Pick of the Patch
The Autumn days were growing darker and damper, and although we made it to the patch days before Halloween, pickings were weak. Except one, a glorious pumpkin with an orange gleam that Lily grasped tight the whole journey home.
The next day I grabbed an old dull knife for carving, only to find it sank through the flesh like butter. The blade caught my hand in a grim slash of a smile before the stench of decay rose up, seeping through the air and gagging me and Lily. The pumpkin collapsed, leaving a rotten heap and the stink of disease that, along with the blood and Lily’s screams, overwhelmed my senses. By the time I’d dealt with the mess I was ready to collapse, yet all night I shuddered awake.
When the following day finally broke my fogged mind easily dismissed the morning’s troubles, despite the eggs infested with mold, the sour curdle to the milk, the damp creeping up the walls. Only as the day progressed, as the fruit festered and the bread grew green and the blood from my cut oozed through the dressing, did I begin to feel uneasy.
By Halloween morning I was too sick to think clearly. Lily ate candy, the only thing left fresh, and I shuddered at the thought of food. My whole body sagged, my mouth sticky and my guts twisting and turning. Lily shrank away from me, from my strange tinted skin and fake stretched smile. As the night drew in I could hardly hold myself together, ignoring the cheerful calls of neighborhood kids to put both me and Lily to bed early. Falling into sleep, my flesh burned like candle flame.
Lily’s shouting woke the neighbors, who smashed open the back window with a heavy pumpkin languishing on the doorstep. They stumbled through the house, searching for answers among the wallpaper tainted with mold. But the house was empty. Nothing but Lily’s cries and, in the bed, the weeks-old carcass of a pumpkin, rotting away to nothing.