Friday, October 30, 2009
Frightening Friday: A Very Depressing Tale of Lost Hopes and Dreams
Hey, everybody. Frightening Friday here.
I'm sorry if I seem depressed. It's just that it's the last Friday of October, and I have to wait a whole year to terrify people with tales of horror again. Next Friday, while you're having your afternoon egg salad sandwich at your desk, you can enjoy that sandwich without fear of choking on it mid-scream. And while you're doing that, I will be sitting at my desk eating a big sandwich made of salty tears.
But don't feel too bad for me. It will be good practice for when I am Sylvia Plath for Halloween. And at least you won't have to go home to your lonely, dark, sad apartment and rush for the light switch anymore, out of fear that chupacabra will grab you in the darkness. And you'll be able to sleep at night knowing that the scratching at your window isn't a vampire wanting to be let in, but simply a burglar.
I suppose we should begin the story...
The pumpkin had grown to deeply resent the headless horseman upon whose shoulders he rode every night. At first it was exciting, riding through the dark on horseback, seeing the townspeople shriek in terror and fall down dead from fright. But as time went on, and the population of Sleepy Hollow dwindled, the pumpkin began to find the activity rather tiresome.
“Ride upon my neck stump!” the horseman had said that first night, with a voice as intoxicating as a warm aged brandy and as gurgly as any voice being emitted from a neck stump.
The pumpkin agreed, as being taken to the county fair and then pureed into pie filling seemed very commonplace. He had been raised from the seeds of a previous blue ribbon champion and was expected to succeed it in that honor. But the immortality of the horseman and chilly night air intrigued the pumpkin, who had never left the tiny patch where he grew. And so he was hacked from his vine, taken from the garden, and became a sort of lumpy, orange prosthetic for the mysterious phantom who terrorized the residents of the tiny hamlet of Sleepy Hollow.
But riding with the horseman was not as fun as it had originally seemed. For one thing, the phantom steed, Shadow, who privately resented his strict diet of fear and sulfur fumes, particularly enjoyed running beneath low hanging branches, unseating both his rider and his rider’s stand-in head. Worse was when one of the townspeople took it upon himself to take up arms against their midnight terror. While a musket ball fired by a near-sighted blacksmith only made the horseman gurgle with laughter, it could do serious and quite permanent damage to a pumpkin.
But the worst part was the headless horseman himself. All night long, he moaned about his missing head. It was all, “Where could it be?” and “If I had just stood five feet to the left, the cannon ball would have missed me.” In a feeble attempt to recreate his own lost head, the horseman had roughly carved a face into the pumpkin with his bayonet, but the effect was not the same. A head was a head, and a pumpkin was a pumpkin.
And so, six weeks after taking his place as the horseman’s head, the pumpkin made a plan to escape. He would wait until the horseman was at the edge of the bridge, and then he would just slip off and roll down the bank and into the river. He imagined the chilly embrace of the current as it swept him around the river bend and away from that headless boor. Maybe he would drop his seeds in the fertile soil of the riverbank. Or perhaps a young lass would find him and take him to the county fair and the fate he had once found so ordinary.
What the pumpkin did not plan on was the intrusion of a gigantic oaf named Abraham Van Brunt, aka Brom Bones.
Brom Bones fancied himself to be handsome, strong, and brave. With a certain amount of ale in his system, he loved to tell tales of racing the horseman through the forest late at night. The tale always ended with the horseman’s crushing defeat and him vanishing into the night in shame. And, of course, the horseman couldn’t just stroll into the drinking establishment and set the records straight. This fact, along with the finely chiseled features of Brom Bones’s perfectly attached head, irked the horseman to no end.
The night of the pumpkin’s escape, Brom Bones was on his way home from a party astride his horse, Daredevil. The horseman saw this as the perfect opportunity to scare the living daylights out of Brom Bones and hopefully shame him into never telling lies again.
As Bones turned onto the river road on his way back toward town, the horseman began to slowly follow him.
Daredevil had always been much more intelligent than his master. When he caught sight of Shadow’s glowing red eyes and flame expelling nostrils, he decided that the river road was not the best place for the pair on that night. Daredevil began to trot; Shadow began to trot. Daredevil began to gallop; Shadow began to gallop. And finally, casting aside all facades of equine machismo, Daredevil broke into a run. And so, the great race between Brom Bones and the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow was on.
Daredevil was no match for Shadow, who found the idea of being raced by something living to be laughable. Shadow’s hooves didn’t even touch the ground as they sped through the brisk night air.
The pumpkin found this little race to be very inconvenient, but he was not going to allow this little detour to destroy his plans to escape. So, as they neared the bridge, the pumpkin prepared to leap to freedom. But it was then that Daredevil--who was always quite poorly shod, since the blacksmith had such terrible vision--threw a shoe. The wayward chunk of metal knocked the pumpkin from the horseman’s shoulders. Instead of landing on a soft patch of river mud and rolling to safety, he smashed onto the road.
The horseman and Bones rode away. The pumpkin lay in the road, a mess, lamenting his life of adventure.
It was then that the local schoolteacher rode by, caught sight of the splattered pumpkin remains, realized it reminded him of his hopes and dreams, and decided to throw caution to the wind and take that job as a deckhand on the SS Van Winkle. He was never heard from again, as it sank soon after.
I won't even tell you what happened to everyone else. It's far too depressing. Just know that they're all dead now.