Travis Brenton was always the one to help a damsel in distress, but this one took the cake. Walking alongside Highway 62 more than fifty miles out of town, and despite the triple digit heat, she was bundled up in a bright red coat. As he pulled up alongside her, she hardly turned to look at him, her coiffed blonde hair bouncing with each labored step she took.
Travis rolled down the passenger window on his pickup truck and leaned across the vinyl bench seat, "Hey there, miss, do you need a lift somewhere? Are you hurt?"
She stopped walking, wobbling slightly before she turned to look in the window. Her face was painted like porcelain, with a stark set of cherry red lips and little pink swirls painted on her cheeks like peppermint candies. The rest of her face was hidden under a wide brim straw hat and oversized sunglasses. But despite what must have been an inch of makeup on her cheeks and her heavy clothing, she didn't seem to have a bead of sweat on her. She judged him for a few moments before her face lit up with a bright, wide smile revealing a row of perfectly white Chiclet teeth.
"Thank you, sir. A ride to the next town would be very nice."
Travis pushed the pickup door open and she laboriously climbed into the cabin of the truck, one oversized sleeve completely obscuring her arm. She didn't grunt or wheeze a bit, but she seemed weak as a kitten. No surprise really, given how far she must have walked in this heat. Travis stretched out a hand to help pull her up, and she gripped him with a sticky white palm.
Travis' fingers felt like they were covered with syrup. He worked his fingers together curiously before trying to rub them on his jeans, which only caused his sticky hand to be covered with a layer of dirt and lint.
"Are you feeling alright, miss? You must be hot, let me turn up the air for you," he offered, leaving a sticky set of prints on the knob as he turned it.
"I'm fine, really. It's very kind of you to share your truck with me. Sharing is very important," the mysterious woman cooed, removing her hat and glasses. She fanned herself as the air kicked in, looking straight ahead at the road. Travis tried to get another good look at her as he pulled back onto the road, but she didn't turn towards him again.
"Well, I think it's important to lend out a helping hand to people who need it," Travis said with a smile.
"Funny you should say that, dear," the woman said mirthlessly, working her coat buttons open with her single exposed hand, the sticky one. Beneath the costume she was wearing some kind of ridiculous lacy candy striper outfit that seemed to be torn and stained brown. A rich maple scent filled the cabin, "Oh, oh, I'm sorry. I think I might be leaking on your seat."
Travis whirled to look at his passenger, and she turned to face him with blank, unblinking blue jawbreaker eyes. Her puffy red licorice lips pursed into a pout, "I truly am sorry, sir, I know you are doing me a kind deed by sharing your truck with me but I can't help the syrup. It just doesn't clot like blood does."
The truck swerved back off the road, bumping wildly on the bare earth off the highway. A cloud of dust erupted on both sides, obscuring the windows from outside. The woman yelped and her hair became undone as Travis slammed on the brakes and stared at his passenger in horror.
"I must look a mess, I know. It's just that I tried to share with him, but he wanted to take so much. He simply took too much, more than his share, and now I need to get back to the kitchen you see. You don't have to take me all the way there, it would probably be best if you didn't."
The woman had shrugged off the coat completely, and she was as white as her face from head to toe. She worked to pin her hair back up with a peppermint twist with her one good hand, as her other arm ended just before where her wrist should have been. Her flesh was cracked like a piece of hard candy, and two thickly rolled tubes of paper poked out where the bones should be, like the sticks on a half-eaten lollipop. Her outfit had been torn and chewed upon, and there was a large part of her perfectly shaped torso missing.
"I'm sorry if I have frightened you, sir, but I really do need to get back on the road. Maybe if you shared with me a little bit more?" she scooted across the flat bench seat, leaning her face towards Travis as if to kiss him.
What happened next was a bit of a blur, but Travis was suddenly aware of the dust all around him and the hard ground against his back. His hand hurt terribly from being twisted in his panicked attempt to open the door and flee the cabin before the strange confection woman could touch him. She looked down at him with a hint of regret in her mask-like visage, and thick coils of red vines spilled from the hole in her side down to the floor of the truck cabin as she reached out over him.
"It's probably better this way. Thank you for sharing with me. I will repay your favor when I am back from the kitchen, I promise. You are very, very sweet," the candy woman grasped the open truck door and pulled it shut, leaving Travis scrambling away on his hands and knees as she started the truck back up again and drove away, stranding him on Highway 62 in triple digit heat.
Travis slowly pulled himself to his feet and stood in the swirling dust with a stupid look on his face. Had that really just happened? Was he really just carjacked by a half-eaten candy woman?
Something squirmed against his boot, and he looked down to see a few strands of the candy woman's innards writhing and pulsing on the ground where they had been pinched off by the slamming of the truck door.
He turned on his heels and ran.