Introducing our third place winner!
Katherine Brown is a lover of books and weaver of words. Her first official publication was of two children’s books in 2017, however she likes to think her career as a writer started when she sold her parents newsletters of her life for fifty cents per copy as a pre-teen.
Find more about her on her website.
Awaken, Pumpkin Patch
Small, brown field mice play hide and seek amongst the thick, curling vines. Grasshoppers trampoline off the broad green leaves. Peacefully the pumpkins seem to sleep, until in the middle comes one quiet squeak. The night was deepening, All Hallows’ Eve was here and I knew that the time for my destiny drew near. “Is it time?” I hesitantly speak.
“Shush,” the wind reprimands in a whoosh.
Mr. Scarecrow stretches, flexing straw stuffed fingers in the breeze. Looking down with his painted grin, he takes pity on me, the curious pumpkin. “It is almost time,” Mr. Scarecrow whispers.
“Will it hurt?” I shudder, knowing we were born with only an end in mind.
Mr. Scarecrow nods and I blurt out more questions to our ever-present guardian. “Why are we called to suffer? How will I know it’s time?”
Mr. Scarecrow sways high above. “I can tell you,” he offers.
“Oh please Mr. Scarecrow, can you really?” I beg humbly from my place in the dirt.
The wind whips past, becoming excitable as well. Mr. Scarecrow bows forward and softly begins his tale.
“Tell you I can, Little Pumpkin,” he promises me. “I have seen it every year, the call to pumpkins on All Hallows’ Eve.”
Leaves quivering with excitement, I stretch my stem as straight and tall as it will go to show Mr. Scarecrow I am ready to listen.
“The first sign, Little Pumpkin, is that the wind will all her moaning cease.” One last gust of angry wind buffets Mr. Scarecrow before all goes still.
“Each of the insects will head in to bed,” Mr. Scarecrow nods for me to look around.
Ant trails meander down into holes. Each leaf surrounding me is empty, the grasshoppers have gone away.
“They are gone,” I say softly, filled with nervousness. It was just like Mr. Scarecrow said.
The clouds part to reveal the moon eavesdropping on our conversation as Mr. Scarecrow nodded wisely and continued, “The very first time it happened, the witch came herself and cast the spell.”
“A witch? Witches are bad,” I quake in the damp earth.
Mr. Scarecrow stares silently at me.
“Aren’t they?” I ask, sorry to have interrupted him.
“This witch was a woman once,” he explains. “Her name was Melinda. She often came to talk with me after her husband died. One Hallows’ Eve, a demon disguised as her husband tricked her into becoming a witch so they could be together.”
I gasp, “How terrible!”
“Yes,” Mr. Scarecrow dips his head. “The village ran her off, accusing her of all evil deeds. The witch returned the very next year to this same pumpkin patch and found the demons reveling and planning their next victim. She knew that she had to stop them. The only way she could do that was to use her power. But there were so many, and she was alone.”
“What did she do?” I impatiently pushed Mr. Scarecrow. My nerves were tingling all over, my vines curling tighter around me.
“Melinda looked about at the thousands of pumpkins and then she looked back to me. ‘It will take all my strength,’ she told me and I knew it was goodbye.”
Mr. Scarecrow paused, looking into the distance. “The witch Melinda cast a spell on all of the pumpkins so that on her summons they would become guardians against the evil spirits, lighting up the night and driving away the darkness. And thus, Jack-o’-lanterns were born – pumpkins destined to sacrifice themselves to save other innocent lives.”
I nod. I was ready now; my purpose was clear. Even if it would hurt to become a bearer of light, I was glad to do so.
“It is time,” Mr. Scarecrow interrupts my thoughts. “Melinda was too weakened to ever return, so each year she sends a summons with her messenger. The messenger has arrived.”
A sleek black cat separates from the shadows and gracefully lands on Mr. Scarecrow’s shoulder. She cries out, a wail of sorrow and anger. Two thousand eyes and one thousand grins leer into the night. I am not scared when I look around, no I am proud of the sight: Melinda’s whole village now protected by our light.