An excellent night for burning gumdrops.
“Burn the gumdrops!” the other villagers joined in, tossing another pile of candy onto the billowing pyre. For the first time since the Candy Lords appeared, there was a general sense of optimism in the air... but as always, opportunists and parasites lurked behind every curtain, scheming up new ways to part a gullible village rube from their pouch of sawdust (the de facto currency of the land).
“May I have your attention, may I have your attention...” Mother Ghord called out over the dissembling rabble. Immediately, every voice dulled, and every moon-faced peasant turned to the elder.
“Achem!” she cleared her throat, waiting for a handful of rowdy children to be shushed by their real parents. “First off, I’d like to congratulate the boys over in the Edge Division. I think it goes without saying that we’d still be breaking our backs out in the sugar fields if not for their unparalleled bravery.” She waited while the crowd cheered their village’s own all-volunteer paramilitary unit, the Fightin’ Restless Leg Syndrome Infantry.
“Yeah! Ten huzzahs for the Edge Division!” shrieked a hooded figure. Mother Ghord squinted through four fairly fat farmers’ follicles for a farsighted glance at the flimsy fella. She frowned.
Deep in her liver, Mother Ghord could sense trouble brewing, and knew that most of the people in the crowd had also recognized the voice. Some turned away and folded their arms in registered disgust; others leered angrily at the hooded enigma as he pulled down his cloak and ran up to Mother Ghord.
“Yes, Mother Ghord! I have returned triumphant! You don-”
“Throw him into the pyre!” someone screamed. “He’s the collaborator!”
“I didn’t collaborate, I tells ya!” Oschael roared over the bristling crowd, looking for a sympathetic ear, or at the very least, a non-scowl. “I fought the Candy Lords from the inside!”
Mother Ghord wagged an accusatory finger at his chest. “Yet you still bear the hideous orange standard of the Candy Lords. Tell me, Oschael, when did you decide candy was more important to you than the lives of the people you grew up with? Who nurtured you, and taught you how to swim, et cetera?”
“You commit to condemn me? Cast away your callous calls and contrite, ye crop-cuttin’ cretins!” Oschael laughed, reaching into his long sleeve.
Some of the more cautious villagers stood ready for him to brandish a sleeve-based weapon; yet all were unprepared when he held up by the hair the severed heads of three Candy Lords- heads still bearing the wicked facial disguises of the inhuman fiends: a witch, a goblin, and a ninja turtle. “Trick or treat!” he cackled.
Every villager stood in awe. Humbled, the poets would say, by both the temper of the harvest sky and their own earlier statements (which were proved to be deliciously ironic by this act).
“Oschael,” an Edge Division Marshal began. “Oschael!”
The other villagers took up the chant, hoisting Oschael up about them, as they danced under the yellow moon. Orange embers illuminated their pale silhouettes as they sang out: “Oschael! Oschael!”
Swing yourself, lose yourself, run and skip and play under the evening sun!
The wise old wily woman winced willfully through white windowpanes at the waxy moon. “Oschael...”
“Yes, Mother Ghord, keeper of our village’s beehives?”
She licked her chapped pink-white lips. “What become of the fourth Candy Lord?”
“Fourth Candy Lord? I ain’t never hear tell of that,” Oschael stammered in his combat boots.
“Don’t lie to me, poisonous whelp!” she waved her walkin’ stick around like a sword. “I didn’t say anything out there because I’m getting old... so old, my grandkids want to take away my driver’s license. But I won’t let them, because I want my independence! I worked hard for it, I’m eighty years old, and I deserve to drive. No one can take that away from me.”
Oschael nodded vehemently. “I, personally, would never-”
“Shut up and tell me what happened to the fourth Candy Lord!”
“Those commands are mutually exclusive!” Oschael cried, unable to hold back his glee at having the opportunity to use the phrase “mutually exclusive” outside of a Star Trek-related conversation.
“I saw the head of Malus the Lurker,” she recalled, “and Saq the Snapper. And the head with long scars running down the cheeks, that was Ty Chal Skullbasher.”
She leaned her wrinkled face over his yellowy glowing eyes. “But I didn’t see the Candy Lord who took my children off to be devoured by bureaucracy. I didn’t see Bobyn the Destroyer.”
Flop-sweat drenched Oschael’s synthetic brow. “Are you sure I... I mean you, are you sure you didn’t forget what you saw? It was pretty dark, and your night vision isn’t that great. You probably shouldn’t be driving at night...”
“I-I don’t have to listen to you!” she pointed an accusatory eyeball at him. “This isn’t about me.”
“Didn’t you, like, crash into a mailbox last year?” Oschael crunched his face, trying to remember what he’d read in the paper. “Yeah, on Redburry Boulevard.”
“That was entirely the homeowners’ fault for not putting reflective stickers on their mailbox,” she shouted defensively. “Now let’s get back to how you betrayed your village and are complicit with a whole bunch of deaths-”
“You know, kids don’t wear reflective stickers. What if you’d hit a kid?”
“He’s right,” someone called out as they walked by the cabin’s window. “You could’ve hit a kid.”
“I didn’t hit a kid,” Mother Ghord groaned as she tried unsuccessfully to reroute the conversation back to Oschael’s moral failings. “Stop distracting me.”
“Do you think we’ll ever colonize Mars?”
“Guh!” Mother Ghord slapped at him with her cane. “Cough! Get out! Cough! Cough!”
“Okay... fine- ow! Okay! Ow! Quit it!”
She slammed the door behind him, coughing loudly as she drew the venetian blinds. Oschael brushed the pine bristles and ribbons from his jacket; Kelt, the village wainwright (and unofficial town goth), ran up to the door—originally to grab a candy bar from Mother Ghord’s offering bowl (a ritual he’d had to perform countless times when the Candy Lords reigned o’er the woods)—but hastened by the yelling.
“What was all that with Mother Ghord?”
Oschael smirked at the simpleton. “Oh, she was telling me about how one of the Candy Lords’ heads was missing, and that there should’ve been four instead of three.”
“Golly gee!” Kelt walloped his emo right cheek with an overly large hand the size of a coconut. “But really, what’s one severed head between friends?”
“Yeah, really.” Oschael knocked the candy bowl over. “Those probably weren’t the real Candy Lords anyway. I bought those heads from some traveling merchant out in the lowlands.”
The lowlands are a dreary and harmonic backdrop.
“You sly fox!”
“Sly as water-based paint,” Oschael chuckled, as he combined the old metaphor with a simile of his own invention.
“LOL! Well... Happy Halloween!”