Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2282281-The-Last-Halloween
by Kotaro
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2282281
Mankind gets what’s coming and a man gets enlightened.
The Last Halloween

Jeter stared at the orb in his hand. He tried to make out the images inside, but they lost form as his fingers closed. His eyes wandered to the fluffy clouds.

Four years ago

The sun’s rays blasted through the window ending Jeter’s dream. He woke and raised his arm to embrace Sharon. There was no one there. He wiped his moist eyes, for he had relived one day he shared with his departed wife. With a sigh, he rose; time to feed the chickens, and milk Betsy.

Going out through the back door and into the shed, Jeter picked up a bucket, added some chicken feed, went to the coop, and released the chickens. When they were outside, he tossed a fistful of feed down in an arc. The chickens clucked their appreciation as they pecked.

His rooster screeched. Flapping their wings, his dames bounced away. A ripping roar jerked Jeter’s head skyward. Something scribbled a white trail across the sky before vanishing beyond the trees. Crouching, he plastered his hands over his ears, but no boom came.

Jeter stood, took off his cap, and scratched his head. He tossed some more feed, but his chickens stayed hidden. Shrugging, he placed the bucket on the ground and tipped it over, so they could eat after forgetting their fright.

He wanted to look for what had fallen from the sky, but Betsy had to be milked. Plus, today was Halloween. He had to bring a pumpkin, milk, eggs, and homemade cheese and taffy to his daughter’s family. Jane would transform him, her husband, two sons, and herself into zombies to celebrate the evening. Halloween was always the best evening of the year.

But, if he skipped breakfast, packed a sandwich, a canteen of water, and some tools in a knapsack, he could make it back in time. Soon, Jeter was heading to the woods. About an hour later, he saw the tops of trees which had been sheared off. A long tunnel slanting down guided him to the impact site.

Something resembling a large bird cage was wrapped around the charred trunk of a tall cedar. He stepped forward. He winched in pain. Looking down, he saw a lumpy rock. Curious at its color, he picked it up. It was a solid piece of smoky black glass. Had it been part of the spacecraft?

Jeter sat down on a stump, unpacked his lunch, and looked at the sky through the treetop tunnel. Turning, he stared at the twisted metal embedded into the tree. Had it been part of something bigger? Maybe, a whole lot bigger? He had expected to find a meteorite, but something alien or man-made had fallen into the woods. If it had been hardware from NASA or the U.S. military, someone would be coming to look for it. It was likely just a piece from an old satellite or… His mind went through sci-fi scenarios: a North Korean secret weapon, an escape pod from an alien spaceship, an artifact from the future traveling through a wormhole.

A rustling of leaves ended his speculations. Standing up, he walked in the direction of the sound. Not ten feet away was a thick emerald green branch lying under a bush, but it couldn’t be a branch, for it had two legs. He stood there not moving till a moan came from further under the bush. It sent a chill down his spine.

Jeter was a proud stubborn man. He wouldn’t let himself be scared away from a creature in need of help by a measly moan. So, he parted the bush. A familar shape, yet bizarre, it looked like a sunflower with a body, two arms, and two legs. The arms were moving in a feeble attempt to go forward.

Jeter put his hands under it. The skin was soft and moist. He thought it felt like a frog. Turning it up, he stared at the alien sight. There were no eyes, just one small opening in the pink face, if you could call it a face, framed all around by the yellow petals. The face vibrated and there was a moan. Laying it face up on the ground, Jeter wondered how to help.

The hole in its face puckered up. Maybe, it was asking for water. Jeter got his canteen out of the knapsack and poured a little water into a handkerchief. Squeezing a few drops into the face, he watched it drink. It opened its mouth asking for more. Jeter obliged till it was sated.

Jeter didn’t know what else he could do, so he sat back down on the stump, ate his sandwich, observed the creature, and asked himself a heap of questions.

Was it intelligent? Had it occupied that bird cage now wrapped around that tree? Was it an animal, a plant, a combination, or something else? Was it dying? If it recovered, what should he do?

His pondering ended when the creature’s color dulled. By the time, Jeter reached it, the emerald green body and yellow petals were gray. Raising the now limp head, he added some water, but it just gathered at the center.

As he put the dead alien down, a golf ball size smooth gray sphere rolled out of a vertical slit in its body. He picked it up. It was light, and felt strangely comforting. He considered keeping it, but decided it would make him feel he’d stolen it, so he put it back into the pouch.

Jeter buried the alien next to a great oak at the top of a rise. Knowing curious people would come looking, he hid its final resting place. Tomorrow, he would bring Betsy and have her pull the cage out of the tree.

A week after Halloween, Jeter returned to the grave site.

There was a plant growing from the grave, a kind he had never seen before. By December, the plant was half as tall as he, as thick as his thigh, and as hard as wood.

There was a thunderstorm on the last night of April. The next morning, at his door was the sphere… a gift? In front of his home, in the mud, were prints, as if Captain Ahab had lost both feet to Moby Dick and walked away. He looked around, but didn’t see anything outside the usual. Filling up his canteen, he followed the footprints. They led him to where he had buried the alien. The top of the plant was split open.

One thought kept repeating in his mind. My God, what have I done!

Years later, he would judge that year’s Halloween, four years ago, was the last good one. The ones in the following years were pretty tame due to the pandemic, but last year’s was … he didn’t… didn’t want to remember. Yet, some nights…

… An apricot cloud of dust trails behind a parked pickup as Jeter opens its door and steps out. He picks out the plumpest pumpkin from the patch, and plops in on the planks of the pickup. Smiling, he pulls himself into the truck, and heads for his daughter’s suburban home.

Suddenly, he’s parking on their driveway. Just as he steps out, Bruce and Jamie are running across the yard to greet him. He braces himself for the onslaught. Bruce hugs him across his waist while Jamie wraps both arms around one of his legs. Laughing, Jeter scrubs the top of their heads.

Jamie looks up. “Grandpa, did you remember to bring a pumpkin?”

“Sure did. I’m not too old to forget… yet.”

Jamie races to the back of the truck. “Wow! Look, Bruce. Its awesome.”

Bruce climbs over the side of the truck, jumps onto the bed, and sits on the pumpkin. “Look, I’m going to hatch a goblin. Watch out, Grandpa.” He points at his younger brother. “The goblin has hatched.”

Jamie roars, turns, and chases him half way around the truck. Everyone, including Jane and her husband, Chico, who are watching from the front door, laughs.

Chico yells, “Boys, bring your grandpa inside.”

They carve a jack-o’-lantern, get made up into zombies, and rehearse Jackson’s Thriller dance to entertain the neighbors.

Dinner’s main dish is creamed cauliflower for brains with chicken legs.The boys are eating like famished zombies when... The double bang of a screen door slamming against the wall and slamming back against its sill freezes each one for a single second around the dining table.

It came from the house next door. Jeter’s the first to react. Striding to the front door, he pushes it open, and steps out onto the porch. The sun’s dim light paints the clouds in the western sky. That beautiful sight is obliterated by the spectacle on the front lawn next door.

In their early fifties, Mr. and Mrs. Maddital, are the typical overweight suburban couple. Atypical is both of them are frantically digging, Mr. M with a tablespoon and Mrs. M with a soup bowl.

Then, another door slams open, and another, and two more in quick succession. More and more until it sounds like gunfire. Residents are pouring out of their homes as if answering the call of battle.

Then, shoved aside, he stumbles and falls. The breath is knocked out of him, as a foot firmly steps on his back. Another foot, much heavier cracks his fingers. The last one, slams his head on the wooden porch. He lies there for a minute rubbing the back of his head, then staggers upright. Through the haze, he makes out his family digging out clots of grass and dirt like dogs.

“Jane.” Then, the sun rises.

Winching, Jeter turns over onto his back. He’s puzzled at waking on the lawn. Then, horror creeps into his mind, plays back the madness, and spins the world. Dizzy, he stands for a long moment.

On every lawn, bodies stand on their shoulders with arms sunk elbow deep into the soil and legs pointed straight up. Heads are buried. Shoes are scattered. Clothes lie tattered on the grass or hang limp on legs and torsos.

Directly in front and just yards away are Chico, Jane, Bruce, and Jamie. He drops to his knees beside his daughter. Her long tresses lie on the ground around her shoulders. Her neck is barely visible.

Jeter touches her back. It’s warm, hard, and stiff. He tries gently bending it forward, but fails utterly. Tears flow down his cheeks, as he pushes away the dirt around her neck. He jerks his fingers away. Something had reacted, something hard and thin, inches deep within the ground.

Inside, what appears to be a root is next to her neck. With both hands, Jeter shoves the dirt away. He recognizes her face and jerks away. Roots are snaking into the soil from her mouth, nose,…

… Jeter wakes trembling.

That Halloween, he couldn’t get through to anyone. In the morning, with little hope, he packed a few things, and put the alien sphere into a pocket of his jacket, for through the years he had discovered rolling it in his palm soothed him.

He drove through the suburban city. They were everywhere standing with their heads in the ground. He kept driving. Weeks went by. The bodies turned into plants. Cracks appeared in late April. On the next full moon, he watched them climb out… a new species… Homo Van Gogh? They glistened translucent under the moon as if they were in the rain. At sunrise they turned to face the light… to dry… to become emerald green… to unfold their yellow petals.

As days passed, he observed that they communicated by flapping their petals and changing color. They traveled in herds for water or to open fields to stand facing the sun. On nights of the full moon the flowers danced.

He settled down.

Somehow, rolling that sphere in his hand, little by little, day by day, his mind squeezed away his memories.

2004 words
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