The husk of the pumpkin sat atop the wooden table. Its tendril-like innards hung over the edge with several clumps having fallen to the floor. Hunched over the bulbous fruit was a slip of a man. With a carving knife in hand, he cut deep lines like a butcher dressing a carcass. The lines and shapes begun to resemble the features of a person, a crooked grin bereft of teeth and uneven eyes separated by a narrow slit for a nose. After some time, he set the knife aside and stood back to admire his work. In the dimness of the small hut, the face appeared real. The deep shadows looked like furrows on the pumpkins face.
With the reverence of a religious ritual, the carver lifted the head from the table and carried it outside. He walked across a large fallow field towards a small copse of willow on a steep embankment. There amidst the trees were several men and women each dressed in white robes tied at the waist with a length of rope. The carver approached with the head, and the gaggle began to chant in unison, their voices rising and falling in harmony as he walked up the ridge. Upon reaching the summit, they drew close to the carver like a bee to a summer bloom. Hands reached out to touch the man, to pull at his robe and to take the pumpkin from his grasp. He stopped walking, allowing the wandering hands to disrobe him. His hands clung to the pumpkin but soon this too was taken.
The carver stood naked. One of the many hands laid a wreath of ivy and mistletoe around his neck, another drew a pentagram on his chest with a soot covered finger. He was led to the centre of the clearing where he was lifted and placed solemnly upon a large Blue John altar. The stone glinted from the low autumn sun that kissed the horizon as night began its ascent. While he lay there, the men and women stood around him and held hands, their chanting becoming more intense as the ritual rose to its climax. The pumpkin was placed over the carvers’ head and, as it settled around his neck, it looked like they were one and the same.
A woman, bearing a crown of nightshade, stood at the apex of the altar. She unsheathed a silver sickle and held it aloft before drawing it across the throat of the carver. His blood flowed onto the altar, and with it, the chanting ceased. She touched the blade to the pumpkin before whispering a few words in its ear. Standing back, the druidess watched while the carver’s body began to sprout roots that wove across his body like a fleece. As the sun dipped beneath the horizon, he rose from the altar and the druids hailed their protector.
Aaron Bailey hails from the North-East England. He writes prose, poetry as well as composing visual/concrete poetry. Aaron gained a 1st class degree in creative writing from the University of Bedfordshire. When he isn’t writing, Aaron produces jungle/drum and bass, runs role-playing games, or spends time with his awesome wife.