Halloween Horrors

The woman opened her dark basement with a wrinkled hand and peered inside at her food stores. A few dried cuts of meat dangled from frayed nooses, but it was overall quite empty. At least today was Halloween, the day of the autumn harvest. She closed the door slowly, optimistically heading for her kitchen to cook up a sweet and gooey trap for the visitors she knew would knock on her door for a special treat.

Alice held her new pumpkin costume in front of her sadly. She would be forced to wait until next year to wear it, when she was ten and all the anticipation had been leached out of the vibrant padded orange cloth. Her parents had said they couldn't go trick-or-treating this year. Then they had left Grandpa in charge of supervision while they worked through the night. Which was all fine—she loved all of his stories of witches and bandits and princesses and high adventure—but he always seemed to be asleep whenever she was in need of something to occupy her ever-flitting mind. Even now he sat snoring in the comfiest armchair of the house. She blew an apple-tinged puff of air at his cheek. No reaction. Maybe... if she was quiet about leaving and came back before her bedtime... Alice eyed the pumpkin costume again. She grinned and perked up in delight, her black ringlets of hair bouncing on her shoulders as she began to get ready for the annual tradition.

The night crept into her ivy-covered windows as she waited, licking her lips, for a knock from some tender young child. A hesitant rap came at the door. She rose from her couch, her ancient joints creaking, and opened the door swiftly. A girl with curly black hair and shy green eyes dressed in a round pumpkin costume was revealed. "Trick-or-treat?' she asked, hugging her candy bucket.

"First time out alone? Aren't you a brave one?” The woman smiled widely, glancing about for any sign of parents. She exposed yellowed teeth with bits of meat stuck between them. "I'm... Mrs. Hunter. Oh, but I forgot your special treat inside the house!"

The girl opened her mouth to protest but was quickly ushered inside, where the aroma of something cloyed at her nose and made her dizzy. "Now, then," Mrs. Hunter pulled out her treat as the door slowly groaned shut. "It might be a bit sharp for your taste, but I guarantee you'll love it."

That night, long after everyone was safely home, Mrs. Hunter decided it was time to have her yearly Halloween feast. She stepped contentedly to her basement, now filled with shadowy shapes hanging from the low ceiling on ropes. The harvest had been quite plentiful this year. A metallic scent drifted through the room, little rivulets dried in rust trails running down skin from well-placed piercings.

Mrs. Hunter took a nibble of the nearest hanging mass, smiling at its wide, frightened green eyes. The flavor was simply delightful, soft, piquant, and juicy, as though it was a thin skinned balloon stretched to its limits that she had popped into her mouth. There would be work to do tomorrow to begin the freezing and drying processes, but for now she would just enjoy herself. They wouldn't rot that fast.

Covetingly, the old woman traced a claw along the girl's cheek. "I think you would enjoy a nicely lighted spot much more than this, pumpkin." She smirked as she ran her fingers through the disheveled hair and detached the body from the ceiling to carry it up to the dining room, imagining how much better it would taste with a bit of salt.