The Greatest Halloween of All Time

Submitted into Contest #169 in response to: Write a murder story where the murder weapon is the knife used to carve a pumpkin.... view prompt


Thriller Suspense

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

I hate Halloween. Candy wrappers litter the recess yard, cars line the sidewalk with their trunks raised, and pieces of costume decorate the playground. My heels, stuffed into a pair of ugly brown boots, dig into the concrete as my mother - curse her soul - pulls my arm. Too bad for her, I crossed them tight around my chest.

"Don't you want candy?" she coos, encouraging me into the line of witches, Power Rangers, and Vampires.

No. I don't want candy. My variety bag I brought home the other day had been rifled through and ripped apart by my brothers, leaving me nothing but pretzels and circus peanuts. Whatever I brought home from today would be met with the same fate.

"I want to go home," I grumble, taking a seat on the concrete. The string from my large hat tickles my cheeks, but the brim keeps the wind at bay so I keep it on.

"If you walk through the line, we'll carve pumpkins at the end," she reasons.

Dangit. She knows how to break me.

I stand, taking her hand and letting it hang up at her side. I keep my head down, counting peoples ankles and hiding behind the brim. The red and brown farmer's outfit I was forced into that morning shines in the sun, and I hold my arm to hide the light. Mother mozy's from car to car, chatting with other parents who try their hand at getting a response from me. After the disappointment of a missing "Trick or treat," Mother thins her lips and makes her way to the next car. I restart my count of ankles.

I reach 48 before the sidewalk ends. In the grass, tables are arranged, and orange guts with seeds scatter the tarp below. Kids sit in folding chairs as parents carve pumpkins over their shoulder, and I look for an empty seat when I spot it.

The light bounces off the orangest, plumpest pumpkin, sitting at the edge of a table with a stack of templates and a carving knife next to it. I take a step, feeling the pull of the perfect pumpkin.

My brothers aren't here. I could carve this by myself and they couldn't take it away from me.

I make it to the chair. It's the same height at me, but standing in it, I gaze down at the curved stem. On the table, a silver knife glints.

I extend my arm to grab the blade.

"Here, let me help," Mother said, taking the knife in her hand before I register her presence. She stands next to me, lining the knife with the top the cut the stem.

As the tip begins to sink, I gasp, "No!"

She halts.

"What's the matter?"

I put my hand above hers on the handle. "I want to do it."

"Oh," she hesitates, taken aback by my sudden enthusiasm. "We'll let me help you; the knife is sharp."

"I know," I say. "I don't need help. I want to do it myself." She doesn't remove her hand, and I tighten my grip over hers.

A few breaths pass before she pulls away. "Okay," she breathes. "We need to empty out the pumpkin first, okay?" I nod, and wrap both hands around the handle of the carving knife. I'm glad she trusts me more than the other kids around. Maybe it's because I'm not a baby, or I can really handle myself, but either way I prepare myself.

With both hands around the handle, I plunge the knife into the top, pulling it down to open it up. But the plump pumpkin wobbles, and turns with the force.

Without a word, Mother pulls another chair up and steadies the gourd for me. The knife passes easily with her assistance. She turns it for me, and I open the top.

"Good job," she says, as if I'm the dog. She stands, pulling a spoon out of the icy air that I hadn't noticed before. She goes for the opening, and I dig both my hands into the stringy guts of the pumpkin before she could reach it.

"Aha," I shriek, clenching and unclenching my hands to get a good feel before ripping the bulk from the strings, raising it from the top, and throwing it on the ground with a satisfying "plop!" I'm giggling, my mother smiles, and for a moment it's only us and this pumpkin in the world.

I continue ripping the innards out, smiling and laughing the whole while.

"Alright, honey, what picture do you want?" Mother says, attempting to pull me from my trance. "I'll sketch it on for you."

"No," I say, throwing the last of the gunk onto the ground. Strings and seeds remain, but I grab the knife and plunge it into the face of the pumpkin. "I know what I want to do."

"No, you can't-" Mother grabs my wrist, pulling the knife from its small gash. "You need to know where to cut."

"I know where to cut," I say, wrenching from her grip and plunging the knife into a new slit. This section of pumpkin was thicker, and the knife only submerged halfway. I yanked it out only the plunge it into a different area.

"Stop," Mother says, grabbing my wrist. "You're gonna hurt yourself." I halt, turning my stare towards her. She huffs, but holds up the stack of paper templates of ghost faces and black cat silhouettes. "You can carve, but let me sketch on the image for you." Her hand tightens on my wrist, and and the knife slides out.

She pulls the pumpkin towards her on the table, going about taping a template of her choosing to the un-gashed face of the pumpkin. She sits in the chair next to me, and I look down from where I'm standing on mine, rage boiling under my skin and the site of her touching the pumpkin. For a moment, I consider plunging the knife into the pumpkin as she tapes away, and imagine the gasp.

But instead I plunge it into her side, and it slides in easier than any pumpkin.

"I said, I know where to cut." With a squelch, I wrench the knife free and pull the pumpkin back. Mother sputters next to me, choking and falling against the table. Crimson smears against the orange as I continue carving.

It takes a few moments before anyone realizes. But it gives me time. The original two slits allow for two eyes, and I carve a smile from the third. Another mom screams when mine hits the ground, and a crowd forms.

I'm taken away. A grown-up attempts to question me, but I watch the Pumpkin Face smile as I'm pulled from my mother's body. Maybe Halloween wasn't so bad, I thought. It wasn't about the candy, or even the costumes. The gash-y smile punctured into the pumpkin imprinted on my brain, and I grinned at the memory from the police car to the small, concrete room I was placed. As each Halloween passes, the Institution I was placed in held carving contest. But I didn't mind them not allowing my participation. I had already carved my greatest pumpkin of all time.

October 26, 2022 22:32

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