Containment

The candy man lives alone.

He lives in the house on the hill. It is surrounded by a great shadowy lawn, and around that lawn a gate of cold black steel.

Guards patrol the premises.

Every year Mr. Schiff pays off the local municipal and state authorities to make sure that nobody bothers the candy man.

1

The Candy Man

“He’s full of candy,” says Jane, conspiratorially.

“Huh?” Michael says.

“Full of it! Like, a giant sock full of chocolates in the shape of a man. And cherry candies and butterscotch.”

Jane and Michael are breaking into the candy man’s estate. It’s a rite of passage for kids in the city, breaking into the candy man’s estate. For most kids, the rite is actually getting caught trying to break into the candy man’s estate. But Jane’s as clever as three tacks and Michael’s not so bad, so they’ve actually made it onto the grounds.

“I don’t like candy much,” says Michael.

Jane laughs.

“It’s okay,” she says. “There’s more for me.”

This is a horror story, just so you know. It’s got a man made out of food and a bleak dark estate. So if Jane doesn’t act quite like herself, that’s the reason why.

Jane and Michael creep across the lawn.

There’s a camera whirling to track their movements. But Jane throws a handful of flour into the air.

“Huh,” says the guardsman who’s watching the camera. “I’ve seen that trick. She’s trying to spot someone invisible by their shape in the air—or their footprints.”

He starts scanning the cameras for someone invisible, and he never quite gets around to warning the house that Jane and Michael are on their way.

That’s exactly like Jane planned.

Later, there’s a Doberman growling at Jane from the topiary.

“Michael,” says Jane. “Doberman.”

Michael pulls out a gun. He points it at the Doberman. He says, “Freeze.”

The dog goes very still. It doesn’t want to get shot.

“Now,” says Michael. He squats down. He looks the dog in the eyes. “You attack us, maybe I get bitten, maybe you get shot, it’s no good for anybody. So maybe you’d just better be on your way, and pretend like you never saw us.”

The dog shakes itself vigorously. Then it makes a little gruff bark of acknowledgment.

“Good boy,” praises Michael.

He scruffles the dog’s head.

The dog skulks away. Nobody gets bitten. Nobody gets shot.

Finally, Jane’s reached the lower window of the house. She’s looking in. She can see the candyman sitting by the fireplace. He’s brooding and reading Vampire: the Requiem. Perhaps he is brooding because he is sad, or perhaps because the game has no mechanics for vampires made of candy.

“See?” says Jane. “See? He’s all lumpy with tasty treats!”

“He’s brooding,” says Michael. “Let’s just go. I hate breaking into angsty people’s homes.”

“He’s just lonely,” says Jane.

She knocks on the window.

In the room, the candy man rises. He turns his face towards the window. His face is like a man’s, but lumpier.

He walks to the window. He opens it. He blinks out at Jane.

“. . . yyes?”

“Please, sir,” says Jane. “Might I have some candy?”

There is an alarmed sound from inside. Someone is getting up from another chair—not a chair visible to the window, but a chair nevertheless. It is Mr. Schiff, the butler.

“No,” Mr. Schiff says.

Mr. Schiff is stiff and formal.

“The master does not give candy to intruding children,” he says.

The candy man opens his mouth. His marshmallow teeth shift about. He says, “But they seem kind,” he says.

“Your dear parents,” says Mr. Schiff, “may they rest in peace, did not make you to be fed to children, sir.

“I’m sorry,” says the candy man. “But I can’t feed you. You’ll have to go to the hole.”

So they do.

2

The Pinatas

Shelley and Sid could never have children.

Slowly over the years of their marriage Shelley grew wan and tired. Her eyes sank into dark circles. Sid grew brusque and distant. His stomach ulcerated.

Their love became a chain.

Then, 30 years ago last May, Sid found out that radiation leaking from one of his defective nuclear power plants had animated the pinatas in a nearby manufactory.

“They’re giant mutant pinatas now,” said Mr. Schiff.

“Contain them,” said Sid.

“Sir?”

“I want them locked up. I don’t want any evidence of it. Bury them in a hole and cover them over and burn the records of the plant.”

“As you wish, sir.”

And Sid retreated to his office, and there he drank for many a long night.

When he came home for the next time his eyes were clear and tired.

“Shelley,” he said, to his wife. “We will never have an heir of our flesh.”

And Shelley nodded.

“But we will make a tiny candy man,” said Sid. “And then nuclear radiation will bring him to life, and give him unnatural human size.”

“Is human size unnatural?” said Shelley, her brow pinching. But after a moment she understood.

They made the candy man, and life was happier for a time.

Then the pinatas got free somehow and found them.

Stomp! The pinatas crushed Shelley. Sid shouted, hoarse. He tried to run.

Stomp! The pinatas crushed Sid.

“Hey!” realized Sid, after a bit. “I’m surrounded by candy. This isn’t so bad.”

But he never said anything after that, not ever.

So it probably was.

3

Buried

Mr. Schiff takes Jane and Michael to the hole. It’s a hole in the ground covered with planks.

“Are we under arrest?” says Jane.

“Heavens,” says Mr. Schiff. “No.”

“Oh,” says Jane.

“Jolly good,” says Michael.

“You’re vanishing,” says Mr. Schiff.

Briskly he pulls aside the planks and then he shoves them in the hole.

This, Jane thinks to herself, would be an excellent time to scream.

Jane opens her mouth to scream. Then she realizes that while she was thinking she’s already fallen the whole way and landed on something soft and yielding.

“Huh?” Jane says.

She looks around. Michael is also there.

“You, too?” Jane says.

“Too much thinking,” Michael says.

Great fabric eyes blink at them.

“Hey,” Michael says, poking the softness on which they sit. “Pinata.”

Above them Mr. Schiff is putting the planks back in place, one by one. The light above is fading.

The pinata rumbles, “I am the last.”

“Pardon?”

“I am the last of the giant mutant pinatas to reside here,” it says. “I helped the others up, but they could not free me. It is because my leg is torn.”

“Oh,” says Jane. Then she blinks. “What?”

“If I leave this place,” says the pinata, “I will fall apart, delighting children everywhere with the river of candy that spills forth.”

“Heh,” says Michael.

“What?”

“People are scared of giant mutant pinatas,” Michael says. “You’re too adaptable. There’s too much of a risk that you’d displace humanity. No, children wouldn’t be delighted at you.

Jane’s eyes are very round as she contemplates the river of candy. She does not appear to have heard Michael’s speech.

“Alas,” sighs the pinata.

Then Jane snaps out of it. She shakes her head firmly. “We’ll help you,” she says. “We’ll fix your foot. Then you can burst out of here and free us!”

“No call to be lawless, child,” says Mr. Schiff, up above.

“It’s not lawless!” Jane protests.

Michael points out, “It’s got to be violating some kind of code.”

“Oh,” says Jane, deflated. Then she perks up. “But I’m naturally lawless!”

“It’s okay, Mr. Schiff,” says Michael. “We won’t help the pinata.”

But they do.

Late that night, when the sky is black and the moon is fuzzy white, the planks erupt away from the hole. There is the high-pitched shriek of a pinata on the hunt.

“I am the night,” says the candy man.

He is considering holding a live-action Vampire roleplaying game on his estate. He has already contacted a gaming association. He is practicing his roleplaying now, wearing a black cloak and a pale shirt and two fake fangs of white chocolate Hershey’s kisses.

“Fear me,” he rumbles. One hand gestures, indicating his use of a supernatural fear-inducing power.

The pinata does not fear him. The pinata squishes him. The candy man’s skin is the first to burst, and candies pour from him like insects from a corpse.

He falls, and the pinata moves on.

There is candy everywhere, and a copy of the gaming association’s bylaws fluttering half-open on the ground. Jane and Michael, the guards, and scattered children from the city gather over his empty flesh. They feast on his innards.

And Mr. Schiff is there—too late, for once, but there nevertheless.

“What is this?” he demands, through clenched teeth.

He flails his hands.

“Get away from that! That’s my dear departed master’s son!

Candy falls from Jane’s nerveless fingers. Mr. Schiff is terrifying when he flails his hands.

“But I said they could,” mumbles the vacant mouth of the candy man crushed. “When they found me. I said they could eat.”

Mr. Schiff’s eyes are flinty. He does not approve.

“Oh,” he bites out. “Oh, sir.”

3 thoughts on “Containment

  1. Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew
    Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two
    The candy man, the candy man can
    The candy man can ’cause he mixes it with love
    And makes the world taste good

    Who can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh
    Soak it in the sun and make a strawberry–lemon pie
    The candy man?
    The candy man, the candy man can
    The candy man can ’cause he mixes it with love
    And makes the world taste good

    Willy Wonka makes everything he bakes
    Satisfying and delicious
    Talk about your childhood wishes
    You can even eat the dishes

    Who can take tomorrow, dip it in a dream
    Separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream
    The candy man, Willy Wonka can, the candy man can
    The candy man can ’cause he mixes it with love
    And makes the world taste good

    And the world tastes good’
    Cause the candy man thinks it should

  2. *laughs hysterically*

    As it happens, I’m headed for a live-action Requiem game later tonight. I do not think, however, that they will permit me to play a vampire made out of candy, as it would require Top Approval with Master Notification. They wouldn’t let one of my friends Embrace a can of Spam®, either, which caused him to wax exceeding wroth. But that was before he got married, and his wife makes sure he takes his medication regularly, so it’s all good.

    I note, also, that radiation from leaking nuclear power plants is no substitute for marriage counseling.

  3. I liked this entry, very good.

    Edited: this comment originally contained a bleak gothic horror parody of the candy man song. However, after letting the rhyme scheme go to work, I decided that it was better not to go there.

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