Gateways: “Pumpkin Spice” by Mike Danovich, read by Alex B. Reynolds

TRASNSCRIPT: This story is written by Mike Danovich. Mike could not be happier to be returning to Gateways. His previous short stories Just Once More and But There Was Time were both read out loud in front of real people for previous Gateways iterations. Mike is also an actor/playwright/director as well as a company member of Otherworld Theatre. You can currently see in performing in Otherworld’s production of Countess Dracula. This is “Pumpkin Spice”.
Content Note: This story does feature some self harm. If that content makes you feel unsafe, you may want to skip this story.

Tuesday, October 1st
Just when you thought you were safe, it’s your girl Jacque B., coming at you live from the Windy City. It is officially fall and I am LOVING it. Just grabbed my first PSL of the season and, mmm mmm mmm, it was worth the wait. I take it back; it wasn’t worth the wait as Gwarbucks could offer it throughout the entire year instead, but I’ll take what I can get. On today’s episode, we’re going to discuss plans for the season: where to go, what to do, best places to get those sweet discounts on decorations, and as a special treat, we’ll have our list of spoopy films to watch every day in October, getting you in the mood for that day of days: Halloween
This is Good Gourd! With Jacque B.
As you might now know, I’m a local podcaster who loves anything and everything based around fall. I mean, my parents even named me Autumn (ok, it’s my middle name, but still). I’m still up and coming on the podcaster scene, but it could be worse. I make enough to not struggle to pay rent, although my parents still help me out. They’ve been nothing but supportive of me since I moved here. But enough about me, let’s find out where to go and what to do here in Chicago to get you in the mood for Halloween. Folks, I know you have opinions (especially if the internet is any indication). Make sure to call in and let the public where the best spots are. Let’s take a few calls and hit you up with that delicious list. You know the number, listeners.

Friday, October 4th
Can you feel the spirits in the air? Welcome back, faithful listeners, to another episode of Good Gourd! I’m your host Jacque B and let me tell you: you’re in for a real treat today, no tricks. We area wrapping up this week of the list of places to visit that you, our fanbase, submitted. Yesterday’s locale was pretty sweet and hard to beat – The Spirit Realm. Sounds scary, but I promise it’s only a pop up bar over on Goose Island. The name alone is enough to give me goosebumps. We won’t go into details (you can listen to yesterday’s episode for that), so let’s talk about the final spot on our list. Today’s spot is billed as Chicago’s top spot for spooky thrills and autumn chills – Paranormal Snacktivity. Many of you submitted this one stating that it’s your favorite place and you never miss it. They serve candy corn flavored everything; and as gross as that sounds, you don’t want to miss it. I’ll play it safe and go for something like the candy corn flavored pancakes, but I’m heading there this weekend and will give you my thoughts come Monday.

Monday, October 7th
‘K folks, I’m skipping the intro this week and need to talk about my experience from this weekend. I took your advice and hit up Paranormal Snacktivity on Saturday. It. Was. Wonderful. I have never been so spooked while hitting up such a campy spot. The hour-long wait wasn’t terribly exciting, but the atmosphere they set up was brilliant. The restaurant is hidden in an abandoned warehouse near the train yard and the line out the door circles the entire block. They literally hired actors to come scare folks while they waited. One actor walked past us, dressed in a nice black and orange suit, stared at me for a couple minutes (what dedication), and whispered something creepy in my ear while the line slowly moved along. Must have recognized me from the show and made sure I had a lovely time. Also, the pancakes were ridiculously sweet but definitely worth the wait. Ugh, I may have to go back next weekend. It was a great pick. Honestly folks, you’re the real MVPs. I think I’ll open the phone lines once again to get more submissions if you’re going to offer up great spots like that.

Tuesday, October 8th
Oh my god, listeners, we need to chat for a second. Multiple people called in yesterday to tell me that Paranormal Snacktivity doesn’t hire actors to walk the crowds. I guess the man I thought was an actor from this weekend was just some random guy and the police have been notified. I am honestly frightened. If anyone sees him, he’s about six feet tall, white, a little on the older side, and wore a silly black and orange suit. Now that it’s been revealed that this guy was a fraud, I am outraged. Full disclosure: I’ve had a killer headache since Saturday. Part of it is the rage at this man, probably most of it from the sugar special I ingested that day, but I’m not going to let a little throbbin’ in my noggin get in the way of this wonderous season. Enough about my woes, let’s get to today’s agenda: ten straight hours of Purple People Eater. Don’t touch that dial; I know where you live.

Friday, October 11th
Late Tuesday night, I ended up in the emergency room. That headache I had from last week knocked me right out at the conclusion of our song marathon. My parents found me on the floor and rushed me to the hospital. No known cause yet, but I’m going to mark it down in my book as a “sugar crash”. I thought about that guy again. I don’t remember what he said to me, but there’s been a phrase stuck in my head on repeat for days – “Caput A Cucurbita. Quaestiones?” I’ve never heard it before in my life, at least I don’t think I have. I think I need to do a little research.

Monday, October 14th
And I ended up back in the hospital this past weekend. That headache returned with a vengeance. I swear I didn’t go back and get those pancakes this time. I just can’t get that weird guy out of my mind. All I can think about is pumpkins. Hundreds and hundreds of pumpkins. Sitting in a patch, praying to one large pumpkin in the center. All hail the Pumpkin King.
No no no, I have no idea where that came from. That is not me. All right Jacque, back to the show. In today’s segment, we’ll be discussing the perfect candy for trick or treating: pumpkins. Wait. Not pumpkins. The perfect candy is pumpkins. King size pumpkin. The king of pumpkins. All hail the—I’m so sorry. I’m not feeling well. That headache has come back. I need to lie down.

Thursday, October 17th
This week has really tried to test me, faithful listeners. I haven’t felt like myself lately. My head has started to swell up and someone with their head up their own ass at the grocery store this morning made a comment about I looked a little more burnt sienna than usual. Like who tells someone that while they ring up your groceries? It’s true I’ve been at the tanning salon a few more times this month; I needed the relaxation. The episode will probably be a little shorter than normal. It’s taking a lot of energy to record today, so bear with me. On another note, I think I saw that man again. I’m not quite sure if it was him, but it felt like he was watching me. Staring at me with that creepy smile. That smile. No, it was definitely him. Does he know me? Does he know where I live? Oh god, I have some things I need to do.

Wednesday, October 23rd
Even though I may not have been here much lately, you’re still in my heart, listeners. It’s a new day and this headache can’t keep me from sharing updates with you. My head is still ridiculously swollen. It’s now twice its normal size (and my head used to be on the smaller side, thank you). Doctors still don’t know the reason behind it. They considered jaundice for a while, considering my skin has changed color as well, but that doesn’t usually cause swelling in your extremities (and this has been some extreme swelling). To say that I still have some pain in my head would be an understatement. But I have returned and am ready to go. In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss more pumpkins: nothing but pumpkins. Short ones. Fat ones. Silly ones. Dead ones. Kill them. Kill them all. Spread the seeds of…hold on, let me gather my thoughts. That’s not…I didn’t mean to say that. It’s just…he’s always in my head. Staring back at me. Smiling that creepy smile. I can’t shut him out. The pain. It’s too much.

Wednesday, October 30th.
eal talk, listeners, it’s hard to keep going. I can’t feel my face anymore; I feel like I’m about to pop. The images in my head are also making it real hard to see. I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced something like this, but I would not recommend it. The phrase has been playing in my mind nonstop all month – “Caput A Cucurbita. Quaestiones?” I need to make it stop. Make it stop. Make it…huh. I understand it now. He shall be appeased. I shall shape myself in his image. The pain shall be released. In the name of the Pumpkin King, I dedicate my spirit to you. 

Thursday, October 31st
News today as local podcast host Jacque B. was found dead in her recording studio early this morning. Sources state that her head had turned into a pumpkin and she was found, carving knife in hand, with chunks of her own face removed. Listeners were concerned over the past few weeks that she was acting erratic. At this time, foul play is not suspected. This has been a tragic loss for the community and podcast world. Surely, she will be missed. Up next, are your kids safe enough to trick or treat this evening? David, back to you.

ALex B Reynolds began acting as Sherlock Holmes in the second grade. Since then, they have played Shere Khan, Gandalf, Iggy Pop, numerous zombies, Jason Voorhees, Luigi, and Skeletor. Character acting is kind of their wheelhouse. Their voice can be heard on the Filmthusiast Final Cut podcast and the Meet/Cute sitcom podcast.