The Candy Canes
By: Gabriella Balcom

"Drop that!" Lynette snapped at her sister, who was nine.

Cara began unwrapping the candy cane instead, prompting the seventeen-year-old to knock it out of her hands. "Hey!" the younger girl protested. "I was going to eat it."

"Get away!" Lynette said to the woman who'd given Cara the treat, grimacing as if she'd tasted something vile. Bristles protruded from the warts on the old crone's face, and her clothes were tattered and dirty. "She's a nasty hag," the teenager told her sister. "Her candy would've made you sick."

"But I'm hungry," Cara complained. "You spent all the money Mom gave us for lunch on makeup."

"Quit whining." Lynette turned away to answer her cell, chattering a hundred miles a minute.

Cara stared longingly at the cane on the ground, which was covered in multi-colored swirls and shiny flecks. She'd never seen one like it, but bet it was delicious.

Edging closer, the old woman raised one gnarled finger to her lips and opened her other hand.

Seeing the candy canes she held, Cara's eyes widened.

The woman placed them in the girl's hand, winked, then hobbled away.

Cara stuffed them in her purse with a giggle.

When the sisters got home, Cara darted into a bathroom and fished a candy cane out of her purse. She turned it every which way, admiring the colors and how it gleamed before eating it. It tasted so amazing. She had another gone within seconds.

At supper, she stuffed herself with dinner and pie. Still craving sweets, she went to her room to enjoy another cane from her secret stash. She hung the three that remained on the Christmas spruce tree in the front room before heading to bed.

Hours later, the lights on the tree went out.

Dorrie, the family's calico cat, raised her head from where she'd been napping on the carpet, sniffed, and padded toward the spruce. Batting the lower ornaments, she knocked two down before squeezing between presents, leaving the tip of her tail sticking out.

A candy cane fell to the floor with a thump, and the cat hissed, whirling around. She slunk toward it, tapping it with a paw. The treat suddenly moved, and Dorrie somersaulted backward through the air, fleeing down the hall.

One of the shiny flecks on the cane twisted open. Something slender extended from the tiny hole, then a second thing, and another. A spider hoisted itself out, its eyes glowing green. More spiders appeared, and the other two canes fell to the floor beside the first.

The carpet became a dark, flowing stream as dozens and dozens of arachnids scurried across the room and up the stairs. Crawling under Cara's door, they surrounded her bed. One raised a leg, pointing upward, and cookies appeared beside the child. Other spiders raised their appendages, and chocolates and other goodies materialized.

The arachnids left, passing her parents' door and entering Lynette's bedroom. They swarmed her, crawling into her nose and ears. She woke, shrieking and flailing around, but the spiders poured into her mouth, choking her cries. Her eyes rolled back in their sockets until only white showed.

For a few moments, she lay motionless. Then her eyes opened, glowing green.

The End

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