A Cup of Sugar

by Thomas Scopel

First seen at SNM Horror Magazine.

Author's Note:

Finding its way into SNM Horror Magazine, this tale takes the neighborly borrowing adage to a more gruesome level.

Neighbors, Billy Links and his pal Jimmy Felk sat hidden from view on one of the largest branches, halfway up the old oak tree. The tree, that could have been as old as the town, had numerous sprawling branches that sat directly above and over the town’s street and adjoining sidewalk.

The tree was also in front of the oldest and most menacing looking house on the block and contributed the immediate area’s eeriness. Even on bright sunny days, the house still had an eerie aura about it, which only increased during the darkness of night, even more so during horrendous rainstorms when lightning would be constant, flashing all around it. Usually, it would appear to be completely dark and deserted. However, on some nights, a flicker would emit from the dirt-encrusted windows and, despite its odd outer appearance, most people knew that it was actually inhabited. It was one of the small town of Milsapp, Massachusetts’s longest standing structures and subsequently became the source of many discussions. Of course, not everyone believed the common known tales that surrounded it, as well as its long time owner, a little white haired old man who was never seen anywhere, except in close proximity of the house and it’s weed strewn yard.

Every story, from it being the home of a warlock, who’s wife, a witch who was burned at the stake during the Salem Witch trials, to it being a place where those who dabbled in the black arts could get their supplies of wolfs bane and hemlock, abounded freely throughout the townsfolk. It had even been suggested that it was a place where sacrifices were done. Occasionally, a new story would break out. Usually, it would be a variation of one of the previously told ones and simply just have another nuance added to it. Nonetheless, these new tales would quickly run rampant throughout the town. Some of the town’s adults would simply shrug them off as just that…tales, and treat them as harmless fodder. It was the children that continued with the tradition, often making them scarier than they were to begin with. And, it would also be the source of many a child’s, and a few of the adult’s nightmares.

While in that tree, rarely would Billy and Jimmy ever think of these tales even as the house, right there in plain view, constantly sticking out like a sore thumb. It would usually require some other nearby effect in order to trigger such thoughts. Something such as a dark sky or the reading of a scary story would force them to realize that they were actually and directly in front of the house, and it was only then that would let their imaginations wander. Only occasionally would this happen. But, when it did they would most assuredly, cut their tree playing time short and head for home somewhat frightened. But, overall, these thoughts were generally limited and they simply took solace in its seclusion.

In the beginning, during that first couple of climbing exhibitions, they quickly realized that the higher they went, the less apt they were at being seen from below and it quickly and inadvertently became their most favorite place. After school, from their hiding spot high up in the tree, the two eleven year olds would usually concentrate their efforts on their reading homework since it only required one hand to hold the book and allowed the other to firmly grasp a nearby branch as a security measure.

They would read, only stopping to watch from time to time, as the people below, never once looking up or even considering that they were being secretly watched from above, would stroll by. The two would quietly hide their snickers and personal noises until the people were out of earshot and then they would break into laughter before going back to their reading assignments.

To them, it was a great place to read and even allowed them the ability to directly concentrate on the assignment at hand, usually with limited distractions. This was their most secret place. A place that they viewed as a clubhouse…a clubhouse that nature would naturally destroy and rebuild each and every year…especially for them.

Late Friday afternoon after school, the boys, sitting high up in their tree, felt the cool October dusk air as it made its way in. The leaves had just begun to turn to their wonderful orange and brown fall colors, thus inevitably giving way to their once bright green hues. Their thoughts were on the exact same thing that was on almost every other of the towns kids’ too…Scary Theatre… the channel twelve television show that began at eleven thirty and featured not one but two classic, and many times cheesy, scary movies. Movies that would have characters like Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein, and many other various creatures and ghoulies. It was hosted by a man who was known as Count Creep and who bared an uncanny resemblance to the old woman in town that many referred to as…the witch.

Whether she was or not, was a matter of debate throughout the town’s folk with some believing that she was and some believing she wasn’t and was just that…an old woman and nothing more.

She was never known to associate with black cats or carry a broom. She never wore a black hat or was found chanting in a field by the light of the full moon.

However, for many continuing years, she was almost hermit like and kept virtually to herself. Rarely being seen out and about only added to this persona. But, this conception probably had more to do with her aged and haggard features, especially her glazed over cataract laced left eye that seemed to border something out of horror novel, that was the primary reason that this woman became known as “the witch” in the first place.

And, it was directly after, some years ago, when a kind seven-year-old little girl, walked up to the woman while she was walking down the sidewalk and said “hello.” The old woman, looking directly into the child’s eyes and took a deep, wheezing breath before attempting to speak. The child, seeing that awful looking eye peering directly at her, became frightened and immediately ran off screaming the whole way.

Afterward and since, no child would dare even look at the woman, and many of the adults followed suit, and the presumptions began. Regardless, she did however; look the part and rumors flow freely.

Now, those tales not only included the house, but they included old woman too.

Before each feature, Count Creep would introduce the following film in his own macabre way and somewhat play the part that the movie entailed. If it was a vampire flick, he was sure to be wearing fangs and would speak with a Transylvanian type accent. If it would be a wolfman type picture, he would have hairy hands and growl of snarl, and so on and so forth.

Of course, his normal costume of a cape and make-up whitened wrinkled face was always included too. And, he did look somewhat similar to that old woman.

Both Jimmy and Billy always looked forward to what persona their favorite host would take on each week, even if they would both agree that he certainly wasn’t nearly as scary looking and Billy would often joke that they needed to get the witch on the show for overall fright effect. Regardless, it was always the choice highlight of many of the town’s children’s weekend and with tomorrow being Halloween, this week’s show was expected to be exceptional. This, coupled along with tomorrow night’s annual Halloween costume party, was sure to be the source of primary discussions at school on Monday morning.

 Suzy Winklin walked out onto her parent’s porch and lifted the lid of the mailbox that was attached to the front post. Her eyes widened as she reached in and took out a little cardboard box that was addressed to her and quickly ran back into the house without shutting the lid.

“It’s here,” she called out as she bounded through the home, almost tripping over her white, curly haired poodle that seem to always be under her feet in the process, and up the home’s stairway. She entered her bedroom, closing the door behind her and sat down on her bed.

Carefully opening the package, she pulled out the contents, and sat them on her nightstand beside a pile of various other Halloween makeup items. There was a knock at her door.

“Come in,” she answered.

The door opened and her mother walked in carrying a worn out and raggedy old dress.

“That’ll work great, it looks just like the clothes that she wears too,” Suzy’s excited voice proclaimed as she took it from her mother, removed the hanger that was holding it and threw it in a clump on the floor by the nightstand. Her mother, not saying a word simply smiled and shook her head from side to side.

Suzy saw her do this and blurted, “WHAT! I’ have to wrinkle it up a bit first.”

Her mother turned and walked back out of the room, content with making her fourteen year old daughter happy, and closed the door behind her.
           

Suzy sat down on her bed just as her cell phone rang out her latest ring tone, a cackling wicked type of a woman’s laugh. She had gotten it specific in order to learn how to laugh that way so she could use it to fully assume this year’s “town witch” costume. She had been considering this costume for the last month or so. But, it wasn’t until she had seen, while reading in one of the various horror movie magazines how to apply distinct and actual Hollywood style special effect type make-up, an ad for costume enhancing contact lenses. Right then and there, she made up her mind and simply had to have them. They cost forty dollars and she had done every extra chore her parents asked her to in order to earn the money for them. But, she thought as she glanced over at the little contact case on the stand, it would all be worth it when she won first prize for scariest costume tomorrow night. She picked up her phone, pressed a button, and answered it.

“Hello.”

“Did it come today?” Her friend Christy was on the other end.

“They sure did. This is going to be the best Halloween party ever,” Suzy excitedly continued. “I’m going to scare everyone…and, I was reading about that make-up glue that we got at the mall last week.”

“Yeah,” her friend listened contently. “I can use that to create the wrinkles. All I have to do is just spread it all over my face and then stick tissue paper to it and cover it with the glue again. When it dries, it makes cracks and it’ll make me look as old as that woman does.” Suzy laughed heartily. “This is going to be great. Have you decided yet?”

“No…not yet, my mom wants me to be something stupid like a candy bar or something. I keep telling her that Halloween is supposed to be scary but she doesn’t seem to get it…and she doesn’t want me to go around scaring my little brother.”

“I could come over and scare him for you. I’ll peek in his window while he’s in there and he’ll think the witch is after him.” Suzy laughed again.

“You’d better not,” Christy sounded concerned, “my mom would kill both of us…and besides, you know how those stories about her scare him. He’s only seen her once…but he remembers…and with your contact, he’d definitely think it was her…and run screaming bloody murder. I’d probably get grounded…but it would be funny.” Both girls chuckled together.

“You’d better hurry up and figure it out, it’s tomorrow night you know.”

“I know, I know. I’m going to go work on it right now…I’ll call ya later.”

“Okay.”

Suzy pushed the off button and tossed the phone back onto the bed. 

  “Shhhh! There she is,” Billy said, “The Witch.” He pointed his finger toward her and quietly cackled. The frail looking, wrinkled faced old woman was slowly making her way down the sidewalk, using her crooked cane for balance. Her tattered clothing was gently blowing in the breeze and each step she would take seemed to be an excursion in labor. Both boys watched, as she would occasionally stop along the grass infused cracked sidewalk, breathe heavily. When she did, a hiss, followed by a wheeze could be heard and the Billy giggled.
“She even sounds like a witch.” And he’d cackle again.

“Your bad,” Jimmy’s heart went out to the woman.

When she reached the base of the tree, she immediately stopped. The boys could hear her heavy breathing and they each silently gasped as chills went down both their spines. At that very moment, each had the same single simultaneous thought. “Did she know we were here”? Turning their eyes up and away from the woman below them, they met one another’s and unconsciously stiffened, remaining completely motionless and each boy secretly prayed that she wouldn’t look up and notice them.

An eternity seemed to pass before her breathing slowed and she placed the cane in front of her again, slowly turned, and looked, with some hesitation, toward the three concrete steps that led up the small slope from the sidewalk to house. She took a step forward and stood at the base of the steps. Once again, she hissed a deep breath, picked up her foot, and placed it upon the first step. Using her cane, she balanced herself precariously in order to lift herself up onto the ledge of the step. It was a slow process and the boys sat quietly watching her every move. Each time she would comfortably reach a step, the same motions would continue until she had climbed all three and stood on the home’s sidewalk. All in all, it was better than ten minutes before she completed her task and all the while, the boys, sitting perched from their lofty view…silently watched. After stopping to breathe yet again, the woman slowly made her way up the decrepit sidewalk toward the house. When she reached the home’s front stairs, she, yet once again, stopped to catch her breath before cautiously working her way up the five rickety and creaking wooden steps and onto to the home’s covered porch.

Jimmy continued to watch and whispered, “we’d better go.”

“Not yet, she’ll see us,” Billy whispered back, also closely watching.

“I think she already has” Jimmy wondered quietly out loud.

“Let’s make sure and wait until she’s completely gone,” Billy questioned.

“I’m scared.”

“Me too, but lets make sure.”

They both continuously waited and watched silently in the ever-increasing darkness as the woman raised her hand and lightly knocked on the door. The knock echoed in the semi-darkness and seemed to amplify.

All of a sudden, She quickly turned around and looked back at the tree.

Instantly, both Jimmy as well as Billy felt as if she was looking directly at them, or more so, into them, and they shuddered almost in unison.  Each boy could see her whitened glazed over eye looking blindly back. Billy instinctively leaned back and there was a loud crack as he lost his balance.

Jimmy watched in horror, almost in slow motion, as Billy deflected off of the lower branches and landed head first, with a dull thud onto the street’s pavement directly in front of a passing car.

”NOOOOOO!” Jimmy screamed and watched as his friend disappeared underneath the front of the passing car.

The car bounced just as the driver slammed on the brakes. The tires skidded and squealed, leaving black marks on the street. But, before the car could stop, Jimmy watched as Billy tumbled, uncontrollably, out from under the car’s rear wheels and lay motionless in a bloody heap behind them. Jimmy could see blood trickling from every orifice on his friend’s face and his eye was dangling completely out of its socket and oddly, looking directly up at him.

The driver immediately jumped out of the car and looked back in horror at the child’s motionless body. The driver dropped to his knees, covered his face with his hands, and began to sob loudly. Above the terrifying events, Jimmy sat wide eyed and frozen, completely forgetting about the old woman altogether.

The door to the house opened and the old woman grinned as she turned back around, reached under her garments with her skinny wrinkled fingers, pulled out a chipped black ceramic cup and held it out toward the man who had answered the door.

“May I borrow a cup of sugar?” she asked in a rasping and scratchy voice.

“Come in,” the man answered and the woman stepped into the house.

Jimmy gathered his senses and quickly made his way back down through the branches, almost falling himself in the process, and ran over to where his friend’s mangled body was lying. He didn’t seem to notice that a hoard of spectators had begun to gather about as tears began welling in his eyes. And, he certainly didn’t notice that the old woman, along with the old man, watched silently in the darkness from the cracked door’s opening.

The following evening, Suzy Winklin, dressed in full costumed attire, including the evil looking eye contact, which her mother gently inserted for her, walked out onto the porch and began calling for her little dog.

“SUGAR…SUGAR…WHERE ARE YOU?”

She sat down on the top concrete step that led up to the home, looked around, called once again, and waited.

Suddenly, she didn’t feel like going at all.

Across town in the house, the old woman, standing over a steaming boiling pot looked up. A wicked smile crossed her face as she poured the bloody, white curly hair infused meaty chunks from the cup.

 

End

 

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