Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Clearing Beyond The Corn

My grandfather, now approaching his 80’s, had been rambling on about the mysterious creature the minute I arrived at the farm. My mother dismissed this as the babble of an elderly man who had lived far too long alone on a farm in the middle of nowhere. She was reluctant to leave me under his care, but she was far too sick to watch over me herself and he was our only family. My 10 year old self didn’t sense the strangeness in my grandfather my mother did and I distinctly remember being excited for the stay. And what a stay I had imagined. Playing in the corn field, running through the mud piles, catching frogs! All things I couldn’t do living in the city. My excitement gave way to disappointment when grandpa firmly stated that I was forbidden to leave the porch alone. He said that several of his cattle had gone missing in the past month with no obvious explanation as to where. He took a knee to be eye level with me, and then oddly spoke to me as if I were an adult. I still remember the words, “Jack, I may be old but damnit I ain’t crazy. Now, I don’t know what’s out there in that pasture but I’m thinkin’ I woulda found a corpse of some kind had it been wolves or coyotes. Best you stay in the house.” I waited until the old man went to sleep that night before cabin fever and rebelliousness washed over me.

At 11:00 p.m. I quietly pushed open the screen door and sat on the front steps, staring up into a black void. At the time it didn’t occur to me how unusual of a night it was. That far out into the wilderness and away from the glowing sleepless city, I would have expected to see the night sky littered with a million specs of white, but none were present. Only the moon greeted me; directly overhead, ominously staring down at me as if I were unwelcome. There was a gentle wind that night, softly pushing on the stocks of corn my grandpa grew in front of the house. They swayed back and forth and for a moment I became hypnotized by the movement. The background noise of life seemed to silence in my perception, and my eyes began to lose focus on the sway, as if to focus instead on something much farther away. I’ve always thought trances such as this were a peculiar phenomenon. A temporary sort of conscious paralysis in which the eyes are open, information is being taken in, but yet none is actually processed. A stand-by mode for the mind. Yet, this particular trance made me feel uneasy, as if it weren’t voluntary. It felt like something was pulling me away from my body and that my “essence” would be lost somewhere in the field of corn. I had the terrible feeling that whatever was doing the pulling awaited me there...

My dream state ended abruptly with a crescendo of horror. An extremely disturbing noise coming from somewhere in the distance jarred me back to complete awareness. No dictionary contains an adequate term to describe the auditory abomination that assaulted my ears. The discordant guttural call of a thing incomprehensible. Perhaps how a sea monster of the abyssal plain might sound if it were rudely awakened by the flashlight of a submarine; the first time its colossal eyes ever perceiving such alien a thing as light. The lowness of the note rattled my chest, like sub-woofers in the trucks of older boys back in school. This was how the encounter with the thing began.

The awful growl held for what seemed like an eternity and when it stopped I immediately felt the pounding in my chest. My lungs expanded and contracted in deep, frightened breaths and my eyes widened. With my senses on full alert, I noticed the bedroom light on the second floor of the house flip on, and rustling come from the room. A second later, my grandfather burst through the front door dressed in his PJ’s carrying his shotgun. I expected the old man say something to me. I expected to be comforted, told to stay in the house, and that he would be right back. At the very least, I thought he might scold me for being outside at such a late hour. But instead, the old man walked right past me as if I were not even there at all. He was muttering incoherently under his breath as he passed, clutching his shotgun with both hands, limping slightly. He had a look of anger on his face. “Stay away from my fuckin’ cows, goddamit!” he screamed as he disappeared into the corn. The cow pasture was just beyond the cornfield and I could hear the mooing of the cows as if something was among them, something unwelcome and malicious. I was frozen at the edge of the porch, staring in the direction that grandpa had been moving before disappearing into the wall of corn. I could barely make out my grandfathers position in the corn by the tops of the corn stalks moving about as he pushed them around. The thought of being alone on the porch was actually even more terrifying than the abominable sound a minute earlier. I could stand the isolation not one more second and my feet began moving one in front of the other in a thoughtless, mechanical fashion. My survival instinct put me on autopilot as I charged after the safety of my grandfather.

As I entered the field of corn the cries and yells of my grandfather grew louder. He yelled profanity my 10 year old ears had never heard before and the mooing and groaning of the cows became more intense. My feet stopped dead in their tracks when I heard the shotgun go off. The blast coincided with the cows seemingly screaming in unison. I started to yell “ GRANDPA! ” as loud as I could muster, but my cry was interrupted by two more shotgun blasts. My legs gave out, and I fell to my hands and knees. The last two shots gave way to silence. The mooing had completely ceased, and my focus to hear any sign of grandpa bore no fruit. Sobbing now, and more afraid than I have ever been in my life, I rose to my feet. I cried out again for my grandfather but the only thing to howl back at me was the subtle of hiss of the wind blowing through the corn. Too scared to stand still, and too scared to walk, I began sprinting. I tripped over something large lying on the ground just outside the clearing and flew through the air, crashing hard into the open dirt.

The cow that had tripped me was dead on its back, completely flayed, and with hits midsection ripped open. All of its ribs appeared to be snapped, and its gore lay all around it. Just as my jaw dropped open to scream, I was beat to it by another maddening vocalization by the thing that stood 20 yards away from me in the clearing. I turned my head and my eyes met the thing. I dare not even to record the details of such hideous a creature, lest I risk spreading the mania that comes with such an experience. Ever since that night, I have not slept a full night’s sleep without terror. Cold sweats and paranoia have plagued my every night, and I wish this not even upon my enemies. The sight of the creature caused me to completely lose touch of reality. My perception slipped in and out of dark purple vistas. I suddenly became incredibly dizzy and when I opened my eyes again I was no longer in the clearing beyond the corn. The creature was no longer with me, and neither was anything I had ever seen before.

I was standing on perfectly flat dark purple stone, which seemed to go on endlessly in to the distance. There didn’t seem to be an atmosphere and I could see millions of stars above my head, yet I was breathing just fine. I noticed the sound of waves crashing against a shore and turned around to discover a vast, endless ocean of liquid green. The land was split against the liquid in almost perfectly straight line, without the gradualness of a typical beach. It was built much more like a swimming pool, with the land abruptly stopping and the water beginning, perhaps just as deep 5 feet out as it is 10,000 feet. Another deafening roar from the beast caused my knees to buckle and I covered my ears as best I could. I felt the stone beneath me suddenly give away to cold liquid as my body plunged into the depths. Completely caught off guard, I opened my eyes under water to see a vast ocean of nothing. The green aura eventually faded into blackness in all directions, and flailed my limbs as hard as I could in a futile attempt to reach the surface. I desperately looked in all directions for the land I was standing on just one second ago. Nothing. “Water” in all directions. Impossible. How could this be? How could any of this be? My bewilderment was short lived as panic quickly took over my thoughts. Try as I might I could not reach the surface, if there even was one. As the effects of drowning quickly set in, my vision began to slowly fade. My mouth opened and I felt my lungs involuntarily fill with the green liquid. I closed my eyes for what I thought was the last time.

I awoke to the sound of a man in a police uniform. He seemed to be asking me something but I wasn’t nearly coherent enough yet to understand. I was no longer in the deep green water, nor was I lying in the clearing beyond the corn. I was wrapped in a towel sitting in the back of an ambulance. From my seat I could see that I was back at the farm. Police cars were all over and men in uniforms were pacing around the farm house. It took 5 years of special psychiatric care for me to even speak again. Eventually I learned that they found me sitting calmly on the front porch of the farm house, catatonic, rocking back and forth. The corpse of every cow my grandfather owned had been brutally dismembered, skinned, and seemingly eaten. His shotgun lay among the piles of gore in that clearing, but the body of my grandfather was never found. Reader, it has taken me so, so long to muster the courage to recollect on these events and write my story. I choose to bear the burden no longer. Every night I see it. Every night I awake standing alone in the endless dark purple landscape, only to finish my night terror drowning in a limitless green ocean. I see and hear the creature everywhere that I attempt to escape it. I only hope that this bottle of sleeping pills offers me the dreamless peace I need to rest.