Planted Seed in an Empty Nest

📅 Published on October 10, 2021

“Planted Seed in an Empty Nest”

Written by N.M. Brown
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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It was my wife Marion and I’s first Halloween season without our son, David. He passed away unexpectedly at the beginning of February. We had been married for most of our adult lives, and David was born right at the start. He was our baby, even in his forties. Enough time had passed for Marion to be able to smile again, but I still worried about being alone with her in their big, empty house and on David’s favorite holiday, no less. The skeletons of the season that once brought me joy now only reminded me that half of my heart was rotting away underground. His mother wouldn’t let us cremate him. So the body we spent so many years nurturing and taking care of now lay abandoned in a cemetery lot, with only a few feet of dirt and parasitic insects to protect him.

College had taken him out of state well before our golden years. Love and parenthood had kept him there, eager to settle into beautiful family life. His girlfriend Kira and he were never married. She was too free for that. When that bitch told David that marriage was a meaningless construct, a mere piece of paper, he became worried about losing her. Men do things out of desperation when it comes to love and loss. However, if she couldn’t commit to that, his mother and I didn’t know why he thought impregnating her would have made her stay.

And we were right.

My wife made a memorial area in the yard in a place that was half shaded and half free to the sun. When the time of year was right, she decided to plant a pumpkin patch there in his honor. I helped her get the plot of land ready and did what I could to tend to the seeds to help them grow. My wife didn’t exactly have a green thumb. I can’t tell you how many different herbs, flowers and vegetables she attempted to plant over the years to no avail. But who the hell was I to tell her so? It made her happy, and that’s all that mattered. A couple of 50 cent packets of seeds were nothing at all to see her smile. She loved bringing life, even though she wasn’t exactly good at it.

When they first moved in next door, Gregg and Katie Johnson were newlyweds, and my wife was among the first to arrive with words of welcome and baked goods for the young couple. Marion looked at their yard with loving nostalgia at one time in life, often remarking how much they reminded her of us in our younger days.

The pair visited us for Sunday dinners, bringing various dishes of their own. Under normal conditions, a younger couple could be bored by a couple of old fuddy-duddys like Marion and me. But the separation in age seemed to make no difference.  The ladies traded gardening tips and talked television shows while Gregg and I talked about projects we were doing in our spare time and all of the bullshit going on at our jobs.

Marion hosted Katie’s first baby shower. I remember her spending over an hour turning some baby items and a shaped wire coat hanger into the cutest little wreathe Katie said she ever saw. Marion’s hands ached for days after completing it, but I knew it was worth it to see her face light up when she gave it to her. My wife helped with the food, decorated the house, the whole nine yards. It made her happy to plan it for Katie, and Marion was more than happy to attend the second.

Things went well until their youngest child turned about six months old. That was when we started noticing a specific car coming and going when Gregg was gone for work. Katie began making excuses for missing Sunday dinners, sending Gregg and the kids by themselves, which was fine. I mean, we were always happy to see them. The dinners she did attend, she would spend with her nose buried in her phone. Soon after that, we began hearing the yelling at all hours of the evening. And I tell ya, we weren’t the only neighbors either. This was a close-knit neighborhood- houses upon houses upon houses.

As horrible as it is to say, when Gregg came home with the kids one day to find her gone, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone but him. We all mourned for her, no one as much as her husband, of course. We were heartbroken for him. But Marion felt hurt, betrayed almost. We had never had a daughter of our own. She had always hated Kira but had so much love for Katie. She was like the daughter-in-law she always wanted but never had. And Gregg is so close in age to David. I think, in a way, she thought of herself as their unofficially adopted mother figure. The mind is a fucked up thing, I know. But it made sense.

We prayed with him, cried with him, even watched the kids while he went to meet with legal counsel. It was almost as if helping him through Katie leaving was somehow vicariously helping David’s spirit with the loss of Kira. This was back when everything was done person to person, by the way; I’m not even sure Zoom existed yet. Eventually, it felt like we all had healed together in our own ways. Sunday dinner resumed as usual after a while, and Marion loved seeing the children.

This is why I was surprised, despite the cheerful smile on her lips, when she adamantly refused Gregg’s offer to spend Halloween with us. He showed up mid-afternoon with both kids in tow. The Bride of Reanimator was in one hand and a bottle of wine. His daughter Bella held a bag of store-bought candy unenthusiastically.

“Hello there!” I beamed. “What a nice surprise! What brings you all out here this evening?”  I always loved that joke.

“Howdy, Harold. I heard it’s the favorite holiday of a very pretty lady.” He said with a wink at Marion. “I brought a movie with one of your favorite actors with some treats for the evening. We figured you could use some company, and we could make it an impromptu party.”

“Oh boy, you hear that, Marion,” I teased. You’ve always had the hots for that one.”

“Oh, I’m fine, Gregg, but thank you. I already have a full evening ahead. And Harold, you can hush your mouth” She waved her hands dismissively at me before hugging our neighbor.

“Not even for wine, chocolate and Combs?” I prodded.

“Stop it,” she laughed, swatting at me before draping her arm across my back. A searing sting radiated from the middle of my back the moment her arm made contact, and I was surprised to find myself wincing in pain. I recoiled away almost involuntarily, fighting the stiffness in my joints as I tried to position my arms to appropriately reach my back. No dice. “Sweetheart,” I implored. “Can you look at my back and tell me if anything’s wrong with it? I’ve got one hell of a sore spot back there.”

“Ohhh, are we going back to the popping pimple days?” She quipped. Her eyes lit up excitedly as she searched the canvass of skin on my back.  “Nope. Nothin’ there. You’re fit as a fiddle, my dearie.”

She turned away and began rambling about the pumpkin that she grew in our garden, saying it would be a sight the world had never seen. “All these summers, I’ve tried to have a pumpkin patch, and all these years, I haven’t gotten anywhere, barely a single sprout. This year’s different, though. I didn’t get a whole patch, but I was able to grow a single pumpkin. Isn’t it gorgeous, Gregg?” She held the winter squash proudly in the air with both hands, as if offering it to the heavens. It was larger than a pie pumpkin, rounder than a Cinderella pumpkin, but slightly smaller than a Jack-o-lantern.

In reality, I thought it looked like a mutated, killer tomato, one of the rejects from the old 70s movie. The skin was smooth and held a rust-colored, vermillion hue. If not for the traces of orange at the top and bottom, I’d have thought that poor Marion had lost her mind. Still, she grew it, and as her husband, well, I was happy for her.

I noticed the children’s eyes darting with impatience once she began explaining the slow, patient process of roasting the perfect pumpkin seeds.  “Well, come on, honey. These kids have candy to get!” I urged through a gentle smile.  After repeating the offer one last time,  Gregg conceded, promising to leave us to our evening. The neighborhood was having their trick-or-treating event that night, and I heard him promising to take them as he headed down the driveway.

They had barely been gone for ten minutes before I noticed the bottle of wine still sitting on the kitchen table. “Shit,” I muttered. “Gregg must have forgotten this. I’ll run it over to him and be back soon, my love.” She nodded in affirmation before clucking a row of kisses into the air.

When I arrived, the kids were in costume, Jeremy in a shining knight outfit while Bella donned a black wedding dress and white face paint. “Stop by the big houses twice if you can, okay, kids? They always gave out the largest candy bars in my day.”   I chuckled with a wink.

I won’t waste your time with more dialogue. Gregg got caught up in talking about how this was his first major holiday without Katie and how as much as he wanted to be excited for the kids, his heart just didn’t feel like it usually did. I sympathized and related that we were experiencing the same with our dearly departed son. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, close to an hour had passed. Gregg made me promise to let our house be the first one they stopped at for candy, so we all walked over together.

Neither sun nor moon was in sight when we got back to the house. The yard remained a perfect state of dusk. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off. The porch light shined off of the metal witch that sat there, casting an eerie sheen of silver. As I entered the front door, I announced my entrance, the kids bounding past me to look for my wife.

An acrid stench curled my stomach along with the hairs in my nose. It smelled like disturbed earth, along with sweet, stale rot. My stomach flipped as my mouth filled with spit to purge itself. But the words I hear stop the bile midway in my throat.

“Oh my god, Gramma Marion, are you okay?!” Bella’s voice squeaked against the silence. I ran to them, hundreds of fatal scenarios flashing through my mind all at once about what I’ll see when I turn that last corner.  The silence, the smell…

What I saw wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but was still pretty alarming. Marion stood at her kitchen counter with her back to me, feverishly hacking away at a pumpkin. Specks of blood dotted her bare feet and the kitchen floor. Each time she drew her arm back, streams of crimson shot into the air in front of her.

“Christ, Marion, what happened here?” I yelled in alarm. “Are you hurt?” She turned to us slowly, a hauntingly wide smile on her face. I surveyed her body quickly, finding no abrasions or even evidence of broken skin. The red liquid was coming from… the pumpkin.

“I bought rare seeds to grow a special type. Pretty cool, huh, kids?” She gave a wink to the children, now with wide smiles of their own.

“No freaking way!” Jeremy exclaimed. “That’s so cool!”

“Language Jeremy…” his father reprimanded sternly.

Marion then turned to Gregg, the smile quickly melting into a scowl as she met Gregg’s eyes. “And you… coming to check on me. What, did you think I’d fall and break a hip?” Her hands wove with emphasis as she spoke, covering herself with the pumpkin’s blood spatter. The smile returned to her face as she looked at Jeremy. “I swear, kid. Your Dad treats me like a life-alert commercial.” She made a mock falling face as she pretended to stumble backward.

They helped us clean up the rest of the pumpkin guts before heading out. She pops a raw seed into her cheek as she walks Gregg and the kids to the door. My face scrunches in unease at the thought of the slimy, unpleasant texture. “I thought you were gonna roast em Hon. How can you eat them plain like that?” I sputtered. This was something she’s never done before.

“They will be my darling. I only need one… just this one,” she muttered before swallowing the seed whole as if she were taking a pill.

The rest of the night wasn’t as gloomy as I feared it would be. Gregg’s visit probably helped. I knew how much she loved the kids, and hell, I guess after all that time, I did too.  I had the highest hopes for our bedroom time, as we had been caught up in a physical honeymoon phase, as you’d call it. Now that doesn’t sound like something you needed to know, right? Well, I promise it comes into play here; just bear with me.  Only that night, my wife fell asleep almost the moment her head rested on my chest- which was fine.

Gregg told me over coffee the next day that the kids visited most of the houses that participated, though there weren’t nearly as many as there were last year.  He said it was a good night all in all.

Dirtied paper towels and coffee grounds tumbled to the floor as I attempted to push the weight of the garbage down further into the bag. It was a game we played. The last one to place a piece of garbage on top of the bag was the one who took it out and changed the can.  Gregg only used one napkin and cup while he was over, and I’d have been damned if I had to step outside in the cold for just one napkin.

I sighed in resignation as my game of garbage Jenga got more and more out of control. I bagged it up, making a mental note to round up the rest of the trash in the house for garbage day. Might as well get it all while I was at it, I grumbled mentally.

Something plastic and cylindrical fell out of a tiny hole poked in the bottom of our bathroom trash bag. I swear to God it looked like an empty insulin syringe, one of the old ones before the pens came out. However, the inside was stained a deep crimson color. It oozed down the sides with the viscosity of syrup as I picked it up and held it under the light. “Marion!” I hollered. There was no answer. I peered in our bedroom to see her sleeping peacefully in our bed, something that would prove to be typical over the coming weeks. I would have shaken her awake if I hadn’t spotted the bottle of cough syrup on her bedside table. I had too much shit going on with my grief and wasn’t up for solving mysteries, so I let it go. Stupid, I know.

Anyway, I didn’t have much time to obsess over it anyway. Things just changed so darned quickly. My wife began feeling run down. It broke my heart to see her start to get sick over the next couple of weeks. She became withdrawn and sickeningly thin. Her skin was pulled taut in every area and sallow over her bones. Sleep had begun to consume her, and she could hardly make it twenty-four hours without throwing up.  The beautiful angel that was once my wife now resembled a living zombie.

Now I know what you’re thinking. With all the shit going around in the world right now, I should have taken her to a doctor right away.  But my wife adamantly refused. It was hard for me to argue since her smile never faltered. In fact, I’d never seen her happier. I kept telling myself once it got worse, I’d take her in.

Another thing that came with her illness was body temperature issues; she claimed to be freezing all the time. It seemed like I never saw her without a hooded jacket and sweatpants bundled underneath blankets like a makeshift robe. Just looking at her made me sweat at times, even in the dead of winter.  It lasted for what felt like ages, not worsening but not improving either. She seemed to be getting better after some weeks passed. Her skin had even taken on a healthy glow in the coming days.

My solace in her health was short-lived, however.

I remember the day my life got turned upside down. Years’ worth of mental stability wiped away in under ten seconds. Though in retrospect, it’s astonishing that I didn’t see just how wrong things were.

* * * * * *

Christmas, New Years, and Valentine’s Day came and went. And it was the week of Easter. Ironic, right? It stands to reason that what would be the first of many of the most horrifying days of my life would begin right at the start of the resurrection of our Lord, doesn’t it? Anyway, I was going to the store. Our supermarket had been shut down for renovations and had just opened that morning. Marion was sleeping when I left. I kissed her on the forehead and left a cup of coffee on the counter for her on my way out the door.

The faint, muffled sound of the shower running greeted me as I walked in the door. It stopped short when I reached the midway point to our bedroom, which was a shame because I already had the top two buttons of my shirt undone to join her. Nevertheless, I tiptoed down the hallway as quietly as my aging knees could carry me to catch her by surprise.

But instead, I was the one who found myself surprised. Her back was to me, but I could see her frontal reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror.  Breath vanished from my lungs in an instant, leaving me feeling faint and winded. Deep blue veins ran over her breasts and abdomen like a freshly printed road map. What’s worse was that her stomach was swollen and engorged. I had only seen her look like that one other time in life, during the months she was pregnant with David.

Her cheeks blanched underneath angry eyes as she snapped up a towel placed on the back of the toilet, quickly covering herself. It was to no avail, and we both knew it.  “My God, Harold! You gave me such a startle!” She scolded.

“Me?!” I gasped. “Marion, honey, what is wrong with your stomach, sweetheart?”

Nothing is wrong,” she snapped. “I…” she hesitated, for far too long at that. “I found a way for us to have another baby, a way for us to… start again.” The moment she said that, ever so slightly, a nub poked from underneath the skin next to her belly button. Ooh, there they are!” Her hand flew to her slightly distended middle. It’s a miracle, Harold. Even at our age,” she paused, smiling at her growing belly, “you were able to give me your seed.”

My mind reeled as flashes of the unexpected intimacy filled my mind from the months before, the syringes in the garbage, Marion’s hills and valleys of symptoms. I took off my shirt in a hunch, striding over to stand next to her in the bathroom mirror. I shouldn’t have been shocked, not after everything she’d just said. But I was horrified to see tiny scars dot across the middle of my back. They looked like needle marks, but one used repetitively for a long length of time. None of it made any sense, but at the same time, it all did.

The pregnancy went as normal at first, as most often do. She avoided any mention of sonograms like the plague; radioactive waves, or some shit like that. We didn’t make any mention of how it occurred. Who the hell would believe us if we did? It couldn’t be put off forever, though. Inconsistency on the fetal doppler led to finding out the baby’s heart had stopped beating. She delivered our sleeping angel at 25 weeks.

And as much as I hated myself for it, I can honestly say I was relieved. As beautiful as the child was-our daughter- she came out all wrong. Whatever acts she committed to achieve this weren’t natural, and in my mind, couldn’t possibly be condoned by God and he made it apparent on every feature on her little body and face.

The point of all of this- all the conversations, back story, heartache and build-up, is that, as you know, Halloween is here tonight, and I’m more than a little concerned. Marion insisted on planting a pumpkin patch this year, despite my almost threatening protests not to. That’s not what concerns me, though. Concerned? Screw that. I’m downright terrified. Because once again I’m waking up with fresh pinpricks on my back, my wife has suddenly healed from her grief to the point of hysterical bonding and- Oh my lord, help me-and this year… instead of one pumpkin, Marion grew two.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by N.M. Brown
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: N.M. Brown

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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