“Trick or treat!” Libby, Anvesh, and Mitch chirped in unison when Mrs. Wilkerson opened the door. On Halloween, she usually wore a big smile and a witch costume. Tonight, she was in sweatpants and looked in need of a comb and a shower.
“Here you go, kids,” Mrs. Wilkerson said, grabbed a handful of treats from her plastic brown cauldron, then transferred them into Libby’s orange-and-black candy bag. Anvesh and Mitch waited expectantly, holding out their Halloween sacks decorated with fleece bats.
“Thank you, Mrs. Wilkerson,” Libby said cheerfully. But as she peered into the bag to inspect her loot, her smile disappeared. “Erm…I guess no Snickers bars today?”
“Uhm, no,” replied Mrs. Wilkerson. She finished handing out the treats, then leaned toward the children and whispered, “I’m so sorry, kids. I really am.”
“It’s OK, Mrs. Wilkerson,” said Anvesh. “Happy Halloween!”
As Mrs. Wilkerson slowly closed the door, Libby noticed a flash in the hallway behind her.
“Did you see that?” Libby said. “The shimmery thing behind Mrs. Wilkerson?”
“No,” said Anvesh. “What shimmery thing?”
“Never mind. Did you see what she gave us?” said Libby.
The boys checked their bags.
“What the heck? Cut-up apples and carrots?” Mitch scoffed. “I thought we could always count on Mrs. W for full-sized Snickers bars!”
“Maybe your dad finally got to her,” said Anvesh, playfully shoving Mitch’s shoulder.
“Cut it out! You know my dad’s a dentist. Him handing out candy would be unprofessional.”
“Did you see how she looked?” asked Libby. “Maybe she’s sick. She didn’t even dress up the way she always does!”
“Yeah, maybe she’s got no money,” muttered Anvesh. “My mom says Mr. Wilkerson has been laid off.”
“Whatever,” said Mitch. “Let’s go get some candy.”
“Something is definitely going on,” said Libby. She scrunched her nose at her pitiful haul. Half a dozen houses, and nothing with any sugar. “They can’t all be going broke like Mrs. Wilkerson. The Norths just bought a new car and they gave us pencils. Pencils!”
“I would kill for some gum right about now,” said Mitch. “Or a jawbreaker!”
“This is so unfair,” Anvesh whimpered. “The first Halloween we’re allowed to go trick-or-treating on our own, and all the grownups decide to listen to Mitch’s stupid dad and hand out fruit.”
“Leave my dad alone, Anvesh. He’s not even here this week. He is in Denver for a conference.”
Libby clapped. “Does that mean your mom will give us candy?”
“Oh, definitely. Mom loves Halloween,” Mitch said. “She hates that trick-or-treaters avoid our house because of Dad’s tooth-friendly ‘treats’…”
Anvesh and Libby looked unmoved.
“…and I saw her this morning with a big bag of Reese’s Pieces.”
Anvesh perked up. “Now you’re talking!”
“The lights are out,” said Libby as they approached Mitch’s house, the largest one on the block.
“You’re sure there’s candy here?” asked Anvesh.
“I’m sure,” said Mitch.
The front door was ajar. “This is creepy,” whispered Anvesh as they snuck inside.
From deep within the house came a soft whimper.
“I think that’s my mom.” Mitch’s voice trembled. Libby squeezed his shoulder and they tiptoed through the dark hallway toward the light in the kitchen.
“Dad’s back,” whispered Mitch and pointed to a small carry-on bag on the way.
“Look, jawbreakers,” said Anvesh in hushed tones, and the children looked down. The hallway was littered with candy, and a large plastic bowl lay upside down in the corner.
The kids peered into the kitchen. Mitch’s mom and dad were hunched over the kitchen island, cutting up apples and carrots and putting them into small plastic bags. Mitch’s mom looked like she’d been crying.
Behind Mitch’s parents stood two creatures. A tall, thin woman with long white hair and large ivory horns, wearing several necklaces heavy with human teeth. Next to her hovered a glittering being, akin to a young girl.
“You dentists are useless,” said the horned woman in a gravelly voice. “We let you be the stewards of teeth and this, this garbage, is what you distribute?” She held out her hand with two mini KitKats.
“No, we really don’t—” said Mitch’s dad, but the horned woman slapped him upside the head.
“You know,” said the glittering being, “we tried the cute Tooth Fairy myth, giving kids money to motivate them to take care of their teeth… But money under the pillow doesn’t matter to kids anymore. And I hate this ridiculous pixie getup anyway.” With a tremble and a flash, the glittering critter transformed into a horned one.
“The only reason we put up with you humans are the teeth of your dead,” said the first horned intruder. “They carry potent bone magic. But not if they’re rotten.”
“But we dentists help—” said Mitch’s dad.
“Shut up, human,” the first woman said. “There will be no more rotting teeth in this town. We are taking over.”
Libby and Anvesh hadn’t noticed Mitch sneak away. He was back now, with his Halloween sack filled with the jawbreakers from the hallway. He pulled one out and pretended to throw it. Libby and Anvesh gave him a thumbs up, and grabbed an armful each.
Mitch silently counted. On three, the kids jumped up and started throwing hard candy balls at the intruders.
“You little vermin!” yelled the first woman. She dashed toward the children, but rolled her foot on a jawbreaker and fell backward, hitting the nape of her head on the kitchen-island corner.
As soon as she hit the floor, Mitch and his parents ran into each other’s arms.
The other intruder held up her hands and retreated from Libby and Anvesh. “You wouldn’t hurt the Tooth Fairy, now would you?” With a tremble and a flash, she reverted to her glittery form. “A beloved childhood memory?”
“Actually, I never got any money for my baby teeth,” said Anvesh, “and now you ruined our Halloween.”
He threw a hard candy ball at the fairy and hit her right in the jaw.
‘Jawbreakers’ was originally published in The Arcanist’s Halloween Stories Kindle book.
Maura Yzmore writes short fiction and long equations somewhere in the Midwest. Her short fiction can be found in The Arcanist, The Molotov Cocktail, Bending Genres, and elsewhere. Website: maurayzmore.com Twitter: @Maura Yzmore