Nightmare: A Pumpkin In a Straight Jacket

According to my phone, it was 2:36 AM. The air was thick, warm, and humid. My childhood friends and I were walking down a hushed road at the edge of town, sparsely lined by old, dilapidated houses and industrial brick buildings. A fog surrounded us, floating off the creek like an army of restless phantasms, and out of the thick forest like wispy, skeletal tendrils.

Everything was wrong. The world felt…off. To my right, something crashed along the treeline. It was huge. “Motherfucker!”, Rob said, startled, as he whipped his head to the right while reflexively balling his fists up. “What the fuck was that?”

“I really don’t know.”, was the only stupid reply I could muster. And even as the thought crossed my mind, I did know what it was. Somehow, I knew whatever we were dealing with was unadulterated evil. A primal fear overcame me, and my heart began thudding. It was beating so hard as to be painful.

Jay’s white V-neck was drenched in sweat the color of feral cat piss, and his hooded eyes somehow bugged out of his chinless face. “I knew I shouldn’t have come out with you guys tonight. Every time I do, shit always get wrecked. We’re going to get killed tonight.”

“Shut the fuck up!” Rob sputtered harshly, brow furrowed under his dark widow’s peak. He flicked open his pocketknife and glanced towards the forest. “If there’s ever been a time where you shouldn’t be bitching, now is it.”

I wanted to tell them something evil was upon us. Not only upon us, all around us. All around everything. No matter what we did, we were never going to make it out of this mess. Even if we somehow escaped right now, we would find ourselves in a similar predicament again. But this mess was what, exactly? I couldn’t grasp its entirety. It was something I felt, but didn’t understand. Rob seemed to understand why it was happening, but couldn’t feel how serious it was.

As we approached the urban beginnings of our small city, a large, round red light exploded out of the fog 200 yards to our rear. “Run!”, Rob screamed. “It’s the red light.”

What the fuck is the red light?”, I thought to myself, as Rob and Jay took off at physically impossible speeds toward a baseball field 500 feet up the road. They disappeared into the swirling fog.

As I lethargically approached the field and made a right turn onto the grass, the fog thickened and gained some kind of weight. It felt oppressive. It felt alive.

I’m fucked, I thought to myself, simultaneously getting annoyed and even more frightened. “Whatever you are, come out and get this over with. I’m tired of worrying about your shit.”

To my left, a small strip of high grass and shrubs sat on a sloped embankment separating the baseball field from a dimly-lit street. There was something in there, watching me. It was seeking me. Hungry. Desperate, and with a purpose.

I  was alone. It was evident that Jay and Rob were gone. They abandoned me. How did they move at such incredible speeds, and why can’t I run normally? Why do my legs feel like lead? “Guys!”, I shouted frantically while spinning in circles. “I’m going to need help here!”

There wasn’t going to be any help. Slowly I walked toward the embankment, facing the inescapable terror that would get me one way or the other.

“Come out, asshole.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, an immense “pumpkin” in a straight jacket busted out of high grass and started writhing down the embankment (writhing is the best descriptor I have, but the way it moved was nonviable).

It wasn’t really a pumpkin, but resembled a Halloween jack-o’-lantern. It had blazing, shafting orange eyes akin to a jack-o-lantern’s, but the eyes weren’t really eyes and the color wasn’t exactly orange. It was “running” on legs that weren’t really legs, and it was trying to escape from its straight jacket with arms that weren’t really arms.

I know this doesn’t make sense, but it was almost as if this thing was fluid and formless while trying to have the form I described to you. This thing is intelligent on a cosmic scale, and this form is the best it can do? is the thought that crossed my mind.

Worst of all, this piece of shit wanted me. It wanted me for reasons we can only fear, and will never understand. It wanted me for reasons that were evil beyond human understanding, and intelligent beyond any earthly intellect. It was the manifestation of every possible worst case scenario, and it’s mission was as immense as it was insane. This thing belonged to a thousand worlds, and a million realities.

Pointlessly I ran, and as the “pumpkin” caught and enveloped me, I woke.Drenched in a sweat, I sat up bed. The terror spilled into reality for the next hour. There would be no more sleep the rest of this night.

What bothered me most wasn’t the nightmare itself. It was that I felt as if I was about to understand this diabolical thing’s purpose as it caught me. It was evil–evil to us, at least–but it had an important objective.

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