Half a Ransom
Ellen L. Baldwin
H is friends had searched arduously as the cold, blustery winds ripped the few remaining dead leaves from the oak trees. Pooled under the mailboxes at midnight, the ransom of the mushroom people was still not enough for Jagar's release.
They had been going from door-to-door for hours. Where else could they find lucre to satisfy the fiendish kidnapper's demands? "Death will come at sun-up," the simple note had announced, "unless you pay a ransom of ten thousand."
"Ten thousand???" they screeched in unison. "It might as well be a million!"
Zmorg had donated one hundred, Miebash had given fourteen hundred, Spleny had grudgingly given all she had--four hundred fifty. They knew the banker, Gyzog, had promised a thousand, as had Corzy and Ligith. Unfortunately, that was still less than half, and only a few hours remained till daylight.
"Suppose the kidnapper will accept half as a down payment?" Denaub queried. "We could ask!"
So they trudged wearily in the October drizzle to wait at the appointed place with only half the ransom. Sure enough, at daybreak, a fat, fungus figure appeared, wearing a black cloak with a hood over his face. When Gyzog made their pitiful request, the figure laughed hysterically.
"You people are crazy! You'd sell out your best friend for only five thousand? I guess that's more than I had yesterday and it will certainly make my winter more pleasant. Okay, give me the bag. But, next year on Halloween, you still owe me five thousand pieces of candy, and I'll expect interest."
As the group wandered towards home, they wondered about the plight of their friend. Would the kidnapper turn him loose? Where was he?
* * * * *
Back at the corner toadstool, Jagar was ringing up Clutarp, his girlfriend, "Hey, honey, want to come over and play trick or treat with me for the winter?"

First published: October 1997
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