This is Halloween (part 2)
** This is part 2 of a 3 part series. If you haven't read part 1 yet, you can read it HERE **
Porch lights started coming on all around town as the sun began to set on Halloween, casting their glow over various displays set up throughout the week. Shadowy paper bats decorated walls covered in black fabric. Smoke blackened lanterns hung from spiderweb covered posts. Giant spiders of plastic and cloth dangled on their cotton webs, waiting for the squeals of excited children.
Halloween was set to begin.
A cool wind flowed softly over the surface of the sun warmed lake bordering the town, dragging tendrils of fog with it as it passed through streets and into the nearly empty pumpkin patch. The thickening fog moved along footpaths and licked thorny vines, which withdrew from its moist touch. The vines began to twist and writhe, drawing inward toward the center of the patch where a single, scarred pumpkin still reigned atop a hilly rise. From the base of the pumpkin a network of roots erupted, reaching out to connect with the roiling vines. The pumpkin itself rocked and turned, inching upward from the ground as the vines wound and twisted underneath, fusing to form a neck, a torso.
More vines crawled up from the sea of fog now surrounding the little hill, twisting into a rising pillar which split at the sides, separating into two distinct appendages. The pumpkin's shell began to contort and bulge. A pair of depressions pushed into the face of the pumpkin, and below them a crooked split crossed its shell. The split widened and deepened, opening into a darkness that belied the size of the pumpkin. The depressions filled with a thick, dark liquid which quickly jelled and skinned over. As this happened the thicker vine feeding the top of the pumpkin cracked and fell away to join the writhing mass below, and from the broken stem grew a thousand thin shoots covered with tiny leaves, which spread over the top of the pumpkin and down the back.
Suddenly, the vines stopped their frantic motion and lay still. The pumpkin sat motionless, somewhat askew atop its twisted, thorny body, looking like a half buried scarecrow.
“That's really cool, man,” the teenage boy said to his friend. The two of them were standing next to the chain link fence surrounding the pumpkin patch, looking in toward the center.
“Yeah,” the friend replied, “old Tom made a pretty spooky looking pumpkin dude for Halloween.”
“Naw, man, it's a chick,” the boy said, squinting in the growing darkness. “Look, it's got hair.” He laughed, and his friend laughed with him. For a few moments they stayed, pointing and laughing, mocking with their hands cupped in front of their chests. Then they turned away, and the fog rolled in to cover the fence and the patch. It swirled in through the streets, over the lawns and reached up into the trees. It enveloped the town as well as the kids who were wandering up and down streets, following the glow of porch lights.
Sounds carried through the fog. Creepy, recorded Halloween noises along with echoes of children's voices as doors opened and they recited their chants. Flashlight beams held by waiting parents bobbed with the sounds. The fog thickened and took on an eerie glow as the moon began to rise.
In the center of the patch, hidden from the townsfolk by a blanket of fog, the Pumpkin Queen opened her eyes.
She took a deep breath, her first real breath. Fog rolled into her slice of a mouth in waves. Slowly, she turned her head and looked down at her body, half finished, rising out of the ground. Moving her arms she pulled upward, straining until the vines broke free of the soil, crude hands forming as knots at the ends. She raised these to her face, watching as her hands grew fingers which curled into claws. She pressed her new hands back down against the ground, pulling her body upward. The vines roiled again, twisting into legs and feet, which she lifted and broke free.
She tilted her pumpkin head and listened to the sounds of the people cutting through the fog. A crooked, tooth filled smile stretched below her black eyes. The time had come at last. She felt alive, and although she was weak that would pass soon enough. Now she would go find the other pumpkins, her brethren, her army. Together they would feed on the fear of all those people walking around out there, and they would grow stronger. She raised her leg and stepped forward, bringing her stubby foot down on the edge of the hill, which had been softened by the vines pulling free. The soil crumbled beneath her and she fell, the weight of her large pumpkin head over-balancing, arms windmilling, feet scrabbling for purchase in the broken soil. She went down like an oddly shaped ball, twisting as she rolled down the hill, across the patch and crashed into the gate. Clutching the chain link, she pulled herself up into a kneeling position.
“But first,” she muttered, her first words spilling forth in a coarse, low voice, “I must learn to walk.”
The gate proved another challenge to the Queen. It was latched with a chain and padlock, which try as she might she could not pry apart. She pondered over it for some time, until she tried lifting it and found it came easily off its hinges. She brought her hand up to rub the side of her head. These humans were trickier than she had imagined!
Walking was not easy, but not too very difficult, now that she was on solid ground. At least she was able to stay upright. She moved forward in a kind of drunken, stumbling lurch, her body creaking as it moved.
Soon she came upon a small group of kids, one boy dressed as some kind of green superhero, and two girls dressed as witches, all roughly the age of ten. They were comparing sacks of candy and had not noticed her. Here was an opportunity, her first meal. Oh, how she would savor it! She would come upon them from behind and wrap her clawed fingers around their tiny necks. They would turn white with fear, and she would feast, leaving them shivering with shattered hearts and broken minds.
She stepped toward them, out of the cover of fog, but her wooden joints creaked and popped. All three turned toward her as one. One of the girls looked startled, the other appeared amused. The Queen breathed in a faint wisp of fear, barely enough to give her a tingle. She raised herself to her full height, nearly six foot, and began to raise her hands, elbows creaking. The boy's brow creased, and he raised a single eyebrow.
“Nice costume,” he said mockingly, “Dork.” She stopped, tilting her head to the side as she tried to understand what had happened, was still happening.
“Hey, be nice,” the girl who had been startled said. “I'm sure she put a lot of work into that costume.”
“How do you know it's a she?” The other girl asked, crossing her arms. “It could be a guy in there. Hey, is it hot inside there?”
“They just rolled around in mulch and dog poop,” the boy said, “then stuck a stupid pumpkin head on.” He started to laugh. One of the witches was laughing too. Laughing. At her! Unfathomable. They should be cowering in fear!
“Aww, don't let them get to you.” The little witch took a couple steps toward her, forcing the Queen to step backward. She stumbled and nearly fell. “Oh! I didn't mean to scare you,” the girl said, “sorry.”
She could do nothing but stare, dumbfounded, as the three turned and left, giggling.
The Pumpkin Queen blinked. “This is not going quite the way it should.”