Day 22: Jack-O’-Lantern Avatars

Author Jenna Eatough's Flash Fiction Story from Fyrecon's Fyretober Writing Prompt 2023-10-22

During October I am bringing you extra flash fiction or poetry in celebration of the season and inspired by Fyrecon’s Fyretober!

Enjoy my twenty-second entry into Fyrecon’s Fyretober!

Fyrecon's Fyretober Daily Prompt List

1. New neighbors
2. It’s Alive
3. No Exit
4. Walk in the cemetery
5. Door in the wall
6. Mirror
7. Space visitors
8. The Monster Is
9. Anti-magic costumes
10. Skeleton’s battle cry
11. Djinn party
12. Space dwarves
13. Zombie fireball
14. Possessed guild house
15. Lorekeeper’s mask
16. Dragon sight
17. Alien scryers
18. Trick-or-Treating Shapeshifters
19. Disguised spellbook
20. Screaming trapdoor
21. Ghost weaponsmith
22. Jack-O’-Lantern avatars
23. Phoenix light sail
24. Sparkle castle
25. Graveyard pocket universe
26. Sentient wand
27. Haunted Skyhook
28. Pirate space elevator
29. Disguised terraforming
30. The Witches’ Laws
31. Precognizant cats

Bonus Fanged griffin

Laughter broke through the night. Not the high pitch of cackling. No, the sound echoed madness unleashed. Clive stretched out his limbs. “This feels so good.” He groaned. Bits of dirt, grass, and dying leaves sprinkled from his still not completely solidified body to litter the ground about him.

The shrill laughter sounded behind Clive again. Cracking his stick neck, he twisted his head about and peered into the darkness behind him. Two others popped out of the field, one the maniacal laughter and the other… Clive could have done with him not coalescing this year.

Danny, the laugher, danced about the field. His dirt body marked by the brilliant orange head atop it. As he cartwheeled about, he spun to face Clive, and his face glowed into the darkness.

“How do I look?” Danny bellowed, striking a jaunty pose with his arms stretched wide and one leg cocked at an angle. Ever the cheery one, though what amused him, Clive rarely understood. Still, he couldn’t help but laugh tonight.

“Ohh, you’ve a perfect head this year.” Clive said, smacking his stick hand against his leg. More bits of mud fell into the ground, but he noted less fell than before.

Danny paused, blinking. “What, you mean?” Before Clive could answer, Danny reached up, grabbed his head, yanked it off, and turned it around to face him. “Ohh.” He drug out the single syllable. How he stared at his own head Clive still hadn’t figured out. “Fearsome this year. I was going for hilarious.”

“I would trade you heads,” Killian said. “Or just take it.” Clive glanced from Danny over to over to Killian. They really should have had opposite heads. Where Denny’s head was dark, grim, and menacing, Killian’s had mismatched wide eyes and a grinning mouth. Killian appeared the soul image of joviality. Neither fit the wearer.

“Be that as it may, we can’t switch heads,” Clive said putting an end to that argument before their search ended here in the field. He yanked on his leg, feeling the roots twist and turn within the ground. They groaned, they rumbled, and they tore free. He repeated the movement with his right leg as well. Stamping forward, he joined Danny and Killian, where they stood in the center of the field.

“Don’t you want to know what your face is?” Danny asked. He danced over to Clive’s side and plopped an elbow down on his shoulder.

Clive leaned sideways into it to prevent Danny from breaking off any of his body. “Not particularly, it is what it is. Shall we get on with it?” He glanced between Danny and Killian.

“I’m ready,” Killian’s voice rumbled into the night the sound of terror made flesh. He rubbed his hands together and worms fell from them.

“You’re always ready,” Danny said dancing away from me and rushing into the night.

Killian and Clive stood for a moment, staring after him before Killian regarded Clive. “Does he even know where we’re going?”

Clive shrugged. “Does we ever?”

Killian grunted in response and didn’t ask anything more. Pulling his own feet free of the ground, he trudged forward. Clive followed quickly in the rear.

Danny never asked for directions. Danny never stopped to think, but Danny never picked the wrong direction. Clive appreciated his ability to always steer them in the right direction. He had no reason to think tonight would be any different and followed the maniacal laughing into the dark.

Approaching one of the roads cutting through town, the trio spotted children darting away ahead of Danny. His laughter was eerie enough when he had a jolly head to scare children away. Clive doubted his current head would entice them to stay. He picked up his feet, quickening his shuffling steps forward to reach Danny as he hit the edge of the road. Danny danced onto the black surface. Clive flung out vines, twisting forward from his arm. They wrapped about his arm and hurled him back before a car could plough through him.

“Yeesh, that was closer than normal,” Danny said and leaning forward, he swung his arm in a snapping gesture.

Clive glanced at Danney whose head twisted further than he’d meant, swinging with drunken resolve. “Then perhaps next year you won’t jump forward,” Clive chided.

“But the night is calling and we’ve only this night to live!”

I’m certain this year I’ll find what we’re looking for.” Killian grumbled and turned right. He took over the lead.

The children didn’t dart as quickly away, seeing him coming as they had for Danny. They saw his face and laughed. Fools. The moment Killian came alongside them, before they saw Danny or Clive, he reached out left and right, and snapped vines at them. Bags flew from their hand to scatter tiny morsels across the ground.

Protests rose and rising wells trailed the Killian. The cries stopped when they caught sight of Danny and Clive. The children still remembered, even if they hadn’t caught on quick. Clive was pleased they remembered.

Beware the pumpkin men go marching. Marching.
Beware the pumpkin men a’ marching out on Halloween
Through the streets they’re walking. Walking.
Led by the pumpkin’s gleam.
Beware when the pumpkin men go marching. Marching.
Freed on a night of in between. Between.
For they go a reaping. Reaping
The Jack-‘o-lanterns on Halloween.

Clive had never enjoyed the poem. It described what they did well enough. They marched through the streets, they hunted, they went to reap something. But reaping wasn’t always bad.

He glanced between his companions again. For instance, Danny did it with delight, joviality, mingled with a touch of madness. True, Killian was dark and somber, but both of them, and Clive as well, all bore the same goal. To find the next soul for their group. To find the soul which would release them from the jack-o’-lanterns.

Sure, immortal life sounded great. Getting to come up back at night, scare the kiddies, and walk the world. No one mentioned what the deal involved: being made from dirt and moss with a jack-o’-lantern for a head. Worst, they only live for one night each year.

The children darted away from the trio and quickly word spread that a troop of jack-o’-lantern avatars walked through town. Whether they thought the trio costumes or mystical, they’d be wary now.

Killian stopped at another crossroads and harumphed crossing his arms. He planted his feet into the ground. Clive could already see the vines re-rooting beneath the fury of his frustration.

“No need for that,” Clive said, taking Killian and Danny’s shoulders. “We’ll find our mark yet this year, and this time it will be one of ours turn.” Clive took the lead, taking to the left as if the park called him. A park with a pond and the old willow tree.

The place drew him back every year. Clive had loved the spot when he’d been alive. He’d spent every day of his youth there. And much of his adulthood

He had died there.

“Beware when the pumpkin men go marching,” Clive said, turning about and feeling the gourd of his head stiffen as he tried to grin. Clive missed that. Getting to choose what he showed the world.

Into the park he marched heading straight to the pond and tree. The ground beneath the tree lay in dark shadows. Within the shadow sat a child. A girl. She didn’t run when Clive came marching. Instead, she looked up at him with wide eyes.

Clive knelt before her, and she still did not run. She gazed into his empty head and the fires flickering flameless within. He leaned forward, placing his face inches from hers.

“Boo.” Clive said, bunching his shoulders and flinging his arms out to make himself seem larger. The girl laughed, and, reaching forward, she grabbed my face.

Clyde had done it. He’d won the lottery this year. The mark had been meant for him and he’d found her. Buying himself freedom she would take his place, joining the troop some years. How long until she regretted life?

Not that it mattered. He was free. In the moments before Clive felt his soul flee from mud and moss, he saw his face. A fitting face for this year. Because as he fled and as the girl took his place. He realized he sorrowed, and the jack-O’-lantern’s face, the face she claimed, wept as well.

Be sure to check out all the #fyretober creations.

#fyretober2023 #fyretoberflashfiction2023 #fyretoberprompts2023 #fyretober2023day22

“Fyretober is for everyone who loves to create, and this month we’re looking to see your flash fiction, poetry, and illustrations every day. We’ll be providing daily prompts for the month and want to see what new concepts and wonders you can make with them.”

0 thoughts on “Day 22: Jack-O’-Lantern Avatars

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *