Chapter 5


They ran quickly and quietly along the long narrow path that led through a thick thicket of the darkest dark trees JC had ever seen. And even though all these trees seemed to be dead, their branches were filled with dried leaves and were in all different weird colors like deep-brain purple, burnt-guts orange, smoky-blood maroon, and frozen-skin blue. JC liked it when the trees back home turned colors every autumn, but the colors of these leaves around him were much more intense. In fact, this whole forest around him was much more intense than anything back home.

Soon the three arrived at the mouth of a cave, when a high-pitched WHEEZE suddenly filled the air. Wolfey and Zombi both looked back in concern before rushing for cover. JC, who thought it really just sounded like the wind, quickly found himself entering the small dark cavern as well.

The three moved past icicle-looking rocks that hung from the ceilings and also jetted out of the ground. JC remembered learning in school that the thin rocks hanging from the ceilings were called stalactites and the ones coming out of the ground were called stalagmites. The way to remember the difference was that “stalactites” had a “c” in it and “ceiling” started with a “c”, while “stalagmites” had a “g” in it and “ground” started with a “g”. Just thinking about this made JC feel very smart about himself.

Before long they were at the back of the cave, where there was a secret door that blended right into the stone wall. Wolfey opened that door, motioned to his friends to enter, followed in after them, then closed and locked the door as another high-pitched WHEEZE filled the air behind them.

JC looked around the cave-room in which they now found themselves. He thought it sorta looked like the “man-cave” where his Uncle Emile (who had just graduated from college) lived. Actually, maybe it was more like a wolf-cave. Or a wolfman-cave. The point is that it was a very messy room with two furry chairs, a long furry cot/couch, a table made out of dead black trees, a big flat crystal screen on the wall, and home-made comic books and half-eaten nuts and berries strewn everywhere.

“Wow, great digs you've got here,” remarked JC.

Zombi was more concerned with the noise they had just heard. “So what was that all about?” he asked. “Since when does The Dead Tree Forest have a monster in it?”

“Since recently. We haven’t seen it yet, but we’re calling it...” and he whispered, “The Candy Monster,” and then he started talking in his regular voice again, “because - get ready for this - it ate Witchie’s house!”

“Whaaat???!!!” cried Zombi, suddenly overcome with alarm. “It ate Witchie’s house!!!??”

“Uh-huh,” nodded Wolfey. "Yup."

“The whole house?!” exclaimed Zombi.

“The whole house!” confirmed Wolfey.

“Even the dark chocolate doors?” asked Zombi.

“Even the dark chocolate doors!” replied Wolfey.

“And the lollipop windows?”

“And the lollipop windows!”

“And the milk chocolate shingles?”

“And the milk chocolate shingles!”

“And the gingerbread walls?”

“And the gingerbread walls!”

"And the chocolate peanut butter cup steps?"

"And the chocolate peanut butter cup steps!"

"And the caramel-covered toffee chimney?”

"And the caramel-covered toffee chimney!” “And the licorice stick gutters?”

"And the licorice stick gutters!"

"The red AND the black?"

"The red AND the black!"

"And all the marshmallows and nuts and chocolate-covered cherries and jawbreakers and peppermint and—"

“ALL of it! Every last piece of it!” interrupted Wolfey.

“But what kind of monster would do such a thing?!” exclaimed Zombi. “A CANDY Monster-- THE Candy Monster! That’s why we gave it that name!” shouted Wolfey.

“There’s no need to shout,” said JC. “We’re all right here.”

“That's true," agreed Wolfey, suddenly realizing something. “In fact, we probably shouldn’t even be saying its name out loud!”

“Well, I don’t know if you have to go THAT far,” replied JC.

"But clearly, you can see why we would get so upset,” Zombi said. "You know how much I love candy myself. But to eat someone's house – well, that's just crazy – and dangerous!"

"Exactly," confirmed Wolfey.

“So what does it look like, The Candy--”

“Don’t say its name!” warned Wolfey.

“Okay, so what does TCM look like?” asked Zombi.

"TCM?" asked Wolfey, confused. “What’s that?"

"It’s short for The Candy Monster--” started JC, who understood right away.

“Don’t say its name!” cried Wolfey. “But that’s a good idea. We’ll call it TCM from now on.”

“So what does it look like?” asked Zombi again.

"Well, that's the thing! We don't know!” exclaimed Wolfey, who suddenly became very dramatic again.

"You don't know?" asked JC.

"Is it invisible?" asked Zombi.

“Maybe. Nobody’s seen it yet," explained Wolfey.

"And when did this happen?" asked Zombi.

"Not too long ago. But we're still not over it."

"Obviously," remarked JC.

“So, has it hurt anyone?” asked Zombi.

“No, not yet,” replied Wolfey. “But who knows when it will strike next?!” And he looked at Zombi and JC with wide eyes.

“Don't look at me. I'd never even heard of the thing 'til 'bout five minutes ago,” muttered JC.

“Has it done any other damage? Has it chased anyone? Has it eaten anything else?” asked Zombi.

“Nope,” repeated Wolfey. “At least not yet. But who knows what it’ll do next!”

“Hmmm,” said Zombi as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “So where’s Witchie living now?”

“She moved in with Franky and Vam Pea, into their castle. Well, they call it a castle, but really, it's not THAT big of a place—"

"It's bigger than this place," interrupted Zombi.

"Maybe. Probably. Okay, definitely. But it's still not a castle."

"Then why do you call it a castle?" asked JC.

"That's what I was just saying – I DON'T KNOW WHY," responded Wolfey.

"Well, it's definitely not as cool as this place," said Zombi, gesturing around, trying to make his friend feel better.

Wolfey shrugged in agreement. "Well, that's true."

"Anywho…" encouraged JC, trying to move the story along.

"So anyhow, the 'castle' is big enough for ten people, so they said that Witchie could stay there. But you already know that,” he said, looking at Zombi. He then turned to JC. “Franky lives in the basement, down in the lab, and Vam Pea lives up the attic – where he can play his guitar while looking out the window.” Wolfey turned back to Zombi. “So Witchie took that room off the kitchen, ‘cause you know how she likes to brew her witch’s brews and make all her candies and potions. She also has a whole room for her high-tech crystal balls and screens and fortune-telling magic that Franky helps her with... So she likes it there in the castle. But still, it’s not the same as having your own home. She says she feels like she’s 'cramping their lifestyle.'"

“What does that mean?” asked JC.

“Who knows? But you know Witchie. She and Mum-Z and Franky are always saying weird things like that,” replied Wolfey.

Zombi nodded in agreement because that was true. He didn’t know what Witchie meant half the time. She - and Mum-Z and Franky, who were two of their other friends - were always reading books and ancient documents and inventing things and nerdy stuff like that. But in addition, Witchie was always looking into her crystal ball and crystal screens, learning about different worlds and places as well. She was very very smart, but also very very dumb sometimes. Because, c'mon, who makes a house out of candy and stuff you can eat, right? Of course someone or something was going to come along and eat the place – eventually. This wasn’t Candyland, after all.

On the other hand, this was The Dead Tree Forest. Creatures here didn’t do things like eating other creatures’ houses either. So the whole thing was weird. And maybe just a little scary.

This is what Zombi was thinking, but he didn’t say any of it. Instead he said, “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go get Mum-Z, Gho-Stee, and Skellii, and then head over to the castle to figure out something together! Right?”

“Right!” agreed Wolfey. “That’s why we hoped you’d come back!”

“So it’s off to Mum-Z’s!” urged JC.

“Right!” echoed Zombi. “That is, if TCM doesn’t eat us first!” he laughed.

And JC laughed too.

And so did Wolfey, but not too much.

(for Chapter 6, click here)