Unfortunately, Abby’s war cry was so loud she didn’t hear Claude, back at the doorway, shouting for her to watch out.
She raised her trowel, ready to power-slam it into the big pumpkin, then deal with its creepy mini-mes with a few brief stomps.
But she didn’t hear Claude, so she didn’t watch out.
The big pumpkin lashed out one of its vines, looping it around her fighting hand, and tugged her towards it, adding to her momentum and yanking her off-balance. As she stumbled, one of the baby pumpkins scuttled under her other foot and tripped her to the point of no control. The big pumpkin whipped its entangling vine as it pulled harder, adding an upward jerk.
Abby flipped over the pumpkin and landed like a dropped anvil flat on her back. The breath went out of her in an excruciating whoosh, and she saw stars. The pumpkin tightened its grip on her wrist, grinding the bones out of what could only be pure meanness.
Judo, her stunned thoughts managed to garble. How does a jack-o-lantern know… She trailed off; from where she lay, she could see Parky sprawled out as he wept over his Caroline. She pictured that one time a junkie had barged into the facility, looking to rob the pharmacy closet.
The guy had made a run at Parky, who’d grabbed and flipped him as easy as blinking.
Oh, no, oh my God, no she thought. They’re learning skills from the people they possess? We are screwed, blued, and tattoo —
Just then, she heard more yells from the doorway, and she twisted her bruised back to see. It wasn’t her gang screaming with terror at Abby’s defeat.
These were more war cries.
The other three bum-rushed the jack-o-lanterns, big and small. Claude ducked under a couple of lashing vines to jam his nightstick into the big pumpkin’s mouth. It shuddered and gagged and let go of Abby as Claude picked it up by its impaled mouth and flung it against the far wall.
Meanwhile, Gerard kicked one of the little pumpkins, going for the extra point. It flew several feet and splattered against a wall.
Fleur, hair flying as she yelled like a banshee, beat another baby pumpkin like it owed her money. It caved in after a few blows, collapsing into a small, steaming pile of staple-studded sludge.
Claude finished the trio. In one motion, he tucked the nightstick under his arm, made a sharp, brutal pivot, and stomped the remaining baby pumpkin into mush with one crushing foot, staring into the middle distance as he did so, not even looking at his opponent as he vanquished it.
Abby managed to eke a small gulp of air back into her lungs, and used it to croak at Claude, “Man…nice Bruce Lee.”
A noise like a martial arts yell sounded in the room, and for a second Abby laughed, thinking Claude was imitating the Dragon to show off. Then she saw the shocked expressions on everybody’s faces, and turned to the side.
The big pumpkin was roaring, a shriek that dropped in pitch to a freight-train rumble. Its shell cracked but not ruptured, it stretched out and stiffened its vines to support its weight, raising itself into the air on thin, green legs like some kind of bloated, luminescent daddy longlegs.
It studied the humans for a second, bulk bobbing and swaying on its spindly supports, then it moved on them.
The jack-o-lantern cracked its front-most vines out ahead of it like whips, keeping the residents at bay as it advanced. Abby grabbed a nearby punching pillow she’d successfully not used to break her fall, and held it out like a shield. She looked around for a weapon — Lord only knew where her trowel had flown off to — but came up with nothing. Even the idea of sitting up from her lying position to defend herself better sent bolts of pain down her back.
Gerard had his stun gun out, the arc crackling between its electrodes, but he was driven out of range like the other two. Fleur flailed at the vines with her stapler to no avail, and Claude cussed with dismay as one of the vines snatched the baton from his hand.
The jack-o-lantern backed the three fighters against the wall where Gerard’s booted baby had been smeared. It raised up three vines and held them rigid in the air, like snakes about to strike. Even from where she lay, Abby could see the normally-coiled end of each vine was straightened out and viciously pointed.
She cast about for a weapon one more fruitless time, her neck pulsing with pain as she jerked her head from side to side. Nothing. The one place on Earth where there was no way to harm people easily, just make them better.
I’m going to die on my back, in pain, aching for a shot of whiskey I’ll never get. I’m going to die angry, so angry, always so damned angry at everyone and everything, in this stupid group therapy room.
Maybe if I’d listened during therapy, instead of rolling my eyes and ignoring everything they said…
She buried her face in the therapy pillow, not wanting to see the moment when the pumpkin impaled the others. When it ran through her…her friends. As she closed her eyes, she saw the three wire-thin legs on which the pumpkin wavered.
Abby’s eyes flew open, and she pulled the pillow away from herself, its musty smell lingering in her nose. The pillow, five feet long and vaguely man-shaped, stared back with its goony, gormless, drawn-on face, begging to be punched for stress relief.
The pumpkin had three vines raised.
It was balanced — barely — on three more.
All she had to do was hit one.
Abby spun the pillow in the air and threw it as low and hard as she could, ignoring the ripple of agony up her spine.
She took out two legs, and the pumpkin went down in a tangle.
Claude, Fleur, and Gerard were on it before it hit the floor, weaponless, tearing with hands and bashing with fists, primitive and howling and pure in their destructive force.
It was a beautiful thing to behold.
Today’s Words: 1045
Total Words: 13392
Notes: Finished up a little earlier than normal tonight. That’s an extra half-hour of sleep!