A short story written for the Writer's Cramp prompt, 10/26/19.
| Pumpkin Man!
For the last two years, Jasper had taken on the identity of 'Casper the Friendly Ghost' for Halloween. It wasn't so much that he chose to, more that the similarity in names landed him in the role. He was older now. Not too old to dress up, but old enough to make his own decisions.
"Not again," he said, when his mother started washing the decorated sheets ready for Jasper and his younger brother to dress up in. "Chris can be a ghost, but this year I'm going to be someone different.
"Oh, who? I thought you liked being Casper," his mother spoke absentmindedly as she ironed out the creases.
Jasper didn't answer straight away. He wanted to take another minute before he committed himself to wearing orange tights. There was no question in his mind, not really. "I want to be Pumpkin Man."
"But, Jasper, you can't dress up as a pumpkin without a real costume. Are you sure you wouldn't rather be Casper?"
"Yes, I'm sure. And it won't cost you anything. There's a perfect costume in the Bring and Buy store, so long as we go quickly. I've got more than enough pocket money saved up."
Finishing with the iron his mother unplugged it. "Well, come on then, before someone else snaps it up."
Chris did not like the pumpkin costume, but Jasper grabbed it, and walked up to the counter. He counted out his money and handed it over, just before a bunch of other boys walked in.
"Where is it?" asked one.
"Look, that little kid has got it."
Chris moved closer to his mother and Jasper clutched the bag closer to himself. One of the older boys approached him.
"I'll give you what you paid and another ten dollars," he said. He was already reaching out for the bag.
"No thanks," Jasper said.
"You want to think about it? You'll pay if you don't..."
"Are you threatening my son?" Jasper's mother stepped forward and the cashier began to move out from behind the counter.
"Forget him, Mom," Jasper said. "He won't do anything to me. I'll be Pumpkin Man!"
Later in the day Jasper began to get into costume.
"It looks a bit big for you, to be honest." His mother frowned at the leggings, the orange top and the pumpkin head. "Perhaps you should have let the other boy have it. Another year of being Casper wouldn't have been so bad, would it?"
"Yes, Mom, it would. And look, it fits fine." Jasper stood in his leggings and top, and could almost feel them making adjustments so that they did fit his slightly skinny frame. All he had left to put on was the pumpkin head and it fitted perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that he could not get it off.
"Mom, I don't like it," Chris said, not much louder than a whisper.
"Don't be silly, Chris. It's only your brother." She turned to Jasper. "I'm going to help Chris get ready. Are you sure there won't be any trouble from those boys?"
"Positive, Mom. I'm Pumpkin Man! All the other creatures are scared of me." He turned away so that his mother didn't see him fiddling with the head, trying to remove it. It didn't matter, he'd figure it out later.
Chris walked from door to door with his brother, keeping a bit of a distance from him. They were certainly having a bumper night of 'treats'. It was almost as though people in the houses could not wait to get rid of Jasper, and none of the other kids would come near.
It was as they were heading home that Chris caught sight of the boys from the shop. He tugged at his brother's hand, trying to pull him back, but Jasper carried on. "Come on," he said, in a voice that was his but at the same time wasn't. "They don't scare me."
And Jasper carried on towards the group, seeming to get bigger and give off an orange glow. Several of the older boys stepped back, but the leader stood firm, only turning to bolt when a loud voice came from the pumpkin head. "Boo!"
The group scattered and so did Chris, running as fast as his little legs would take him, back to their home. By the time Jasper got back, he was sobbing out the story, and shrieked when his brother walked in to the kitchen.
Jasper didn't say a word. Dropping the 'treats' on the table, he ran up to his bedroom and locked the door.
Frantically, Jasper gripped and tugged at the 'head' but it would not budge. If anything it just got tighter. A strange kind of laughter filled his head. With trepidation, he turned towards the mirror. The reflection was his, but it wasn't, too. It was too tall, too muscular, and the eyes that stared out at him were not his own.
"You wanted to be Pumpkin Man! Well, now you are. And you will stay that way for the rest of the night." The voice was not going to listen to any arguments, Jasper could tell.
"What... what do I have to do?"
"Wait until midnight, then slip outside. You must walk the streets and scare off all the monstrosities."
"But there are no such things," Jasper said.
"Oh, aren't there! And there's no such thing as Pumpkin Man, either?" The eyes in the mirror flashed dangerously.
All through the night, Jasper walked the streets. Vampires drew back, ghosts dissipated; werewolves howled and turned tail while zombies simply sunk down in to the ground, back to where they belonged.
Only when dawn began to break did Jasper make his way home. He was exhausted. He expected a struggle to take off the head, but it came off easily. Placing it carefully on top of his locker, Jasper climbed in to his pyjammas, into his bed, and fell in to a deep and dreamless sleep.