Jack

October 1, 2017 | By More

What is it that makes me nervous you ask? It’s just this pumpkin. I bought it yesterday from some roadside stand along Highway 64. There was something about the stand that called to me. In fact, I heard a voice plain as day tell me to stop as a black and white banner stretched above the old pickup flapped in the breeze. Weirdly, the farmer knew my name even before I introduced myself. “Why hello, Jack,” he said as bony elongated fingers extended toward my hand. I hesitated reciprocation in puzzlement, certain we had not previously been introduced. He was incredibly gaunt with stabbing coal-black eyes. Shoulder-length silver strands spilled from under an enormous straw hat. A buzzard nose extended beyond the brim.

I said I couldn’t recall ever meeting before, but he said that didn’t matter. He said all that mattered was that I was here to buy a pumpkin and I’d chosen the right farmer to buy it from. A dozen or so orange orbs rested on the rusted tailgate of what was once a black pickup. And then I heard my name again in the brisk October air. I turned toward the farmer. “Beg your pardon?” I asked. His response was only silence and one raised brow, so after a brief exchange of eye contact I set once more to choosing a pumpkin.

They were all identical even down to cuts from the vine. The neat slices were peculiar and still oozing pumpkin sap. But one stood out with a hideous bluish-gray spot like an eye in shape and placement, adorning its shell. My blood ran cold as the eye that was not an eye seemed to peer through me, yet, I could not look away. It was like the dull eye of a vulture scanning the horizon for death. The sinister implications both frightened and intrigued me. I must have it if perhaps only to destroy it. A quick shiver quaked through me as I gave the farmer money. With a courteous nod toward him, I stride to the car carrying the pumpkin by the neatly severed and still dripping stump that once connected it to earth.

At home, I place the pumpkin on the porch. The terrible eye I face toward the wall. It’s gaze had tormented me all the way home, leering at me from the passenger seat. As I walk through the front door, the thoughts of cutting it out caused a jolt of giddiness to surge through my body escaping with an involuntary chortle. Smiling, I rummaged through kitchen drawers and found the heavy-bladed butcher knife and whetstone. The hiss of cold steel on rock was relaxing. But now I hear a gentle tapping… or more like a rhythmic thumping from the front porch.

Thump thump… thump thump… thump thump…

I pause and listen with earnest

Thump thump… thump thump…

A finger of dread traces a line up my spine.

Cautiously, with knife in hand, I return to the porch and am met by the piercing focus of the pumpkin’s eye! But how? A red rage courses through my soul but it quickly subsides into chilling unease. I must rid myself of this dread — I would carve the pumpkin immediately!

My first tentative stab barely pierced its hide. But my next attempt — oh, it’s an impressive thrust — slices through the husk with vigor! I set upon the poor pumpkin with abandon, sawing through and pulling free its crown, exposing its innards to the brisk fall air!

Piles of pumpkin guts are everywhere. The seeds and fleshy, slimy filaments inside a pumpkin strewn hither and yon, from the front steps to the front door. I’ve been working on it for while, elbow deep in excavation, and it feels like I’m getting nowhere. The heap looks bigger than what could fit inside the pumpkin, and yet, there’s still more inside.

I spin the pumpkin on its axis and pause, grinning at the cloudy eye, my hands buried in the cold fibrous strings and hay-colored seeds, savoring the soon-coming moment when I would hack the gray oval into oblivion. But first, I shall scrape the hull.

Turning the eye again toward the porch wall, I rise and stride back to the kitchen for a table spoon when from the porch came the soft sounds of movement.

Thump thump… thump thump… thump thump…

I rush back to the porch with spoon in hand to find the eye, again, trained on me! How could this be! Where was the devilish trickster taking joy in my distress? “Who is there? Show yourself,” I yelp. A sighing breeze and clattering oak leaves are the only response. The situation grows more vexing by the second, my nervousness rising with the racing thoughts.

Turning my attention once more to the pumpkin, I feverishly scrape the remnants of life from its interior, rendering it nothing more than a husk. Then focusing my ire on the terrible eye, plunging the blade into it over and over before carving my own ocular openings, a nose and mouth!

Shadows lengthen and velvet twilight envelopes the fading day as I finish. My tension dissipates with the light as the stupid expression — made by my hand — adorning the pumpkin urges a deep guttural chuckle. The chunk of pumpkin eye, its gray gaze unsetting even now, I cut into slivers then toss to the compost pile. The eye would haunt me no more.

Hours later, the dim glow of candlelight shimmers in the thick blackness of a moonless night as I peer the front door glass. The pumpkin, illuminated by a waxy blaze within, sits on the porch in silent vigil of the steps. I sigh with contentment and turn toward the kitchen for late night refreshments when a soft thudding stops me mid-step.

Whirling to the door, anxiety clutching at my throat, I frantically scan the porch through the pane. Nothing moves save the flicker of lighted wick. But something is different… something is askew, though, I cannot determine for the life of me what it is. Perhaps it is simply my nightly worriment, my gently creeping angst as the clock ticks onward toward the depths of darkness. Perhaps it is best if I go to bed and try to sleep. All shall be well in the glorious light of dawn. I turn.

Thump thump…

I wheel to the glass once more and find that the pumpkin’s face so carefully carved by my hands is gone and the dull cesious eye leering at me yet again! Its pupil the yellow fire of a candle flame and that same fire dancing in the hollowed cavern of the pumpkin’s corpse casts ghastly shadows on the wall and pillars of my porch! I scream and run to retrieve the knife freshly cleaned after my first mutilations of the pumpkin that were now gone as if the pumpkin was never touched by hands!

Back to the threshold, I fling open the heavy wooden door and it’s screened mate making hurried strides toward the pumpkin with raised knife and grim determination in my heart. The pumpkin’s soul is reduced to a tapering blackened smolder as I set upon it with fury, plunging the blade into it’s cold and fearsome eye! How did it reassemble? Did the pumpkin regenerate? Surely some person did this! Who stood out there in the chill October night snickering at my foolishness? “Coward, show yourself!” I screech into the moaning breeze over and over. But no answer comes forth. No instigator emerges from the gloom.

Satisfied with only cutting out the eye, I replace the pumpkin to its post and return to the lighted warmth of my living room with a relaxing beverage. Slowly, the anxiety drains from my vessels and the weight of drowse pulls heavy on my lids when that soft yet heavy trepidation causing sound resonates in my ears.

Thump thump… thump thump…

Dare I look through the glass again? Dare I check the pumpkin? Dare I?

But I must, and so I do, and from the stairs the pumpkin’s eye stares at me yet again! Terror clutches my intestines in a clammy grip! Gasping through my shock, I hyperventilate! I turn away from the door and anger replaces fear! Brandishing the knife, I step with boldness onto the porch and call out for my tormenters again! “Do you dare attempt to frighten me!” I roar into the night. I roam through the yard calling aloud for my antagonist. My search carries me onto the street and throughout the neighborhood. I knock on every door. Porch lights flick on and I stand, knife at the ready, howling for the guilty to come forth. “I know it was you!”

Fearful darting eyes watch me from every window, but I don’t care! This will end now!

The flashing of blue lights jars me back to some semblance of sanity. I ask the officers what is going on as they attach handcuffs and lead me to the car. And then, from the corner of my eye, I catch a shadowed globular form, it’s orange dulled in the darkness, but glowing with an evil dull glimmer I catch the reflecting light of something sinister focused on that blue-gray spot. As I plead with the officers, the eye looks through me in stoic silence. It peers through to my soul.

And then, as I try to calm myself in the backseat, I hear a dull metallic thump from the car’s roof. Thump thump… THUMP on the trunk lid.

I dare not turn around, but in the rearview mirror I catch the reflection of a blue gray eye boring into my mind.

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