The Killer had figured the pumpkin patch would be a safe spot to lay low, until the cops worked their way south towards Main St.
He’d had trouble from the moment he’d arrived in Half Moon Bay. He’d snuck into the stake bed of a delivery truck in East Palo Alto, and despite all the rattling and bumping, had fallen asleep as they passed across a wide, still lake, then trundled up and over a hill. When he woke, the truck was parked in an empty lot; and it was almost dark.
The Killer had walked a ways before finding a small market on Alhambra Ave. He was hungry and still had a few dollars left in his pocket; but almost as soon as he entered, he spotted the cashiers whispering, and saw someone dialing a telephone, so he quickly left. It wasn’t long before he started hearing sirens. Hardly surprising—his face had been on the news all week, ever since the botched robbery and the dead guard. So he’d left in a hurry with a still-empty stomach, hurrying through the chill evening fog towards the docks.
He’d waited until there were no cars in sight before he crossed the narrow asphalt strip of Highway 1. His plan had been to get to the pier and hopefully steal a boat, but when he came in sight of the beach, he saw red flashing lights already on the pier.
The cops were waiting for him.
So now the Killer was squatting in the damp earth of the pumpkin patch, surrounded by great orange gourds, some of prodigious size. It was well past sunset now, but a full moon hovered over the ocean not too distant. From somewhere far-off, the Killer began hearing the shrill voices of children yelping and laughing, and was reminded that today was Halloween. He remembered trick or treating as a child, dressed as Casper the Ghost, or the Wolf Man, and one time as Zorro. He remembered laughter and mischief and rolling his neighbors’ jack o’ lanterns down the steep hill to smash at the bottom.
Those times were a long way off now, and many mistakes distant.
It began with an odd feeling in his left foot, like he was standing in a puddle. The Killer looked down and realized that his entire boot was inside one of the pumpkins. At first, he figured he must have stepped in it without realizing—but when he tried to tug his foot out, but it wouldn’t give. Then there was a similar sensation in his right hand, as well: when he turned his head to look he was surprised to see it, too, was encased in the carved, toothy mouth of a pumpkin. Something was very, very wrong. These pumpkins hadn’t been harvested: they were still attached to their stems.
They shouldn’t have mouths.
The Killer shook his arm violently, trying to wrest it free. He pounded on the pumpkin with his free hand, and with brute force finally yanked his arm loose, only to find everything below his wrist gone. The thing had eaten his hand.
His other, intact hand reached into the pocked of his coat, pulling out the revolver he’d taken off the bank guard—the one he’d used to kill the man.
“Lousy hand-eating bastard!” he shouted, and shot the thing several times. Its rounded orange shape erupted and showered the Killer with gooey shrapnel, stinging his eyes.
Something was indeed very wrong with this pumpkin patch.
Another strange, numbing sensation; and when the Killer looked down again he actually saw the pumpkin his foot had been in chewing; and he saw that his lower leg now ended in a stump a few inches above the ankle. It had taken his foot, shoe and all.
“No… no…” he moaned, teetering off balance even as he squeezed the trigger of the gun again—but the hammer came down on an empty chamber.
He was out of ammo. The wail of sirens was growing louder. They’d heard the shots. They were coming.
The Killer sank to his knees. He didn’t feel any pain, but he could tell he was quickly growing weaker: he was was unsure if it was from loss of blood, or perhaps something in the pumpkins that was making his body numb, and his mind sleepy.
So he was barely afraid when he looked up to see an enormous pumpkin—far bigger than the others, as large as himself, even—looming above him: its great jagged mouth with triangle fangs opening wide to engulf his entire head. The vines of the patch had curled around all his limbs, making any idea of escape impossible—and in a way the Killer didn’t even want to escape. All roads had their end, and his road—one of darkness and violence, and desperation—ended here in this foggy field near the sea.
As the mouth wrapped around him, the Killer expected to be consumed in darkness, but inside the giant gourd there was a dim glowing amber light—a light that grew to blinding white, even as he heard the thing’s mouth crunch down on his neck.
The Pumpkin Bastard originally appeared in the 2020 anthology Dark Halloween. It appears here with new artwork.