Halloween Short Story Contest: 2nd Place “The Bones, the Blood, and the Blaze”

The sound of her whistle got all of the kid’s attention in a matter of seconds, and she gathered them around her with a mere three words, “I’ve got s’mores!”. One by one they took their sticky treat and stole a seat on the logs around the bonfire. Simple conversation among children was heard: “these s’mores are good” “tastes like diabetes to me” “I didn’t know we were having a campfire tonight” “I thought all of the counselors were teenagers? She’s old…” and old she was, ageless in fact, as she spoke those ageless words, “Now let me tell you a story…

“Once upon a time, on a night much like this one, at an hour just as late as this, one a witch sat licking her fingers and picking her teeth. The fire was slowly going out, casting an eerie glow on the blood stained dirt and the piles of bones next to her.

“Everyone in the surrounding villages knew of her and the legends about her. Some used it as a sort of boogie man for their children, ‘eat your vegetables, or the witch’ll come and get you!’, others were skeptical, ‘that’s just an urban legend, everyone knows witches died out centuries ago’, while others were simply absurd, ‘it’s the aliens, man, the government’s tryin’ ta hide ’em, but they can’t hide forever’.” This caused the listeners to laugh, as it should.

“While these diverse reactions were common among the adults the children all believed in one, sound, solid resolve ‘The. Witch. Will. Kill. You.’ After all, what else were they supposed to believe if not the truth? Their seemingly small, naive brains were more open to understanding and fully processing such unbelievable legends such as these.

“They knew, even without the vegetable threats, not to be alone at night without being sure of safety in numbers. Always traveling in groups at night, pairs at the least.

“However, many years had passed without accounts of missing children or piles of bones discovered in the woods, and the people began to grow soft. The kids no longer huddled together in packs, but rather travelled loosely by themselves, two if it was late; they became less careful of who they talked to, and less fearful of old women. Some even stopped believing in the stories they were told, choosing, instead, to sneak a cookie and run outside rather than eat their broccoli and play inside. Adults realized that resistance was futile and all together stopped telling the stories of the witch in thewoods who would gobble you up if you gave her the chance.

“The few remaining children who knew the stories grew up until they were far from children. They had kids and their kid’s babies were on the way. That fear-struck town had become quiet and dull…until every single child went missing. Missing and presumed dead. It was only then that the citizens began to talk again about the ‘urban legend’.

“The children were away at summer camp and eventually the parents stopped receiving letters. Then, when the camp was over no bus came to bring back their kids.

“They thought ‘maybe there was traffic, or they were delayed’.

“They waited another day. Nothing. One more day and a missing persons report was filed. A search team went out around the area where the camp was supposed to be; no children were discovered. Nothing was found except a pile of bones, blood stained dirt, and glowing embers, slowly fading to black.”

By now the kids had huddled together in clumps, three or four per log. Each grabbing onto the next closest, clinging for dear life to their scrawny arms.

“Now, of course, it was obvious that the witch had eaten them as she had the generations before. What they could not decide on is why she stopped for decades, but I know. I know why she stopped. She stopped so that they would forget about her, so that they would let their guard down. Then…BANG!”. They all jumped and shrieked at this.

“She struck when they least expected it. Do you know how she got all of those children to trust her? To fall weak prey to her jaws? She gave them sweets and said to them ‘Now let me tell you a story…'”