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Tales & Wails: The Halloween Cold Brew Challenge

Entry 2: Drink it if you dare...

The Halloween Cold Brew Challenge

Theo Gregg

“We need frog spawn. Eggs, not tadpoles,” Ty whispered.

“Can’t help it, they hatched.” Griffin shrugged his skeleton costume’s shoulder bones.

Behind them, Ty’s mom shrieked as Ava swept through the front door. Khakis, camp shirt, pith helmet, and Roger draped around her neck.

“He’s not venomous.” Ty tried to deflect Mom’s freakout.

“Roger just ate. He’s sleepy,” Ava explained, stroking her red and black corn snake.

Mom pointed toward the basement.

Time to remove Roger from her sight. Ty inserted plastic fangs, swirled his cloak, and they thundered down the wooden steps. Olive, the family pug packed into a green sweater and red beanie, waddled after.

“Nice job, Ty,” Ava said.

Jars stuffed with fake spiderwebs lined the canning shelves. Jack-o-lanterns, fake skulls, and cans with poison stickers filled gaps. Howls played in the background. Ava and Griffin unpacked onto the orange blanket spread across the ping-pong table.

Cauldron trick-or-treat bucket. Roger’s outgrown skin. Tadpoles. Mushrooms. Water murky with green food dye. Wineglass.

Griffin centered his tablet on Ty and Ava as Olive snuffled under the table. “Blacklight filter set… action!” Griffin joined them.

“Welcome to the Halloween Cold Brew Challenge. Drink it if you dare.” Ty pitched his eleven-year-old voice deep. He tended to lisp in the fangs, so he focused on speaking clearly.

Waving ingredients, he filled the cauldron.

“Swamp water. Toadstools. Snakeskin.”

Ava lifted Roger’s head toward the camera to show off the source.

“Frog spawn.”

“They won’t die, right?” Griffin didn’t move his lips, trying not to mess up the video.

“We’re not cooking them,” Ty murmured.

He scooped green potion into the wineglass, snagging a tadpole by accident. The overfull glass slopped, and the polliwog flipped onto the cement floor. Ty ignored it and lifted the cup high.

“Drink to the Halloween Cold Brew- “

Olive lunged after the wriggling tadpole, and ‘curse’ stumbled off Ty’s tongue. He meant to say ‘challenge’. It probably didn’t matter, so he upended the glass, gulping to force the snakeskin flakes down.

Clattering started behind him. A jack-o-lantern had tumbled upside down over Griffin’s head, and his skeleton body jerked in an unexpected jig. Ty hadn’t known Griffin could dance.

Snake bits coated Ty’s tongue, and this video take was ruined, so he tugged his fangs. They didn’t move. He pulled harder.

“Quit it.” Ava dodged as Roger repeatedly lunged at her nose with his snout.

“Help!” Griffin’s pumpkin head shouted.

“Everything okay?” Mom’s voice drifted down.

“Nothingth wrong,” Ty yelled. “We’re fine.” But they weren’t. Instead of a challenge, Ty realized he’d invoked a curse. At least if it killed them, there’d be video. Then it clicked. He’d seen all this before.

“Theth are all patht viral video trendth. Latht year it wath the pumpkin head thkeleton danth. The year before, thuper glued fangth thtuck to people’th teeth. Thnake booping, too.”

“I don’t care about video trends. Fix it,” Ava exclaimed, dodging Roger’s assaults. “Maybe if I say it backwardth?” Ty focused on not lisping. “Curse Brew Cold Halloween.”

No joy.

“Yak up the brew,” Ava ordered. “Hurry.”

That wasn’t hard. Ty dumped the cauldron, tadpoles slithering across the floor. The thought of snake molt brought his stomach contents heaving into the pot. Griffin stilled, prying off the pumpkin. The fangs loosened, and Roger puddled in Ava’s hands.

Ty wiped his mouth, turning to the camera as if he’d planned it. “I challenge you to top that,” he said.

Griffin stopped the recording.

“Let’s save the tadpoles, then upload,” Ty said. “We’ll never get a better take. Viral video, here we come.”

About the story

The idea for this family category entry came from a Halloween party where my daughter's Girl Scout troop turned our house into a haunted house. In the end I only used the setting due to word limit constraints, but that got me started on a group of kids experimenting with potions in a spooky setting.

Connect with Theo

Tales & Wails is a short story competition is a chilling combination of spine-tingling stories and visuals co-hosted by the Slush Pile Monster Writing Group and Fantasticarium.

All lovers of the macabre, gothic, and spooky stories are encouraged to participate. Whether you’re a writer, ghost hunter, or just want to get into the Halloween spirit, join us!

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