In the Rows

006a

The sky was overcast, with marbled gray clouds rippling to the horizon. A cool breeze chilled the air and yet, despite the brisk, early October weather, Carson and Trina rode along the country road with the truck windows down. The rows of corn whizzed by. Trina thought it looked a bit like one of those old zoetropes she’d seen on some “history/science” channel. She stared out the window, feeling bored and a little disappointed. When she saw the figure in the corn, it took her a moment to realize what she was actually gazing at.

It was impossible, of course. The vague figure of a man standing in between the rows of corn staring back at her couldn’t be real. The truck was humming along the road at around 55 mph and the figure wasn’t running. He hovered above the ground, flickering as each row flashed the image at her. His dark visage seemed nearly formless but his deep red eyes pierced right into her soul and she felt herself being drawn into them. The sound of the road and the wind began to fade as her mind was enveloped by darkness. Her body was frozen and as she drifted deeper into blackness.

Then she was screaming. She didn’t recall slamming forward and hitting her head on the windshield because she hadn’t been wearing a seat belt when Carson slammed on the brakes of the beat up Chevy. She didn’t remember him throwing the truck into park and frantically grabbing her and asking her what was wrong. She just saw those glowing red eyes. She was vaguely aware of a dull, roaring sound in her head. Through the roaring she could hear Carson’s voice, yelling at her to stop screaming. It was only then that she realized the noise she was hearing was her own voice.

Carson had been lazily staring at the road as Luke Bryan sang on the radio. Trina hadn’t said a word since they left the house. She was still disappointed that he’d turned down that job offer in Des Moines. The job would have meant more money for them, but it would have kept him away from home too much. What’s the point of starting a family if he was never going to see them? He hoped that maybe seeing the ultrasound of their baby would cheer her up and get him out of the doghouse.

The very last thing he expected was for his young, pregnant wife to start losing her shit as she stared out the window of their well used truck. Her screams startled him so badly he nearly lost control of the wheel and he slammed on his brakes thinking she must have seen something in the road. He saw from the corner of his eye the petite body of his wife fly forward in the cab and slam her head into the windshield. For about five seconds her screams stopped and his heart raced as he finally brought the truck to a screeching stop on the shoulder of the road.

Turning to Trina, he thought for a moment that she may be dead as she lay slumped in the seat. He grabbed her shoulders and turned her face towards him. Her head rocked loosely to the side and then her eyes snapped open and the screams resumed. She stared right at him but the expression on her face was that of a woman that was witnessing something awful. He shook her and begged her to tell him what was wrong. Carson was starting to panic. None of this made sense. The doctor told him she may experience certain behavior changes due to the pregnancy, but he never anticipated anything like this.

When Trina finally stopped screaming she saw the familiar image of her husband staring at her with what could only be described as a mixture of  deep concern and panic painted on his face.

“Wha… what happened?” she asked him, confused.

“What happened?” he nearly yelled at her incredulously. “Are you kidding me? I should be asking you that. You just started screaming and damn… I don’t know!”

She stared at him blankly. An image slowly came into focus in her mind. She remembered the figure now. She recalled how it followed her and how those crimson eyes pierced her mind. Turning away from Carson, Trina peered out the truck window. The rows of corn stood silently and ominously about twenty feet from the truck door. There was no figure, just tall, withering stalks with brittle leaves blowing in the breeze.

“No, it was there,” she cried, reaching for the door handle.

“What?” Carson asked, clearly bewildered. “What was there? What are you talking about? Why were you screaming?”

Ignoring his questions, Trina yanked on the handle and flung her door open. Before he could grab her, Trina leaped from the cab and rushed towards the stalks.

Carson decided he was going to have a long talk with their ob/gyn. “Hormones my ass,” he thought. “This is nuts.”

Trina looked fixedly at the corn. Carson climbed out of the truck after his wife. He approached her from behind and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Trina!” he exclaimed, with a hint of worry in his voice, “What’s going on? What are you looking at?”

“I saw it, I know I did,” she said, her voice quivering with emotion.

“Saw what, babe?” Carson asked, trying to make his voice sound soothing. He was becoming more worried by the moment.

“I’m not crazy!” she yelled, turning to look at Carson. “I know what I saw!”

Carson was taken aback. He focused on Trina and tried to determine if she was lucid or maybe hallucinating. None of this made sense.

“I never said you were crazy. I just want to know what’s happening,” he said softly. At this point, Carson just wanted to get her back in the truck and rush her to the doctor.

“It’s in there,” she said, in almost a whisper.

Trina started walking towards the edge of the field. Carson grabbed her arm and turned her around.

“What are you doing?” he asked, confounded. “Trina, you need to get into the truck. We need to get to the doctor, right now.”

“It wants me, it’s in there,” she said to him.

“You want to go into the corn?” Carson asked? “What the fuck is in there?”

“I have to go,” she said turning from him. “It’s in there and it wants me.”

“Hey!” Carson yelled. “Trina, I’ve had enough of this. I don’t know what’s wrong with you. I think you hit your head and now you’re imagining stuff but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you go wandering into a cornfield. Get in the truck!”

Trina ignored the pleas of her husband and walked determinedly to the edge of the corn. Carson called her name and ran after her but he wasn’t able to reach her before she bolted in between the stalks and into the field. Carson was only a few steps behind his wife but she moved with a strange eagerness and by the time he reached the edge of the cornfield, she’d already disappeared into the rows.

Carson called her name but only the cool October wind rustling through the stalks answered him. Growling with frustration he reluctantly plunged into the field after his wife, now certain that the blow to her head from the windshield had caused some kind of concussion and maybe hallucination. He had to get her back into the truck as soon as possible.

The stalks were tightly planted together and it obscured Carson’s vision. He couldn’t see Trina, but he heard rustling ahead of him and decided he’d follow his ears instead of his eyes. Even though it was early afternoon, the light in the rows seemed darker than it should, as though the daylight were being siphoned off leaving a shadowy residue that permeated the corn.

Carson penetrated the rows deeper and as he did, he felt the chill of the wind intensify. His worn blue T-shirt and heavy flannel long sleeve he wore over it had been enough to keep him warm in the truck, but now he shivered as the cold air clutched at his skin.

He still made out the thrashing sounds of movement ahead of him, moving rapidly.

“Trina!” he called, hoping his wife would come to her senses and stop making him pursue her. There was no reply.

Fifty feet into the field and Carson still hadn’t make visual contact with his wife. Even though he was moving at a quick pace, the sound of crunching corn stalks ahead of him was slowly fading, as if she were outdistancing him. He didn’t know how that could be possible. She moved like a woman possessed.

“Trina, this isn’t funny! Stop this right now and get back to the truck!” Carson was losing his temper and his patience. He’d taken the day off of work to drive her to the doctor’s office to get the ultrasound imaging of the fetus. Today was supposed to be the day they found out the sex of their child. Today was supposed to be a good day and now here he was, stumbling along in some god damned corn field tracking his wife who seemingly had lost her marbles.

Carson was so focused on finding his footing in the rough dirt and swatting the corn leaves from his eyes that the screams that rent the air caught him by surprise and sent a chill down his spine. He could hear Trina howling as if in great pain about a hundred feet in front of him.

“Trina!” he screamed, feeling the panic return to the pit of his stomach. Rushing forward at breakneck speed, ignoring the tiny slashes the stalks tore into his skin as he raced towards the sound of his wife, Carson feared what he might find. Her screams continued and still he did not see her. Running blindly through the field now, he chose his footing less carefully and paid the price. His toe caught something, maybe a root sticking up from the uneven ground and his ankle twisted painfully which sent him crashing to the ground.

“Aaaaah!” he cried as bolts of pain shot swiftly up his leg. His ankle throbbed and he grabbed it tightly with his hands. Trina’s high pitched shrieks still assaulted his ears and despite his own agony, his mind was focused on finding her. Forcing himself to stand, he hobbled determinedly through the crunchy plant stems that now seemed more like prison bars keeping him detained. It was almost as if the corn stalks were deliberately trying to prevent him from moving forward.

Carson finally burst through a wall of nearly impenetrable corn and collapsed into a small clearing. It wasn’t large, perhaps only ten feet in diameter, but it was there he saw his wife for the first time since she plunged into the field. She was lying on the ground and in his panic over hearing her cries of distress he did not immediately see what loomed next to her. When his mind finally grasped what his eyes showed him, it turned his concern and worry into cold, dark terror. He’d been expecting to find her fallen on the ground, perhaps with a severely twisted ankle like himself. Never did he dream he’d be staring at the dark shape of a man with red eyes that burned brightly.

The shadowy figure seemed to lack certain definition. He was black as night and it was hard to discern his facial features or even if he was wearing clothing. Carson stared at him and felt a growing horror swell from the pit of his stomach and spread into his limbs and into his mind.

The man, [or thing, Carson really didn’t know] gripped Trina by her long dark hair with one hand and seemed to be dragging her along the ground towards the edge of the stalks. The area of corn behind him seemed even darker than the rest as though light had been sucked into the rows and devoured.

Trina was shrieking and kicking her legs and clawing at her hair trying to free herself. Carson stood unmoving and numb, unsure of what to do. The fear that gripped him held tight and he could only watch, wretchedly as the only women he’d ever loved was hauled away into darkness.

Her cries of pain and stark terror echoed inside of his head. A spark of anger lit within his mind and began to burn away the fear. Rage, unlike anything he’d ever felt, ignited within his chest and suddenly he was moving again. Fighting the paralyzing fear, he lurched forward thinking “This is my wife, dammit!”

Just as the muscles in his legs tensed to spring into action, the figure made a noise that nearly defied description. Had Carson lived to tell this tale later on, he would have said it sounded like metal scraping on metal. Turning his glowing gaze towards his victim, the figure reached his other hand down and clutched her chest. He sank what appeared to be claws into her sternum and somehow started to tear her body in two.

A wet, sucking sound eminated from Trina. Carson’s mind couldn’t grasp what he was seeing. This… thing was ripping his wife in half but no blood spurted from torn flesh. Rather, a bright white light shone through the tear and it was that light that the figure wrenched from her, like some kind of gooey liquid.

Trina’s screams turned to gurgles as her eyes rolled to the back of her head and her body began to convulse. Carson knew she was dying. The monster that held his beautiful young wife in its grip was tearing out whatever life she possessed. He screamed and launched himself at the shadow. He hadn’t taken but a single step when cold hands grabbed his arms and legs and held him tight.

Other shadowy figures now seeped from the rows of corn, like ink spilling from a bottle. The shadows formed into human-like shapes, with long, dark claws and the same glowing red eyes. Some of them held Carson tightly, despite his efforts to fight them.

Trina’s body was going limp now and the last choked gasps of life poured from her. Carson sank to his knees as tears flowed from his face. He felt utterly powerless.

As the creature reached farther down into her abdomen, there was a burst of new light, even brighter than before. Carson’s stomach churned as he realized this monster was now feeding on the life of their unborn child. Whatever future it might have had was gone as the light was hungrily consumed.

Carson couldn’t hold back the gorge that rose in his throat and he doubled over and vomited every last bit of his lunch. It burned his throat but he barely felt anything through the despair and disgust he felt. Everything he loved in the world had just been taken from him. He slumped forward, his face hitting the dirt. It was as if his will to live had come up along with his turkey sandwich.

Carson barely felt the dark claws clutching his arms now. He was vaguely aware of the dark shadows that crept from between the corn stalks as his mind retreated to some happier place. When they began to rend his body and his soul to pieces he barely felt it. As his life drained away, he felt no physical pain, but his emotional anguish was agony. His last thoughts were of his wife’s face.

Carson and Trina Patterson died in a corn field on a cold October day.

Epilogue:

Jim Wicker was changing the spark plugs of his black ’67 Impala when he saw the crows. He looked up over the field of corn that stretched for hundreds of acres across his farm; The farm that had been in his family for generations. At least two dozen large, black birds were circling about a half of a mile away, not far from the edge of Buchanan Road.

Jim grimaced and then sighed. Another feeding. This was the third time in less than two months. The bastards were really active this season.

His family had honored the uneasy truce that had been formed between them and Jim’s great grandfather, Eustice, and Jim had no intentions of interfering with the feedings, but each time it happened, it left him feeling sick.

He finished putting in the last plug and slammed the hood down on the car. Turning towards the farmhouse he’d lived in all his life, he called out to his son, Cal. They would need to drive up the road and find whatever vehicle had been left behind. He knew it would be there. There was always a vehicle. As always, he would tow it into his barn and break it down into parts which he’d then sell to his friend Gary who owned a junk yard over in the next county.

He looked upwards for a moment before climbing the steps to his porch. The sky was overcast, with marbled gray clouds rippling to the horizon. This was not a good day.

~V

 

 

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