Thursday, October 21, 2010
Halloween Tales To Terrify! The Pumpkin People
Okay, here is the long-awaited second Halloween story. It grew into a much longer piece than I thought! Beware. This one might actually be a little creepy!
The Pumpkin People
Neyland D. Catt
There once was a sleep little place called PumpkinTown.* In this town lived the pumpkin people, a happy and care free lot. They would spend their days happily rolling around the town square and the fields, toiling as only pumpkins do. Their orange skins would light up like the sun as they sang and danced their merry jigs.
One happy autumn day, a new pumpkin came to town. His name was Jack. He came to live in an abandoned building near the town square. Jack made his room in the upstairs and boarded up the windows of the empty shop below. Each morning, the sounds of hammers and saws could be heard from behind the boards. One day, a pumpkin named Peter happened upon jack on his way to the market. He asked Jack why he had boarded up the windows.
"I am making a new shop inside," he said. "I didn't want to spoil the surprise, so I have been fixing it up in secret."
"That is marvelous!" Peter exclaimed. "What type of shop will it be?"
Jack looked around to see that no other pumpkins were listening, then leaned in close to Peter to whisper, "It will be a most wonderful pie shop. Don't tell anyone! I want it to be a surprise!"
"You can count on me Jack!" Peter declared enthusiastically. "I can keep a secret!"
So Peter the Pumpkin rolled away gleefully, guarding the secret of PumpkinTown's new pie shop. He kept his word, even when his friend Polly and Mayor Preston Pumpkin asked him about it. He would merely shake his head and smile.
The days passed slowly and all the while the leaves turned to brilliant shades of fire and began to drift down like a soft rain. One day, Peter came upon Polly and several other young pumpkins talking in a most dramatic way. Polly herself seemed quite distraught. Peter made his way over to ask what was the matter.
"Oh Peter! It's awful! Old Perry Pumpkin has vanished without a trace!" she declared.
"Vanished? No one knows where he is?" Peter asked, aghast.
"No one! He's been gone for two days!"
Peter left the group with a heavy heart. This was surely a tragedy and tragedies simply didn't happen in PumpkinTown! His spirits were lifted when he passed by Jack's place and saw a sign proclaiming tomorrow to be the Grand Opening of Jack's Pie Shop. He rolled gleefully all the way home.
The next day arrived at last and Peter Pumpkin raced down to Jack's Pie Shop. He desperately wanted to be the first to lay eyes upon what would surely be a wonder! He turned the corner to find that there were already several others there before him, including Polly. Peter could not contain his excitement, but paused to speak to Polly.
"Have you been inside yet?" he asked breathlessly.
"Oh yes, Peter! It's simply wonderful! Jack has made the tastiest pie I have ever had the pleasure of eating," she exclaimed. "Hurry inside before it's all gone. I won't keep you."
"Alright," Peter said. "Perhaps we can talk later then?"
"I don't know," Polly said thoughtfully. "Jack has asked me to come by later. He says he might show me how the pies are made. Imagine me, working in a magical pie shop!"
Peter laughed as Polly rolled away, but there was a small hint of jealousy brewing. He liked Jack, but the idea of Polly spending extra time with him made Peter nervous for some reason. Polly was his friend after all.
Peter pushed the thought aside and rushed inside the pie shop. There was Jack, surrounded by eager pumpkins, desperate for a piece of his already popular pie. Peter waited in line and watched hopelessly as piece after piece was taken from the pan and sold. He arrived at the counter and looked dejectedly at the empty pan. There was none left. Jack, however, merely chuckled.
"You didn't think I would have a grand opening without making sure that you got a piece of pie did you?" he laughed as he produced a small plate from behind the counter. "I saved this one just for you."
Peter thanked him graciously and took the plate of orange-hued pie longingly. His first taste was magical. The flavor was like nothing else he had ever tasted! It was full of spices and the texture was smooth and rich. He devoured the rest voraciously and left not a crumb behind.
"Thanks Jack! I'll be back tomorrow for another!" he exclaimed. Jack gave another chuckle and returned to his work.
Peter left the shop and was rolling blissfully homeward. He was stopped near his house by Mayor Preston Pumpkin. The old mayor was a figure of great renown in PumpkinTown. One would never miss an opportunity to converse with their venerable leader.
"Peter, where are you off to?" the mayor inquired.
"Home sir. I need a nap after that tasty pie!"
"Very well. See that you are not out too late tonight. Old Perry is still missing and now no one can find Petunia Pumpkin either," the mayor said gravely.
"Yes sir," Peter replied obediently. He then continued down the path to his home, slightly troubled. One disappearance was unusual enough. Two was unheard of! He went to his room right away and thoughts of missing pumpkins vanished in a sleepy haze.
The next day found Peter once more hurrying to Jack's shop, determined this time to be near the front of the line. He was fifth and ravenously devoured his plump piece of pie. The line was still snaking into the street when he left. He found a small group of pumpkins huddled near an old tree across the street from the shop. He wandered over, nearly in a daze, to talk to them.
"Hey Peter," Patrick Pumpkin said, greeting him conspiratorially. "Have you seen Polly?"
"No," Peter replied, suddenly nervous. "Wasn't she here?"
"She wasn't. We all thought she would be one of the first in line for pie this morning, or maybe she would be here helping Jack make them," Patrick said.
"I'll go to her house and see if she is there," Peter said frantically. "I hope she isn't ill!"
Peter left the others in a hurry. He hadn't said what he really feared - that she had disappeared like the others. He arrived at Polly's house to find her mother frantic with worry. She was rolling back and forth in a tizzy.
"Oh Peter! Where could she be?" she asked.
"I don't know, but I'm sure she is fine," Peter said in an attempt to console her. "Where did you see her last?"
"I don't remember. Oh I'm afraid I'm just not much use," Polly's mother wailed. "Wait! The last time I saw her was just before she left to meet Jack at the pie shop last night!"
"Don't worry. I'll find her," Peter said before leaving in a rush.
Peter hurried home to gather a few things and make a plan of action. Horrible suspicions and ghastly worries were swirling in his head. Polly was last seen heading to the pie shop. Jack had made no mention of seeing Polly in the morning or the night before. Peter had made up his mind - he was going to have a look inside Jack's pie shop!
Peter waited until night had well and truly fallen before setting out. There was a chill wind rustling through the bare tree limbs. The moon hung high in the sky like a baleful eye glaring down on PumpkinTown. Peter was startled as an owl screeched loudly and took to the air from a skeletal tree behind him. He drew a deep breath and hurried to the shop, making sure to keep to the shadows.
The pie shop was dark and ominous as Peter approached the door. Not a single light was seen inside. Darkness draped around it like a cloak. Peter glanced into the street to ensure that no one was watching, then pried open the door with a tool he had brought from home. The door swung open with a creak. Peter winced, hoping no one had heard. He crept inside and pulled the door shut behind him. He lit the candle that he had taken from his bedroom and gave a long look around the interior of the shop. The counter was empty and shrouded in shadows. The smell of the spiced pies still lingered in the air, but gone was the sweetness. Now it was stifling and overpowering. Seeing no one about, Peter sidled around the counter.
Beyond the counter was the kitchen. There were pots, pans, and ovens for cooking. Cabinets and cupboards filled the room. On one he found a large cutting board and an assortment of long carving knives. The sight of them gave him a chill, despite the fact that he had seen their like in his own home without any misgivings. In the dark, everything took on a sinister aspect. Peter scanned the kitchen and saw nothing out of the ordinary. He had almost decided that he had been silly to come to the shop, but then he saw the large door in the back of the room. He had missed it on his initial glance because of the curtain pulled over it.
Peter rolled slowly to the door, fear and suspense filling him nearly to bursting. He tried the handle. It turned. With great trepidation, he opened the door. What he saw there forever changed Peter Pumpkin. Inside the pantry were the ghastly remains of three pumpkins! Polly, Perry, and Petunia Pumpkin were lying lifelessly in a heap of shells below the shelves! Peter was filed with revulsion, then fear, then nausea as he realized what he was looking at. Jack had made his pies out of them! As his eyes fell on Polly, Peter's nausea turned to a slow simmering rage. He walked with purpose from the pantry, the candle gripped tightly in one hand. He snatched up a long carving knife with the other and crept to the stairs.
The next morning the inhabitants of PumpkinTown found that Peter Pumpkin had gone missing, but this discovery was nothing compared to the grisly scene in Jack's Pie Shop. The Mayor and his men found Polly and the others in the pantry after Jack had failed to open his shop to the gathered masses. They searched all day for Peter and Jack, but found no trace of either. The town was frantic, as they had come to realize that one of the two had brutally murdered Polly and the others. Their search ended that night, as the horrifying visage of Jack stared down from the roof of his shop, his head opened up, his insides scooped out, a macabre face carved into his shell, and a single candle shining out from within.
Peter Pumpkin was never seen again in PumpkinTown, but on crisp and dark October evenings evidence of his passing can still be seen. Beware Peter Pumpkin. Beware his candle. Beware his knife.
Yikes! I think I scared myself. Glad I'm not a pumpkin. See ya tomorrow kiddies!
*Oddly enough, the town I live in was once called Pumpkintown.