A continuation of the Drawlloween experiment. A short piece from what was originally an art prompt, each individual piece no more than 500 words. Fun-size, if you will.
This was where things began to take a strange turn for me, where the daily exercises became something different.
Parts 6-10 follow.
6 – Pumpkin
The key, his dad taught him before he could walk, was to be fast. Create the image of what you want to carve and hold onto it. Burn it into your mind. The triangle eyes. Goofy, toothless smile. Visualize and when you can draw it with your eyes closed, it’s time for the knife.
Once it came time to cut, it was all fast strokes. No hesitation.
That’s why he was the best.
It was his favorite time of year. The sound of leaves under foot. The smell of the changing season. He missed the farm where he grew up, the harvest festivals. And everywhere, pumpkins.
He sat in the dark, fingers rubbing a groove in the black wood of the knife’s grip as he concentrated until his head hurt. The vision was perfect. The knife felt sure in his small hand. All he needed was a pumpkin.
He heard the jingle of keys in the hallway outside. The neighbor lady was finally home. His grandmother who had taken him in after the accident with his parents called her a “filthy hoor” but he didn’t really know what it meant. He figured it had something to do with her late hours. It was already past 2. His grandma had been asleep for hours already, breath heavy with her medicine.
The keys rattled in the lock.
Silent as a statue behind the arm of the sofa, he waited. The front door swung open, casting a silhouette of his neighbor across the floor in the hallway light. She stepped in and closed the door, not even bothering with the lights.
That was fine. He didn’t need light to carve the pumpkin. He was almost on top of her when she turned on the lamp and saw him, just shy of four feet in Sesame Street Underoos, blank face, wicked knife in his little hand. They both froze for a second before she started screaming. And then he moved, slashing a smile through her blue dress with deep, sure strokes.
7 – Haunted House
As haunted houses went, Mark Obiyashi had seen a lot worse. Wind howled through the windowless frames in the wall, a yawning abyss of darkness beyond. The lights flickered and swayed. Somewhere, deeper within the house, someone was sobbing, but he’d already checked those rooms and confirmed that he was alone.
“You sure this is the place?” Grandfather Yoshi said.
Well, alone except for the ghost of his grandfather, his near-constant companion for most of his life. But despite being a ghost himself, the former soldier was crap at picking up on others of his kind. He didn’t have the gift. Not like Mark. Otherwise he would have seen the matched set of tormented dead that had just appeared, cowering against the near wall.
They were both in pajamas, he in wide-lapel flannel, she in an ankle-length cotton nightshirt, sleeveless. Both of them bore the wounds that killed them, the by-now familiar knife wounds in their abdomens. The husband also had deep knife wounds across his bleeding palms, indicating he might have woken up and tried to block the blade. Husband and wife also had carved pumpkins worn over their dead faces.
“That’s a new one,” Mark muttered under his breath.
“You found the first ones?” Yoshi said. He sounded skeptical.
He ignored his grandfather and edged closer to the new ghosts. “I’m here to help,” he said calmly, palms out. He could feel the ectoplasm in the room, curling around his fingers like warm taffy. It was that same tenuous trail of ectoplasm which had led him here from his apartment, from the Screaming Woman. “You knew them. Whoever did this to you, you know them.”
The wife lowered her pumpkin head, shook it in denial. Mark figured she had likely been dead before she woke so she hadn’t seen the attack anyway. The husband whispered something. A single word slipping between pumpkin teeth.
“Who is Trevor?” Mark said, hoping the name might jar something loose in the wife as well.
“He’s just a boy,” the woman said.
Was just a boy, Mark figured. If Trevor was still alive at this point he’d be well into adulthood. The Screaming Woman had been sometime in the mid-80’s. These two, sometime before that. It had been a good thirty years. That was one hell of a head start, but at least he had a name now. With that and an approximate year, he could fill in the details. Not impossible, but difficult.
But if Mark was going to put Screaming Woman to rest, he had to try.
8 – Zombie
Jerry shuffled into the kitchen in the same jeans and t-shirt he had passed out on the den sofa wearing. He blinked against the morning sun streaming in the sliding glass door, searching for bacon, the scent of which had roused him in the first place.
“Bacon?” He mumbled to Wendy who was setting out plates on the kitchen table.
“In the oven,” she said. “And I’ll make eggs just as soon as you get back from the Millers.”
“You still owe them an apology for last night. I’d tell you to shower because you look like a damn zombie, but they love Halloween so, maybe that works to your benefit.”
He dimly remembered disrupting their backyard party. He smacked at the stank-mouth he woke up with and wondered how much of that had come from trying to kiss or maybe bite their big Golden Retriever, Michael. “I’ll be back,” he mumbled.
Slippers retrieved, he crossed the dewy front lawn to the Miller’s split-level tract home. They’d already gone all-out decorating for Halloween, despite it being two weeks away. Decorative pumpkins, some real, some plastic, littered the lawn. The man of the house was already up, sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee next to him. A pumpkin sat on his lap. As Jerry approached, he saw Trevor Miller raise a wicked looking carving knife to the orange flesh of the pumpkin. He felt like he was interrupting something sacred, and his heart caught in his throat.
“Jerry,” Trevor said calmly.
“Hey, Trev. So, I screwed up last night. I went off my meds and…”
“This about the barbeque?”
“Yeah. I made an ass of myself and I’m so sorry.”
Trevor shrugged. He hadn’t taken his eyes off Jerry. His face was a void of emotion. “It’s not a problem, Jerry. No harm done.”
It was a huge relief. Or it should have felt like one. The way Trevor watched him still made Jerry nervous. The Millers had only been neighbors for about a year. And it wasn’t like they were close. “Great, Trevor. That’s great.”
The knife slipped effortlessly into the orange flesh of the pumpkin and Trevor smiled, eyes closing slightly. “I’ll be seeing you, Jerry. Happy Halloween.”
Jerry headed back home with more urgency in his step than before.
9 – Eyeball
The lights flickered on in the underground garage, though the big man didn’t need them to see. He was used to being a lot further underground than this. But his companion was still a creature of the light, though he had high hopes for her. He led her to a high shelf at the back of the space, their heels clicking and echoing off the perpetually damp concrete. He’d tried to do something about the moisture, but even Hell’s contractors had limitations. The miracle workers largely went to the other place.
“This is surprisingly serial killer of you,” the woman at his side said, voice tinged with respect. She stepped closer to the shelf overburdened with small boxes and jars. Some of the jars held dry items. A finger here, an insect husk there. Some contained objects in liquid, only a few of which were identifiable. She pointed to one wide, jar full of pale green liquid with thick shapes floating within. “What’s this?”
“Pickles,” the big man said. “This place in Brooklyn makes them. They’re out of this world. I always keep a jar handy.” He made a sound of discovery and retrieved a jar from high on the shelf. “Here. This is what I was looking for.”
She took the offered jar. It was small, like something you’d use to store gourmet jelly. A single eye floated within, the iris cornflower blue. “Who did this belong to?”
“A guy in Kansas who saw too much,” the big man said. “He made me a deal, and I got the eye when he died. If you’re going to work for me, you’ll need it.”
She held the eye up to her own eye, amused how it seemed to track the big man. Doubly amused with how even a disembodied eye could look scared. “I’m still not entirely sure what you want me for.”
“There’s this kid named Mark Obiyashi. He sees ghosts. It looks like he’s going to stick his stupid nose in something I’ve been setting up for thirty years. If I deal with it myself, I tip my hand.”
“So, Hell subcontracts?”
He smiled big and bright. “You my girl, May? You have the drive, the juju to stop a deadspeaker?”
“I’m your girl, sir.”
10 – Alien
Mark put the five lollipops on the gas station counter and fished cash out of his Velcro black and white checkerboard wallet. The candy stared up at him, the multi-colored alien faces seemingly indifferent to their eventual fate. He unwrapped one of the cinnamon flavored ones while the clerk counted back change.
Grandfather Yoshi was waiting by the front door, and easily kept up as Mark dropped his longboard to skate back towards home. “How many do you think he killed?”
Mark was reluctant to give concrete numbers without counting the ghosts himself. An hour in the library with the assistance of a recently deceased reference librarian had given him a chilling estimate, however. “At least nine,” he said.
But he knew the real total was likely more. The most recent body had been found six years ago in Ohio and had been dead for a few more years before that. It was only fate that it got discovered at all. Over time, Trevor had gotten good at hiding his activities. After killing his parents and then a year later Jackie, the woman currently haunting his apartment, he’d gone to a psychiatric facility. He’d been released late November, 1995, theoretically cured. The second of November, 1996, another body turned up, torso carved like a jack o’lantern, but he was already long gone.
“It’s possible the Ohio murder was the last one,” Mark said around the cinnamon flavored alien head sucker. “It was nine years ago, and no more bodies have been found. So maybe he died. Or maybe he hides them better. But the fact that these ghosts are still out there looking for closure, I’m thinking he’s still alive.”
“So what now?”
“Now?” Mark kicked down the street. “Now we find as many of his ghosts as we can. We bring them home. And fast. Because Halloween is right around the corner.”