Walden Elementary was home to its fair share of ghost stories. Bathroom ghosts, haunted classrooms, the ghost of a teacher who walked the hallways whenever the power went out, even a haunted mop that showed up when conditions were right. The ghost stories that the children would tell most often was on the subject of something loved by children all over the world: candy.
The candy ghost of Walden Elementary doesn’t sound all that frightening at first. After all, its leave candy all over the school. What could be the harm in that? Aiden was certain that there was a lot of harm in accepting the candy left out by ghosts.
“It’s worse than taking candy from a stranger!” he told Hazel one cool October day. I was lunch recess on a school day, and they had plenty of time to talk about it.
Hazel did not look impressed with his comparison. “Except that strangers are real and ghosts aren’t.”
Her comment made Aiden’s eyes go wide. “You can’t say that!”
“Because ghosts are too real!” Aiden insisted. “And if the candy ghost hears you say you think it’s not real, it’ll–“
“Well, it’s not, Aiden,” Hazel interrupted, “so you don’t have to be scared of anything.”
Aiden was staring at her, his mouth hanging open, while she glanced quickly around the playground, pulled a small item from her pocket, and laid it in Aiden’s palm. He looked down at it.
“What is this? Where did you get it?”
“Relax, Aiden,” Hazel told him, sounding unamused. “It’s just a pumpkin-shaped Reese’s peanut butter cup.”
“But where did you get it?” Aiden asked nervously. “If you found it–“
“Oh would you cut it out! It’s not from the candy ghost. My mom said my brother has to share the chocolate, so I brought that one for you.
Hazel pulled a bat-shaped Reese’s peanut butter cup from her other pocket and proceeded to eat it. Aiden looked down at his, reminded himself that Hazel wouldn’t lie about where the candy was from, and decided to eat his, too. Not long after that, recess ended and they went to line up.
After school, Aiden had permission to go to Hazel’s house. They headed into her brother’s room to play video games, and she told him about what had happened at recess while she searched the pumpkin bucket for some sixlets.
“I remember that ghost from back when I went to Walden,” Peter laughed as he bit into a red vine. “It makes really good candy, so it won’t have any wrappers.”
“Don’t encourage him!” Hazel scolded her brother.
“What’s wrong?” Peter asked. “I’m just trying to explain the candy gost better so Aiden won’t freak out when you give him my chocolate anymore.”
Hazel rolled her eyes and went back to playing Mario Kart while her brother spoke to Aiden.
“All the candy from the candy ghost looks homemade, or a piece from a package, like the trail of jellybeans that appears at midnight every night in October.”
“So we just avoid unwrapped candy?” Aiden asked.
“You make it sound easy,” Peter smirked, “but the candy ghost will trick you. You might think your friend just placed a red vine on your desk, but when you thank your friend later, they’ll say they never gave you anything. But you’ve already eaten it, so it’s too late!”
Aiden gave Peter a terrified look.
“You have to be extra careful in October,” Peter went on, “and of course any time it’s Friday the thirteenth. Oh, and Walden has the fall festival coming up, doesn’t it. Be careful there after sunset.”
“Quit trying to scare my friend,” Hazel said. “I don’t want him to be jumpy all the time.”
“You know how people leave food out during a party or carnival?” Peter asked. “Don’t even thinking about eating what you think is someone else’s leftovers.”
“Okay, sure,” Hazel said, “don’t eat food that’s left out– but that’s because of germs and stuff, not because of ghosts.”
“How did the candy ghost die?” Aiden wanted to know. “I mean, back when it was human?”
Peter shrugged. “I’ve heard different stories. Some say it happened in the woodshop on the night of a festival, but others have said it involved poison or razor blades in the candy.”
At that point, Hazel had had enough. she dropped the controller and ran out of the room yelling, “Mooooooom!”
By the night of the festival, Aiden was more wound up than ever. He would barely even touch his lunch because he was afraid of ghosts putting something on his tray if he looked away from it. Hazel had to tell on a couple other students for putting candy on his plate or desk when he was distracted– they knew that he was nervous about the ghost and got a laugh from seeing him panic. She wasn’t above shouting at someone who trolled her best friend, and she wasn’t afraid to get the scolded by a teacher for doing so.
Aiden made her promise to stay with him for the whole festival. They played carnival games together and sat next to each other for face painting, but they ended up getting separated in the hay-bale maze. She could hear him shouting her name as she ran, becoming more and more panicked the longer she took to get to him. Eventually he screamed, and Hazel was so startled that she tripped.
She was on the ground for several minutes, wincing as she looked over her scraped knee. She was eventually able to get back up and limp around a few more corners. She Found Aiden on the ground practically hyperventilating.
“What happened?” she asked him.
Aiden pointed to a part of the path in front of him. Among the loose strands of straw were several pieces of red vines made into an arrow. Hazel looked back to her friend and sighed.
“It’s just those trolls trying to get to you again,” she told him. Then she held her hand out for him. “Come on, let’s get out of here and go paint some pumpkins.”
Aiden took her hand and got up. “You’re the one who got hurt and you’re still help me. I’m sorry, Hazel.”
“It’s okay,” she assured him as they continued through the maze. “It just needs a band-aid.”
They made out of the maze and started head towards the first-aid tent. As they walked, Hazel pulled a tin in the shape of a Pac-Man ghost out of her pocket, opened it, and gave her friend a piece of candy the size of a mint.
“A ghost candy?” Aiden asked as he looked it over.
“Yep,” Hazel replied with a grin. “Ghost candies are a lot more real than candy ghosts. You should try it; they’re really good.”
“Aiden shook his head and smiled down at the candy. Hazel was fond of puns, and he understood that she wasn’t trying to mock him. He popped the candy into his mouth and they went on walking.
“I think Nurse Callahan left for a bathroom break a few minutes ago,” one of the teachers told her when she was almost there.
“Okay,” Hazel replied.
“Can she just go get a band-aid?” Aiden asked.
“I’m sure that will be fine,” the teacher said.
They made their way to the entrance of the first-aid tent, and they could hear sounds inside.
“Nurse Callahan?” Hazel called out. Then to Aiden, “She must be back already.”
It was a small tent, so Aiden was okay with waiting outside. Hazel stepped through the narrow opening in the tent and saw a person standing before her, face painted pale and wispy cloth hanging from its body.
“Oh, hi Nurse Callahan. Nice ghost costume.”
“It’s so nice of to say that,” the nurse replied. “Come here and let me see that scrape. Here, have this lollipop while I get you cleaned up.”
Aiden’s eyes widened when he heard that, and he was in the tent in a flash.
“Thank you,” Hazel replied as Aiden watched her accept the candy He didn’t see a wrapper anywhere..
“Eat the whole thing,” the nurse insisted. “Just wait till you find the surprise in the middle.”
Aiden blinked, and he would have sworn that Nurse Callahan looked translucent for a moment. He reach out a hand to warn his friend, but it was too late. He could only watch in horror as Hazel put the lollipop into her mouth and let the ghost touch her bloody knee.