THE PUMPKIN PATCH OF ERNIE MANVILLE
October 1st, 2017
My HALLOWEEN Story of the year!
The Pumpkin Patch of Ernie Manville
MANVILLE’S OLD-TYME FARM was as out of the way as you could find, if you could find it, along the back country roads of northeastern Michigan.
Ernie Manville and his wife Bethany had run the farm for the past 40 years, ever since Ernie’s father had passed away, and Ernie’s grandparents had bought the land and started the farm years before that.
It was as classic a farm setting as you could imagine; the big red barn with white accents, pens with horses and pigs and sheep, a beautiful cornfield that always produced plenty of sweet corn season after season, splendid pumpkin and gourd patches, and a small apple orchard with a dozen different kinds of apples. And people did actually find it, year after year, coming from far and wide to this well off the beaten path unique place, traversing down the winding dirt roads from the late summertime on through the autumn harvest season.
They came in droves, the people visiting the old farm, as their parents and grandparents had years before. It was from these first families that word had spread over the years, making Manville’s Farm one of the busiest out-of-the-way scenic locations in all of northern Michigan.
Ernie took great pleasure in taking tractor pulled hay wagons filled with people out to the pumpkin patch every year, five days a week through the entire month of October, to pick their own pumpkins from the twisted labyrinth of vines snaking across the ground, tromping through the rough, black and rocky dirt of the patch. Children loved to be able to go out and find their very own pumpkin, plucked straight from the earth, and have their parents haul the pumpkin back to the wagon to take back to the barn where hot cider and doughnuts awaited the whole family, courtesy of Miss Bethany.
One did not have to go out to the field to find the perfect pumpkin. The entire yard in front of the barn was filled with crates atop wooden pallets filled with bushel baskets of apples, gourds, and pumpkins. Cornstalks and pumpkins were often lined up along the outside base of the barn, around the trees and fences throughout the yard, and in front of the farm house where the Manville’s lived. Weekends were always the busiest, with cars and trucks filling the often muddy parking lot and on the busiest days could be seen lined up a quarter mile down the road.
Yes, farming was a labor of love for Ernie Manville, and the fall harvest season was the big payoff of the year, not just for the produce that was sold, but the joy that came to Ernie seeing the faces of those that appreciated his hard work every autumn day.
But the last few years brought a turn that Ernie was not ready for. Bethany was a loving, hard working, sweet yet stubborn woman. She was a heavy smoker from the time before she had even met Ernie. Ernie was a smoker as well, but quit nearly 30 years before. He kept telling her that it would eventually catch up with her, but she always waved the thought away with every puff she took from a cigarette. Neither one of them was ready for it when it finally did catch up.
Bethany was diagnosed with lung cancer. The doctors told her that she had, at most, six months left, even with treatment, which she opted to not take, having seen what such treatment did to her youngest sister when she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer years before. No, she was going to go out stubborn the way she lived, with every last natural breath she had. She did have an oxygen tank though to help get those natural breaths in the purest form that she could.
Ernie spent most of his time caring for her that year in the months after the diagnosis. He hired hands to help run the farm, depleting most of their savings. It was one cool August morning before dawn when Bethany decided that she could no longer see the suffering in Ernie’s eyes. She found the strength to carry herself and her little oxygen tank to a small tool shack that was stocked with various farm tools and extra gasoline for the tractor in case Ernie ever ran low on fuel while far out in the field, he wouldn’t have to haul it so far back to the tractor.
Bethany wasn’t going to let the disease or anything else control her destiny. With the valve of the oxygen tank opened wide, Bethany lit her last cigarette.
The sound startled Ernie that morning. He looked out the bedroom window and could see, far out in the field near where the pumpkins would grow come fall, the small shack engulfed in flames. He ran downstairs to tell Bethany that the shack was on fire, that something had happened…but he didn’t find her in the room where she had been sleeping the past few months. And then he knew. Stubborn woman. Stubborn, sweet love of his life…
WILSON, CRAIG and PETER, three teenage friends from Kent, a town nearest in proximity to the Manville Farm, had a penchant for looking for and finding trouble. They were not bad kids; they just made a lot of bad decisions. This day was one that they were about to make an especially bad one.
“I don’t know, man,” said Wilson, reacting to the idea Peter had dreamed up.
“I’m telling you,” said Peter, “Cam and his parents are going out of town. I overheard him telling Luke in third period. He’s pissed that they are making him go see his grandma, but she is like 95 and they don’t think she will be around for much longer.”
A tall and slender figure walked up from the beach away from the two girls he had been flirting with. Craig, the charmer, recently relieved of his place on the basketball team for violating student drinking rules just barely into the new season, had nothing better to do than hang out at the beach with his two best friends who helped him get into the trouble in the first place. The warmth of summer had not let go of its hold on the days well into October, but the nights still found a heavy chill in the air.
“Pete tell you what kinda crazy idea he’s come up with now?” Wilson asked Craig as Craig jumped up onto a picnic table near Peter’s pick-up truck.
“Yes, and I think it genius,” Craig said to Wilson, who looked at Craig with the same stare that he had just had while looking at Peter.
“You too, eh?” said Wilson, shaking his head as he fiddled with a silver skull and crossbones ring that was given to him by his uncle a year before. The ring was an ongoing joke between Wilson and his uncle, who always teased Wilson since he was a little child that he was a pirate, sailing the seven seas whenever he wasn’t around. He brought it back for Wilson from a trip to the Bahamas and had Wilson’s name engraved on the inside of the band
“Listen,” Craig said with a serious tone. “Cam deals weed, we all know that. When I was on the basketball team, I overheard him talking to a couple guys that didn’t know I was around the corner behind some lockers in the locker room. His parents don’t know he sells the stuff, and I heard he keeps it buried under some floor boards in a shed behind their house out by the Manville Farm.”
“That place where the old woman blew herself up?” asked Wilson.
“Yeah, that one,” replied Craig matter-of-factly.
“So, what, we just drive up to the house and break into the shed?” Wilson asked in a half-incredulous tone. “Someone will see us and call the cops. And besides, what are we going to do with a whole bunch of weed? We start selling it to people when Cam’s comes up missing. He will KILL us.”
“We don’t sell it,” interjected Peter. “At least not around here. I have a cousin downstate that will take it all at half the street price, which will already be a lot if what I hear about how much Cam deals is true. We get quick cash, and no one knows the difference around here. Cam gets shoved into a corner for pissing off his customers, but hey, what do we care? He’s a stupid-ass drug dealer.”
“You’re just dismissing the fact that we will be drug dealers, too,” remarked Wilson.
“Minor details…Obi-Wan said it’s all about your point of view,” stated Peter. “If what I’ve heard is true, we can get nearly five-grand, and no one around here gets high from Cam’s merchandise for quite a while. Call it vigilante justice…for profit!”
“You are truly a twisted individual. But still, Cam has been a major asshole as long as I can remember. Let’s say I’m in – what’s the plan?”
“Simple. They leave town, we park in the edge of Manville’s cornfield, well off the road in the corn. We cross the pumpkin patch that runs along the edge of the cornfield, another 2 acres of grassy field, and through a short patch of thick woods and we will be in Cam’s back yard, right near the shed. I’ve already scoped it out. Piece. Of. Cake.”
“So how are we going to get across that pumpkin patch without being seen in the dark? I know it’s way out in the middle of nowhere, but if we have flashlights and someone drives by, it’s going to look suspicious…and what about old man Manville,” asked Wilson.
“Cam and his fam are leaving the night before the full moon, and the weather is supposed to be clear for days. We can make it by the light of the moon,” replied Craig.
“Wait…when is the night of the full moon? Isn’t that…?” Wilson paused, looking at Peter’s grin and raised his eyebrows”
“Halloween,” Peter uttered with a wide smirk on his face. “They are leaving the night before Halloween.”
The two years after Bethany’s demise were especially difficult for Ernie Manville. Not only was his wife and business partner gone, but most of his savings was gone as well.
He worked hard and did what he could for the crops, but his heart wasn’t into it like it used to be. And the help wasn’t there either. He could no longer afford to pay extra help, and he just couldn’t handle at sixty-five years old what he could handle at twenty-five. As a fact of life, no man usually can.
This was the end of the line for the Manville Farm, he feared, at least under the lineage of his family. He and Bethany had no children, and he had no relatives living near the area. The fall harvest yielded less than it had in the past, but the bills kept coming in more than ever before. He no longer had the time to do the harvest hayrides. A friend and farmer from a few miles down the road, Bill Kemper, felt sorry for old Ernie and helped him out as much as he could, but Bill had to tend to his own farm and fields as well.
Still, Bill and his farm hands helped Ernie bring in most of the apples and gourds and pumpkins from the fields nearest to the barn, but they left the pumpkin patch furthest out near the cornfield alone. The pumpkins in the far field were left to grow large and wicked looking in their many different shapes and sizes, with thick twisted vines in the black soil.
Ernie found himself taking walks out to the far patch, wandering around the pumpkins and talking to them, as he often did in years before, sometimes giving certain ones names that he was especially proud of.
“You’re lookin’ mighty fine there today, Miss Betty,” he would say, patting the large, deep orange beast of a pumpkin as he passed her by.
“Mr. Herbert, fine son-of-a-gun you are!” he spoke to another. These wonderful and wily fruits of the fall had always been a labor of love to Ernie Manville, as they were to Ernie’s father, and his father before him. With all of the rest of the harvest gone, and with his sweet Bethany gone as well, this was the closest thing to love in his heart that he had left. It was bittersweet though, being so near the place where his beloved had returned, ashes to ashes literally, to the earth two years before.
He sank, and sighed, and began the long walk back to the farmhouse beside the barn. There was a late night flick on tonight, the night before Halloween. Popcorn and a movie, just like the old days with Bethany.
The boys waited until it was good and dark before they made their way down the country road alongside the fields by the Manville Farm.
Peter backed the pick-up truck several yards into the cornfield with Craig and Wilson riding in the back bed. The two boys jumped out of the bed of the truck and pulled stalks of corn in the front of the truck to help disguise the truck from being there in case someone were to drive by.
They started their way in across the field. Even with the bright light of the moon, the heavily loaded and hearty vines of the pumpkin patch proved especially difficult to navigate. They tripped and fell and kicked at pumpkins in anger as they made their way through the field. Peter brought a flashlight in case they needed it in the shed, and he held onto it tightly in his hand as they cussed their way along. Beyond their occasional spitting and sputtering in anger, they continued forward in relative silence.
Ernie had fallen asleep in his chair and been there for some time. He awoke, and Night of the Living Dead had come on the television. He was over trying to stay up, and decided it was best to turn in for the night. He turned off the TV and started toward the stairs when he noticed something through the kitchen window as he looked out toward the fields. His eyes squinted as he peered into the darkness, trying to make out what he was seeing. He saw a light out in the field…
“Pete! What the hell are you doing? Are you alright?” Craig yelled in a half-whisper, half-scream.
Peter had tripped on a vine and lost his grip on the flashlight. It hit a large pumpkin, Miss Betty to be precise, and the impact caused the light to come on and shine into the sky. The night was clear, but the heat during the days created a mist that hung low to the ground and made the beam of the flashlight look like a searchlight splitting the sky. Peter scrambled to it and quickly turned it off. He looked around at his two friends.
“Nobody saw it.”
“Damn kids!” Ernie snapped, grabbing his plaid coat and knit cap. Ernie had dealt with teens from the nearby school coming into the fields over the years smashing pumpkins and wreaking havoc. Too much work, too much love went into raising his crop for any of them to be treated this way.
He grabbed a shovel and headed out the back door on foot. The light had disappeared, but that was not going to deter him from making his point and presence known if he still found anyone in his field.
The boys had made their way out of the patch, across the grassy field, and almost through the wooded area. Cam’s house was just ahead, and the only light they could see was coming from the porch in the front of the house. In the mist, the light from the front of the house cast strange shadows around the house, almost like what you might see in the old flying saucer alien movies from the younger days of cinema. They crept in closer, stopping just behind the shed.
Craig came around first from behind the shed and found a heavy padlock on the front double door. He pulled a crowbar from a backpack he was wearing and tried prying at the lock, but the effort was futile.
“What’s the problem?” whispered Peter, stepping around from the back of the shed now, followed by Wilson.
“It won’t budge!” said Craig in muffled frustration.
“Try just prying the door apart,” said Wilson.
Peter snatched the crowbar from Craig’s hands and forced it between the two doors and pulled hard. At first, nothing. Then, with a hard twist and push, the lock and hasp held tight and did not break, but one of the two boards from the center of the joined doors snapped loudly, breaking away from the shed door, but not allowing the boys access to the shed.
The back yard of Cam’s parent’s home was flooded with bright light from duel spotlights above the back door. The boys froze in fear.
“Maybe,” whispered Wilson, “maybe it’s on a sound or motion sensor?”
Peter started to nod his head in agreement until they saw the light come on in the house and the silhouette of a person walking toward the back door. The boys began to run.
The three of them made their way into the cover of darkness in the wooded area behind the house. The back door opened, and all they could make out was the shadow of someone stepping out into the yard and walking around. They sat still and silent, practically holding their breath as the figure surveyed the yard. Then, the figure stepped back into the house and the light went out.
“I thought you said they were going to be gone!” Craig snapped at Peter.
“I don’t know who that is!” Peter snapped back. The light came back on. “Let’s just get out of here!”
They began to run through the trees, using the light from the spotlights on the house to make their way through without rendering themselves unconscious from a low hanging tree limb.
“Hey! Is somebody out there?” They heard the voice carry through the thick wet air, dodging log and limb as if it were for dear life.
Across the grassy field they strode, and then to the pumpkin patch, jumping and sometimes tripping their way along, looking over their shoulders every few seconds in fear of being pursued.
Wilson peeked back, coming up fast near Miss Betty. Just as he turned back to face the direction in which was running, it was too late to slow himself or stop. Wilson smashed hard into Ernie Manville, holding his shovel in hand. Ernie went flying onto his back, and his head suddenly bounced as it made contact with the ground. He laid there on the dark floor of the pumpkin patch, silent and motionless.
Wilson froze, staring at the old man. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” he yelled aloud. The other two boys, just ahead of him, stopped and turned around when they heard him yell.
“Wilson! What’s wrong?” Peter called over to him, but Wilson stood still staring down. Peter ran over to Wilson and stopped short when he saw the old farmer lying on the ground.
The moonlight reveals much in the cloudless mist of the evening hours. Ernie’s eyes were wide open; the light reflected bright in the whites and in small pinpoints in his pupils. His head had struck a rock and he was bleeding badly, the blood black in the pale light. But he was still breathing.
“We have to help him!” cried Wilson, leaning down beside Ernie Manville, but afraid to touch him.
“And what? Say that we were passing by and found him here, right after a breaking and entering attempt at a nearby house? We help him, we go to jail,” insisted Peter.
“But if we don’t, and he dies…” started Wilson.
“Then he slipped and fell in his own pumpkin patch. It’s sad, and tragic, but shit happens,” said Craig. “Come on Wilson! I’m not getting arrested because you’re having a soft moment. Now!” Craig grabbed Wilson by the arm and pulled him along, and Wilson gave in. They made their way to the truck and sped away.
Ernie lay unconscious, his breathing getting shallower with every breath. His final gasp came, his chest stopped moving, and he was gone. His blood soaked into the dark earth around him.
An awareness silently erupted in the moonlit spaces around him. The winds rose ever so slightly, whispering through the stalks of corn and out onto the field of pumpkins.
The ground began to shift and churn. The vines from the pumpkins began to move on their own, reaching out to Ernie’s body and enveloping it with a gentle caress, clearing the dirt beneath him and pulling his body into it, returning him to its nurturing and fertile soils. And then, a lone vine wrapped itself around and through something else near the place where Ernie had laid bleeding to death in the soil…
“Shit!” exclaimed Wilson. The boys were already several miles away from the Manville Farm. “My ring…I can’t find my ring!”
“So?” said Craig.
“It’s got my frikkin name carved into it! I think I lost it in the field when I ran into Mr. Manville!”
The boys waited nervously throughout the next day at school, waiting to hear news that a body had been found in the Manville field. They waited for that knock on the classroom door by Principal Monroe, accompanied by several town policemen and the police chief holding a small plastic evidence bag in his hand with Wilson’s skull and crossbones ring enclosed inside of it. None of these things ever came.
The final bell of the day rang and everyone headed out the door, hitting the streets for all of the Halloween fun. The younger children would gather downtown within the hour to trick-or-treat at the downtown businesses first before moving on to the side streets and subdivisions around town. A local restaurant, The Village Italiano Deliziosoa, closed for the afternoon and evening every Halloween to transform the entirety of their dining rooms into a haunted house for the local kids to go through for free. It cost them an evenings worth of business and a lot of hard work, but it was an exciting treat for the kids and a great time for all of the volunteers that helped to make it happen.
Peter worked at the Village, and he was supposed to help out that Halloween night at the restaurant with the haunting, but he and his two friends had bigger things on their minds that Hallow’d Eve.
They sat on the steps of the library a block away from the school and silently watched the children walk by in groups of goblins and superheroes and princesses and mobsters and fairies…
“We have to go back to the field,” Peter finally said after several minutes of brooding.
“That’s crazy,” said Craig, staring at a dinosaur walking down the sidewalk in front of them. “It’s stupid to go back to the scene of a crime.”
“It wasn’t a crime!” Wilson raised his voice. The two others looked at him sharply. He lowered his voice. “It was an accident, that’s all. An accident.”
“An accident that happened while we were committing another crime,” remarked Peter. “You don’t think the police are going to put together a completely different story if we decide to tell them about this accident? ‘Yes officer, we just happened to be in that field right after someone tried to break into a shed and steal Cam’s weed. What? We had to eliminate the witness that saw us trying to run away? Oh, no sir! Not us!’” Peter said mockingly.
“This is your problem,” Craig barked at Wilson. “Why should we have to deal with it?”
“Because if I go down,” said Wilson, “I won’t even have to say anything else. The cops will put you two with me. Everyone knows we are always in everything together!”
Peter and Craig knew that Wilson was right. Craig began to fear that if any of the three of them were implicated, Cam and some of his pals would put it together that it was him that found out about the weed in the shed and come after him.
“Okay,” Craig said. We go back tonight, after dark, find that ring, and get the hell out of there. Agreed?”
Peter and Wilson looked at Craig and nodded. “Agreed,” they said together.
Darkness came fast that Halloween evening, with the full moon dulled in the haze of warm ground and chilled air that rose eerily across the pumpkin patch and through the cornfield of the Manville farmlands.
The boys parked the truck well off the road in the same spot as before, although a little further in than they had hidden it the night before. Each had a flashlight with them, but they agreed to only use it if it was necessary, and only in the area where they believed the ring might be. They trekked across the vines slowly; it was even more difficult in the thicker haze on this night. The moon was full, but that fact did not help them to see any more than if they had been in total darkness.
They reached the spot where they believed Ernie Manville’s body had fallen, but there was no sign of the body in sight.
“I was sure this was where I had to have lost it,” whispered Wilson to the others.
“Are you positive this is where you ran into him?” asked Peter.
Wilson crouched low to the ground trying to get beneath the ever thickening haze. He clicked the flashlight button on and started to look around for anything that might give him a clue that he was looking in the right place. What he hoped the most for was to quickly find the ring and get the hell out of there, but what he found sent a whole new chill through him.
“The rock,” Wilson started, “This is the rock that he fell on. He hit his head right here…there is dried blood on the rock…”
“Where the hell is he?” asked Peter.
“Maybe he didn’t die. Maybe he was just knocked out for a while,” Craig stated, looking nervously in all directions for anyone that might be driving by on the nearby road.
“There was so much blood though,” said Wilson. The wind suddenly picked up from the direction of the cornfield, pushing even thicker fog from the rows of tall cornstalks in the field.
There was a whisper in the wind, chilling and silent yet deafeningly clear:
You left him to die…
“What was that?” Peter’s voice shuddered.
Craig looked around feverishly. “Is somebody out there?” he yelled.
“Craig!” Wilson yelled as low as he could at his friend. “Be quiet! What’s the matter with you?”
“Didn’t you hear that,” Craig responded. There was obvious fear in his voice.
You all left him to die…
Again the voice floated through the winds like a poisonous snake in the grass. They all heard it; none of them could deny it or pretend they hadn’t heard it.
Craig began to run in the direction that he believed the truck was in, but none of them knew what direction was what.
“Craig!” Peter yelled. “Where are you going? Craig!” He started in the direction that he thought Craig had gone. He heard a thump and a short cry in the dense fog ahead…
Craig had tripped over a large, oddly elongated pumpkin and twisted his ankle when he fell. He tried to pull himself along but stopped cold when he felt the ground beneath him starting to move. The vines slid through the wet black ground around him. He looked around in every direction, his heart was racing. The heavy vines wrapped themselves like thick ropes around his arms and his legs. The more he struggled to free himself, the tighter the vines held on. Then, they began to pull.
Peter could hear Craig struggle and then Craig began to scream, only to then have the scream muffled by a choking gasp. Peter ran in the direction he could hear the sounds coming from.
“Craig…Craig! Where are you? What’s going on?” he yelled. Peter then tripped on something himself as he came to where he believed Craig’s cries had been coming from.
Peter lay face down on the wet ground. He slowly pushed himself up from the mud and caught a glimpse of his hands in the moonlight, stained red. He looked around himself and found that it wasn’t a vine or a pumpkin that he had tripped on. It was a leg. Just a leg, and to his left side lay an arm. And then he saw another arm…
He scrambled up from the ground and tried to scream, but the sound evaded him. The fog had cleared in that one spot just enough to reveal a torso on the ground, and the four limbs pulled away from the torso in every direction, including the head – Craig’s eyes stared wide open at the moon above, his face still holding an expression of pure terror.
Peter turned and started to run in the direction that he had come from before he found what remained of Craig.
You left him to SUFFER…
The voice tore through the night mist once more, ever so louder.
Wilson heard the voice as well, but stood frozen with fear. He could hear the footsteps pounding through the fog, but he did not know if they were Peter’s or Craig’s, or someone else’s entirely.
Peter was running and tripping and moving in a direction that was not toward the truck or toward Wilson. Something struck him hard from behind as he ran, knocking him several feet forward onto the ground. He was stunned, and took a moment to collect himself and look back to see what had hit him.
It was a pumpkin, broken to pieces on the ground. He glared at it while he pushed himself up to his knees. Another came from his right side and smashed into the side of his head, knocking him to the ground once more. His head was throbbing with pain, but he again tried to get up, only to be pummeled by another from the opposite side, striking the left side of his head. After he lied there for several seconds, he pushed at the ground, only rising a few inches before the next one came at him, and then another, pounding down upon him.
He could see from the corner of his eye that another blow was coming, crashing down into the center of his back. He heard his spine snap, followed by a sudden scream of pain, and then he saw the pumpkin that had just come down on him rise back up above him, still attached to the long vine raised over him like a hammer. But before he could scream again, the hammer-pumpkin came down hard upon his head, leaving it looking much like the pumpkins they had kicked to pieces the night before.
Wilson stood completely still. He heard the noises and screams that had come from the field, lost in the dense fog, but now there was only cold silence.
“P-p-peter? C-c-raig? Where are you guys?” He didn’t expect to hear an answer, but he got one nevertheless – one that he didn’t want to receive.
P-p-Peter…C-c-raig…let him suffer…let him die…you made him die…
Wilson’s legs almost let out from beneath him when he began to run. There was a light on at Cam’s house, the only direction that he could make out at all, and that was where he was headed. He only made it about 100 feet before a flock of nearly 30 large black crows came out of the darkness of the night sky and flew directly at him. Several of them struck him head on as they flew, jabbing hard at his arms and torso with their sharp beaks before falling to the ground. Wilson could see in the dim light the struggling birds, scattered and broken all around him. He ducked low to the ground for cover and then started again toward the light at Cam’s, but once more another menacing murder of crows bombarded him, forcing him to change his direction. He saw the cornfield ahead of him and thought that maybe he could find cover from the birds in the tall stalks of corn.
He started running to the cornfield and caught his foot on what he thought was one of the broken pumpkins on the floor of the field. His foot was lodged in something, and he shined his flashlight down on the ground. That was when he finally let out the scream that he had managed to avoid for the past several minutes.
His foot was stuck in what remained of Peter’s smashed skull on the ground. It was surrounded by broken pumpkin shells. He shook it off and continued running for the corn, finally reaching the edge of the field.
Wilson slowed his pace once he entered the cornfield. Everything looked the same in every direction. The fog had subsided somewhat as he slowly made his way through the rows of corn. As he moved in the direction that he thought the truck was in, he could hear rustling through the cornstalks. Something was in the field. He pulled back from the direction of the truck and started slowly in the opposite direction, but once again, he could hear – and this time he could even see – something brush through the cornstalks and shadows. He was forced to go deeper into the field.
The thing that had lurked on either side of him was now moving at him from behind. The cornstalks rustled and swayed from different sides, but nothing could be seen to be responsible for the motion he was seeing, as if the field itself moved by a will of its own. He turned his back to the direction he was moving in, taking one steady step backwards after another so he could watch for whatever thing may be creeping in from behind him…
As he continued to step backward, he was suddenly stopped in his tracks by something behind him blocking the way. He held his breath, afraid to look at what it might be. He felt something drop down from above him onto his left shoulder. He slowly turned his head and saw in the moonlight that it was a hand that rested upon his shoulder. On one of the fingers of that hand was the very ring, a silver skull and crossbones, that they had returned to the field to retrieve that night to cover their tracks.
When the realization had fully set in that a human hand, cold and still, was resting upon his shoulder, he broke free for a moment from the terror that paralyzed him and started to turn around to face the thing that was behind him. When he saw what he saw, he let out a gasp, only to have it cut short by another hand coming around from his other side. Together, the hands locked tightly around his neck. He fought with fruitless effort, pulling and clawing at the hands and arms that squeezed harder with every passing second. He looked up to see a scarecrow before him; but this scarecrow was something like he’d never before seen. The muddied hands were those of a man, with straw jutting out of the sleeves of the plaid coat that covered the upper half of its body. The legs and boots were suspended off of the ground. The body was hanging from crossed posts with its head tilting down toward Wilson as he struggled for breath.
The head was a large pumpkin carved into a jack-o-lantern, but within its shell, Wilson could see, in those final moments of his short life, the opened mouth of a man behind the shell. Dried blood had run from the corners of the mouth, and then Wilson recognized the dead-staring eyes of the man he had left dying on the rock in the field the night before; those eyes peering through the carved triangles of the jack-o-lantern’s eyes. Before the final blackness came, Wilson thought he could almost see the bloodied face beneath the pumpkin shell smile at him…
A search of the town that spread to the surrounding counties would never yield any clues to the whereabouts of the three boys that had disappeared that Halloween night, nor was a body ever recovered belonging to the missing Ernie Manville. His blood was found in the pumpkin field on a large rock, as was a silver skull and crossbones ring that had belonged to one of the missing boys. A pick-up truck was found parked in the cornfield not far away, which also belonged to one of the missing boys, but no one knows how it got there or why.
What had happened that All-Hallows Eve in the fields of the old Manville Farm remains a mystery. Stories swirled and speculations were made. Was it Ernie’s love for his life’s work that took on a life of its own? Did something happen to stir the vengeful spirit of Ernie’s departed love, Bethany Manville? The story quickly became the stuff of urban legend for countless years after the fact, drawing people from miles and miles around to the old pumpkin patch for several Halloween’s thereafter.
The Manville Farm went up for tax sale, and Bill Kemper bought the land. For the first couple of years he kept the pumpkin patch going in honor of his old friend Ernie Manville – at least until it became too much of a hassle dealing with the yearly Halloween revelers. He finally just decided to let it go. But that first year after Ernie disappeared, in nearly the same place where Ernie’s blood was found on a rock, Bill marveled at three huge pumpkins that grew in that very spot…and how much each of the three pumpkins almost appeared to have human-like faces in their twisted shells… and the most peculiar thing of all was that each of those faces ever-so-eerily resembled the faces of the three boys that went missing on that same Halloween that Ernie Manville vanished as well…
I really enjoyed the unfolding mystery of Miranda’s past and loved the familiar setting of my home, Northern Michigan.
Could not put this down! Miranda’s story was so interesting and unusual. It was very well written. I could see this being a really great movie.
I loved this first book by Rick and look forward to more books. It is well written and shows that Rick spent time developing the plot and characters.
I really enjoyed the story, Miranda draws you in. There is this mystery and suspense that keeps you reading to find out what happens next. The local history is scatter throughout, giving just enough background to visually surround the story with a feel of reality with it still being a work of fiction.
WOW!! What an opener. Just started and it grabbed me from the start. I will keep this updated as to the outcome:). Very descriptive writer. And it helps that it is a book from a new author in my home state:). Thank you Mr. Jurewicz