The Storage Papers is a fiction horror podcast.
Discretion is advised.
WRITTEN BY NATHAN LUNSFORD
MALCOLM: Hello, Jeremy. This is quite the lovely home you have here. I hope you don’t mind. The door wasn’t quite closed— well, maybe that’s not entirely true, but it was easy enough for someone like little old me to slide in, either way. So I let myself in, and, as I was saying, it truly is a lovely home. Everything seems so… normal. I can’t in all honesty say it’s entirely how I pictured it. Somehow I thought there’d just be… more to you. Not all these formulaic photos of Disney and weddings and… I suppose that’s neither here nor there now, like they say.
Don’t worry, your children are sleeping, and so perfectly peacefully. They remind me of two siblings I used to know in a past life. Siblings who are all eaten away now. But that’s all between the memories of a wasted winter and the lost time of a forgotten fall. And that’s about where we are now. Here, together. You and me. And your wife over there, but we’ll pay her no mind, will we?
That’s right, stay sleeping. Stay dreaming. We both know what can happen in those pockets of space and time that we visit and create in our minds, don’t we? And what are you dreaming of now, I wonder? What secrets are you sharing with your Monitor? Judging by the small trail of blood slowly leaking from your skull, it must be a doozy. Perhaps one day you’ll tell me all about it. Or maybe I’ll just rip your head right open and savor the scent of decades of love, life, knowledge, education, thoughts, and dreams fading into nothing.
Another time, perhaps. I still need you. Just a little longer, Jeremy. Just a little longer.
For now, I’ll read you a little bedtime story. It’s about that time of year, isn’t it? That time when, despite the detective’s warnings you delve into my grandfather’s journal, exploiting his many deaths and for what? Your own amusement? That I could respect. But this podcast… really, Jeremy? Even I think that’s a bit… crass.
Did you ever wonder why this book of Joseph Jacob Foye contained so many deaths? No, I suppose you didn’t. It’s a wonder the few things you’ve caught onto with how… unique your brain works. I would have expected that, for someone you’ve been so interested in, you would have given it a bit more thought.
But no matter. I’ll find us a juicy one. Just for us. What do you have for us today, grandfather? Hmm… nothing too early on. And don’t want to jump straight to the end and spoil everything. Where’s the fun in that? Ah, here we are. October thirty-first, nineteen seventy-eight.
I’d never given much thought to pumpkin decorations. I suppose I’ve been so busy for so long that the whimsy of Halloween always just passed me by. Then I intercepted a call trying to reach the local police and I’ve paid a lot closer attention to pumpkins since then.
The sun was getting low and a light fog beginning to nestle into the ground when I arrived at Perry’s Pumpkin Patch. It was an unusual sight—at least for me. Perhaps this is more normal than I realize, but in front of me was at least a full acre—if not more—of pumpkins. Not entirely normal pumpkins, though. These ones were all different colors: a rainbow as far as I could see. And they were large! Not a single runt in sight. I neared the gate and saw a key “P” word I’d missed on the sign: Perry’s Pumpkin Painting Patch. Below that was a smaller sign with a few rules.
- Five dollars per family.
- Paints and brushes provided.
- Don’t move the pumpkins.
This was the sort of thing I suppose I could see the value in were I ever to form proper roots. As things stand now, however, my interest was singular, and the one to guide me had just arrived.
Judging by the man’s calloused, dirt-stained hands, this was the man who had called me, believing me to be a detective with the sheriff’s office. I offered my hand.
“You’re the caretaker here?”
He took my hand, giving me a firm shake and a curt nod before letting go and looking back over the field which was quickly turning amber below the lowering sun. “Tell me exactly what happened,” I said.
His arm rose and I followed his finger as he pointed near the center of the pumpkin patch. “It’s right over there,” he began. “It was busy earlier. Families everywhere. It’s really our time of year, you know? Out of nowhere, I hear a kid scream. I run out, thinking maybe a kid tripped and hurt themselves on a rock or some such. Then I hear more screams.”
“Can you show me,” I asked.
He nodded and, with me in tow, he began walking with the limp of a man who’d been limping for decades. “This’ll ruin us. I’ve always liked looking after a place that’s just meant to be a bit of family fun. I don’t know why he moved the pumpkin in the first place. It’s one of the only rules here. Not that this whole mess is the kid’s fault, but… I don’t know, I’m just rambling, I suppose.”
“Why the rule,” I asked. “Seems a bit particular, doesn’t it?”
He glanced back at me and offered a half shrug. “‘A bit particular’ would be a good way to describe Mr. Perry. But if things get moved, it can ruin the whole look, I think. Suddenly pumpkins get detached or carelessly broken and this is no longer an iconic view of multicolored pumpkins, but a pumpkin graveyard.” He paused for a moment, then continued. “If you’ll excuse the expression. Jesus.”
He slowed to a stop. “There. The half-painted one.”
I moved past him, eyeing the oversized squash. Not even half of it had actually been painted. Black bats and an unpainted orange full moon decorated a purple sky, but apart from that it was all pumpkin. “The kid moved it?”
“Yeah, I couldn’t even tell you how. These things are heavier than they look,” he answered.
“Well, they look pretty heavy, so that’s saying something,” I mused as I crouched by the pumpkin in question. “How do they all get to be so big?”
“Mr. Perry says it’s the fertilizer, but I can attest that that’s nothing special. I always tell people it’s a bit of Halloween magic. But honestly, hell if I know.”
I stood up and turned to him. “Would you mind helping me?”
He nodded and stepped forward. Together, and with much effort, we lifted the pumpkin and moved it to the side. “Oh Christ,” he gasped.
It wasn’t a pretty sight, I’ll give him that. The bottom of the pumpkin had a hole in it, and it’d been hollowed out to make room for the head that protruded from the ground before us. I withdrew a penlight from my pocket and inspected the corpse. I heard the caretaker swear behind me, then turn away. I’m sure I’d seen worse, but at this precise moment I’m having a hard time remembering exactly when. The flesh was missing in chunks across the victim’s cheeks and back of his head. His teeth were exposed for the lack of lips, and an eye was missing entirely, the other gray and without a pupil. The exposed white bone was riddled with holes, like a piece of wood after a swarm of termites took a pass at it.
I thought I saw movement and peered more closely into the empty eye socket to see that it wasn’t empty at all. Dozens of dark, maggot-like creatures hurriedly moved away from my light. I stood up. This seemed more likely to be a regular crime scene with a slightly more interesting twist, but, as I surveyed the field, I saw nothing that would fall into my purview; it was likely just a murder victim being reclaimed by nature. Dust to dust and all that.
I told him that I had everything I needed for now and would be sending a unit out to take care of this further, but the place would need to remain closed for now. He wasn’t happy about having to be closed on Halloween weekend, but understood that it was the right thing to do given the circumstances. “Honestly, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to look at these pumpkins the same,” he said quietly before I left. I couldn’t disagree with him, and was somewhat thankful I had no need to return.
I didn’t sleep well that night. Something was bothering me, rattling around in the back of my brain, not unlike the John Doe in the pumpkin patch. Why leave the head out of the ground? Sure, an oversized pumpkin is a good enough place to hide it if you’re going to, I suppose, but why risk getting caught at all? It was around two in the morning when I decided that sleep wasn’t paying me a visit and made my way back out to Perry’s Pumpkin Painting Patch.
The fog that had just started to roll in was now fully settled over the field, covering all but the tops of the pumpkins. I carried a stronger flashlight now, and let the beam slowly roll over the property. There was the field itself, then the office which was attached to a small house (presumably the caretaker’s residence), and a large shed where I could surmise that all the tools and maintenance supplies were kept. So what was the tiny shed on the far side of the field for? I debated leaving it alone, but nothing was speaking to me amongst the pumpkins and I still had that itch to scratch.
It was a jaunt, but as I approached, my curiosity only intensified. This shed had a locking mechanism I hadn’t encountered before outside of facilities that were far more secretive than a family pumpkin patch. I’d picked up a few things at those facilities, however, and was able to bypass the electronic lock entirely. As I opened the door, lights flickered on to illuminate a staircase leading underground. I looked behind me at the rows of painted squash, then descended below the shed.
The room I entered at the bottom could hardly be called a room at all for its sheer size. Everything was white—almost blindingly so. The entirety of the room was empty except for massive cylinders hanging from the ceiling like giant stalactites. I walked twenty or so paces to the one nearest me so I could inspect it. There seemed to be a removable panel on the side. Withdrawing the same screwdriver I’d used to bypass the lock, I began to work on the panel. It took some effort due to the size, but I was able to remove it. The answer I was looking for wasn’t immediately apparent, though. A plastic window was behind the panel, and behind that was solid dirt.
I looked around, then moved to the next cylinder, repeating the process. More dirt. Looking more closely at the window itself, I noticed a small button on the frame that I had mistaken for a bolt at first glance. I pressed it and the window immediately opened, sliding upwards into the frame. I stepped back and a bit of dirt spilled out, although with how tightly packed it was, not much was displaced. I hesitated, then began pulling chunks of dirt by hand, digging for answers. Then I found them. My hand made contact with something. I hurriedly cleared out enough dirt to realize what I’d connected with. Bone.
Just like the skull I’d seen in the pumpkin, this had been tunneled through by something. I looked more closely, trying to see what may have caused the unique pattern, then jumped back as something long and thin moved rapidly through one of the holes and crawled out of the capsule faster than I could react. I spun around to catch it—or to instinctively stomp on it—before it scurried away entirely, but my face was met with a very hard, dull object and I blacked out.
I don’t know how long it was before I came to, but I found that I was struggling to breathe. It was hard not to let panic set in, but I knew that would just make things more difficult. I tried to move any part of my body, but found I could barely even open my mouth. I looked around, searching for any explanation or, preferably, any way to escape. It was hard to tell where I was, but the pieces soon fell into place.
“It’s not personal, you know.”
The voice came muffled through the pumpkin shell. I didn’t recognize it. I tried to ask why but he’d already begun to answer before my efforts could yield any results.
“It’s an interesting species. We’ve been maintaining them for decades now. We’re still learning so much. Why do they feed primarily on bones? Why do they need to lay eggs above ground when they mainly live their lives below it? An unexpected byproduct is that their excrement makes for excellent fertilizer, of course. Not that that’s why they’re here.”
He paused, and I coughed, trying desperately to breathe. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain inside my leg.
“I don’t want to kill you. I’ve never actually killed anyone. Not directly, at least. But I can’t have you walk away with what you’ve seen. Instead, you’re contributing to science. Perhaps it’d be better not to tell you this, but by now you’ve probably begun to feel them. They should be burrowing into you about now to get at your bones. After some time, they’ll work their way up where they’ll lay their eggs inside your skull. Hopefully, you’ll be dead by then. Rinse and repeat, and you’ll have officially made an immeasurable contribution to science.”
With much effort I managed to get out two words through the pain and suffocation. “How? Why?”
I heard him crouch down by the pumpkin. “That’s just one of those questions, isn’t it? Maybe with your help, we’ll finally have an answer. We tried feeding them so many things. Animals, plants, fungi, but none of them took. So we feed the bones to them. Human bones, unfortunately. That’s it.”
I could feel them crawling up the inside of my legs. He stood back up. “And as to why? Well, is the scientific mind not enough for you? Then perhaps the incredible fertilizer that can be sold at an unmatched price point could be your answer. I hear they can also be used for some intense interrogation methods. But I know little about all that. I’m just here to get answers. I have to be on my way now. If you want my advice… try to relax. I don’t know if it helps you, or not, but it couldn’t hurt. And it allows them to work a bit faster. It doesn’t really make a difference to me either way, though. Goodbye, now.”
I tried to scream but couldn’t get enough air in my lungs. I heard him walking away as I felt the insects—or whatever they were—burrow through my bones, getting closer and closer to my head. I wasn’t alive by the time they made it to my brain.
My, my, that was quite the delicious entry, wouldn’t you say? That’s all for now, though, Jeremy. I’ll go ahead and let myself out. We’ll be in touch soon. Sweet dreams.