"There it is." Steven pointed off to the right, where a long field extended for acres. In the field were far too many pumpkins to count. "Let's go.
Oh, and don't mind their attitude. They act rude to everyone."
Alison, thinking she'd heard him wrong, marched down the hill beside the skeleton and entered the lumpy pumpkin patch. They both dodged vines and
rocks until they were close enough to the pumpkins to see their creatively carved faces; all of the pumpkins were jack-o-lanterns with numerous
Shadow reached Alison's shoulder and turned into a bat once more. He perched himself on Alison and remained still as she walked.
"Oi!" One of the larger pumpkins shouted. "Here to take more of us to the slaughterhouse, are yeh?"
Many of the pumpkins moaned and heckled in protest.
Alison froze. Am I living in a cartoon? How can all the pumpkins be alive?
doing here, dusty bones?" A small pumpkin yelped at Steven with a shrill voice. "You don't even have a stomach! Whaddoya' want
"Quiet, you." Steven chuckled. "You silly things are grown to feed people. You know that."
"So we're all meant for the slaughterhouse? That's all we live for? Then what's the point in living!" A fat pumpkin complained. "Get off my property,
skinny boy! Don't you dare touch my family!"
Steven paid the angry pumpkins no mind. When he realized that Alison was no longer following him deeper into the pumpkin patch, he stopped.
"It's only a spell." He assured her. "Mother and the other witches enjoy casting spells on the jack-o-lanterns to give them more personality. They
like giving the pumpkins alter egos that match whatever facial expression is carved onto them. They aren't actually alive, I promise."
Still, Alison remained completely silent while Steven picked out two ripe pumpkins. He carried them back to Mahilda's ranch and placed them on the
kitchen table, then departed the house and returned to Alison's side.
"What's the matter?" Steven asked her. "You look like you've never seen a talking pumpkin before."
Alison let out a breathless laugh.
"Well, I've done what Mother's asked of me. Hmmm..." Steven placed his back against the fence and slid down into a sitting position on the dirt. "I'm
actually lacking in chores today. Is there anything you'd like to do, Alison? For fun?"
Alison sat beside him and channeled a small amount of power into her palm. The red light sparkled and flickered in her grasp, heating the skin of her
hand more and more the longer she held it in place.
"This never gets old." Alison gazed into the energy with rapt captivation. "It's probably nothing to you. It's normal for you guys. But I never
imagined I'd have... power... like this."
"Oh, it's everything to me!" Steven said. "You're right, it really doesn't
get old. Garth and Raddince don't see the point in practicing with
their power. They're both fairly spirited, but they hardly use their gift. Of course, I suppose they don't need the light as much as I do. One of them
is a shape-shifting blood drinker, and the other is a terrifying werewolf. They can defend themselves just fine without the light.They don't need the
light as much as I do. That's why I practice so often. I want to be as good as I can be."
"Can everyone use the light like this?" Alison questioned. "Can all of you use it like power?"
"It is the manifestation of our souls. But it answers to our call if only we have the will to call it forth. And it's ideal to have discipline to back
it up, otherwise it could quickly become a disaster." Steven told her. "Some people are more spirited than others, and they carry more light than
everyone else. Those who harbor a great light have a lot of drive, a lot of motivation. They have something in the core of their hearts that they
strive for, and whatever it is, it keeps them burning like fire. And for you, Alison, I can't help but wonder..."
Steven's skull turned towards her. His empty sockets gazed into her crimson eyes.
"What drives you so fiercely?" He asked with deep interest. "You have such light in you, so very much of it. You act so composed, but there's a raging
fire beneath that exterior. It's quite compelling."
"Really?" Alison hugged her knees and rested her chin on her legs. "I don't really know what's driving me."
"Hmmm." Steven's finger bones tapped his jaw. "For my family members, it's obvious. What drives them is... each other. You see, Mahilda is a very
powerful witch, but you wouldn't know it by looking at her. She lives a very peaceful lifestyle because what drives her most is to look after her
family. And... despite the way Garth and Raddince act sometimes... they feel the same way, and so do I."
Shadow made a chirping noise from Alison's shoulder.
"Yes, yes. I couldn't forget you." Steven patted Shadow lightly on the head. "I know, Shadow. I know you love your family too."
"But... you told me that you've been a skeleton as long as you can remember." Alison said. "That means your old self must have died a long time before
you met Mahilda and the others. The light held your soul onto your body before you met your family. Something else must have been driving you back
Steven nodded. He went quiet for a moment, appearing to be in thought.
"I can hardly remember..." He murmured softly. "I remember... rain. It was a rainy evening. I don't remember why I was dying, but I remember
feeling... incomplete... as if I wasn't finished with the world. As if I wasn't satisfied with the life I'd had. And so, I... I held on. I held on
with all my strength, and the light bound me to my bones."
"Why did you feel that way?" Alison asked him.
"I was lonely." Steven replied without much thought. "I remember feeling lonely. I was dying alone... and I felt as though I had lived
as though I'd wasted my entire life by myself, with no family, and with no friends... that's why... that's why I didn't want to die... that's why the
light kept me alive..."
"Because you were lonely?" Alison said.
Steven faced her again.
"No... and yes." He responded. "I stayed alive because I wanted... more than anything else, I wanted... I wanted..."
"Friends." Alison finished for him. "You wanted friends and family. You wanted people to be close to. Right?"
"I... I suppose so." Steven agreed. "Yes, that's... that sounds exactly right. Goodness, how is it that you're better at deciphering me than I am?"
"I don't know. I guess I want the same thing." Alison said honestly. "Back home, my family never felt like a family and I never had friends in school.
I felt the same way you did."
Alison and Steven both looked up.
Raddince hopped up from the tall grass across the road, holding Steven's severed rib in between his many jagged teeth. The werewolf thumped over to
them and dropped the bone at Steven's feet.
Without warning, Raddince slid his large flat tongue across Alison's cheek, leaving a thick trail of saliva up the left side of her face. The wolf man
wagged his fluffy tale and trotted proudly into the house without saying another word.
"I... want to be your friend." Alison said as she used her new gown to wipe the spit from her cheek. "I want to be all of your friends. I think that's
all I've ever wanted. You guys are like a dream come true."
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