When the Fall Comes - Halloween Special
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All the pumpkins knew … When those Fall winds blew
That’s when the legends came true
I’m relaxing under a dreary grey October sky when a young boy walks up and plucks me from the ground. This is my first Fall, but I’ve heard about this from the elder pumpkins. After summer ends, streams of humans, especially kids, descend upon the farm and rifle through all of us pumpkins, throwing many of the ugly or misshapen of us aside like trash—but supposedly, they’re the lucky ones. The pumpkins who do get picked are whisked away and never return. The farm folk tales explain what happens to them. There are a few different versions, but the most common story is that they get sliced up by children’s knives, gutted, and burned from the inside. I don’t know if I believe that or not. There’s a lot of paranoia amongst the pumpkin community, especially as Halloween looms. We seem to be a common theme of the holiday, but human beings don’t seem to connect with us on any sort of emotional level like they do with dogs or cats. We’re just decorations. So obviously I shudder as this little brown-haired boy picks me off the dirt. He studies my pattern—my top is a dark green that streaks down across my bright orange body like spilled paint.
“Whoa, this one looks so cool,” the boy says, smiles with missing teeth, and tucks me under his arm. I’ve never been off the ground before and it’s breathtaking and warm under the boy’s arm. His mom pays money to take me, and the boy carries me away from the farm to whatever the true destiny of a pumpkin in Fall really is. I’m about to find out if the legends are true. I’m going to get a first-hand look at life after the farm. Suddenly I feel a chill in my pulp.
The boy holds me on his lap during the ride from the farm. I can see out the window of his father’s station wagon and it’s mind-bending to see everything beyond the farm. We drive down a few windy roads and enter a neighborhood lined with houses side-by-side, just like the rows of corn back on the farm. But one yard in particular grabs my interest—there are human bodies scattered all over the lawn, covered in blood. I hear the boy’s mother remark that, perhaps, Mr. Arnold went a little overboard with the Halloween decorations this year. The boy’s father says it’s all in good fun. We pull into the driveway behind their two-story house. It’s much smaller than the house back on the farm.
As soon as we walk inside, the boy sets me down on the plastic kitchen countertop and immediately seems to lose interest in me. I sit there for several days. I miss my friends and the open air of the farm, but this isn’t so bad. The temperature is pleasant, and they have some giant screen that shows different images all day long. It’s a little like watching the clouds pass by. The boy talks about how excited he is to go trick or treating, though I’m unsure what that means. He shows off his costume repeatedly … silver plastic Knight’s armor and helmet, a character from a popular show he watches that seems to have themes that are inappropriate for a kid his age. Still, his parents don’t seem to mind, and I actually quite enjoy watching it as well.
I’m just about ready to accept this new life when everything devolves into a horror show. The father takes me off the counter and sets me on the dining room table, which has a plastic sheet covering it for some reason. Then the mother approaches, holding a large, sleek knife. The blade is razor-sharp and curves just a bit at the tip. Now I know why there is a plastic sheet on the table. I watch in terror, my seeds shifting inside me, as the mother hands the blade to the boy and nods at me. The boy is already dressed in his Knight outfit for trick or treat.
The mother tells the boy he has to slice the top of my head off first and I can’t believe what I’m hearing. She wants the boy to scalp me. All the legends are true. All the whispers around the farm that these children and their families are monsters. It’s all true.
The boy steps forward, smiling ear to ear, and stabs the knife into my flesh. He saws and cuts off the top of my head, including my stem, and sets it on the table. But what astonishes me is that I don’t feel any pain.
The boy reaches inside and begins tearing out my insides, removing all of my seeds and strands of wet orange slop. I brace myself for the pain, but again, there is none. Soon he has all my insides removed and, to be honest, it feels great. I feel much lighter. The boy takes the knife and carves me out a set of eyes, a nose, a mouth. Now I can see and breathe like I never have before. I drink in a whole new world around me. It’s overwhelming, and it takes a few minutes for my new eyes to adjust to the vivid colors.
I’ve gone from a pumpkin to a much more conscious work of art. The parents tell the boy he did a good job creating the new me, and the boy seems proud. I realize—I love this boy. I love these humans. The legends got it all wrong.
The boy takes me out onto the front porch, still wearing his Knight armor. There is white siding, shaggy green carpet, and cheap porch furniture. A few concrete steps lead down to a sidewalk with a small-town street running past. The boy sets me down on a white plastic table. He lays a small candle inside me, takes a lighter his mom gave him, and lights the wick. He sets my top and stem gently back onto me, making me whole again.
The heat inside warms and calms me in a way I have never experienced. The boy sits with me for a while as the sun wanes. He doesn’t say anything, but he keeps looking at me and smiling, and I can tell he is proud of me. Proud of himself.
A bulky kid with blue hair walks down the sidewalk and stops. He glares up at the porch and sees us sitting here.
“Yo pussy,” he yells to the boy. “Nice fuckin’ armor. I better not see you out trick-or-treating tonight or I’ll kick your dumb knight ass,” he threatens. The blue-haired kid turns his gaze and stares at me for a moment in a way that makes me uncomfortable. “Nice pumpkin, pussy,” he says, laughs to himself, and walks off down the street. The boy slouches down onto the fraying carpet, takes off his Knight’s helmet, and chucks it over the porch into an overgrown bush. A tear streams from his eye as he stares out into a Halloween that should be fun for a kid his age. His father opens the screen door, and the boy quickly hides the tears and walks back inside for dinner.
The streetlights flicker on, and I overhear the boy and his mother through the window. She wants to know why he suddenly doesn’t want to go trick-or-treating. He says he’s too old for it, but she obviously knows that’s a lie—he’s been talking about it nonstop. They argue for a while, then the boy comes out on the porch, but now he’s dressed in a long flowing black robe with a giant hood and a hockey mask. His face is fully disguised, so no one will recognize him. He glances at me and I see something that looks like shame and dread, and he stumbles off down the road.
The night is scary and magical at the same time. An endless stream of kids dressed in crazy different outfits just walk right up on the porch like they own the place and bang on the front door. For some reason, the boy’s parents just hand them all candy. I guess this is the “trick or treat” custom the humans have been talking about.
A husky kid comes up on the porch all by himself, wearing an oversized rubber Dragon mask, green hoodie, and sweatpants. Only, this Dragon doesn’t knock on the door, doesn’t want candy. The Dragon looks around for a moment and pulls off the mask. The kid with the blue hair looks directly at me and the flame inside me flickers. He picks me up, carries me down the steps, and slams me onto the sidewalk, splintering my body in two halves. I can’t feel anything in my lower half and my fire is extinguished.
My sight wanes as I see the kid with the blue hair put the Dragon mask back on and run off down the street, laughing.
As I lay there, ready to die, I realize that some humans are monsters.
I lay there for what seems like hours—devils, and witches, and superheroes all walking past me. I’m just another decoration, a pumpkin smashed on the pavement. Apparently this is acceptable to these humans.
The boy approaches me, walking alone along the sidewalk. As he gets close he sees my destroyed body on the ground. He stops, takes off his hockey mask and drops it to the pavement, along with his bag of candy. He stands there for several moments, and I think his eyes change color or shape or something because he looks like a different person now. He says nothing. Just quietly picks up his bag of candy and what is left of my head and marches into his house. He leaves the hockey mask disguise on the sidewalk.
The boy walks through the living room and doesn’t respond when his mother asks how the night went. He drops the candy bag on the kitchen counter without taking any to eat and hurries to his bedroom. He locks the door, sets me on his dresser, and slams his fists on the bed while rambling to himself. He takes off his makeshift costume and throws it across the room. He goes to the closet and pulls out his Knight armor and slides it over his body. He walks over and picks me up. I’m just a pumpkin headband with a nose and eyes. My green looks like it’s bleeding into my orange. The boy puts me on the top of his head like a mask, his eyes peering through my own eye holes. I catch a glimpse of us in the mirror and I shudder. I’m not sure what the boy is planning to do. But we are one now; I’m along for this ride wherever it goes.
We slip out of the house without anyone noticing. Now we’re walking down the sidewalk, past all the other pumpkins sitting on the porches. Trick or treat seems to be ending as the darkness creeps in harder, and the little ghouls and goblins begin disappearing back into their parents’ houses. We pass Mr. Arnold’s yard, the one with bloody bodies strewn across the grass. I hear bats flying overhead and it reminds me of the farm, but I know I’m so far from home now, and there’s no going back. The boy marches ahead towards a couple kids standing on the corner near the town convenience store.
The boy slips behind a thick wooden telephone pole with a dirty yellow streetlight mounted on top. As the boy looks forward, I see what he is after—the kid with the blue hair. He has the Dragon mask hanging loosely around his neck, resting on his chest. We stand there for several seconds, and I can hear the boy’s heavy breathing. He picks up a golf ball-sized rock from the street, steps out from behind the telephone pole, winds up, and slings the rock. It just misses the nose of the Dragon, but it gets his attention. The kid with the blue hair’s neck swivels and his eyes light up red hot as he looks directly at us. Then we are off and running back towards the boy’s house, the Dragon hot on our heels.
But instead of running back to the boy’s house, we cut into Mr. Arnold’s yard, the boy hopping over the prop bodies. There is a long wooden stake pushed into a fake vampire. The boy rips out the stake and hunches down inside the white sheet of a ghost hanging from an oak tree. We sit silently, peeking out a small gap in the sheet. The Dragon is wearing its face again and stalks across the lawn.
The boy looks down, through my eye holes, at his own Knight outfit. He takes a deep breath.
“Show your face, pussy,” the Dragon calls out.
But the Knight stays patient, waits for the Dragon to turn his back, and then the Knight pounces. The stake swings like a baseball bat to the back of the Dragon’s head. The Dragon cries out as it falls to its knees. The Knight’s stake is a streak in the moonlight as it repeatedly slams across the body of the Dragon as he wriggles in the grass. The Dragon cries for help but none comes, and I see blood leak from the Dragon mask and see the boy with the blue hair’s terrified eyes. I actually begin to feel sorry for him for some reason. It’s at this point I understand how complicated it is to be human.
The boy drops the stake and pulls off the Dragon’s rubber face.
“Next time, I’ll kill you,” the boy whispers to the battered and bleeding kid with blue hair.
We walk back to the boy’s house and stop on the porch. The boy takes me off his head and sets what's left of me back on the plastic table. He looks me over for a while, cracks a subtle smile, and goes inside. My first and only Halloween is officially over.
After Halloween I feel myself deteriorating. Some of the neighbors have put out fresh pumpkins for Thanksgiving, but they aren’t carved, and I’m not sure if I’m happy for them or not. I watch the boy leave for school every morning, only now he has a new spring in his step. I've only seen the kid with the blue hair a few times, but he always stays on the far side of the street and never even looks towards the boy’s house.
Thanksgiving passes, and now I’m the only pumpkin left on the street. The farm is a distant memory now, a lifetime ago. My eyes are slowly closing in as what’s left of me rots away on the plastic table. Snow trickles as the boy’s father comes out on the porch, strings some red and green lights around the windows, and notices me. I hear him go inside and tell the boy that it’s time to get rid of me. The boy protests, and it feels good to know that he still wants me, but I know my time is up.
The full moon crawls up into the foggy December sky as the boy walks out onto the porch. He stands there for a few moments, just staring at me, whispering to himself. He sighs, picks me up, and carries me down the street. We pass Mr. Arnold’s yard, but all the bodies and decorations are gone, replaced with flashing reindeer and fake icicles. The boy carries me across a playground and up a tall grass hill that’s secluded, overlooking the whole town. The houses look smaller up here, distant. He shivers as he takes out a small shovel from his jacket pocket. The boy digs a small hole and lays me down inside. It’s cool and comfortable.
The boy reaches into my grave and plucks something off my back … a seed. He smiles and digs another hole right next to me, sets my seed inside, and shovels earth over both of us. Everything goes eternally dark. I think back to my early life on the farm and I’m glad the boy picked me up that day. I have to believe my seed will grow into a new pumpkin. I wonder what it might experience next Fall. I remember a saying from back on the farm—
All the pumpkins knew … When those Fall winds blew
That’s when the legends came true
Artwork by Reagan Welter