Chapter 1: The Harvest
THE STORY OF LANTERN JACK
THERE ONCE WAS AN OLD MAN IN THE PUMPKIN PATCH…..
FOR ALL THE VILE CHILDREN, HIS HATERED KNEW NO MATCH…..
STICKS, STONES; THORNY THICKETS, BROKEN BONES…..
HIS EYES AFLARE OF ANGER, HIS EVILS SLOWLY HATCHED…..
BEWARE THE DARKNESS THAT DWELLS BENEATH, THE SOILS OF THE PATCH…..
WATCH OUT FOR THE BRUTAL REAPER OF THE CROPS:
Police detective, Jason Grist; turned quickly away from the gruesome sight. Old man Creedly, he had met; with a fate most horrible. His lantern hung in the death grip clutches of his right hand, as the oil began to sap away. His wrists were nailed to the framework of splintering wood, that was meant to be the resting place for an inanimate straw frightener of crows. His head, it had been removed from his neck; his body secured to the watchers’ post with barbed wire, that had been stripped from the patch’s fence.
The most disturbing of the scene, it was yet to come. His decapitated head found within a carved pumpkin, his eyes blind of sight; his mouth sown shut. Jack Creedly, he was now dead. The victim of vial ritualistic slayings of a teen gone bad..
“.…. Lantern jack! He’s not dead….. His eyes! I still see them! He’s coming! He’s coming after my head…..”
“get this whack job out of here! Cordon of the area surrounding the patch!”
The light from Jack’s lantern quickly faded, night faded to black.
Simon, retorted from the invite; the young teen, not too big a fan of Halloween.
“.…. I know, I know! You don’t like Halloween….. This is going to be the biggest party ever! We’ve got to go!”
“.…. Why? Because everyone is going to be there! Pamela! You remember Pamela, don’t you? Pretty girl, twenty- two, brunette with blue eyes…..”
.“.…. Pam? She doesn’t want to have anything more to do with me…..”
“You give up too easy man….. Would you rather take the regular trip to Knott’s Berry Farms?”
“.…. Knott’s Scary Farms, is supposed to be a major event….. It is a big deal for my father…..”
“So! Let them go! You, don’t need to go with them…..”
“I don’t know….. I still think it is a bad idea…..”
“.… We are talking about girls, beer, food, girls and music….. I here that they are trying to get some heavy bands like Metallica…..”
“Yeah, right! You realize, you said girls twice; right?”
“But, of course! You can never have too many girls…..”
“All right! You talked me into it! Right now, we had best get back to work! I don’t need a second tardy warning for taking too long the break…..”
“Hell with Knudson! He was an ass in school, and he’s still an ass…..”
“Sorry to hear you feel that way, Richard….. Reviews are next week….. Promotions, won’t be happening for you two; any time soon….. You are both tardy to work from break again….. One more time, and you will be deducted pay….. back to work, both of you!”
“.…. Sorry, Mister Knudson….. It won’t happen again…..”
You see this right ear? It seems like I have a hearing aid planted there, but what it really is; is a finely tuned bullshit detector…..”
“Yes- sir! We’re going!”
“Double time it!”
Old man Creedly, he was of a strange sort. His dummy made for the scaring away of crows; a dark secret with its design, would soon be known. For Creedly, he fancied himself- a man of curious jests: a necromancer, a warlock; and a builder of many a fence. In the making of his scarecrow, black magic, it was used; the early conceptions of its peculiar design, evil infused. Old man Creedly’s living essence, forging a pact with elements of the vine; and with spirits of the patch…..
Thorns, vines; growing links of nature’s berth. Through them, run veins of a devil’s hearth. Quickly beneath the surface they now travel, the vines of a conscious singularity in thought, seeking out the caretaker of the crops…..
The gravedigger, he wiped the sweat from his brow; and quickly downed one last swallow. Jack Daniels, his preservation in working deeds, most unhallowed. This place for the dead, it is a low cost alternative; for those left behind; that have no money to care.
Old man Creedly, he was to be known as the last of his line. His blood, rapidly run thin; with the passing of time. The gravedigger spat upon the soil mound, subsequently dropping his shovel; as he slumped to the ground.
“Good riddance, Creedly! You aren’t worth all of this hard work!” The gravedigger slurred; under the feigned pretense of enacting the civic duties of a sober man.
“.…. Got to be, a better way; to make so good the living, with so very little pay…..”
The gravedigger snorted, as he attempted to pull himself back up onto his feet. The silly little fool, stumbling and tripping up on himself; finds the earth is all that he meets.
Face down, nostrils full of soil, the drunken gravedigger laughed: “The curse of old man Creedly, laid to rest at last…..”
The gravedigger, he slowly rolled over; upon his weakened back, his eyes drooping with weariness; the sounds of many crickets drawing him to a fast nap…..
Breaching the soil, like tentacles from some nightmarish beast; the vines from Creedly’s patch, slowly wrap around the gravedigger’s body; from his head to his boots. Thorns bite deep into flesh. The gravedigger awakens in a stupor of a fright. Strange toxins of the unholy harvest, clouding over his eyes with lack of sight.
Meat, is shredded from his body; no screams to be heard from his wailing cries. Bleeding bones, all that remains; of this digger in the night…..
The first squash of the vines, rested gently upon Creedly’s grave. The splintering wooden marker, shifted to the east; as the vines settled beneath. Amazed, and a little concerned on the sight; no one would speak of the events that strange eve. The pumpkin, it was left to grow; as a unspoken tribute of Creedly’s deeds…..
Sunday October 1st 2017
“..…. Come one, come all…... The New Harvest Pumpkin Patch; has interests, forall…..”
“Can, you believe that? Ten years ago- today, a murder- took place; in that same patch; and these people treat it as if it is just another place…..”
“Don’t be, so paranoid…….. They destroyed- all the tainted crops, and they have gone; as far as: removing, curing, and replacing- the soil…... There haven’t been, any real concerns by anyone until today…..”
“.…. Yeah, maybe? Do you really think, I am that paranoid?”
“It’s all right. If, you are, you- are not alone; on this- anyway…... Father Sigmund, he is again blessing the grounds…..”
“.…. Ha, ha, ha….. Well, what’s All Hallows Eve; without hallowed grounds?”
Father Sigmund Reed, looked nervous. Thoughts of- evil deeds enacted long ago, at this same location; around the same time, they did not set too well with the man.
“Are you okay, father?” Dana Maurice Bauer- questioned, as she eyed the aging holy man trembling from some deep rooted fears.
“.…. Yes…..Yes. I, will be- all right….. Bad memories, that’s all…..”
“That, is certainly understandable….. I told- my father, that this- is a bad idea….. It’s okay if you want to come back and do this another day…..”
“.…..No! No…... It, would be best; if I- just get this done; now….... Something? It does not feel right here…..”
“.…. What, do you mean; father?”
“.…. Some people, they- ignore; those evil things, that happen all around them….. Others, they avoid- these occurrences outright….. Then, there are a few; like me, that can feel evils’ presence; almost like a second sight…..”
“.…. You are a sensitive….. I had no idea…..”
“.…. Yes, quite a bothersome truth; to grow up with, that much is for certain…..”
“If, it makes you feel any better, father; I feel it too…..”
“.…. I’ll have to tell you this, Dana; it doesn’t…..”
Monday October 9th 2017
Mayor Alvin Blackwell Gort, furled one eyebrow and the man frowned on the unexpected suggestion.
“Never before, have we done anything of so great the town significance- until today….. Why, now?”
Silvia Stewart, the bold, and impetuous labeled woman; she was as patient as one woman could be. The mayor, the man; he was known to all for being a blunt and stubborn middle- aged man, with a great many issues.
“Briar Wood, it is not- turning out to be; the town, people- wanted it; to be……. Even today, the murder that took place in the pumpkin patch; is told as an urban tale to scare little children…..”
“.…. I, have never been a big fan; of picnics and parades….. Organizing a night time gathering, of such, in one day; that is- ridiculous….. Organizing a parade, before- Halloween; that comes to dollars….. Dollars, we do not have to spare; I might add…..”
“I have with me, a petition- signed; by-the majority….. Many of the town folk; believe this to be- a good idea…..”
“Nonsense! The pumpkin festival, that- is where; the real money is….. I have- better things to do…..”
“Perhaps, mister mayor; I can organize the latter?”
“.…. Fine! You do that! I will here nothing more on this…..”
Timothy Irons, he was known; for being the mischievous sort. Head full of wild ideas, disciplined; in- many a wrong doings; frequently calling on: one belligerent retort, to the next. For, his mother Kathleen; he was- more than: just a hand full. Problems, many and- extreme. Her concerns, they were: well warranted; for his acts, would become most foul indeed…..
“There it is! Look at it! It’s the largest pumpkin, I’ve ever seen…..”
Jeffery Irons, shook his head; the boy; two years older than Timothy.
“You are an idiot Timmy! Everyone will know, if we steal the pumpkin away from the graveyard…..”
“You’re just chicken, that’s all…..”
“.…….. No! We, are not- going to do it! We are not- going to steal; old man Creedly’s- pumpkin…..”
“Oh, I see….. You have some kind of thing for the reaper of the patch…..”
Surprised by a newcomer; the two brothers turned fast about to lay hard eyes upon- their older sister. Sarah, laughed.
“You- two….. You, are already in; deep enough as it is….. Besides, neither of you; can actually lift that over-sized squash, let alone steal it…..”
“Well, duh! Timothy retorted. As he pulled a carving knife from his pocket, his older brother immediately following suit.
“I, have been trying to talk Timmy- into: carving, the- old reaper’s pumpkin; where it sits…..”
“We’d ask you to join us, sis; but we only brought two knives…..”
Sarah, smiled wide; as she pulled a third carving knife from her pocket.
“That’s okay! I brought my own…..”
Knife blades, carefully crossed, in: a child’s ritual; of notions entertaining. The pumpkin carvers three, slowly entered the graveyard; their fears not forbidding.
Father Reed, breathed in a sigh- of relief. He was now home. The nightmare, that he has feared for so many restless evenings, now passed.
Sigmund Reed, looked warily to the lady in waiting. This woman, a bitter old nag of a being; with nothing better to do but complain and scold, from one day to the next.
“Misses Washington? How may I be of assistance?”
“.…. Those Irons’, they’re messing around; near the cemetery again….. I’ve heard talk! They are planning on carving Creedly’s pumpkin…..”
Father Reed, sighed again.
“Yes, Misses Washington….. I shall speak to their parents, on your behalf…..”
“.…. Good! Last time I tried, one of the little bastards- threatened me; and them lazy- idiots of the department; they did absolutely nothing about it…..”
“Okay Misses Washington….. I shall look into this business immediately…..”
“.…. Bring your wits, and your faith about you reverend….. Something bad is looming around here these days….. I am going to get out of here; while I still have the chance…..”
Father Sigmund Reed, looked upon the old nagging; woman in a silent astonishment, the man secretly resenting- his current thoughts; of how nice the town would be, without her.
Roger Stewart cringed, on the early return; of his wife. The man visualizing: bellows- of steam rising- from her ears, and from her nostrils; on a recognition of anger, upon her face.
“.…. He said no, right?”
“.…. Right! He has given me the authority, to organize a- Halloween parade; with no- funding other than my own though.”
“Great! Should we take it from this years’ Christmas fund, or from next years’ college fund?”
“.…. All I know, is that I need a drink…..”
“Want to go out?”
“No! Not right now anyway….. Where are the kids?”
“They told me, they wanted to check out the organization of the patch…..”
“.…. Roger? The patch, is the last place they want to be…..”
“You think, they are going to be caught trolling around the cemetery again?”
“.…. Let’s go! Before Misses Washington catches them…..”
What fear entices, the beating of the working heart; to work harder and faster, no appreciation; of truth in art…. Blight- of the harvest, crows of feasting; without disdain. A mockery of reaping, the keepers’ domain…..
Timothy Irons went silent, the three children humming words to an old town tune; honoring the- long in coming evening; of- all hallows reckoning. The boy looked back behind, thoughts of something rising from one of the many graves.
“.….Did either of you hear that?” Timothy Irons, croaked; as the normally bold, and brash young boy; attempted in feint to conceal his fear.
Jeffrey Irons, was quick to mocking his younger brother.
“Ha! I knew, we shouldn’t have let you watch; the zombie movie: The Night of the Living Dead last night…..”
“Big Romero fan, you are….. It’s Night of the Living Dead, not The Night of the Living Dead…..”
“Whatever! Why don’t you, and the scared cat; go back home…..”
The three siblings, turned slowly; on the sounds; of something unseen quickly moving their way. Chills, suggesting- at a rising of fear gripped at their spines; as the- rythmic sounds, of a beating heart- pulsated from somewhere; beneath the pumpkin they had been carving on. Blood, seeped slowly; from the cuts-in the cemetery risen squash. Three bold children, now began to shake with fear.
“Is, that blood?” Sarah, looked to her younger brothers; for support.
“It can’t be!” Jeffrey explained as the three slowly backed away from old man Creedly’s grave, in an attempt; to gain some: long- spanned distance, away from the- unseen thing; that seemed to be focused on their position.
“Do, you see anything?” Sarah, whispered.
Timothy, the mouth of the three; he- was now silent, his eyes searching; from stone to stone; the thoughts, that they are- within the bowels of a cemetery, at night; with something coming after them; a little more than one tough little boy can handle. Timothy Irons, pointed to the stone path east of their position.
Stepping stones, uprooted from their places of securing in the soil of the path leading back- to the cemetery gates. Sediment quickly rose from beneath the path in a signature recognition of: something of a long burrowing animal, digging a tunnel.
“What, the?! There’s something moving beneath the ground…..”
“Stop talking! Don’t move!” Sarah warned as the burrowing stalker made a b- line for- their current position. The three children, paled as the thing beneath the soil ceased its movement only inches from where they stood.
Moments of- fearful silence, seemed to the three siblings to be as an eternity. The- unseen thing, beneath the soil; reversed its direction, and encircled around- the pumpkin. The three children, watched in terror; as four tentacle- like vines breached- the soil, to lay claim to old man Creedly’s prize squash. The partially carved, bleeding pumpkin, slowly drawn beneath.
The recognition, of a long black automobile caught there attention. The three children, left their carving knives behind, and ran. Father Sigmund Reed, arriving- just in time; to save their day. Creedly’s pumpkin now buried deep beneath the cemetery; where in lies the old man’s grave.
Wednesday October 18th 2017
Dana Bauer, walked slowly; among the full grown pumpkins in the patch. This years harvest, in the woman’s eyes- much greater than the last.
“What, do you think; father?”
“.…. You, still can’t get used to calling me dad? I am no priest!”
“Sorry, dad! What do you think about the harvest?”
“.… You’re right Dana….. Some of the best pumpkins, I have ever seen…..”
“.…. You, still want one for your carving talents; I suppose…..”
“You know- it, Dana…….. Sixty- five years old, and I am still: the best pumpkin carver in town…..”
“.…. That one, right there seems to be a good size…..”
Gregory Bauer, scoffed on the- oddball shaped squash; only three quarters of- the pumpkin actually rounded.
“That pumpkin; it is so malformed, it could be used; as a bust model, for the mayor’s head…..”
“Dad? You two still at it?”
“At what? It’s not my fault he’s an ignorant selfish ass…..”
“.…. You know this, from experience?”
“Damn- right! At least, I am not scared to admit it…..”
One single crow, set atop a pumpkin’s stem; immediately caught his eye. On sight, of the two approaching owners to the patch; the dark black avian observer in a state of alarming; shrieked a caw aloud, and flew low; over their heads.
“Damn crows! What’s the hold- up on the scarecrow?”
“Buck, is going to have the new scarecrow here- sometime this evening….. he said, he is working on one of his scariest designs yet…..”
“.…. Maybe, Buck should give the scarecrow his face and personality?”
“What, what did I say?”
Buck Leon Krauss, looked over his masterpiece; of straw- stuffed plastic bones, and of tanned leather hide stitched flesh. His creative work, calling for a critical eye. The dark burlap head of the dummy, was supported by: a black leather hood; that gives the head an almost reaper- like appearance.
This new piece, it was spooky; as to be expected, from this master talent of modern- scarecrow design, but not overly scary. The young artist, he shook his head and rolled his eyes in silence; on how stupid he thinks the dummy actually looks.
This particular model dummy order, it is for- the yearly marking; of a children’s youth group, picnic gathering, that is set to take place; after a holiday parade, that has been scheduled; ten days from today.
Buck, he did not like making his art work so simple; a man of creative talent, he is to be represented; by his completed works, after all. He feels strongly, against making anything of a scarecrow design; out to be overly childish, or silly in nature. The dummies are made to frighten; not to be made fun of.
Placing, the two reddish- brown button eyes; three and a half inches above the smiling stitched lines, representing the plastic and leather worked dummy’s open mouth; Buck, quickly sewed the two ridiculous looking implements, of- the hood face’s sightless eyes into place. This project, it was nearly complete; and he had to put a rush priority on another.
The sounds of an expected, untimely wrapping on his door; caused the working stitch- artist to prick his left index finger.
“Come, on in….. The shop’s open…..”
One man, of a Jamaican born heritage, quickly entered the unmarked workplace residence.
“Hey, man- that one; it be looking alright, I suppose…..”
“.…. Youth group picnic….. Lots of kids…..”
“.…. Oh, I see now; man….. Where, do you want this?”
Buck, he now turned; the entirety of his attentions to the labeled shipping crate. The artist’s heart began to race.
“.…. From, the Creedly auction?”
“You got it, man….. Special delivery, you know…..”
“Just, in time….. Let’s set it up on the counter.….”
Buck, eagerly assisted the young Jamaican delivery man; with the lifting, of the medium weighted shipping crate; up on to his shop’s service counter, and then returned to his completed hood.
“Mind, if I hang with you; and see the spoils, man?”
“.…. Creedly, he was known for some curious interests; wasn’t he?”
“Yeah man……... My grandfather, he says; Creedly, he was a practitioner of the black arts; of voodoo, man…..”
Buck took a quick look at the Kaballah Amulet; hanging loosely around the Jamaican’s neck. It looked to be: an eye with- eight rays shining to the inner ring. The Eye- shaped center; surrounded by two rings; and by many runes, and characters of scripted language, known only to him; at this point, the Jamaican man; he was one of his people: A follower of religion, of culture, and of tradition.
“Oh, yeah man….. Don’t you be worrying, about no voodoo now….. this oneamulet, it will protect us; man, and besides; these modern priests, and the priestesses especially, man; they practice white magic, not black…..”
“.…. That’s comforting…..”
“Hey, I am with you; man….. what, say you; we bust open this crate?”
Buck, nodded in an immediate approval. The two, got fast to work at opening the nail- sealed wooden crate.
“Reap the harvest, frighten the crows…..
Walk the path, protect the patch…..
Clear the rows…..
Tonight he comes, to watch over the pack…..
The caretaker of night, Lantern Jack
” (Old Man Creedly, September 2017)
Something wicked, has yet transpired; this night. For within the greatest of all of Creedly’s pumpkins, was to be transplanted: the old man’s heart. With a direction, all its own; the sun grown skin from the over- sized squash, peeled slowly- from its meat. Like the shavings, manipulated by some great peeler- of vegetation; the skin slowly wrapped the festering remains, with an unnatural flesh.
The meat of the squash, filled in- places of void, within: the strange cocooning sarcophagus; and the evil heart, fell into place within the breast of the dead.
The heart, it beat slow; at first, and then gradually; picked up- its percussion, in instrumentation. The cocoon, reacted with every beat. Holes breached the sarcophagus’ surface; allowing the growing entity within to breathe.
The breathing from within slowly steadied, and the skin- like wrappings, of the cocoon; retracted inward upon the frail exoskeleton frame, of the reaper of the harvest. The skin, of his resurrection, was darkened by the soil; from which, his remains still lay.
Evil’s head, cracked a pop- in the neck; as that which once was- old man Creedly, opened wide; its wicked eyes partially, to peer- through the wraps. The eyes, they were as blood; as they peered upon the darkened lantern, that had been positioned to mark a place of final rest.
The lantern ignited, with a supernatural flame; as the reaper rose, to recover his soul: a spirit imprisoned- within the artifact that had been most recognized with old man Creedly’s life’s past existence.
This unnatural thing. This Horrid, it now walked. Patches of earth, beneath its feet; rotting as it passed.