TRICK OR TREAT
By M Teresa Clayton
We stood in front of the gate to the house, daring each other to be the ‘first’ to approach the door and knock. Her porch light was always on but few ever braved up to the door to knock upon it, especially on a night of full moon, black cats, and a fog coming in from the east. Especially on All Hallows Eve. Especially on HALLOWEEN!
Bobby was not about to let an opportunity for more candy pass him by, regardless of the shutters moving in the breeze, occasionally pounding upon the side of the house itself. He took a step up onto the old wooden porch and slowly tiptoed toward the door while his friends taunted him from the street. He stopped long enough to note that there was no jack-o-lantern, no creepy store-bought Halloween decorations, and no indication at all that Old Widow Clayton was celebrating with bowls of candy for the trick-or-treaters behind that door.
Bobby’s heart pounded in his chest and he turned to face the door once more. With every step he took a creak would wince from the rotting wood planks. The layers of long abandoned spider webs were real and the knocker centered upon the old wooden door was the face of a ghoul with a ring in its mouth, its eyes watching… taunting… waiting…
Knock. Knock. Knock.
The brass ring was heavier than Bobby had expected. He waited and listened for someone behind the door when suddenly the door slowly creaked open, making that same haunting cry that seemed to come from the porch itself, as well as the bushes, the trees, and from his own throat. Bobby swallowed hard.
There she stood, a frail old woman with unkempt hair to her shoulders and wearing a black witch’s hat. She looked the part to perfection.
She looked down at him and studied him as if he were a science project. She did not speak right away. The silence seemed to freeze him to the spot and she smiled into his face, a sweet old-lady smile. Then….
“Trick... or Treat?” she asked.
Bobby was confused by the question… aren’t I suppose to be saying this? He thought to himself.
Again, she asked, “Trick? ... Or Treat?”
Bobby stared at her unable to speak, confused by the question posed to him.
“Most of the children who come to my door on a Halloween night, though there are only a few, would have demanded a treat and be on their way… but you, Bobby (she knows my name, he thought), you haven’t chosen yet… so, will it be Trick or Treat?”
Bobby swallowed hard again; there was something in the question that intrigued him. “What if I said trick instead of treat?” he asked the old Widow Clayton.
“Well then, Bobby, please come in and I’ll show you a trick.” Her face seemed to change from that of a sweet old woman into something a bit more ominous. Bobby looked back at the street where his friends were watching his every move. I can’t be a chicken now! I’ve come this far, I’ll prove to them just how brave I am and then we’ll see if any of them will knock on the door!
The old woman opened the door enough for Bobby to be able to enter in to the parlor of the house. There on the table was a deep bowl, most assuredly filled with all types of candies for the taking. All he had to do now was be nice to the old Widow Clayton, see the trick through, take her offering of candy treats and be on his way. His friends would have to follow suit and each take their turn knocking upon the door… but he was the first! He was the bravest one!
“What is your favorite treat, Bobby?” she asked as she guided him into the room. “I’ve made some cocoa and home-made chocolate drops; do you like chocolate, Bobby?”
“Yes, Mrs. Clayton, chocolate is my favorite.” Bobby answered looking around the eerie room with dark-shaded lamp and candles on every surface above the floor. The sofa looked and smelled of age, as did the sparse furnishings within the room. The only thing that interested him was the bowl of candy on the pedestal near the door.
Widow Clayton poured the warm chocolate drink from the pot into a delicate cup that had strange creatures etched upon it. Bobby held the cup up to examine it. The images of faces staring back at him made his skin crawl.
“These are commemorative pieces, Bobby. The etchings are the likenesses of family members that have passed on. We keep these cups in our family because they hold a sort of magic within them.” She stopped and beamed her huge smile at him once again before taking a sip from her own cup.
Bobby took a sip from his. This hot cocoa was nothing like he had every tasted and delightfully so! There was richness in the cocoa with a hint of vanilla and then something … bitter.
Before Bobby could react to the bitter after-taste, the Widow Clayton offered a dish of small chocolate drops. “Here, Bobby… this will help with the bittersweet taste of the cocoa. I’m sorry, I should have prepared you – it is an old family recipe and it does have a bit of a … bite.”
Bobby was happy to take a piece of chocolate drop from the plate and insert it into his mouth to reduce that awful aftertaste. He placed the cup back into its saucer and watched as the old woman stood up and faced him.
An odd sensation was coming over him but he wasn’t frightened… yet.
“Now, I believe I owe you a trick, Bobby.” She said as she lifted her left hand above her head and closed her eyes.
Bobby’s hands were frozen, folded in his lap, and his feet firmly held to the floor. Bobby realized he could not move, he could not blink his eyes nor could he make a sound – he could not speak, could not scream for help!
Her eyes rolled back into her head as she recited…
“Open the door
All hallows eve
Open his eyes
So he will believe”
Oh my god, she is putting a spell on me and I can’t move or yell out for her to stop!
“Trick the strong
Devour the weak
Chocolate your choice
When asked to speak”
The taste of the chocolate, the smell of chocolate, was overpowering. She has poisoned me; surely, she has poisoned me!
“Reward the brave
And reveal the trick,
Leave a treat for me, Bobby
And you’ll no longer be sick”
Bobby wiggled his fingers and his toes and slowly regained the feeling in his arms and legs. He blinked his eyes in disbelief and opened his mouth to speak… nothing.
Old Widow Clayton knelt down so she could see him face to face and instructed him, “You need to spit the chocolate out into the bowl on the pedestal by the door or you will grow sicker and sicker with it until it consumes you. You will say nothing of this to your friends. Send them to my door one at a time and pray that when I ask ‘Trick or Treat’ they reply ‘trick’ just as you did.”
Bobby nodded in agreement though he did not understand… yet.
Old Widow Clayton cleaned up the serving table that held the cups and saucers and the pot of hot cocoa along with the tray of chocolate drops, then she thanked Bobby for the visit and helped him to the door. She nodded at the bowl to remind him of what he had agreed to do.
Bobby leaned over the bowl and something at the back of his throat began to form and choke him. He cleared his throat once before coughing up a small chocolate form that looked frighteningly familiar – it was a small chocolate figure of him!
Bobby watched as the small chocolate effigy fell to the bottom along with other effigies, some familiar, some not. They were all screaming and wailing; flailing their little chocolate arms as if they knew what their fate could be…
…if the answer from the next child is “treat”