Brad’s car cruised to a halt on the empty country lane adjacent to Leon Whale’s pumpkin field. A plump full moon rode high in the night sky, casting deep shadows around everything it touched. In the pallid moonlight, even from sitting inside the car, it was clear that farmer Leon had a bumper crop of pumpkins for sale this Halloween. In both size and number they were an impressive sight.
“I don’t like it,” said Amy, Brad’s girlfriend. She put her empty beer bottle in the footwell and pouted. “What if we get caught? How will I explain to daddy why I spent a night in jail?”
“It’s only one pumpkin,” said Brad. “We’re not stealing the Queen of England’s crown jewels.”
“But I’m scared. I didn’t know it’d be so quiet and spooky out here. Why don’t we just come back tomorrow, when it’s light, and buy a pumpkin? They’re only twelve dollars.”
“Everywhere else pumpkins are just four dollars,” Brad reminded her. “Leon Whale’s a rip-off merchant — a lowdown thief. And what kind of name’s ‘Leon Whale’, anyway?”
“Eastern European? Jewish-American?” Amy hazarded.
Brad shrugged. “Whatever it is, it’s a strange name.”
He climbed out of the car, flashlight in hand, followed reluctantly by Amy.
The quietness of the country road was punctuated only by the soft crunch of their feet compressing the dry earth. The atmosphere, laden with a sense of impending dread, caused the couple to forget the sharp chill in the air and the goose bumps on their arms.
“I’m really frightened,” Amy complained, as a hooting owl broke the silence.
“Let’s get our pumpkin and then we’ll be on our way,” said Brad. “It won’t take us ten minutes.”
As they made their way deeper into the field, searching for the most succulent pumpkin, they became aware of the faint rustling sounds of barely perceptible movement all about them.
Panicked, Brad said, “Okay. Back to the car! Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all.”
As the couple turned around, desperately trying to maintain their composure, every pumpkin within their field of vision shuddered and pulled its roots free from the soil. Then, as a body, the plants rose up, the orange gourds of their fruits supported by writhing tendrils of vegetation.
The plants turned their gourd-‘heads’ towards Brad and Amy, staring malevolently through narrow, carved eyes. Their mouths, rictuses of jaggedly fashioned teeth, grinned malevolently at the trembling youngsters.
The strange creatures advanced on the couple at a shambling shuffle, their tendrils flicking around like whips as they sought out their prey.
“Run!” cried Brad, his voice verging on hysteria.
Hand in hand Brad and Amy fled. However, they found themselves being herded in the opposite direction, away from their car. Against their wills they were forced further into the pumpkin field by the stumbling beasts.
With the monstrous pumpkins controlling the couple’s movements, the end came suddenly. Brad and Amy, sprinting away from the pursuing plants – like cattle being corralled by cowboys – fell headlong into a newly-dug pit. Seconds later, before they could get to their feet and scramble out of their makeshift grave, the pumpkins were upon them.
Sharp tendrils pierced the young couple’s flesh; and once they had penetrated to the bone and wormed their way into arteries flowing with life blood, the plants emptied the screaming youngsters of their bodily fluids.
When the pumpkins had drunk their fill, an old man carrying a shovel hobbled up from behind the carnivorous plants.
“Back to your plots, my beauties,” Leon Whale commanded, forcing a path through the jostling pumpkins.
He stared down dispassionately at the two desiccated corpses, shooed away the few loitering plants that had not fully satisfied their appetite for blood and set to work filling in Brad and Amy’s grave.
Once he had tamped down the earth, Leon limped over to the nearby road, hotwired Brad’s car and drove it back to his barn.
“I’m accruing quite a collection,” he laughed, surveying the fleet of vehicles lined up inside the barn.
There was no time to waste though, for October the thirty-first — Halloween — was barely an hour away. So without further ado he turned on his heel and padlocked the barn door.
Next morning, when Leon’s first customer of the day pulled up at the farm kiosk, she could not hide her admiration for his gargantuan pumpkins.
“How d’ya get yer darn pumpkins so plump?” she asked.
Leon Whale grinned. “I just feed them the best fertilizer, ma’am.”
Paul A. Freeman is the author of ‘Rumours of Ophir’, a crime novel set in Zimbabwe. His narrative poem ‘Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers’, and his second crime novel, ‘Vice and Virtue’, have also been published. Over a hundred of his short stories have appeared in print. He currently lives in Abu Dhabi with his family, and despite reports to the contrary, he never swims in the nude (you’ll be relieved to know). He can be found at www.paulfreeman.weebly.com and www.chaucers-uncle.weebly.com.