The Crumpetmonger's Nightmare
It was a dark day in Neovia (then again, there was never a bright day to be seen in the town) and the upper-middle class citizens of the Haunted Woods were roaming the streets to go about their usual Sunday business.
It was the day before Halloween and Neovians were purchasing last minute decorations and food supplies.
One shop that was open as normal was the Crumpetmonger, and the Crumpetmonger served up all kinds of baked delights.
The shopkeeper was a charming Yellow Meerca, her face caked in white make-up along with a big dollop of red lipstick on her lips. She was well-known for her large, white wig and there was her signature beauty spot on her cheek. She loved to gossip whilst serving customers and rolling pastry dough.
The Crumpetmonger was cutting out ghost-shaped biscuits as she spoke to a debonair couple from Dribblet Street.
"Ah yes, me lovelies! Halloween just around the corner. Takin' the kiddies out Trick-or-Treatin' again?"
A trim-looking Orange Lupe adjusted his monocle and cracked a small smile. "Not this time, Madame. The children got quite a fright after visiting Sophie's Shack last time and vowed never to Trick-or-Treat again." He sniffed. "Huh, kids these days."
His wife, an elegant Purple Lupe, who was linking arms with him, chuckled softly. "I think that we'll just have a quiet Halloween tomorrow. We will supervise them carving pumpkins. I will even let little Darla add glitter to hers because she loves them!"
The Crumpetmonger shoved the tray of unbaked biscuits into the pre-heated oven and addressed the couple once more; "That sounds like a WONDERFUL idea for your kids!" She handed the customers their order of scones in a bag. "Have a good day, sir and madam."
"Good morrow!" the man said cheerfully as he and his wife left the shop.
The Meerca waved goodbye and started making a fresh batch of scones, remembering to removed some cooked vegetable pies from another oven at the same moment.
Another customer, a small Usul wearing a school uniform and a red cape, entered the shop and started looking at the various crumpets on offer. She peered over the counter, placing her red-mitten hands on the counter.
"Hiya!" she said after a minute, smiling brightly. "I'm going to spend Halloween with Sophie and Bruno and I need something tasty to bring them. What do you recommend?"
"'Ello, Gilly! Well, back before Bruno mutated into what he is now, he used to love Iced Bundt Cake. I could box one o' them up for ya now if you'd like?"
That sounded like a great suggestion!
"Cool! Yeah. And what do you think Sophie would like?"
The Crumpetmonger had to think about this. It had been many years since the Ixi had visited her. "You know, it has been so long since the ol' gal dropped by me shop that I'm not entirely certain what to suggest."
The Usul shook her head politely. "It's okay. Those Lemon Tarts look good. I'll take some of them as well."
"Okay, that will be one-thousan' three-'undred Neopoints, then," she said, bagging the goods.
Gilly checked her purse. She frowned. "I only have a thousand NP."
"Tell ya what! Ya can 'ave them for a grand. My treat," she said generously, placing the pastries on the counter for the Usul.
"Oh thank you!" Gilly chimed, exchanging the remains of her change for the food. "Are you doing anything for Halloween, Madame?"
The Meerca chuckled. "Aside from runnin' this joint? Nah. But watch out for them ghouls tomorrow, little 'un. Halloween is an unpredictable time o' year in the Haunted Woods."
The Usul was not scared. She was used to hanging out in Neovia. "I'll be fine! It's the ghosts who'd better watch out for ME!"
The Crumpetmonger ruffled her hair. "You show 'em!"
"Watch out for ghouls in your shop too, Madame! They might destroy your kitchen before the morning."
"Don't you worry abou' me, missy! Now you run along. Sophie will get angry if ya keep her waitin'."
"Seeya later!" Gilly sang as she skipped out of the shop.
Before long it was time for the Crumpetmonger to close-up shop for the evening. She turned the shop sign to "CLOSED" and began the general routine of putting ingredients in the pantry and sweeping the floor.
"Ain't no ghouls in this kitchen!" she said satisfactorily as she removed her apron and locked the door.
The Crumpetmonger's store was not only a bakery but it was also the shopkeeper's home. Upstairs, away from the public eye, was a living space for her, complete with bedchamber, bathroom, living room and drawing room; all above the shop.
The Meerca headed upstairs and changed out of her work garments into her lovely white nightgown. She then proceeded to the bathroom to wash off her make-up with soapy water. As she stared in the antique mirror above her sink, drying her face with an already damp towel, she began to wonder if any spooks DID haunt her shop whilst she was asleep. If she was asleep, how could she prove that something WASN'T going on in the shop below?
She shook her head. "Nah, nothin' is happenin' down the ol' stairs. I'm goin' loopy!" she thought in ridicule of herself.
She returned to her bedchamber and clambered into her squeaky, single, iron-wrought bed. There was a spider spinning a web in the frame of her headboard, but she didn't mind. It was not long before she fell fast asleep.
* * *
The Crumpetmonger was all alone in the shop and she was wearing her nightwear. She was busy making hundreds and hundreds of steak and kidney pies for half-price day, but feared she would never have enough.
In an act of desperation she turned to witchcraft to get the job done quicker.
She was not actually a witch but she had been given a spell book by a dark faerie customer. Thinking that now would be a useful time to call upon some spiritual help, she hailed some assistance from the dead ex-owners of the shop.
All went well for about an hour until the ghosts got carried away, setting the oven on fire and coating the entire store in flour.
Eggs were thrown all around the bakery and it was a lot of trouble to get the ghosts to cease their activity!
The Crumpetmonger almost went out of business because of them!
The ghosts eventually vanished come daybreak but she had this gut feeling that they had not gone.
What if they set the place on fire again in her sleep?!
* * *
The Crumpetmonger woke up abruptly. That nightmare buzzed around her head for a while as she composed herself. She had only been asleep for fifteen minutes.
She sniffed the air. She choked on some dust that had gathered over the years. The spider on her headboard was spinning a fabulous web.
No smell of burning, that was good.
The Meerca got out of bed and put her hair up in rollers to give her something else to concentrate on. Her nightmare was not ANY nightmare... it was a memory. And she had never reversed the spell she had originally cast, so maybe the ghosts were STILL here?!
Come to think of it, her stock supplies seemed to be on a constant low, but she had always blamed that on thieves in the neighbourhood.
The Crumpetmonger walked to her bathroom. Maybe she was overworked? She did open shop every day so she probably needed a break right now.
But as she started running some water for a bath in her steel tub, her nose detected the scent of cooked pastry.
FRESHLY cooked pastry!
She immediately abandoned the idea of a bath and ran to grab an iron poker from the nearest fireplace.
Once armed she crept quietly down the creaky staircase into the shop below. If those ghosts were back she would certainly give them a walloping!
As she rounded the corner into the store, her suspicions were spot-on! There WERE ghosts in the kitchen and they WERE baking things in the middle of the night.
Well! This HAD to stop! She could not afford to keep on top of the stock bills to fill her pantry every time these ghouls dropped by to make themselves a late night snack.
Iron poker at the ready, the Crumpetmonger charged at the ghosts with a loud war cry.
She might as well have not bothered because the ghosts disarmed her in seconds! But they did not attack her, they just continued rolling the dough and making whatever it was they were making.
The Crumpetmonger fumed. "I order you all to leave me supplies! I don't want to lose business 'ere, ya here?!"
But they did not acknowledge her. In fact, they just helped themselves to whatever they wanted as the Meerca watched on helplessly.
"You leave me best utensils alone, confound it! Don't make me call in the bobbies; they'll make short work of looters like you! GET OUT OF ME SHOP!"
She might as well have not been present. The two ghosts went through the motions until the pastries had cooked fully.
When they removed the tray from the oven, they did something unexpected. They offered the freshly baked Grape Strudel to the Crumpetmonger to eat!
Shocked, she asked, "For me?"
The ghosts nodded, handing her a knife to slice the pastry.
The Meerca surveyed the brown pastry and smiled as she realised that the ghosts had written 'Happy Halloween' on top of it. "Aww... Happy Halloween t'ya too."
The ghosts watched on approvingly as she cut some slices out of the dessert. There was nothing suspicious about the Grape Strudel – no dynamite or poison concealed in the filling – so she happily took a bite.
It was DELICIOUS!
Content that her resident ghosts meant no harm, the Crumpetmonger said; "Alright, lovies! Y'can stay but I don't want no trouble from ya. I'd appreciate it if ya replaced the stock y'stole from me pantry but if ya keep makin' me this strudel I'll letya be."
Then she added, "Oh, an' if ya set me shop on fire I'll haunt YOU in the afterlife!"
No one ever got the best of the Crumpetmonger if she could help it. This gal from Neovia took no gip from ghosts or thieves in this town!