stair and making his way into the basement. He flicked the light switch on the wall and waited for the lights to turn on, but none did. All he saw was a light flickering at the bottom of the stairs.
He moved towards it.
He didn’t think about the reasons why there was candy, or why the woman would place it at the base of the stairs. The light continued to flicker and yet Frankie couldn’t stop thinking about the candy. It was better than anything he had tasted before. Frankie swallowed what he was still chewing while, lurking in the shadows, he saw the elderly lady, sitting on a rocking chair, and grinning ghoulishly at Frankie as he approached her.
The old lady glared and Frankie backed away.
“Shhhh,” she said. “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.”
Frankie was ready to run back up the steps and leave the house he knew he was trespassing upon.
“Don’t be afraid.”
The old lady raised her hand and smiled.
“I was down here when I heard you knock. I didn’t know that I left my door open. I just thought…maybe you would like to come in and take what you wanted yourself. After all…,” the lady lifted the blanket that was over her lap, “…I didn’t want to be the one to stop you.”
“Oh…,” said Frankie.
“Yes,” the old lady said with a sly grin, “do you want more?”
Frankie was nervous to answer. He thought the old woman would recognize him but then he remembered his costume. He wanted to get back home. He didn’t like it when he didn’t obey his parents. His mother would yell and send him to his room, but this was Halloween and there was candy, lots of candy, and he wanted all of it.
“Come on,” the elderly lady invited. “I know you want it. I know you want what I have.”
Frankie gulped and tried to stay away, but couldn’t help but feel entranced by this woman. And then, before Frankie moved to the door, he spotted another bowl of candy. It was filled with his favourites: Twix, Gummy Bears, and a bundle of black licorice. His hands were moist and his lips felt as though they hadn’t touched chocolate in hours and yet it had only been mere minutes since the last time he ate it.
The old lady grinned at him.
“Do you want some more?”
Frankie’s mouth was full as he waddled to the table and sat. He reached into the bowl and grabbed the candy.
“What’s your name?” the lady asked Frankie.
Frankie swallowed and started to unwrap more candy.
“Frankie,” he said, after he swallowed.
“Frankie,” she said, smiling. “I like that name. I’m Gretel.”
Frankie smiled back at her, but made sure to keep his distance.
“Good?” the woman asked.
“Mmm-hmmm,” Frankie mumbled. His mouth was exploding with chocolate and cookie crumbs. “Great.”
Gretel reached across the table and gently tapped the back of Frankie’s steady hands.
“I have more, if you want more?”
“No,” said Frankie, wiping his face. “I think I’m good.” He marched towards the door and grabbed his bag, which was resting on the floor.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Thank you.”
“Wait,” said Gretel. She stood up from her chair. “You can stay and eat more. I have so much more candy, more than any house on the block. You can have all the candy you want if you stay. I’ll make sure of it.”
Frankie lowered the bag from his shoulder and stared. His stomach ached and he felt an upsurge of vomit crawling up his throat. His instincts were telling him that this was all he was capable of consuming. The longer he stared at the lady’s glistening green eyes, the emptier his stomach began to feel. He felt hungry and hypnotized by the woman’s candid, unrelenting insistence, and the moment she placed another bowl of candy onto the table, Frankie’s licked his lips and headed back to his chair.
“Okay,” he said. “Okay.” He ploughed his face full of chocolate and the lady watched him.
“Good?” she said.
Frankie was swallowing the last of his bar before he belched and wiped his face clean of the jelly that was accumulated around his lips. “Is this…jelly?” he asked.
“Yes. Why, does it not taste like it is?”
Frankie was looking down at the back of his wrist and saw three red streaks that he assumed were from the candy bar, but then which was which, he didn’t know. To his knowledge, there were no chocolate bars that contained jelly, let alone jelly so thick that it could stick to one’s face, and appear in chunky globs around the hands. “I don’t know of any candy bars that have jelly inside of them,” said Frankie.
“Well, does it taste bad?”
Frankie shook his head. “No.”
There were five wrappers on the table, all of them spaced apart and all made with the same silvery paper that appeared crinkled and covered by the shade of red that Frankie noticed from the beginning.
“More?” asked the woman.
Frankie looked down at the last two bars that he was holding in his hand. These were hard, so hard that they chipped a few of his teeth without realizing. They were like pebbles moving around his mouth and the reason why he could feel it was the same reason why he saw the red streaks at the back of his hand.
Frankie was quiet. The hard ingredients inside the candy were now under his tongue and against the muscles below. They were stiffer than he thought they would be. “What are these candies made of?”
“Same things that all candies are made,” the elderly lady said with a sly grin.
Frankie could hear her laughing but was focused on the plastic bag peeping from behind the door. He crept up to it and was immediately assaulted by the smells that were creeping through his nose and nestling in the back of his throat. The red stains on the plastic were familiar now, and as he spotted them, he drew his attention to his wrist. He could see the stains on his hands. It was the same as on the bag. It had a distinct and familiar smell.
“Hahahahaha!” He rubbed his hands and reached forward and touched the plastic. It was moist and there wasn’t anything that he could see inside, not until he yanked and dragged it from the room.
The old hag laughed.
Frankie pulled it again and, from within, several bloody bundles rolled along the floor and into the sides of his feet. They were red; soaked like sponges and yet each one appeared different than the other. Some thick, others were lighter, but all of them acquired the same pungent smell. Frankie removed his hand from his nose and kicked the bag. More pieces fell out but then there was one that was larger than the others, and when it rolled it made a tumbling sound that was like a boulder sliding along until it hit something. It hit his foot. Frankie thought it was a rubber ball because of how it rolled, but he knew later that it was no such thing, because when it stopped, it turned over and there were two eyes staring up at him.
The old hag’s cackle stopped and Frankie looked down at the severed head. It was then that it dawned on him; in his little premature, twelve-year-old mind, that in this bag was a body and those bloody stumps that hit him were all that was left of it.
He stopped and gawked.
“That candy was mighty tasty, wasn’t it?”
Frankie pressed his hand against his stomach and stumbled out of the room. He could feel something rumbling from within and the taste that he once equated with chocolate had now radically shifted and all he could taste now was blood.
The elderly lady stood and opened her hand. In it was a bag of dust that Frankie didn’t notice until now. She was carrying it with her as she crept forwards, her cackling carrying through the space, and her body shaking as she walked.
“Eat,” she said. “Makes everything better. My favourite spice,” she laughed. “My secret ingredient. Sprinkle it on and makes everything taste like chocolate. Hypnotizes the mind. Do you like it? Do you want to taste it some more?” She threw more at Frankie. “Here,” she said, “there’s plenty. Eat, fat boy! Eat!”
The dust spritzed Frankie’s face and he could feel it changing his senses. It was now making him nauseous and dizzy. His vision was blurry and his footsteps became unsteady. He could fall if he did not find a way to stay balanced. Whatever the old lady was tossing it was forcing Frankie to wobble as he attempted to escape. He clutched the walls and hunched over and as he tried to puke out whatever was inside him, the old lady continued to laugh until she came right up to where he was and touched him on the shoulder.
“I killed him,” she whispered into Frankie’s ear. “Your friends. I killed them. I chopped them into tiny pieces and wrapped them up. Did you hear me, boy? I chopped them up into tiny pieces and wrapped them all up!”
Frankie vomited and watched as the liquid formed into a puddle around him.
“I didn’t want to throw any of the pieces away,” said the woman. “I couldn’t, but I was willing to play tricks, and use some of my…” the old woman didn’t finish her thought, “maybe I could find someone to do it for me,” she said. “Maybe one of the many brats who steal from my garden, throws eggs at my house, and call me a witch, well maybe they could help. Maybe I could make them help me.”
The lady threw the dust down on his face and it trickled into Frankie’s nostrils as it did before. However, from this proximity, he could smell what he thought was a spice and it was similar to the smell of chocolate. It was what on the candy, which Frankie knew wasn’t candy now, and it was how this woman was able to disguise the pieces of one of Frankie’s friends. It was how she readied them for consumption.
It was how she made him eat it, how she made him eat him.
Frankie staggered up the stairs and into the door. He pushed it forward and raced down the path outside the porch, to the sidewalk. Although he was far, he could still hear the old woman laughing. He ran as quickly as he could while three more children walked up to the house. It took three rings before the door opened and once it did, the old lady answered; her face clean and carrying a fresh bowl of candy in her hands. “Trick or treat.”