Fiction Horror Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

It was a stupid idea to buy the pumpkin, but when Deanna saw that perfect, picturesque gourd shining amongst its lumpy, bumpy cousins, something in her screamed to bring it home.

It looked like it had been plucked straight from a children’s cartoon about celebrating the magic of Hallowe’en. A curling brown stem, pristine, blemish-free flesh the colour of autumn leaves. And its size! Hefty, but not oversized to the point of being grotesque.

That last part of its charm vanished ten minutes into Deanna’s walk home from the grocery store. Knowing she’d have to carry it while waiting in line, its weight already straining at her shoulders, she still couldn’t help herself. There was something about the pumpkin, something that called to her with an intensity she could not explain or ignore.

Deanna carried it home.

It was late October, and the world was dim.

Every tree on her quiet suburban street shone with vibrant autumn colours. Coppery oranges, sunny yellows, ruby reds. Leaves were strewn across every lawn by gusting winds. In the fading afternoon light, she felt as though she lived inside a painting.

When Deanna finally arrived home, she moved without deliberation; gently setting the pumpkin on the breakfast table, discarding coat, scarf, and gloves, preparing the work surface. Newspaper pulled from the recycling bin to catch any spillage, bowls for the guts, and, most crucial, a knife, sharp and shining for a clean job.

The pumpkin was flawless from all angles, but Deanna still spent minutes rotating the squash to find its true face. She grasped knife, the handle cool against her palm, and began cutting.

She lost herself to the act of creation. The blade sliced, her hands scooped and after an hour, Deanna stopped.

Narrow, triangular eyes, a pointed nose, and a jagged, fiendish grin. Almost done.

Deanna washed her hands and returned with the finishing touches; a tealight and a box of matches.

Strike, sizzle, fire. The candle alight, she carefully placed it in the bottom of the pumpkin. Finally, the lid was slid back into place.

The jack-o’-lantern was complete.

Deanna gazed at her creation. Never one for arts and crafts, the near clinical precision she executed today surprised her. The face was sharp, symmetrical, and slightly more sinister than she thought herself capable of designing. Perfect porch décor for the seven days leading to Hallowe’en.

Now that the pumpkin had a face, she felt she must give him a name.

“Hmm, how about Jack?”


“I know, I know, not the most original, but let’s just go with it,” she said. “Your name is Jack.”

The room flooded with light, and a wave of thunder rolled through the street. Deanna yelped. The large windows in her living room darkened, grey clouds prowling overhead, and a shadowy figure stood on her porch.

The figure moved. A moment later the doorbell rang, followed by three swift bangs that rattled the door in its frame.

Deanna could feel the blood pounding her ears. How long had that guy been standing there, watching her? Something cool and wet slapped against her thigh. The knife in her shaking hands. She couldn’t remember picking it up. Pumpkin seeds stuck to the blade and the handle was sticky and warm.

She set it back on the table beside Jack. His candle was nearly lost in a sea of light. Deanna stared. It seemed too bright. Something was different, the eyes—


More annoyed than scared, she left Jack and strode from the kitchen. Peeking through the frosted window she saw a familiar silhouette. Deanna paused, took a deep breath, and opened the door to a handsome, smiling face.

“Dee,” the man drawled.

“What do want, Paul?”

“Just checking in. I wanted to see how you were doing.”

“I’m fine.”

Paul peered over Deanna’s shoulder. He could see straight into the kitchen from the door, and he was probably revelling in the idea that she was all alone, carving a pumpkin like a little kid.

“You should go,” she said, moving to close the door.

A hand slapped against wood. “Dee, I just wanna talk. I think we made a mistake.”

Deanna looked into those clear blue eyes. Despite the warm smile and soft gaze, a chill ran through her body, unrelated to the howling storm.

“No, we didn’t, and I don’t want to talk. Please just leave me alone.”

“Come on, just let me in and we can figure this out. You’re just gonna leave me out in this weather?” Paul shoved the door. 

Deanna, ignoring her much smaller frame, stood in the opening of her home and held her ground, hoping the look in her eyes was as paralyzing as his. Paul frowned, opening his mouth to speak but instead jerked a step back. He stared past her.

“Who was that?”

Deanna stilled. She was alone. Paul was just screwing with her head again. “No one.”

“Quit lying, Dee. I know someone’s in there.” He leered at her. “On a date, huh? Not even two weeks later and you’ve already got a new boy toy?”

“What are you talking about? There’s no one here.” Deanna didn’t glance over her shoulder to check despite her growing paranoia, didn’t dare to let her eyes leave his face.

Lighting struck and thunder rolled. “I told you to stop lying to me. I saw him. I know he’s in there. Hey!” He shouted down the hall, demanding the invisible stranger come out and face him.

“Knock it off!”

Anything that once was beautiful in his face was soured, poisoned by the hateful scowl he pinned on her. “All this lying, Dee. You know it’s why we broke up, you untrustworthy bitch.” He scoffed. “You’re not worth the trouble.”

Deanna waited but despite his words, Paul didn’t leave. He only stood and stared. The seconds dragged. When he still hadn’t moved, Deanna slammed the door closed, locked it, and slid the deadbolt in. She counted three heartbeats until his footsteps dropped onto the creaky porch steps and disappeared down the path.

The storm continued to rage.

After a few deep breaths and a full minute leaning against the cool door, Deanna stood in her kitchen again. It was filled with the subtle, sweet smell of pumpkin pie. She looked to Jack. Maybe the candle was cooking him on the inside.

She grasped his stem and pulled. It didn’t budge.

“That’s weird,” she muttered, lifting the pumpkin. It almost looked like the seam of the lid had vanished, that he was whole again.

Deanna looked into those glowing eyes. An October from her childhood flooded her memory, a day at school when they learned about the history of jack-o’-lanterns.

“Originally, the Irish carved turnips,” her teacher said. “They would set them outside their homes or in their windows to ward off evil during the festival of Samhain.”

Everything about today had been weird. Despite living in a safe neighbourhood, she was still a single woman in her twenties living alone. She figured she could use a little protection.

“If you can keep him away from me,” she said in a low voice, “you can be as weird as you like.”

The candle flickered. Deanna might have sworn Jack winked.

Rain continued to pour, but the thunder and lighting moved on. Deanna figured Jack would get ruined in the weather, so she set him on the mantel in her living room. She wanted him close to the window.

Deanna cleared away the newspaper and guts, washed and returned the knife to its drawer. By the time she finished, the sky was black and the sidewalk glowed orange from the streetlamps.

Weary, and with a final goodnight for Jack, she went to bed.

The next morning, Deanna readied herself for work, determined to return to normality.

She performed her morning skincare routine, had her breakfast, dressed, and grabbed her purse and keys from the table beside the front door. She cast a quick glance at Jack and froze.

The pumpkin was still glowing.

Deanna shuffled towards the mantel. The room smelled like pumpkin pie, stronger now than last night. The candle had disappeared completely, the light emanating from some invisible source within.

Deanna’s mind reeled. She couldn’t put a name to what she was feeling, but knew it wasn’t bad. Shocked and confused, sure, but she wasn’t scared.

She looked at Jack. He stared right back.

Deanna broke away first, scooping a handful of candy corn from the dish on the mantel. It was notably emptier than she’d left it the night before. She glanced at Jack one last time before topping off the dish and leaving for work.

When she got home, she went straight for Jack, the dish almost completely emptied, save for one last scoop. She laughed, taking the last of the candy corn. A low chuckle floated through the air, the sound like a crackling campfire.

Later, she came home with five extra bags of the autumn-coloured treats in her groceries.

Over the following days, Deanna learned plenty about Jack. She learned he could move on his own but only did it when she wasn’t home. She learned to leave bowls of candy corn throughout the house, otherwise he would raid her cupboards for more. She learned he loved bad horror movies.

The whole house smelled like pumpkin pie. It was comforting and warm, and her ex-boyfriend hadn’t shown up once since that first day she brought Jack home.

She pulled into her driveway. Jack’s face glowed in the windowsill. She’d grown used to his hopping around, but this was the first time he’d appeared there. He pointed away from the car, his glow intense and face somehow more sinister.

Inside, Deanna followed his gaze. At the end of her block the street curved away. Tucked right on the corner, nearly out of sight, was a black car. Deanna was familiar with most of the vehicles on her street, except for this one. It was dirty, a cheaper model than the average car in her neighbourhood. A chill crawled up her spine and settled at the nape of her neck. She drew the curtains, leaving just enough of a gap for Jack.

The next night, the night before Hallowe’en, Deanna dreamt. She stood alone in a moonlit forest, a pair of glowing, orange eyes watching her from the shadows, coming closer until—


Deanna rocketed out of bed. Sweat coated her neck and palms, her breaths rushing in and out in shaky bursts, her heart pounding against her ribcage.

Jack. Her mind conjured nothing else. She dove from the bed and rushed downstairs to find the pumpkin.

A breeze raced through the house. Deanna traced it to the kitchen. The door to the backyard hung wide open, swinging against the exterior wall in the wind. Jack sat on the kitchen island facing the door, his glow the only light and illuminating the outside. Something on the fence gleamed.

The smell of pumpkin pie was overwhelming.

Deanna approached the doorway. The backyard was empty. With Jack watching, she stepped into the cool night.

Deanna recognized the shining object. The knife jut from the fence, the tip two inches deep in the wood. It was the same one she used to create Jack.

After three hard pulls the blade came free. It was still sharp.

As she stared down at the knife in her hand, she caught sight of something that made her blood run cold. Another rainstorm passed through that morning, and in the mud, Deanna saw large, heavy boot prints. She tracked their path; starting right where she stood, they moved towards her backyard door, stopping only a few feet away, before turning around and disappearing at the fence again.

Deanna let the cool air wick away the sweat. The moon was full. She looked to Jack, glowing and menacing in her kitchen.

Deanna pulled the door closed behind her, locked it, and left the knife beside Jack on the counter.

She didn’t dream again.

Hallowe’en arrived. The foliage was still beautiful, though the trees nearly bare after two rainstorms. The wind blustery, and the sky gloomy and gray. It was a scene straight out of the opening of a horror movie.

Despite the growing dread of the preceding days, Deanna looked forward to tonight. Handing out candy to kids was her favourite part of Hallowe’en. She loved meeting the sweet babies dressed as plump pumpkins and feign terror for the kids who came out as devils or witches or ghosts.

Jack moved back to the living room, now perched on a side table, a remote instead of a shining blade by his side.

The knife sat on the counter. Deanna didn’t move it. Instead, she triple checked the locks on all the doors and windows, curled up on the sofa, and turned on the TV.

As she snacked on more candy corn (surprised she wasn’t sick of them yet) and watched yet another teenager run upstairs instead of out the front door, her thoughts drifted to Jack. She had no idea how long he might stay with her, and though a part of her hoped it would be forever, another part knew the spell must end. The clock would strike midnight and Jack would melt into a moldy pile of goo. She would be alone again. The evil would return.

But tonight, Jack didn’t have any plans, and neither did she. Together, they waited for the first trick-or-treaters.

Hours passed. The floods of costumed kids slowed to a weak stream as the last of the most thorough children wandered the streets.

Yet another campy horror movie played on the TV, a teen romance about a werewolf and vampire falling in love. It was deliciously melodramatic.

The supernatural couple were about to share their first kiss when the screen went dark. Deanna paused with a piece of candy corn half-way to her mouth. Abandoning the treat, she reached for the remote, slow to realize the light the only light in the house was coming from Jack.

Deanna moved to the window and pulled the curtains aside. The streetlamps were still on. She watched the last group of kids disappear around the curve.

Parked there, further away but still not quite enough, was the dirty, black car.


Glass shattered onto the kitchen floor. A lock clicked open. Shards slid across linoleum, cracking under heavy footfall.

Deanna slid to the floor. The footsteps continued, slow and deliberate. With a hand pressed firmly against her mouth, Deanna listened. They disappeared up the stairs.

She should run. She would probably even make it out, but her eyes were stuck on the jack-o’-lantern, his face projected on the wall.

Let's end this, Deanna. Tonight. The voice scraped through her mind like dry leaves across pavement, a reminder her she had a choice. She could run for it.

Or take a stand.

Deanna, keeping low and out of the light, moved towards the kitchen.

The house stood silent. Deanna tucked herself into a corner in the dining room, knife in hand, wedged between Jack and the intruder.

Her heart thudded.


She waited.


Footsteps coming down the stairs.


Turning the corner.


Nearing the dining room.


Deanna leapt, the knife swinging. A hand caught her wrist and wrenched her body forward. Another grabbed a fistful of hair and yanked her skull back. Deanna screamed.

Her body was thrown into the living room. She slid across the coffee table. More glass shattered. Candy corn and blade went flying.

She lay on her side, choking for air, struggling to move.

More heavy footsteps. She was flipped onto her back. Knees straddled her hips. Two thick hands wrapped around her throat.

Deanna looked right into Paul’s clear blue eyes as he snuffed the life from her.

His face twisted into a vicious snarl. He was spitting, muttering nonstop.

“Stupid bitch, stupid lying bitch. I saw him moving every night, throwing knives. Poor Dee, all alone. Liar! Lying to me, told you to quit lying, Dee. Stupid bitch…” Paul’s words dissolved into incoherent mumbling as Deanna’s vision blurred and darkened.

One hand scratched at his arms, face, eyes, but he didn’t react, far too determined in his madness to end her life. Another pawed at the floor. Everything went black. She was going to die.

The room filled with the smell of pumpkin pie.

Cool, hard plastic connected with her palm.

Deanna recalled how the knife felt cutting through pumpkin flesh. It was not entirely unlike plunging it into a person’s ribcage, into someone’s stomach, into her ex-boyfriend’s heart.

Paul fell. The handle jumped in his chest. Blood soaked into the carpet, stained the candy corn on the floor.

As he convulsed and choked on his last breaths, Deanna passed out.

She woke to the sound of the doorbell ringing, a door opening, and a chorus of children oohing and awing.

“Cool costume, mister!”

Crackling fire. “Thanks kid. Happy Hallowe’en.” The voice was like dry leaves scraping across pavement.

Candy dropping into bags, plastic wrinkling.

Slowly, Deanna sat up. Her head throbbed. Her throat burned. And she was alone.

A door closed. Distant whistling.

There was no body. There was no Jack. No blood, no knife, no mess.

A fresh bowl of candy corn sat on the coffee table.

Deanna crawled to the window and pulled back the curtain.

A familiar silhouette stood in the middle of the street. Two familiar silhouettes.

The pumpkin-headed man waved. Deanna raised her fingers and weakly shook them.

Satisfied, Jack turned on his heal and began a slow, lazy amble down the street, whistling all the while. Deanna watched his glow until it disappeared around the curve.

Her eyes instead found the bowl of candy corn. Maybe it was his way of saying thanks for the body!

But Deanna had so much more to be thankful for.

Jack, true to his word, took the evil away.

October 28, 2022 23:10

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Eliza Troy
21:32 Nov 02, 2022

I really enjoyed reading this story. Unique idea. Well done! The only thing that threw me off was the car - wouldn’t she recognize it? Or maybe she did?


C. J. Peters
00:42 Nov 03, 2022

Thank you for commenting! I thought of it as Paul knowing she would recognize his car, so he went out and bought a cheap, junk one just for prowling around her neighbourhood, though I totally get why that might not be super obvious haha


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Rebecca Miles
21:21 Oct 30, 2022

My favourite part of this was how you describe the carving of the pumpkin; it set the scene perfectly for this horror number.


C. J. Peters
09:27 Nov 01, 2022

Thank you!


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Renee Atherton
05:03 Oct 29, 2022

I LOVE this!! Original, and well done! WOW!


C. J. Peters
18:00 Oct 29, 2022

Thank you so much!


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