Short Fiction: Goodnight, Sweet Pumpkin

Soft light dawned in the darkness, awakening brighter into a sizzling panorama of fiery flakes, bursting then descending in swirls of green and blue. The embers carpeted the ground and faded one by one, each giving a final bright wink then disappearing. A whip crack echoed through the evening air, and rumbling hooves shook the forest floor. An enormous, pumpkin-looking coach followed the hooves into the distance. All became quiet. The moon cast a friendly glow upon the small glade.

By an old oak, upon a rug of leaves and vines, a young pumpkin enjoyed his first moments of self-awareness. He saw, and heard, and felt and thought, now conscious of his surroundings, and of his own existence.

Beneath the earth in his roots he felt what might be likened to a gentle tickle. He looked nearby and saw another pumpkin—she was saying hello. The magic that had created from a pumpkin a horse-drawn coach had evidently spilled over and granted consciousness to the other two pumpkins in the patch. They found they could communicate via their shared root system; though no one else could hear it, to them it was like audible speech. Language was a novelty for them. The two pumpkins experimented with words and sounds like children testing the capabilities of a new toy. They gave themselves names by combining the silliest, most fun sounds they could think of: she called herself Janderneffilosh (Jander for short), and he chose the name Mitchell West.

Over the nest few days, Jander and Mitchell West formed a close relationship. Though biologically they were siblings, the bond they shared was like that of a mother and child. They may have only been humble pumpkins, but Jander was as devoted a mother as any woman, and Mitchell West was a happy son.

On the third day of his new life, Mitchell West saw a bird alight on the grass in front of him. He wanted more than anything to reach out and touch that colourful creature. With all his might he tried to transport himself to where the bird was: he yelled, sang, stared and concentrated—he tried everything he knew how to do. None of it worked. He had learned that birds didn’t stay for long in the glen; time was short. He strained, focusing all his determination on getting to that bird. And then, just as he felt he would implode, something extraordinary happened: one of the leaves on his stem moved and pointed in the bird’s direction. Mitchell West was stunned. From then on the possibility of physical movement consumed his efforts.

Weeks passed and Mitchell West grew large and healthy. Jander however began to shrivel. Their love blossomed as strong as ever. One day two boys came wandering through the forest, each wearing dirty overalls and carrying long, heavy sticks. They laughed as they walked, and used their sticks to hit tree trunks and rocks and pinecones—whatever took their fancy. As they entered the glen one of boys spotted the pumpkin patch. He went over and prodded around with his stick. Mitchell West wished the boys would leave. “Oh, gross,” said the boy. “This pumpkin is rotten.” He beckoned his friend to have a look at Jander.

“Ew,” said the other boy. “I dare you to touch it.”

“Yuck. It looks weird. I’m not touching it.”

“I’ll do it—watch this.”

The first boy stepped back as the second boy raised his stick over his head in sadistic delirium.

Mitchell West experienced fear for the first time. The boy brought the stick down like an expert executioner, right on top of Jander.

“Nooooooo!” screamed Mitchell West.

Jander split right through and exploded, splattering seeds and yellowish flesh. Some landed on Mitchell West. The boys laughed and shouted.

“Oh gross!” said the first boy. “That stinks!”

They tried to wipe Jander’s remains from their overalls.

Mitchell West was in shock. “Mum?” he said. Only frightening silence answered him from the pumpkin’s underground telepathy system. “Mum? Mum!”

She was gone.

Of all created things, the fire of vengeance burns hottest in pumpkins. This usually has no effect on anything whatsoever, because no pumpkin has ever felt the sting of injustice—until Mitchell West. Grief overwhelmed him; his anger rose to boiling point and a thirst for violence coursed through his every fibre. He strained with all his might and fixed his desire for retribution upon those murderers, imagining vines tightening around the boys’ necks. He poured all his strength into an earth-shaking cry. And just when Mitchell West thought the strain would crush him, the most improbable thing happened: he farted. Loudly.

The two boys stopped in silence and looked at Mitchell West. They looked back at each other and began laughing hysterically. The boys approached the orphaned pumpkin. They raised their sticks and slammed them down onto him. He felt the first blinding, hot blow like a lightning bolt shooting through him. The second blow took away the pain, and with it Mitchell West himself.



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