Hansel and Grethel (a retelling)

(So I found this going through some old files from my back up hard drive. I wrote this for a children’s literature class I was enrolled in. Susie’s condition worsened and I never even handed this in to be graded. We were to rewrite a child’s fairy tale and I chose this one. It was the first and only time I attempted to directly rewrite someone else’s story.  I hope you enjoy what I tried to do here. It was fun. Thank you. – JM)

Hansel and Grethel

As written by

Jeffery Vogel

2010

Eng 2601

Hansel and Grethel (a reimagining)

            This is a tale of two children who lived on the edge of a large forest with their parents; the boy, Hansel and his sister Grethel. Theirs was a sad story for their parents had no food left to feed them. The children lay awake far too hungry to sleep when they heard their mother speaking to their father. What they heard sent chills down their spines.

“Husband there is no food left to feed the children, we must get rid of them right away. How shall we feed ourselves, shall we all four die of hunger?”

“But dear wife they are our children how could you be so cold?” Hearing their father speak these words, the children wondered the same thing.

It did not take her long to convince him; even the children noticed some subtle change in their mother’s voice. Their father’s objections faded to nothing more than an accepting groan.

“We shall take them deep in the woods and leave them; they will never find their way home.” The mother’s voice was calm and gentle, as reassuring as any mother’s would be accept for the terrible words she spoke.

Hansel spoke softly to his sister, “dear sister, I know what has happened, two nights past I heard a noise and awoke startled. I followed the sound outside; it led me down past the woodshed. I could see a bright almost heavenly light seeming to flow between the trees from deep in the old wood.”

“Were you not terrified brother? I could not have gone alone and seen such things I would have fallen feint.” Grethel was still shaking and her voice quivered as she spoke.

“I was frightened but I could not stop myself from wandering deeper.” He stopped and pondered what he had seen, trying to decide the best way to relate his tale to his sister.

“Well?”  Grethel ordered. “What did you see?”

“Sorry sister, I was lost in my own foolish head. I followed the light or was it the sound? My feet were finding their own way, as if by magic. It was as if I had no control over my own parts. I have never felt in such a way before, I felt like I was dreaming.”

Grethel was terrified and growing impatient to hear what Hansel saw but was too fearful of what she may learn from his answer to ask again.

“I came to a clearing and the light was so bright I could not look directly at it, there was a sound and it was then I knew that the sound had been calling to me. That’s when I saw her come from the center of the light as though she was in that moment born. She was wearing her night clothes outside!” Hansel was again thinking and grew silent.

“Who, who did you see?” Grethel could no longer tolerate another long silence so close to hearing the end.

“Mother, It was mother. She was the same but not the same. Her eyes were red like coals but as I stood watching they changed back to her normal lovely blue. Before the change she seemed not to see, perhaps that is why she did not know she was dressed so.”

“What has happened to our mother? She would never dare set foot out of her dressing room in such a state, what if someone had seen?” Grethel was mortified at the thought of being seen in her nightgown.

“I do not know. I hid behind a tree and right before my eyes…” Hansel trailed off again lost to his memories.

Grethel did not like the look on her brothers face and shook him till he became aware and he continued. “I ran and ran as fast as I could. The sun was creeping over the trees, I had been outside for hours but it only seemed a few moments. When I woke I thought it was all a dream. I prayed it was all a dream. When I was dressing I saw that my shoes were filthy, I still thought it was a dream.” Hansel was trying to convince himself but his attempts at self reassurance failed.

The children were frightened; revealing his tale to his sister had done little to dispel his own fear from the encounter in the woods. This did not make sense to them, they were terrified.

It was Grethel who broke the silence. “Father, we must tell father. She must be possessed by some evil beast or perhaps she is bewitched, yes that must be it a witch has taken mother!”

Hansel sluggishly nodded his approval and the children waited until they heard their mother’s rhythmic breathing. She was sound asleep.

“Father, wake up please.” Urged the shaking Grethel as Hansel stood blank faced. Grethel was not noticing the change in her brother’s demeanor. If she had she would have noticed that each time he thought of the encounter and remembered the night he grew more docile. His face was losing expression. In the dark and in such a hurry to quietly wake her father these things she did not notice.

Their loving father woke without a sound, he just starred blank facedly and spoke only three words, “Your bidding master?”

To this the mother who was no mother at all bolted from the bed and with a grotesquely distorted and serpentine like arm grabbed at Grethel, but the girl was faster.  Hansel was watching eyes wide but no sound issued from his mouth.

“Oh no Hansel not you too!” Screamed Grethel, she saw that what ever her mother witch had done to their father was now starting to take hold of Hansel. She quickly reacted as the mother monster crept closer to her and began throwing anything she could find to block her path.

Grethel threw clothes and finally through pure luck in the dark she found a blanket and she threw it over the mother imposter. This gave her enough time to grab Hansel by the arm and get him moving out the door.

Half pulling, half dragging she got Hansel down the stairs and out into the woods. She had been wary of the woods at night for fear of the wild things that live there but tonight nothing seemed scarier than her own mother witch.

Her mind raced trying to figure out what had happened. Slowly her brother regained his senses and after some time he stopped bewildered and asked, “Grethel what in the world are we doing so deep in the woods at night?”

“Do you not remember?” She was frightened and was certain that her brother may have been in shock but for him to have no memories of the terrible scene they had just fled doubled her fears.

“We were in our room talking and I must have dozed off.” He was completely unaware of anything happening.

Grethel quickly recounted the story and Hansel did seem to remember it but only as if he had dreamt it.  As they stood they realized they had never been this deep in the woods and they decided they needed to leave a trail to find their way home. Grethel had a piece of bread; it was half her dinner from earlier that night. Hansel would drop a bread crumb every so often so they would be able to at least find their way back to the spot and from there they could get home. They needed help so they wandered ever deeper in the hopes they could find a woodsman’s shack. They believed if they could find a big strong man he could save their father and hopefully return their mother to them.

They walked until they could walk no more and there on the ground where they stopped to rest they slept. They did not wake until well past noon. They were hungry and it was then Hansel noticed that even the closest pieces of bread he had dropped were nowhere to be seen.

“Oh no Grethel, the crumb trail is gone! We are lost!” Hansel’s eyes began to tear up as he yelled at the unresponsive trees.

“Quiet now!” Grethel demanded. “How can I think with you howling like a banshee?”

It was true they were hopelessly lost, but their mission had not changed they needed to find someone, anyone, only then would their family be saved. At last Grethel spoke. “We shall mark the trees; scratch the bark so we shall know if we have passed it before.”

Hansel was overcome with grief and trudged along quietly. Occasionally Grethel would see his eyes begin to glaze over but as the hours passed this seemed to lesson. Hansel was not quite himself but he was improving as night began to fall.

“Oh dear brother, we are saved! Look there, a light, it is a cottage!” Grethel ran towards the source of light with Hansel close behind. As they reached the cottage they were both speechless for the cottage was made of candy and cakes and all manner of delicious treats.

Hansel immediately set to eating a gingerbread flower box covered with rich icing. Grethel more cautious than her foolish brother broke off a small piece of a shutter which was made of peanut brittle. She sniffed cautiously and gave it a little taste, once she was convinced it was good she began to eat voraciously.

With a loud bang and a cackle a long bony arm came through the open window and snatched Hansel by the collar of his night shirt pulling him effortless into the house. Grethel saw this with amazement for the arm looked frail and weak but was deceptively strong.

Grethel found that though the urge to run was upon her she could not move, she was more sleepy than she had ever thought possible. She stretched out on the ground just below the gingerbread flower box and slept soundly.

She awoke when she was poked hard in the back with an old broom stick. “Wake up missy!” The old witch demanded.

Grethel’s mind raced. “It is you, you are the one who bewitched our mother!” she was frightened, but could not stop the words from coming. “I demand you give us our mother back!”

The witch was taken aback, usually the children who fell into her trap were scared and sheepish, but this one surprised her. “Missy you just hush up that nonsense, I have no use for mothers or fathers it is children I desire. Now you have work to do, your going to help me fatten up that scrawny brother of yours so I can eat him. If you give me any trouble I’ll eat you to!” The witch was sure this would quell the girl’s impetuous nature.

To the witch’s dismay this only riled the girl further. She saw that Grethel’s face had turned the darkest crimson. “You are lying!” Blurted Grethel she stepped closer to the witch. The witch retreated back a step.

This made the old hag think a moment. “What have you seen girl that would make you fearlessly speak to me so? In all my years I have never been spoken to in such a way, not even by grown folks.” It was then the witch allowed her eyes to turn to their true color, a dark glowing red.

In spite of scaring the girl into submission as the witch hoped, Grethel’s resolve was strengthened. This is indeed the witch who had taken their mothers place. “See you have the eyes you are the one who took my mother!”

The witch’s anger had grown she raised the handle of the broom to strike the girl but before she let the blow fall the girl’s words began to sink in. “You have seen such eyes as mine girl?”

“No, but my brother has”, he saw you in the woods when you turned into our mother!” Grethel was angry, scared, sad, but most of all angry.

“Interesting little one, there are no others in this part of the world like myself. I have lived many generations and never seen a single one of my kind. Perhaps there is a new arrival. This is not at all good for you or me you senseless child.” The witch’s tone was not as menacing as before; it had grown a curious air.

Grethel was trying to think of what to do, could it be there are two witches. The thought of one was bad enough, but the thought of two, well that was far worse. If this witch did not know of the other and it is bad for her maybe this could be good for us.

“So you are not the one who took our mother and entranced our father?” Grethel asked.

“Of course not you daft girl! I thought surely you would be smarter than that dim-whit out in my shed. Perhaps I was wrong.” The witch was lost in thought and the girl’s interruption warranted a thump with the broom handle. “We witches can never be to close you see, we need children to make our brews and stews which make us live. Too many witches in one place attracts too much attention, silly people will start to wonder where their little ones have gone.”

Grethel had a plan, she did not know if it would work but she had to try. She would go along with this witch’s desires, seeing the old hag’s annoyance at the thought of another witch in her area. Grethel decided to use that for her own good. She calmed herself.

She accommodated every whim of the old woman, occasionally when the moment was right she would mention something about the mother imposter. “I have never seen anyone or anything so strong! She can change her appearance with out a thought! You don’t think she is stronger than you, do you?” This went on for days, to the witch’s annoyance.

Hansel, Grethel had found, was locked in a shed heavily chained with no hope of escape. She whispered to him on the first day. “Do whatever she says brother I have a way to right things, I just need some time.” Hansel agreed and things went thusly for five more days.

Hansel ate and slept. Grethel cleaned, cut wood and did anything else the witch demanded of her. On the fifth day the witch said “that brother of yours will be ripe tomorrow and I am going to bake him in this oven so you need to clean it out and fetch some wood.” It was now or never Grethel thought.

“Mistress I have an idea that might solve two problems for you at once.” Grethel had taken to calling the old hag mistress in an attempt to show respect, the witch had not argued but seemed to rather enjoy it.

“Oh have you now missy?” The witch was intrigued for the girl was clever and not only had she jabbed at the witch’s pride she had tried to boost her ego as well by feigning interest in becoming a witch herself.

“Oh yes, I have been thinking since we got here, since there are two witches and you need children to make your brews and stews that the mother witch must have been going to cook us herself. Perhaps she is weak and long without food.”

“Dear child, you are wise. What is it you have in mind?”

“My brother you see is so plump and ready for cooking; perhaps we could use him as bait to bring the mother monster out in the open. You being more powerful than she is could kill her and take her power. There are very few children in our village; two witches will be too many to go unnoticed.”

The witch was wary as witches tend to be, she felt like the girl was up to something. “What is in this for you lass, why are you so willing to help me?”

“I want to be a witch. I always have to do what I am told and my brother being a boy can come and go as he pleases! My chores never cease!” Grethel was as convincing as she could be.

Grethel never expecting this, but the witch’s crooked mouth widened into an unnatural smile that sent chills down her spine, but this she hid well.

Grethel told the witch of her village, the witch knew it well. For over the centuries when no children wandered close she had to go and capture them herself. Grethel’s plan was to have her brother, who was now fully under the witch’s control after eating a weeks worth of bewitched goodies, would walk up and simply knock on the door. The mother monster would simply think he had wandered lost and hungry for a week and had haplessly wandered home. Grethel and the old hag would be waiting out of sight ready to attack.

The old witch had promised if Grethel helped in this task she would be given the secrets that only witches know. Grethel pretended to be pleased.

Though they had walked countless hours to come to the old hag’s candy cottage it took merely minutes to reach their village. Indeed the old hag had power, but Grethel was growing nervous that the mother imposter may actually be stronger.

The witch instructed Hansel and set him to his task. Grethel and the witch hid behind a large tree just off the corner of the house. Hansel knocked and no sound issued for such a long moment that they began to fear the mother monster had moved on.

A light flashed on in the parent’s room, unnaturally bright. Not candle light, something else. It was something sinister Grethel surely thought. Even the old hag seemed unnerved by it. The sounds of heavy footfalls echoed through the house and out the dusty windows into the night air. The anticipation was almost more than Grethel could stand. She nearly shrieked when the door slowly creaked open. Unaware, Hansel stood there stupidly slouching with his hands hanging listlessly by his sides.

In the doorway stood Grethel’s mother; she as beautiful as ever. Her blue eyes beamed in the darkness, as if illuminated by some inner light. “Ah you’ve returned. Where is your sister?” The mother witch softly asked.

Hansel turned towards the tree, at that moment the mother imposter burst through the door just as the old hag rounded the tree. They stared at each other; both seemed very surprised to see each other. Twenty feet of earth separated these two menacing creatures.

“You are not like the others.” Softly spoke the mother imposter.

“Child this is no witch.” The old hag spoke gravely.

“What are you old woman, why have you come to seek me out?” The mother monster asked pleasantly.

“A witch I be, older than even I remember. No more of us I imagine. I came here because I were told there was another witch here.” She answered, curiously she added. “Now what might ye be?”

The mother witch’s eyes blazed red, her limbs began to change, she began to grow larger. “I ask the questions and you dear witch shall make a fine addition to our collection!”

“Collect me! We will see who gets collected!” The old hag grew fierce all the while Grethel watched in horror. What ever it was that had taken their mother was far worse than the old hag who intended to eat her brother. She gained her composure as the two monsters began to circle each other. She crept around the yard to her dazed brother and pulled him into a hedge. They needed to run but she had to see what was to happen.

The two seemed to grow larger. Clumps of earth were raised and circled in the air about the old hags form. No longer frail and weak in appearance. Grethel had only heard stories of such things, monsters able to change their shape to any they desired.

When the old hag took a step towards the now completely misshapen mother imposter lightning struck the ground around her and the earth shook. Fire shot from the old woman’s eyes and the thing that had been their mother made an unearthly noise and jumped back. It was hurt but this only slowed its reaction a mere second. It retaliated with light, blazing red and blue so bright it stung Grethel’s eyes to watch. The light struck the witch in the shoulder and with an ear splitting screech she stumbled to her knees.

The mother witch no longer resembled their mother. It was now twice her height the arms were larger and much longer. The fingers were much too long; the same was true for the legs and toes. Grethel gasped when the thing that had been her mother scanned the bushes seeking their hiding place. Its head was tall and askew, the closest thing Grethel could liken it to would have been a green giant gourd. The eyes were lifeless, colorless slits, these too were abnormally proportioned. Even Grethel crouched petrified as if bewitched like her brother. Her paralysis was fear induced unlike her brother’s magic induced stupor.

While distracted by the search for the children the [not] witch mother took her eyes off the witch. Commanding the air and earth the old witch hurled dozens of rocks and chunks of earth at the no longer mother thing. These hit home and when the mother thing screeched into the night Grethel nearly collapsed. The sound had seemed to pierce her ear drums and left her with a intense feeling of vertigo.

The old witch did not let up for a moment. Before the mother thing could retaliate the old hag was launching trees, farm equipment, lumber, and even parts of the out buildings and parts of the house were torn free and battering the screeching wailing mother thing.

The witch had created a vortex firmly around the mother monster. Stone and wood and steel battered it ceaselessly. It was hurt and in a final attempt to end this fight the old hag sent the weather vane straight through what passed for its chest. Grethel knew their plight was yet to be over but at least with this mother thing gone they might have a chance of escape and reuniting their family.

“Hansel, the witch killed the monster, we need to run away now.” Grethel whispered to her brother not wanting to attract any unwanted attention. Her plan was going to work. The witch was wounded and exhausted. The battle had taken its toll. They needed to flee. Grethel could hear Hansel was speaking in a very soft voice. She leaned in to hear.

Slowly as he began to drool on his nightshirt, Hansel spoke one last time. “It was some kind of coach with no horses, it moved freely and it flew into the sky like a bright round bird.”

There was a flash and Grethel could see the witch consumed in the brightest most brilliant light she had ever seen. She watched the witch scream as she was seemingly melted in the bright light. The light was upon her now and as she saw her fingers begin to melt away, there was no pain, only warmth, she lost consciousness.

Hansel, Grethel, their father, their mother, and the witch were never heard from or seen again. All that remained of their home was a scorched hole large enough to fit their house in three times over. Many years later the place seemed untouched even by the dense forest which surrounded it. Nothing would grow inside this scorched ring and it became known as an evil place to be avoided.

fin…

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22 minutes

22 Minutes

(Saw a creepy guy and this story popped in my head)

 

Twenty-two minutes in the right circumstances could seem like an eternity or in others pass by in a flash. Twenty-two minutes was all Carl had left and he didn’t think it was going to pass by very slowly. He could scream and yell but what good would it do?

He had read stories and seen movies with killers doing what killers do, but this situation was beyond him. This man, if it was a man didn’t seem to be following the script of any normal portrayal of a killer. No, he was extremely unique.

In all the movies and books hadn’t the killer at least created some way to witness his murders? Didn’t he at least give the victim the illusion that he might change his dastardly plans by letting them beg? No this was something altogether different.

The tube, if that’s what it was, was stark barren and devoid of character beyond its harsh rust coated veneer.  From what Carl could see there wasn’t a window or opening of any sort. This he could feel by the stuffiness and the still dead air he was choking down. But why me?

Carl was no one special. He had a few people he didn’t care for but he had no real enemies. He wracked his brain and hopelessly he punched his own leg in frustration. It was all he could do suspended by his feet as he was. Carl wasn’t even sure how he got here. His head throbbed and upon inspection he found a rather serious knot above his right temple.

What this was about, Carl had no inclination. He vaguely remembered the man or was it a man? He had to of been extremely strong to take big ole Carl out like he did. Felled by a single blow?  Carl shook the thought off. Carl figured he must have hit him with a baseball bat or something. No man could do so much with a single punch. Carl was known for his brawling skills and of this he was most proud.

“Twenty- two minutes,” is all the man had said, “Twenty-two minutes you have yet to live.”

When Carl protested and yelled and begged and threatened his cries, pleas, and threats were met with dull silence. The man had left and the door sealed behind him with no sinister laughing or threatening creaks it just shut.

The silence is what cut through Carl’s usual exterior of toughness. Carl felt that no amount of threats or taunts could be worse. He felt the room shrinking around him. He started to pray. He prayed a hopeless sinner’s prayer.  “God, please help me.”

When the man thing had spoken it had been 11:38 and Carl reluctantly looked at his watch. It was hard to make out because Carl’s eyes had blurred from the pressure building in his head from hanging upside down for how long he did not know. It was 11:55 now.

The sweat poured from Carl in torrents. He could hear the drops as they splashed on the metal floor of his prison. Then the door slid open and in the doorway stood the man thing. Carl for the first time caught a glimpse of its face and true panic set in.

Carl felt a lurch as the hoist began to lower him towards the floor twenty feet below. The room went dark. Carl could hear something on the floor below him. Fifteen feet. They were everywhere. Scurrying about. Ten feet. What are they? What are those things in the darkness? He can hear their teeth clicking and their anxious starving mouths. Five feet.

“Feast my children feast.” Now Carl finally understood.

 

October (a short story)

October

The old man sat stolidly surveying the wind-blown yard. He silently remembered every October which had come and gone in these past thirty years since he had turned his back on his one true love. He had spent so many years trying to twist the memories in his own mind so he could believe that he was not to blame.

No one could believe the story he screamed when the police had first arrived. He had been called a murderer, a lunatic, and many other terrible names. No matter who questioned him or how long they kept him in the sanitarium and despite the laundry list of experimental medications he never changed his story.

The detectives were vexed for an explanation which was made quite evident by their stuttering testimonies. These testimonies and a brief statement from a psychiatrist are what kept the old man from the electric chair but he was still remanded to the state psychiatric hospital for more than three years.

The old man recounted every detail fighting the chill this new October’s wind brought. He was ready. He wouldn’t run anymore. “This is where it started and this is where it shall end.” He spoke aloud with a hushed tone to the brown grass and the dead swirling leaves.

The veteran detective was hung up on a detail that neither he nor anyone else present that night could explain. What had happened to the woman’s body? The couple had just arrived home from a late movie where their neighbors had also been present and they had each pulled into their adjoining drives only minutes apart. The events that had taken place that night happened in mere moments.  The detective had conveyed this all to the jury with a cold horror filled face. Then as if speaking out loud in a dream he questioned, “Where had all the blood come from?”

The grizzled old detective concluded, “There was enough blood present at the scene of this atrocity to fill the veins of two full grown men. I do not understand this at all. In all my thirty-four years as a police officer I have never seen anything half as horrible as what I found that night.” He paused briefly and cleared his throat; he was trembling at the thoughts eating away at his subconscious. He wanted to scream demons or monsters did it but he knew he’d find himself in the sanitarium right alongside this poor man who had witnessed God knows what.

He shakily continued his testimony, “After further investigation it became clear that the blood we found came from at least six other victims. The blood that was present could not have been from the defendant’s wife because her blood type is type-O-negative and not one drop of her blood was found anywhere on the property. It is my professional opinion that this man is innocent and that we should be searching for a group of severely demented individuals.” He closed his eyes as he concluded and images of demons filled his mind.

The old man pulled his collar close around his wrinkled neck fighting the chill this memory had given him. That had been a full year after the “incident”. He mused at how polite the word “incident” was. That’s how they always referred to it in the sanitarium. He remembered how frightened he had been even a year after. The medications never eased his anguish or made him feel safe. No sane explanations could take away the terror which greeted him each and every night when the lights went low. No, nothing but death would ease his fear. Death he did not fear. Becoming is what he had feared most. Now, thirty years later even that paled in comparison to what he now knew was his greatest fear.

Three years after the incident and two after the trial he was released. He had begun lying in his therapy sessions. Telling the doctors he truly couldn’t remember what had happened to his wife. When asked he assured them that it was not demons or monsters which he had screamed at the top of his lungs for well over a year. He admitted something horrible had happened and in his confusion and grief of seeing his wife’s abduction by masked men he had lost his sense of reality. It had worked and he had been set free.

The first October after his release had nearly been his last. She had come so quickly from the darkness he had nearly been overcome. Despite the liquor coursing through his veins pure fear pushed him onwards through the locked door he had crashed in a full run. The door jamb splintered and gave way under his massive build.

As he remembered this night it seemed his chill doubled as if his bones were encased in ice. He had landed hard in the small foyer. The house was virtually unchanged from the night of the incident except for three years’ worth of dust layered upon every surface. He was certain he was having some sort of break down like so many of the other patients he had encountered in his stay at the sanitarium.

Then he heard her giggle. It resurrected feelings he had long since forgotten. How odd to hear such a welcoming warm sound from the cold unforgiving night. How could this be he thought. Then he slowly turned and his eyes fell on her. She was beautiful and young standing there in his doorway, their doorway. She did not enter but only gazed at him with longing, hungry eyes.

The old man jerked like he had suddenly awoken from a dream of falling. Two boys were noisily making their way down the sidewalk. They each gave the old man a wary glance and grew quiet as they passed in front of his house. They whispered as they moved on. He knew what they were saying. The story had become an urban legend in the neighborhood. A story told to the young to frighten them at sleepovers. Some versions say he ate her before the cops arrived. Others tell that he walled her up and that she is still in the house all these years later alive and well behind the living room wall. There is no end to the imaginations of children he supposed. He held no malice for these kids, he only envied their innocence because if they knew what really happened they would piss themselves and run home crying.

Things had changed over the years. He was no longer the lumbering hulk of his youth. He had become merely a shadow of his former self.  Each year she would come in October. The same Friday they had had dinner at the drive in. The same night they had laughed and talked of having a boy and a girl over hotdogs. The same night they had watched some cheap thriller and he held her close in his arms. She feeling safe from his embrace and him feeling safe from the love she had given him. In his bachelor years he had never believed someone could love him. When he met her his life was flipped upside down and turned inside out. He couldn’t speak around her without putting his foot in his mouth. The attraction had been mutual.

As he remembered how they met a smile crept onto his withered lips making him look so much younger than his years. He was all grease from head to toe driving a 48’ Dodge he had parted together from local junkyards. She was the prettiest thing he had ever seen in her bubble-gum pink poodle skirt with matching ribbons in her long dark hair. They had run into each other at the malt shop as he was entering and she was exiting. He had been horrified when he saw he had gotten a grease smudge on her blouse but she sheepishly assured him that it was ok.

She looked so perfect to him and the thought of that smudge haunted him ceaselessly so each and every afternoon he waited until he finally saw her again. He convinced her that he should buy her another outfit despite the fact she had made her own she had argued but he would not hear it. Any chance he had to see her he took. She was shy but she longed to see him just as much.

As he sat in the cold watching his last sunset he had tears on his tired cheeks as he remembered the love they had shared. They had been so very happy. Then the shame flooded into him as he remembered. He wept and thudded his big hand on the arm of his rocking chair. “I’m sorry.” He sobbed to the empty yard. “Please forgive me.”

On her yearly visits she would stand outside the door and he knew she wasn’t alone. He could hear the others and on the following mornings he would find small puddles of blood around the yard. Sometimes even dripping from the awning as if they had hovered above his roof but they never came into view. She had never tried to come inside and he always wondered why. The first visit she just watched cheerfully as he gaped from the floor disbelieving what he was seeing. She had stayed until nearly dawn and like the mist on a cold morning vanished with the warmth of the sun.

He quivered as he recalled the night she was taken from him. They were walking the short distance from the drive to the porch and instantly she was gone and he found himself flying across the yard. He looked back to find her but she was being dragged away and to his disbelief upward. The creature had the silhouette of a man but no man can fly. He remembered the smell, noxious like rotting meat. Had his terror not been so great he was sure he would have choked on the smell. He rose and started in her direction but then he saw them. They were all around, he froze in fear and even as she screamed for help he scrambled backwards and darted into the house. Her screams continued only a moment more and were then silenced. He knew she was gone.

The sun was now gone and he sat silently in the ever growing darkness. It was quite cold now. The sky darkened further as the first October storm rolled in. He could see his breath and he wondered how long she would make him wait. He had never stayed outside always sure to be in doors with some sort of protection. He wasn’t frightened of her. He was frightened of going on alone. He had spent nearly thirty years alone longing for her.  The thought of one more day was more than he could bear. That prospect was far worse than death. It even outweighed death at the hands of her companions and becoming what they had made her.

The two boys were walking back down the street early the next morning. It was very cold and rainy outside. They were bundled up so tightly trying to hide their faces from the brutal wind that they almost didn’t see the old man motionless on his front porch. They stopped to take a closer look. Despite the bite in the air and the rain the boys found courage in the early light. They slowly approached the old man.

One boy stopped halfway up the walk. There was a nasty looking puddle on the ground he couldn’t quite make out what it was but before he could inspect it any further his friend said “oh man, I don’t think he’s moving.”

The boy who had been inspecting the puddle joined his friend on the steps of the old man’s porch. They slowly approached together. Just as they reached the old man’s lifeless body a huge gust of wind moved the rocker causing the boys to scream and run.

The old man’s eyes were wide. There was a gleeful smile on his old withered face and in his clinched fist was a bubble gum pink ribbon.