She would be ready for them this year, the little devils. They would come in waves, and she wanted to be sure she had enough. She wanted to make sure she got every single one of them.

The apples were from her own trees. She had hand-picked them for this purpose. It was important for them to be suitable. She had inspected every apple individually before choosing the most appropriate ones.

She had spent the entire day making the potion. She had taken care to use only the most potent ingredients. It had to be irresistible. Why else would she bother to do it?

The result was simmering in the big, black cauldron in the front yard for all to see. The cauldron hung from a tripod that sat upon a stone fire pit. She had tended the fire all day long, making sure it was just the right size to keep the potion at the correct temperature. Just like the porridge in Goldilocks, the potion had to be just right. Not too hot and not too cold. The steam from the potion was curling up and wafting over the neighborhood. The aroma of it was magically enticing. That was also important, that it be tempting. In order for it to do its damage, it had to be completely enchanting.

She had decorated her house and yard for the event. Skeletons and pumpkins galore. She, herself, wore a long, black, ragged frock. Might as well look the part, she thought.

All the children in the neighborhood called her a witch, and many adults did, too, behind her back. She knew she had this reputation. She had cultivated it when she had first moved to this town, and she still used it to her advantage.

She grew herbs and spices to sell at the market. She also made oils, tea blends, sachets, extracts, syrups, and even soaps, which she sold from a shop she had built into her garage. Being known as a witch only added authenticity to her reputation as an herbalist.

They called her a witch, half kidding and half believing. And she let them believe it.

And tonight, she was going to bewitch them with the potion.

She went down to the cellar to get the chalices. They were evil-looking, these chalices, covered in symbols whose meanings were long forgotten. She brought them upstairs, washed them and set them out by the fire pit, waiting for her unsuspecting victims.

Darkness fell, but she knew that her prey would not come until about an hour after sunset. She waited impatiently for them to arrive, to be drawn to her cauldron as if by an invisible force. Everything was ready. Where were they?

And then she saw them. Walking down the street toward her. Drawn to her and her cauldron of magic potion. She shivered with the anticipation of it.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said, and cackled.

She took the long-handled dipper, scooped up some potion, and ladled it into a chalice.

Her first victim took a tentative sip.

“Yummy!” he said. “Your mulled cider is the best part of Halloween.”

“Mmmm,” said the next one in line, “I think this is your best batch yet.”

“Well,” she said, “It gets awfully cold this time of year. You need warming up for the next round of trick-or-treating.”

© 2018 Liza Cameron Wasser