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Leonard's Pumpkins

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I moved out on my own just a few months ago. My house is in a pretty decent neighborhood, and at 25 going on 26 I’m doing pretty good career wise. Socially, however, I am lacking. I mean yes, I had friends back where I used to live, but after high school and college everyone just kinda went their separate ways, which is understandable.

Being a high functioning autistic, it's kinda hard for me to meet new people, especially when your autism makes even picking up a phone to call your parents seem like a chore. I did manage to take one friend with me; my best friend and roommate, Nyx. She’s the cutest black cat I’ve ever seen, and my Dad found her for me about 15 years ago when she was just a kitten. We lived together in this two story house for about two or three months.

It was the night before Halloween, and I was carving a pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern. This would be my first Halloween alone, but my parents were coming up for my birthday on the 2nd of November. I was pretty congested. It was bad enough that I called out of work, which I don’t often do. Still, I wanted to be a nice guy and try to give out candy. Hell I just needed to socialize a little bit.

Who knew, maybe one of the neighbors would be a nice lady my age? I shrugged cynically, knowing my luck even if there were I’d hardly talk to any of these people. I finished my jack-o-lantern while listening to some gothic music to set the mood, all the while sniffling and trying to pop my ears.

I had made a career out of my artistic skills, luckily. This did not apply to jack-o-lanterns though, sadly. The finished product of my pumpkin carving, which broke both carving knives and took a serrated kitchen knife to finish, looked like a disfigured demon with a facial tic. I was both amused and slightly disturbed at what my clumsy hands had created, but still satisfied enough to keep it.

The next night went pretty well, save for my now congested throat and chest and sinus pressure. I received plenty of reactions to my jack-o-lantern, ranging from laughs to slight recoils in terror. As the evening went by the trick-or-treaters became even more disturbed, and at the end of the night I found out why. I looked at the pumpkin, and what had started out looking like an abomination had shriveled into something that literally looked like a twisted skull. I coughed and chuckled, feeling somewhat sympathetic toward it. I felt like I wanted to shrivel up too.

I woke up probably about noon that next day, feeling even worse than last night. I was dizzy as hell, I couldn’t breathe, and I was almost completely deaf. My ears rang, and felt as if they would explode. I didn’t want to get up, had no real reason to, but I did anyway. I at least wanted to check the mail or get something to eat and maybe take some decongestant.

As I stumbled downstairs and shuffled outside in my robe and slippers to get the mail, I noticed that my pumpkin had vanished. I had already planned on throwing it out anyway, but I was still mildly surprised that it was just gone. Someone must have stolen it either late last night or this morning, I didn’t care. I’m sick and they did me a favor either way. I went inside with the mail and thought very little of it. I had myself a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a coke as I took my meds, then shuffled upstairs to lie in bed and watch TV in my room. As crappy as I felt I didn’t want to do anything else.

I woke up at 8:36, by what my clock told me, my TV still playing. I felt even more so dead to the world, and could barely lift my head. When I finally managed to do so, I saw Nyx curled up at my feet.

It was such a precious sight, and with my hoarse voice I said “Hi Nyxie!” She didn’t respond. She must have been fast asleep. I reached to pet her when I felt her body, stiff and cold. Again she didn’t move. Oh god… She was dead. My best friend of 15 years, died beside me while I slept. My hands shook, and I immediately began to weep.

I wept continuously, my head feeling full and unable to really hear my own sobs through my clogged ears. Even worse, my sobs were interrupted by worsening coughing fits. How could this happen to me? And on the day before my birthday, no less! I sobbed and coughed bitterly when the irony hit me that my birthday was known as the Hispanic Day of the Dead. Happy Birthday to me... Fuck my life.

Around midnight I finally stood up, although teetering, and took my cat’s lifeless body downstairs and got a shovel out of my garage. I went to the backyard and dug a hole, next to my room window. I placed a stone where I buried her to mark her grave, in memory of the best friend I ever had.

As I dizzily walked back to my house in a mix of soft sobs, sniffles and coughs, I thought about how this is probably a sign that I need to get out and socialize more. Fuck my autism. My dad’s right, I need friends. My thoughts were interrupted when I got to my front porch and noticed the pumpkin that was sitting there in the darkness.

I almost mistook it for the jack-o-lantern I thought had been taken. When I got closer I noticed the light inside was red, almost like an LED was inside it. And the pumpkin was as black as this night. The face… A cat’s face was carved into this black pumpkin!

What psychopath would do this to me? Was I being mocked?! Who the hell was watching me, to know that I had just buried my black cat, and made a fucking effigy of her in a pumpkin?! I screamed in a mixture of rage and grief as I hurled the pumpkin into the street in front of my house, dashing it to pieces and watching the red light disperse. I then stumbled inside, feeling even sicker than before.

I woke up three hours later face down on the couch. By this I mean my face was literally in the seat of the couch, and the rest of me was on the floor. I must have collapsed in a mixture of all the grief, confusion, anger, and sickness. I attempted to stand up and walk, but after making it to my recliner I collapsed again. At this point I was so dead to the world that I couldn’t hear at all. The cold mixed with the hollowed out feeling of losing Nyx made it almost impossible to feel anything. I wanted to go to sleep forever. Knowing that was probably stupid of me, and feeling the inability to actually go to sleep, I decided to see what was on TV. I picked up the remote for the downstairs TV and clicked it.

I clicked the remote again. “The hell?” I thought aloud. I saw the LED on the remote come on, why wasn’t the TV coming on? “Don’t tell me it’s dead too! I just bought the damn thing!” For the first time today I felt something other than grief, and strangely I welcomed it. My frustration turned to slight amusement when I considered the thought that I might find another pumpkin on my porch, this time for my TV.

Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to actually walk outside and check. I slowly and carefully stood up to counteract the light headed feeling I had and shuffled to the door. Sure enough, as soon as I opened the door, I saw a different shaped and colored pumpkin than before.

I laughed my ass off. Even as screwed up as I felt, I laughed through my coughing fits. Whoever the psychopath was that was leaving pumpkins of who died on my porch, they sure had a sense of humor. I think my head cold made me a little delirious, because the situation should have been more unnerving, all things considered. After I stood back up from cackling hoarsely and coughing, I noticed the pumpkin’s skin color.

It wasn’t a color I normally saw in a pumpkin; it had a fleshy, olive color to it. My stomach sank when I looked down at my arm and back to the pumpkin. It was my skin tone! I panicked, and the next thing I remember I was in front of the pumpkin as if I had just appeared there. The pumpkin was unlit, and with it being 3 a.m. I could barely make out what it was. Suddenly the inside of the jack-o-lantern lit up, revealing to me what I had dreaded to see. It was my face.

Oh no. Oh hell no. These pumpkins weren’t markers of who died. They were warnings. Some serial killer must be marking his targets with jack-o-lanterns or something! Shit! Panicking, I bolted inside. More like floated, actually, as dizzy as I felt.

I started upstairs to my bedroom to get my ninja sword out from under my pillow. This asshole wasn’t gonna take me without a fight! As I got about halfway upstairs the realization hit me; if this jack-o-lantern killer had killed Nyx, how’d he make it look like she died of natural causes? I got my answer as I rounded the corner and entered my bedroom.

I saw Nyx, curled up on my bed as I found her earlier, as if I hadn’t buried her. Lying next to my limp body. I can’t tell if I was horrified or stunned at the surreal nature of what I had just seen, but out of reflex I gasped. This sent me into a coughing fit, worse than the previous ones. I coughed as if my lungs were trying to come up. My head pounded as I whooped and hacked, and I collapsed to the floor as my vision blurred. And then it narrowed…

The obituary read, “Leonard Timothy Schmidt, November 2, 1986-November 2, 2012” After two agonizing days of being bedridden with temperatures above 100 degrees, Leonard succumbed at 3:33 a.m. on his 26th birthday. His father and mother, who had come to visit him, found him lifeless in his bed that morning. He was lying with his beloved feline, Nyx. Forensics concluded that after 15 long years, she died of old age, curled up next to her best friend merely hours prior.

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