Tell Time: 4 minutes
Scare Rating: 1 of 5 Frights
“Fetch me my biggest cauldron, Dearie.”
Jessica had no clue what the cauldron would be for, but she was spending a fall afternoon with her grandma. What she did know, then, is that they were going to have a magical time together.
The black bowl was right where Gramma said it was, in the basement next to the water heater. Easy enough to find, and she giggled to see a few small house spiders scurry away to find a new dark corner, as she dragged their home away from them. But getting the cast-iron pot up the stairs was a challenge.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Pulling it by its dirty, thick-braided wire handle, which had once been used to suspend the ancient pot over an open cooking fire, Jessica dragged the heavy cast-iron body of the vessel slowly up the stairs, pausing to rest after each step was conquered. At the top, Gramma grasped the handle and finished the chore. Seeming to rely on supernatural strength, she easily carried the pot the rest of the way, to the stone-faced kitchen table.
“The harvest moon will be rising soon. It’s fall, the deepening season, when the thin veil that separates the Otherworld from ours strains to the point of breaking,” Gramma intoned. “And you know what that means, don’t you?” she asked.
“That it’s election season?” Jessica replied, remembering all of the commercials she’d seen over the recent few weeks.
Grandma shrieked with laughter at her granddaughter’s unintentionally impertinent remark.
“So innocent, yet so clever!” she cackled. “No, my dear. Though you were right to be fearful of the ghouls and goblins that emerge from their dark places during that very haunted season. All in their quest to grab up earthly powers and spread terror across the lands!
“But no; I merely speaking of Halloween. In the fullness of this time, it ripe for my very special seasonal concoction.”
Jessica peered over the edge of the counter to see the recipe. She half expected to see eye if newt, or owl’s blood, on a long list of mystical ingredients to be added to the pot. Instead, there were just two items printed there, in Gramma’s shaky-handed scrawl. Jessica went to the pantry to retrieve them, while Gramma continued her chore of washing a year’s worth of basement dust off the big pot.
“Good, good!” Gramma crowed as Jessica pushed a double armload of sundries onto the counter. “Now, be a Dearie and grab my big wooden spoon – it’s perfect for mixing deep into this big pot.”
“What are we making?” the girl asked, contemplating the ingredients.
“This mixture is known to men and mystics alike for its power to divide and separate otherwise good and well-intentioned people — to separate goats from sheep, I’d say! Those who have tasted it can’t agree whether it is like manna from heaven, or is an accursed affliction that should be damned to Hades for eternity.”
“Like provel cheese?” Jessica asked. She didn’t like provel, but her friend Sadie loved it.
Gramma once again erupted in a spontaneous fit of laughter at the unintentional joke. Her high-pitched cackle always reminded Jessica of a witch’s laugh — though if she was one, Jessica only knew her to be a good witch.
“Yes, Dearie, exactly like provel cheese. Now you just go ahead and add in those ingredients, while grandma starts to stir the mix.”
Jessica cracked open three tall glass jars and poured their earthy contents into the bowl. She then unsealed three large bags of the most important — some would say sacred — ingredient.
Grandma mixed fervently, happily humming an ancient melody that only she would have known; probably from the old country, Jessica mused. As she mixed, the girl watched closely, to ensure that the salty peanuts from the jars were evenly distributed amongst the sweet, waxy golden triangles of the bagged candy corn.
“It’s done! Now, let us enjoy our creation!” said grandma, using her long spoon to dish up two smaller bowls of the treat, for herself and her young apprentice.
“And to Hades with anyone who doesn’t agree that fall mix is a most devilishly divine treat of the season!”