#picturefiction #flashfiction #halloween
“Trick or treat,” four youthful voices shouted in unison.
“Happy Halloween,” Charlotte Brown said and rose from her chair on the porch of her house.
Charlotte was dressed as a witch, but not too scary of a witch – she didn’t want to traumatize the very young kids who might visit her home. She dropped handfuls of candy into the treat bags of a traditional ghost in a sheet, a very green faced zombie, a super hero and character she didn’t recognize but assumed was from some video game popular with the kids.
“You guys look fantastic.”
Charlotte loved Halloween. The creativity of the costumes and the decorations always gave her a thrill. Charlotte had tried unsuccessfully to have children of her own. She was about to begin fertility treatments when Ben got sick and suddenly she was alone in the world. She doubted she would ever find another man like her Ben and now in her mid-forties she knew it was too late to consider pregnancy anyway so she satisfied herself by finding joy in the neighborhood children.
She waved at the children and their beaming parents as they left her property and raced on to their next candy stop. There had been a steady stream of children since 5 o’clock and her candy supply was finally running low. It was almost 9 PM and she decided to give it another half hour and then shut down the lights and indulge herself in a nightcap. Charlotte settled into her chair again and a yawn, wide enough to cause her jaw to make popping noises, surprised her; she would sleep well tonight for sure.
Charlotte opened her eyes. The neighborhood was quiet and her neighbor’s houses were dark. She looked around in chagrin, hoping nobody noticed that she was asleep on her porch. The candy bowl was empty; clearly some youngsters had been by and helped themselves while she slept. She hoped that it wasn’t any of the families she knew well; she’d never live down the embarrassment.
Charlotte glanced down at her watch — 1 AM; she couldn’t believe she had napped for four hours. The rattle of her gate drew her attention. A young girl in a white dress stood holding the gate open. She couldn’t be more than 7 or 8 years old. She wasn’t in any sort of costume but standing behind her was the best costume Charlotte had ever seen. Her companion had to be her father or an older brother; he stood almost 7 feet tall and was bone thin. He wore a rumpled white shirt and tight pants; his legs looked no thicker than Charlotte’s wrist. His hands were long, tipped by pointed talons, more like tree roots than fingers and his head was an enormous Jack-o-Lantern. He shuffled along behind the girl as she approached the steps to the porch.
“Trick or treat,” the little girl said as she climbed the steps.
“Wow, you guys look fantastic. Are you some kind of Jack-o-Lantern monster?”
The little girl looked back over her shoulder at the figure now looming just behind her.
“He’s the Great Pumpkin. Daddy wouldn’t take me trick or treating so I asked him if he would take me instead.”
Charlotte looked up at the pumpkin head. This was the best costume she had ever seen; it not only looked like a real pumpkin but as hard as she tried, she couldn’t make out the face of the man inside.
“Well that’s very nice of him but I’m sorry, I ran out of candy.”
She glanced at her watch again.
“It is very late for a little girl to still be out trick or treating. I’m surprised your parents allow you to be out so late.”
“I had to wait until midnight to summon the Great Pumpkin. Daddy wouldn’t let me go but the Great Pumpkin fixed it so I could go out as late as I want.”
That sounded a bit ominous to Charlotte. Had the person in the pumpkin outfit kidnapped the girl? Was there a parent somewhere wondering where their child had gone?
“Well, like I said, I ran out of candy. I’m sorry that I can’t give you anything but maybe that’s a good reason to head home to your parents. I’m sure they’re wondering where you are.”
“No they’re not.” The little girl literally stomped her foot to show her anger. “I want a treat or the Great Pumpkin will give you a trick.”
Charlotte removed her witch’s hat and struck what she considered her best ‘adult’ pose; it was time to remind this little girl that she needed to respect her elders.
“Now young lady, it’s very late and you’re clearly tired and becoming cranky. Sir, I think it’s high time you escorted your little girl back home. I’m going to bed and it’s well past the time she should have been as well.”
“I told you he’s the Great Pumpkin, not my Daddy.” The little girl was nearly shouting. “If you won’t give me my treat, it’s time for your trick.”
The child stomped down the steps, leaving Charlotte face to face with her costumed companion. Charlotte waited for the man to apologize for his child’s behavior and take control of the situation like a proper adult. Charlotte looked up at the enormous pumpkin face and cocked her head, waiting for him to speak.
Deep within the eye sockets a glow began, it looked like small flames had ignited deep within the pumpkin head. It was one hell of an effect, Charlotte was convinced that the flames were real but they couldn’t be, it was just a costume after all. The fires grew until the eyes radiated an orange light that washed over Charlotte and lit the entire porch.
The Great Pumpkin opened its mouth wide – wider than should have been possible for a mask or makeup. Deep within the thing’s maw Charlotte could see flames and a sound reached her like distant screams echoing from within.
“Trick.” The voice which came from the pumpkin was deep and echoed like it was coming from some deep cave. It chilled Charlotte to her core; this was no costume. She wanted to run, scream for help, but the glowing eyes held her frozen in place.
The creature’s mouth opened wider until the pumpkin was nearly split in half and then it lunged forward and swallowed Charlotte whole.
The Great Pumpkin turned from the empty porch and the fires within it’s head died. It rejoined the girl who giggled when she heard a faint female scream echoing from the Jack-o-Lantern’s mouth.
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