Carl always loved autumn. He loved the smell of the world settling down. He loved the crispness of the air. He loved wearing sweaters and walking through the park. He loved the steaming mugs of cider or hot chocolate. He loved pumpkin pie and the spooky excitement that always came with Halloween.
More than anything, though, Carl loved the leaves that fell in autumn. He adored the reds and browns and yellows and oranges that burst into vibrancy out of the boring greens. He adored them falling one by one from the trees, signifying a change in the seasons. He adored the piles that grew to towering heights around and seeing excited kids diving into them, sending the leaves flying everywhere. His favorite part, however, was the crunch the leaves made when he stepped on them.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
There was something so viscerally satisfying about walking down the sidewalk and hearing that sound, soft and tame, swirling up into his ears as his shoe pulverized the dead leaf into dust. He would go out of his way to step on leaves when he saw them, just to hear that crunch. None of his friends quite understood why it held such joy for him, but he was always happy and that was enough.
On this particular day, Carl was wandering through the park, happily stomping on leaves, when he came across a pile sitting underneath a tree. He stopped and looked around. See, he never would let himself jump into a pile. Not because he didn’t want to or because he didn’t want to inconvenience the poor workers that would have to clean it back up (he would do so himself), but because he wanted to leave that joy for the kids. He remembered when he was young and how much fun he had leaping into the piles of leaves and scattering them to the winds. He didn’t ever want to take a simple pleasure like that away from a kid that may have been wanting it.
Right now, though, he saw no kids around. He saw not much of anyone around, to be honest. He was free and clear to do as he pleased. For this one, glorious time, he was able to allow himself to jump into the leaves and experience the thousand crunches himself. He felt a little shiver of excitement as he took a step or two back to get the running start he always remembered taking when he was little.
He hurtled himself forward and leapt into the pile. He felt and heard himself surrounded by the crunches but there was a different sound as well. A thump. Thump? Leaves don’t go thump, he told himself. How very odd. He pulled himself out of the pile and took a look. Seeing the source, he gasped.
There, amongst the crushed leaves, was a gray, sightless face attached to a body wearing a green sweater.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Carl didn’t enjoy the sound of leaves after that.
Here is where I''ll post random stories that aren't, as of yet, in a larger book. Call it a free ride into the mouth of madness, yo.