When Kaya opened the lid of the jack-o’-lantern, she gasped at what she saw. A strange blue flower bud had sprung up overnight. A hundred tiny roots threaded across the pumpkin’s flesh.
“What is it?” her little sister Emma asked, peering around her shoulder. The bud seemed to shrink away from the autumn sunlight.
Kaya shrugged. “Maybe we’ll see when it blooms. Not sure how it got there, though.”
“A bird probably pooped a seed into it!”
“Or the wind snuck a seed through the pumpkin’s nose,” Kaya said, honking Emma’s nose and making her giggle. Since Kaya was twelve and Emma only seven, it seemed it was Kaya’s responsibility to care for smaller things, just as she cared for the little flower over the next few days.
Every morning and afternoon, Kaya would go outside and open the lid, but the stubborn bud wouldn’t bloom. The carved pumpkin had begun to decay into orange wrinkles, exuding the funky smell of compost.
I’ll throw it away in the morning, Kaya thought, before falling asleep that night.
A touch on her shoulder stirred her awake.
“It’s blooming!” Emma whispered. She led Kaya outside, into the chilly night. The porch light cast a pale glow on the garden, where the pumpkin sat waiting.
The two sisters crouched beside the dying vessel. Inside, luminescent sapphire petals had unfurled, the shape almost like a lily. The pollen on the anthers sparkled a matching bright blue.
All of a sudden, the stem twitched violently, sending a cloud of azure smoke into the air. Emma coughed, and Kaya covered her sister’s nose with one hand, her own with the other. The rotting smell grew to an unbearable stench as the cloud spread across the grass, obscuring all life in sight.
When the haze cleared, the garden had become infested with a field of flowers so alien—so unlike any plant Kaya had ever seen before—that she knew they didn’t belong on Earth at all.