Halloween Contest 2023

The Witch of Washington Pond by Casey Rock

(Note: This story contains depictions of child kidnapping.) 

I’ve always loved Halloween: feeling the soft warmth of homemade wax candles burning low; telling the huddled, terrified children chilling stories; taking Polaroids of all of us in our costumes, hand-stitched by yours truly. I’m a bit of a “Helicopter Mom,” but I’m not a monster: Jason, Kim, and Billy still get to go door-to-door once a year, filling their pillowcases while I supervise from the sidewalk, dreaming of my time doing the same decades ago. 

Recently, there have been legends cropping up about “The Witch of Washington Pond,” a madwoman who snatches up children on Halloween night, never to be seen again. But that won’t stop me from bringing my children out on Halloween. Sometimes the experience is worth the risk, and Halloween in Washington Pond is the most beautiful night of the year. 

I inhaled the loamy musk of the brisk October night. I heard the high-pitched, choirlike recitations of “Trick or Treat!” from groups of children praying that, maybe, this next house had full-size candy bars. I closed my eyes for ten, fifteen seconds at most, enjoying the autumnal beauty around me. 

When I opened my eyes again, my children were gone. 

The well-worn broomstick I use as part of my costume snags on a thorny bush. I drop it impatiently before continuing my sprint through the quickly-darkening forest, chest heaving, teeth gritted. If I don’t make it to the edge of town before they do, it will all be over. No more candles, no more stories. 

But never underestimate a determined mother, especially one who’s lived in Washington Pond her entire life. I know all the shortcuts through town and invented most of them. 

As I tear through the stinging, thorny underbrush and burst onto the isolated street leading out of town, I nearly bowl over a plump child in a chicken costume, complete with real feathers and beak hot-glued on, eye holes cut neatly into the fabric so as to reveal as little of the child’s face as possible. 

Billy! No!” screams Kim, who turns to run back toward her brother. The 

beautifully-stitched tiger costume I made for her just last week is already covered in stains and rips. There will be hell to pay when she gets home. 

Billy manages to shout “Go on without m-” before I cover his face in a chloroform-soaked rag with practiced precision. He’s unconscious before I pull him past the tree line.

Kim has already followed Billy’s advice, but she won’t be hard to catch. Jason is the real worry – he’s always been the most athletic – but the police station is right by the highway exit, well over a mile away. He’ll never make it. 

I’ll gather them up, return them home, and still have plenty of time to return to the festivities and find them a new sibling. 

Never underestimate a determined mother.