The Sugar Man

Erika ran out the back door toward the edge of the woods behind her house. Peter, her best friend, followed close behind. She looked over her shoulder to see how far behind Peter was. He was not athletic, but he wasn't too far back.

Erika reached the edge and ducked behind a tree. Peter nearly passed her by and had to backtrack to crouch down next to her. He was gasping for breath and happy for the pause.

"I want to make sure my Mom didn't see," Erika's voice dropped to a whisper.

Peter peeped out from behind the tree to look back at the house. It was mammoth; a castle and as still as a painting.

"OK. Let's go." Erika said standing.

The rest of the walk was much more leisurely. They grabbed sticks at one point for a sword fight and then beat them against the tree trunks as they walked along. Finally, Erika stopped and spun around.

"OK. We're here." Erika said. Peter quietly snapped his fingers in nervous excitement. "Remember what I said, Peter. This is serious. Stay behind me and don't touch anything. OK?"

Peter nodded quickly but was already looking beyond Erika trying to catch a glimpse.

"OK," Erika said and took a deep breath. "Follow me."

They walked only a little further before Peter saw it. The Sugar Man.

"No way!" he exclaimed. Erika smiled in pride.

The Sugar Man was just like the stories described. He sat motionless at a small coffee table with his arm extended to grasp a spoon in a coffee cup. The small table, the cup, the spoon, the man, they were all crystalline and, if the stories were correct, made entirely of sugar. The man's face was abstract, twisted and caught open-mouthed.

"Why don't the animals eat him?" Peter asked.

"I don't know" Erika responded, "Listen. Do you hear the birds anymore?"

Peter didn't. In fact, the silence was eerie.

"and... it's all sugar?" Peter asked.

"Sure. It's what goes into our pastries and cakes!" Erika's family's famous bakery went back generations. Peter wondered how old the Sugar Man was.

"Really?" Peter asked incredulously. "Why doesn't the rain melt him?"

"I... I don't know" Erika said.

"huh!" Peter said with a huff and looked back at the Sugar Man.

"Well if I had my gloves and tools, I could prove it," Erika said with a furrowed brow.

Peter walked past Erika and noticed a large ring of dirt around the Sugar Man. No grass, no plants, no fallen leaves, just pale, dry earth.

"Why can't you just scrape off a little?" Peter asked and started to take a step in the circle.

Erika tried to grab his hand, but he quickly pulled away and in three quick steps was next to the table facing the Sugar Man.

"Peter! Stop!" Erika shouted but didn't follow him into the circle.

Peter looked back and smiled. He felt light-headed, dizzy, but... good.

"Just a little," he said.

He felt like his ears were stuffed with cotton. He could barely even hear Erika's shouting. All he could see was the Sugar Man. Up close the sharp crystals created patterns. Spirals, flowers and they were moving like a kaleidoscope.

He reached out and touched the table. Instantly he had a huge crystal of sugar on his finger. He couldn't wait to taste it, but he found his finger was stuck to the table. As he tried to pull it away, the crystals began to climb up his finger and then his hand and then his arm.

As the pain kicked in Erika's voice burst through the fog and Peter turned to look. Erika was crumbled on the ground still shouting for him. Peter tried to wrench himself off the table. The massive pain he felt should have resulted in screams but just came out in ragged sobs. The sobs turned in to choking as the sugar grew down his throat. His view of Erika grew opaque and then black.