As I run my fingers through the cobwebs here, thought it might be an amusing way to kickstart this blog thing again, or at least for a while. We'll see.
First up, an oldie but a goodie, or at least a creepy damn thing: "The Perfect Pumpkin." It's been published a few times, probably my most reprinted piece, actually. I mean in anthologies and not just on my blog, of course.
In a few days, I'll post another Halloween horror tale, a flash piece. But for now, here we go.
The Perfect Pumpkin
by John Claude Smith
“If it wasn’t a week before Halloween, I’d be scared
crazy. But I know you well enough,
Danny, to know that you like to tell stories, and I’ve already heard this one a
dozen times over the last two weeks.”
“But it’s true, Melinda.
Cutter’s farm is where old Dr. Ranier does abortions, or at least did
them. Look, it’s perfect: it’s just far
enough out of town as to be kind of anon … anonymous. He used to be a doctor, a…a baby doctor—”
“Yeah, yeah, an obstetrician. And he was disbarred—”
“That’s for a lawyer.”
“Well, shit, Brainiac!
He lost his license and moved out here, about ten, maybe
twelve-years-ago, and since he’s not really a farmer, he has to have some
income, so he—”
“So he sets up office as a country abortionist.”
“And the babies are supposed to come back to haunt anybody
“Stop! I’ve heard
enough. He must be doing some farming
now, otherwise, where’d all these pumpkins come from?”
“I dunno, they must grow wild. Creepy stuff, eh?”
“Just nightmares or rumors.
Made-up stories meant to scare teenagers from having sex, and in this
case, ‘cause of the abortionist slant, getting pregnant and all that. Kind of a gruesome safe sex message, don’t
you think? And isn’t that what all
horror stories made primarily for teenagers are up to, anyway? Just like in the movies, if you’re a teenager
and you have sex, the boogyman’s gonna get you—ooooOOOOOoooo, I am so frightened.”
With whiplash precision, she shifted her attitude from
mockingly scared to salaciously seductive, easily distracting him. “Danny, oh, Danny, bab-eeeee...” She purred
the last syllable, long and languid. She
grabbed his crotch, squeezing hard, whispering something nasty and oh-so-enticing
in his ear. As his penis turned to
steel, his brain turned to mush.
Having gotten his attention, she let go and backed
away. “You gonna help me get a perfect
pumpkin from this patch or not?”
“What about my—”
“Later, big boy, when we’re out of range of any sexually
oppressed boogymen disguised as abortionist farmers.”
Danny Cruise peered
out at the fog-mottled field, wispy tendrils like plumes of thickening smoke
eerily weaving through the pumpkins, looking like a congregation of ghosts…or a
herd of monstrous beasts lashing the pumpkins with writhing tentacles. His imagination sprang back to life with a
potency that unnerved him while coinciding with the deflation of his
penis. Melinda Harner, his girlfriend,
folded her arms across her burgeoning bosom, trying to fend off the October
chill. She peered at him, obstinate in
her quest to obtain the perfect pumpkin.
Now that she had spotted what she claimed was the most perfect pumpkin for
miles around, in which she would carve the winner in the school contest,
something that brought a wee bit of fame in a small town like Bloomfield, she
was dead set on obtaining this pumpkin, and only this pumpkin. No other pumpkin would suffice.
Danny hopped over the barbed-wire fence, ragged metal tips
ripping two fingers. He winced, put the
stinging fingers in his mouth, and sprinted toward the fog-embraced pumpkin
“Which one did you want?”
His voice seemed not to carry, trapped in the puffy white shroud of fog. But it did carry, and she responded
“There,” Melinda harrumphed, pointing to his right at the
perfect pumpkin for her to carve a masterpiece.
Her voice hit Danny with the force of a thunderclap; goosebumps tickled
After having heard about the fat, perfect pumpkins in this
patch, as well as the sordid recent history of the farm via whispers in the
hallways at Lincoln High, anxiously retold by Danny mere minutes ago, Melinda
knew she had to check it out. Her nature
was competitive, and she was always looking for that special edge. If this patch had the perfect pumpkin she
coveted, she knew the edge would be hers.
No horror stories were going to stand in her way.
“Here?” he said, pointing at one of the dozen or so
seemingly perfect, unblemished pumpkins in the direction she had pointed. How could she even tell the difference?
“No, there,” she
bellowed, the volume almost knocking him over again. It was cold, and he was tired and if he
didn’t really love her, he’d already be anywhere but here with a space heater
melting his icy flesh and thawing out his freezing blood.
Without speaking, he pointed, and she nodded her head, yes--thank God! He pulled out his switchblade and cut the
coarse vine, trying to disengage the pumpkin.
After a brief struggle he was victorious, but noticed he’d smeared blood
from his sliced-up fingers all over the ragged stem.
He plucked it from its roost, amazed by its weight. It was about as big as a slightly super-sized
basketball. Not huge, but its heft made
his arms ache. She better be really appreciative for this, he
thought, and ran back to the fence. He
handed the pumpkin to her, so he could hop over the fence again.
“Careful, it’s heavy,” he said, as he put it in her eager
hands. She grunted and agreed.
“Damn! For its size,
that’s gotta be the heaviest pumpkin I’ve ever felt.”
Danny braced himself and leaped, this time with even less
grace, catching his foot and plopping down hard on his butt. Melinda laughed at his awkward
predicament. He frowned at her.
“What? I do this
favor for you and you laugh at me now, ‘cause I’m cold and tired and…”
She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead as he brushed
the weeds out of his hair and clothes.
“Carry this, would ya?”
More insistent than requesting, already handing him the pumpkin.
“I’m just your slave—”
“Slave to my beguiling charms.” She put on the act, puppy dog eyes and
pouting lips on full display.
They started the two-mile trek back into town, their pace
brisk, trying to keep warm.
“It’s probably cursed.
Probably why I tripped up going over the fence.”
“You’re just clumsy.
There’s no curse for takin’ a pumpkin.
No dead babies gonna haunt you.
I’m just gonna carve a winner out of this one.”
“That stuff is true.
I mean, all that about Dr. Ranier doing abortions and stuff.” He put his fingers in his mouth again,
balancing the pumpkin against his chest.
Apparently, the cuts were deeper than he’d thought, and continued to
They both fell silent for a handful of minutes, purposeful
strides taking over as the night grew even colder. The overcast skies portended rain and they
just wanted to make it home before it started.
And then Danny stumbled, dropping the pumpkin. Not hard, catching it before it really hit
the ground, but enough to have it land with a leaden thump on the dirt.
“Damn it, klutz! Do
you need walking lessons or what?”
Melinda was beside herself with anger, squatting to inspect the
pumpkin. All this for naught, she
thought; all this for naught.
“Shit, Melinda. It’s
not like I meant to—”
“You bleedin’ on it?”
“Yeah, cut my fingers on the fence, bled on the stem.”
Melinda scooted away from the pumpkin, inexplicably
alarmed. “How can that be? The pumpkin’s got blood comin’ from inside.”
They both watched as a thin line of blood trickled from a
miniscule crack at the bottom, where it had hit the ground. The red liquid pooled in the dirt.
“T-That’s impossible,” she said. “Can’t be any blood comin’ from inside a
pumpkin, only pumpkin, seeds and all.
You must have bled a lot more than you thought.”
She forced a smile, obviously in denial of what she was
witnessing. More blood seeped from the
Danny pulled out his switchblade and approached the
pumpkin. He knelt before it, not sure
what he was going to do, but feeling safer with the knife in his hand.
With suddenness, curiosity took over, and he plunged the
knife into the thick hide of the pumpkin.
Blood gushed out, mixed with another unknown fluid that diluted the
crimson tide, along with stringy pumpkin guts and pumpkin seeds, spattering the
dirt and his shoes. He pried with the knife
and his fingers, pulling the pumpkin apart.
“Oh, Christ!” He
moaned in revulsion at what he saw.
Melinda squealed, “What is it, Danny? What is it?”
The pumpkin had split wide open like a cracked egg. Danny jumped to his feet, hands dripping
wet. An intolerable stench was belched
from within the split pumpkin, forcing him to cover his face with his sleeve,
while Melinda openly retched, dry and empty.
She was on her feet as well, fingers digging crescents into Danny’s
arms. He didn’t feel a thing. They both just stared in horror and disgust.
Within the womb of
the pumpkin, entwined within a network of ripped veins, a ruptured clear sac,
and pumpkin guts and seeds, two large yellow eyes, like jaundiced moons devoid
of pupils, attempted to blindly seek out the source of intrusion. It probably did not see them, thought Danny,
as his stomach roiled like a fist-sized hurricane, battering his insides.
It was a fetus, a mutation of inconceivable ugliness borne
of nightmares and rumors and curses made real.
“Oh my God, Danny…Danny!” Melinda cringed, teetering on hysterical.
The obscenity, skin stained with blood but otherwise as
orange as a healthy pumpkin, turned itself in the direction of Melinda’s voice,
the tiny holes where ears should be steering it in their direction. Gurgling noises emanated from its throat, wet
sounds and orange spittle passing by its lipless slit of a mouth.
“We need to go--now!”
beside herself, doing a nervous dance of desperation. She wanted away from here posthaste…or
“Wait,” Danny said.
“I think it’s trying to say
Melinda pulled harder on Danny’s arm, afraid to leave
without him, the night and clouds and vast darkened landscape uninviting
despite her urgency to run as far away from here as possible.
“C’mon! Let’s go!”
The sound that rose from the baby’s mouth unhinged the
muscles in Danny’s legs. He slumped to
the ground, transfixed by the fetal abomination squirming and convulsing and
hideously alive within the
pumpkin. Melinda tumbled with him, but
not for long. He scrambled to his feet
and dragged her to hers, his feet pounding the dirt like a chorus of hammers,
matching the freight train rhythm of his heart.
His swiftness almost lifted Melinda into the air as one would a
kite. The utterance repeated again and
again--insistent--scarred the night
with its cawing message, resonant and haunting, cursing both of their ears
One word, only one, but Danny and Melinda would remember it
until the day they died.
“Daddy,” it screeched, it
I hope that creeped you out in a good way. I'll hit you with another trick or treat flash piece in a couple days.
It would be remiss of me not to link you to my books. Here's the Amazon Author page link, so you can check out Occasional Beasts: Tales, The Wilderness Within, Riding the Centipede, Autumn in the Abyss, The Dark is Light Enough For Me, and some anthologies in which my tales appear.
As I check before publishing, not sure if the link is working, so here ya go: https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B0065PB94K?_encoding=UTF8&node=2656022011&offset=0&pageSize=12&searchAlias=stripbooks&sort=author-sidecar-rank&page=1&langFilter=default#formatSelectorHeader