THE CANDLE COTTAGE
"Damn!" Linda slapped the steering wheel of her Ď93 Mustang. "I didnít get those candles!"
Linda Jenkins had promised her Mom that she would pick up some long white tapers to help make the eveningís meal a bit elegant. Glancing at the clock on the cassette tape deck, Linda read that it was already 5:45. She was already about fifteen miles from the Slateboro city limit, and once another several blocks to the nearest store were tacked on, a return trip would be sixteen or seventeen miles.
Maybe her Mom wouldnít mind. Surely sheíd understand how Linda could easily forget, especially after having to work a little late, and then trying to rush to get to her parentsí country home thirty miles away by 6:00. If she turned around now and headed back into Slateboro, it would be close to 7:00 before she arrived for dinner. Her Dad would be fuming about eating so "late" in the day, and her Mom wouldnít be able to enjoy supper having spent the last hour worried sick about her daughterís whereabouts. So, all things considered, Mom would just have to understand.
"Wait a minute," Linda thought, as she casually glanced at an old billboard she had driven by a thousand times before. "THE CANDLE COTTAGE. Open Daily. Fine Wax Products." There was that old craft store off the highway just ahead. It would only take a few minutes to stop. Maybe they were open. Maybe they would have long dinner candles. "Worth a try," she said out loud, as she slowed to watch for the dirt entranceway in the visually challenging dusk.
Fortunately, there was a large decorated mailbox, with an older, but large lettered sign "CANDLE COTTAGE" and an arrow pointing to the left. Linda made sure there was no oncoming traffic although that was unlikely at this time of day. The interstate had taken away the old tourist traffic (for which, no doubt, the CANDLE COTTAGE, had been originally conceived), and local traffic - farmers, and factory workers headed home from the city - had long since cleared out. While that situation certainly aided speed of travel, it did make a stop like this a bit eerie, if one allowed oneís imagination to run wild.
"Eerie" was an apt description for the dark, tree-lined dirt road that led from the highway to the shop. It wasnít long - not even a tenth of a mile - but once entered, you knew you were leaving the rest of the world behind.
But once the trees ended, there was an open gravel lot in front of a well-kept frame house. A signpost outside read: "Welcome to Candle Cottage." And the brief unease of a few moments ago disappeared, as Linda parked, got out, and carefully made her way across the gravel in the low heels she wore for work. The sign on the door said OPEN, and Linda turned the knob and stepped into a parlor converted into a display room accompanied by the tinkle of a shop bell.
No one appeared immediately, and Linda felt uncomfortable yelling for assistance. Surely the bell would announce her arrival. So, she began to view the candles on shelves and stands and tables throughout the room. Linda was by no means a connosieur of crafts. Certainly not like her mother, who drooled at the prospect of spending an entire evening sampling wares at the annual county fair. But Linda did know quality and talent, and as she viewed the small wax figures on display, she realized their maker was somebody special. From the dainty yellow daisies, to the fur patterns on small miniature animals, the detail was simply amazing. That was most definitely the case in the few human figurines on a shelf nearest the makeshift sales counter. The faces, the features, the hair and eyes and noses and arms and fingers - everything, was crafted to reflect a reality she had seen few pieces of any kind of art rival. Lindaís attention was so riveted on the displays, that she didnít hear a door behind the sales counter open, and an older lady step up a couple of stairs into the room.
"Sorry I made you wait. Can I help you?" the lady asked. "Are you interested in one of my figurines."
"Yes," Linda murmured, "They are wonderful. Beautiful . . . I mean, I didnít come here for one of these, but I have to compliment you on the craftsmanship."
The old woman blushed. "Why, thank you. I donít make many. But what I do make, I try to make extra special."
"Well, youíve succeeded."
Lindaís attention was still on the human figurines, and she did not notice the old lady slowly look her over from her tan pumps, up her stockinged legs, to her navy skirt and light beige blouse, to her long but attractive face, and then finally her neck length brown hair. Had she seen even a portion of that look, Linda may have changed her mind and raced to her car. But, she didnít.
"You seem very interested in my work." The old lady looked back toward the door from which she had emerged, and that led down into her cellar. "Iím getting ready to make another figure. Perhaps youíd accompany me to my workroom and watch." She asked, innocently and hopefully.
Lindaís attention was finally broken from the display figures. "Oh, no - I mean, Iíd love to, but Iím in a bit of a rush this evening." She walked over to the counter. "I need some long white tapers for a dinner engagement. I meant to get them in town, but it slipped my mind." She looked back at the figurines. "I know that sounds pretty simple, considering your other handiwork, but . . . ."
"A sale is a sale, my dear. Wait right here. I think I have some back here next to this roll of cloth wick." The old lady retreated to a shadowy area of the room while Linda waited. She did reach with one hand for a box of white tapers. But she used her other hand to wave over the giant wick spool, and in a low monotone spoke an ominous chant.
"Did you say something?" Linda asked.
The old lady turned back to the counter. "Oh, no." She brought the tapers forward. "Just an old woman talking to herself." She opened the box, and showed them to Linda. "Will these do?"
"Yes, very nice. I just need half a dozen, if I can buy them like that?"
The old woman closed the box, and slid it toward Linda. "How about a trade in kind? I give you the whole dozen, for something of yours?"
Linda laughed. "And what would that be?"
"Your time, my dear, and your beauty." Now it was Lindaís turn to blush. "Would you agree to model for one of my wax figurines? Say yes, and the candles are yours."
"Oh, I donít know. Iíve never done anything like that before . . . ."
"Thereís nothing to it my dear. It would only take a few minutes. And the result is immortality."
"Well, Iím flattered. I donít know what to say?"
The old lady took Lindaís hand, put it on top of the box of candles, then put her own hand over it all. "Just say yes. Take your candles. And we have a deal."
Linda was starting to relent. "But when would I come by?"
"Just some evening when itís most convenient. Like I said, it wonít take long at all. Deal?"
Linda laughed and nodded. "Okay, itís a deal." She picked up the box of candles. "Are you sure I canít pay at least a little something for these?"
"Oh, no," said the old woman, "Your promise is payment enough."
"Well, then, thank you. Iíd better be going. My folks will wonder where I am." As she turned to leave, the old woman raised her left hand toward the front door. Linda stopped at the door, her hand on the knob. "Thanks again, for your help, Iím sure my mother will enjoy these cand. .. ." She looked back, but the old woman was no longer at the counter. "Oh. Well ... " She turned the knob - but the door wouldnít open. Thinking she was just turning it wrong, she tried various ways to open the door. None worked.
"Hello, maíam," Linda called out. "I think your front door is locked or jammed." There was no answer. "Darn it!" Linda continued trying to manipulate the knob, but to no avail. As she focused on the door, she did not notice that sliding toward her on the floor, like an evil serpent, was a length of cloth wick. The wick moved silently, finally running onto Lindaís pumps.
The young girl looked down, and jumped slightly. "What! What is this? Maíam, could you help me PLEASE . . ." Linda yelled as the wick suddenly started moving up her leg. At first she thought maybe it was a snake or some kind of worm-like creature, but then the wick starting making loops up and down its length. Linda cried in alarm as one of the loops pulled off her pumps, and bound her two nyloned feet together. Linda lost her balance, and dropped to the floor. The wick continued to twirl itself around Lindaís legs like the stripes on a barberpole. As she reached down to try to disentangle herself, another loop quickly wrapped itself around her wrists, binding her hands. Linda started to scream, but another loop entered her mouth and wrapped itself around her head like a gag.
A panicked Linda then watched in horror as the wick became even more daring. Loop after loop wrapped itself around her, and soon began removing her clothes. First her skirt was unbuttoned and pulled off. The same was done to her blouse, and a sharp piece of wick rent her slip and tore it asunder. Clad only in her bra and pantyhose, the young girl continued to try to loose herself from the demon cloth, but to no avail. Lindaís eyes opened wide in terror as wick loops unfastened and removed her brassiere. A section of wick moved under the waistband of her pantyhose, and started to slide it down, but the wick seemed to sense that her bound ankles would not permit the nylons to be removed, so it pulled the hose back up.
As Linda groaned into her gag, and kicked her bound legs, the wick starting pulling her entire body toward the counter. She looked out the window in vain, to see darkness descending on her parked car, and on an outside world she may never see again. Closer to the counter, she looked up at the shelves housing the lifelike figurines, and suddenly realized why they looked so real, and what the old woman had meant by asking her to "pose" for one of her special candles.
The strong wick pulled her seminude body behind the sales counter, and slowed as it approaced a closed door. The old lady once again stepped from behind that door, and stepped over Lindaís wick-wound body, and pleading eyes.
"Donít be afraid, my dear," the old woman reassured her, as she pulled off Lindaís earrings, necklace, and rings. "As I said before, it will only take a short time. And then your beauty will last forever."
The old woman stepped aside and the wick lifted Lindaís body into the doorway, and attached itself to a pulley suspended above the descending stairs. The pulley began to pull Linda down into the basement, and fear and terror finally began to take their toll on the young girl. The last straw was what Linda saw ahead of her: the pulley ended over a giant cauldron, filled with bubbling wax.
"Itís a one-step process, my dear," the old woman passed the suspended Linda on the stairs, runnung her wrinkled hand along the length of Lindaís body. "The special wax mixture shrinks and shapes and petrifies your body into a beautiful wax figurine. Just like the ones upstairs. Unfortunately, you wonít grace the shelves of my store. I already have a buyer for my next female figurine. Youíll be boxed and shipped first thing tomorrow morning."
The pulley stopped just a few feet from the cauldron. "Now, I canít have one of my Ďnaturalí figurines showing pantyhose lines, can I?" The old woman removed the wick from around Lindaís ankles, and pulled her pantyhose and panties completely off, leaving Linda totally nude.
The old woman whispered in Lindaís ear. "Now, my dear, itís time for a little dip." The old woman turned her back to her young captive, and began to check the heat setting on the bubbling cauldron. Perhaps she thought the terror of her fate had totally overwhelmed Linda, or that the nude girl was so close to the wax mixture that the candlemaking process would be initiated in only a few minutes. Or perhaps she had just forgot to rewind the wick around Lindaís de-nyloned legs.
It didnít matter what the reason was. What mattered to Linda was that she had the use of her legs again, and with a strain and grunt, she was able to swing herself toward the bubbling caudron, and the back of the old woman.
"I think the temperatureís just right, my dear," the old woman started, "I assure you, the pain will last only a few sec..." The old woman turned just as Linda swung toward her, both legs lifted up. Lindaís youthful - and desperate - strength, combined with the old womanís fragility, allowed the young woman to push the old woman backwards. Toward the cauldron.
"NO!" the old woman cried out, trying to regain her balance. "No--o-o-o-o-o-" Linda planted her feet on the old womanís midsection, and kept pushing. Like a scene out of some old horror movie, the fiendish old woman toppled backwards over the side of the cauldron, and plunged headfirst into the boiling wax.
There were only a few seconds of screams, as Lindaís body swung back away from the cauldron. The old womanís body quickly submerged beneath the bubbling pink surface. "She was right," thought Linda, "it would have only taken a few seconds."
Linda quickly looked around for something to cut the wick loose that still bound her wrists and upper torso. But as the boiling wax finished the old woman, whatever spell she had cast on the wick was removed, and it harmlessly slid off Lindaís body, completely freeing the young girl. Linda picked up the undergarments the old woman had removed from her minutes before. She stared at her tan nylons: "I guess I owe you a lot," she said, only half jokingly, knowing that if the old woman had not untied her feet to take the stockings off, Linda would have wound up a shrunken wax momento on someoneís knick-knack shelf.
That thought brought home the horror of all that happened, and Linda shuddered and clasped her arms around herself for comfort. She was shivering - probably from delayed fright - so she stopped to put on her panties, then her pantyhose. She would get the rest of her clothes upstairs, and then drive to the nearest State Patrol station. Linda turned toward the stairs, looking down at the long trail of cloth wick that had pulled her toward a terrible fate. She stopped suddenly and backed away. Surely it was just her imagination. but she thought sure she had seen the wick begin to move. It couldnít be - the old woman was dead . . . .
Suddenly, she heard a loud splash as wax flew out of the cauldron onto the floor. Then a groan and scream, and finally a loud cackle. "You didnít think you could get rid of me so easily, did you, my pretty?"
It was the old woman, rising up out of the cauldron, pinkish wax dripping from her face. "You canít destroy me in wax! I am the Queen of wax!" She cackled even louder, then reached down into the cauldron to pick up a handful of wax mixture, and threw it towards Lindaís feet. There was no time for the young woman to move away, and the wax found its target. Now Linda tried to run but she couldnít move. Her nyloned feet were stuck fast to the floor.
As the old woman climbed out of the cauldron, Linda knew she had only one chance. She planned to pull down her hosiery, hoping she could pull her feet out of the waxed nylon. But before her hands could reach the waistband, the old woman cackled and waved her hands. "Not this time, my leggy beauty!" Once again, the cloth wrapped itself around Lindaís wrist, and held her captive.
Now the old woman walked toward a large brown hose hanging on the cellar wall. Linda continued to struggle, hoping for another chance to escape this house of horror. The old woman attached one end of the hose to a faucet on the side of the cauldron. Then she started toward Linda with the other end.
"There is more than one way to make a candle, my dear," she cackled, and pointed the nozzle of the hose toward the captive girl. Linda started to scream, but was cut off by the wax the old woman was spraying over every inch of her body. Linda was conscious only a few more seconds, as she began to feel the effects of the shrinking wax spray . . . .
. . . . As a new day dawned, the old woman was quite tired. It had been a busy night. Driving a car into the bottomless swamp in the back of her house. Cleaning all the wax off the floor and walls of the cellar. Rewinding several feet of cloth wick. And, of course, trying to salvage a saleable candle out of the previous nightís mayhem.
Now she was on the phone to an out-of-state customer. "Henry - I know your buyer was hoping for a nude figurine. But thatís not what I have. What? Yes, thatís right, semi nude. I still think your buyer will like it. No. No. Tell him that ĎRECLINING NUDEí is not available. But Iím prepared to ship him something just as good. Whatís it called?" The old woman took a few seconds to examine her newest candle: short brown hair, a long but attractive face, well-shaped breasts, sleek back, and from the waist of the figurine to its feet, the darker hue of pantyhose.
"Itís my best work yet, Henry. Tell your customer I call it, ĎNYLONED NYMPH.í the old laughed cackled softly, as she placed the figurine gently into a small box, ready for shipment.