In the home of Mrs. Wanda Dawson, clattering teacups echoed from the kitchen. Wanda hastily arranged the teacups and then turned to the whistling kettle. Ghostly steam issued from the spout, and the sound was nearly ear-splitting. But Wanda was not so keen about the howl of the kettle; she was agitated by the time. Three minutes to five, the clock read, but not a single soul from the Elderly Women’s Book Club had arrived. Black tea was a must—and if it was done improperly, Wanda’s hard-earned reputation would come to a screeching halt.
After spilling the murky-black tea a few times, Wanda had finally managed to fill the cups. Each mug looked like a miniature ocean of blackness, rippling as if a shark were looming beneath the surface. Wanda was pleased; the ladies of the book club would be astonished by her work. Lauren would be especially impressed—she was the leader of the club, and the most praised woman in the entire town. Wanda shivered with excitement: she was merely two minutes away from serving time, and she could barely contain her jubilance.
Muffled voices sounded from beyond the window. Wanda hurried to the living room, opened the yellow-stained blinds, and peeked through. Mary and Tanya were stalking up the yard, their necks choked with glistening pearls, hands hidden with silk gloves.
Wanda walked to the door—limping ever so slightly on her left leg—twisted the handle, and gracefully bowed to the women. Mary and Tanya bowed back before arranging themselves on the crimson couches. It was now five.
“Greetings,” Wanda said in her piercing voice.
Mary Crowfoot firmly nodded in reply. “Vere is Chokers?” she asked.
“Oh,” Wanda replied casually, “dinner last night was a bit rough.”
Mary and Tanya nodded solemnly, hands placed curtly on their laps. “Of course,” Tanya remarked, “cats are always the tough ones. How thoroughly did you cook it? Medium-high?”
Wanda shrugged. “Just about,” she said, observing her wrinkled fingers, and then silence hung over them like misty fog.
The sound of the doorbell sliced the silence. The ladies looked around in anticipation.
“Tonight is a grave night. Do you believe the children have come?” Tanya asked, adjusting her necklace with unease. Her eyes were bright, almost youthful, but the crinkles branching out from her eyelids proved otherwise.
“No,” Wanda stated. “Must be Lauren.” She hurried over to the door and opened it to reveal the leader of the Elderly Women’s Book Club.
Lauren hurried in without greeting. “Change of plans. We’re going out.”
“What?” Wanda asked, startled. “Why?”
“Night falls soon.” She stared at the window, and the sky was indeed becoming dark. Children with bags filled with candy roamed the streets cheerfully. They had no idea what was yet to come.
“Fine,” Wanda said, and then hurried to get the tea. She held the tray gingerly and then set it down on the coffee table.
Lauren was the first to take the teacup. Mary and Tanya followed suit. The women took eager sips, and then gently placed their cups and saucers back on the table. Wanda drank next—the taste was horribly bitter and watery, but after she’d completed the cup, a burning sensation overcame her mouth. The fire spread through her veins, as if replenishing her old, brittle bones with thick, strong ones.
The women looked around wonderingly before the change came upon them. Their charcoal black hair began to elongate into long strands, and their worn faces became youthful. The wrinkles on their faces melted away, leaving nothing but a smooth complexion. Their eyes expanded into ovals, pupils thinning to
cat-like slits. Their dirt-caked nails became clean, and they slowly shrank until they were just four feet off the floor.
“Hurry, girls,” Lauren said, her voice innocent but ominous. “It’s trick-or-treat time.”