Attack of the Pumpkins!
“I’m going to give you a crooked smile,” Otto informed his pumpkin. The tiny laboratory assistant stretched his wonky spine, sighing. “Ain’t nothing wrong with something being a bit crooked, you know. Look at me. I lean like that tower of Pizza or whatever.”
Using a specialized laser cutter, Otto finished carving his twentieth pumpkin that day. At least fifty more were waiting for him in the laboratory’s greenhouse. His boss, Dr. Gottfried Fokken, never missed his neighborhood’s annual Halloween decorating contest. In fact, Dr. Fokken always won. His many trophies were on display in his study.
This October, the name of their display was Attack of the Pumpkins!
“Well, look at you! You have warts. I bet you’d make a fine witch,” Otto told the next pumpkin on the carving block.
In a different corner of the laboratory, Dr. Fokken soldered his final wire into place. He ripped his goggles from the bridge of his nose, laughing maniacally. “It’s done! Done, done, done! Otto! Otto, come here! Come quickly!”
“Coming!” Otto shouted in return. He picked up his warty pumpkin and hobbled towards Dr. Fokken.
Dr. Fokken was waiting with folded arms. When he saw Otto with the pumpkin, he put his palm to his forehead. “If you had left that pumpkin behind, you would have moved faster. If you had moved faster, Mr. Limpy, my time wouldn’t have been wasted. The time of a genius should never be wasted.”
“I wanted to show you this pumpkin. I like the bumps on the front. I think it should be a witch. Don’t you think so? The warts are speaking to me.”
“Yes, fine, make it a witch. Now, forget about those pumpkins for a second. I want you to see my latest creation. It’s finally done, and it is perfect! I believe I have changed the world as we know it. Feast your eyes on the Animator!”
Dr. Fokken dramatically gestured to a metal table and a massive ray gun. Otto made a low “ooohhh” sound before clapping on the pumpkin. “It’s wonderful, boss.”
“It shows your brilliance.”
“Just one thing.”
“What is it?”
The doctor huffed at Otto’s question. “This machine can bring any non-sentient object into being.”
“Oh, right. Of course.”
“You still don’t know what it does, do you?”
“Not a clue.”
“It can take any inanimate object and turn it into a living thing.”
Finally, it clicked with Otto. “I get it. Any object? Anything at all?”
“Yes, anything! The pen in my pocket. My loafers. This coat. Even that pumpkin. But that’s not what it’s for. We’re using this device to further humanity. Computers, textbooks, medical equipment, every one of man’s ingenious creations—imagine what they could tell us! Imagine what they could do for us, Otto.”
“Sounds cool, I guess.”
“You guess? This is the triumph of our time. Let me show you how it works. All you have to do is set the object on this table. Then, you aim the animation ray at the object. Once it’s in place, you throw these two switches. Now, it’s very important that someone does not reverse the order in which they are pulled. The ray will then fire, and voila! Life is created.”
“I like it, boss. It’s kinda neat.”
“Kinda neat? Why do I bother sharing things with you? You’re so hard to impress. I’m going to grab our Alexa from the living room. I want her to be the first object we bring to life. Whatever you do, do not touch the machine while I’m gone. Understand?”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
While Dr. Fokken went upstairs to fetch their Alexa, Otto waited by the Animator. The pumpkin in his hands was starting to feel a bit heavy, so he set it down on the table. As he massaged his sore forearms, his gaze drifted to the ray gun. It was pointing directly at the pumpkin.
An idea formed in Otto’s slow mind. Dr. Fokken did say that the Animator could bring the pumpkin to life…
“Imagine it. A lawn display with living pumpkins! We’d win the decorating contest for sure,” Otto muttered to himself.
Although he promised the doctor that he would not touch the machine, Otto had no self-control. It was only a pumpkin, after all. Certainly, nothing bad could come from bringing a pumpkin to life. If anything, he figured Dr. Fokken would be impressed by his idea. The doctor took their Halloween displays so very seriously.
Otto decided to throw the switches. Unfortunately, Otto failed to remember that the switches had to be activated in a specific order. The ray fired just as the doctor returned to the lab. Dr. Fokken rushed to shut off the machine. Yet, it was too late.
Vines sprouted from the sides of the pumpkin, which formed arms and legs. Holes developed for the eyes and mouth. There was obvious movement and a low groan. It was as if the pumpkin was waking up from a prolonged slumber.
“You dumbo!” Dr. Fokken hissed. “You promised that you wouldn’t touch the machine! Which lever did you pull first? The right or the left?”
Otto pointed at the lever on the right. “That one, I think.”
“Drat! You did it wrong! If you mix up the levers, the hypnosis beam fires second, and that makes the beam useless. The hypnosis beam is the only thing that makes the object answer to my commands. Now, this pumpkin will have a mind of its own. It won’t listen to a word I say.”
“C’mon, boss. It’s a pumpkin. What harm can a pumpkin do?” Otto asked. He turned his attention to their creation. “Hey, buddy. I’m Otto. This is Dr. Gottfried Fokken. We’re your friends. We made you.”
“Friends,” the pumpkin replied in a deep voice.
Otto smacked Dr. Fokken on the shoulder. “Hey, your machine worked.”
“I know,” Dr. Fokken grumbled.
The pumpkin hopped to the laboratory floor. After looking around the room, the pumpkin picked up the metal table with tremendous strength. The pumpkin chucked it towards the wall for no apparent reason. Otto and Dr. Fokken watched their creation lift and throw anything it could get its vines on. The doctor was concerned. Otto found it amusing.
“You always said you wanted to redecorate down here,” Otto noted.
“Be serious, Otto. This is disturbing. We better avoid upsetting it,” Dr. Fokken whispered.
Otto shrugged. “I don’t know. I think Cheeto is just exploring.”
“We need to name it. It’s orange. Cheetos are orange.”
“We need to destroy it, Otto. It’s too strong. It could wreak havoc on the outside world.”
“Eh, it’s fine. As long as he as it doesn’t find out about jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin pies, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin candles…”
It was too late. The pumpkin had stumbled onto the twenty jack-o-lanterns that Otto created earlier in the day. Cheeto held one in its arms, letting out a mighty howl. “What is this?”
“Uh-oh,” Dr. Fokken gulped.
“Relax, Cheeto. It’s nothing. Just something humans do for Halloween. We think it’s festive to decorate our yards with jack-o-lanterns,” Otto said.
“Humans kill my kind because they want to decorate the yard with our dead bodies?” Cheeto asked.
“It sounds bad when you put it like that,” Otto responded.
“What about the other things you mentioned? The pumpkin pies, pumpkin spice lattes, and pumpkin candles? What are those things? More murder?” the pumpkin roared.
Otto prepared to answer. “Well, we do like to eat—”
“Stop talking, Otto. Just stop. You’ve done enough damage for one day,” Dr. Fokken grumbled.
“We’ll make you pay!” Cheeto declared.
Their creation burst into the greenhouse. It gathered an armful of pumpkins. With a single bound, it leapt to the other side of the laboratory. Otto and Dr. Fokken hid behind the equipment as Cheeto set the pumpkins under the Animator. One by one, pumpkins came to life. Those pumpkins returned to the greenhouse to get even more pumpkins.
Before Otto and Dr. Fokken knew it, they were surrounded by an army of severely ticked off pumpkins. Cheeto stepped to the front of the mob.
“You said your name is Otto, right?” Cheeto asked Otto.
“Yes,” he squeaked.
“Otto,” Cheeto said with a horrifying smile. “You’re about to become…an Ott-o-lantern!”
The horde of pumpkins had a cruel chuckle. Otto glanced at the doctor. “It was nice working with you, boss.”
“The feeling is not mutual, Otto,” Dr. Fokken spat.
Several Days Later
“I can’t wait to see what Dr. Fokken did for his Halloween display this year,” the head of the neighborhood’s HOA, Mrs. Valdez, commented.
Another judge on the panel, Frances, hummed. “He always does a wonderful job. Wasn't this year supposed to be pumpkin themed?”
“Yes,” the second judge’s wife, Cassandra, confirmed. “He called it, ‘Attack of the Pumpkins’ or something.”
“Ah, here we go. He’s left the driveway gate unlocked for us. How polite!” Mrs. Valdez said.
The three judges headed up the long driveway to Dr. Fokken’s mansion. Upon their arrival, they saw plenty of scary pumpkins. They were fascinated by how realistic their expressions were. Mrs. Valdez reached Dr. Fokken’s front door. She knocked on it several times.
Slowly, the door opened. There was no one on the other side. After a pause, a voice called out. “Come in.”
The trio stepped into Dr. Fokken’s entryway. Frances mumbled. “This is weird. Where is Dr. Fokken and that silly assistant of his? They usually greet us.”
“I don’t know. It is odd,” Cassandra whispered.
“Dr. Fokken? Gottfried? We’re here about your display,” Mrs. Valdez called out.
They spotted what appeared to be the back of Dr. Fokken’s head. It seemed that he was sitting on a chair in his parlor. The judges moved ahead to greet Dr. Fokken and congratulate him on his marvelous decorations. When they reached the room, they saw nothing but a stack of books and Dr. Fokken’s carved head in the chair.
“Oh no!” Mrs. Valdez screeched.
Otto’s carved head was on the chair adjacent to what was left of Dr. Fokken. Cheeto chose that moment to emerge from the kitchen. This evil pumpkin had a pie in one hand and a coffee mug in the other. The judges gasped at the horrendous sight.
“Welcome to my home. I hope my fellow pumpkins were nice to you when you walked in. I told them they can’t strike anyone unless I give the word. Would you like a bite of human pie? Otto flavored, naturally. Or maybe some human spice latte? Spice of Dr. Fokken, of course.”
“The pumpkin is talking,” Frances muttered.
“Yes, I know,” Cassandra snapped.
“The dear doctor tried to save his life by telling me about you three. He suggested that I wait for you to come by. Apparently, you know the best pumpkin patches in the area. I need more pumpkins. If you tell me where to find them, I won’t turn you into a pie, a latte, or a human lantern,” Cheeto said.
Mrs. Valdez gave a nod. “Yes, my cousin has a big farm up north. That’s where I got the seeds for Dr. Fokken’s pumpkins.”
“Perfect. Write down the address on the sheet of paper over there. It’s on the desk by the ink pen,” Cheeto commanded.
Quickly, Mrs. Valdez wrote down the information. Frances took a steadying breath. “Now that you have the information you want, may we go in peace?”
“Not exactly,” Cheeto chuckled. Swiftly, the pumpkins from the front lawn began to pour into the room. “I told you I wouldn’t make you into a pie, a latte, or a lantern. I didn’t say anything about not making you into a human scented candle.”
As the army of pumpkins dragged the three judges into Dr. Fokken’s laboratory, Cheeto turned to the human jack-o-lanterns in the parlor. “Happy Halloween, boys. This is my world now.”
To be continued…