This is Halloween (part 1)
A cold breeze swept across the pumpkin patch in the early morning, rustling the leaves of the mostly barren vines. Soon, an old man with the name of Tom would pull up in his dusty truck and swing open the gates, just like he did every morning in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Today, however, sales would be slow, since most of his stock had already been sold. There were only a handful of pumpkins left in the patch, and a pretty sorry looking bunch they were. Most were misshapen, and had ugly brown patches on them. They had been touched and turned by many hands, but the people touching them wore little frowns on their faces, and moved on to other, prettier pumpkins. These last sentries of the patch sat waiting, marked down and forlorn.
Near the center of the patch there rose a hill, and at the top of this sat one large, gnarled pumpkin. It rested crookedly on the raised ground, unbalanced from a heavy dent in its side. Three scars raked across its shell, perhaps caused by the tines of a pitchfork swung haphazardly. This pumpkin received no love from the holiday shoppers. No children ran up to it, giggling, dragging their parents behind to marvel at their great find. No one thought of buying it, even after the old man slapped a sign on it reading 'Free'. It sat alone on its little hill, queen of the patch, a bed of thorny vines running away from it.
When the sun had nearly reached the center of the sky overhead, a woman pulled her car into the spot next to Tom's pickup truck, stepped out and hurried through the gate.
“Oh, thank goodness,” she said, smiling, “you're still here. Have anything left?”
“Just this little runt.” Tom held up a small gourd resembling something like a cross between a pumpkin and an eggplant. “This, or that one over yonder.” He nodded toward the pumpkin queen sitting on her prickly throne. The woman held a hand up to shield her eyes from the sun and looked over to where the big pumpkin rested. The smile she wore dropped away and her brow furrowed. After a brief moment she looked away, turning back to Tom.
“No. Definitely not that one. No.” She took the small pumpkin from the man's hand. “We had our pumpkin all ready to go. Carved really spooky too, but when my son went to put it on the porch today, he dropped it. Smashed it to bits,” she said as Tom nodded knowingly. “How much for this?”
“Eh, a couple bucks would do it. Finish up the season.”
“Okay,” she said, digging two dollars out of her hand bag. She leaned closer, and said in a low voice as if afraid of being overheard, “Why do you keep that horrible thing around, anyway? It's scary to look at.”
“Well, today is Halloween,” he said, chuckling. “Truth is, I've wanted to be rid of it since it first started to grow. Meant to toss it out a couple times, but couldn't bring myself to even cut the vine. Something about it, like it... knows what I mean to do.” Tom shook his head. “Guess I'll just leave her be.”
When the woman had left with her pumpkin, Tom gathered up his water bottles and his cash box, tucked a book he had brought along this morning into his back pocket, and headed out the gate. As he turned to lock up he paused, gazing toward the pumpkin in the center of the patch. He gave a light flourish with his left hand, bowed and muttered, “It's all yours tonight, m'lady. Be a good queen and try to stay out of mischief.” He chuckled lightly to himself, then stopped short, squinting at the pumpkin. He really should get rid of that thing. Take the shovel from the back of the truck and chop it up. Bury the pieces. Be done with it.
A shudder passed through him and he could feel the hairs on the back of his arm raise up, along with those on the back of his neck. He wasn't going to go anywhere near that pumpkin. Leave it to rot. He'd till it under when Spring came around.
He then locked the gate, climbed into his old truck and drove away.
In the center of the pumpkin patch the lone pumpkin sat, twisted in form, unwanted. On the outside of its shell a handwritten sign flapped in the breeze, worked loose and came off, fluttering away over the vines. Inside its shell was the same stuff of other pumpkins, but also something more, something that allowed it to listen to the old man and the woman as they talked. That was a bit troubling, but then he'd called her a queen. She felt that to be true enough, even if not a queen, certainly a being of power. She knew what day today was as well. A special day, a day she had long waited for. In just a few hours the sun would slip away, darkness would fall and the Eve would begin. This was the night spirits could rise to walk among the living. She would rise with them.
**This is part 1 of a 3 part series. You can read the next part HERE