Okay, the rest of the two weeks have passed. I figured I might as well skip narrating all of the planning, the shopping, and the confusing conversations as I try to weasel myself out of going to the dance with the boys. But, I might as well say that Adalrik ended up singing Will I to me many times between my convo with Seeder and where I am now, greeting upwards of three hundred people at the front gates, wearing a Gypsy outfit-Fall Freak requires that you wear a costume, and I also happen to have drawn the short straw and I'll be running the fortune teller's booth, which means from seven to eleven I have a job to do-and pretending to act happy. Johnny stands beside me, shifting his feet nervously in Adalrik's Gypsy costume. He wouldn't be running the booth with me, but when a couple wants to get into the party together, they need to be wearing matching costumes so we can take photos. And, no don't ask me why both Adalrik and I have matching couple costumes. Let's just say that, two years back, we got dumped massively, and leave it at that.
When at last the tide of hundreds fade, many bearing massive bowls and trays of food, I am allowed to go. We walk in and pose in front of a big sign saying Annual Fall Freak-Get Your Freak On!!! (no, I did not come up with that totally lame sign. It was my little sis Alena who did the signs, remember?) and wince at the massively bright flash of light.
Adalrik passes us tickets at the stand without asking for money, and as we go I glance back and see his own money buying us access. Huh. You gotta love that big brother o' mine.
We walk into my front yard with the sound of Simon and Garfunkel's Sound of Silence blasting at us from the speakers set up at the front door of the house. Johnny walks me over in front of the Pumpkin City, and pulls out a small box. He goes down on one knee, and with his left hand holding my right, he opens it up with all the solemnity required at this occasion, to reveal….
A Ring Pop.
Did I tell you I adored this guy?
I burst out laughing, and lift him to his feet. I give him a tight hug, and out of nowhere bursts a chorus of aaaaahs. I let him go, and turn around, wincing at what I already know I will see: The girls.
"Ah, how cute! The rich loser and the charity case are going to get married!" one of them squeals, blinding us with the flash of her camera. "How many kids are there going to be? Where will the honeymoon be? The Holiday Inn? The wedding, don't tell me, will be in Vegas, won't it? A drive-by? Oh, how romantic!"
I slip my arm tightly around Johnny's swimmer-slim waist, raise my eyebrows, and say "Get a shot of this, Blondie Bear!" and give her the finger.
And, no, I do resist the temptation to stick out my tongue.
But just barely.
The girls squeal, and run off, Blondie Bear's extensions flying off behind her. Johnny laughed, and we started dancing, spinning around in circles to the music. Man, you gotta love not caring.
And then a voice called out: "I would speak with you."
And there's only one person I know who talks like that: Seeder.
I slip out of Johnny's arms, whisper swiftly in his ear that I would be back as soon as I could, and I turned and ran, I entered the City, dodging people and pumpkins alike, following the sound of Seeder's formal voice. I was just turning a corner down an alleyway when a small, warm hand grasped my arm and pulled me into a doorway I had not seen. "We have a small issue, Scribbler. The offspring are getting too close to the truth."
"So that's why you pulled me out of dancing with my boyfriend? So I could get rid of some snotty brats?" I say, hands on my hips, a bit of the anger still flooding my veins.
Seeder nodded, and pursed his lips, his entire face speaking a grim apology. I sigh, and he takes my arm and guides me out of the room, to where a small group of pumpkin people stand, surrounding a small pack of little kids, all around the ages of three to six. I squat in front of them, and say to the biggest kid: "These are not the mutants you're looking for."
Hey, you gotta try sometimes, right?
And it worked. The kids nod, and push away, running off to find their parents. Seeder nods at me, and gestures with his small hands that I was dismissed.
And off I sprint, off to go find my boyfriend, and finally have some fun.
But, according to what I see when I get there, fun is a long time coming.
Johnny is surrounded by about ten pumpkin people, and they are holding-hilarity mixing with horror right about now-miniature pitch forks. "Hey, hey, hey! Let him go, alright? What did he do to you? The Scribbler commands that you let him go," I tell them, and they obediently step back, allowing me to pass. I walk through the small circle of them to stand by Johnny's side, rather pleased at my ability to control these little people, to find that I had failed: They surrounded me, too.
"Seeder, get your butt out here!" I yell, and start stamping my feet, unwilling to break my way through the suddenly-growing crowd of pumpkin people bearing pitch forks.
Seeder walks out calmly, and says to me, "Scribbler, my people are unnatural and will slowly die out, one by one, until we are all gone, unless you make us right. Scribbler, we apologize for threatening you, but we need you to write again. The only way to keep your creations alive, Scribbler, is to keep creating. If you do not wish us to die, then I expect your solemn promise to write every day, and create new worlds for us Pumpkin People to inhabit so we will not be bothered by your people. Will you do that for us?"
I give a nod, and they let me go,
Johnny touches my arm, holding it tight like it was a life saver and he a drowning man in the roughest waters of the ocean, but I simply led him out of the circle, watching with some awe as my creations melted away into the City again, Seeder remaining behind, his chin held high. When I meet his eyes, he kneels to the ground, dropping his forehead until it touches the earthen floor. "Scribbler," he intones, his voice muffled by its proximity to the earth. "I and my people are yours to command, as long as you keep us alive."
I walk forward, and lift him to his feet, astonished by how heavy he was. "You have no need to pay homage to me, Seeder. No need at all. Come, run with me: I've got a promise I need to keep."
He smiles, and the three of us turn and run, jumping and dodging through swarms of people, voices crying out as they see Seeder running gracefully by my side. Adalrik runs beside us for a minute, laughing, before he pulls off to the side and watches us as we scamper up the front steps, covering our ears to the blast of music. Seeder jumps onto my back and I carry him through the door made narrow by the onslaught of people. My mom makes a startled, garbled scream and Andrei jumps six feet into the air at the first actual sight of his living creation, banging his head painfully on the crystal chandelier.
I lead the way up the steps, Johnny trailing behind, Seeder choking me as I jog up the steps. I set Seeder down at the top of the stairs carefully between Johnny and I so the mob trailing after us won't get anywhere near him, and rip open the door to my bedroom. I shoo the couple kissing on my bed out of there, Seeder hiding behind my back, and tell Johnny to remind me to both get a new lock for my bedroom door, and to wash my sheets fifty times or so. I grab my laptop and sit down at my desk chair, and start typing, my heart in my throat.
In my mind, I see a world, trees rising high, talking squirrels and other creatures bring born, running through the treetops and across branches as easily as a cheetah would the savannah, chasing a fleeing antelope. The words flow, tempered only by the sound of tapping keys, Seeder watching expressionlessly as I create him a world, thousands of his people rising and blinking in the light of the day all around the mansion and its grounds, waiting. Waiting for me to fulfill my promise.
And then, finally, it is done. I turn to Seeder one last time, and tell him, "Seeder, I'm not certain if what I just did will continue your life. I ain't the one who created you, remember? I just continued the life of your people for a while. I'm sorry, man, but I just ain't sure if I can get Andrei, the boy named for bravery itself, to have the courage to continue your life. It's different for him-he and the others have to see what they make. I can choose to make a whole new world, but they have to live with the things they make. I'll do my best, but I'm not sure if I can."
He nods, and tells me simply, "Alexis, Protector of Man, I could not care less about what happened to me. I could be struck dead this very instant, my mouth still open in a ghastly simile of speech, and I would not care in the least. Alexis, by getting you to do this and have your promise to continue writing every day, even just a few sentences, I have ensured the lives of all of my people. And that's more than what I had ever expected to do with my short life."
A single tear falls from my eyes, and I give him a strong hug, his small arms wrapping around me gently. "I'll do my best, Great King. I'll keep my promise for my entire life."
When I felt his arms slip from me, I pushed back, expecting to see his wise eyes looking back at me, the fatherly hug completed. Instead, all I saw was vacant holes for eyes, nothing glimmering behind it.
Seeder was dead.
I drop my head, and cry over him, Johnny holding me tightly. "Thanks, man," I say, my voice catching in my throat.
"Shall we bury him?" Johnny asks, and I shake my head.
"Let's let his people do that. He died saving their lives; who knew how much of his last days he must have only lived because of his conviction. Every people needs to bury their Kings nobly." I lift Seeder's body up into my arms, and let out a gasp of grief at how terrifyingly light he is now. I remember lifting him to his feet only an hour or so ago, and how I had struggled under his weight. It's like he's empty, as if when he died his soul took every last part of him with it, leaving nothing but an empty shell.
I walk down the stairs, tears drumming on Seeder's chest, people parting around me like a sea. Several pumpkin people come and walk beside me as I leave the house, but they allow me, the Scribbler, to bear the burden of their fallen King,
I walk with them to the gates of their City and follow the pathway of weeping mourners to the center, where maybe twenty pumpkins and about ten humans swarm, erecting a funeral pyre. Adalrik is kneeling beside a weeping Gutsy, and I see Andrei kneeling with her as well, his hand on her shoulder. I lay my burden at the Queen's feet, my head bowed low, paying homage to her just as her husband had done me. He would have wanted me to pay her the respect she was due.
The Queen falls to her knees weeping, Adalrik and Andrei slipping back respectfully to join her people surrounding her, their foreheads touching the earth like mine, paying respect to the fallen King. Just like he would have wanted.
When the pyre is built, I slip to my feet and touch Gutsy's shoulder. "It's time."
She gives a nod, and she, Andrei, Adalrik and I lift the body of the king, walking forward with him between us to lay him down of the pyre. When we reach it, we slowly lay him down on a soft silk blanket that someone had spread there, and step back. Johnny walks towards us, bearing a flaming torch. I take it from his hand and offer it to Gutsy, but she pushes it back at me. I give her hand a squeeze and she walks with me to lay the torch down onto the pyre with her husband's body.
When I reach the pyre, I touch Seeder's cold cheek one last time, before I help Gutsy up to give her husband one last kiss. When I set her down again, I give Adalrik and Andrei one last look, before I set the torch gently down by the feet of the noble King.
"Farewell, Great King. May you rest in peace forever." I intone, and step back as the flames swarm up his body.
His people raise their heads to the sky, and howl their grief to the pitiless sky as smoke twists and twines its way toward it, human voices melding with it in a harmony of grief.
When the fire dies, only Adalrik, Gutsy, and I remain, the humans gone back to see what remains of the party, the pumpkins to be alone with their grief.
Breaking the silence as the last coals die, I ask Gutsy one question, and she nods.
And I take a stick and write in the ashes of their King.
When I am done, not even the ashes remain. Gutsy and the others are gone, off to live out their lives in a different world. I have done all I can, and they should be where they belong now, where no one can ever trouble them again.
I finish writing in the dirt one last line: And they all lived happily ever after.
I look up from my writing with a grin, before I turn and go, leaving Adalrik alone by the empty field, staring at the empty forest.
Let me wrap up this little story by saying that I intend to keep my promise, for ever and ever. I am the Scribbler, the Protector of Man, and I am sworn to keep creating until the day I die.
And now, dear reader, read this last line and be happy with who you are and what strengths and weaknesses that you possess, as without them you would not be you.
And this is the final line I shall write in this little autobiography: May I never, ever eat a single piece of pumpkin-related food ever again.
Because you never know, do you?
It's a big world out there, ain't it? And a strange one to boot.
And it's getting stranger than fiction.