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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Holiday · #2170516
What is it like to become a Jack-O-Lantern on Halloween?
"Holiday Short Story Contest (HSSC) prompt: carving a pumpkin

Pumpkin Head waited for the magic to happen. He’d carved himself out a place in the pumpkin field above all others. It was his honored head placed on the newest Halloween scarecrow where the corn grew thickest up near the forest place.

He did a lot of thinking, having nothing else to do. “Why is everyone so afraid of the forest?” Sure, it looked dark and dismal. Strange haunting sounds came to the ears of corn making them vibrate on their stalks when there was no wind.

Sounds never hurt anyone. They might scare a flock of crows away when Farmer Bean shouted at them. That was all. It never really hurt anything. The crows flocked back when he was gone to scavenge for corny treats, cawing contentedly among themselves about crow things.

What was really scary was what happened to the choice pumpkins not sold along with the rest of the harvest. Three of the biggest pumpkins sat one above the other on Farmer Bean’s back three wooden steps, glowing their evil faces in the night. It looked like they were still screaming from being cut up, their innards pulled out, and candles lit inside their hollow selves.

“My, they look scary enough to make any visiting ghost disappear or any witch fly her broom the other way.” Pumpkin Head didn’t believe all those old folk tales about what happened at Halloween time in the haunted forest. He figured they were old wives tales to keep the kids from getting lost while wandering out there.

His favorite kid was Jim Bean, the little five-year-old that came out and talked to him. Grown-ups never gave him a second glance, didn’t know he was still alive up there on the top of the scarecrow. Jim Bean did. They were old friends and each other’s favorite. Here he was again

“How can you scare things away if you can’t see them.” Jimmy Bean said. That made perfect sense to Pumpkin Head. If he had real eyes he could see things much better.

“How can you smell evil things if you don’t have a nose?" Jim Bean demanded while wiggling his own and sniffing.out loud.

That made perfect sense as well to Pumpkin Head’s invisible ears. A little magic was given him when he was thrust up on this very post. When Farmer Bean imagined him as a head he had become one. He could see and smell, hear, and if he chose, even talk but only to those who knew how to listen to Pumpkin Head.

“I’m going to help you.” Jimmy Bean flourished a razor sharp knife that flashed in the sunlight. “I’m going to turn you into the scariest Jack-O-Lantern there is.” He’d practiced on Pumpkin Head’s three brothers over by the house. Each carving looked scarier than the one before. The first one looked kind of silly if you asked Pumpkin Head which no-one did.

It was a little tricky standing still while Jimmy Bean wielded his blade from the top of a rickety ladder leaning against the scarecrow’s wide arms. Some of the straw ticking spilled away in the cold fall air. It tickled having his seedy insides grabbed and pulled out by the youngster’s small hand. “There. That’s where your seeds belong is on the ground. I’ll cover them up so we’ll have more big pumpkins like you next year.”

Pumpkin Head nodded sagely in agreement. That is where his insides belonged after all was said and done. “Hold still,” demanded the boy, carving out two eyes, a nose, and then the curve of a mouth.

Something was wrong. Pumpkin Head couldn’t see, smell, or talk any better than before. It wasn’t until that Halloween eve when Jimmy Bean installed the family silver candlestick passed down from year to year and lit him up that the magic happened.

“Thank you,” gushed Pumpkin Head, blinking his eyes. “That is much better.”

Jimmy Bean smiled back. “You are the best scarecrow ever. I’m going to be the best ghost trick or treating tonight, right?”

Pumpkin Head heard and saw the haunted forest ghosts take flight at the sight of him. “My goodness, there really are such things.” The witches turned their brooms around and headed the other way. “Their screeching sounded just like night owls. Who would have believed real witches roam those dark forest trees.” He said with a big scary grin on his face.

His three brother Jack-O-Lantern’s on Farmer Bean’s back steps grinned and chuckled. Not an evil spirit dared come close except one brave young witch who seemed not scared at all.

Pumpkin Head had to warn his brothers not to gobble her up. His piercing eyes detected the little witch was just Jimmy Bean’s best human friend come to go trick or treating with him. “Whew. Close call. Good thing Jimmy Bean made a Jack-O-Lantern out of me or who knows what would have happened during the magic of Halloween.”

All through the long hours of that magical spellbinding night, Pumpkin Head stood guard allowing only the special good magic of childhood laughter and delight to invade the air. Exhausted by dawn’s early light he surprised himself by giving up his own ghost to fly where pumpkin ghosts go, unseen over the pumpkin field. There, along with his three brothers, they could boast of their Halloween night they had guarded so well.

Sometimes Jimmy Bean came out to visit and listen to the wind talk to him about Halloween’s in the past. The corn stalks shivered and sometimes a strange light would glow from Pumpkin Head as he returned to whisper secrets only little boys could know if they had eyes to see, noses to sniff, and mouths closed tight while they listened with open ears not to wander into the haunted forest.
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