Mountain Strawberries

By Daphne

“And this is the kitchen area where the staff is welcome to store and prep any lunch they bring to work, or grab a much needed cup of coffee when pulling a particularly long day or night as the case may be when trying to hit some of the seemingly impossible deadlines that creep up around here at the Tribune more often than not.”

“I don’t drink coffee, but I get the feeling that I’m about to start,” the young blonde woman giggled.

“I’d say that’s a sure thing. Mr. O’Neil pushes the interns very hard. He sets the bar very high, his expectation is that only the one who wants the position the most will rise to the surface, while the rest just sort of sink to the bottom.”

“Sounds… like a challenge,” smiled the young woman nervously.

“Nah, don’t be nervous. I’m making it sound worse than it is. Besides, if the rumors I heard are true, the intrepid Dawn Meadows was quite the sleuth during her time at Ivy Ridge Prep Academy,”

“Mr. Breslin!” exclaimed Dawn, porcelain cheeks staining a bright pink.

“Please, call me Danny. And seriously, word has already gotten around the office about you. People are impressed with the journalism work you’ve already accomplished in high school. At first it was thought that you were getting one of the intern slots because of who your father was and his relationship with Mr. O’Neil. The assumption was that it was a backroom favor. That was until your old professor; Mr. Anderson began sending over examples of your work in school. The articles were circulated amongst the staff here, and you quelled a lot of the nastier rumors with your truth.”

“Thank you… Danny,” gushed Dawn, still blushing at his praise.

“Well, don’t thank me just yet. You may have cast aside rumors with your work in high school, but the Rose Tribune is a publication that employs top-level journalists. This internship is your opportunity to cut your teeth on some professional level work and make your case for whether you have what it takes to be a staff reporter for the Rose.”

“I understand,” replied Dawn, getting her girlish blushing under control and attempting to put on a grown up professional demeanor.

“So, what kinds of leads have you been working on?” asked Danny, clapping his hands to change the topic.

“Oh! Well, let’s see, I was,” Dawn trailed off in thought as she looked about bewildered a moment for her purse, then finding it, she clasped her well manicured hands together, and bent down to filter through the contents, searching for something specific. As she rummaged, Danny could not help but notice how unbelievably attractive Dawn was. At 18, she had just finished up at the Ivy Ridge Prep Academy and was dressed in a blue skirt suit. As such a young girl, with long blonde hair that she was always tucking behind her ears, and wide innocent green eyes, her professional attire was a humorous mismatch. Any laughing would turn to an intake of breath at the sight of her short skirt, and very long legs. They were dressed in the luckiest pair of sheer barely black pantyhose on earth. They were the perfect slender legs nylons were designed to enhance, to stop traffic, to make men walk into walls, get slapped by their wives and girlfriends for gawking. Hosiery jumped off the shelf and into the shopping cart of Dawn Meadows.

It was Danny’s turn to blush when Dawn found what she was looking for, and turning back to face Danny, caught him admiring her legs with a slack jaw. Naïve as she was, she mistook the attention. “I know, I hate wearing these things. Ugh, I thought I could throw them all away forever after Ivy Ridge!” she indicated with a frustrated tug on her pantyhose to keep them taught and sag free on her lovely legs.

“Not if you want to work at the Tribune, you won’t,” chuckled Danny, averting his gaze. “Many the female intern has tried to get around the iron clad nylons rule and met an untimely end. Nope, if you’re serious about being a female reporter here, Miss Meadows, you can expect to be snug as a bug in those hosiery all four seasons, all occasions, all terrains. There’s no danger that a pair of support hose can’t get a female reporter through according to Mr. O’Neil,” Danny added in his best gruff O’Neil impression.

“Great. Lucky for me, he knows best,” smirked Dawn. “Probably because he’s never had to endure the hell of wearing the damn things,” she muttered under her breath.

“So did you want to talk about pantyhose all day?” asked Danny with a laugh.

“Not particularly, unless we’re going to cover how the whole industry is run by a bunch of horrible men that enjoy torturing hard working women, and keep them financially strapped by making them spend obscene amounts of their salary on foolish nylon garments that can be ruined by one evil toe nail before even making up the first leg, and once their on, the choke and siphon the very life out of the poor girl, as she grins and bears the rigors of being a woman in the workplace?”

“I see you’ve given a lot of thought to the subject for such a young girl,” replied Danny, eyebrows raised.

“Six years at Ivy Ridge, and 1,000 pairs of nylons later kind of makes you an expert,” returned Dawn with a lopsided grin.

“So, let’s see what you’ve got,” said Danny, changing the subject again.

“Right!” Dawn clapped her hands together again, feeling like they were getting back on track. “I was doing some investigative work during my last semester at Ivy Ridge about some kids who had gone camping in the mountains outside the city. They told stories about some strange inhabitants in the mountains and at first they sounded like outlandish rumors until I researched the subject and found that similar stories came up in different years and different social circles. The likelihood that the stories were mere embellishments of each other was unlikely, as each separate account maintained similar key details.”

“So what kind of story are we talking about?” inquired Danny inquisitively, trying to get the coy young lady to the point of her mysterious tale.

“Well, for starters, they all mentioned… a cave… a… skull cave… up in the mountains,” began Dawn slowly.

“A skull cave!?” exclaimed Danny, eyes popping wide with disbelief.

“Yes, that’s how everyone describes it when asked. And what’s stranger is that an old woman inhabits the cave. Most accounts describe her as a ‘witch’ but I haven’t been able to quantify exactly what that means yet. I’m not sure if they’re just saying she’s old and creepy… or,” Dawn paused.

“Or what?” pushed Danny.

“Or something more than creepy,” finished Dawn in a whisper.

“Sounds like one hell of piece for this time of year,” chuckled Danny, scratching his chin. “A Halloween witch living up in the mountains in some kind of skeleton cave, boiling up foolish teenagers in her cauldron with lizard eyes and batwings.”

“Not funny,” crossed Dawn, seeing the smirk on Danny’s face. “Besides, there’s no proof that she’s boiling anything in there. Despite all my research, and eyewitnesses, nobody has been able to say that they’ve actually been in the cave. They all seem to get close, but,”

“But nobody has had the grit to go inside and find out,” finished Danny.


“Well, looks like we know where you’ll be trick or treating this year, Meadows,” smiled Danny.

“You think this would make a good piece for my internship here at the Tribune?” Dawn asked hopefully.

“From the sounds of what you’ve presented here, this is just the type of gritty investigative journalism that Mr. O’Neil wants his junior reporters to tackle head on; and heels, and hose, as it is in your case. Besides, a story about a Halloween witch is something so juicy, even the Rose can’t turn it down.”

“We don’t know she’s a witch,” replied Dawn trying to quell the sensationalistic aspect of the rumor. “It’s more likely that she’s just some recluse living in an oddly coincidental rock formation.”

“Let’s hope that your hunch is wrong, Meadows, for your story’s sake. Otherwise, you might just get your wish and be able to dump that drawer full of nylons you have from high school, because you won’t be the intern that lands the staff position at the Rose Tribune. Unless of course they’ve upped the dress code for bagging groceries at the Food Mart.”

Danny’s visual of what Dawn’s future looked like if her story turned out to be a dead end had the desired effect. She dreamed of working as a world-class reporter at the Rose Tribune ever since she was 12 years old. It was her chance to do something amazing in the world, and prove to people that she wasn’t just some spoiled little girl living in Meadow’s mansion, lounging on a fortune, and walking through doors that daddy opened up for her. Dawn Meadows was blonde, slender, gorgeous, and filthy rich, but she had a passion in her to fight for the truth and justice of humanity, not just the rich and entitled. Her cause reached down to the common man, the every man. She needed the staff position at the Rose Tribune, not because she needed the paycheck. That much was obvious. She needed it because the Rose Tribune has the readership; it gave her the voice that could be heard all across the city. It took the tiny light that she shined on darkness and magnified it so that every corner, every backroom, every basement where corruption existed would be bathed in accountability. Because, if she failed to shine in her opportunity as an intern of the Rose Tribune, then Danny Breslin was right. She might as well be bagging groceries at the Food Mart. And even though that meant she could leave the hosiery horror of high school behind, and dump that evil drawer into the trash, it also meant that all the scumbags would be getting away with it, the corruption would continue to muck up the city at night.

“My pantyhose can survive anything!” exclaimed Dawn triumphantly.

“I’m sorry?” asked Danny, raising a confused eyebrow.

“I mean, I was just,” Dawn’s face faded to a deep red as the humiliation of her inspirational outburst was realized. She had meant to psyche herself up for being the best intern the Rose had ever seen, and guarantee her staff position at the end of the term, and it just sort of came out.

“They better survive anything, Meadows. I didn’t take you on as a charity case for your dearly departed father, God rest the good man’s soul!”

“Mr. O’Neil, sir! I didn’t know you were here sir, I’m sorry!” squeaked Dawn, intimidated by the sudden appearance of the renowned editor of the Rose Tribune. Mr. O’Neil was renowned for his sizable girth, bushy mustache, and billowing, room filling bark for action.

“Of course I’m here!” he bellowed. “You think this paper runs itself? You hear that, Breslin? These kids coming out of high school think papers like the Rose Tribune just put themselves out every day! Now what were you saying about your hosiery, Meadows?”

“I, oh, nothing, I was just, I mean I have this drawer from Ivy Ridge, I mean all four seasons of the year, August gets pretty, I was thinking,” Dawn’s thoughts tumbled out of her blond head in a landslide of confusion.

“Don’t get me started on Ivy Ridge, Meadows. I talked to your professor, Anderson, he tells me you couldn’t keep your pretty little feet in your shoes at school. Walking around in your stocking feet? Keep your girlishness back in high school if you want a career at the Tribune. And if you’ve got a drawer full of nylons, then up it to two, or better yet three, four seasons here does not mean 3.5 or even 3.75! You keep an extra pair in your purse, Meadows?” O’Neil’s barking changed topics like a tornado.

“Extra pair? Oh… yes, right here!” chirped a nervous Dawn, pawing through her purse, to pull out a wrinkly spare pair of nylons to show the editor. It suddenly occurred to her how foolish she appeared stretching the undergarment out on display for the two men. Her blush deepened as she slowly stuffed the gossamer fabric back into her purse.

“Good, always be prepared Meadows. I’ve got a reputation to protect here at the Tribune. We are at the top, and I like it here. I don’t need any tarts, or interns for that matter making a mockery of our reputation in this city. You know that saying that ‘soldiers die with their boots on’?”

“Um, I don’t think I’m familiar with,” mumbled Dawn

“Well here at the Rose Tribune, we have our own version for the female reporters. You ladies ‘die with your hose on’” stated O’Neil, grimly cutting off Dawn’s mumbled reply.

“That’s um, inspirational,” replied a decidedly nervous Dawn, not liking his inspiration one bit.

“Darn right it’s inspirational. If you stupidly go and get yourself killed on some perilous adventure, when we find your skeleton, you know what else we better find, Meadows?”

“My stockings?” guessed Dawn, her stomach beginning to feel queasy.

“Correct, Meadows, your stockings. This is the Perils of Dawn Meadows. From here on out, if you want to work for the Rose Tribune, I expect that those long legs of yours stay covered in nylons until the buzzards have picked your bones clean,”

“You can… count on my… pantyhose… sir,” stuttered a confused Dawn, finding herself saluting Mr. O’Neil. His thumping speech on dress code had confused and scared the heck out of simultaneously. She was beginning to feel he often had the effect on people with his personality. Danny simply stood at the side and covered his smirk with his hand. From the look on his face, this wasn’t the first time that he had seen O’Neil give the dress code speech to an 18-year-old bright-eyed hopeful female intern. The look also betrayed that he never seemingly tired watching the girls squirm in their uncomfortable skirt suits, and the tight fitting constriction of their stockings that really turned up the sweat when O’Neil had this particular conversation with them. Dawn found herself wondering how many girls would go home, unzip their skirts, and throw in the towel, or their hose as it were? Not Dawn Meadows. Mr. O’Neil said it himself; this was the Perils of Dawn, which meant she was the star of the show. Dawn felt the swell of pride rising in her as she imagined herself with the coveted staff reporter job sought after by all the interns each term. This time it would be her, and Dawn Meadows would follow in the dainty heels of heroines before her, like Lois Lane.

“Is she even listening to me, Breslin?”

“I’m not sure, sir,” replied Danny.

“Meadows? Meadows?” O’Neil snapped his fingers in front of her glazed green eyes. Dawn shook her blond head of the dusty daydream.

“Sorry, sir, what were you saying?” asked Dawn with a slight apologetic flinch.

“I said what are you still doing here, don’t you have a story to catch?” barked Mr. O’Neil.

“Right! Thank you!” Shaken from her grand dreams of being a star reporter the likes of Lois Lane, Dawn Meadows settled back to 18 year old amateur sleuth fresh out of high school at the Ivy Ridge Academy, recent intern recipient of the Rose Tribune, potential candidate for the coveted staff reporter job at the Rose Tribune. The precious position would be bestowed on the candidate who showed the finest results during their internship. That meant getting right to it. “No time like the present!” squeaked Dawn, grabbing her purse, and quickly shimmying past Mr. O’Neil’s generous girth, heels clicking with determined speed toward the elevators, and her green jaguar that awaited in the garages below.

“She is one strange bird,” muttered Mr. O’Neil as he watched the emerald-eyed girl in the blue skirt suit dash across the editorial offices of the Rose Tribune on the 42nd floor. Her long blond hair flowed behind her and caught any eyes that were already ensnared by her impossibly long slender legs, dressed classily in a smoky pair of stockings. “I hope her father wasn’t wrong about her,”

“I don’t think he was,” added Danny absentmindedly from his trance at watching the ‘strange bird’ retreat to the perils that awaited her and her danger prone legs.

A couple hours later…

The air was infinitely finer there in the wilderness than it was in the confines of the city. Dawn pulled her growling jaguar over to the side of the mountain road, to confer with the direction notes she had taken from her research interviews. With any luck, they were detailed enough to get her to this mysterious skull cave before dusk, so she would not have to drive back to the city in the dark. The clean air was the plush, but the cost was no cell phone signal, and no gps functionality.

Recognizing a couple of landmarks mentioned in multiple accounts, Dawn realized that she was closer than she had originally hoped. Gathering her notes with her, Dawn left her purse and cell phone in the car. She was so far from civilization that it didn’t seem out of the ordinary to leave her personals in the car. After all, who was going to steal it out here? Raccoons? The thought made the young sleuth smile and inwardly laugh. Referring to the notes, she followed the last few sets of directions indicated by a crude but identifiable path.

Not long after, Dawn Meadows found herself standing in front of it. The kids, the hikers, from all the different years, and interviews, were in fact not making it up. There it was, the skull cave. To say that it was magnificent, gigantic, awful, and full of evil all at once would not have properly addressed its natural majesty. How something like this came to be in nature was as plaguing a question as any. It challenged the imagination, astounded the mind. How could nature create something so wicked, a fearful icon to the human mind? But the alternative was even more frightening. What if the cave was not natural at all? But that question was as ridiculous as the human imagination, full of ghosts and goblins, monsters under the bed, and shadows in the closet. To imagine that the cave itself was created; now that caused the slender shoulders beneath Dawn’s tailored suit jacket to tremble involuntarily.

The most frightening characteristic of the cave was not the gigantic scowling sockets of the eyes, or the yawning mouth in perpetual scream that served as the cave entrance with a row of jagged teeth along the top. It was the hole that existed atop the skull, or more importantly, the faint wisp of curling black smoke that lazily drifted through the hole in the roof. Smoke indicated fire, and fire alluded to someone being home. Based on her research, someone implied the witch, or whoever this old lady was. Dawn reminded herself not to give into the foolish ramblings of rumors. Nobody actually knew the old lady was a witch. I mean what does that even mean? Dawn chided herself. There’s no such thing as a witch. Cauldrons filled with lizard eyes, batwings, and the remains of foolish teenagers were as ridiculous as being zapped into a toad. Granted, it would make a great Halloween piece for the Tribune, mused Dawn while cradling her chin in a well manicured hand. Standing at the base of the path that led up to the silent screaming cave, she shivered again in the chill mountain air. Wearing a skirt suit and heels out here was kind of ridiculous, but it was a little late for that. With one last look down the path she came, back toward her car, her cell phone, the safe return to the city, she resolved herself to scoop the story. A real live witch, she teased herself. I could only be so lucky as for that to be true, Dawn chuckled to herself to muster up her confidence and courage. For the betterment of her career, she headed toward the fanged mouth of the skull cave.

Inside it was dark, the air was thicker, hotter, more stagnant in contrast to the live giving fresh mountain air outside. Details were difficult to distinguish at first, while her searching green eyes adjusted to the considerably lower light, the only thing she knew at first was that the cave was much larger inside than it appeared from the outside. Her gut told her this more than her eyes.

“Hello? Is somebody there?” came a voice from the dark. Sweet in it’s questioning tone, but sickeningly sweet. The apparition stumbled from the shadows pairing the voice with an impossibly old woman in an old green robe, and tattered hooded cloak. It could have been the poor lighting mingled with the shade of her robe, but her skin seemed even tinged by the same green. Dawn might have lingered on the thought, but her attention was called to the milky white of the old woman’s eyes. They stared far away, and appeared to stare at nothing at all. All of Dawn’s lengthy observations left her feeling quite rude as she studied the ancient robed woman.

“Hello… my name is… Dawn Meadows,” answered Dawn cautiously, tentatively. She was raised to be a polite young lady, and the training was kicking in, no matter how knotted her gut was with fear and reservation.

“Dawn Meadows? What a delightfully pretty name, young lady!” cackled the old woman revealing a small portion of teeth that managed to cling to her poorly maintained gums.

“Thank you,” replied Dawn awkwardly, still trying to size up the potential dangers of this meeting.

“My name is Eldra,” continued the old woman. “You’ll forgive these old eyes,” she gestured absently at the vacant milky orbs, “but I can’t see anymore. If I could, I’d guess that you were a lovely young girl. As lovely as they come, by the cadence of your melodious voice, my dear,” she cooed. “Why if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that you smell like a princess! It’s like… strawberries,” her cackled laugh returned.

“Strawberries? Oh, that must be my… nylons. It’s the drawer. It’s scented, so they all come out smelling like,” Dawn trailed off feeling really strange talking to this ancient woman about her undergarments all of sudden. What a humiliating way to introduce yourself!

“Strawberry flavored nylons?” muttered the old woman, sniffing the air and smacking her old lips with a swollen tongue. “What a delicious way to package your long tender legs. What brings you and your edible hosiery to my humble home, Dawn Meadows?”

“It’s strawberry scented, not flavored, I mean the drawer that is, it makes all my nylons smell like strawberries, and I, I’m a reporter, I mean, I’m an intern for the Rose Tribune, you may have heard of it?”

The old woman moved closer to Dawn’s babbling form, reaching out toward her. “If I could just feel you my dear?” she asked extending her wrinkled bony hands, with creepy long fingers. “These old useless eyes of mine aren’t worth the wart on a toad. I just want to see if you’re as delicious as you smell and sound.”

Dawn scrutinized the old woman warily, suspicious of her strange wording and eagerness to touch her. “I don’t think my hosiery is edible. I mean that would be weird. Oh!” cried Dawn as the old woman grabbed her porcelain hand in a sudden and powerful gesture.

“Oh yes, you are soft and supple indeed. So young, lovely, so full of life!” cried the old woman running her ragged hands over Dawn’s delicate own.

“I, thank you, it’s nice of you to say, but, Oh!” Dawn stuttered uncomfortably, then exclaimed as the old woman’s excited grasp turned painfully hard and tugged her unexpectedly forward. The surprise pulled an astonished Dawn right out of her high heel shoes. “My shoes!” she cried as she was yanked right out of them by the sudden and surprising aggression of the old woman. She struggled to maintain her footing in her stocking feet on the unfamiliar dark floor of the cave. The pebbles punished the thin nylon protection on her bare feet.

“Don’t worry, my dear. You won’t be needing those where you’re going,” cackled the old woman, tugging the surprised young woman in a forced gait further into the cave.

“Wait! No! Hey! Stop it! Let go of my hand! Please! Hey! What are you doing!?” Dawn offered up a series of desperate cries to illicit why this old woman was accosting her in such a rude manner. “You’re hurting me!” Finally Dawn had the presence of mind and fear to struggle and fight back, tugging with all the effort her slender little body could muster.

Despite the old woman’s apparent frail appearance, she was deceivingly strong. When Dawn tried to resist being tugged along, the woman turned and cast a wicked glance at the teen sleuth’s fear filled face with her blind milky eyes. Holding Dawn’s slender wrist in a crushing grasp, she reached up toward Dawn’s horror stricken face with the other withered hand and ensnarled the long bony fingers in the luxurious flow of her long blond hair. With an unsympathetic tug, she yanked hard on Dawn’s blonde locks, and with a yelp of pain, the terrified teenage sleuth toppled over and landed with a painful slam of her hip against the unyielding stone floor of the cave. The crushing sensation of the old woman’s grasp on Dawn’s tiny wrist was replaced by the flashing pain of being dragged along the cave floor by her precious blonde hair!

Spots flashed before the young girl’s eyes, her scalp pulled flamingly taught as she bounced unceremoniously along the uneven cave floor. No dry cleaner would be able to get these stains out of her tailored suit, and forget about wearing these pantyhose again. They would be beyond repair. She reminded herself quickly that these were likely the least of her problems, and despite the hell of being dragged along by her poor hair, she tried to turn her head, wiggle her body as it bounced along, to get a vantage point of where it was she being dragged to.

The best she could discover from her poor line of sight, and highly inconsiderate hostess, Dawn was being dragged toward the back of the cave which was aglow in an eerie and ill looking greenish light. The smell was also something noxious as it soon became apparent to poor Dawn’s nostrils.

“Yes, your strawberry legs will taste just wonderfully. They’re so long and slender, they’ll feed the whole family!” cackled the old woman with delight.

“I told you, my pantyhose are not edible!” grunted Dawn through her pain. At that point, the old woman stopped dragging Dawn forward, the immediate reprieve on her scalp was fresh water in the desert. The old woman did however keep Dawn’s hair firmly well knotted in her bony fist. The slack on her hair allowed the bewildered teen to scramble and turn her fear filled face around and gather her surroundings.

In the noxious green light of the cave, she could see a raised alter and upon it a large black cauldron. Beneath the cauldron, well placed wooden logs crackled with fire, creating the light that meagerly filled the chamber. Inside the wrought iron cauldron was a greenish bubbling broth that smoked and steamed, the source of the foul odor that permeated the air. The light of the fire was what enhanced the eerie green glow of the mystery broth that boiled in the cauldron and bathed the chamber in a horrific green filter.

“My dear poor girl. We’re not going to eat your pantyhose. We’re going to eat you!” cackled the old woman at the girl’s naivety.

“Eat… me!? You can’t do that! I… I… this is impossible!” cried Dawn, contemplating this newest grim turn of events.

“But you so generously came right to my door and served yourself up my dear. It would be rude of me to turn away a dinner offering. You went so far out of your way to drench your succulent long legs in strawberries, how could I refuse?”

“But I didn’t drench… it’s my undergarments drawer, it smells like, I don’t even LIKE wearing pantyhose!” cried Dawn, trying to reason with the old woman.

“Nonsense my dear. I just can’t resist the smell of strawberries. It makes me ravenous. We don’t get them often out here in the mountains. And don’t worry, I promise this is the last time you’ll have to wear those dreadful nylons. After a good boil, they hold in the flavor and slide real easy off a girl’s tender legs,”

“You can’t do this! I’m a reporter for the Rose Tribune. My name is Dawn Meadows. I was just out here doing a story, a stupid Halloween story, researching this skull cave, you maybe, a supposed witch!” Dawn pleaded her case, desperate to keep her thoughts off the rolling waters in the cauldron and how they might feel seeping into her nylons.

“Me? A witch? Now I can’t have teenage girls like you sleuthing around my cave in the mountains writing your silly stories about me being a witch, because then I’d have more trouble up here than I’d care to deal with. Because the truth is, my dear, I am a witch. And while it’s not as much magic, turning fools into toads, lizard eyes, and batwings, as you’d think, I do make the exception for cooking up the occasional teenage sleuth for Halloween stew!” she cackled, and with a heave, she yanked Dawn from the ground and tossed her over the edge of the sizzling iron cauldron toward the boiling green surface.

As Dawn stared with horrified fascination as the reinforced toes of her stocking clad feet dipped beneath the bubbling green broth of the cauldron, she contemplated how she landed herself in hot water, literally. Straight out of high school she drove out into the middle of the mountains where nobody really knew where she was, with no cell phone signal. She marched into a cave in the form of a skull, dressed in a skirt suit, high heels, and stockings. She served herself up for dinner to a maniacal witch whom loved the taste of strawberries. The same scent that her stupid undergarment drawer plagued all her lingerie in. Had I dumped the drawer in the trash after six nylon enslaved years of Ivy Ridge Prep Academy, I would have found myself bagging groceries in a pair of khakis at Food Mart.

Instead, I’m sitting at the bottom of an iron cauldron submerged in a broth of lizard eyes, batwings, and 18 year old me, dressed in a professional tailored suit that looks ridiculous on someone as young as me, the skirt is so short that you can see the tops of my pantyhose, the pantyhose I might add are the main reason that I’m being cooked alive for dinner at the tender age of 18. The Pantyhose Perils of Dawn Meadows. Cause of death? Pantyhose.

Dawn’s revelations existed in an ethereal sense as her body exploded in the shock of the broth’s temperature. As she thrashed about beneath the boiling waters, her long blonde hair swirled around the surface, cartoonish as spaghetti. Once her young body managed to breach the surface of the rolling broth, and pull herself up over the edge of the iron cauldron, drawing her long stocking clad legs out of the pot, holding them high, the searing liquid dripping off the balls of her feet, her calves, and her backside. It was the desperate attempt of an 18-year-old sleuth who was nearly out of strength. I wished I had checked the package before putting these on this morning. Had I known that I would be getting boiled alive in a stew pot today, I would have checked to see if they supported this because I don’t feel so good!

The witch crept up on the dizzy and weakened girl as she teetered on the edge of the cauldron, desperate to escape the violently boiling broth. “You’ve just had a long day at the office, my dear,” she cooed into Dawn’s ear. “You need to slip out of those restrictive work clothes and ease yourself into a nice… hot… bath!” she finished, smacking Dawn back into the boiling waters with a large wooden spoon. The teenage sleuth had no strength left to defend her precarious position, and she tumbled into the boiling cauldron, head first. Her long nylon clad legs stood straight up out of the water, kicking feebly as the last of her strength gave out, she toppled over, and her long legs slipped beneath the broth, ending with the reinforced toes of her nylons.

“Oops!” cackled the witch. “Most girls take off their pantyhose before their bath, but when you’re as tired as you are, sometimes you forget to peel them off! Thanks for bringing dinner!” she laughed as she stirred the rolling waters.

Later that night, no smoke was swirling through the chimney of the skull, and the eerie green glow of the cave was more subdued. The boiling iron cauldron was now empty and quiet, save for a flimsy pair of black nylons draped daintily over its side, while a cute pair of blue high heels were carelessly left at the base.

The witch’s belly was full as she mused another Halloween feast. “Boy, I sure do love strawberries!” she cackled loudly into yellow full-mooned night.

-The End

Illustrations by Nippy13

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