Eugene Spratt had been warned. Several times, in fact. But while Eugene was a model student (if a little boastful), a dutiful son and an exemplary superhero, when it came to food he lost control of his senses. Eugene had an insatiable appetite and could not help himself from consuming any and all food set in front of him, or anywhere near him. It was, in fact, how he gained his squash super powers. But while that yielded positive results, this situation was pure evil.
It had begun innocently enough. A new bakery had opened in the only slightly conspicuous location of the middle of the woods a block from the Spratt home. No one knew where it came from; no one recalled builders or movers. It just appeared out of nowhere. Eugene was first to discover it, early one summer morning. He had been dreaming about vanquishing foes and smooching girls, when the most delicious aroma crept in his bedroom window. It was pie. Cherry pie- no, raspberry pie. Or was it strawberry rhubarb pie? Eugene’s Super Squash Sniffer was stymied. What kind of pie did he smell and whence had it come? He dressed, brushed teeth and polished his silver spectacles, and followed his nose.
The bakery was a small brick storefront, between two poplar trees. Light gray paving stones led the way to the dark wood door. Bake Shoppe was stenciled on the front glass window, which was still shaded, even though the little black sign hanging from it declared OPEN in bold red letters. There was only one window letting in light, and it was at the edge of the storefront. Eugene entered, finding three pies cooling on the front counter, next to a glass display holding a variety of cookies, bars and cupcakes. “So, that’s it,” Eugene said. “It was cherry, raspberry and strawberry rhubarb. No wonder my Squash Super Sniffer was so stymied.”
“Ah! A customer!” a voice from the back room said, in a thick accent that reminded Eugene of the old Dracula movies. An elderly woman entered, all dressed in black. Black robes wrapped around her short, ample frame and a black babushka was tied around her perfectly round head. Her nose was craggy and populated by stubbly black hairs. One eye was foggy and perpetually gazing to her left, while the other appeared all black and pierced you to your soul. She was such an upsetting sight, it was almost enough to put Eugene off his appetite. Almost.
“Good eeevening!” she said, baring her yellow teeth.
“It’s six AM,” Eugene said.
“Ah, yes, forgiving me, I am new to your country and the, how you say, time zone is still a little confused of me.” She cackled, sounding like she was passing a small woodland creature through her esophagus. “But I am digressing. Welcome! You, little boy, have the honor of being first customer. This is very prestidigous, and earns of you all of which you can eat except. So, please! Be in with the diggings!”
Eugene jumped for joy. “You mean I can really eat all I want?”
“All you can eat except, little boy. And bottomless coffee besides.”
“All you can eat except? Except what?”
“Ah, the old woman said, scratching the prominent wart on her chin. “You may eat anything in the store, excepting of that cake.” She pointed a bony finger over Eugene’s shoulder. He turned. On a marble pedestal, under glass, was a triple tier white cake. It was frosted with little red laces along the bottom of each tier. Apart from the fact that it was set aside from all the other baked goods, in the shadows, there didn’t appear to be anything special about the cake.
Eugene desperately wanted to eat it.
The old woman cleared her throat, apparently attempting to dislodge the woodland creature. “Now, little boy, I must be making of the goodies, yes? You eat all you want EXCEPT the cake, yes?” Eugene nodded, hypnotized by the illicit cake. “YES?” the woman repeated, more forcefully. Eugene started.
“Yes, of course,” he said. “Thank you, Miss… what was your name again?” He turned to ask, but she had disappeared. Eugene decided to dig in, grabbing a plate and fork and slicing himself a piece of raspberry pie. It was a pretty poor raspberry pie. Though it appeared fresh baked, the crust was tough and stale and the raspberries tasted off. He tried a chocolate chip cookie. It was worse! Burnt on the bottom, underdone on the top. How could one even do that? He spat the cookie out into a napkin and tossed the rest.
He was on his way out the door, afraid to try anything else, when a voice asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to try me?” Eugene jumped. A cursory glance around the shop showed no one else there. He thought perhaps the old woman had returned, as the voice sounded similar to hers, but deeper. Definitely a masculine voice.
“I must be hearing things,” he said and continued to the door.
“You are not hearing things, my boy. Except my voice, that is,” the voice said. Eugene spun around. This time, he found the source of the voice. It was the cake. “As I said, you should try me, don’t you think?”
“I was told I couldn’t,” Eugene said.
“A mere technicality,” the cake countered. “You signed no contract, made no blood oath. And believe me, I am much more delicious than any other food here, if I say so myself.” The cake had a point. Eugene hadn’t signed any agreement stipulating he wouldn’t eat the cake. Besides, it looked delicious. What harm could it do to just taste it? He’d never tried talking cake before. He carefully removed the glass case.
Immediately, the cake leapt from the pedestal, sprouting bat-like wings of cake and frosting. It dove for Eugene’s neck. The second tier lifted to reveal a set of sharp fangs. The cake hissed. Eugene, thinking quickly, shot a vine at a nearby stool and knocked the cake off course. “What in the name of Jacques Pepin is that?” it said.
“You picked the wrong chubby kid to attack, you-you… what are you?”
“I am a vampire cake, or cakepire. What’s your excuse?”
“I am the Squash! Defeater of Evil! And you will taste my wrath, evil cake!” The Squash, his feet conforming to their bulbous squash shape, swung at the cakepire, who barely flew out of his way. Eugene smashed into a wastebasket. The cakepire cackled, swooping down to Eugene’s neck. Eugene rolled out of the way just in time, leaving the cakepire to chomp on air.
“Curse you, squashboy! I will eat you yet!” the cakepire shouted.
“It’s the Squash, not squashboy, vampcake,” Eugene said.
“It’s cakepire! Get it right, my future meal,” the cakepire hissed. “Stand still, boy, and accept your fate as a vampire pastry.” Vampire pastry, Eugene, thought, that’s it!
“All right, come and get me, if you can,” he said, standing and staring the cakepire directly in the top tier. “I dare you.”
The cakepire cackled, crumbs falling from its makeshift mouth. It flew straight at Eugene, fangs bared. Eugene did not move. “Prepare for comestible eternity!” it shouted as it swooped in for the kill. Eugene ducked, shooting a vine at the blind covering the front window. The blind rattled upward, bathing the bake shop in the morning sun. The cakepire let out a high-pitched squeal and disintegrated into crumbs.
From the back room, the old woman came running. “You did it! You killed the cakepire! My master is dead! I am finally being freed from his flour thumb, to live of my own lives!” She grabbed Eugene’s head and laid a big wet smoocheroonie on his brow.
“It was my pleasure,” Eugene said, inching away from the old woman.
“Now, I can pursue my truthful passion, living out of my dreams as a, how you say, ESL instructor. Thank you, little boy! Thank you!” She planted more and more kisses on his forehead. Eugene squirmed away, nodding and smiling. Back home, a fresh pot of coffee would be brewing right about now. And he could get the taste of that cookie out of his mouth.
The next morning, out of curiosity, Eugene wandered back to the spot in the woods where the bakery had been. It was gone. No sign was left that it had ever been nestled between the poplars. Aside from a lone chocolate chip cookie, laying on the ground, untouched by man or beast.