• Keri Heath

Carving Pumpkins

On the first, she carved two triangle eyes and a mouth with square teeth. On the second, she carved a big ghost head with scary ovular eyes. She couldn't decide what to carve on the third pumpkin.

For a long time, Nicki stared out the window. Only the occasional car rolled down the sleepy street, a passage of near-silence. The wet leaves clumped in the street drains in layers like a pastry. The autumn had come quick and wet this year and now they were left with naked trees, early frost and the dregs of pre-winter weather until Thanksgiving. Nicki hated it. It was not quite fall and it was not quite winter. It was something else, amorphous and nameless.

Nicki turned her head back to the third pumpkin. She needed to come up with a face and it needed to be a good one. The other two were classics. Couldn't go wrong with classics, her mother had told her. But now, Nicki was out of ideas. Behind her, the fireplace blazed bright and strong. She shivered in her sweater and looked around at the three hay-stuffed bodies draped over the chairs. She really needed to get going if she was going to have enough time.

She supposed she could go ahead and get started with the spell while she thought of a pumpkin face.

Nikki stood and pulled the three chairs into a circle. She had to stop several times to readjust the bodies as they slid down the wooden chairs. Then she bent over and started drawing a chalk circle around them, making sure not to close it all the way yet. Not until she was ready.

It was Nikki's first time terrorizing a town all on her own and she wanted to get it right. Her mother had entrusted her with being able to show the coven's power all on her own and Nikki didn't want to let her down. It was a good idea. Definitely a classic. But if she got the faces wrong, it wouldn't matter. Last year, a young witch had carved faces that were largely kind and the pumpkin men had run around town picking up garbage. Now, she needed her pumpkins to strike fear and terror. Nikki wanted those mortals to panic, to run screaming, the same way they had when mother had filled the town with snakes.

Suddenly, Nikki stopped and smiled. She knew exactly what she wanted to carve in the third pumpkin.

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