Coming early September “Witch or Treat”
An Anthology of Short Paranormal Halloween Treats
‘Tis the Season to be Creepy
“I’ll never live this down. It’s so humiliating.”
“Quit complaining, Luna.” Lexie gave the cat harness a gentle tug, “We’re going this way and, please try to walk beside me. You look ridiculous dragging your paws.”
Luna gave her a mock snarl. “I feel it is my duty to put up a valiant struggle and stand up for all my kind who are tyrannized by people like you.”
“You’ve turned into a drama queen. And stop talking out loud, people will hear you.”
“They’ll hear you. Not me. How many times do I have to explain it to you? My voice projects straight into your mind.” Luna hissed at a cat sitting at a store window.”
What are you looking at? For your information, I am a feline companion to an incoming High Chair, while you’re nothing but a… a domestic rodent catcher.
“Luna! Be nice. What’s come over you?”
“Me? What about you?” Luna grumbled and took a swipe at the leash, “This is because I bit you. You never forgave me for it and now you’re paying me back. You realize this will send us right back to the therapist’s couch.”
“I wouldn’t be that vindictive,” Lexie whispered.
“What do you call this?”
“You have a tendency to take off and I’m in no mood to go chasing after you. And don’t bother suggesting I carry you. You’re too heavy. I’m onto you. You’ve figured out a way to open cans and you’ve been stuffing yourself with Game Indulgence. Admit it…”
“Mmm… Quail, pheasant, duck… I… I might have woken up in the middle of the night maybe once or twice… for a snack… or two… But that’s no reason for you to subject me to enforced exercise.”
“It’s three blocks. Nothing but a light constitutional. I just need to do some shopping. The store’s not far.”
“There is an alternative to getting around,” Luna mused, “If you’d only put some effort into it and practiced, you’d stop landing in closets. You’re a witch and traveling at the blink of an eye is your most powerful tool” Luna pulled on the leash. “Hang on. Where are you taking me? This looks familiar.”
Lexie hummed. If Luna caught on to the fact they were on their way to—
No, she couldn’t think about it because as soon as she did, Luna would pick up on the thought and run for her life. Or, at least, try to.
“Where are we going?” Luna demanded, her voice loaded with suspicion.
“Oh, look. They’re having a sale at your favorite feline emporium. Aren’t you lucky one opened nearby and we no longer have to trek all the way uptown. We’ll drop in on our way back home and get you a treat.”
“Resorting to bribery. This must be bad. Really bad. I can sense it.”
Lexie turned her focus to people watching. Anything to keep her thoughts away from letting Luna know they were on their way to—
“Yes, this definitely looks familiar. Hang on… No. No. No. You promised.”
“I did no such thing.”
“You did. No Jack-o’-lantern.”
“I never promised and you never said why you don’t want one. It’s tradition.”
“Then you’ll have to break with tradition. As your roommate, I reserve the right to voice my opinion and I say no Jack-o’-lantern.”
“Too late. I’ve been on Starr Black’s waiting list for an entire year and I was lucky to even make the list. Her Halloween Jack-o’-lanterns are hand carved limited editions works of art and in high demand. Everyone in the street competes to have the best Halloween display. Last year, the neighborhood Halloween Committee issued me with a warning to pull up my socks or else. Plastic Jack-o’-lanterns don’t cut it with them. I can’t afford another warning. Two strikes and you’re out. How will it look if I, Alexandra Elizabeth Mackenzie, incoming High Chair of the American Continent and all Circumferential Domains Pertaining to the Mackenzie Coven, am blackballed on Halloween?”
“No time like the present to get used to it. ‘Tis The Season to be Creepy is closed.”
What? “It’s just ‘Tis the Season. And… It can’t be closed. I made an appointment for ten o’clock.” Lexie frowned at the closed sign on the door.
“Come on. The Kitty Café is just around the corner. Good time for a bowl of milk.”
Lexie peered inside. The clock at the back of the store chimed the hour. Ten o’clock on the dot. “Let’s wait around a bit. Starr might have slept in.”
“Or she might keep gentleman hours and stir awake at midday, a habit you might consider adopting. This business of rushing out so early throws my schedule right off.”
“I gave you enough time to preen.”
Luna brushed her paw against her head. “Not enough time. I feel there’s something wrong.”
“Yeah, you’ve got a cowlick happening.”
“Argh! Why didn’t you tell me?” Luna licked her paw and gave her head a frantic rub. “Is it gone? I can’t believe I walked three blocks with a cowlick on full display. You know how I feel about personal appearances.”
“You’re such a girly-girl.” Thinking Starr might have stepped out for a coffee, she looked up and down the street. When she didn’t see her, Lexie strode toward the store next door.
“Now what are you doing?”
“Sorry. There’s a sign on the window. Don’t take it the wrong way. It says No Pets Allowed.” Lexie secured the leash to a fire hydrant. “Someone inside might have seen Starr. I won’t be long.”
“You’re seriously going to leave me out here? What if someone snatches me, or… or worse? A dog could come along and do its business. I’ve seen them doing it, exposing themselves without a care in the world. You think they’ll worry about me getting sprayed? How am I ever going to get rid of the scent?”
“You’re stressing over nothing.” Lexie strode into The Doll House and, sending her glance skating around the store, she made a beeline for the counter.
The place looked like a museum. There were dolls stacked on every available surface, from floor to ceiling.
Hearing the sound of shuffling footsteps, Lexie turned and saw an elderly woman approaching. Ancient, more like it. She wore a crocheted shawl around her shoulders in a deep shade of green and her white hair gathered into a neat bun that sat on top of her head. Although, it might actually have been the back of her head. At one time, the woman must have been as tall as Lexie, but now her body stooped, bending at the waist, almost parallel with the floor. Lexie guessed the walking stick she used stopped her from toppling over.
Not wanting to startle her, Lexie waited for the woman to notice her.
“You’re too old for dolls,” the woman said without breaking eye contact with the floor.
What did she mean? She might have been in the market for a doll for someone else…
“And you don’t strike me as the type to buy a doll as a gift. What do you want?” The woman tapped her walking stick and glared up at her.
“I actually wanted to ask about your neighbor, Starr Black. Have you seen her this morning?”
“Aha! So you did come into my store under false pretences. Don’t try to deny it. I saw you admiring my dolls but you faked your interest.”
“Would it help if I buy something?”
The woman waved her walking stick. “My dolls are not for you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“These are special dolls, for special people.”
Lexie refused to take the remark as a personal affront. She’d never met the woman before and vice versa. She had no reason to make such a hasty judgment call about her character.
Making concessions for her elderly status, Lexie gave her a brisk smile.
“Are you waiting for a special invitation to vacate my premises?”
Lexie lifted her chin. “As a matter of fact, I do wish to buy a doll. This one.” She grabbed the nearest one and dug inside her pocket for some cash.
The woman gave her a lifted eyebrow look. “Are you sure?”
Lexie looked at the ragdoll. It was missing an eye and a pigtail had come undone. “Yes, it’s just what I need.”
The woman lifted the walking stick and tapped a sign behind her. “No buyer’s remorse accepted and definitely no bartering. Sales are final.”
“But only on the condition that you tell me if you’ve seen the neighbor next door.”
The woman clasped her walking stick, her gnarled fingers tapping against it. “I haven’t seen her lately, but I did hear her and her good for nothing boyfriend, Jack, arguing all night.”
“What about this morning?”
“Silly girl, if I’d seen or heard her this morning, I would have told you. I might be old, but I’m not senile.” She stretched her hand out. “That’ll be thirty seven dollar and I don’t have change.”
Lexie looked at the ragdoll and considered putting it back but then she looked up at the sign. Had she already committed to buying it? Pushover, she thought and handed the fifty over.
Taking the note, the woman rang up the total, and slammed the cash register drawer shut. “Pleasure doing business with you.” The woman turned and shuffled toward the back door.
Out on the pavement, Lexie found Luna gnawing on the leash.
“Hey, that’s expensive leather.”
“What took you so long?”
“I was only gone five minutes, tops.”
“Long enough for me to be terrorized by a scruffy looking Tom cat. My mother warned me about his type. And here I was, easy prey. I had to show him my claws. And then there was the Bengal society prima donna from the Upper East Side looking for a good time and purring about how exclusive and pricey her breed is. I’ve heard about those too. They like to trawl around the seedy neighborhoods and then go back to their duplex apartments and their pedicures…” Luna blinked and looked at the ragdoll. “What’s that?”
“It’s the price I had to pay for information,” Lexie admitted.
“It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. Just keep it away from me.”
“Come on. Starr might be back by now.”
She wasn’t. Lexie peered through the store window. “Hey, that’s my Jack-o’-lantern sitting on the counter.” She looked around the store but didn’t see anyone. “I must have it. The neighborhood committee is doing a pre-Halloween inspection today.”
No way. “I have to have something to show them. Come on.” She led them to an alleyway and looking over her shoulder, made sure no one had seen them.
“Oh, heavens,” Luna groaned, “Please tell me you’re not going to click your heels.”
“I’ll just pop in and grab my Jack-o’-lantern. I’m sure Starr won’t mind.”
“Pop in? You say that with so much confidence when we know what’s going to happen next.”
Ignoring Luna’s taunt, Lexie focused on the inside of the store. A split second later, she opened her eyes and sighed. “Well, at least she had a closet for me to land in.”
“Yes, a broom closet.” Luna screeched. “Argh, my tail landed in a bucket of sloppy water.”
Lexie eased the door open and peered out. “I think it’s safe.” Making sure to keep out of sight of anyone looking inside the store, she crouched down and wove her way to the counter. A card with her name on it sat beside the Jack-o’-lantern. “Starr did a splendid job with the tiny pumpkin. The jagged teeth look ferocious and the eyes small and beady, yet all seeing and powerful. I love it,” she said in an awed tone.
Luna pulled on the leash. “Hurry up. I’m going to have nightmares for days on end.”
“What is it with you and pumpkins? You’re a witch’s feline companion. How can you not like Jack-o’-lanterns.”
“I prefer not to talk about it, but needless to say, my sister Venus had a hand in putting the fear of Jack-o’-lanterns in me.” Luna scratched her nails against the wooden floor.
“It’s a pumpkin. What can it do to you?”
Luna’s eyes widened. “That would have to be the biggest pumpkin I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing.”
“That back room at the end of the hallway.”
Grabbing her pumpkin, Lexie went over to see for herself.
“See. I told you. Creepy. Big enough to stuff a person inside. If I’m not mistaken, those are feet sticking out of the mouth. Honestly, I’ll never understand how people can come up with such macabre ideas.” Luna’s voice hitched, “What are you doing?”
“I want to take a closer look. Maybe I could do something similar with the ragdoll.”
“You think she stuffed a ragdoll inside it?”
“Of course, she did.” Although… She had a bad feeling about those feet.
Luna tugged on the leash. “Please, can we leave now? You have your ghastly pumpkin. What more do you want?”
“What exactly did your sister do to you?”
“I can’t even bear to think about it.” Luna yelped and, taking a leap, landed on Lexie’s head. “I just caught a whiff of the smell in this place. It’s Jack of the Jack-o’-lantern and he’s come to kill us all.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Lexie lifted the lid on the Jack-o’-lantern and jumped back. “Okay. That’s definitely not a ragdoll.”
Copyright ©2017 Sonia Parin/All Rights Reserved