The Demon, the Witch, and the Pumpkin
by Kelly Haas Shackelford
My white-gloved fingers smoothed the huge stack of fake blonde curls sitting atop my dark hair. “Cinder-freak-ing-ella,” I mumbled to myself, and tugged at my flowing, hooped yellow dress. For Halloween, my six-year-old autistic daughter had decided I should dress like her, and she like me.
My nickname for her is Princess, and if Momma says it, she believes it. Unless I tell her to brush her teeth or they will rot out, or veggies make you strong, or some people are very bad and want to hurt her.
Clapping erupted behind me, and I turned. It was Gracie’s way of announcing herself. She rarely talked, instead choosing to communicate with actions rather than words.
“Kid Vamp,” I said and clapped back.
She bobbed her head up and down in happy agreement. Her lips parted, allowing her toy fangs to peek out. I nodded back. Her innocence beamed bright against my damned soul.
I took neither pride nor pleasure in being a half-breed vampire. Yet, if given the choice, I would never go back to being human. Six months ago, in my turning, I learned my daughter was fated to rule the Earth and bring unknown peace. But forces sought to stop her. My sole duty was to protect her till my last death. I despised my turning, but it afforded me the means to keep her safe. Blessed and cursed.
“Let’s go,” I said, picking up her orange, plastic pumpkin, trying to give her as normal a childhood as I could for a six-year-old whose mother is a bloodsucking creature of the night.
Drawing her arms up into an arc, she made a circle, and grinned, bunching up the freckles dotting her face amidst her own blonde curls.
“Yes, we are going to find the Big Pumpkin,” I laughed. Countless crayon drawings of the pumpkin hung on our refrigerator. She clapped her pleasure, and we rushed out the door to start trick-or-treating.
An hour and a half later, I sniffed the crisp air. No evil stung my nostrils, just the torment of chocolate bars and candy corn calling out sweet temptations as trick-or-treaters darted by. When Gracie was around, her innocence masked most evil scents. I knew my sense of smell was useless, but habits that keep you alive die hard.
I stepped closer to Gracie, and she started walking up the stone drive to the last house on our route for the night. My toes curled up, cramping from being shoved into the six-inch-high glass slippers. I would need the whole bottle of aspirin if this torture continued.
I sighed. Unlike Cinderella, I had no prince waiting to sweep me off my swollen, throbbing feet when I got home. The only thing waiting for me was a foot high stack of paperwork. Who knew being the Mistress of the Vampires would create such a paper-pushing logjam? I was stuck in bureaucratic hell trying to run the clan.
Gracie’s fingers reached up and pressed the doorbell. Slowly, the door creaked open. My nose turned at the escaping scent of fresh gingerbread cookies. Jackpot!
“Well, hello little vamp,” the woman said and laughed. Her fake witch’s hat swayed to the rhythm of her shrill chuckle.
I frowned as the faint scent of danger hit me and then passed. Gracie’s index finger pointed to her plastic pumpkin and smiled.
“Not until you say the magic words.” The smile on the woman’s face vanished, moving closer to Gracie until her green-painted face was inches away from my daughter.
I stepped forward and whispered, “She does not talk much.” I peeked past her slender neck and saw a whole tray of gingerbread men. My stomach growled.
“If she wants my treats, she will ask,” she snapped. “No treats for you.” She rushed back into her house and slammed the door, locking it behind her.
Fury jolted through me as I fought the urge to kick her door in, slap her rude butt, and force her to watch as I devoured all the arms and legs off her gingerbread men.
Gracie grabbed my arm and pointed to the house across the street. Huge limbs drooped over the small, dark house sitting amidst a bunch of towering oaks. Sitting on its small porch loomed the large lopsided pumpkin Gracie had drawn. She made the circle with her arms again as a smile tugged at her.
Frowning, I sniffed the air. The scent of danger brewed. Only demon blood could bleed this strongly through Gracie’s purity.
I snatched for Gracie’s hand to pull her away as a little boy ran out of the dark house and onto the porch across the street. He stopped by the big pumpkin and waved at us.
Gracie bolted towards him, and I took off after her. The smell grew stronger, almost choking me as Gracie ran towards the house. The hairs on my neck stood up, and I kicked my slippers off. The soft, fall earth squished between my toes as I ran towards my child.
My body ached with the vamp juices flowing through my veins. Flight no longer an option, fight was my only choice and I was ready. My fangs slid out.
“What the...” I muttered, watching Gracie kick it to super speed. I knew she was special, but she was human and had never used super-powers before. I thought she needed to be older before they manifested.
Leaping like a cat, she landed on the old rickety porch. The door flew open. A white mist rolled out in waves, covering our feet. The white cloud filled with demon scent.
“Hello, my dear. I have been cooking all day for you,” the witch said as she hobbled out, offering Gracie a green cupcake. I slapped it away before my daughter could touch it.
I coughed, almost choking on the danger filling my nostrils, setting my body on fire as the mist rolled around my ankles. “Is she the one?” the little boy asked his mother as he ran in excited circles around Gracie and me. On his forehead, a tattooed star beckoned.
“Yes, Charles.” The witch grinned. She clasped her hands together in glee. The witch snatched up the big pumpkin, laying it at Gracie’s feet.
“Will she save me?” Charles asked, and then turned to Gracie. “Can you kill the demon?”
“Yes.” Gracie spoke loud and clear.
My mouth flew open. Gracie rarely spoke and never to answer someone.
Falling to her knees at Gracie’s feet, the witch sobbed, “Bless you child.”
Gracie held out her hand for Charles to stop. He halted in front of her, and the star began to glow. Gracie’s two longest fingers reached out, touching it. Gasping, she closed her eyes.
I started for her. No way in hell was I letting my six-year-old extract a demon. Without opening her eyes, Gracie raised her other hand towards me. My body stopped. An invisible force pinned me in place.
The leaves started rustling and the ground trembled. A wind blew stronger, rolling the mist in thicker waves around us. I gagged at the demon scent. It reeked of childhoods stolen.
Gracie continued to touch Charles, her breathing heavier with each inhale and exhale of air. A black puff of air trailed out of Charles’ nose, forming the outline of a person.
“Damned to hell,” I cursed. Demons were bad, and I only had a useless silver-tipped dagger strapped to my thigh, and I was freaking frozen! I struggled against the force, but it pinned me more tightly in place.
The demon roared a deep throaty growl, shaking the earth.
“Are you doing drugs?” The rude woman across the street screamed from the bottom of her driveway, “I am calling the police.” She started inching, closer, to see what was going on, her cell phone clutched to her ear.
Gracie’s hand never left Charles’ forehead. The demon screamed in pain as she pulled him out, touching the black mass of evil with her index finger. She opened her eyes, her body trembling as she slowly moved the demon towards the pumpkin, bit by bit, as the demon roared in anger.
I yelled in frustration. I wanted out of this frozen hell! My child was facing a demon and I was in limbo. It was my duty to die for her.
The witch lifted the lid off the pumpkin, nodding her head to Gracie.
Gracie started lowering her two fingers, lower and lower, into the deep bowels of the pumpkin causing the demon to slither inside. The witch slammed the lid shut and clapped her hands and laughed
Used up, Gracie’s body collapsed and the force dropped. I dove for her, scooping her up into my arms.
The demon roared inside the pumpkin as it started to rise and spin. Faster, the pumpkin spun, moving towards Gracie. I placed her back down and lunged for the pumpkin, wrapping my arms around it. My legs started lifting up. With the last bit of momentum I had before my toes left the ground, I hurled the pumpkin.
It sailed across the yard, its orange glow lighting a path, spinning until it smashed into the screaming rude woman’s head.
She howled as orange bits of slime rolled down her face, mixing with the green paint. “You will pay for this!” As the pumpkin remains slid down, the demon appeared before her. She fainted, landing in the slimy heap.
The demon turned, facing me. He grinned before he vanished into the night, and the scent left.
I ran back over, scooping Gracie back up into my arms. She looked up and smiled, crossing her heart.
“I love you too, baby,” I said, rocking her back and forth, “but you are still in big trouble for freezing your momma!”
My eyes darted over to where the demon had stood, taunting me. I knew he would be back very soon to claim my child, and I would be ready for the coming war.
Copyright © 2013 by Kelly Haas Shackelford