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Igms issue 3, p.14

IGMS Issue 3, page 14


IGMS Issue 3

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  Herb pulled it out of his front pocket.

  "That's the one. You found it. These are the Thompsons," she said and pointed at the people standing in the back. "The Thompsons had had an older daughter of fifteen and two younger daughters. Right before the oldest turned sixteen the police came and took her. That's what made them snap. I think it's strong emotions that break the spell. But it's hard because you can't normally feel anything while you're in the trance. Losing their daughter did it for them. The Thompsons stopped eating the candy. And they stopped giving it to their kids. The whole family got skinny. That's how Principal Blair knew they'd stopped eating the candy. Then the police came, took their younger kids away, and gave them to another family." She pointed at the smiling kids in the front of the picture. "But that's not the worst part," she added, "The worst part was that within an hour, their kids had completely forgotten about them. They couldn't remember their old parents. And didn't care who their parents were. They just wanted the candy. Principal Blair is an evil woman."

  "Every time I look at her picture I get a stomachache," Herb said.

  "She's got powers. She's the one who makes the candy, and when people disappear, they always find gingerbread cookies in their place."

  "Why don't people leave? Why don't they just run away?" Herb asked.

  "I asked them the same thing. It's the contract they sign when they move in. It's a magical contract. It keeps you here. If you try to drive away, your car suddenly appears on a different road, and you forget where you were going. If you try to ride your bike out, you'll suddenly find yourself going the opposite way. Have you ever heard of people getting lost in the woods? How they're sure they know the way out, but the more they walk the more turned around they get?"

  He had heard of that from stories in books -- fairy tales.

  They heard a siren come on for a second. A police car drove by.

  "We better go home."

  "One more thing," Herb said before standing up. "Why us? Why didn't we eat the candy? I wanted to, but then I didn't."

  She sighed. "I'm not sure. Maybe because we were already fat. Or maybe because we were always picked on. I think it's because we care. I've seen the way you hang out with your sister. I used to have a little sister too. She died before we moved. I took care of her, like you take care of yours. Maybe it's because we care about someone else."

  He liked that answer. He didn't know how he was going to protect Beck, but he had to do something.

  They walked back together, their hands almost touching.

  "Be careful in school tomorrow," she whispered. "She'll be there. Don't look at her eyes. They flash red. I've seen them from a distance and they made my knees weak. There are no supermarkets. I'll show you how to get fresh vegetables and fruits from places in town," she said and ran up to her house. Before going inside she ran back and said, "My name is Lisa, but my friends, when I had friends, called me Lou."

  The next morning they had more Cheerios for breakfast. They'd had cereal for lunch and dinner the day before as well. The cereal boxes were almost empty. They'd have to do something else soon.

  It was Beck's first day of school. Herb had to wake up Mom in the morning. She'd been doing less and less around the house, and she had nearly gained all her weight back. But he never thought that she wouldn't be excited, or sad, or something about Beck's first day of school. Fran had nearly gained all her weight back too, but she hadn't lost her energy. In fact, she could still do a cartwheel and that was all she needed to do to be excited about the first day of school.

  Beck started school after Herb and Fran. Before leaving, Herb knelt before Beck and said. "Remember. No candy. And don't tell anyone that you're not having any candy. Okay?"

  She nodded. As he walked towards the bus stop with Fran, Beck stepped outside and waved. She had an extra big smile on her face. She was a big girl now. She knew that school would be scary. She knew they would try to give her candy. And she saw that Mom had gained all that weight back. But she still smiled.

  No one better lay a finger on her.

  At the bus stop and on the ride to school Fran decided to give him some tips. The proper way to walk into school. How to introduce himself, how to spot losers, and loners, and most importantly how to join the A crowd.

  He wished someone would shut up his older sister.

  When they arrived at school, Herb had to run to the bathroom. He'd been thinking so hard about not eating candy and about having to see the principal that he never worried about other high school things. Like homework, tests and even though he was still fat enough to not rouse suspicion -- he was nervous. It only took the sight of lockers and the smell of unopened-all-summer school to send his stomach over the edge.

  When the bell rang he went to homeroom. He thought this would be it, that Mayor Endora Blair would walk in to greet all the new students. It wasn't it. A short, bald, stocky, Biology teacher walked in instead. For lunch he sat down with Lou. She had brought in carrots and tomatoes and showed him how to hide them between plates of candy stuff.

  When the last period came, he began to relax. He was almost home free. This wouldn't be so bad. He could hang out with Lou during lunches and as long as he avoided running into...

  "Principal Blair would like to see you," his sixth period teacher said before he stepped into the classroom. He gave her a puzzled expression and she added, "New families orientation." That's why she hadn't been to homeroom, she only met with students that had just moved.

  Herb walked slowly to the principal's office. Inside, a secretary told him to sit and wait. Principal Blair's office was full of candy. On her wall were several strange pictures. One was a still frame from the Wizard of Oz. It was of a scene where the scarecrow was catching on fire. Another one looked like a magazine photo. It had a whole family inside of a large oven. The title read, "The world's largest oven." On her desk there were many bowls with candies. And behind her there was a model of a house. It was a house completely made out of candy. But what was on the wall on the right made him more nervous than all this candy combined. There was a tall glass cabinet. Herb walked up to it. It was full of gingerbread cookies. Each cookie as detailed as the ones he'd seen in his house.

  He heard a noise behind him.

  "What are you doing here?" Fran said. "I thought the mayor wanted to see me."

  "It's a family orientation," he whispered. He walked over to where she was sitting and whispered. "Fran. I know we don't get along, but listen, you can't look into her eyes."

  A woman cleared her throat. Herb quickly sat down next to Fran. A pretty lady stepped into the room. Pretty lady was not a phrase he normally thought of, but there was no other way of describing her. The second he saw her, he felt instantly relaxed. He wasn't even sure why he had been so worried. Her hair looked so soft. He wanted to touch it. He wanted to kiss her. She was way too old for him, but he didn't care. He'd do anything to feel her face. He'd do anything for her. And her eyes. They weren't blue as they were in the picture, they were dark purple.

  She smiled at them and said, "Welcome to Sunken Valley. I am terribly sorry I didn't have a chance to meet you sooner. You must be Herb." She stepped closer and reached for his hand. When he shook hers, a shiver went up his spine.

  "Nice firm grip. I like it," she said. She then shook Fran's hand. "Fran, you are almost sixteen, aren't you? And Herb, you just started high school. Congratulations. Well, I only have one rule. Candy. Eat as much as you can. A big body is a healthy body." It was those words that brought Herb back to his senses. A big body? She was the only skinny person in town.

  She stared at him and he looked down. From the corner of his eye he thought he saw a flash of red.

  "Do you need anything? Any tutoring?" Principal Blair asked. Herb shook his head, still looking down. "Your parents feeding you enough?" Herb nodded.

  "Well, if you ever need anything, don't hesitate to stop by. Back to class, then," she said.

  "Do we have to?" Fran asked. When Princip
al Blair said yes, Fran grabbed a handful of candy from the bowl and left. Then, Herb felt something ice cold touch him. Principal Blair had grabbed the back of his neck.

  She pulled him closer and whispered, "I saw her not eating candy. I fed her one myself. It would be wise for you to eat some as well."

  He felt his heart skip a beat. She pushed him outside the door and shut it behind him.

  Herb ran out of the school. He didn't wait for it to be over, and he couldn't wait for the bus either. He ran as fast as he could home, which wasn't very fast for him. He had been completely out of breath half way through but he didn't care. He heard the bus arrive at the corner a few seconds behind him.

  "Beck," he said. "Where are you?"

  "We're here," his mom said. The voice was coming from the dining room. Beck and his mom were sitting at the kitchen table eating a slice of chocolate cake with ice cream on top.

  "She's doing better, now," Mom said. "They should let us keep her, no problem."

  Beck wasn't smiling. A tear ran down her check and she took another bite out of her cake.

  He heard sirens outside. He walked back to the front door to see what was happening. Two police cars had parked in the driveway.

  "Mom, we have to leave. Now," Herb said. He meant to run back to the dining room, but he couldn't. His feet felt as if they were stapled to the floor.

  Mrs. Lenheart stepped out of one of the police cars with a policeman. Fran was making her way to the house but she looked confused, not her usual peppy self. This scared Herb even more. A policeman came out of the other police car and grabbed Fran.

  Herb ran out. "No!" he yelled. The police car with Fran in it drove away. When he turned he saw Mrs. Lenheart carrying Beck. Beck was smiling but tears were coming out of her eyes.

  "But, I did what you asked," his mom ran out saying. "She was eating cake. Please don't take her."

  The car door slammed shut and the police car went out with Beck inside it. Herb ran after it. A hand grabbed his shirt.

  "You can't do anything, now. We need to have a plan," a voice said. He tried to run some more but he couldn't. He just couldn't. He fell to the floor. "We'll get her back." Lou put her arms around him and held him on the sidewalk. "Okay? We'll get her back."

  Herb followed Lou back to his house. His mom sat at the kitchen table.

  "They said they would let me keep her," Mom said. She raised a fork to her mouth with a piece of chocolate cake and stared at it. She put the fork back down.

  "How do we get Beck back?" Herb asked.

  Lou put a hand on his arm. "I think we need to get Fran back first."

  "How do we get Beck back?" Herb repeated.

  "I know. But, just listen. Beck is alive and will be alive. Fran. That woman eats people."

  "You said, she'd forget in an hour. You said that in an hour the kids of the people who lived here forgot their parents."

  Lou nodded.

  "Why did you stop me?" Herb asked.

  "I didn't think you would catch up to the car," Lou said.

  "Because I'm fat. Right. It's all because I'm fat."

  She didn't look at him. "I'm fat too."

  He was just a kid. Thirteen years old. That's it. How was he supposed to do anything? He kicked one of the dining room chairs.

  "If you want to save Fran, we have to hurry, " Lou said and looked straight into his eyes. "Parents are not going to help us."

  "I want to kill her." He'd never felt like killing before. Even with all the jokes, the teasing, and even with his mom having left his dad only because he wouldn't lose a few pounds, he'd never felt like killing someone. Until now.

  "I'm pretty sure she's a witch," Lou said. "All the signs are there. Red eyes, crooked nose, candy, turning people to gingerbread. It all fits."

  "How do you kill a witch?" Herb asked.

  "I don't know. Fire? Water? Dropping a house on her?" Lou said.

  "We'll try everything. Except the house," Herb said and Lou gave a nervous giggle. "You can get a container from the kitchen and fill it with water. I'll find the matches."

  It's not every day two people in their teens decide to melt a person, or set said person on fire, even if they know that person is a witch. So, it's no big surprise that Herb and Lou didn't feel particularly prepared for the experience.

  Herb carried a rag he'd drenched in gas from his mom's car and some matches, while Lou carried a pail of water. Together they were as threatening as a brick was to the planet Saturn, but Herb didn't care. No one was eating Fran tonight.

  Having lived in town for a whole year, Lou knew the way to Mayor Endora Blair's house. It was the big one at the edge of town. They walked there and neither of them complained about the hike. The sun was up. The sky was clear. It was really a pretty time of the day to be going to the witch's castle. It wasn't really a castle. It was more like a mansion -- the kind you might see in movies, where the mob boss lives.

  "How are we going to get over the fence," Lou asked. Herb didn't answer. He didn't have to. As they got closer they saw that the front gate was wide open. There was no guard in the guardhouse. No vicious animal came to greet them either.

  Herb didn't like the feel of this. He'd seen too many movies not to know that this was just too easy.

  At least they had enough sense not to walk straight to the front door. Instead they decided to crouch and go down the right side of the house and see if there was another entrance. Aside from the house there was another building in the back of the house. A warehouse. Beyond that there was a parking structure for large trucks. The warehouse and the parking structure were well lit. The trucks had a picture of Endora Blair and under it the name: Endora's Sweet Creations. There was a back door.

  "What now?" Lou asked in a whisper.

  "I don't know. I should probably light this." Herb said. He pulled out his matches and tried to light one. The first one broke in halves. The second one lit, but then burned his fingers so he dropped it.

  "Hurry. I think I hear footsteps," Lou said.

  The back door opened.

  "Are you coming in or what?" Principal Blair stood in front of them, wearing a short, black dress.

  Herb and Lou sighed. Principal Blair walked in and Herb and Lou followed her.

  "I'm just getting dinner ready," the principal said.

  The house was more modern than Herb had imagined. It had a large kitchen. No surprise there and plasma screens in every room. The floor was made out of a tile that looked like flat rocks glued together. Principal Blair walked behind the back of a kitchen island and picked up a knife. She began chopping onions.

  "I'm not going to let you eat Fran. I don't care if you kill me," Herb said.

  "Eat Fran?" Principal Blair said. "What do you mean eat Fran?" She laughed. "Did you really think I was going to eat Fran?" She shook her head. When the principal said it, it didn't sound as likely as it had sounded before. Maybe he had made a mistake? Maybe --

  "I haven't eaten anyone in like five hundred years," she said.

  Herb and Lou looked at each other.

  "Oh my, what is this?" she said as she looked at each of the kids' hands. "I do believe you had intentions to do me harm."

  Herb and Lou raised their weapons. "Where is she?" Herb asked.

  "Patience. Young people have no patience. I'll take you to Fran in a second. First, just in case you get any ideas. Bring that rag and that water pail over here, please."

  Herb held his ground.

  "Fine," Principal Blair said. "Here." She grabbed a napkin from the kitchen counter. Then she turned on the stove and touched one of the burners with the napkin. After a couple of seconds the napkin caught on fire. Principal Blair then pressed the fire against her arm.

  "And that's why I'm still around. See, when Gretel locked me in my own oven, not my brightest moment, I'll grant you that, I just waited for another kid to get curious and unlock the oven. I'm fire proof. And as for the water…" She opened the faucet. First she put out the napkin and then
ran her arm under the water. "Water proof too. Then I got me thinking. The whole eating kid thing is not that great of a gig. The real money is in selling candy. Highly addictive candy is the best." She took off her apron and put the knife down. "Do you want to see Fran? Okay, follow me."

  Herb and Lou set their things down by the kitchen island and followed their principal.

  "But why make people fat?" Lou asked.

  They followed her. Herb wondered if he was just walking into a dungeon where she'd put them in chains and then eat him. He didn't believe she'd lost her appetite completely.

  They walked over to the warehouse they'd seen when they came in.

  "I give you, Endora's Sweet Creations, Inc.," she said and walked inside the warehouse.

  About a thousand people were inside, working. The place was a factory, with many assembly lines. The first thing Herb noticed was that the workers seemed like zombies. They didn't show any emotions in their faces.

  "The fat part is just a side effect of the candy. The candy makes it so that you do exactly what I say. People can't get enough of it. So, they keep gaining weight. Near sixteen is the perfect time to put them to work."

  Fran was here somewhere. Herb needed to find her.

  The principal continued, "Once you pay people, there's unemployment, vacation time, benefits, birthday lists. It's much easier when they're catatonic. No one's even asked for a raise."

  "I want my sister back," Herb said.

  Principal Blair's eyes glowed red. She walked quickly in front of him and grabbed his shirt. Then she lifted him easily, so that they were face to face.

  "I'm losing my patience with you," the witch said with a growl. Her face then straightened and she put Herb down. Herb couldn't stop himself from shaking. He hoped Lou didn't think he was scared.

  "Are you a betting man? Not that you're a man yet, but you get the point," she said. "I am feeling generous. If you convince your sister to leave with you, then I will let you go. If you do not, then you are going to do something for me. You are going to feed one of my candies to your new girlfriend. And then you are going to eat one yourself. And you're going to do that or I will eat Fran. And not just Fran. That little sister of yours should make a nice dessert. I think all this talk of eating people has reawakened the old desires, and I'm getting a little nibbley."

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