The little monster crept toward the door of the enormous stone house. Maybe this was not such a good idea after all. Her friends had dared her to come here. They’d called her weak and scared. She swore she would show them that she was made of tougher stuff than they thought. But standing here, at the end of the mile-long drive, the house gave her pause—squatting here on the edge of the world, nothing but water as far as the eye could see on the other side.
She eyed the door and tried to summon her courage. It was just a house. Nothing to fear. She stepped away from the comforting shelter of the bushes, squared her shoulders, and climbed the stairs. She raised her hand and—
The door swung open. Light poured into the night and framed an angry man holding a struggling grey cat. “You have your own door, cat. Why are you screaming for me to let you out this one?”
The monster froze, her arm still raised like a startled statue.
The man blinked for a moment and set the cat down. The cat apparently changed his mind. He sniffed the monster once, twined himself around the man’s legs, and disappeared into the depths of the house. The man took in the diminutive monster—her horns, her claws, her spotted fur, her row of sharp fangs, and the spiked tail that hung behind her. He studied her with a perplexed look on his face, then turned to call into the house for help. “Winter! There’s a monster at the door.” He turned back to her. “What do you want?”
His words unfroze her and she turned to run back to the shelter of the bushes and away. Who cared what her friends thought? She had come when none of them dared.
A woman came to the door, white hair in a bun. She gave the man an exasperated look and called out into the night, “Don’t go. You’re welcome here, little one.” She reached back into the house and pulled out a small cauldron, filled to the brim with candy.
The monster turned back, uncertain. The woman seemed nice enough. She came back toward the pair standing in the light and held up a sack, uncertainly. “Trick or Treat?”
The woman smiled and held out the cauldron. It held candy, but not the normal cheap kind that most people had. The cauldron was filled with full-sized candy bars. “Take all you want. Very few people are brave enough to venture out here.”
The monster straightened and smiled. She was brave. Take that, third-graders of Room 31! She reached her blue-furred hand into the cauldron and took her favorite, looking speculatively at the woman.
The woman smiled and nodded. “You can take as many as you like.”
The monster grinned and took two more. She tilted her face up to the woman and smiled. “Thank you!” She spun and ran down the steps toward the bushes and her bike. She put the candy bars into her sack but stopped when she saw a glimmer of light—a symbol that glowed for just a moment then disappeared when it touched the other candy. She looked back to the woman.
The woman tilted her head a little but smiled. “It’s alright, little one. It will keep you safe tonight.”
The monster considered that, then smiled at the woman. She put the sack in the basket on her bike and pulled back out onto the long driveway. She called back to the pair, “Happy Halloween!”
The woman, Winter Mulcahy, turned back to Etienne and shook her head, pulling him and the cauldron back inside and shutting the door.
Etienne looked at the candy and back at the wizard. “Is that going to be happening all night, then? Monsters at the door until dawn?”
Winter set the cauldron on the side table and headed back to dinner. “Not a monster. A witch.”
Etienne glanced back at the door. “A witch?”
Winter nodded. “She saw the glyph of protection. She’s one of us. Now come eat.”
Etienne sat and picked up his spoon. The night was a cool one and the stew was warm and filling. He glanced back at the door and the purple-spotted monster. He hoped the little witch would be safe tonight.
A grey form rubbed against his legs under the table. He pulled a bit of beef from the stew, blew on it, and slipped it to the cat.
Winter pretended not to notice.