By David Nilsen
Tomorrow is Halloween, dear readers. All Hallows’ Eve. Samhain. The winter solstice is the longest night of the year, but tomorrow’s just might be the darkest. We started the month out with a look at Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and we’re going to close the month today with an excerpt from his 1972 ode to the spirit of the season, The Halloween Tree. Enjoy.
“The pumpkins on the Tree were not mere pumpkins. Each had a face sliced in it. Each face was different. Every eye was a stranger eye. Every nose was a weirder nose. Every mouth smiled hideously in some new way.
There must have been a thousand pumpkins on this tree, hung high and on every branch. A thousand smiles. A thousand grimaces. And twice-times-a-thousand glares and winks and blinks and leerings of fresh-cut eyes.
And as the boys watched, a new thing happened.
The pumpkins began to come alive.
One by one, starting at the bottom of the Tree and the nearest pumpkins, candles took fire within the raw interiors. This one then that one and this and then still another, and on up and around, three pumpkins here, seven pumpkins still higher, a dozen clustered beyond, a hundred, five hundred, a thousand pumpkins lit their candles, which is to say brightened up their faces, showed fire in their square or round or curiously slanted eyes. Sparks leaped out their ripe-cut ears.
And from somewhere two voices, three or maybe four voices whispered and chanted a kind of singsong or old sea shanty of the sky and time and the earth turning over into sleep. The rainspouts blew spiderdust:
‘It’s big, it’s broad…’
A voice smoked from the rooftop chimney:
‘It’s broad, it’s bright…
It fills the sky of All Hallows’ Night…’
From open windows somewhere, cobwebs drifted:
‘The strangest sight you’ve ever seen.
The Monster Tree on Halloween.’
The candles flickered and flared. The wind crooned in, the wind crooned out the pumpkin mouths, tuning the song:
‘The leaves have burned to gold and red
The grass is brown, the old year dead,
But hang the harvest high, Oh see!
The candle constellations on the Halloween Tree’
Tom felt his mouth stir like a small mouse, wanting to sing:
‘The stars they turn, the candles burn
And the mouse-leaves scurry on the cold wind bourne,
And a mob of smiles shine down on thee
From the gourds hung high on the Halloween Tree.
The smile of the Witch, and the smile of the Cat,
The smile of the Beast, and the smile of the Bat,
The smile of the Reaper taking his fee
All cut and glimmer on the Halloween Tree…'”
Happy Halloween, dear readers.
The cover image for this post is Joseph Mugnaini’s original cover art for the first edition of the book.