“Are you almost ready?” I called.
“Yes, Mommy!” Alexandra called.
She walked in.
“Lemme fix your wing, sweetie.” I came over and straightened the wire that was meant to keep the shimmering translucent wing outstretched.
“Thank you. How do I look?”
“Yes, I’ve got to take a picture!” I reached in my purse and pulled my phone out. “Say cream cheese!”
I took it. “Nice!” I showed her.
“I’m so pretty, aren’t I, Mommy?”
“Yes, you are a beautiful fairy.”
“I know! You're my Butterbean!”
“Now, get your pail.”
“Yes, Mommy!” She ran to the couch and snatched her Blues Clues Halloween pail. “Got it! I hope I get lots and lots of candy!” She ran back to me.
“I’m sure you will, sweetie.”
We stepped outside. The crisp, cool air greeted us as Alexandra smiled. I grabbed her hand, and we walked down the street.
“I’m trick or treating with Mommy, la-o-dee-da-doo!” Alexandra sang and skipped. “This is my first-time trick or treating, la-o-dee-da-do!”
“Wonderful song, dear.”
“Thanks, Mommy. I just made it up.”
A few other parents were out with their kids. One family was dressed up as The Avengers. A boy who looked to be eleven or twelve wore a black trench coat and so did his dad. Some other kids formed groups.
“Let's go to that house!” Alexandra pointed.
Alexandra skipped up and rang the doorbell. The door opened.
“Trick-or-Treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!”
“Oh! WHAT A lovely fairy!” Paul said, scratching his long white beard.
“Thank you Mr. Lea! I’m Butterbean, I can cook yummy treats.”
“Well, well, I have some yummy treats for you!” He reached into the orange bowl. “Hold your bucket out, dear.” She did, and he dropped in some candy.
I held my bag out.
“Mom wants some too!” He dumped a few Snickers bars into my bag.
“Thank you!” I said.
“You betcha! Happy Halloween!”
“You too. Thanks!”
We walked out to the driveway.
“I got Snickers, Mommy!” Alexandra showed me the miniature candy bars in her pail.
“What did you get?”
“Same as you.”
“Let’s go to the next house.”
We visited five more houses Alexandra particularly liked the glowing ghost in front of one of the homes. It was almost as tall as the house.
“Can we get one for our yard?”
“Maybe next year,” I said then added, “If we can find a place to store it the rest of the year.”
“Why not keep it out front?”
I smiled and ruffled her hair, “Let's move on.”
We walked past three houses that looked empty.
“Look, mommy! A kitty!” Alexandra pointed. I looked and saw a black cat walking in the street.
“That’s nice, honey. Hopefully, it will be safe tonight.”
“Can I pet it?”
“Sure, but be careful.”
She walked up to it. “Hi, kitty-kitty.” She bent down and rubbed its furry head. “Aren't you a good kitty?” She scratched its neck, then without any warning, the cat whipped its head around and bit her finger.
Tears welled up, and she started crying. “Its Ok, sweety,” I said. “FFFTP PSS!” I jerked forward at the cat, and it ran off.
I bent down to pick her up… and gasped.
My daughter started shrinking! She stopped crying, and a look of shock spread across her face. Thick, black fur spotted all over her body. Her costume melted off as her fingers shortened and sharp claws grew.
Her blue eyes turned yellow, and pointy ears popped out on the top of her head. Her nose pushed in and turned black. She rolled over and stood on all fours. A thick furry tail had sprouted from her backside.
My daughter’s been turned into a cat!! What am I going to do?
I picked her up and ran to the next street. passing a few houses. I sprinted to the cream-colored house…. up to the door, opened it, and rushed in. “Alexandra‘s been turned into a cat!”
“Huh?” Jamie said, turning her head around.
I went over and pushed the cat in her face. “My daughter!”
“She’s this cat?”
“Good joke,” she said, standing up from the couch.
“I’m not kidding! She saw a cat walking in the street, and I let her go pet it. So she went over and started petting it, and it bit her. Then she transformed into a cat.”
“No! you gotta believe me! I don't know what to do!”
“Keep it up.”
“I know it's crazy, but I need your help.”
“And what am I supposed to do? Help you catch the stupid cat?”
“If this a joke, I swear…”
“It's not a joke!”
Alexandra jumped out of my arms and dashed off.
“ALEXANDRA!” I yelled and ran after her. A group of kids was chatting in the middle of the street when Alexandra almost knocked one down.
“Hey!” he shouted, lifting his Mandalorian helmet up as she ran past.
We continued running, past other trick-or-treaters. Past colorfully lit houses, past streets. And into the meadow. The woods were approaching, but Alexandra showed no sign of slowing down. “ALEXANDRA, Stop!“ I pleaded, but it was no use. Alexandra sprinted into the woods.
“Maybe we should go back and get help?” Jamie suggested.
“And let my daughter be eaten by coyotes when my daughter is lost in these woods?”
“You can stay or go, but I’m going in.” I stepped into the woods.
Dead leaves crunched under my feet, and a gust of wind chilled my body. I looked up at the full moon dominating the darkening sky and peeking through the trees. “ALEXANDRA!”
“That might not be a good idea,” Jamie whispered.
“I don’t care! I must find her! ALEXANDRA!” I cupped my hands around my mouth.
“You got me, Ok? Great joke, ha-ha. Now, let’s go back.” Jamie pulled my arm.
“For the last time, this isn't a joke, Jamie!” I pulled my arm away.
“Sara, please. I really need to study.”
“Then, go, I’ll find her by myself!”
I walked further into the woods and tripped on a rock. Jamie grabbed my arm and pulled me up.
Howls erupted nearby.
“Oh, great! Coyotes.” Jamie said.
I continued walking. I pushed a bunch of leaves out of my way and screamed.
“AAAAAAHHH!” the middle-aged woman yelled.
She put her hand on her chest. “Heavens, I was tending to my blueberry bush when I heard rustling.”
Behind her was a red brick house with a red pickup truck parked in the grass.
“What are you doing on my property?”
“I’m looking for my cat.”
Yes, she’s black.”
“I’m missing a cat too.”
“Was it black?”
“Oh! well, my cat… er…”
“I think I saw your cat. It was on Midnight Avenue. My daughter saw it and wanted to pet it.” The words ran out my mouth before I could stop myself.
“What?” she said, her eyes wide.
“You know, don’t you?”
“Of course I know. Sparky’s my werecat.”
“He bit your daughter, didn't he?”
“OK, what's going on?” Jamie asked.
“If bitten, the person will turn into one.”
“So, it’s like a werewolf.” Jamie scoffed. “Is she in on this?”
“In on what?”
“I told you it's not a joke!” I said.
“Hello. It's Halloween! The day where you scare everybody?”
“I’m not joking, Jamie!”
“Let me settle your little argument.” The woman rolled her eyes and levitated ten feet off the ground.
“Ok, I believe you.”
“Good!” She lowered back down. “You best come inside.”
We followed her to her home, and as I stepped in, sweet pine smoke drifted in my nostrils.
”Hi there,” said a man with long black hair, sitting on the red couch.
“This is my boyfriend, Crimson Fred,” the woman said, then looked at him. “This is Jamie and Sara. I’m afraid Sparky bit Sara’s daughter.”
“Oh dear, lemme get the potion,” he said and got up. He levitated and floated into the kitchen, which from what I could see, looked like a regular kitchen.
“Crimson Fred?” Jamie whispered. I looked at her and shrugged.
We could hear Crimson Fred opening cabinets in the kitchen.
“Hey, Vickie, we’re out of skunk bat blood.”
“And it's too late to get more. The store closes at seven.”
“Aren't you witches? Why don't you make more?” I asked.
“We’re missing skunk bat blood, an ingredient to make the antidote, and I ain’t no witch!” Crimson Freed sneered. “I’m a wizard!”
“Skunk bat blood?” Jamie blurted out.
“Blood from a skunk bat.”
“What's a skunk bat?”
“What kind of bat?”
“Do I have to explain everything to you?”
Jamie and I exchanged glances. He reached into his pocket and pulled a green wand out. He waved the wand in a circle and shouted, ”Portal!”
A blue, flashing portal appeared
“That’s Latin for ‘portal’… in case you're wondering.” With that he entered the portal.
“Gee. I could not have figured that out!” Jamie said.
I looked at Jamie.
“C’mon I don’t have all night. Tet your butts in here.”
“Well, here goes nothing,” I said, took a deep breath and stepped in.
Crimson Fred was standing in front of a cave. “This is the Cave of Despair.”
“Nice name,” Jamie murmured.
“Welp, let’s go in,” Crimson Fried said and skipped in.
I took a deep breath and stepped in.
Damp air greeted me. A water drip fell on my nose. We came across a huge boulder and I ducked my head to avoid the lowering ceiling. Pointy stalactites glistened in the torchlight, casting huge shadows on the wall.
“That’s an awesome formation,” Crimson Fred said,
“Ok.” I replied.
We walked on the rocky gravel, my shoes crunching noisily.
Crimson Fred ducked to walk through a low entrance. We followed and then crossed a little rock bridge that spanned a shallow stream.
“Stalactites form from dissolved limestone rock. The water dissolves the calcium bicarbonate from the rock and then drips from the cave’s ceiling. Some of the water evaporates leaving the precipitate behind to create the limestone stalactites over hundreds of years,” Crimson Fred intoned.
“What's with the geology lesson?” Sara muttered in my ear.
We trudged deeper into the cave.
The passage opened up into a large room. Black and white bats were perched on the ground, their wings folded across their bodies.
”Some skunk bats sleep on the floor,” Crimson Fred pointed out unnecessarily. A machete appeared in his hand. He handed it to me. “Here, you cut a wing.”
“To make it bleed.”
“Are you crazy?”
“No. You must do it.”
“My values prevent me from harming any living being.”
“I won't hurt any creature, big or small.”
“I don’t want to hurt it either.”
“But, it's the only way to get its blood.”
“What if it bites me?”
“You'll turn into a skunk.”
“Thanks. That makes me feel better.”
“Fear only stops us from doing the impossible.”
“I can't do this.”
“Yes, you can.”
Alexandra popped into my mind. Her curly golden locks, her beautiful smile, missing front teeth.
I took a deep breath and crept to the nearest bat, my heart pattering in my chest. I could hear it breathing. I raised the knife. Here goes nothing and drove the knife into his wing.
SQUEAK! The bat flew around. I screamed as it fluttered around my head. I swatted at it and ran. SQUEAK!
It was dark without the torch, so I stopped running and walked back to the room with the bats.
“Got the blood,” Crimson Fred said and snatched the knife out of my hand.
“Excellent!” I said, my heart still pounding.
“You almost killed my friend!” Jamie yelled when we got back to the house in the woods.
“Well, I didn't. She chose to go. Besides, she would not have died if she was bitten. she would’ve-—“
“Turned into a bat. I know. My point is that it was reckless to go make her stab a bat!”
“Ok, I screwed up. I am sorry.”
Jamie said nothing, but stood there glaring at him.
We watched as he scraped bat blood off the knife into a large iron pot, using a bright pink silicone spatula. “There. That should be enough.”
Crimson Fred waved his hand, and the cupboard door opened.
“Uh-oh. We are out of dark scorpion juice.”
“Uh-oh?” I said.
“Kidding!” He opened a jar and dumped some of the contents into the cauldron.
“Scorpion juice? Isn’t it poisonous?”
“No, not at all. The poison is filtered out.”
“Let’s see… Ah! Cat water!” He opened a vile and poured a little in. Then he stirred the concoction up until it turned black. “There. It’s done.
“But I still haven’t found my daughter.”
Crimson Fred just shrugged.
We heard the front door open, and Vickie’s voice called out. “Come see who I found.”
I ran into the living room, and Vickie was there, holding Alexandra.
“Oh Vickie! Thank you for finding her.”
“It was nothing. I have a way with cats,” Vickie replied.
Crimson Fred brought the antidote out in a saucer and set it down in front of Alexandra.
She sniffed it suspiciously, but then started to drink.
“Good kitty,” Crimson Fred said.
“Hey, that’s my daughter.”
”Well, excuse me!” “I’m sorry for mistreating you.”
“What's your problem?”
“My problem? If my problem is I want a bajillion dollars, but bajillion isn't a number, is it?”
“I thought so.”
”What are you talking about.”
“I don't know.”
“Can we get back on track here? Why isn’t my daughter turning back into a little girl?”
Crimson Fred looked like he was thinking.
“Duh! I forgot to add rabbit foot jelly!”
“Hang on. I'll fix it.”
“Two scoops of rabbit foot jelly.” Crimson Fred added some goo, and started stirring the cauldron again.
“And you’re sure it will work this time?”
“Here kitty-kitty, I got another drink for you.”
“Stop treating her like a cat. She’s a little girl.”
“Well, excccuuuuuusssse meeeeee!”
“She’s a child.”
“No, she isn’t.”
Alexandra lapped at the mixture in the saucer again.
I glared at Crimson Fred.
Something caught my peripheral vision. I turned my head and gasped.
Alexander's body started growing.
“Great! Now, she's a fat cat!” Jamie said.
“Hey! they prefer to be called obese felines.”
“AND YOU'RE JOKING?” I yelled.
“OK, calm down.”
And then, Alexandra was back, curly golden locks, beautiful smile, missing teeth and all.
I scooped her up and hugged her like I’d never let her go.
“What's wrong, Mommy? Why are you crying?”
“I’m so happy you’re back.”
“Can I have tuna when we get home?”
“Tuna? You don’t even like tuna.”
“I know, but I want tuna now.”