Use the photograph above as the inspiration for your flash fiction story. Write whatever comes to mind (no sexual, political, or religious stories, jokes, or commentary, please) and after you PROOFREAD it, submit it as your entry in the comments section below.
Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture at left. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.
Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.
Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. No political or religious entries, please. Need help getting started? Read this article on how to write flash fiction.
On Wednesday, we will open voting to the public with an online poll so they may choose the winner. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday. On Saturday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature.
Once a month, the admins will announce the Editors’ Choice winners. Those stories will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!
Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted. See HERE for additional information and terms. Please note the rule changes for 2018.
10 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Pumpkins”
The Island 2048
“I don’t understand, Great Grandpapa. Do you mean that people, adults, full grown adults once frightened each other AND little children with…spiders, black cats and scary faces carved in a giant squash? You’re pulling my leg, right?”
I look into the eyes of my great grandchild. He is a bright child. Lonely in this age of isolation. Decades of isolation. Yet, he has a curious mind. As for me, I am beyond curious. I have seen what I need to see, what I will never again see.
Have always happened.
The Black Death for example. Centuries ago, it was. How it must have seemed, then; bodies by the cartload, burnt in giant pyres, the fear of the people, the pus and the boils of ignorance.
We had none of that ignorance. We were the most informed citizens of the world. We had the benefit of centuries of accumulated wisdom. Wealth beyond compare. Resources to mount the most effective pandemic response the world had ever seen.
We failed on so many fronts.
We allowed millions of migrants to huddle in hopelessness.
We allowed our leaders to pander to their respective tribes.
We allowed time-tested traditions to fall on the sword of surrender.
We weaned ourselves from silly Halloween.
We no longer needed ONE celebration of horror.
Every day, every minute was horror personified.
“Dear boy,” I finally said, “No leg pulling here. We allowed COVID to kill Halloween…and the earth.”
Everyone believes in ghosts, don’t they?
Tommy said to Marie, I’ve not known you long, but you seem petrified at Halloween.
Her head dropped, explaining how her dad acted scarily before taking her out trick or treating, groaning from behind doors or dressing like a ghoul. Eventually, I got the idea she giggled mischievously.
What age were you?
Five years of age or thereabouts, and every year we thought it was fun.
Did he stop?
She said nothing.
Tommy trusted her, after all, he loved her, convincing himself her big blue eyes were fearless.
That night going out, Marie said she preferred being around people at Halloween. He agreed but was in no mood for anyone to upset her.
A rowdy bunch approached from the bar, Tommy curling his arm around her, they all passed by, apart from one fool jumping up and down, groaning and dressed like a ghost, with some strange pumpkin on his head.
Piss off, said Tommy.
Marie shook Tommy off, what are you doing?
Protecting you. He turned back, nobody was there. Where did he go?
It’s alright, it was dad.
What do you mean?
I already explained, every Halloween dad scared me, she grinned, he was great this year.
I’ll have words with him, said Tommy.
How is that possible?
I’m going to speak to him.
Good luck with that she said, he’s been dead ten years.
Tommy’s jaw dropped, he cried out as he hit the ground, his eyes full of fear.
Just a Dream?
My parents were concerned about going to the neighborhood Halloween party after they turned off the porch lights. I told them I was twelve and could handle being alone.
After they left, I was on the couch watching a movie, when the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, three scary characters wanted ALL of our remaining candy, “OR ELSE!” I gave them what was left on the tray and the two bags close by. They laughed at my pajamas.
About an hour later, the doorbell rang again. I hesitated opening the door, but when I looked out the window, there were two cops standing there, and they didn’t look happy. I opened the door, but then I wondered if they just wanted candy.
“Thanks for opening the door,” one of them said, looking behind me. “Are your folks home?”
“No, they went to a neighborhood party.”
“Well, we’re looking for three characters dressed all in black with lit masks. We have reports they are stealing candy from homes.”
“I saw them, and they took all of our left-over candy.”
“Anything you can give us for an added description?”
“No, they were what you said.”
“Thanks, and please keep your door locked.”
My parents woke me. “Were you okay while we were down the street?”
“Sort of…three guys came and stole all our candy, and two cops came investigating.”
I heard my Mom whisper to my Dad, “I think he fell asleep on the couch.”
Halloween. Trick-or-treating. I was ten when my friends and I came upon an extravagantly decorated house: fake spider webs everywhere, a stuffed scarecrow sitting in a chair, a laughing skeleton hanging on the door, and many more decorations combined with creepy music. All this just to scare kids who want some candy, go figure.
But it was the pumpkins I remember most. Pumpkins carved so well their hideous faces had an eerie quality that made them seem so real. They lined the walkway leading up to the front porch. As you approach, their glowing gaze follows you.
Knock-knock! The door opens. A scary-cackling Witch jumps out! Her laugh alone is enough to give you a heart attack. “Trick-or-treat!” I try to yell, my scared little voice cracking as I open my bag. The Witch compliments us on our costumes while dropping a handful of mixed candy into each of our bags. “Thank you,” we all chime as we wave goodbye heading off to the next house.
The rest of the night was a great success. My friends and I all went home with bags full of candy, it was fun. But the one thing that still haunts me to this day, the one thing I never forgot, were those pumpkins. So real, so horrific, even in my nightmares I still see their eerie-glowing gaze following me.
Mom and dad drove off to a Halloween party, leaving me to babysit Godzilla, their new chihuahua. They cautioned me to turn off the lights, never answer the door-knocking trick-or-treaters, and a lot of other stuff. I agreed, and told them I’d probably be too absorbed watching the vampire-zombie-monster movie marathon on TV. I lit the pumpkin, pressed back into the recliner and flicked on the tube. Zilla, as they called the pooch, hopped up into my lap. I fed her some popcorn, and let her slurp beer from my stein. She nestled into my crotch and dozed off. I, too, drifted away while watching Dracula, trying to hypnotize Frankenstein, groping for the Wolfman, chomping on Igor’s foot.
Zilla’s shrill yipping woke me to a costumed Grim Reaper pointing a gun at me. I almost wet my pants. I must have forgotten to lock the front door.
“Give me all your money,” he snarled.
Zilla growled, and lunged at his gun holding hand. He screeched, trying to shake her loose, but she clenched tighter. Luckily, I managed to konk him with my ceramic popcorn tub and call the police. They arrived in minutes. I picked up my panting guardian angel and cuddled into bed with a newfound best friend.
Never told my folks about the incident. Didn’t want them to feel bad for being responsible for the calamity. After all, they forgot to remind me to lock the front door, too.
“Gimme another smooch, Zilla.”
It was a dark and scary night when the three pumpkins, all decked out in their Halloween fright, stood along the porch railing and jeered at the empty sidewalks.
“Look at the jack-o-lanterns, Daddy,” said the five-year-old boy wearing the beanie with the propeller.
“We don’t have to go this way,” said the dad as he and the boy and boy’s sister stopped at the top of the block. “You have plenty of candy.” It was midnight black down this boulevard, the street lamps dark, the only light coming from the flaming jack-o-lanterns.
This was a strange street and the father of the two children, not usually the parent that took the kids trick-or-treating, was nervous and unfamiliar with the surroundings. Why Sally insisted on staying home to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters, he was unsure. He was even more unsure why he had acquiesced to her request.
“Let’s go home and see how much candy Mommy gave out,” said Dad “That’s fun.”
“Boring,” said the boy, giving his father a strange look and then glancing at his sister, who nodded her head. They released their hands from their father’s tight grip and raced off laughing their guts out, the boy to the sidewalk on the right and the girl to the left.
“Wait!” shouted the father, paralyzed as his children disappeared into the dark, never to be seen again, though their laughter echoed in his mind like the screams of chattering jack-o-lanterns.
“Look guys, I’ve got an idea,” said Pumpkin.
“How can you have an idea?” Cat scoffed. “All your brains have been scooped out.”
“Every Halloween we scare people,” Pumpkin continued, as if he hadn’t heard Cat, which he hadn’t actually. Nobody had thought to draw ears on him. “Every single Halloween. It gets boring. How about if we do something different this year?”
“Like what?” Spider shouted.
“Something nice for a change. You, Spider, could patrol people’s houses and eat up any bugs you find. People don’t like bugs in their houses. And you, Cat, could cuddle up with a lonely old lady. That would make her happy.”
“What about you?”
“I could be a pumpkin pie! Everybody loves pumpkin pie! So what do you think of my idea?”
“A life of luxury for me,” Cat howled. “I like it.”
“A Forever Feast for me,” Spider shouted. “I like it.”
“And everyone will be happy!” said Pumpkin.
But Pumpkin had overlooked one small fact. Not quite everyone would be happy.
The flickering glow of the jack-o-lanterns painted Simon’s face orange-yellow, and Bess’s, too, as she stood by his side, waiting for his reaction. When it finally came, it was underwhelming.
“Not bad.” He nodded and repeated it. “Not bad at all.”
“Is that all you can say?” Bess complained.
Simon squinted at the black cat carved on the middle pumpkin, the spider to the left, and finally the wicked face to the right. “What should I say? That you’re an artist? Okay, you’re an artist.”
Bess pouted. “You never listen, do you? What did I say before I lit them?”
“You said they’re gateways. I don’t know what that means.”
She grabbed his arm and pulled him closer. “Pick your favorite.”
Simon scratched his cheek. “The one on the right, I guess.”
“Bad choice, but okay.” Hooking her leg around his ankle, she shoved him forward. He toppled toward the pumpkin. A blinding flash lit engulfed the yard for a fraction of a second, and when it passed, he was gone.
She would bring him back, of course. She really did like him, in spite his obtuseness. But not until he’d had time to learn his lesson. That shouldn’t take long. He chose the demon pumpkin. And everyone knows where demons live.
“Whatever you do, don’t go to the old Ellis place.”
We had just gotten into the car to go trick-or-treating, with big sister Sandy driving, and Dad came out to the porch to yell that warning. Which just made us want to go that way to see.
The house was falling down. I couldn’t even remember anyone living in it, although Sandy said the bus used to pick up a couple of kids there when she was in kindergarten. Which meant before I was around, considering she’s almost twenty and taking classes at the community college.
No point going up to it, but would there be any harm driving past it? Otherwise we’d have to take the long way around, and we might not get to the Chartwell subdivision in time to get the best stuff.
I’d expected the Ellis place to look spooky in the moonlight, but I hadn’t expected two bright lights on the porch. Sandy slowed down enough we could all see the flickering grins of the jack-o-lanterns.
Could there be someone living there? Curious as all of us were, Sandy wasn’t about to break Dad’s prohibition on actually going to it. She couldn’t afford to have Dad ground her for breaking bounds.
So we went on to Chartwell, and came home with full bags. The next morning, we heard the Ellis place had burned to the ground during the night. The authorities never found a cause, but I have my ideas.
Guests marveled at Ashley and Craigs’ Halloween party decorations.
“You went over the top this year, especially the carved pumpkins,” one guest said.
Little did they know what trouble the pumpkins would bring.
Later, during the party, two police officers arrived.
“Are you the owner? they asked Craig.
“Yes I am.”
Ashley interrupted, “Hi, officers, what’s up?” As an assistant DA, she recognized these officers.
“I’m sorry to inform you that your pumpkins are in violation of county ordinances.”
“Ordinance 513, having a flame within ten feet of a dwelling, and…”
“Oh, come on that’s for bonfires!”
“Also, ordinance 508, an open flame near flammable materials, like trick or treaters.” Handing her the citations he said, ” I’m sorry but we have to confiscate your pumpkins.”
Ashley fumed as they loaded the police car.
On their way home a guest called Craig. Then, he turned to Ashley, “Wait till you hear what Kyle and Jen just saw on the front steps of the police station…”
Ashley frowned, “Nooo… not our…”
“Yep, ablaze in all their glory – our pumpkins!”
” Those devil’s!” Ashley said and ran out of the room.
She came back with the citations. ” These are fakes, look at the ink!” Then, she noticed pale green writing on the back.
“Turn the lights off!”
“What is it?”
In ghostly pale green was written the message: No treats, just tricks! Maybe next time you’ll remember to invite me, your friend and boss – the District Attorney. Happy Halloween!
Comments are closed.