Thursday, 5 November 2015
Why Do Supermarkets Sell Christmassy Stuff Before Bonfire Night?
I was sat in a cafe that reminded me surprisingly of an American diner. It was lined with red leather and reflective metal, the floor was checkered lino and the air was filled with the luminescence of neon. Red headed waitresses spun around in large blue dresses, carrying shiny, circular trays holding milkshakes and burgers on checkered red and white napkins. Elvis was announcing something about his preference for shoes over the jukebox in the corner. The sign outside said, "Welcome to Bob's American Themed Diner."
Outside, there was a small car park and a thin piece of railing that separated the parked cars from the dangerous rushing of a road. It was rush hour, the prequel to the afternoon one, and I was relieved to be eating my breakfast rather than being sat in one of the cars. We’d taken a wrong turn by accident, in our haste and fear, so it’d taken us all night to get out of Grace’s estate.
I nudged one of the mushrooms in front of me and speared it with my fork. I delivered it to my mouth like a culinary postman and enjoyed the flavour; it tasted how my ears felt after I’d been swimming, just as I liked them. Grace looked at me from across the table. She had a mug of steaming coffee in front of her. “I don’t know how you could be eating at a time like this.” She said.
“Easily.” I said. “I spear the mushroom and then put it in my mouth and chew on it until I can swallow it.”
Suzy looked at me. “She was being metaphorical.”
“Can you get a cream for that?” I asked, attempting humour.
The phone on the wall to the side of the counter rung, singing it’s shrill toll. One of the waitresses clapped her the tray onto the counter and rushed over to the phone. It was the one that David had used to phone the Professor when we’d first walked in. The waitress picked up the phone and I watched her out of the corner of my eye. Steve paid no notice. “When the Professor does get here, what’s the plan?”
“Aren’t you the leader?” Grace asked.
“Hey, lady,” Suzy said, “it’s my job to be sassy. Find another team of naive students to sass at.”
Steve continued, regardless. “If we go back to the Estate to have the battle, the place is going to get shot up. Should we lure them out?”
“No.” Grace said. “We can’t risk them escaping and taking more life. It ends in the house, nowhere else.”
“An honourable call.” David said. “I apologise in advance for any damage I personally cause.”
“Don’t worry. I’m sure the insurance covers Paranormal Pumpkins.”
At that moment, the waitress from the phone walked over. She looked us up and down with the type of look that required her to be recycling chewing gum despondently around her mouth. Disapproving of what she saw, she asked, “You lot the Paranormal Christmas Tree Agency?”
“No.” Steve said. “We’re the Pine Resistance, but the message is still for us.”
“The Professor said he’ll be outside in a couple of minutes.”
“I hope you warned him not to use his phone in the car.” I said, standing up. “It can be quite dangerous.”
The glass door with the neon sign pulled inwards, and it was a good job too. If it had opened outwards, it would have been torn off by the sudden streak of black bodywork in front of it. I took a momentary step backwards out of fright and then regained the pace and stepped forwards into the road. I turned the way the black streak had gone and watched it slowing down into the back of a black sedan. The driver wrenched back the handbrake and spun it in a wide circle, just missing smashing the back of another car. He accelerated back up to just in front of us and then knocked open his door.
“Pumpkins! Paranormal Pumpkins!” Exclaimed the Professor. “This is brilliant! I couldn’t wait to get here!”
“Evidently.” I said.
He climbed out and made his way around to the boot, clicking it open and revealing what we called the ‘Baseball Bat Cave.’ Besides those in the cupboard in the backroom back at the Student Digs, it contained all our Christmas Tree slaying technology. And a few added bonuses.
“Present for David.” The Professor said. “Now, is this the Fall Girl?”
“Grace.” She said, presenting her hand. “There are a lot of professors at the university, so I’m afraid I haven’t come across you yet. Would someone do the honours of introducing us?”
“This is Professor Wendall J Orchard.” Steve said. “He’s our scientific advisor.”
“That means he’s the one who knows what he’s one about.” Suzy said.
“Except for what the J stands for. Not even God knows that.” I said.
Grace shook the Professor’s hand and moved around ever so slightly to look into the boot. Her eyes graced over the double barrelled rifles, Baked Bean bombs, the eponymous baseball bats and half a dozen other things that were illegal for good measure. She picked up a revolver and spun the empty cartridge for good measure. “Do you guys do this often?”
“You’d be surprised.” I said. I turned to Steve. “Should we get the makeshift weapons from the car?”
“Which is your car?” The Professor asked, looking up the car park towards the three parked vehicles. There was a Citroen Cactus, a Ford Sierra and a stretch limousine with splattered pumpkin on the back.
“Take a wild guess.” Steve said. “And no, I think we’ve enough weapons here.”
“Shall we get going, then?” Professor Orchard asked. “I want to be back in time for Doctors.”
If this was written in the third person, we’d now cut to a paragraph about whatever the pumpkins were up to. Unfortunately, this is written in first person. Instead, we’ll cut straight to the Paranormal Christmas Tree Agency as we race down a road towards the mansion. (That bit was a bit third person-y, to be honest. And as for the fourth wall, well, someone call the builders.)
The Sedan swung through the small roads which cut through the surrounding forest. Leaves were recycled up into the air by the roaring spin of the tyres, crushing and crumbling as the car roared forwards. The Professor was grabbling with the gear stick, his foot shoved straight into the pedal. I felt like a fighter pilot, G-Force gripping me with everything it had. The engine was screaming, pumping and roaring. To our either side was a blur of trees roaring past. It was all a bit too much for me; my head was thumping with pain.
“Is this the right time to mention that I suffer from travel sickness?” I asked.
“No!” Grace, Suzy and the Professor chimed. The others- Steve, David and Elise- were in the limousine going a different way around the mansion, as to flank the Pumpkins should they concentrate their attention on us. It was Steve’s plan, of course it was, and I could see it was likely to fail. Then again, we were fighting paranormal pumpkins. ‘Likely’ was out of the window.
“How did the Pumpkins get paranormal, by the way?” Grace asked.
In the caverns of literary mistakes, where Emily Brontë resides, queen of all, the toll of the death bell rang. Once more, our souls were cursed to eternal torture and pain, the demons which haunted bad writers cursing us forever, as we engaged in what could only be known as the Devil’s Sport: exposition.
“February a while back,” Suzy said, “an evil monster made of pancakes locked us in our basement and attempted to kill us. In the process, we made friends with a Christmas Tree, Duncan lost his real name and Steve got a girlfriend. It was a happy time.”
“But the interesting thing was,” the Professor continued, “the possession of the pancake was caused by pine needles from a possessed tree. They seem to carry some of the demon which possesses the tree. Where did the pumpkins come from?”
“Arthur, that’s the butler, he bought a load of them from Tescos because the pumpkin crops in the garden had failed.” Grace said.
“I have always wondered why supermarkets sell Christmassy stuff before Bonfire Night.” The Professor said. “Now I hate that they do. The needles from a possessed tree must have fallen into the pumpkin and possessed it. Either that or the demons which possess the trees have extended their target.”
“How brilliant.” Grace said, admiring the genius of the infection.
“Not really.” I said “Because imagine how many other people have possessed pumpkins tonight.”
The car exploded from the forest and out into the clearing before the building. The wheels ripped up the gravel beneath them, pleased to have purchase on something that felt solid. The Professor grappled with the handbrake, twisted the wheel. The car screeched and spun around. My travel sickness became much worse. I felt my stomach turning, my eyes bulging. I felt like I was about to explode with sickness. “Never do that again.”
The doors flung open and we climbed out, carrying out weapons. I saw a flash of something burst past the window, a Paranormal Pumpkin perhaps, floating past and towards the doors. I knocked the barrels of my rifle up, hearing the familiar click as the bullets got ready to be fired. Grace had a rifle, as well as the Professor. Suzy, who wore a Peace Poppy before it was cool, refused to carry a gun. They were too violent. Instead, she carried a baseball bat to smash the pumpkins in with.
We walked towards the mansion with the kind of swagger which deserved AC/DC to be blaring in the back ground. I aimed my gun up towards the window and kept it trained, ready for the pumpkin to return. It didn’t, instead seeping down towards the doors we were approaching and moving through that. It screamed forwards, knocking the doors apart. It’s mouth was torn with jagged fangs, it’s eyes lit with hellfire from the candle within. It rushed towards us, but I planted a bullet in it’s head and watched it tear apart. The ground was splattered with the gooey remains. They wouldn’t be the last of the night.
We walked into the mansion and were suddenly absorbed by the complete silence. Grace cast a glance towards me and mimed, “It’s never been this quiet before.”
I shrugged and mimed back, “I prefer it.”
We kept our guns pointed up, ready to blast to hell anything that moved. That phantom giggling was ever present in the back ground, ever creeping and ever approaching. I would be lying it if I said it wasn’t at all scary. There was a chill in the air that reflected the weather outside, and the souls of the pumpkins themselves. (English teachers, you can highlight that bit with ‘pathetic fallacy’.)
There was a sudden explosion of giggling behind us. Grace spun and fired her gun. A desk splintered and cracked, spraying it’s debris across the floor. “Damn. My parents are going to kill me.” Grace whispered.
We turned back to the way we had been going and came face to face with forty pumpkins. “Damn. The pumpkins are going to kill me.” I said.
They screeched a horrific scream and then rushed towards us. Suzy struck out with a baseball bat and splattered the first pumpkin against the wall. I fired two shots and detonated one pumpkin like a video by the Slow Mo Guys. The four of us fired and fired, until our guns were empty. Then we drew our bats and began to use them.
We were coated with sticky orange mess, reeking of rotten halloween. I felt my old aversion to pumpkins resurfacing. It made me hate them even more. I lashed out with my baseball with a renewed vigour.
After what felt like hours but was probably just a few seconds, I heard David, over the Professor’s radio, announce, “We’re ready! Do you want us to blow?”
“Give us a second to get out.” The Professor said back. He turned to us. “Let’s get out of here.”
We turned and found another half dozen pumpkins. Someone cursed, but we were in too much of a hurry slashing and hitting for me to know who for sure. I ducked under the pumpkins and smashed at them above me. Nothing was achieved by it, however. The pumpkins kept coming. I turned to Grace and screamed, “How many pumpkins did you buy?”
The only good thing about the hoards within the mansion was that it was unlikely anybody else would have bought any. So, even if we died, it was unlikely anybody else would.
We took a sharp right and ran through the ballroom where the predicament had begun. The corpse had been stripped bare, to nothing more than a skeleton. I felt guilty we hadn’t done any more for it.
There had been a window on the far side of the ball room. I say had because as soon as we entered, the Professor shot it out. We ran quicker and quicker, chasing cross the floor, and leapt with everything we had out of the gap. As we did, the building blew. There was a sudden rip-roaring explosion and the fireworks within the house began to explode.
Bright explosions of blue, red and yellow. The sizzle and pop of gunpowder, the crackling roar of igniting wood and brick. The screech of detonating pumpkins. I knew, had there been pets present, they were would have cowered. I knew that every health and safety violation was being violated. Explosions of fire roared after us, claiming the front wall of the mansion. Catherine wheels and poppers roared, dragon fire scorched the antique wood work. Sparklers sparkled, the insurance company were alarmed and the wail of fire engines was loud on the horizon. Having landed with a thud against the gravelly ground, we jumped into the Sedan and drove off. Our business was done. The Pumpkins were dead.