Tuesday, October 23, 2018
By Daniel Skye
Never take candy from strangers, Tim thought. Except on Halloween.
Tim Fletcher had created a mental map of all the houses he wanted to visit that night. He knew all the streets, all the routes, all the shortcuts to get back and forth across town. And this was the first year he’d be going solo.
He was getting to that age where parental supervision was demoralizing, especially when his classmates were allowed to trick-or-treat on their own as long as they stayed in groups. Tim promised he’d be careful and that he’d stick with a group.
But his parents still wouldn’t let him go without protection. Tim’s father gave it to him before he left the house. “You know what to do if you run into trouble,” his dad said with a wink. And Tim assured him that he did.
Tim decided to go as Spider-Man that year. Thanks to the Walking Dead, a lot of kids were going as zombies, complete with fake blood and detailed makeup. And a lot of the other boys his age were dressed as Batman, or various characters from the Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy. But Tim was a diehard Spidey fan. And technically, Spider-Man was sort of affiliated with the Avengers in the latest Spider-Man movie Tim had seen, and that was good enough for him.
He used his mental map to guide his way through the neighborhood. He made sure to visit the Clifford’s house, since Mrs. Clifford was a certified Halloween fanatic and gave out full-size candy bars to all the kids.
The Williams’s house was also on the list. Mr. Williams would give out money instead of candy, which was fine with Tim. He usually wound up spending it on a new comic book for his collection.
He always avoided the Johnson’s house, because their dad was a dentist and he always gave out miniature toothpaste and toothbrushes. No candy.
And Mrs. Ruta’s house was another one to skip. She never had any real candy and usually resorted to handing out cherry flavored cough drops or Tic Tac’s to anyone that dared ring her bell.
But Mr. Garey’s house was at the top of his list. He gave out bags of Skittles or peanut M&Ms every year. Peanut M&Ms were Tim’s second favorite candy. But Heartstoppers sour candy would forever be his favorite. Tim’s doctor warned him that eating sour candy was like ingesting battery acid. But kids have never been known to listen to adults. And Tim was no different in that aspect.
Forget about Warheads or Sour Patch Kids. Heartstoppers are as sour as sour candy gets. They come individually wrapped and shaped like gumballs. You have to bite into them to release the sour filling inside. That stuff is strong enough to eventually make your tongue go numb if you eat enough, as Tim once found out.
It was getting late. Tim’s bag was full and he had strayed from the group he was in to visit the last few houses on his mental map. Now it was all a matter of getting home before his parents threw a fit and grounded him for a week.
He was a few blocks from his house when he heard footsteps rapidly approaching. He turned to see a tall, thin man trailing behind him. He looked to be in his early thirties, had slick jet-black hair and dark brown eyes.
“Hey, kiddo. It’s getting pretty late. Shouldn’t you be home by now?”
“Shouldn’t you be minding your business?” Tim snapped back. His spidey-sense was tingling. Tim knew this stranger wasn't to be trusted.
“Wise guy, huh? I respect that. I used to be just like you when I was your age. You want a little more candy for your bag?” the man offered.
“I have enough candy.”
“Oh, come on. You can never have enough candy.”
“My parents told me to never take candy from strangers.”
“Isn’t that what Halloween is all about?”
Tim thought about it for a moment. Then he slipped a hand into his pocket and produced two individually wrapped Heartstoppers.
“You’re right,” Tim said. “Here, we can share.”
The stranger accepted the candy, only to mollify Tim.
He bit into the gumball shaped candy and within seconds, his tongue went numb. A sharp, burning sensation formed in the pit of his gut. He dropped to his knees, clutching at his stomach.
“What did you do to me?” he cried out.
“Never take candy from strangers” Tim chided. “Including me.”
The man, who was now sprawled out on the sidewalk, tried to raise his head and meet Tim’s eyes. But he couldn’t see the boy, couldn’t see anything.
He was blind.
“Household poison. My dad’s a chemist. A little something he whipped up to keep me safe from sickos like you. Happy Halloween.”