The Candlewick Man
Autumn (Halloween) 2019
“Tatatatatata ta ta tat.” My dad was drumming the car dashboard nervously. He did not want to admit it, but we were completely and entirely lost. I stared out of the window. I was starting to get car sick.
“I can’t believe we are missing trick-or-treating for this!” my brother Daniel mumbled sleepily.
“Oh, shut it, Danny,” my sister Violet replied, “Dad would have taken all of our candy away anyways.” Danny snored in response. Daniel Curtis Drummings could have easily won a medal for being able to sleep whenever he wants to. He managed to sleep through hurricanes, chainsaw noises, and even Violet’s 13th birthday party. However, the feat that really takes the cake is when he managed to fall asleep after what happened the last time we went camping at Purplewood Lakes.
My mind went back six years. I was only nine, Violet was seven, Danny was five, and my youngest sister Monica wasn’t even born yet. Danny and I were romping around in the crisp golden leaves, laughing and tackling each other. Danny is younger than me, but I’m pretty sure that he is stronger. I had him in a half-nelson when the most peculiar feeling gripped us. We exchanged glances, then slowly pressed forward, away from camp, being very careful not to make noise. We came across a small clearing. There was a man tied up and whimpering on the floor, he saw us and whimpered some more. Another figure entered the scene. He was tall but very thin, built like a candlewick. Even his hair was patchy and burnt looking. He was holding a large meat cleaver and ambled over to the poor whimpering man. The poor fellow chanced a pleading look to me and Danny, and Danny squeezed my hand so damn hard. My hands went numb. A twig snapped; my face went even number. The Candlewick Man turned around slowly. I saw his grotesque face and it took all my effort to keep from fainting. Danny screamed, I snapped out of it and we both bolted towards camp.
The man had had pins holding his skin to his face. His pupil- less eyes bulged out. Wherever he stepped he brought with him the stench of rotting flesh as well as a group of very persistent flies. The worst part was that the skin covering his face was someone else’s! It hung loose in certain places, and in others, it was a bit too tight. I will never know if he chased after me or not, because I never looked back. I ran as fast as I could, dodging trees and rocks, ignoring my tired legs and frantic lungs. I was never a great athlete, tall, lanky, and a bad runner in general. However, that day not even Danny, the star-soccer player, could keep up with me. My dad was making hot dogs when we got back. He took one look at our faces and laughed.
“Let me guess, you guys saw a man with no pupils, and pins on his face,” my dad said grinning, “Violet says she saw the same thing. Look, I’m all for a good prank, but you can’t fool your Daddy O’. I never fall for that kind of stuff.” I was in a state of disbelief. He didn’t believe Danny, me, or Violet.
“Yes!” My dad shouted triumphantly, “My phone finally picked up a signal! Now Google Maps can lead us the rest of the way!” I snapped back to reality.
“So, you were lost!” I said with a chuckle.
“No, Daddy O’ doesn’t get lost. I was just in dire need of Google Maps,” he snapped back. I laughed and then turned to look out of the window, I saw the familiar thin trees of Purplewood Lakes.
“In fifteen-hundred feet, your destination is on the left.” The disembodied voice from my dad’s Google Maps said. I hopped out of the car to stretch my legs. Then we trekked down to our camping sight and unpacked. My mom unpacked our suitcases, while Dad and I set up the tents. Violet and Danny went to climb some trees.
“Stuffy, Stuffy, Stuffy, where’s Stuffy?” Monica peppered mom with questions about the long, stuffed snake that Monica couldn’t sleep without.
“Hold on, I need to unpack these other things first. I’ll get you Stuffy in a bit,” my mom answered.
“Here, I’ll unpack the rest of the tents, you go play with Danny and Violet,” my dad said. I turned around. “Hey, if you see our pin-faced friend, tell him I say hi.” My dad said with a laugh. I went to go see what my siblings were doing. They were building a giant leaf pile. I joined in, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the Candlewick Man.
“Hey! Crackerjack!” I turned around to see that Crackerjack, our dog, had urinated right into our leaf-pile. When we first got Crackerjack, we were divided between the names Cracker and Jack, so we went with a compromise.
“I don’t know about you, Violet, but I don’t care about dog pee. I’m jumping in. Cowabunga!” Danny yelled as he jumped into the pee-covered leaf-pile.
“Ewww Danny, that’s gross!” Violet yelled.
“Come on, Violet, it’s not as gross as ‘Daddy O’s’ hot dogs.” I replied with a laugh.
“That’s true,” Violet answered.
“It’s also not as gross as the Candlewick Man.” Danny replied. The comment turned into a heated discussion. My dad joined in.
“It’s hot dogs for dinner!” He exclaimed to lighten the mood. We all groaned. Crackerjack’s ears went down.
“Not dogs for lunch! Hot dogs, silly!” Danny told Crackerjack. Crackerjack’s ears stayed down. Just the stench of my dad’s hot dogs was enough to scare away all animals in a mile radius. At least the dog didn’t have to eat them.
As if she was reading my mind, my mom joked, “Crackerjack is so lucky! He doesn’t have to eat your hot dogs!”
My dad just rolled his eyes and went to go start a fire. We all sat around the now blazing fire and ate our hot dogs. I would describe them to you, but I wouldn’t do that to anyone, except maybe the Candlewick Man. I closed my eyes, pinched my nose, and pushed the volatile, sorry excuse for a hot dog into my mouth and pretended that it was ice cream. My siblings followed suit. Dad’s hot dogs are the only food that Crackerjack doesn’t beg for because she hates them just as much as we do.
“I’m cooking for the rest of this trip!” My mom exclaimed joyfully. We all cheered.
“Alright kids, go frolic in the woods or whatever kids do these days.” My dad said pretending to be hurt by our affront on his cooking ability.
“Honey it’s 10:00, they should be getting some sleep,” my mom replied. With that, we ambled over to our tents and, as “Daddy O’” likes to say it, “we hit the sack.” However, long after the last smoldering embers of our fire were in the wind, and long after the soccer and sleep champion Danny fell asleep, I was still tossing and turning in bed. Every slight movement, noise, vibration, in my mind was the Candlewick Man. The Candlewick Man kept my eyes wide open, and my body trembling and covered in sweat. The wind in the trees was the Candlewick Man waiting, my dad moving in his tent—it was the Candlewick Man, shifting into position, every noise from a neighboring campsite was the Candlewick Man, pouncing. At last, after hours of torture and fear, sleep took the reins, and I was finally calm again.
I woke up to the crisp smell of autumn and the crackling sound of my mom cooking bacon. I got up on my knees and left the tent. I stretched as a brisk autumn wind swept through the trees, leaving red-gold leaves in its wake. I yawned and turned around to see my siblings playing what I think started as catch. However, at that moment it was really just Danny and Violet pegging each other as hard as they could with a rubber ball. My dad came to us asking if we had seen Monica. Usually she was up by now, but we all assumed that she was just pulling a prank on us. Still though, we searched for her, and I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that I was getting.
“Hahaha, Mon, very funny!” I called, “Now come back, Stuffy misses you.”
The only response was the wind rustling the trees. I was starting to get a little worried. Those words always got Monica to come back. Maybe I had said it wrong? I had expected her to pop out from behind a tree or something, but she didn’t. I went over to her tent to make sure that she wasn’t just hiding under her sleeping bag or something. I didn’t find my little sister, but I did find something else.
I screamed. The rest of my family rushed over to see what happened.
“What’s wrong, Tucker?” my dad asked worriedly.
I pointed. On the floor were Stuffy, two pins, and a pool of blood. That and the look on my face were all they needed to see to figure out what had happened.
“The Candlewick Man,” I whispered to myself.
Noah Oh lives in Scarsdale, New York. He is thirteen and going into eighth grade. He goes to school at Edgemont Junior-Senior High School and enjoys playing soccer and writing.