Author's Note/Disclaimer: Happy Halloween, everybody! I just barely managed to write something this year as a Halloween/Christmas special. As a special bonus, this year's special feature original characters and illustrations by my sister Ghost Peacock!. The way the illustrations work is that as we update things, you'll see new thumbnail art in the corner. It's an interesting collaboration for me, but as Jack has proven, some intriguing things can come out of trying something new!
We do not own The Nightmare Before Christmas or any of its characters. They are the property of Walt Disney Pictures. We only create fanworks. Enjoy!
A long time ago in the land of Halloween, the king grew tired of his holiday. When he discovered Christmas, he felt as though he had discovered a new purpose in his afterlife. In reality, his love of the winter holiday lead him on a grievous misadventure to try leading Christmas himself. He nearly destroyed Christmas that year and much more, but rather than turn further away from his holiday, he decided to set things right with both worlds and his undead heart. And since that Christmas, the holiday worlds and the creatures that inhabited them were never the same.
But there was more to Pumpkin King Jack's story than his Christmas mishap. Jack believed that one true nightmare of Halloween's past had been left behind. He was wrong…
The towered manor at the edge of Halloween Town Square was always a rather noisy abode. Whether it was from the visiting ghosts or the residential family, frightening shrieks could be heard at many times of the day (and even more in the evening) through the thin, old walls. It was a delight to the many monsters that walked by. On that day, the shrieking was particularly loud, but that wasn't surprising given that Halloween night was only a few weeks away.
The source of most of the day's shrieks was running around the manor in a tattered burlap suit and a pumpkin on his head. His skinny, yet short femurs sent him hurdling about the manor as he howled. Meanwhile his parents, a living skeleton and rag doll, could only watch happily when he popped into the main living room. They were the king and queen of Halloween, and this was a part of their child's scare practice.
An apparition appeared in the chamber, only to have the child run straight through its wispy form. The ghost, now a fully visible dog, growled in frustration at the assault despite not feeling a thing.
"Now Tim," the Pumpkin King finally interrupted his son's rampage after his third run through the room and the unintentional attack on the dog, "the technique is not so much in the speed or how much you scream, but in the timing of both."
The young ghoul finally slowed down. "-But dad," he muttered from beneath the pumpkin on his head before lifting it off and revealing his skull, "with your costume, I'm already terrifying!"
"It is a close replica," his mother remarked. An expert at sewing, she had made the costume for her son to resemble Jack's, but she knew that a lookalike outfit wasn't all he needed.
"I had a costume like that too when I helped with the show," said a voice from behind the rag doll. It was Tim's older sister Star, who walked in with a smug, skeletal grin. "And nobody thought I was scary."
"Nobody ever thinks you're scary," Tim countered, sticking out a mummified tongue at his sister.
"Stop it," the rag doll said firmly. "No fighting about scares. Although your father does have a point. It's all about–"
The conversation was broken by a loud scream that was so loud it shook some objects in the room. Afterward, the ghoulish family all turned to the source, a skeletal baby that had previously been napping on the nearby sofa. Noel, the youngest Skellington, had made her voice heard.
"Now that's timing!" the king said, praising the infant with a game of peek-a-boo before turning back to his now sulking son. "All you need to do is practice a little with that, and you'll be terrifying, I'm sure."
Tim dropped the pumpkin head to the floor before leaving the room and climbing up a long, tall flight of stairs to his chamber. "Without fire, I'm not terrifying enough," he said.
An air of pity filled the room after that. Star left, feeling uncomfortable about the situation, while the king and queen just stood by, saddened. Only Noel was happy, chewing on a toy in her phalanges.
"Maybe I shouldn't have said anything," the skeleton said and sat down in an owl-shaped chair.
"You didn't do anything wrong," his wife said.
"Sally, I upset him every time I try to give him advice for the ceremony. And with Halloween so close–well, what if he doesn't master the fire tricks?"
"Well, maybe he won't," Sally answered, then smiled. "You know he's only trying to make you happy. He's so worried about what you'll think."
"I don't mind if we can't pull off the show together, but I know it means a lot to him," Jack answered.
Sally nodded. "He already wants to be you."
Jack chuckled. "If only he knew what I had to go through to become the…" He stopped then, thinking about something. "Wait, that's it!"
"What's it?" Sally asked.
Jack turned away before treading the same flight of stairs. "I'll give him inspiration from Halloween history!"
Jack turned back around to his queen, kissing her forehead lightly. "–The underground, dear."
Sally's eyes widened even more than usual. "But Jack, you know about…"
"Yes, I already thought about him," he replied, "-But Tim and I don't have to go into that part of the underground, now do we?"
Sally might have answered, but a crash from downstairs, a baby's demonic cackling, and a dog's anxious barking–in that order–caught her attention. She stepped back downstairs to attend to the trouble, but not before adding, "Just be careful."
Jack shook his head. Sally was always worried about his decisions, but then again, the past had proven that she had reason to be. Carefully, he opened the old door to his son's room. It creaked loudly, as all proper haunted house doors do, and Jack cleared what was left of his throat. He peered inside the room and saw Tim dangling his legs off the bed, a bony pout on his face.
"Son?" Jack asked, smiling.
"Dad," acknowledged Tim, not even turning his skull around.
"Oh Tim, don't be this way. You'll be horrifying, really! You just need a little inspiration."
"I guess," remarked the skeleton boy.
The ghost dog darted through the floor of the room, whining from whatever Noel had been up to downstairs. After a moment, he landed in Tim's lap. The boy could at least smile a bit with the dog there.
"Well," Jack continued, "if you'd be up for a trip to the underground tomorrow, there's something there I'd like to show you."
"The underground? Really?" Tim asked excitedly, allowing a big smile to creep up his skull.
"Well, sure. You've already been under the fountain, so why don't we explore the catacombs a little?"
"But Mother said I'd have to wait until I'm older," Tim reminded his father, secretly knowing that his mother was the authority on these things.
"–And you are older now. I really think it will do you good."
Tim leaped off the bed, phasing right through the yapping Zero, before hugging his father's leg. "Sounds great!"