“One more piece please, Mrs. Greene?” Jeffie Danks said with a smile she couldn’t say “no” to.
“You know, Jeffie, it’s only one per trick-or-treater.”
Jeffie’s shoulders slumped. “But it’s not for me.”
Mrs. Greene kept the bowl filled with Snickers bars and Milky Ways between them.
“It’s for Robbie.”
Hearing Jeffie’s brother’s name sent an invisible knife into her pancreas. “Robbie?” she asked, concerned.
“Yes. I can’t talk about it,” the ten year old replied. “It’s a secret. But everything is okay.”
“Okay…” Mrs. Greene said, uncertainty creeping into her voice.
“So can I?”
“Can you what?”
“Have one more piece?” he asked.
She watched a childish grin halve his face.
“Sure, sweetheart.” Holding the bucket of candy out, Mrs. Greene looked beyond Jeffie, into the dark street where no cars passed and no other masked wanderers traveled in search of delicious treats. The night seemed to change in that instant, growing darker and more dangerous. “You be careful out there tonight. Tell your mother to call me when you’re home. Okay?”
Jeffie agreed, then took off, swinging his pillow sack full of collected goodies over his shoulder. He sprinted down the sidewalk, toward the path behind the Woodard’s yard that led to the mouth of the forest. The moon, full and bright, provided the luminance he needed to get where he was going. Jeffie ran faster than he ever thought he could, and stopped when the path finished twisting and turning and deposited him within the clearing where the giant pumpkin tree awaited.
The tree, somewhat of a roadside attraction amongst city folk, stood twenty feet tall. Pumpkins hung from the branches like dead suns within a dark, cancerous universe, void of positive energy. Jeffie ran to the base of the tree and looked down into the dark cavity filled with bags of candy. The tree had absorbed a few of them, accepting earlier offerings, but Jeffie’s most recent gifts remained; still, this was good news. The kids from the neighborhood told Jeffie it couldn’t be done, that the tree was nothing but an abnormality, holding no secret abilities other than standing the test of time. But here he was witnessing the magical moment firsthand. The pumpkin tree had accepted his gift and Jeffie waited with eager anticipation to see if the phenomenon would grant his request.
The hole glowed, wisps of tangerine smoke rising above the surface. The earth shivered as the tree’s infinite chasm gobbled the sacks of candy Jeffie had collected.
“Please…” Jeffie said. “Please let this work.”
The Pumpkin Tree Giveth…
In the distance, Jeffie heard the bell on his brother’s bike’s handlebars, the one Detective Stern had found in the woods next to Robbie’s mangled corpse.
The Pumpkin Tree Taketh…
Deformed vines several inches thick corkscrewed Jeffie’s neck, fragmenting his vertebrae before he could scream.