In our last segment (Part 6) things have gone terribly wrong, and it appears our heroes have been helplessly captured by the witch. All is doomed! Or is it? And now the conclusion...
Watrous & Valmora: Further Tales of Pumpkinheart
From a night full of strange events, one might think that Valmora might cease to feel such emotions as surprise. But even while the threatening hat mechanism astounds, odder events continue to unfold. Fortunately she has just enough sense left in her weary mind to shelter beneath a nearby table, hidden from the hat, and from there watch the latest marvel.
A furious witch is turning upon the wood-wrenching noises behind her head, screaming in response to a pair of hands now departing through a large hole that has been torn into the roof. The gaping destruction is filled by one very large flame-flickering pumpkin eye. This huge triangular inferno burns with a warm yellowish-orange heat, while an eyeball, seemingly carved along its rim, is turning attention upon the cottage’s treacherous resident. A booming and irritated voice falls upon the airwaves, not so much with words but reverberations of exasperated thrums.
The witch shrieks and attempts to grab the hat but too late. The entire ceiling vanishes up and away into shards, causing her instead to fall backwards away from the fallout. The roof is replaced by an immense and warty-surfaced Jack O’Lantern, seemingly big as the room. The triangular eyes, nose, and zig-zag mouth form a terribly wicked expression, as dark muscular arms reach down, and one very large hand grabs the witch. Imprisoned, the wriggling creature screeches with curses and warbled spells, but these fall harmless against the charmed hull of the monstrous being who simply grins warmly while reacting silently and calmly.
First, the hat is beset with tinkering tendrils emerging from the wrists of the big arm, and these impel the hat in reverse. Materializing from the orange beam, Watrous, Carbon, and the ghost, suddenly appear huddled on the floor among a host of other fleeing creatures such as bats and owls flying up and away through the open ceiling. Valmora runs to protect her brother, and they watch in hopeful yet dismayed ignorance, not knowing what to make of this gigantic vision that smiles down upon them.
The thrum of the giant’s voice sounds pleased yet rises in a questioning pitch. It glances upward, off toward something in the distance, and the great head is almost instantly blurred by a mass of returning crows. As the children scream, the hands of the pumpkin attempt to shush away the annoying birds; however the witch, yelling curses from the wizard’s unfaltering grip, stokes the attack. The crows batter against the hull of the great round gourd, where upon they claw and peck into the flesh. They are sometimes flattened into a feathery pulp, with a great swat against its head; or their ranks are thrown against walls, the floor, or in whatever trajectory the swiping hands send them. Bats also reappear with an attempt to assist the pumpkin, and to block the crows from this attack, but the stronger birds perform their terrible work unhindered.
The pumpkin’s expression changes into a furrowed frown as the eyeballs peer at the incessantly babbling witch. He extends the blathering woman at arms length, as if in disgust, out among the swirling cloud of crows. All the while, the witch continues with her endless caterwaul of hexes.
With another great reverberating moan of final exasperation, the great pumpkin brings the screaming witch to his face, and chomps the great lips of rind down upon her midsection. Her legs frantically dangle, and something inside the pumpkin begins to burn as rings of curling smoke waft out from the pumpkin’s nose. The witch’s shrieks ratchet into howls of pain and hatred.
It isn’t too long after that the Pumpkinheart dislodges and careens from the black folds of her clothing. The shimmering jewel flies into a graceful arc upon the air. At this, the furies of the crows intensify, all attempting to catch it. But the pumpkin’s hand, quick and surprisingly nimble, captures the airspace around the flying jewel all at once, catching the Pumpkinheart in his grasp, and pulverizing anything else to mush. The powerful jewel is safe but the birds’ wrath is unceasing in their attempt to help the witch who squirms like a pinned bug.
Finally, the sheer mass of murderous birds drives the pumpkin away in a running retreat, with wildly gesturing hands. Not nearly defeated, it seems as if the wizard is merely moving the battle away from the group huddling in the cottage, and he even manages to wave before departing.
In the quiet that follows, it takes a bit of time for our heroes to recover from the amazing spectacle. It is the voice of Carbon who eventually reaches through the mental haze of the others shivering together in a corner. “I believe that we have just met the great wizard of the pumpkin patch.”
Given the ferocity of the great fight Valmora witnessed, she is both terribly relieved and exhausted. Holding the hand of the little werewolf, they approach the hat noisily spinning its cogs. To the top of the table where it ticks, Carbon jumps to give it a good cat-styled hiss.
“Well, I say.” With the swat of his paws, Carbon proudly sends the hat crashing from the edge of the table, and he attempts to return their world to a proper state of mundane affairs. “That was dreadfully exciting. And I dare say we indeed accomplished our goals,” seeing that the two children are reunited safe and sound. “I take it, dear friend ghost, that that was indeed the great wizard you mentioned?”
The ghost, in rare form, perhaps from seeing so many crows smashed to bits around his feet, is again smiling, and sighing in relief, and nodding his nebulous head. “Yes! The owl must have passed the word to the scarecrow, who in turn told the wizard….” But that statement, in a much truer return to form, is followed by an outburst of tears, “I hope he’s not mad at me!”
Carbon once again flattens his ears, and narrows his eyes, “Oh no! We’ve got to do something about your ghastly depression!” And the cat turns to more controllable matters. “Valmora! How are you? Are you okay? And how is this lost little canine of yours?” He looks over to see the two children are smiling, each asking one another if everything is okay.
“Water, did that wicked old thing hurt you?” Valmora asks the little werewolf.
“Nah…,” the little boy-cub says. “And I still got all my candy!” He smiles holding up his loot for her to see.
With her own treats half lost down a dark street, she cringes, embarrassed by her earlier goals of conquest into the candied kingdom of Halloween… not to mention getting involved with the whole Pumpkinheart affair. “I’m so sorry, Water. I’ll never drag either of us out into a mess like this ever again!” She hugs him, though Watrous rolls his eyes knowing that she’ll definitely forget those words next time another big mess just happens to happen.
Valmora then gives her attention to the cat and begins her introductions. Carbon and Watrous shake paws. And then she introduces her little brother to their terribly sad friend the ghost, that is between snuffles and sinus trumpeting.
Wondering if the ghost, finally, shouldn’t be happier, she ponders the events. “Do you suppose that everything is okay now? What will happen to the wizard, and the witch, and Pumpkinheart?” For herself and her friends she feels happy, but unsure the battle over that lovely powerful jewel is by any means finished.
The ghost calms down just a bit, self-loathing somewhat lessened, as he realizes the truth in his own upcoming statement, “Oh, I’m sorry to say, but the battle we witnessed here tonight has been going on long before your great-great-grandparents were born. Tonight, you were just a small part of it, and you did a good deed in the struggle. I suppose I was a small part too, and I hope I helped set things right. The great wizard of the pumpkin patch will eventually shake off, or should I say spit out the witch, and he will find the next new home for the Pumpkinheart tonight… but I’m sure that wretched crone will follow. She always does…”
Carbon chimes in, “Be glad of things Valmora! The witch lost the battle tonight! I only hope next year’s pumpkin patch is just as well guarded.” Carbon chuckles to see the ghost puff up with a bit of pride at the night’s outcome. Inwardly though, the cat shivers from a thought of ongoing battles.
“Well, I see no reason to stick around here. Let’s go everyone!” Carbon rallies and jumps from the table toward the door. And the members of the little group quickly follow. They are all so eager to exit this cottage, and to get back home; they travel outside, across the old porch, through the debris of the night, and stand at the edge of the road. There they sit for just a moment, hesitant now to head off in their separate directions.
Valmora crouches down low to speak eye to eye with the cat. “Thank you, so much, Carbon. I don’t know what I would have done if you had not found me crying at the Kilkennys.” As then, she sniffles just a bit despite all the complaints they had directed earlier at the morbid ghost for such dribble. “I suppose when I see you again we won’t be able to talk.”
“Ah, indeed,” Carbon sympathizes. “That is certainly true. This Halloween charm is going to fly away soon. But sometimes,” he winks secretly, nodding sideways toward the ghost, “it is best just to communicate silently. Please, you and Watrous, come by the farm sometime, and my meows and purrs will mean more than anything I could say with human words.” She giggles and lovingly pats the cat’s head.
After that, in turn she stands and faces the ghost. “We couldn’t have fixed anything without your help tonight. I really am sorry again to have caused such a stir. Please, if you can, tell the scarecrow too, I’m sorry to have created such a great commotion this night, and I’m so thankful for everyone’s help. Perhaps, I can help you in the future?”
The ghost does his best to control his tears, though he is obviously close to bawling, and manages to whisper, “I’m so happy I didn’t spend this night sulking in a well. It’s been wonderful to spend time in human company again, and in good conversation… well, that is, human conversation you see…” and he winks secretly, as unaware of the jab, Carbon’s own attention is currently turned to Watrous telling him to be good, and for he and his sister to watch after one another.
Valmora giggles at the ongoing squabble of her new friends, but her attention is drawn down the road where a car approaches. She turns to see Watrous squealing and waving. It is their parents’ car, and Valmora groans wondering if she can come up with anything remotely believable to explain to her parents this night’s trick-or-treat mayhem.
The ghost is disappearing behind tall grasses, and Carbon is crouching in shadows as the car’s headlights illuminate the night. Safely hidden, the cat and the ghost peer out at the strange world of humans, as the two children gather their trick-or-treat goodies and wait by the side of the road.
The door to the car opens and immediately there is a torrent of adult voices expressing concerns, questions, and outright shock to see the two of them trick-or-treating out of the neighborhood. What a scare they have caused! What worry! What a peck of trouble they are going to be in for the next few weeks!
Valmora sighs with a smile, happy to be heading home even to the doom of impending restrictions. The two children climb into the car, and as she prepares for endless scolding, Watrous already spins impossible yarns of ghosts, witches, talking cats, and giant pumpkins. As the car door closes, she assures her parents that the boy has just had too much sugar, and between breaths of his fantastical tale, apologizes again and again, and again.
She looks outside the car window and smiles secretly to her new friends. Carrying the children off toward their next adventure, the big car revs its engine and pulls away toward home. From behind it, the little black cat and the soggy ghost wave, and are later seen setting off into the night to also start their next adventure… all of them into the wondrous spell of Halloween night.
And that is the end of our story. Or is it? We hope you have enjoyed the tale of Watrous & Valmora: Futher Tales of Pumpkinheart and may we recommend a book to you?
Tonight's story was brought to you by Bindlegrim - maker of fine vintage-style arts for the autumn season. We thank you for tuning in to this special presentation, celebrating the release of On Stranger Winds: Tall Tales for Shorter Days, (a book offering both light to dark writings of whimsy for autumn and winter), coming soon in both digital and print formats.