By Lisa McCourt Hollar
The Jack-O-Lantern sat on the stoop outside the witch’s house, its evil face blazing with the flames of hell. The old hag, her face full of warts, stood next to her creation. Her eyes moved, searching the shrubbery and overgrown grass that surrounded her home. They were out there. She could smell them, the little wretches. Every year they came, thinking they could trick her. They would find out! She would be the one playing the final trick. Her shoulders shook with laughter as she contemplated their screams. Turning, she left Old Jack on the porch, waiting to great this year’s visitors.
“Did you see that? She looked right at us!”
“No she didn’t,” Pauline hissed. “She was just looking around. She didn’t see us.”
“I don’t know. Maybe we should go back.”
“And have the other kids laugh at us? Call us chicken?”
“It’s better than dying,” Penelope said.
Pauline looked at her twin as though she had grown a second head. “You don’t seriously believe those stories? Those girls were just goofing with us, like we did back home when we took the newbie’s’ snipe hunting. Now we’re the new kids and that house is our snipe.”
“Yeah, except that snipes aren’t real. That house is real and that sure looked like a real witch to me.”
“Just a harmless old woman.”
“If she’s harmless, then why are we going up there? Wouldn’t terrorizing an old woman make us the bad guys?”
“We’re not going to terrorize her. We’re just going to knock on her door and run.”
“And steal her broomstick,” Penelope said, reminding her sister about that part of the dare. They had to bring the broomstick back, to prove that they had gone onto the witch’s porch.
“Yeah, and that. Now let’s go. I still want to do some treating tonight.”
Reluctantly, Penelope followed her sister through the weeds and debris of the yard. There was a hint of a sidewalk, but it was mostly hid beneath the tangled undergrowth. Approaching the porch, Penelope slowed, pulling on her sister’s arm to stop her. Pauline would have nothing to do with turning back however and continued on, dragging Penelope in tow.
Stepping onto the rickety porch, Penelope whispered a prayer. The candle in the Jack-O-Lantern leaped to life, its flame dancing and swaying to some hellish beat that only Old Jack could hear.
“Pauline,” she hissed, trying to pry her hand free from her sister’s grip.
“Shhh,” Pauline hissed back, pushing the frightened girl towards the wooden stick that was leaning against the window. “You get the broom!”
Penelope’s hand closed around the worn handle. Turning to flee, she caught sight of the old woman inside the house. The hag was standing over a huge pot that could only be described as a cauldron. At first Penelope thought it was a Halloween prop, but then she noticed the steam rising from the cauldron begin to solidify and take on the shape of a horned man. Horrified, Penelope looked towards Pauline and realized she was about to knock on the door.
“What,” Pauline’s closed hand stopped just before it reached the door.
Penelope didn’t answer, her gaze now falling on something behind her sister. Annoyed, Pauline turned to see what had her sister so frightened. She imagined that the other girls had come to see if they were going through with the dare. She imagined they probably had more plans to scare them. She imagined a lot of things. What she didn’t imagine was that when she turned around, she would see a man standing there on the porch with the Jack-O-Lantern setting square on his shoulders in place of a head.
The man/creature took a step towards Pauline. The girl pressed her back against the door, shrinking away from the monster. Instead of finding a solid door however, Pauline found herself falling backwards as the door opened from the inside.
“You always come,” the witch cackled. “Every Halloween, you think it’s funny, knock on my door and run? Have a laugh at an old woman’s expense?”
“No,” Pauline cried. The monster continued towards her, his carved face leering. Trying to push herself off the ground, Pauline crawled spiderlike, further into the house.
The old witch turned towards Penelope, who still held the broom tightly in her hand. “And you, do you know how difficult it is to replace a broom? It’s not just any old broom that can fly, you know! You have to make one proper. You need a Phoenix feather to make a halfway decent broom; a hair from a Unicorn’s mane if you want speed. You cannot just go to the store and buy one!”
“I’m sorry,” Penelope whimpered.
“Old Jack though, he watches over me now. He protects me from sniveling little brats like you.”
“We won’t do it again,” Penelope promised.
“No, I don’t suppose you will.” The witch stepped aside to reveal Jack standing over Pauline. He reached his hands out and took hold of her head. Pauline opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out except for a stream of vomit that closely resembled pumpkin guts. Then her body began to shrink, changing form. When he was finished, Jack turned his flaming eyes, seeking Penelope out.
“I told you they would chicken out,” Donna whispered. The oldest and therefore the leader of the all girl gang was huddled outside the witch’s house, staring at the porch.
“I thought they would go through with it,” Belinda whispered.
“Whatever. I wish I could have seen them. I bet Penelope pissed herself. Brooms still there,” Donna said, sounding wistful. “I want it.”
“So go get it,” Mary said.
“I think I will.” Putting on a brave face, the girl made her way through the weeds, keeping her goal in sight. She never noticed the bigger Jack-O-Lantern’s smile turn up into a wider grin, nor the frozen, terrified screams of the smaller two that now decorated the outside of the house.
Word Count: 1,000
Copyright©2011 Lisa McCourt Hollar. All rights reserved.