Kate Parmenter found a nearly perfect little pumpkin in the street. It was pinker than orange and only as big as a child’s head. There were a few scratches on one side, but they were dry and shallow. Kate looked up and down the street and saw no matching displays from which this gourd might have gone AWOL, and here she was with an empty tote bag. She was on her way home from returning three books to the library—two murder mysteries about tag sales and one book on Welsh mythology. For some reason, she decided not to check out any books today.
She’d never done that before.
This little pumpkin would fit perfectly in her bag, bloating the silk-screened image of Edgar Allan Poe on the side. If fate was as small as Kate suspected, it spoke to her now like a panting beagle:
you and this pumpkin
hawf hawf hawf
Mark Foster watched Mrs. Parmenter from the picture window. “Mom,” he said. “Mom!”
“What is it?”
“Mom, come here.”
Mark was an angry fifteen, which meant he could not be trusted with any unsupervised task, such as bringing in all nine of the decorative gourds his mother purchased. The one that Mrs. Parmenter was fingering now had slipped from Mark’s grasp only an hour ago. It rolled out of the car and down the driveway.
As he watched it tumble over the curb, he’d snarled, “Be that way.”
Not once did he think to retrieve it.
Mark suffered actual, physical pain while he watched Mrs. Parmenter put her prize in a sack, as if her sole purpose this day was to swipe that pumpkin.
Storm clouds came on suddenly.
The trees glowed and the pumpkin hummed.
Mark fogged the window.
Only three hundred years since they last crossed paths . . .
MOM. MOM. MOM.
When Mark's mother did not come, a rage-being shuddered into existence beside the boy, overlapping him, convulsing as it grabbed hold in this world. It was a force that knew nothing beyond itself and nothing about itself—until Mrs. Parmenter looked it in the eyes.
The thing at the window shuddered, twitched, and sent shadows in four directions at once.
Funny how easy these dark epochs form.
Tragic how they renew from time to time.
Kate curtsied, and the asphalt trembled beneath her boots. She mounted the strap of the tote on her shoulder, and let its heaviness bear into her body. Something deep inside, imbedded in the pulp of her prize, was awakening.
Kate turned away. It was time to go now, while the king was still only a boy.