by Ron Van Sweringen
Enjoy another scary mystery short story for this Halloween season. This story has been published three times in the past in various publications. You can find the rest of the stories, and more from last year, in our Terrific Tales section.
She sat hunched-back on a large pumpkin, her face cast in shadow under a large black hat. The field was full of pumpkins, but none as fine as the one she chose; prodding and poking with her bony fingers, for the perfect orange texture and moment of ripeness.
Black Cat, slumped down beside her pointed witch’s shoes, his yellow slit eyes watching every movement. Dried corn stalks and bare tree branches moaned in the chill wind, sending leaves blowing like withered snowflakes, in the October moonlight.
The Pumpkin Witch stirred the glowing embers of a small campfire with the tip of her gnarled walking stick, sending out trails of flying sparks. The momentary glow of rekindled flames danced across her face.
Her eyes were large, protruding through a milky glaze of membrane. Shaggy grey brows above them were caught up in deep furrows running down the forehead from beneath her black hat. A nose sharp and hooked, hung over a thin lipped toothless mouth, turned up in a perpetual grin. She had a huge jutting chin, sprinkled with warts and bristling whiskers. The rest of her body was encased in a black shroud, except for the pale bony hands and their long curved talons, which fluttered about like dying birds.
One by one the tendrils on the pumpkin vines began to move, yawning and stretching, awakened from their sleep by her cackling laughter.
“Wake up all of you,” she rasped, “I’ve chosen your most perfect child and it’s time for the sacrifice.”
A collective moan went up from the field as the sounds of sobbing began and the tendrils, now twisting and turning, tied themselves into knots.
One voice stood out from the others, “Spare us please, don’t take the most perfect child, leave it and choose another!”
“But it is unfair,” the voice cried, “You sacrifice our most perfect child every year, taking the joy out of our harvest.”
“Be quiet you ungrateful wretch!” the witch screeched, shaking her walking stick in the air.
“Without my magic spell, you would have no harvest; the Goblins would devour you all! It is a small price you pay, one child for all of the others.”
Then without further debate, she raised the chosen pumpkin above her head. “Here is my beauty,” she screeched, bringing the bottom of the pumpkin down with great force onto a sharp pointed stake.
The moaning and sobbing of the tendrils grew louder as the point of the stake pierced the most perfect child, causing its flesh to ooze down the wooden stake.
“Now I have been paid!” the witch screamed, waving her shrouded arms in the air, signaling her army of squawking black crows to descend and feast on the prize.
Un-noticed in the horror of the moment, one tendril, strong and supple, quickly sprang up, wrapping it’s self firmly around the witch’s ankle. Suddenly another followed, entwining her other foot, while others still, reached up her body, grabbing and holding tight.
“Let me go!” she screamed, “My power will destroy you all!”
“It’s too late,” a voice replied, “your power was our fear and it is gone now.”
“No, stop!” she begged, her gnarled fingers silhouetted against the moon as life was strangled from her.
In the dying firelight a strange apparition appeared on the face of the sacrificed perfect pumpkin child, still skewered atop the wooden stake. An evil toothless smile and menacing triangular eyes, carved into the soft flesh.
A Halloween reminder for all time, about the price paid for evil and the fate of the Pumpkin Witch.