Thomas stood in the middle of his field, shaking with rage. Every single one of his pumpkins had been smashed. Picking his way through the ruins, Thomas made his way to a corner of the lot. The pumpkins that grew here weren’t the biggest or the best, but they were the most special. He knelt in the middle of the desecration and cried. These pumpkins were a memorial to his wife’s memory. Halloween had been her favorite time of year. They hadn’t been blessed with children, but every year when they would haul gourds into town, Margie would always give some away to any child that wanted one. Thomas always complained that she was throwing money away, but he didn’t mind; it made her happy. After she died, Thomas continued the tradition, designating the pumpkins from this patch for the children. He also donated a percentage of his sales to the orphanage, in Margie’s name.
This year there would be no pumpkins for the children and no money for the orphanage.
“I won’t let him get away with this,” Thomas vowed. He spoke the words out loud, intending them for Margie, who he always felt was with him. She never answered of course, but he knew she heard him. Tonight, someone else was listening as well. Thomas heard the snap of a branch breaking behind him and turned, ready to face the vandal and mete out justice. His face crumpled when he saw who it was and then splattered into the ground when the big, heavy bat the attacker carried, smashed into his skull. Like the pumpkins around him, his head shattered and sunk into the ground, his blood mixing with the gore from splattered gourds.
A howl sounded across the night as Thomas’s heart stopped beating. The hairs on the back of the killer’s neck rose and he turned, certain he wasn’t alone. There was no one there. He took one last look at Thomas before leaving. The howl was joined by another and then several more, almost as though the creatures of the night were mourning the loss of Thomas Benfield. He gave the man one last look before leaving, saddened that things had come to this. He’d liked the farmer, really he had, but he’d refused to negotiate with him. After assuring himself that there was nothing left behind to tie him to the murder, he left.
The pumpkins were all off. Samuel shook his head, he couldn’t understand it. Old Man Benfield had always produced the best gourds, but he hadn’t bought the land at auction to grow pumpkins. And yet, despite the fact that he hadn’t planted a single seed, the creeping, orange cucurbitaceous plants were now growing out of control.
“The ground is cursed.” Those were the words his wife had spat at him when he’d told her he’d bought the land at auction. “Something evil happened there, and I’ll have nothing to do with it.”
“We only need to live there a few years, we don’t even need to farm it.”
She’d narrowed her eyes suspiciously at him when he’d told her that. She knew he was up to something, but in this case, he’d come up with a scheme that was flawless. He had inside information that Dancorp was looking to move a mall into Lansford and the old geezers property was the perfect spot. All he had to do was sit on the land and then take their money when they were ready to begin developing.
Lana had refused to move into the old farmhouse that came with the property, remaining in town with their son. Samuel didn’t like it. Benfield’s land was secluded and nights got lonely. There were some nights he felt eyes watching him through the windows. But he couldn’t leave the land unattended. Vandals could decrease the value of the land and he wasn’t going to neglect his investment.
Still, seeing the pumpkins that had sprung up overnight, he wondered if maybe the land was cursed.
“Evil begets evil,” Lana had told him when he’d gone by to see her and Sammy earlier that day. He’d wanted to convince her to move into the farmhouse with him. She had refused.
“Thomas’s killer has never been found and until he is, his spirit will never rest.” She’d stared at him then, her eyes almost accusing. More imagination. She didn’t- couldn’t suspect that her husband was the one that demolished the pumpkin’s and Thomas’s head. He was a schemer, but not a killer. At least not as far as she knew and Samuel would never give her any reason to believe otherwise.
But then why had she turned down his offer to spend the night?
Samuel was contemplating that, jealousy filling his head as he imagined her in the arms of another man, when something outside the window caught his attention. He could see the section of the field designated for Margie’s pumpkins. There was something moving among them. He went and stood by the window, trying to see. Whoever was out there was small. Then he saw another shadow and then another. The answer came to him- the children from the orphanage. They had come to steal the pumpkins. Thinking quickly, Samuel grabbed his shotgun and went to confront them. It didn’t matter that they were only coming for what had always been theirs, nor did he care that he hadn’t planted the pumpkins… the land was his now and no one was going to take what belonged to him. A little scare was all that was needed.
The pumpkin patch was empty when Samuel got there. He looked around, holding the gun out for the little brats to see. “Come on out, I know you’re here!”
Behind him he heard someone giggle. It sounded vaguely feminine.
He turned, expecting to see Jenny Collins. She was the only girl at the orphanage and often the first to dive into trouble. He didn’t see her though, only a giant pumpkin that seemed to have crept up behind him. Samuel blinked. The thing hadn’t been there just a moment before. Something moved to his right and he turned again. Another pumpkin was creeping towards him, a large jack-o-lantern grin spreading across its face. Samuel took a step back, frightened as he recognized Thomas leering back at him. The pumpkin behind him giggled and now he knew whose laugh he was hearing-Margie.
Samuel turned to run. Vines quickly wrapped around his ankles and brought him down, pulling him into the earth. He screamed, but there was no one around to hear him.
Lana reported her husband missing, but she knew he wouldn’t be found. She stood out in the pumpkin patch, studying the gourd that was nearly buried in the ground. She dug around it and pulled it out. With Samuel gone, the land belonged to her. She’d donate the rest of the pumpkins to the orphanage… it’s what Margie would have wanted. This one though, she would bake into a pie.
Walking away, she wiped a tear from her eye. She still missed her friend. She hoped that she and Thomas were resting in peace now.