Last night at dusk I discovered a sizable wound in my largest pumpkin.
I crossed the patch to examine the damage, assuming a groundhog had ignored the ring of cayenne pepper and gunpowder I’d poured around the fruit, and was surprised to find the shell had broken outward, from within.
The pumpkin is approximately 300-lbs. Three shell fragments lay on the ground, leaving a hole in the pumpkin the size of a dinner plate. The fragments’ edges had the raggedness of fractures rather than the telltale smoothness of a knife cut.
No part of the orange exterior was damaged. The fragments’ inner sides, however, appeared to have been beaten and clawed. Knuckle-shaped divots had flattened the stringy pulp, and a deep set of scratch marks had grooved the biggest fragment. One of the marks was bloody.
I plucked what I believed to be a seed out of the flesh. It was a fingernail.
Similar marks are evident inside the pumpkin itself, but a flashlight examination revealed no additional clues, and the surrounding soil betrayed no footprints aside from my own.
I must reiterate: the shell was not cut. It had exploded from within. Six other pumpkins remain. I will monitor the patch.
* Update *
No other pumpkins have exploded, although one has a bulbous protuberance I’m keeping my eye on.
Regarding the fingernail I extracted from the broken pumpkin’s shell:
- It was human
- It was not artificial
Because of its provenance and resemblance to a seed, I decided instead to plant it in my patch. The fingernail sprouted in three days. I might ordinarily have wondered if it had truly been a seed, if not for the peculiar characteristics of the emergent seedling.
The plant is flesh-colored (Caucasian, with a faintly green hue) and currently has twelve broad leaves that resemble human skin. If the accelerated growth continues, I expect the plant to aggressively vine in the coming week.
Will it flower and produce fruit this late in the season? If so, what fruit will it grow? I’ll report again soon.
* Update 2 *
The pumpkin plant that grew from the fingernail seed overtook my patch in less than a week.
Its color was a fleshy pale-green. The veined leaves resembled skin, like the ears of a large hairless cat, and the vines had the rubbery firmness of octopus limbs. When shining a flashlight through the vines, I detected moving fluid.
The main vine’s length was twenty-nine feet, and the secondary vines—of which there were nearly two dozen—ranged from three to eleven feet.
Flowers budded and bloomed. I aborted three developing fruits to focus the plant’s entire energy on the fourth. This fourth and final pumpkin grew, by my best estimate, at an astonishing rate of thirty pounds a day. The resulting pumpkin weighed approximately one hundred and twenty pounds.
This pumpkin, which continued to swell hour by hour, was translucent beige with hints of inner crimson. I would compare it to an enormous, faceless baby head, the skull of which had not yet formed. The top of the pumpkin pulsed, much the way a newborn’s fontanels throb.
The vines extended beyond the patch toward my house in one direction, and toward the pinewoods in the opposite direction.
One morning I found the largest secondary vine had throttled a rabbit in the night.
I carried a paring knife from my kitchen with the intention of opening a minor vine to see what fluid issued from its core. I had scarcely knelt with the blade when a neighboring vine twined around my ankle.
Its force was muscular and terribly constricting. My toes chilled from loss of circulation, and neither thrashing my leg nor pulling with my hands loosened the vine’s hold. I started to panic, especially when I noticed several other vines crawling in my direction.
If I hadn’t had the paring knife, I fear I would have been choked and turned to human compost. I cut the attacking vine off my ankle. Viscous gray liquid spurted on the ground. The odor was a cross between ancient pipe grease and freshly butchered poultry. The entire plant flexed and shuddered. An unmistakably malevolent air convinced me that the growing danger outweighed my desire to observe the pumpkin’s full maturity.
I ringed the plant with gasoline, then used a pesticide dispenser to spray more fuel directly onto the vines. The plant stretched and writhed, sensing its demise but unable to reach my legs to fight in self-defense.
I struck a match and tossed it directly onto the pumpkin, and as the fruit burned and shriveled, I thought I heard a mewling, like that of a suffocating baby, and regretted the necessity of killing what I planted.
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