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Fall Fright

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The air was crisp and the trees all over town had changed from green to a vibrant array of oranges, reds, and yellows, both up in the branches and scattered all across the lawns and streets. The changing seasons didn't mean much below ground, however, where Robbie Rotten lived tucked away in his weatherproof lair.

Or at least, it was supposed to be weatherproof. The villain stalked around the floor rubbing his arms as a draft persisted in whistling through the bunker and giving him a chill. He stalked up the ramp to his control center and pulled down his periscope, looking for any means of distraction so he didn't have to work on insulating his home.

Mayor Meanswell had taken it upon himself to rake up the leaves in Ms Busybody's yard for her. The woman was doing an admirable job of ignoring the brisk weather as she persisted in lounging on her lawn chair and sipping her juice with a full face mask of beauty cream. The mayor was having a hard time with the yard work. For when he had finally scraped together a sizable pile of leaves and turned to get the yard waste bag, there was an excited cry behind him—


—and Trixie came flying through the air, hurling herself over the picket fence and into the pile! The leaves exploded up and all over the yard in a cloud of fiery colored foliage and startled Ms Busybody into letting out a shriek. Underground too Robbie reeled back from his periscope with his hands flailing at the colorful and noisy onslaught.

"What's going on?!" Ms Busybody sputtered as her slices of cucumber flew off her face. In their place several leaves got stuck to the green face mask slathered on her skin and she tried to brush them off. "MILFORD!"

"Oh my!" Mayor Meanswell sputtered and spat some leaves out of his mouth. Trixie meanwhile rolled around on the ground laughing and holding her sides.

"That was great!" the pigtailed girl said. "Can you make a bigger pile next time?"

"Now Trixie, I can't keep raking these leaves just for you to jump in them," the mayor said. "If you do that then I'll never finish in time to prepare the rest of town for the Fall Festival."

"Fall Festival?" Robbie mused as he stepped back up to the periscope. He couldn't keep track of every single holiday, festival, and celebration that the town came up with.

"Oh wow, the Fall Festival?" Trixie jumped back up to her feet. "Will we get to bob for apples and paint pumpkins and make our own scarecrows?"

"Ah, yes," Mayor Meanswell tucked his thumbs in his coat and nodded sagely. "And we'll have lots of hot cider to drink and a costume party in the town hall."

"Milford, why didn't you tell me it was time for the Festival already?" Ms Busybody got up from her chair as she continued to pick leaves out of the rollers in her hair. "I simply must make my famous pumpkin pie and cider donuts for everyone. And I don't have a thing to wear!" The woman rushed into her house, slamming the door behind her.

"I'll go tell the rest of the kids," Trixie said. "Is there anything we can do to help?"

"Well now, why don't you and the other children gather some apples and pick out the pumpkins?" the mayor suggested.

"All right!" Trixie agreed. "This is going to be so cool!"

"This is going to be horrible!" Robbie turned away from the periscope. "If it isn't sports, it's sportscandy! These nincompoops will look for any excuse to celebrate their fruity vegetables." He crossed his arms and stewed on the spot. "Well I won't stand for it! But how to stop them?"

He glanced down the line of tubes that contained his constantly rotating arsenal of disguises. Nothing inspired him at first. His pajamas— too sleepy. A cottony sheepskin— too fleecy. A flowing white gown that flapped fetchingly with a vent blowing air beneath it— too breezy.

Then at the end there was the making of a farmer's getup, oversized overalls and faded flannel, with bits of straw sticking out all over. Robbie looked at it for a while as the gears turned in his head. He suddenly smiled a wicked smile.

"They want a Fall Festival, do they? They'll get one, all right. A Fall Festival of Fright!"

"I call dibs on the biggest pumpkin!" Trixie shouted as she ran towards the pumpkin patch. Ziggy tried to keep up with her while Stephanie took her time pulling a small wagon down the path.

"Woah, that thing is huge!" Ziggy said in awe of the big orange gourd growing in the garden. Most of the pumpkins were about the size of a soccer ball but one of them had grown larger than all others.

"I don't think we can get that in the wagon," Stephanie said. "What do you want to do with it anyway?"

"It's going to be the head of my scarecrow," Trixie declared. "I'll paint the scariest face on this baby you've ever seen."

"Not too scary, I hope," Ziggy said, already taking a cautious step back from the pumpkin. "Why do we want to scare the crows anyway?"

"Because that's what scarecrows are supposed to do," Trixie said. "If they weren't they'd be called something else."

"Can I make a friendcrow then?" Ziggy asked.

"Sure you can, Ziggy," Stephanie said.

"Whatever," Trixie sighed.

With all three of them working together they managed to heft up Trixie's pumpkin and dump it into the wagon. It was so big they couldn't fit anymore in with it. They would have to take this one back to the town hall first and come back for the rest. As they made their way back out of the garden however Stephanie paused.

"Hey, did somebody already make a scarecrow?" she asked. "I don't remember that being here before."

Propped up by the gate was a a gangly looking scarecrow the kids had never seen before. It was as though it had appeared out of nowhere. They all stopped to inspect the effigy more closely. Dressed in dusty overalls and frayed flannel it almost looked like a man save for all the straw poking out everywhere, even coming out from under the brim of the large sun hat on its head. It was taller than any of them and seemed to stare down at them with an unsettling intensity.

"That's pretty good," Trixie said. "What a creepy face."

"It's kind of scary," Ziggy whimpered. "It'll scare all the crows out of LazyTown!"

"Not crows," a raspy voice growled out of the scarecrow, making the children fall silent and stare in shock. The straw man shook out its arms and raised them up in a menacing manner, looming over the children. "I'll scare you!"

The kids screamed in surprise— then burst out in laughter.

"Hey, Robbie, is that you?" Stephanie asked. "That's a great costume!"

The scarecrow that was Robbie stood frozen in place for a moment, caught off guard by the children's change in reaction. How could they recognize him like this? He tried shaking his arms at them and letting out another growl and bits of straw fluttered out of his sleeves with the animated attempt at startling them again.

"I'm a scarecrow! And you should all be very scared!" Robbie couldn't help an irritated whine creeping into his voice towards the end of his declaration. "Go on, run away!"

"Is that what you're going to wear to the costume party?" Ziggy asked, not going anywhere. He reached out and plucked some of the straw poking through the overalls. "It must be awfully itchy!"

"It is— I mean it's not," Robbie jerked back from the little boy. It actually had been absolute torture holding still for that long without scratching just to frighten the kids, and it hadn't even worked! He raised his voice. "It's not a costume! It's real, I'm real!"

"You're pretty early to be dressed up already," Stephanie said. "The party isn't until this evening."

"Does this mean you're going to compete in the costume contest?" Trixie asked. "Well you're not going to beat me!"

"Or you can help us get this pumpkin back to the town hall," Stephanie said. "Will you?"

The longer the kids talked to Robbie the more rigid the villain became. He started to sweat a little and the straw stuck to his skin, itching even more terribly. Maybe scarecrows really were only scary to crows...?

"I have to go now," Robbie said stiffly. He turned to run away from the kids and tripped right up against the gate. They laughed and giggled as he went head over heels over the obstruction and his hat tumbled off, spilling more hay.

"Maybe you should think about wearing something else if you want to stand a chance," Trixie called.

Yes, a dress change was in order. Robbie stormed off while shaking straw out of his pants and itching himself all over. There was still time to try something else, an even scarier disguise that would surely frighten the festival clear out of LazyTown.

It had taken the rest of the afternoon but Robbie's disguise was perfect. He'd had to sweep up a whole barrel full of leaves and stitch them together into a burly looking full body suit. He'd slunk back into the garden as well and staggered off with a respectably large pumpkin. As much as it reviled him to do so he cut it open, scooped out all the disgusting seeds and goop inside, and carved out a ghastly face. It was still very heavy as he fit it over his head but the full effect of this ensemble was just what he wanted.

"Get ready," Robbie intoned in an ominous voice that boomed inside the hollowed out gourd, "for the Great Pumpkin King!"

His foliage form rustled and crackled as he stalked around town and his constant mutters and growls reverberated inside of the pumpkin head producing its own kind of eerie echo. It was difficult for Robbie to see out of the eye holes that he had carved and he had to walk with his hands stretched out in front of him to make sure he didn't bump into anything. Surely anyone who saw this scary squash lumbering down the street would go running the other way!

But where was everybody?

The garden was dark and there were no kids left in the pumpkin patch. The apple trees loomed in the evening gloom, all picked of their apples. There wasn't a single other person out in the streets for Robbie to encounter. Besides the noises coming from his disguise it was unusually quiet. He began to feel like maybe he shouldn't be out there by himself.

Hadn't they said something about going to the town hall? Robbie felt a renewed surge of mischief and relief as he stalked forward with new purpose. This would be even easier with everyone all gathered together in one place for him to scare out of their socks. It would serve them right, too, leaving Robbie out in the cold like this without any warning.

The villain stomped and lurched, grunted and growled through town all the way to the town hall. Here the lights were on in the building and the sound of laughter and music could be heard coming from inside. The Fall Festival was in full swing— but not for much longer.

Robbie threw open the door and filled the whole entrance, raising his arms and rustling his leaves. He let out a great roar.

"Everyone beware! The Great Pumpkin King has come for you—!"

Robbie's shout died in his throat, his volume withering like a dried up pumpkin on the vine. The town hall was filled to its maximum occupancy— but these weren't the townspeople that he knew staring back at him. No, these were creatures far worse than any noisy kids, gossipy women, or bumbling mayors.

Ghosts and goblins, werewolves and monsters filled the room! The horrible shrouds, hairy mantles, and hideous faces were unlike anything Robbie had seen before. Their unnatural shapes stopped the breath in Robbie's lungs and made his arms and legs feel like they were made out of lead, heavy and stiff. Paralyzed with shock and mounting fear he could do nothing but take in the unholy scene. It only became worse as the ghouls opened their mouths and let out the most horrifying cry of all.

"Robbie Rotten!"

The chilling chorus of all those monstrous creatures screaming his name clawed up and down Robbie's spine and made his hair stand on end. He gasped hoarsely inside his pumpkin head. All at once he was able to move again, and he immediately turned heel and dashed back out of the town hall.

He didn't want to hear anymore, didn't want to see anymore— he wanted to get away!

But it was so hard to see through the pumpkin head and Robbie's terrified flight was clumsy and staggering as his leafy disguise seemed to tangle on itself with every stride. The horrible visages of those demons continued to flash themselves across Robbie's eyes and he ran blindly in the dark until suddenly he ran straight into a crouching shadow that tripped him right off his feet—

The wagon that the kids had used earlier in the day caught Robbie as he fell. Before he knew what was happening the thing was carrying him off at top speed. The wind cut coldly through his leafy disguise and whistled through the carved holes of his pumpkin head and all he could do was flail about and shriek.

The villain careened down the street in the runaway wagon and left a trail of shedding leaves in his wake. He managed to wrench the pumpkin off his head and it went sailing out of his hands to smash into the sidewalk. Everything was dark and flying by him so fast he could barely comprehend where he was being whisked off to, but the big, black, looming wall dead ahead of him did not make him feel any better.

He closed his eyes tightly, grit his teeth, and clenched his fists on the sides of the wagon as he braced himself for the crash—

But the crash never came as the wagon suddenly jerked and slowed down considerably with a jolt that nearly threw Robbie out of it but for his iron grip. He yelled all his helpless panic as some unseen force yanked the wagon to a jarring halt.

"It's all right now, Robbie. Are you hurt?"

At first Robbie couldn't place the voice, his ears were still ringing from the sting of the wind and his own cries and shouts. Once he realized the wagon had really and truly come to a halt he clambered out of it and fell roughly onto solid ground where he continued to gasp for breath. Standing over him was some sort of terrible imp—

Not an imp, he realized. It was a blue elf.

"Sportacus!" Robbie exclaimed. He didn't know if he was happy or not to see the man. Sportacus helped Robbie up to his feet and the villain couldn't refuse the assistance at first. His whole body was shaking but he didn't want the hero to know that. As soon as he was more or less upright again he shook Sportacus off of him. "Let go of me, Sporta-SPOOK, I don't need your help!"

"But my crystal beeped," Sportacus said. He looked Robbie over, seeming to take in his appearance for the first time. "That's a nice costume, what is it?"

"It's not a costume!" Robbie spat. "It's a disgui— I mean, it's none of your business!"

"Is it for the Fall Festival, then?" Sportacus asked. "I was just heading over there myself. Why don't you come with me?"

"Oh, no," Robbie said, feeling a chill creep back into his bones. "I'm not going back there again."

"Why not?" Sportacus asked. "Everyone will be there, you should—"

"Robbie!" a clamoring collection of voices shouted in the dark. Running down the road towards the two men came that horrible horde of ghouls and beasts!

The sight of the oncoming mob of monsters electrified Robbie. He let out an involuntary yelp and sprang off the ground like he'd been jump-started. Sportacus quickly caught the man before he could crumple to the ground. Robbie nearly strangled the sports elf with his grip.

"They're coming to get me!" Robbie wailed. "Get me out of here, hurry!"

"Robbie it's okay," Sportacus said, turning his head to get some of the leaves from Robbie's costume out of his mouth. "It's just the kids."

"Robbie, are you okay?" a witch with a warty face asked. But as she took off her pointy hat the mask came off along with it and revealed Stephanie's face underneath.

"You went really fast on that thing!" a werewolf howled with laughter before it took off its shaggy mane to show Trixie's grinning face behind the fur.

"Hey, what do you think you're doing with MY wagon?" asked a goblin with Stingy's voice. "And look, you got pumpkin and leaves all over it!"

One by one the monsters took off their masks and Robbie saw all of the residents of LazyTown were in attendance. He could only stare at them, not believing how well they had disguised themselves from the master of disguise.

"That was quite the entrance you made, Mr. Rotten," Mayor Meanswell said. "I think we have our winner for the costume contest, don't you all agree?" The kids cheered and laughed their assent. "In that case, let's all go back to the town hall and continue with the festival!"

Robbie realized he was still being held off the ground by Sportacus and scowled, his teeth chattering. "Put me down," he seethed, "now!"

Sportacus didn't try to argue with the riled up villain and released him promptly— and Robbie landed hard on the ground causing more leaves to fly off of what remained of his disguise. He hurried up onto his feet and rubbed discreetly at his backside for a moment before giving everyone around him a hairy look.

"This is no festival," Robbie growled, "it's a freakshow!" He shouldered his way roughly past Sportacus and the rest of the townspeople. All he wanted to do now was hide his face after being caught in such humiliating fashion. Nobody tried to stop him from leaving or call him back— they knew better than to impede the Pumpkin King.

Come the next morning Robbie found a special package waiting outside his lair for him. He'd run off so quickly from the festival he hadn't even waited to collect his prize for winning the costume contest— one of Ms Busybody's famous pumpkin pies. But this was one treat that Robbie was afraid he wouldn't be able to stomach. If anything, it felt more like a final trick.