Up the road from our house in Wahiawa, there used to live an old Portuguese woman. She never liked my sister Ashley or me. We always used to sneak into her yard to pick lychee off of her tree when the fruits were full and ripe. She would chase us out to the street, waving the walking stick that she kept on her porch, but she never came close to catching us.
One day we decided to play a trick on her. While I kept watch, Ashley hopped over the fence and stole the stick. We took turns banging it against the fence until she came outside.
The old woman’s face was as red as lychee skin in the summertime. “Do you know what happens to girls like you?” she called out to us, a sly smile pushing up her sagging cheeks. “Tonight, the Coca will come to eat you up, you’ll see.”
“You’ll see, you’ll see,” my sister mocked the old woman, poking me with the stick. I laughed along with her, but couldn’t shake the woman’s nasty grin.
“What d’you think she was talking about?” I asked Ashley when we got back home.
“Who knows, who cares,” she replied, kicking the stick under her bed. “Maybe now she’ll leave us alone.”
That night I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to tell Mom about what the old woman had said. I wanted Mom to tell me that it was OK and that it was all “rubbish” like she did when a scary movie came on the TV. But if I did, I knew that it would be lickings for the both of us, and no chance of going out for Halloween. I thought about costumes and candy, and tried not to think about anything else.
But just before I drifted off, the wind came through the window, stirring the chime outside. Little children, joke and play…
I pulled the covers up to my eyeballs and looked at the shadows playing on our bedroom walls. “Ash?” I whispered into the dark. “Ash, you aren’t funny.”
…But tonight I’ve come to take you away.
I kept quiet and held my breath, not sure what to do.
A thin figure crept out from the corner. Little children, girls and boys, I will eat you up and use your bones as toys.
“I’m sorry,” I trembled.
It filled the room. Its fingers stretching across the walls, reaching for me. Little children, every one, you’ll be no more trouble when I am done.
“We’ll return it. We’ll apologize,” I pleaded. Its mouth opened wide. Its teeth were all jagged shapes and sharpened points. “We’ll be good,” I cried.
And then I felt it drag a fingernail across my cheek. Promise this, promise that, keep your promise or I’ll be back.
“Nikki?” My sister was sitting up, looking at me. “Nikki, are you OK?”
I ran for the light. “Did you see it,” I blurted out. “Did you hear that thing?”
“What the old lady was talking about, it was here.” I tried to explain it to her, but she just laughed. “I’m serious,” I said, but she didn’t believe me.
“It was just a nightmare,” she replied, lying back down. “Now turn off the light and go back to bed before Mom gives us both something to be afraid of.” I didn’t care what she thought. I knew what I had seen.
When the sun came up, I grabbed the walking stick from under Ashley’s bed and went to see the old Portuguese woman. I was surprised to find her standing at the fence, waiting for me. “I’m sorry,” I told her, handing it over. “We were just—” But before I could finish, she reached over the fence, dragged one of her fingernails across my cheek, and smiled, showing me her teeth.
I ran all the way home.