Tread Softly

by Megan Auffart

The candy cane was growing out of her front lawn. When Eleanora went to pick it up, it wouldn't come out. She pulled and pulled, but the candy cane was stuck. It felt as though it had a wide root system. Eleanora got up in disgust. It was her front lawn, not the candy canes! Finally, she took a rock from the garden path and hit the head of the candy cane until the end broke off. A dark red liquid began to ooze out of it, as if the candy cane was bleeding.

Eleanora was eight years old, old enough to know that candy canes don't grow in your front yard, and even if they do, they don't bleed when you break them. Just to prove her point, she licked the end of the candy cane briefly, then made a face and spat on the ground. It tasted yucky and metallic! Candy canes aren't supposed to taste like that! They aren't supposed to bleed or grow, either. Jack, her neighbor, came over.

"Whatcha doing, Ellie?" He asked, sucking his thumb. Jack was only 6 and always spilled things down the front of his shirt. Today he had spaghetti sauce all over his OshKosh B'Gosh overalls. Eleanora ignored him, as she always did. He was a nuisance to her. He always got in her way and wanted to play with her!

Jack kneeled down besides her and looked at the candy cane. "Whysa candy cane growin' in your yard?" His face was chubby and cherub-like. His hair was curly and had mud rubbed in it, most likely his own doing. He smelled like tomatoes.

"Go away!" Eleanora ordered imperiously. Her mouth formed a severe frown. She didn't like playing with the neighborhood kids. They were stinky!

Jack stuck out his tongue and began to pull at the candy cane, ignoring how the blood-that-shouldn't-be-coming-out-of-Christmas-treats was getting all over his hands. He felt something give, possibly one of the candy roots breaking. Besides him, Eleanora was yelling at him to stop it.

"It's my candy cane! Not yours! Go away!" She grabbed the candy cane with one hand and started pushing at him with the other. "Mine! Mine!"

Suddenly, there was a sickening ripping sound as the candy cane began to rise out of the ground. Eleanora screamed shrilly and Jack began to cry as the dirt pushed out like something was pressing against it. Then two yellow eyes appeared. Eleanora gulped and realized that something indeed had been pressing on the ground, but from beneath the soil.

Following the eyes there came a mouth with a sour expression on it. Following the mouth came a neck as thick as a fire hydrant, then a chest filled with rippling muscles, then two arms and two legs and, finally, a set of highly arched feet with just three toes on them. The toes ended with large claws instead of toe nails. The entire monster was a dull green. The broken candy cane grew out of its head.

The monster cleared its throat and glared at the children. It opened its mouth to reveal large, pointed, yellow teeth and a thick navy tongue. Eleanora squealed and grabbed onto Jack, scared for her life.

The monster frowned. "Excuse me", it said, "But would you please quit doing that? It's really annoying." It had a British accent.

With that said, it stepped back into the small hill of dirt it had created when coming up to the surface. With huge, dull green hands it began scooping dirt back onto itself until it was completely buried. Only the candy cane poked from the soil when it was finally finished, although the grass was now ruined.

Eleanora looked at the big brown circle that stuck out like a sore thumb in the middle of the lush green lawn. Her mother was sure to notice, which meant that she probably wouldn't get a cookie today. Chocolate chip cookies had been baking in the oven when she had gone out to play. They were her favorite.

Turning to Jack, Eleanora said, "Oh gosh. How'm I going to explain this?"

Jack shrugged his dirty shoulders. "I dunno, it's your candy cane."

With that, he turned and troddled back over to his house, his Osh Kosh clothing making little swishing sounds as he walked.

"Hey!" Cried Eleanora. "Come back! I need help!"

Jack simply turned around for a moment and stuck out his tongue.

"Ohhhhh..." Mumbled Eleanora and stomped the ground angrily.

"Stop that, please." Came the British voice from under the soil. Eleanora stood still, ashamed. That was the same tone of voice her mother used when scolding her. Being careful to walk as lightly as possible, Eleanora headed towards her own house. Maybe if she stayed in her room and wasn't caught outside, they wouldn't think she did it...

Still thinking those thoughts, Eleanora walked straight into her mother.

"My goodness, dear!" said her mother. "You should watch where you're going."

"Sorry, mum." she mumbled and tried to walk past her without looking suspicious. Unfortunately for Eleanora, her trying to not look suspicious made her look even more questionable to her mother.

"Ellie..." Her mother warned and opened her mouth to continue to question her daughter but stopped as she saw the yard.

"Oh my goodness! What did you do?!"

Eleanora crossed her arms behind her back and looked down at her shoes, not answering. The brick walk that led up to her house was neatly taken care of, as was everything else on their property. Even the birdhouse was an exact version of their own house. The brown spot in the yard stuck out like a huge pimple at the end of a nose.

Her mother's face was turning red, which didn't reassure Eleanora any. Her mother almost never got angry, but when she did...

Eleanora winced as her mother grabbed her by the arm and marched her out onto the grass. Pointing to the brown spot, her mother moved Eleanora's head to force her to look at it.

"Young lady, you'd better explain yourself."

Eleanora shook her head quickly. "I didn't do anything! It's not my fault!"

Her mother folded her arms over her $400 dollar Armani dress, which meant that she didn't believe her. Eleanora knew that she simply couldn't tell her mother about the monster. Grown-ups could be slapped on the nose by a boogieman and still wouldn't believe in monsters.

"Um..." Eleanora began, scouring her mind for a decent explanation. However, any ludicrous lie she could begin to spout was interrupted by her mother's discovery of the candy cane. It had not been buried completely and only the top two inches up to where the cane had been broken peeked out of the dirt.

Her mother frowned deeper. "Sticking candy into the yard, I see. Just what were you doing to the lawn, young lady?

Eleanora started to reply but then she noticed that her mother was bending over. Her carefully manicured adult fingers wrapped themselves around the base of the candy cane as Eleanora watched in horror. Just as Eleanora was about to warn her, her mother gave a good, hard yank.

The ground this time didn't just rise up, but exploded. Dirt flew everywhere and splattered them both. A confused earthworm landed in her mother's hair, making her squeal and pull it out with disgust even as the monster stepped out of the ground and over to where they stood.

Nothing makes you feel smaller than a monster with a British accent. "Excuse me?" It asked in a severely angry voice.

Her mother tried to answer, but all that came out was a high-pitched "Eep!".

The monster started pacing, bouncing as it walked to support it's tri-toed feet. Eleanora moved quietly behind her mother's skirt and only stuck her head out as far as to see. The monster looked very peeved. The candy cane had started bleeding again and it's forehead looked a dark gray which Eleanora took to be a bruise.

It's eyes flashed in rage as it shook it's dirt-covered arm at them. "All I ask is to live in peace, but how's a guy supposed to get a good afternoon's peace if people keep on pulling it's horn? Do you have any idea how annoying it is? Do you?"

As both mother and daughter watched in horror, the monster's yellow eyes actually glowed and it took a step towards them.

"I... I'm sorry." Said her mother in a properly terrified yet humble tone. The monster closed it's eyes for a second and seemed to get itself under control, for when it opened them again they weren't glowing and it didn't seem quite as angry.

"Hmpth." It snorted. "I guess I'm just going to have to find some less bothersome soil to nap in." The monster turned and jumped back in the crater it had created. Just its head could be seen from where Eleanora and her mother stood. Taking one last look at them, it made a rude sound and muttered, "Good riddance to bad rubbish."

Eleanora's mother looked as if she were about to protest that people who wear $400 dollar suits should not be called rubbish, let alone bad rubbish, but she wisely kept her mouth shut.

A strange sound was heard, not unlike the sound Eleanora's dad made when he went digging in the garden. Eleanora clutched at her mother's leg and buried her face into her dress until the strange sound stopped and the yard was quiet again.

Together, they crept over to the edge of the crater. The bottom couldn't be seen because a large tunnel, reminiscent of a worm hole, had been dug straight down. Eleanora didn't want to be there anymore.

"Mum, let's go inside. Please?"

Her mother looked down at her, her cheeks dirt splattered and her dress ruined. She placed her hand on Eleanora's shoulder and sighed.

"Come on, then. Let's see if we can't make sense of what just happened."

Taking her mother's hand, Eleanora went inside the house to have a long talk with her mum.

As the front door closed, a pair of yellow eyes blinked out of the darkness of the hole. A small noise was heard, like someone clicking their tongue as the monster shook it's head. The soft dirt underneath it's feet crunched softly as it began to search for a new yard to stay in. As it walked, it began to grumble.

"Kids these days, I swear! No respect for their elders, let me tell you..."

Gradually the noise began to fade until all that could be heard was the small whispers of earthworms and the soft calls of the birds from the surface world. The walls were crumbling already, and would soon cave in completely. All that was left of the monster was a small piece of candy cane lying in Eleanora's front lawn, bleeding strange candy blood into the soil.