Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
A lone man dragged his feet across the pavement, briefcase pulling his shoulder down as the simmering cracked asphalt stretched into the swaying tall grass of the horizon. His bald head glistened with perspiration and he reached up and loosened the collar of his now stained white, button up shirt. Barely had the sun risen and already the heat was stifling. Unfortunately, he was far removed from any air-conditioned shelter. The only landmarks were the weather-beaten telephone poles lining the road. They stood silhouetted against the reddish-pink hue of the dawn light; dark sentinels whose long shadows stretched out to grasp at his resolve.
“Meet me at dawn. Delgrave Road.” His heart had sunk when Hal had spoken those words.
“Delgrave? Why there?”
Hal smirked. “What’s the matter, Tom? Scared of a few ghost stories?”
“I mean…yeah. Aren’t you? People have gone missing there.”
“Doesn’t mean shit. It’s a stretch of abandoned road in the middle of nowhere. Those disappearances are just drug deals gone bad. Shit like that.”
Tom looked unconvinced.
“Look,” Hal sighed. “Do you want my product?”
Tom looked at his feet. “Yes.”
“OK. I’m the seller, so I pick the spot. And I pick Delgrave. Is that going to be a problem? Because there are others who will pay for what I got.”
Tom put his hands in his pockets and chewed his lip. He looked into Hal’s eyes. They were cold and bottomless. The image of a rat drowning flashed across his mind. “No. No, that’ll be fine.”
That last grin Hal gave him before they parted still stretched behind Tom’s eyes. It had looked…hungry. Despite his reservations, however, he had shown up. But where the hell was Hal? And how much further did he have to walk?
He raised his face to the sky and let out a groan; a groan that quickly caught in his throat. His briefcase clattered onto the ground.
A shape crouched atop the nearest pole. It was a pitch-black outline of starless night against the pink-tinted clouds, with powerful arms resting atop bent knees and two long, dark horns curving out from the sides of its head in obscenely large proportion to their carrier. The entirety of the figure was darkness, save for two stark, bright pinpricks for eyes. They shone with a predatory coldness and Tom was transfixed in their pale, pupil-less light.
His feet had already been unconsciously creeping backward before he snapped back to. He cried out, turned and ran the way he had come with a new surge of energy that one only gets when they know their life depends on it. He didn’t hear any steps behind him.
He slowed down and tried to regain his breath. What the fuck was that? A demon? Stories he had heard came flooding back.
“They never should have built that road through there,” his grandmother had told him when he was young. “That field is not ours.”
“Then whose?” he chuckled. “I mean, nobody lives there.”
He never forgot the way his grandma’s mouth had tightened into a straight line and her eyes grew dark. “I wish that were true. There’s a reason your mother won’t let you play there.”
He shook his head. This was not worth it. Hal could find business elsewhere. After a few minutes of walking, he realized the sky had grown no brighter. It still had that pinkish dawn hue, that surreal half-light before the sun is entirely above the horizon. Surely it should be lighter by now. Up ahead, he made out an object lying on the road. He squinted and then felt his blood freeze. It was the briefcase.
Tom looked slowly up at the telephone pole nearest to the case and nearly shat himself as those white eyes met his own. This time, there was no deer in the headlights moment. He turned heel and hauled ass into the tall grass. Green whipped at his arms, his legs, his face; he didn’t care. Anything to get away, to hide from…that. The rhyme his Grandmother had told him echoed in his ears.
“In the fields, it is said
There is a man with eyes of dread…”
Up ahead, the grass began to thin. Had he already made it through the field? Maybe there was a gas station or something. Somewhere he could get help. He barreled out of the tall grass and onto the road.
The brief case sat mockingly on the ground before him. And the figure no longer roosted above but stood across from him. It was ungodly tall, at least seven feet or so.
“No,” he said, frantically swiveling his head to and fro. The road stretched in both directions, endless and unchanging. “No, no, no. This-this isn’t possible.”
Back into the tall grass he ran. He ran, and he ran, and he ran.
“…You may run, you may hide
But the man will take you inside…”
Tom burst out of the grass and screamed. The figure was right in front of him, towering above. It seized him by the shoulders, its touch freezing even through his shirt. His vocal cords strained, but his screams ceased as all the air in his lungs and body was sucked out upon contact. He felt all the blood vessels beneath his skin burst and soon even those in his eyes, though unfortunately he could still see perfectly fine. He could see the black figure open from face to naval into a vertical mouth, a horrible giant maw lined with obsidian teeth from which slavered several dripping tongues covered in tiny wriggling, almost finger like appendages groping towards him. The last thing he felt before darkness took him was the saliva on his tongue beginning to boil and his bones turning to jelly.
Vision returned not with a start, but slowly. The lenses of his eyes took time to focus. Little by little, his surroundings came into view. He was perched high, looking out over a field. The tall, green grass swayed gracefully in the breeze.
Warm pride swelled in his chest. “My field.”
My field? He thought confusedly. He looked down at the wooden beam he crouched on far above the ground. Pitch black toes curled over the edge.
“My field,” a chorus of voices echoed. They were men and women, old and young.
“…In the man, you will find
The body dies, but not the mind.”
He flexed black fingers as a ravenous hunger grew within. “My field. My land.”
“Hunt,” the multitude hissed. “Feed.”
“Yessss.” Hunt, he would. They all would. Their family was too small. They could use a few new members. From their perch atop the weather-beaten telephone pole they would wait and watch, with eyes as cold as they were hungry.
Credit : George Wirth
Official Website at https://www.georgetales.com/
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