Posted on October 31, 2010 by Monica Valentinelli
I am pleased to present you with a free flash fiction piece as my Halloween treat to you. This story is entitled “A Different Kind of Treat.” For more about my games, stories and books, visit www.mlwrites.com.
A Different Kind of Treat
Blood-red shafts of sunlight filter through a dirty cabin window, kissing a row of colorful glass bottles. One by one the bottles shine with anticipation as they reveal their grisly contents. Three eyes spin in a green flask; a pair of wings beats urgently in another.
“What’s that, Momma?” A child’s finger points to a jar of wrinkled entrails sitting high on a kitchen shelf. The boy, who stands about three feet tall, is covered in dust and flour. His skin is marred with muddy blisters.
“Oh nothing special, Alwin,” Belinda replies airily as she pulls a frilly apron over her head. “Just something I cook with now and again. You hungry?”
“Want candy.” Alwin rubs his bloated stomach. “Chocolate, ‘specially.”
She flashes him a crooked grin and picks a small book off the burnished wood counter. Has it really been a year since she last used her recipe book? Lately, it seems like all of her time has been devoted to nursing Alwin. No matter what she gives him — cinnamon, tincture of licorice or willow bark roots — nothing seems to help him get any better.
“Maybe I missed something,” Belinda whispers as she scans through her book. Her gnarled fingers turn the pages gingerly, as if each leaf of paper is a cherished family heirloom.
“What’s this, momma?”
Belinda rolls her eyes. She has to concentrate and she can’t think if he keeps talking. She knows he’s lonely, but there’s nothing she can do about that. Born under a harvest moon, Alwin’s only friends were the ravens that often circled the skies above their cabin. His insatiable curiosity was the only thing Belinda didn’t like about him. Then again, he was only a year old. “What’s what, honey?”
“This.” Alwin shows her a fistful of waxy hair. “It’s from my head.”
Belinda’s paper-thin lips crumple into a disapproving scowl. She can’t afford to babysit Alwin while she mixes and measures the necessary ingredients for tonight’s confection. Either he’s going to help her in the kitchen, or she needs to find something else for him to do. Thinking quickly, she pulls a red bottle off a shelf. “Just put those strands in here and we’ll figure out where they belong later.”
Alwin ignores her and yanks more hair right out of his crusty scalp.
Dark splotches bloom all over Alwin’s pasty neck; she knows what they mean. Her last spell was a total failure. Thinking quickly, she tries something else. “Why don’t you grab your costume?”
Alwin runs around the room in a circle chanting at the top of his lungs. “Trick-or-treat. Smell my feet. Give me something good to eat.”
Belinda crosses her bony arms and regards him sternly. She has to get him out of her hair, but she doesn’t have the heart to kill him. He doesn’t have that much time left, but she still feels responsible for him. “You can collect some firewood for the oven first.”
She knows the boy won’t stray very far from the cabin. If the trees and the corn fields don’t confuse him, the owls will corner him. Just last night, Belinda had awakened to the sound of a screeching owl perched above his bed. It was as if the entire forest not only knew what Alwin was, they were eager to share the secret. So far, no human — not even the townsfolk that lived just a few miles away — knows who she is or what she’s been up to. “That’s a good thing,” she thinks. Lost in her thoughts, Belinda barely hears her son’s whimper.
“Outside, momma. Outside.” Alwin moans softly.
Leaning forward, Belinda looks at him straight in the eye. “Do you think you’ll back by supper?”
She knows Alwin won’t last that long. His skin is crumbling and his fingers are starting to wither. If that isn’t bad enough — he reeks of mold.
To take her mind off of Alwin’s predicament, Belinda opens her enchanted book to her favorite recipe. She can’t help but smile as she gathers the ingredients and dumps them into her cauldron: tiny snails, fat slugs, pumpkin seeds, a virgin’s eyes.
Belinda drops a pulsing heart into the thickening dough and stirs it with all her might. “This’ll turn out right this time, I just know it.”
Alwin pulls a rubber mask over his crumbling face. “Can I help?”
“Not this time, Alwin, but you can watch Berthold rise.”
“Who’s Berthold? Is it candy?”
“No, he’s a different kind of treat, Alwin. The kind that’ll be good forever.”
“Sounds tasty, Momma.”
Belinda licks her lips. “Oh, I hope so, Alwin. I hope so.”