This story was based off a prompt from "The Write Practice" that I received yesterday. I started it on my lunch break yesterday and finished it just now. Hope you enjoy!
I dropped my bag of candy and when I bent down to pick it up, that's when I saw him.
Sammy was sitting in the closet, his bright eyes shining from under the edge of the blanket he'd lifted up to peer at me.
My hand closed around the bag of candy even as I crouched down to get a better look at my brother.
"What're you doing in there?" I asked, frowning at the face looking back at me from the darkness.
I didn't comment on how poor a job hiding he was doing. Wasn't like there were a lot of places to hide in a motel room. Instead, I edged closer, the candy pushed aside and, for now, forgotten.
"Why are you hiding?"
"Because." It was stated firmly.
"Because of what?"
"Because of the monster."
I sat down and the coolness of the grubby tile floor went straight thru my worn jeans. Elbows on my knees, I leaned forward and asked, "What monster?"
This time the only response I got was an extremely heavy sigh. It was the same sigh Dad made when one of us pestered him too much. It was the same sigh all grown-ups made. Grown-ups got to drive and pick out the food and boss everyone younger than them around, but they sure sighed a lot. Sammy was only five and a half, but he sounded like a grown-up when he sighed like that.
Refocusing my attention where it belonged, I prompted, "What monster, Sammy?"
"The pumpkin," he whispered, his tone horrified.
"Whaddya 'fraid of a pumpkin for?"
"'Cuz a the claws." His hands released their grip on the blanket and were held up in front of my face, demonstrating vicious claws; if you looked past the grape jelly smeared across both hands, at least.
"Pumpkins don't have claws, dummy." I was almost ten so I knew things like that.
"Yuh huh they do!"
"Do not." I pulled the blanket down over his head.
"Do too!" Sam shoved the blanket away. It pooled around him and gave me my first good look at him.
And - more importantly - what was resting in his lap.
I yanked the knife off his lap before he could move and threw it under the bed.
He didn't get to finish his protest because I grabbed him by the shoulders and gave him a shake. My heart was in my throat. At least, that's what I'd heard people say when they talked about being really scared. I figured my heart was still where it belonged, but that didn't mean I wasn't really scared.
"You're not supposed to touch the knives!"
Sam flinched at my tone and the tears came so fast and so hard that I was stunned speechless. He pulled away from me, yanked the blanket over his head and curled up in the farthest corner of the closet. It seemed like a huge overreaction until I considered that he'd been scared enough to be hiding in a closet with a knife. My harsh response had been more than enough reason for his reaction.
This time I was the one sighing one of those adult sighs.
"Sammy," I said, the fear ebbing away. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled."
My apology earned me nothing but more tears from under the blanket. Torn between thinking about the bag of candy I'd been about to rip open and feeling sorry for my brother, I sighed again.
This was supposed to be a fun night.
It was Halloween and Dad was bringing a pizza home with him after work and had promised we could stay up and watch a scary movie. After we'd walked home from school, I'd hunted through the room and found the bag of candy he'd hidden under the stack of towels on the top shelf in the bathroom. I'd brought it out, ready to share my prize with my suddenly vanished little brother.
My gaze drifted to the right where that bag of candy was sitting, just waiting to be devoured.
I leaned forward and poked Sam in the leg.
"Hey, stop crying. You want some candy?" I didn't know what else to do. If it took a candy bribe to stop the tears, it was worth it. Not like I hadn't been planning to share with him anyway.
Instead of thanks, I got kicked in the knee and then he tucked himself into an even smaller ball and cried harder.
I leaned against the wall and shook the bag of candy while Sam sniffed under the blanket. It was a big bag and there were a lot of really good candies. No the kind you got in the lame-o trick or treating the elementary school did. I'd already eaten most of those. Sammy still had all of his Tootsie Rolls and Smarties in the same crumpled paper bag that he'd carried his peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school in.
"Why're you afraid of a pumpkin for?" I asked, shaking the bag, trying to count the Snickers bars.
"Pumpkins don't have claws."
"Sometimes they do," Sam insisted, his voice muffled and choked with tears.
Setting aside the bag of candy, I grabbed his ankle and gave it a tug.
"I've never seen a pumpkin with claws, Sammy. Pumpkins're just decorations. They're fun."
"They're not either." He sat up, rubbing his jelly-covered fingers all over his snotty, teary face. "They're ugly and mean."
"Did you ever wash your hands today?" I asked, grabbing his wrist and pulling him out of the closet and to his feet. "Come on."
"I washed 'em!"
"Well, you didn't do a very good job. Wash your hands."
Pushing him to the sink, I grabbed a washcloth and got it wet while he struggled on tiptoes to reach high enough to get his hands under the stream. Dropping the washcloth on the counter, I reached down, wrapped my arms around him and lifted him up.
"When's a pumpkin ever been mean to you?" I asked as he splashed soap and water everywhere.
Once I was somewhat assured he'd actually gotten at least most of the stickiness off his hands, I set him down. He'd wiped his hands on his jeans before I could hand him the towel, so I just grabbed the washcloth. Kneeling in front of him, I started washing stickiness, tears, and snot off his face.
"You've never been afraid of a pumpkin before," I said softly, thinking back over the day.
Nothing unusual had happened as far as I could remember. We'd walked to school, then walked home from school with nothing but school in between. I'd seen Sammy at lunch, he'd waved jelly covered fingers at me with a big grin on his face. On the way home, we'd played at the park just up the road from the motel. I'd played basketball with some of the boys from my class and Sammy had been on the swings.
Hands and face finally clean, he looked at me with wide eyes and said, "The pumpkin almost got me!"
"When?" I frowned, putting the washcloth aside. This wasn't just him teasing or being a dumb little kid. He was really scared.
"The park? I don't remember seeing-"
"You were playing with your friends." His lip pooched out a little, quivering like he might be about to start crying again. "I'm too little to play with them."
"Who said you were too little?" My back tightened like I was gonna punch someone, but I gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze. "I never said that."
Sam shook his head and said, "Nobody said. But you guys're all growned up and tall."
"You'll get tall someday." I smiled and patted his head. The tall part seemed to bother him the most. "Tell me what happened. I thought you were having fun on the swings."
"I was. I like the swings more than the slide 'cuz of the slide always has water at the bottom and I don't like getting wet so I was swinging a lot and then I heard the monster and I went to look 'cuz I wasn't scared of it and then I saw it and it tried to get me with its claws."
Again, little hands were in front of my eyes demonstrating the horrifying claws.
I didn't laugh or tease him because he was the bravest kid I knew and he didn't get scared of nothin' just like me'n dad didn't. He didn't know that monsters were real, but I did. I was pretty sure the pumpkin monster with claws wasn't a real monster, though.
"Where was the monster?"
"In the tunnel."
The tunnel was a couple bushes that had grown together to make a pretty fun hiding place.
"And it was a pumpkin?"
"With claws!" Again, with the claws in my face.
"Yes, with claws." I pushed his hands away. "Alright. I'll go get rid of it."
"What?" His tone was a terrified squeak. The little claws that were his once sticky hands grasped my face. "No, let's wait for Daddy. I don't want the monster to get you!"
"No monster's gonna get me." I stood up, took his hand and pulled him out of the bathroom. "Get your coat on."
"Come on, Sammy, you've never been scared of anything in your life-"
"Shots." He shuddered.
"Ok, yeah well, everybody's scared of shots 'cuz of the needles. Even Dad."
"Even Dad?" His eyes got huge.
"Yeah. Eve-ry-bo-dy's scared of shots."
We pulled on our coats and he grabbed my hand as we walked out of the motel room. Dad would be home really soon, so I wanted to get rid of the monster and be back before he found out we left. We were allowed to play at the park for a little while on the way home, but when we got home, we were supposed to lock the doors and stay inside.
"We're gonna get in trouble." Sam pulled on my hand, suddenly more afraid of Dad than he was of his clawed pumpkin.
"No, we won't. Dad would want us to keep the neighborhood safe, wouldn't he?"
Sam nodded, not entirely convinced, but he wasn't pulling me back anymore. He didn't let go of his grip on my hand, though.
We walked the short distance back to the park and I headed straight for the tunnel. Sam stopped a few steps away from the bushes and I gave his hand a quick squeeze.
"Stay here, 'k, Sammy? I'll go look."
"Be careful of the claws!"
"I will. Stay there."
Waiting until he nodded, I turned and headed for the tunnel. I pulled my pocket knife out and gripped it tightly. No one had to know my hands were sweating and, ok, I was a little scared of what might be hiding in the bushes.
Gritting my teeth, I pushed aside the sparse leaves and moved closer. The air was chilly and the branches that scratched at my cheeks stung more than they usually would, but I kept going. Somewhere, in this tunnel was a pumpkin monster with claws and I was going to kill it. Whatever it was.
I saw the pumpkin.
I hadn't expected to really find anything. My heart did that whole jump into my throat thing again and I held my knife out in front of me. When the shock of finding a pumpkin right where my brother had said it would be died down a little, I studied it more closely.
It wasn't a real pumpkin and it didn't look like any kind of monster at all.
It was just one of those plastic pumpkins that kids went around and collected candy in on Halloween. We didn't have those. Just a paper bag for at school. A plastic pumpkin didn't seem very scary, but Sam didn't make up tall tales. He just didn't. Something about this pumpkin had scared him.
I swallowed my heart back down where it belonged, but kept my knife ready.
I jumped a foot off the ground.
"Are you alive?"
Turning around, I stared at my brother through the leaves. He could see me just as plainly as I could see him.
He took a deep breath, eyes still wide, but somewhat reassured I hadn't been possessed by the pumpkin monster.
"Stay there," I hissed, turning back to the plastic pumpkin that had instilled such terror in my brave little brother.
Stepping closer to the pumpkin, I kept my knife held in front of me and tried to think like the Karate Kid. I'd watched the movie enough to know exactly how to move. The plastic pumpkin just stared at me with its black eyes and black grin. I didn't see any claws, though, which was a good sign.
The pumpkin moved.
I didn't yelp in fear and this time I didn't jump, but that didn't mean I wasn't scared. Barely breathing, I watched the pumpkin move again. Just a little back and forth movement. Its grin taunting me with those wide, dark teeth. Plastic pumpkins don't move. They just don't.
Sammy'd been attacked by a pumpkin with claws and this pumpkin was moving. It was only a matter of time before the claws came out. Watching it rock back and forth, I took a cautious step backwards. Maybe Dad should check this out, not me. What if a silver pocket knife didn't kill possessed plastic pumpkins with claws?
The pumpkin made a sound.
Like the roar of a wild animal.
It rocked some more.
A black paw extended over the top edge.
Vicious, violent claws reached out.
The pumpkin roared and rocked again.
Now two black paws reached over the edge, grasping claws extended and searching for tender meat to tear and shred and eat.
I was a totally brave almost ten year old so I didn't wet my pants, but it was a near thing.
The knife was shaking in my sweaty grip as a black face peered at me from the top of the pumpkin.
The clawed beast let out a ferocious...mewl.
My held breath let out in a woosh and green eyes met green eyes as I stared back at the tiny, little, black cat.
It whined at me, one tiny black paw with tiny white claws reaching out for me. The kitten sounded sad. Sounded scared. Sounded stuck.
A pumpkin monster with claws.
Sure enough, just like Sammy had said, that's exactly what it was.
Putting the pocket knife away, I laughed in relief as the kitten mewed at me some more.
"Dean?" a voice as tiny and tentative as that of the kitten's voice called out from behind me.
"It's ok, Sammy. Come 'ere. It's not a monster."
I turned to see my little brother approaching with a stick that was almost as big as he was. Ready to swing it and help me against the monster, no doubt.
"Put the stick down. I told ya. It's ok." I waved him over. "Come look."
He dropped the stick and, still wary, edged closer.
I reached for his hand and pulled him the rest of the way. "Look."
Sam stayed behind me, but peered around my side.
"A kitty!" he exclaimed, suddenly on his knees in front of the pumpkin before I'd registered he'd moved.
"Don't touch it." I grabbed his arm as he reached out for the kitten. "Could have some kind of cat disease."
"Aw, it doesn't look sick. It's so little. What do we do with it?"
All his earlier fear of the clawed pumpkin monster had completely vanished.
"I dunno." I really didn't. Crouching down next to Sam, I looked into the pumpkin where the little black fur ball had tucked itself down. It was probably as scared of us as we'd been of it. I studied it closer. "Look, it's got a collar."
"So it's somebody's kitty!"
"What if they're looking for him?" Sam's hands were reaching out again.
I caught him before he could touch the kitten. I didn't know what to do with it, but knew we couldn't leave it here.
"We'll take it home."
"We will?" Sam's grin was huge.
"Yeah. And then Dad can look at it and figure out if there's a phone number on the collar and then get it back to its family."
Delighted, Sam leaned back over the pumpkin. His hands were pointedly held behind his back, but he smiled down at the kitten and said, "It's ok, kitty, we'll help you."
I reached past him and picked the pumpkin up by the black plastic handle. The kitten meowed pathetically and stared up at me.
"If you don't bite me, I won't hurt you," I said, offering a truce.
It didn't sound like an angry meow. That was the best I could hope for, I guess.
"Let's go home."
Kitten in a pumpkin in one hand, Sam took my other and tried to walk with me while peering into the pumpkin and cooing at the kitten. He tripped over his own feet and I tripped over him. Finally, I shook my hand free of him and switched the hand I held the pumpkin in so it was on the same side as my brother. That meant I wasn't tripping over him although he still was stumbling over his own feet as he talked to the kitten.
"...and this is my big brother Dean, he's almost growned up and he's gonna be ten after Christmas and I'm gonna be six but not till May when the snow melts. It's gonna snow soon, my teacher said so and I like snow because we build snowmen but it's fall right now and tomorrow's November but it's still October and it's Halloween tonight so we're gonna watch a scary movie and maybe Daddy will let you stay with us…"
I tuned him out right about then. How he managed to say so much in one breath made me tired and I thought the kitten looked a little bored, but at least he wasn't trying to claw us or eat us or anything.
We made it back to the motel before Dad which was good, although I wasn't sure what he would think about our bucket of kitten. Once inside the motel, I set the bucket down and pulled off my coat. I had to peel Sam's coat off him while he knelt next to the bucket and continued his conversation with the kitten.
"Dean, he's tired of being in the pumpkin," Sam said, looking up at me with sad eyes. "Can we let him out."
"He'll get lost in the room." I shook my head. "We dunno if he's got some disease. Can't get bit."
Sam sat down on his butt, elbows on his knees as he frowned down at the trapped kitten.
"He's fine," I said, heading for the bag of candy.
I spun around a split second later when I heard Sam scrambling to his feet. He was grinning again as he hefted the pumpkin a little less gently than I had.
"What're you doing?" I dropped the candy on the bed and rushed over to steady the wildly swinging bucket.
"Gots an idea!" He pointed to the bathroom. "He can play in the bathtub! He can't climb out and it's more room than this pumpkin."
He looked so proud of himself and so excited and he had a good point, so I nodded and helped carry the pumpkin bucket to the bathroom. Once there, I gently tilted the kitten out into the bathtub. The little furball looked annoyed with me and reached out a paw to try to smack at me.
"Awwwww….." Sam sounded as mournful as the kitten looked. "It's cold and he's scared. Can we give him a blanket?"
I grabbed a towel and spread it in the tub, barely escaping the vicious little kitten's wildly striking paws and sharp teeth. Seemed really ungrateful of him considering I was trying to make him comfortable. I watched with narrowed eyes as he scrambled around the tub a few times, pawing at everything until he finally decided the towel was a safe place to stay.
"He's hungry. Can we feed him? We've got milk. Please?"
Sighing, I said, "I'll get some. Don't touch him, Sammy."
"I won't. Promise!"
A minute later, I was back with a little milk poured into half of a takeout container. Sammy was sitting next to the tub, his arms on the edge and his chin pillowed on his arms as he smiled at the kitten.
I risked life and limb again to put the milk down for the dumb cat who hissed at me.
Pulling my arm back, I said, "He's grumpy."
"He's just little and scared. He doesn't have a big brother to look out for him." Sam smiled up at me.
I mussed his hair and sat down next to him to watch the kitten lap up the milk and then snuggle down into the towel.
We sat there for awhile until I heard the Impala pulling up out front. "Dad's home. Don't touch the cat."
Turning away to meet Dad, I sneezed hard. Wiping my nose with my sleeve, I looked out the window, then ran for the door when I saw Dad carrying a pizza box. Sneezing twice more before I could get the door open, I pulled it open just as Dad got there.
"Hey, Dean." He smiled, stepping inside. "How was school?"
"Boring." I pushed the door closed and locked it, my stomach growling at the smell of hot cheese and pepperoni. "I'm starving."
"You always are." Dad let me take the box to the table as he pulled off his coat. "Where's Sammy?"
I sneezed a couple times, then pointed at the bathroom. "He's watching the monster."
"The monster?" Dad's eyebrows went up.
"Hi Daddy!" Sam came rushing out of the bathroom, flying at Dad and wrapping his arms around him. "I found a monster but it wasn't a monster it was a kitty but it's got claws and Dean said we couldn't touch him 'cuz a he might have a disease but he's just sleepy and small and can we keep him if nobody wants him?"
Dad looked from Sam to me to the bathroom. He leaned down to give Sam a quick hug, then asked, "What monster?"
Sam grabbed his hand and pulled him to the bathroom.
The little pumpkin monster was sleeping on the towel in the tub.
"Sammy found him at the park," I explained, sneezing a few times. Rubbing my itchy eyes, I added, "He thought he was a monster but it was just a kitten stuck in a pumpkin bucket."
Dad looked down into the tub and smiled at the kitten.
"He's got a collar but he kept tryin' to bite me." I scrubbed at my face. Everything was itchy all of a sudden.
"Why're you cryin'?" Sam asked, arms around my waist. "Why're you sad?"
"I'm not-" I broke off to sneeze, "-sad."
"Not crying." Rubbing my watering eyes, I pulled away from my brother and sneezed again into my sleeve.
Dad's hand was on my shoulder and pushing me from the room. I found myself sneezing my brains out on the bed and then a moment later, he was wiping my face with a cool washcloth.
"What's wrong with him?" Sam was asking, sounding halfway to tears himself.
"I think he's allergic to the kitten," Dad said, sounding like he was smiling.
I couldn't see anything past my watering eyes.
"Dean, hold the cloth over your eyes. I'll be right back."
The cool cloth did help a little with the itchiness and burning. But I was still sneezing like crazy. Sam was at my side, patting my shoulder and asking Dad a billion questions. I didn't listen to anything he said. I was sneezing too hard to care and feeling about as miserable as I'd ever felt.
I peered past the washcloth just in case Dad had read my mind. I wasn't supposed to say stuff like that; especially not aloud. But he was just talking to Sam and digging through our medicine kit.
A moment later, he was making me drink some pink stuff that tasted like bubble gum but not as good. I choked it down because he said it would help. After that, he pulled the cloth away, looked at me closely, then gave me another cloth.
Settling me back against a pile of pillows, he said, "Keep that over your eyes. The medicine will help soon. I'm going to take the kitten out."
I leaned my head against the pillow, sneezing a few more times until I was afraid my brains were going to scramble. Sam was running around asking more questions, his voice loud and anxious. Dad's voice was soft and calm and I knew I was going to be fine.
After a few minutes, I heard the door open, then close. A moment later, Sam crawled up on the bed and sat on my lap, his fingers pulling the cloth up for a second.
"You look like you got punched in the eyes. They're all poofy."
I stared at him through itchy, watery, poofy eyes. He looked worried so I said, "I'm ok. Just allergic." Whatever that meant. "Where's dad?"
"He was takin' the monster to the people he belongs to. There was a phone number on his collar."
"I'm sorry the monster made you sick."
"I'm not sick." I pushed away the cloth and sat up.
"You look sick."
"I'm fine. The medicine's helping." It was. A little anyway. My nose was still all stuffed up and my eyes were itchy, but I wasn't sneezing as much. "Go turn on the TV and find the scary channel."
I directed him up and down the dial until he found the channel that was having the scary movie marathon. After dealing with a pumpkin monster today, I wasn't sure anything would scare me now.
Sam turned the volume up and settled next to me on the bed. We'd watched the ending of a lame movie about aliens by the time Dad was back. Hopping up, Sam went to let Dad in again.
"How're you feeling, Dean?" Dad asked, draping his coat over a chair. He came and sat next to me, his hand on my chin as he studied me.
"Better." My voice was congested like I had a cold.
He smiled. "You're allergic to cats. Probably shouldn't bring them home anymore."
"I won't." He didn't have to tell me twice.
"You still hungry?"
I nodded at the same time Sam shouted yes at three times the volume necessary. Dad and I cringed, then he got up to get the pizza while Sam went for napkins. We spread the feast out on the bed and ate like we were on a picnic while the next scary movie started.
When we were finished with the pizza, Sam went to get the bag of candy. Dad gave me a stern look for having snooped around to find it, but I hadn't opened it so I didn't really get into trouble.
I was starting to get sleepy, but I wasn't gonna tell anyone that because I wanted to stay up late and watch movies. So I ate my candy and tried to keep my eyes open. Why was I so tired? The only thing I could think of was the pink medicine. It had helped the sneezing and I wasn't so itchy, but it was making me sleepy.
Smothering a yawn, I unwrapped another mini candy bar. I stayed up till midnight last New Year Eve. I could stay up despite some stupid pink medicine.
Or so I thought.
When I woke up, the clock said it was midnight.
I was under a blanket on the bed, my head on Dad's chest and his arm wrapped around me. I shifted a little and saw that Dad was asleep. Head tilted back against the headboard as he snored. Blinking, I looked around the room.
The tv was still on. The light flickering and the sound turned down.
I moved a bit more, the crinkle of candy wrappers under me.
Sam was sitting at the end of the bed between Dad's feet, tucked up in another blanket. He was still shoveling candy in his mouth as he stared wide eyed up at the screen.
"Sammy," I whispered.
He turned around and smiled at me. "Hi Dean. You fell asleep like a baby a long time ago."
"Not a baby. Dad drugged me up with that pink stuff."
Sam unwrapped another candy and turned back to the tv.
"What're you watching?" I asked. "You should be asleep."
"I'm not tired."
Of course he wasn't tired. He was riding high on a sugar rush. Tomorrow was going to be rough.
"What. Are. You. Watching?" I repeated. It didn't look like a horror movie. It looked like one of those boring shows grown ups watched. The things teachers always made us watch. Docu...documentaries.
"It's about monsters. Not the pumpkin kind. A real one. They call them cereal killers 'cuz they all eats cereal and kills people."
I couldn't figure out what cereal had to do with anything, but he seemed oddly fascinated. I watched the screen for a few minutes. It was boring. No monsters with claws or people screaming or blood or ghosties. Just people talking.
My little brother was weird.
I was too sleepy to do much, but I managed to get the remote and turn the tv off.
Sam's whine had woke Dad up. He shifted under me and I rolled to the side as he sat up to pull Sam toward him. Dad settled back against the pillow, holding Sam against his chest.
"Go to sleep," Dad said, covering us all up with the blanket.
I curled up and pressed my face to his arm, more than ready to go back to sleep. Sam was restless and still talking about cereal killers. Dad was shushing him, but he was already more asleep than awake. I fell asleep to the sound of Sam's voice going on and on and on about those stupid cereal killers.
Nobody slept much that night.
Sammy had nightmares about pumpkins with claws and woke up crying.
I dreamed about magic pink kittens that could make you sick with one touch.
Dad had to deal with Sammy sick from all the candy and me groggy and grumpy from the hazy drugged feeling I got from that pink stuff.
It was the last Halloween Party the Winchester family ever had.
Hope you enjoyed! I sure had fun writing it.
Have a great day!