There are horrible things in the dark places of the world; disgusting, vile, ugly things. Nobody knew this better than Chickie Davis, who had the unfortunate task of finding these dark places and ridding them of their problems, and he did it well. This task was given to him by The ACME Extermination Company.
The white and blue van moved slowly down the shady dirt road, bumping over the occasional tree root. Chickie drove carefully, not wanting to scratch or dent the company vehicle with which he had been entrusted. He had a clean driving record over the course of the last seven years, and he wanted to keep it that way. He had passed the yellow dot on the truck’s GPS five minutes ago, but the order displayed on the mobile computer said the customer’s house was at the end of the dirt road. What it neglected to say was how far into the woods this particular customer lived.
The long drive gave Chickie a chance to reflect on his life, something he tried not to do. Before ACME, he had worked reading meters for the electric company. He almost had a decade under his belt before they installed those damn self-reading meters, putting him and his closest peers out of work. They said they’d move him into another position if there was something he was qualified for, but he didn’t have the fancy piece of paper management had made a requirement for any kind of open position. They used to count years of service in lieu of that paper, but the new wave of management had done away with that policy, opting to have inexperienced college graduates take those jobs, rather than someone who had almost ten years in the company.
With no skills other than copying numbers from the face of electric meters, job-hunting was short for Chickie. ACME had positions open that only required a high-school diploma, and he jumped at the opportunity. ACME didn’t pay as well as the electric company did, but it was better than sitting on his ass and collecting unemployment.
Chickie came upon his customer’s house at the end of the long, dark dirt road, and he came to a stop a dozen feet away from the front door. He clicked the button on the computer pad in front of him to tell the dispatchers that he was on site at Miss Glinda’s home, and he exited, wanting to get this job over with so he could finish his day, go home, and crack open a cold beer. As he approached the house, he noticed its oddities. The walls were gingerbread, and there were beams in the corners made from candy canes. The walkway leading up to the chocolate door was peppermint bark, and the roof looked like it was tiled with chocolate bars.
The knock was answered after only a brief moment, and Miss Glinda stood in the doorway. She wore a blood-red shawl over her hunched back, and her nose looked like it had another nose hidden under a pimple-covered crook. “You must be the exterminator,” she said.
“That I am,” Chickie replied. “My order says you have an ant problem.”
“Yes,” Miss Glinda said. “Let me show you.” She led Chickie through her house and into the kitchen. Even the interior was made of candy and chocolate. She led him to her kitchen counter, which looked like it was a slab cut from a giant peppermint candy.
“See them?” Miss Glinda asked. “The little bastards keep getting in here, no matter what I do.”
Chickie looked toward where Miss Glinda was pointing. There was a line of ants marching toward the window, where they had eaten a little hole through a piece of the chocolate wall. “I see the problem.”
Miss Glinda clicked her tongue. “What’s the problem then?”
“Your house is made out of candy.”
“Candy is full of sugar. Ants love sugar. You’re living in an ant buffet.”
Miss Glinda sighed, crossing her arms across her generous bosoms. “Can you help me or not?”
“I can put some poison down, but they’ll keep coming back if you want to live in a candy house. The best way to keep ants away is to eliminate their food supply, and your whole house is excellent ant food if you ask me.”
Miss Glinda looked as if she had been slapped in the face. “How dare you suggest I leave my home! I was born here! My mother was born here! Who do you think you are?!”
“I’m just doing my job, ma’am.”
“I’m not going to tell you how to do it then,” Miss Glinda groaned. “Just do whatever it is you do to keep these little fuckers form eating my home.”
“Alright,” Chickie sighed. He’d have to note the order to show he had given the warning about the ants returning in the near future. “I’ll look around and put some poison where it looks like the ants are entering.”
“Fine,” Miss Glinda huffed. “I’ll be doing some gardening. There are herbs that need to be picked before midday is over.”
Miss Glinda looked over Chickie with an added stink-eye one more time before turning away. “I trust you to find where they’re coming from. Do not eat my home.”
Chickie snorted as Miss Glinda walked away. “Trust me lady,” he muttered, “I ain’t eatin’ that shit. Who the hell lives in a candy house anyway?”
Chickie went back to his van to get his gel-poison to spread around any areas the ants were using. He wondered if he’d get in trouble if anyone tried to eat the house and ended up eating the ant poison, but he did his job anyway. Someone eating a house made of candy was downright ridiculous. He spread the poison around the outside of the house, under the chocolate windowsills and around the candy cane supports. He looked around for Miss Glinda when he was done, but she was nowhere to be found. Her garden must have been further away than he thought.
Chickie went back inside, eager to finish up and put this job behind him. He still didn’t see Miss Glinda around, so he walked to the door at the end of the kitchen and opened it. He found the stairs leading to the basement, and he walked down, flicking the light-switch on the wall, trying to figure out if she had used licorice as wires and if they actually conducted electricity at all.
“Hell,” Chickie muttered, putting poison along the joists above his head. Even the basement was made of candy; chocolate walls and butterscotch floors, and there were more ants congregating down there. The infestation was bad, and he’d likely have to gas the basement at least, and maybe the whole house. The colony was probably deep inside the candy walls of the old lady’s home. “The old broad’s lucky all she’s got is ants.”
Chickie followed a line of large ants to a closet in the back. The graham cracker door opened only an inch. He knew he’d find the motherlode in there. He moved it to the side with the end of his poison applicator, letting it swing open. He shone his flashlight inside, and what he saw froze him to the soul.
There were ants, millions of them, and they were covering a pile of bones; human bones; small bones. They had all been stripped clean by the feasting insects, not a bit of flesh left on them. “Holy shit!” Chickie exclaimed, finally making sense of why the woman lived in a candy house. “This friggin’ broad’s been killing and eating kids!”
The sound of a door opening and closing was followed by the footsteps of Mrs. Glinda. He closed the door as softly as he could, not wanting to be caught by the old lady who’d been luring children into her candy house and killing them. He knew he had to get out of there before Mrs. Glinda could figure out that he had seen the pile of bones.
“Are you downstairs?” Mrs. Glinda called. Chickie heard the worry in her voice, or he imagined it. She was at the doorway, waiting for his reply.
“I’m down here!” Chickie replied. “I’m just putting some poison around the basement windows.
“Come on up as soon as you can,” Mrs. Glinda crooned in a voice coated in saccharine. “I have a fresh pie, right out of the oven. Maybe I can tempt you with a piece before you have to go.”
Chickie was worried about the change in Mrs. Glinda’s demeanor. She was short and bitchy when he had met her, and now she was being nice to him. She had to have known that he saw the bones in the closet. He wondered if the children were offered pie too, before they were killed and eaten. He knew as he walked back up the stairs that he needed to get out of there without eating a single crumb of pie or whatever else he would be offered.
“There you are,” Mrs. Glinda said, standing at the top of the basement stairs, looking down at Chickie. “I hope the ants didn’t give you a hard time.”
“Nope,” Chickie replied, coming up the stairs and walking into the kitchen. “They weren’t too bad. The poison should stop them from causing any more damage. You can always give us a call if they return.”
“I will. Don’t think I forgot about giving you a tip. I hope you’ll take it in pie.” She brought over a glass plate with a steaming pie on it. The smell made Chickie’s stomach rumble and his mouth water. “I make an excellent rhubarb and strawberry pie, and I won’t be able to eat it all myself before it goes bad.”
“No thanks,” Chickie said, backing toward the door. “I just ate lunch before I came.”
“I’ll cut you a small piece.” Miss Glinda pulled a long knife from a drawer under her counter. “It’s much too early to spoil your dinner.”
“I really can’t.” Chickie struggled to think up an excuse. “I’m diabetic.”
Miss Glinda smiled, showing two rows of discolored teeth. “I don’t add sugar. I’m sweet enough.”
“No thanks. Really, I should be going…”
“You’re beginning to offend me.” Miss Glinda’s jolly demeanor was gone, and the one Chickie had encountered when he first arrived returned. She pointed the knife at him and glared into his face. “It’s just a piece of pie.”
Chickie wondered if the old woman had used that knife to carve the meat from the children’s bones that were piled in the closet in her basement. He then wondered what it would feel like plunged into his stomach if he didn’t get the hell out of the bitch’s candy house.
Mrs. Glinda’s head snapped back as Chickie hit her with a right jab. He followed up with a second, harder punch and turned around, forcing the door open and leaving. He didn’t turn around to see if the punches had knocked her out. He took his keys from his pocket and clicked the button to unlock his van, jumping in the driver’s seat as soon as he could wrench the door open. He turned the key, and the engine grumbled to life. He put it into drive and hit the gas, sending dust in the air behind him as he turned the wheel, causing the van to leave dirt ruts as he aimed the front of it toward the path that would take him back to the main road and away from the crazy old woman.
He bounced in the seat as he hit the same roots he had driven over on the way down the path. He didn’t care about the equipment he wore digging into his skin and making the ride uncomfortable; he just wanted it over with. He looked in the rearview mirror out of habit, and his eyes widened at the sight of the woman following him, flying in the air atop a broomstick.
“That bitch is a friggin’ witch!” Chickie shouted, pushing the gas pedal to the floor. The engine protested, but it lurched ahead. Mrs. Glinda closed the distance, leaning on her broom to match Chickie’s speed.
“YOU CRAZY-ASS BITCH!” Chickie yelled. He turned the wheel, losing his passenger’s side mirror against a tree. He no longer cared about being written up for damaging the ACME van. He just wanted to get away from the witch so he could call the police and eventually end the fucked-up day he was having.
Chickie made it back to the main road, and his tires squealed as he made a hard-left turn. He looked in his mirror again, and he saw she had turned with him, travelling smoother in the air on her broom without hitting all the bumps and ditches that were impeding the van’s getaway.
“How fast can you go!?” Chickie pressed the pedal to the floor. The van was just about at seventy miles per hour down the woodsy road. He had a straight shot now, and he opened the van up. The witch did the same. He smiled as she followed closely behind. “I got’chu now, you bitch.” He slammed on the brakes with both feet. The tires smoked as the van screeched to a stop. The symphony of a two-hundred-something pound body hitting the back of the van and smashing into the windows filled Chickie’s ears.
The van skid to a stop, and Chickie didn’t dare move. His hands felt like they were glued to the steering wheel. It took him half a minute, but he laughed; building from a dry wheezing to a full-on fit of hysterics. He pushed the door open when he could get control of himself and walked to the back of the van. He saw the pile of lacerated flesh and broken bones that used to be Miss Glinda, along with a broom that had been broken into pieces. Her flight into the back of his van had turned her into a pile of bloody hamburger meat with bones jutting out of it.
Chickie didn’t know how much time had passed as he stared at the mangled corpse, but he stayed still as stone. He didn’t want to feel the gnarled hand of the dead witch grabbing the back of his leg when he walked away like some undead remnant at the end of a bad horror movie. He stood and stared until he was pulled away by a pair of police officers.