Magical Girl Punkin Spice leapt lightly from her broomstick, which with a flash of light shrank into a small dust broom. she clipped it to her belt. Flipping her braided ponytail off her shoulder, she cocked her enormous pointed hat, and her bright blue eyes surveyed the scene. The other magical girls stood tense, and the normal humans slowly backed away. Over near the bubbling cauldron of cider, Pretty Dynamo rested a hand on the wand holstered at her side.
Jake shrugged and took another bite of his pizza. Margherita’s pizza was good when it was cold, too.
“You there!” Punkin at last shouted, jabbing a finger toward him. “What is this blasphemy?”
She marched his way. Jake merely raised an eyebrow and sucked up a wayward strand of mozzarella. “Excuse me?”
“Pizza?” Punkin Spice cried, shaking a fist. “You’re eating pizza on Halloween night?”
“You should be eating popcorn balls! Licorice ropes! Caramel apples with razor blades hidden in them! Candy bars with needles! These are the traditional foods of Halloween!”
Jake inclined his head toward Rifle Maiden and Natasha’s booth. “Rifle Maiden has sandwiches with needles—”
“Sandwiches?” Punkin spun on her heel. “What is this, tea time? Let’s see these sandwiches!”
Rifle Maiden, bucktoothed grin spreading from ear to ear, produced her tray. “This here is Grease Pencil Marionette’s,” she said, pointing, “an’ it’s made with real pencil shavin’ an’ grease! This here is Tuneless Ramona’s, an’ it tastes really bad—”
Punkin produced her wand and waved it over the tray. There was a burst of orange light.
“Now,” she shouted, “they’re pumpkin sandwiches!”
The people gasped.
“No!” Rifle Maiden cried. “All my hard work!” She snatched up a sandwich and shoved it in her mouth. After chewing thoughtfully for half a minute, she muttered, “Hm. Pumpkin on pumpernickel. That’s actually not bad—”
Punkin Spice spun back toward Jake and pointed her wand again. “Now for you!”
Jake dusted crumbs from his hands and shrugged. “I’m just a spectator here, so if you’re gonna throw magic around, let me get out of your—”
“Wait just a minute.” Punkin Spice marched right up to him and peered in his face. The top of her head only reached to his chest, but she stood on tippy-toe in her square-pointed shoes.
“I recognize you,” she mumbled. “You’re the Barfing Boy!”
He rolled his eyes. “My name is Jake.”
“You’re Pretty Dynamo’s boyfriend!”
“Actually, no. That’s just—”
She linked an arm through his and leaned on his chest with a happy sigh. “But tonight is my night! So tonight you’re gonna be my boyfriend!”
Jake clapped a hand to his face.
Pretty Dynamo pulled her wand from her belt. “All right, that’s enough! I’m sick o’ you! Lightning Rod!” With a loud clatter, the wand unfolded into a shining spear. Electricity crackled at its tip.
Punkin snuggled closer. “Looks like Dynamo’s jealous of our love.”
Jake tried to pull his arm from hers, but she had him in a vice grip. “Dynamo!” he shouted as he tugged and stumbled. “Why do you care? Don’t make things worse—”
“Because she’s tickin’ me off, that’s why! Ball Lightning!”
Pretty Dynamo raised her left hand, and a white hot, buzzing sphere of plasma formed in front of it. With a whoosh, the sphere shot up the street, straight toward Jake and Punkin Spice.
Punkin shoved him out of the way, hard enough to send him flying. He groaned as he smacked into the pavement with hip and shoulder. Punkin Spice stood her ground, lifted her nose in contempt, and snatched the dust broom off her belt. She merely flicked it once, and the Ball Lightning evaporated in a gust of wind.
“I see,” she said as she twirled the broom in her fingers and returned it to her belt. “I see now what I am dealing with. You, all of you, are unworthy of Halloween! Sandwiches, pizza? How vile! Now behold my spell—”
She lifted her wand high in the air, and tiny lights flittered around its star-shaped tip.
“By my great power,” she roared, “I shall teach you the glories of Halloween whether you will or no! Behold, I shall turn all foods in this fair … pumpkin spice-flavored!”
The people gasped again. A woman screamed.
Near a booth selling cotton candy stood an overweight man with a hairy neck and a too-small T-shirt that, in cursive pink text, proclaimed, “Ground-bound magical girls do it on the rooftops.” He fell to his knees and stretched his flabby arms toward the sky. “Moon Princess have mercy!” he shouted.
“No!” shouted Margherita as she scrambled over the counter of her pizza booth. “No, Punkin Spice! You can’t do that! You can’t just dump pumpkin spice flavor into any and every food! It doesn’t go with everything! I mean, eggnog is okay, and coffee maybe, but not—”
“No,” said Jake, grimacing as he lifted himself from the asphalt. “Absolutely not coffee.”
“Blasphemers!” screamed Punkin Spice. “You are all blasphemers! Pumpkin spice does so go with everything!”
She brought down the wand in a vicious, cutting swipe. A bright light flashed in Margherita’s pizza stand.
Margherita made a horrified squeak as she ducked back inside and scrabbled at her pizza boxes. She pulled one from its sleeve and threw it open.
Her eyes glistened, and her lip quivered. Out of the box, in quaking hands, she lifted a mouthwatering pumpkin pie covered in whipped cream.
Tears ran freely down her cheeks. She opened another box. And another. Each one revealed a steaming pumpkin pie.
“On this night of nights,” Punkin Spice whispered, “there can be only one kind of pie.”
Margherita collapsed to her knees.
“Y’know,” said Jake walking toward Punkin, “I’ve got nothing against pumpkin, really, but I’ve always thought mincemeat is pretty good around this time of—”
Punkin slipped an arm around his waist and put a finger to his lips. “Shh. Don’t talk, big boy.”
“You’re my boyfriend for the night, remember? So now I’ll show you just how good pumpkin spice can really taste—”
She slid a hand behind his neck and to force him to bend down. She tilted her head and puckered her lips.
There was a blinding flash of blue, and then Jake was on the pavement again, flopping like a fish.
“Sorry, got carried away!” he heard Rifle Maiden call. “That was a stun blast! He’ll be right as rain in a minute!”
“You!” Punkin Spice shrieked. “You ruined my kiss! My very first kiss!”
Jake had his face against the rough asphalt, so he couldn’t see what happened next, but he saw flickers of reflected light, and he heard the loud bangs and zaps of unleashed magic.
“I hate magical girls,” he muttered, or would have muttered if he could move his mouth.
In about a minute, he felt pins and needles in his hands and feet, and he winced. Clumsily, slipping several times, he managed to raise himself upright. The feeling hadn’t entirely returned to his feet, and he wobbled back and forth as he stood. For a moment, he feared he might twist an ankle.
Rifle Maiden and Punkin Spice were exchanging magical attacks. Rifle Maiden had her Winchester in one hand. Quickly and precisely, but so effortlessly that it looked lazy, she fired, spun the rifle to cock it, and fired again. Each red, explosive blast found its mark—or would have, except Punkin swept it out of the way with her dust broom. Then she replied with a burst of golden light from her wand, the purpose of which Jake could only guess—though he imagined that it might turn Rifle Maiden into a pumpkin if it struck. Having no defensive spells of her own, Rifle Maiden had no choice but to jump, spin, and dive out of the way.
Already, in the time he’d been stunned, they’d knocked down four stalls, including the sandwich and fortune-telling booth, next to which Natasha now stood, shaking her head. If Jake didn’t do something, they could wreck the whole fair.
He raised a hand. “Now, hold on, you two. You’re both magical girls, so you should be—”
With a scream of rage, Margherita leapt onto her counter with a pumpkin pie balanced on one hand. She threw it, and Punkin, too busy with Rifle Maiden to notice what Margherita was doing, caught the pie in the side of her head. Her pointy hat fell off and fluttered to the ground.
The battle instantly stopped. Punkin Spice stood there, pumpkin filling and whipped cream dripping from her cheek.
Rifle Maiden burst out laughing. She doubled over, slapping her knee.
“You think that’s funny?” The red in Punkin Spice’s face was visible even through the pie. She flicked her dust broom, and the mess instantly disappeared. Then, with a huff, she snatched up her hat, dusted it off as well, and clamped it back onto her head. “That’s it! That’s it! Blacky, where are you?”
In an instant, her black cat was at her side, purring and rubbing against her ankles.
Punkin held out her left hand, and a Jack-o’-Lantern-shaped bucked, with a black handle, appeared in it. Overflowing the bucket were lollypops, candy bars, and popcorn balls. She lowered it to the ground.
“Sugar Bomb!” she shouted, tapping the bucket with her wand. “In five minutes, this bucket will explode and destroy your pathetic festival! If you can’t celebrate Halloween the right way, you won’t celebrate at all!”
“Surge Protector!” Pretty Dynamo’s shield unfolded from her left vambrace as she plummeted out of the air, her spear beside her cheek. She threw it like a javelin, and Punkin Spice backflipped out of the way just before the spear struck, blasting a two-foot crater out of the pavement.
Dynamo hit the ground, went into a shoulder roll, grabbed up the spear again, and was back on her feet, thrusting toward Punkin’s chest.
Punkin slid out of the way. Dynamo attacked again, expertly guiding her point—thrusting, slashing, parrying. But Punkin Spice deflected each move with her dust broom and answered with her wand. Dynamo’s shield absorbed the magic bursts, but Jake could see her knees buckling.
“Needle Point Barage!”
Now Sword Seamstress entered the fray. Like Dynamo, she leapt high and attacked from above, her twin Knitting Rapiers clutched in her hands. An array of sewing needles, perhaps a hundred or more, leapt from the sewing kit on her belt. The needles zipped toward Dynamo and Punkin Spice, but Punkin nimbly leapt out of the way, leaving Dynamo to take the brunt of the blast.
“Pretty Dynamo!” Jake cried. Foolishly, he ran forward, but—fortunately for him—the needles struck before he could reach her. A great cloud of dust burst from the ground, and Jake staggered back as fragments of asphalt peppered him. He heard screams and shouts as the people assisting at the fair, at last certain that this fight between the girls was serious, ran away.
When Jake could see again, he found Pretty Dynamo sitting in a heap on the ruined pavement. Surrounded by shattered chunks of asphalt, she looked unharmed, but with her eyebrows knitted together and an ugly frown on her mouth. She yanked in vain at her powder puff tutu, which Sword Seamstress’s needles had pinned to the ground.
Sword Seamstress, superhumanly agile in her stiletto heels, landed lightly at Jake’s side. She lifted a pinkie finger to her mouth and burst out with loud laughter. “Oho ho ho ho! Well, isn’t this unusual! Most of the time, we can’t pin you down on anything, Pretty Dynamo! Oho ho ho ho!”
Dynamo shook a fist. “Darn you, Sword Seamstress!”
With a cackle, Punkin Spice reached under her cape and produced the bucket of candy—perhaps it was a different one, or perhaps she’d retrieved the original in the midst of the fighting.
“Fools! You should know better than to challenge Magical Girl Punkin Spice on the night when her magic is at its peak! No magical girl in this city is powerful enough to stop me! Now, submit to the deliciousness of pumpkin spice flavoring, or else you shall all be destroyed!”
“Never!” Margherita screamed.
Jake dusted off his fake wizard robe, sighed, and walked to the card table beside his bubbling cauldron of cider. He picked up his coffee mug, opened it, and took a fresh sip. He nodded in satisfaction. It was still hot. As long as he had his hot coffee, he could tolerate whatever ridiculous shenanigans the magical girls indulged in tonight.
Now with his coffee in hand, he walked back to Margherita’s booth, entered through the narrow door in its side, and pulled open one of her pizza boxes.
He took out the pumpkin pie he found there, stepped back out of the booth, and walked toward Punkin Spice. Her angry scowl quickly transformed into a grin.
“Barfing Boy!” she cooed. “Have you come to your senses? Are you ready to be my boyfriend for the night? What’s say we blow this literal popsicle stand and find us a haunted house tour? Then I’ll take you back to my place and show you how I bob for apples—”
Jake hefted the pie to test its weight and then threw it into her face. It struck with a sticky yet anticlimactic squelching noise.
“Get lost,” he said, and then he took a fresh pull on his coffee. “Nobody likes pumpkin spice. Nobody. It’s disgusting, and everybody knows it’s disgusting. You can’t force people to like something by putting it in everything. If anything, that’ll just make them hate it more.”
Punkin stood there, hands by her sides, shattered crust and pumpkin filling covering her face and running down her tailcoat. The pie’s tin pan clattered to the asphalt with a hollow clunk.
Punkin quivered. Her shoulders heaved. Perhaps she was crying.
But then she tilted her head back and unleashed a maniacal laugh. Whipped cream flew from her mouth.
“You fools!” she shouted. “You fools! I’ll show you all!” She pointed her wand straight at Jake’s chest.
“Everyone will love pumpkin spice!” she hissed. “I’ll make sure of it … and I’ll start with you!”
To be continued …