They didn’t look like ordinary kids. There was something funny about the way they dressed. All alike, too monochromatic to be real. They looked like they’d just stepped out of an expressionist painting, black and white. Even the pallor of their skin contributed to the effect. They stood oddly outside my front door, swaying in the breeze like young birch trees. They didn’t ring the bell, they just stood there, staring. I probably wouldn’t have noticed at all, but I happened to be passing by the front window with a basket of laundry and there they were: a little girl and a little boy.
I opened the door and looked down at them. Their pupils dilated slowly as they stared up at me with one fixed, stony gaze, and smiles that revealed nothing inside. The street was empty, only a few blowing leaves betraying the scene as not being painted on a giant canvas. A soiled, empty box laying askew on my next-door neighbor’s stoop was the only thing amiss in the otherwise placid street scene.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
“Would you like to buy some candy?” they asked me, in unison.
I looked past them, up and down the street, searching for the car that obviously held a bored parent, delivering these precocious creatures from door to door. Fundraising was, after all, a natural consequence of procreating.
“Where are your folks?” I asked. They ignored this and smiled.
“We’re selling chocolate,” said the boy.
“For school,” the girl added, “It’s delicious.”
“I don’t really have the cash, sorry, kids,” I said, as I began to close the door. I hated to turn down children, but something about the pair was unsettling, and I suddenly felt as though I needed to find a priest or wash my skin with bleach.
The door thumped against a small foot. With a grimace, I opened it once more. The children’s expressions hadn’t changed. Their faces were pockets of dead eyes and frozen smiles.
“Would you like a sample?” asked the girl. Simultaneously, they both held out small parcels wrapped in silver foil. I noticed boxes of candy stacked behind them, which had apparently materialized during the short period of time when I had tried to retreat back into my house.
As I reached for the candy, my hands shook like I had developed a sudden bout of Parkinson’s disease. The air seemed hot and thick. As I reached out, my vision blurred and it seemed like I was taking both pieces at the same time, even though I knew they were in separate hands.
I slowly unwrapped the candy and sniffed it as the children looked on, never breaking their gaze. My nose couldn’t detect anything odd, so I popped the piece of chocolate into my mouth and sucked. A rich, dark cocoa flavor erupted forth and my mouth flooded with saliva. I chewed just once, breaking the chocolate into two smaller pieces. A tinge of bittersweet flavor exploded in my mouth, like a bursting blood vessel. As the chocolate slid down my throat, I reached for my wallet.
“How much is a box?” I asked, pretending to be a thoughtful consumer even as I shoveled a handful of my money toward the children.
The girl took my cash with one quick sliding motion, and it went into an unseen pocket. At the same moment, the boy handed me a small box with a silver ribbon tied around it. I tore the silver ribbon off the package, cutting my finger open with the edge, and shoved two of the chocolates into my mouth. It wasn’t enough. As I shoveled more of the treats into my gaping maw, I could feel my eyes bulging with panic. The trickle of blood dripped off the edge of my finger, and from the corner of my eye I saw the girl dart underneath me and catch the drop on her tongue like a crimson snowflake. The children giggled.
My box was already empty. I needed more. I tossed my wallet aside as I ran into the house, leaving my door open.
“I’m sure I have more cash around,” I screamed, “Let me see what’s upstairs!” The children silently followed me inside and closed the door behind them.
Michael A Rose is a writer, musician, producer and performance artist who lives and works in Chicago IL. His plays have been produced in New York, Chicago, Denver, Portland and many other cities. In addition to running RoShamBo Theatre and making noise under the name Flood Damage, Michael hangs out a lot with his cat, Dandelion. His story “100 Fingers and the Tree” was featured in the anthology Kizuna: Fiction for Japan in 2011. His debut novel Party Wolves in My Skull was published in November 2011 by eraserhead press as part of the New Bizarro Author Series.
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