Welcome to The Spot Writers. October’s theme is . . . guess what! Halloween. Write a short, scary story using these words: dress, ghost, pumpkin, light, dark.
This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s one-woman publishing company, MacKenzie Publishing, has published its second anthology, TWO EYES OPEN, a collection of sixteen stories by sixteen authors, to read during the day . . . or at night, as long as two eyes are open. Not “horrific horror” . . . more like intrigue, mystery, thriller. Simply a “good read.” BUY IN TIME FOR HALLOWEEN!
Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1927529301/
Dark clouds hovered though it was only seven o’clock, but darkness was apropos on Halloween night. Tom clutched his treat bag, an old pillowcase decorated with paper ghosts, witches, and pumpkins, and suddenly realized how corny it looked. He had enjoyed the colouring, cutting, and gluing to the fabric, but the dampness was loosening the paper and rolling the edges. His bag would soon be a mess and the other kids would tease him. Bully him, even. Who wanted that?
He had only been outdoors for twenty-four minutes. He had timed how long it would take to go up and down the four streets his mother had given him permission to canvass and knew he’d have plenty of time to go to each house. Thankfully, the streets were long ones, with lots of houses, because four streets wouldn’t normally be enough on Halloween. He had to be home by nine, but as soon as his bag was full, he would head back. No sense staying outside for no reason.
He wandered up the walkway of 39 Cresthaven Avenue, where a pumpkin on the porch beckoned, light flickering between gaps in the squared teeth. The chunky grin mesmerized him. His mother had warned him not to read anything into sights he saw while trick or treating. “Nothing is real,” she said. “Just enjoy being a kid and eat your candy. Forget about cavities one day of the year.”
He had been stunned at her words. Forget about cavities? From a mother who yelled at him every night to brush so invisible creatures didn’t create caters in his teeth? Sometimes she even went as far as brushing his teeth, as if he were a baby. He was twelve, for Pete’s sake. Almost a teen. Soon he would be able to have sex, like people he saw on television when his mother wasn’t looking. He had already snuck into the stash of his father’s Playboy magazines. Did she even know they were there? There would be more nagging for sure if she found them.
Every Halloween, after returning home from his allotted, unsupervised time, his mother insisted on rooting through his pillowcase. The previous year, she said, “There are crazies out there. I have to make sure there’s no needles or disturbed wrappers.”
Needles? Disturbed? He always wondered why she snooped through his bag. Usually, by the time he returned home, he had demolished half the candy. Until the past year, she had never said “Don’t eat anything until I check everything.”
Nagging constantly. That’s all his mother did: nag, nag, nag. It wouldn’t be so bad if she’d give him a bit of praise. Her yelling and nagging scared him as much as the dark, but every October thirty-first he donned a brave face and dressed in the costume-of-the-year—whatever that was: a clown, a Ninja, a pregnant Khloe—a different flavour every year. So much hype about clowns. What was scary about clowns? Sure, scarlet lipstick resembling blood enlarged their mouths and their sad, soulful eyes were ginormous. But silly clowns were frightful? He looked forward to clowns once a year when the circus came to town. And at Halloween, of course.
But what about now, this moment? He shivered. This pumpkin—the weird orange globe with the light shimmering inside.
“Nothing is real, Tommy,” his mother had said. “Just pretend everything is okay.” Pretend, pretend, pretend . . .
He shivered again and glanced around. No one but him—except for that weird pumpkin head.
What! Had it moved? It had been on the porch floor, hadn’t it? Now it was on the top step.
“What the heck.” His hand flew to his mouth. His mother would kill him if she knew he said “heck.” But wasn’t “heck” better than “hell”?
“Hey, you there, kid?”
Tom jumped. “Wha—”
“You there? I’m a good pumpkin, not the bad, scary kind. Not the kind you eat, either. Gah, if you ate me, where would I be?” Giggles and laughter echoed. “I’d be in your belly then, and what good would that be except to fatten you up?”
Tom looked around. Who had spoken? No one’s here but me.
“Me! I’m here,” a voice echoed.
What? Pumpkin Head possessed powers?
Tom scratched at goosebumps sprouting on his arms.
Tom stared at the orange head. The flame inside was stronger, straighter. Unflickering. “You?”
“My mother warned me about you. About things that looked real that weren’t really real.”
“I’m real. I’m here, aren’t I?”
“I—I guess so.”
“Hey, I’m not gonna hurt you.”
“Heck, no. I’m enjoying life. The dark. The kids who come and stare.”
Tom scanned the yard. And the street. Empty. “No one’s here but us.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s pretty deserted tonight. For being Halloween and all. But it only takes one, right?”
“Well, you,” Pumpkin Head said. “An audience of one. I’m happy you’re here even if there’s no one else.”
“Hmm, I suppose.” Tom looked around again. Where was everyone?
Neither spoke for several moments.
Tom waivered: should he stay, should he go home? He wasn’t absolutely petrified, but he was a tad scared. And it was getting dark.
His mother’s voice echoed: “Be home by nine.”
“Gotta go, I think.”
“My mom’s waiting. She’ll be mad if I don’t get home on time.” He couldn’t admit the dark scared him. “Ya, I better run.” Run? I better dash for it.
“Why don’t you take me home with you? I’m lonely. And cold.”
“Really? You want to go home with me?” Why would that pumpkin want to go to his house? This house was much grander, and surely the owners much nicer than his mother.
“Yeah, take me with you.”
Many scenarios flashed before him. But why the heck not? “Okay, then. Let’s go.”
“Blow out my flame first. I don’t want to burn you.”
That made sense. “Sure. Okay.” Tom stooped and blew.
The smile disappeared.
Tom picked up the plump pumpkin. He made sure he had his pillow case of loot, too, though it wasn’t nearly as full as it should have been, and headed home.
He stopped in front of his house. A small bungalow, so unlike the grand mansion where he had found Pumpkin Head.
He set the pumpkin on the cement landing. There were no steps, just a worn path on the grass to the slab of cement.
“You have a match?”
“What?” Tom asked.
“I need to see. I can’t see in the dark without my flame.”
Tom enjoyed building fires. According to his father, he was a hellion, but his father left many years previous. To another family, another wife, another son. Tom had duct-taped a pack of matches to the bottom of the mailbox, safe from rain and prying eyes. Who knew when he might need them.
He flipped open the metal flap. Still there. He withdrew the matchbook and flicked one against the rough edge. A flame exploded. Bright. Glowing. Pointed.
He removed the lid from Pumpkin Head and lit the wick. Success! He replaced the lid.
“Hey, great job. And I love your loot sack, too. Your drawings and colouring are amazing.”
Tom’s face glowed like the face of the pumpkin. It had been longer than forever since he had received recognition and been praised.
“Happy Halloween!” Pumpkin Head screeched.
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Dorothy Colinco: www.dorothycolinco.com
CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/