One one fine autumn day, Jill McCalister and her daughter Cheryl were driving home from Cheryl's school. Cheryl yelled suddenly.
Jill slammed on the brakes, causing several cars behind her to do the same. This instantly created a long line of stalled cars, honking their horns at them indignantly.
"What? What's wrong?" Jill asked frantically, scanning the road for little children, deer, or anything else that may have run in front of her car.
Cheryl, not noticing her panic, said, "Mom, we gotta stop at that pumpkin place and get a pumpkin! Halloween is tomorrow!" She pointed to a pumpkin patch just past her window. It had a big scarecrow holding up a pumpkin-shaped sign ad over their pumpkins.
Jill made an angry noise.
"Jesus, Cheryl, you know better than to do that! We could have wrecked!"
Cheryl ignored the admonission. "Come on, you won't even have to help. I'll carve it by myself. I won't cut my finger like last year either."
Last year, Cheryl, then 10, had tried to carve their Halloween pumpkin by herself and cut her finger so badly she had needed stitches. Jill wasn't eager for her to have another go at it.
Jill shook her head, beginning to drive again.
"No, I don't think so, Cheryl."
" Come on, Mom," Cheryl whined. "We need a pumpkin. It's Halloween. If you don't want me to carve it, Dad can."
"I ought to say no after the way you scared me," she griped, "but it is Halloween."
She made a U-turn and pulled into the pumpkin patch. Within five minutes of their arrival, Cheryl came staggering up to her, carrying a large, fat pumpkin in her arms.
"This one's perfect," she said.
Jill glanced at it. Suddenly she felt a stabbing, irrational fear in the pit of her stomach. Yet she also felt almost... excited. It was very strange. What had caused this, she wondered. Surely not the sight of a pumpkin!
Shaking it off, she and Cheryl bought the pumpkin and drove home. They decided to wait until Cheryl's father, Luke, arrived to carve it.
When he did, Cheryl pounced on him.
"Daddy! I've been waiting for you so we can carve our pumpkin!" she exclaimed.
Luke smiled indulgently.
"Hold on, honey, let me in the door," he said. Cheryl led him to the kitchen, where the pumpkin was resting on the table. Luke's smiling, relaxed face froze when he saw it.
"Luke? What is it?" Jill asked, noticing.
Luke shook his head.
"It's silly... but I have a feeling about that pumpkin," he said slowly. " A really bad feeling."
Luke was known for his 'feelings.' He had an unusually keen sense of perception and sometimes instinctively knew things others didn't. Jill had often called him crazy and been proven wrong. Of course, sometimes he was wrong. Jill was sure this had to be one of those times.
"That is silly, Luke," Jill told him. "What could be wrong with a pumpkin?" (Although the thought that she had also had a strange feeling around it crossed her mind.)
"I don't know," he said slowly. " I almost feel... that it's evil."
Cheryl looked at him wide-eyed. Jill began to laugh.
Luke stared at her, his pride wounded, but knowing he sounded foolish.
"That's just how I feel," he said stiffly. "I don't want you to carve that pumpkin."
"Don't be silly," Jill said. "I paid for it, and we're going to use it."
"Don't," he said quietly. " I'll go right now and buy another pumpkin. But don't use that one. I'm serious."
Jill shook her head, amused.
"Whatever, Luke. But you're wasting money. There's nothing wrong with that silly pumpkin."
The next day was Halloween. Luke had indeed bought another pumpkin and carved it with Cheryl. Despite her skeptism, Jill had not carved the so-called evil pumpkin.
Cheryl had decided she was too old to trick or treat anymore, so she and Luke decided to go see a horror movie playing at the movies. Jill had no desire to see it, so she decided to stay home and hand out candy to trick or treaters. After an hour or so of this, Jill heard the phone ring.
"Hello?" she said, picking it up.
"Jill? This is Susan Moore from church. Well, you know the party we're having for the young children tonight?"
"Yes, what about it?" Jill asked.
"Could you make us a pumpkin pie as quickly as possible? We don't seem to have enough, and the party starts in an hour and a half."
"Sure, no problem," Jill said.
" Thanks. I appreciate it."
They hung up.
Where am I supposed to get a pumpkin pie at this hour? Jill wondered. The supermarket closes early on Halloween.
Her eyes turned to the "evil" pumpkin, still sitting on the counter from yesterday. It would be so much quicker and easier to just make a pie out of this pumpkin than to see if the pumpkin patch was still open.
Luke will be mad, she thought. He said not to cut it.
But then she thought, so what? Who has ever heard of an evil pumpkin? Luke is silly. I can't believe I'm even considering not cutting this up for a moment. Besides, when he sees it's not 'evil', he'll get over it.
She slipped a filet knife out of the knife block on the counter and started towards the pumpkin. A terrible feeling of dread took over her suddenly, but she dismissed it.
She lowered the knife, and the pumpkin started to glow. Although she noticed this, she didn't react. She only continued to lower the knife until it was touching the pumpkin. Something had taken hold of her now, and she had to finish what she had started. It was too late to stop.
Jill started to sink the knife into the skin of the pumpkin. A green, smelly steam rose from it and encircled her head in a ghoulish halo. She inhaled some of it up her nose. It traveled slowly up, up into the recesses of Jill's brain. The steam whispered and crackled. All thoughts of making a pie left her.
Jill began to carve a triangle towards the top of the triangle, then another across from it. They were the eyes. Next she carved a triangle for the nose. When she had carved the last detail of the pumpkin's face, the mouth, it opened its jagged, twisted mouth wide and spoke to her.
" Thank you," it slobbered, its stringy pumpkin flesh dripping out of its mouth. Jill's face was expressionless. She didn't reply.
"Come closer," it rasped.
Jill leaned close, putting her ear against its slimy mouth. It took some of her hair in its mouth and chewed on it. She didn't protest. The pumpkin angled its mouth upward, chewing on her ear. Finally, it opened its mouth wide and took her entire head in its mouth. It chewed softly on her neck before biting it off and swallowing it whole.
Twenty minutes later, Cheryl and Luke came home, slightly spooked from the movie. Cheryl skipped into the kitchen, ready to describe the movie to her mother. Luke heard her scream from outside and ran into the kitchen to see what was wrong.
Jill was lying in a crumpled heap on the floor by the counter. As Luke knelt down beside her, he saw that sitting squarely on her shoulders where her head should have been was the grinning pumpkin, its eyes lit up in a malevolent smile.
As they gaped in shock and horror, the pumpkin's mouth opened. It leered, then spoke.
"Trick or treat," it purred.