ghost diary

@kaniam (582)
December 19, 2006 11:12am CST
unholy womb The horror began on a day Danny believed to be a perfect prelude to autumn. Autumn was his favorite season; the air was charged with electricity, harvest smells filled the breezes and gave the first winter goose pimples. But most of all the season led to The Day. Halloween. It was because of the coming holiday that Danny was walking along the sidewalk of Ash Street in his little town of Windfall, Illinois. A breeze sent leaves scurrying around his feet with a sound like old bones knocking together. Danny was going to get a pumpkin for his Halloween jack-o-lantern. For as long as he could remember, he had been getting pumpkins from Farmer Sutton. Of all the farmers that grew pumpkins around Windfall, Farmer Sutton was Danny's favorite. They had an agreement through an old friendship between the farmer and Danny's father; Danny got the privilege of going through the entire pumpkin patch before the majority was trucked off to market and the rest picked over by the townspeople that came to Sutton's farm for their jack-o'-lanterns. Danny didn't think he would have any trouble securing two pumpkins from his friend this year. The sidewalk he was traveling on showed cracks and was crumbling in places as he neared the edge of town. The walk soon petered out completely and Ash Street changed from a paved avenue to a dirt road. Danny kept walking. He had forgotten about the rundown little shack he had to pass on his way out of town--until he looked up and saw the ramshackle building where Voodoo Charlie lived. He hurried to the other side of the road. The dwelling was gray from lack of paint, and only about as large as Danny's father's tool shed. Bowed two-by-fours held a sagging roof over a packed-dirt porch. The shingles remaining on the building were of rotted pine; a rusty stove pipe pointed crookedly at the sky. As Danny crept past, a little white dog left his place in front of the door and ran under the fence and across the road to bark at Danny's heels. Danny knew from previous journeys that the dog wouldn't bite him, so his only worry was that the noise the little cur made would bring his owner from the shack, but Voodoo Charlie didn't come out of the house. Danny made two more turns and then Sutton's farm came into view; acres of gold, with small splotches of just-ripening pumpkins under the waving corn stalks. A quarter of a mile up the dirt road was the driveway that led to the pale green farmhouse. Coming from the direction of the drive, and less than half the distance, was a shuffling scarecrow. Danny's heart increased its pace as he realized he would have to confront Voodoo Charlie after all. For the second time, Danny crossed the road to be as far away as possible from the old man. As Danny crossed the road, Voodoo Charlie stopped walking. He stood on his side of the dirt lane and watched the boy advance. The closer Danny came to the waiting figure, the more features he recognized: the stained tan pants, the yellow shirt with black buttons and a limp collar, the dusty brown shoes, and dark, withered skin of the hands and wrists. Voodoo Charlie's short gray hair curled close to his scalp. There were bags under his eyes and deep lines marked his chocolate-brown face like cracks on a dirty egg. As Danny passed he could see the few remaining teeth in the mouth, rotted black and yellow. A pink tongue licked the gaping, crooked holes. "Goin' ta git yer Hallereen punkin?" Voodoo Charlie asked in his cracked voice. Danny tried to answer, but only managed to croak a positive response. He didn't stop walking. "Git a biggun," he heard as he passed by the ancient black man. He continued up the road, a little faster than before. Danny upped his brisk pace until he turned onto the dirt driveway leading to the little farmhouse. Heck, the Sutton's golden retriever, greeted him halfway up the drive. Mrs. Sutton appeared on the porch of the house and a smile spread over her plump, farm-wife face. "Hi, Mrs. Sutton," Danny said, hopping onto the porch beside the woman. "Hello, Danny," she answered. "Come on in. I just took an apple pie out of the oven a little while ago. I don't think Gene's ate it all yet." She turned to lead him into the house. The dog followed behind Danny, tail wagging as if he, too, wanted a piece of pie. "No, Heck, you can't come in. Go on." Mrs. Sutton shooed the dog off the porch. He began to chase one of the chickens that had wandered to the front of the house. Mrs. Sutton shook her head at the dog's antics. "Spoiled rotten," she whispered to Danny. Inside the kitchen, they found Farmer Sutton sitting at the table eating a piece of steaming pie. He had obviously just come in from the fields; dust coated his faded bib overalls and red flannel shirt, the sleeves of which were rolled up past his elbows. His blue eyes lit up and his whiskery face split into a grin when he saw Danny. "Hi there, boy," he boomed. "The old lady there was just telling me today that you'd probably be over soon. For once she was right." He winked at Danny. Mrs. Sutton, who had gone to a cupboard to get a plate for Danny's pie, turned at the remark--she too was smiling. "Watch what you say, old man. I just might take a rolling pin to your head." Danny noticed the huge pumpkin on the counter top near the sink. It was two pumpkins actually, Siamese twins, grown together to form one vegetable. They had grown together at an angle so that when one sat directly upright, the other was tilted. The odd gourd was still green on much of its surface. "Do you like it?" Farmer Sutton asked. Danny nodded, his mouth full of pie. "We thought we'd carve two faces in it, like on Truth or Consequences, one happy, one sad. What do you think?" "That'll look good," Danny replied, thinking it would be a good time to make his request for an extra pumpkin. Mrs. Sutton spoke before he could. "I guess I'll go out and finish hanging up the laundry now that Gene got rid of that nutty black man." Danny tried hard to swallow a mouthful of pie, but by the time he got it down, Mrs. Sutton had already gone out the back door. "Voodoo Charlie was here?" he asked the farmer. "Yes, he was here. Again, I should say." Gene Sutton shook his head. "I don't know what it is about that old man; we haven't bothered him, but he's been hanging around a lot lately. I've lost count of the times I've caught him in the fields. He started coming around just after I fertilized last winter, then he stopped until I started planting. Since then he's been coming around every few weeks. I'll see him just meandering through the fields. "It's not just here, either. All the other farmers I've talked to have told me he's been around their farms, too." He paused in his speech, then snorted, "I said we hadn't bothered him, that's true, but not completely. When I was a boy about your age I bothered him plenty--me and every other boy in town, most of the girls, too. Do the kids still tease him?" "Some," Danny said. "He doesn't come into town much." He paused, ate another bite of pie, then asked, "How old do you think he is?" "I don't know. He looked exactly the same when I was a kid, and that was, well, a while back." "Why does everyone call him Voodoo Charlie?" "Because he's so weird, I guess. There used to be stories about him stealing dead babies from their graves to use in his evil potions," Farmer Sutton smiled, but immediately the man's laughter died and his face took on a troubled look. The past four or five years had seen a rash of grave robbing in the area, all the victims being infants. The crimes had stopped just shortly before the previous winter. "I better get back to work," Farmer Sutton said. "When you finish there you can just help yourself to the pumpkins. I'm sure you'll find one you like." He got up from his chair and turned toward the back door. His hand was turning the knob before Danny found the courage to speak. "Mr. Sutton?" The farmer turned back to face him. "Would you mind if I took two pumpkins this year? There's this girl, and she asked me to carve one for her." Danny rushed the last words. The farmer grinned broadly, winked, and said, "Sure, you take as many as you need." Danny wolfed down the last few bites of apple pie and hurried to the pumpkin fields. It took him nearly two hours to find two pumpkins that would suit the faces he was planning to put on them. He carried them to the house and put them on the back porch. For the first time he wondered how he would get them all the way home. Mrs. Sutton provided the answer. "Think you can get them home in this?" She brought a rusty red wagon with squeaky wheels from the barn. "Yes, thanks," Danny said, relieved to see the squeaking relic. He put the pumpkins in and took up the handle. "Well, thanks for the pumpkins. I better get home." The sun was already nearing the horizon and his shadow was long and dark. The air had taken on a nippy coolness. "Okay, Danny. Have a nice Halloween." "I will. You too." Mrs. Sutton waited until Danny was nearly out of earshot before calling, "I hope your little girlfriend likes her pumpkin, too!" Blushing from neck to hair, Danny only waved and hurried on up the drive. He could hear the woman laughing as she went inside the house. Back on the road, he forced the blush off his face and concentrated on hurrying home. He crossed to the other side of the road long before he reached Voodoo Charlie's shack. He hoped with every ounce of his being that he would not see the old black man. He willed the wheels of the wagon to be silent while he passed. As soon as the ramshackle dwelling came into view Danny saw the man in a rocking chair on the front porch. Voodoo Charlie rocked steadily and looked in the direction Danny came from, as if waiting on the boy. The squeaking wheels brought the dog from his place at the old man's feet. He sli
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