// This is for the autumn prompt. Warning, it is quite long… sorry about that.
Autumn had marked its arrival that year, Susan McDiarmid remembered clearly. It had started soon after the Fall Equinox with a binding frost that chilled the world outside. It soon warmed in the following days but there was always that hint of chill in the air. Susan looked out at her daughter playing near the large growth of thick green plants that marked their family’s pumpkin patch that year.
She was worried about little Abby, it seemed that school was not going well. When she would get home she would come home in a despondent state, drop her school articles and make a beeline for outside. Susan tried to put to a stop to this at first but she noticed after having played outside for a few hours, Abby would come back with a smile and always finished her homework.
Susan tried to ask Abby how school was going but the only responses she would get would be evasive or a generic ‘fine’. She noticed if she pressed too hard Abby would become irritated and clam up from talking about anything period. She would still ask to let Abby know that she was there for her but she knew better than to press for any further details.
“Abby, dear, time to come inside, supper is ready.” Susan called out the back sliding door. Abby’s head turned from the pumpkin patch and her blue eyes seemed to pierce the air.
“Yes mommy.” Abby turned her head back to the pumpkin patch and if Susan didn’t know any better it seemed like she was speaking to it. Abby stood up and ran inside. Susan let her pass inside and then began placing the food on the table. Abby went over to the kitchen sink and washed her hands. She sat at the table and looked at the empty place.
“Is daddy not going to be here again?” Abby asked.
“He has to work late again,” Susan answered her daughter, “It might be some time before he will be able to join us for dinner again.” Abby’s expression drooped with obvious disappointment.
“How was your day?” Susan asked.
“Oh, I made a new friend today,” Abby’s face lighted up with the news she proclaimed.
“That is good news,” Susan said relieved. “Is this someone from school?”
Abby’s face looked like she had swallowed something sour at the mention of school. She shook her head and then replied, “No, he calls himself the Pumpkin Man. He lives in our pumpkin patch. He said he will be my friend forever and ever.”
Susan about dropped her fork at the news. She managed to compose herself. After all, having an imaginary friend was rather normal for a child. She was sorry though that her daughter still hadn’t found a friend at school. “Oh tell me about him? Is he like Linus’ The Great Pumpkin?”
“Don’t be silly mommy. Everyone knows The Great Pumpkin isn’t real. I’m not supposed to tell you anything. He asked me not to. He said he would be my secret friend.”
Susan didn’t know what to say to that. She wanted to ask for more details but she knew better than to press her daughter. They both finished their dinner in quiet.
Susan picked up the phone, “Hello, yes, this is Mrs. McDiarmid. She did what? Yes, I’ll be right there.” She placed the phone on the cradle and looked out the back window, the pumpkin patch seemed to be staring right back at her. She shivered and grabbed her keys and purse and raced to the car.
She came rushing into the Principal’s office almost in a
panic. Between breaths she asked, “Where is my daughter?”
“Mrs. McDiarmid?” The secretary asked. Susan gave a nod of confirmation and the secretary led her to the back office.
Susan saw another concerned mother already there, Mrs. Johnson, her son, Drew, was also in the school a few years older than Abby. Mrs. Johnson didn’t look her in the eyes. The principal, a short stern lady, welcomed her in and explained what had happened. Susan’s eyes widened with the narrative.
“Sweetie, do you know why what you did was wrong?” Susan said trying her best to contain her anger.
Abby looked down and gave a small whimper, “The Pumpkin Man told me it needed to be done.”
“Was he bullying you?”
Abby shook her head. Susan averted her eyes back to the road her knuckles turning white from gripping the steering wheel so hard. She gave a few deep breaths then asked, “Well was he bullying other children?”
Abby shook her head again and said, “He was trying to stop me.”
“Stop you from doing what?”
“I was having the other kids work for me during recess and he called me a bully. Said he had to stop bullies. The Pumpkin Man said that if anyone should try to stop me I should make an example of him.” The air in the car became frigid when Abby finished speaking. Susan’s eyes darted over to Abby and the meek demeanor had vanished, Abby had her head high, looking straight at Susan.
“Abby, you really hurt that boy. He is going to be in the hospital for a long time.”
Abby responded with a tone of pure defiance, “He shouldn’t have tried to stop me.”
“Listen young lady,” Susan snapped while roaring into the driveway. “That is quite enough of that tone. You are grounded, no TV, no video games and you are banned from going outside.”
Abby seemed to take it in stride until Susan mentioned no going outside, she began to scream and shout and her arms began to wave in a flurry. Susan grabbed her by the arm while Abby was shrieking to the whole world about the injustice of it all.
“Stay in your room young lady and think about what you’ve done.” Susan closed the door which did little to muffle the sobs of the girl. After several minutes the screaming finally stopped. Susan peeked into the bedroom and sighed with relief that Abby had gone to sleep.
Susan watched as her husband came through the door. He looked haggard and giant bags were under his eyes. She proceeded to fill him in on all the details.
“Why would she act this way?”
“I don’t know Phil, I don’t know. I am scared of her obsession with this Pumpkin Man. Do you know the other day she mentioned how she gave offerings to him? Come here you have to see this.” She grabbed a flashlight and took him outside. She could swear that the Pumpkin Patch had somehow moved closer to the house. She was starting to hate it.
He gasped as she shown her flashlight on the little sticks poked into the ground. The squirrels had be caught and skinned. He couldn’t be sure but it almost seemed like they were alive when the deed had been done. He asked, “She did this? Our little girl?”
Susan could only nod her head. She looked at him full of worry. He just looked back at her. Neither knew what to say. She broke the silence first, “I think we should tear down this pumpkin patch.”
“I don’t know if that would be a good idea.” He was mulling the thought over. “I don’t know enough but I think it is bad if you try to remove an object of an obsession. We need to find a counselor or someone for her to talk to. Christ, this is serious.”
“I’ve already scheduled an appointment for tomorrow.”
He nodded with approval. “I’ll call in to work tomorrow and come with you. Let’s go back inside now and try to get some rest.” They both knew sleep wasn’t going to come easy that night. A breeze picked up and Susan shivered from the cold autumn night. The pumpkin patch rustled with the breeze. Susan looked at it in the pale light of the moon. It almost seemed like it was laughing. She shook her head trying to knock the thought out and followed her husband into the house.
A faint whisper seemed to move along the house. It crept up the stairs and the door to Abby’s room popped open. The whisper danced its way through the open door and nestled upon her ear.
Abby, come play with me.
She opened her eyes and sat up. She saw the door was open and could feel a slight breeze. She began to follow the silent voice.
Abby, you are very special.
Abby slowly went down the stairs. Her feet barely making a sound. The sliding glass door was open and she could feel the inviting cool breeze drawing her forward to the outside. To the pumpkin patch. She stepped outside.
Susan woke, something was wrong. She didn’t know how but she something was wrong. She tried to hurry out of bed, knocking Phil in the process. He groaned but did wake. She placed her feet into her slippers and stepped into the hallway. She could see Abby’s door was open. She raced to the stairs and could see Abby vanishing into the darkness outside the glass sliding door.
“Abby!” She screamed and rushed down the stairs. The sliding glass door slammed shut and she face planted into it. She could barely make Abby out as she entered the pumpkin patch and then was gone. She pounded and screamed at the door but it wouldn’t budge. Phil’s voice came from the top of the stairs, “Honey, what is going on?”
“It’s Abby, the pumpkin patch has her!” The glass door finally opened with her latest tug and she ran outside into the darkness. Phil chased after her. They both found themselves in the middle of the large pumpkin patch but there was no sign of Abby. They both called out her name but no response. The night breeze rustled the leaves and vines of the pumpkin patch around them. Their daughter had simply vanished.
When the air turns cold,
The leaves grow old,
And pumpkins grow.
The people all a’know
To beware the Pumpkin Man
Like vines he comes with a snarl and twist
Aye the Pumpkin Man
Nothing can keep a child from that tryst.
// Sorry for the bad poetry but you can help yourself to a cookie on my account for having read this far. 🙂