Vines

Kristopher was late. And on Halloween, of all mornings.

He jumped out of bed, threw on the Reaper costume he had hung over his desk chair the night before, and ran out of the house. His parents were not in the kitchen making breakfast as they normally were, but Kristopher did not think this strange.

They must feel like sleeping late this morning, Kristopher thought to himself as he climbed on his bike.

He began pedaling toward his middle school, where a day full of parties and treats and costume contests was waiting for him. Halloween was his absolute favorite day of the year, and he did not want to miss a single minute.

It wasn’t until he had let his bike bump off the sidewalk and down onto the street when he noticed how dark it was—and not just normal dark for that time of year, but it was very dark; almost as if the nighttime had forgotten to fade into the background of the rising sun. He checked his watch and verified that it was eight a.m., just a half hour later than when he normally left for school in the mornings.

Why is it so dark out?

He continued to pedal, anyway, and over time, realized that he did not see a single person on the road. No cars, no buses, and no one walking to and from anywhere!

Kristopher was growing increasingly nervous about his surroundings, but he continued his journey to school.

As he was passing the old Stoneville Cemetery, he skidded his bike to a stop. He peered through the black, rusty bars of the cemetery’s bordering fence and nearly gawked at what he saw before him. Covering the many rows of tombstones that stretched out before him he saw a vast field of pumpkins. Big and small, fat and skinny, they grew out of the ground, trailing their vines behind them like bleeding wounds.

Kristopher had just passed this very cemetery the day before on his way home from school, and he was absolutely sure these pumpkins had not been there—just row after row of tombstones, like any other day.

He gasped inwardly, and a cold wind suddenly blew. Kristopher cinched the collar of his Reaper costume and pulled it close to his neck, trying to ward off the cold.

It was when he saw the first pumpkin creep across the leaf-covered ground toward him that he knew something was truly wrong. He stared, wide-eyed, and watched it drag toward him, closer and closer, the pumpkin and vine moving together like a caterpillar.

Another pumpkin began creeping closer to him…and another…and another. Suddenly, one of the messes of pumpkins and vines stood up! Stood right up like a man! The pumpkin became its ghastly head, and smaller vines burst from the larger one that had become its body, giving it arms, fingers, legs, and toes.

Kristopher watched in terror as, one after the other, the scattered vines and pumpkins formed themselves into something unholy and terrible. He tried to run, but he was frozen in place. His legs refused to work, even as his brain urged them to move.

And the pumpkin people shambled closer to him now, their vine feet creaking and snapping over each other. There were dozens upon dozens of them…maybe even a hundred. Their thin and brittle fingers wrapped around the bars of the cemetery gate and pushed it open with a squeal. Their pumpkin heads pulsed and throbbed, suggesting features of eyes and mouths below their jaundiced skin.

It was only when one of them had reached for Kristopher – stretched its vine hand around his wrist – that he was broken free from his trance.

“No!” he cried. “Leave me alone!”

He slammed his feet onto the pedals of his bike and began pumping his legs as hard as he could, eager to get away from the slowly creeping army. He pedaled and pedaled, all the while focusing on the rooftop of the school off in the distance. He turned around to determine how far behind him the pumpkin people were and saw that one of them was grasping his bike and lifting it off the ground—Kristopher had gone nowhere, and he was now surrounded.

And they fell on him, then—their vines stabbed into his mouth and down inside him. He could feel the sharp ends of their vines slithering down into his insides, piercing his intestines; wrapping around his lungs and heart. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to scream with everything he had, but he didn’t make a sound. He let the pumpkin people drag him down, into the ground, where their seeds of the dead had grown, and they had come into being.

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