The Seeds of our Mothers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Trial and Terror
James Law is an apathetic farmer bored with his miserable life, and Sam is quite sick of it, until, that is, he decides to change and seeks a more adventurous lifestyle the villagers will respect him for. (For Ever A. Darling's Interpretation Contest. 2,748 words.)

Submitted: May 18, 2016

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Submitted: May 18, 2016

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The Seeds of our Mothers

 

The farmer howls at his crops and at his sheep, dousing the crops in water and the sheep in the dirt beneath his kicking boot.

She has been watching his life beyond the point of way too long.

Not by choice. As family, Sam is stuck here to watch over James Law and his farm, for however long it takes him to roll over and die. She watches while he complains to his wheat and barley, to the deficient wool-dispensers and she then watches through a hole in the wall while he sits by the hearth in his shack and rocks back and forth on his rickety chair, slugging his whisky, back and forth, and prays for his days of turmoil – his days of pottage and onion – to come to an end.

He lives a monotonous life.

That is, until one otherwise unspectacular winter’s morning. James, still enduring last night’s stupor, begins talking to himself (something not uncommon for him to do). With a mouth chewing nothing but the air, he mentions the years he cavorted in vein to the markets carrying his yield to trade. He pleads that his life will amount to more than the company of sheep, that damned rotting scarecrow and the omnipresent stench of fertiliser. He speaks of respect and of acquiring a pleasing wife who can boil his blood greater than any amount of soil-tasting whisky, and how he will need an act suitable to make a princess swoon. These are all things Sam has heard before.  

She watches with stiff eyes as he pulls a muddy pair of trousers over the even muddier ones he currently wears, puts on his wellies and marches down to the village and out from view.

She doesn’t see him for another three days (the longest he has ever been away) and when he returns he brings with him three young men, each carrying a large beam of wood over their shoulder. She is confused and intrigued. Company has never been part of the farm’s ambience. Who are these men and what are they doing with all that wood?

Despite the chill and the ceaseless fog that is part of the ambience (declared by most to be the work of witches), the three men labour day and night in Sam’s presence (giving her little attention; so adamant are they to finish the job) until they complete their task.

After it is done, James approaches and pays them and bids them on their way without so much as a thank you. His eyes sparkle, transfixed by their creation. Sam doesn’t understand. To her, it looks like clumps of wood hammered together with nails with a piece of rope dangling from the highest point and ending with a hoop. Yet James is hypnotised as though a masterpiece stands before him.

Then he sets off again, galloping horseless back to the village and wasting no time tormenting the sheep or drowning in whisky.

Later in the day, he returns with a girl.

Sam should have been thrilled. James had got what he desired and maybe now the monotony would end and he would be happy and treat the farm with the love it deserves. But she isn’t. Something tells her this isn’t his princess. Perhaps it is the way he leads and she follows, perhaps it is his smile and her sadness, or the way he drags her on a rope fastened to her bloody wrists.

The girl sobs as he pulls her through the crops. Her brown garment is torn and long ribbons of blood slice the back of her legs.

Sam wants to turn away but finds she cannot. She is the watcher of the farm.

James leads the girl into the slaughterhouse, a small shed of corrugated metal where he shoots his sheep. Sam’s mind runs rampant. In less than half a week her impression of James has transpired from dull to intriguing to malevolent. His monotony and inaction replaced by malice. She feels responsible; she had wanted him to change, had even willed it into being, and now a poor emaciated girl lies bound and locked inside a maggot-ridden, brain-splattered little shed. She wants to free the girl, wants to run to the shack and shoot James with the rifle kept beside his pillow.

But she cannot. He wouldn’t let her. She is forever the observer, and that won’t change. She has been brought up this way – crafted this way – perhaps out of James’ own ignorance.

A very cruel man indeed.

The farm observes in silence for the five days the girl is caged. Many villagers travel to the farm, so much so that it develops its very own path formed by trampling feet. Kids chase one another, wives flirt and men insult, but all are kind to James Law. They don’t seem to hear the girl screaming and scratching and sobbing, or if they do they ignore her, but for the few men and occasional woman that enter the slaughterhouse with her.

Each visitor leaves the farm passing coin to James in exchange for a torn piece of parchment.

On the fifth night, James enters the prison, but he is not alone, for not too far away, surrounding that strange wooden idol, is one united crowd composed of all the faces that had recently appeared at the farm.

They carry candles and lanterns and wooden crosses. Many are cloaked. Many smile. There is a litter of vegetables on the flattened crop that James scattered moments before. Many of these are now clutched in eager hands, adult and child alike.

The show is beginning.

James drags the girl out in metal shackles. They must have been opened and closed on her arms several times, for there are many wounds from wrist to elbow, both dry and fresh blood staining her arms. Her peasant clothes have been replaced by a black dress. This too has been ripped in several places and has what looks to be burn marks all over.

The crowd part, creating a path toward the idol. They yell at the girl, call her Witch and leave no expense nor delight as they throw the rotten vegetables at her.

James hurls the girl beside the idol that Sam has learnt to loath.

The visages in the crowd cackle and look smug. Sam cannot tell a mother from a murderer or a child from an imp. They all smile and chant words, but Sam has known James long enough to see forged happiness. In truth, they are all fragile and frightened beings, scared by their impotence and wearing their ineptitude like chainmail and chastity belts, confusing justice with cowardice.

The crows scatter, sweeping the sky with words of reckoning. The creaking gallows speak prophecies of blood and the grass hides beneath the frost and foretells of the secret abyss below. Only Sam remains still, fixed upon a pole plunged deep into the soil and infested by worms in her hayflesh beneath the clothes stolen from corpses.

While everything exists in perpetual motion, from the heartbeat of the girl to the rope swaying in the wind, Sam as ever remains the omniscient observer of the farm. She had observed the predictable, apathetic farmer transform into a monster, had observed innocent villagers become spectators to evil and an innocent girl become the centre of their wrath. Yet she cannot fight it any more than she can breathe.  She may be a scarecrow, but for the girl covered in blood and vegetable matter, she mourns as a mother.  

James Law flings the looped end of the rope over the girl’s neck and forces her to stand at the edge of the hole beneath. He tightens the rope, making her tip-toe.

One man in the crowd asks for a hearing, but James grunts.

“She’s guilty,” he says, shifting his gaze to another in the crowd, a man with a white collar who bows his head upon receiving the look and squeezes the cross around his neck. James grins. Sam wonders what had happened in the village and how exactly James had acquired the girl.

James pulls the rope and the girl lets out a soft squeal as she is yanked off the ground.

First she fights, kicking and trying to reach the death necklace with her restricted hands.

But it is no use.

Five seconds pass.

Strangled cries escape her crusted lips.

Sam wishes she can turn her head and close her eyes, but she has no spine and no eyelids.

Ten seconds.

The girl plummets into the hole as the horizontal beam falls from its socket and finds its way in the grave alongside her.

James curses and leaps into the hole.

The girl wheezes. Her hands shake violently as she scratches at the binding around her neck.

He lifts her onto his shoulder as the crowd watch in silence.

Then he fiddles with the wooden beam to secure it back in place.

The girl, released from the idol with the rope still around her neck, runs into the crowd.

The crowd do not move, but they don’t need to. They create a perfect barrier the way they are. She begs them to move, thrashes at them with her arms, but they don’t budge.

A man near the middle, who had meekly suggested the hearing, struggles to help, but the crowd around him (perhaps his family) tighten and muffle his cries. Seconds later he stops fidgeting and stands still. Sam would have fought harder. Wouldn’t she?

James rushes after the girl and grabs the loose rope, jerking the girl back toward the idol like a leashed dog that has strayed too far.

“Can’t you see!” she says, “I’m no witch!”

James is disinterested in her plea.

In a last retaliation, she kicks his knee.

He falters, then smacks her hard across the cheek with such force she collapses.

He quickly throws the rope over the beam and tugs hard until the girl hovers once more. She is exhausted and cannot resist. A man and woman step forward and hold the beam in place.

Five seconds pass.

Ten seconds.

Twenty.

Then the rope snaps.

James roars and tosses the rope into the hole and storms off.  

This is the moment. The crowd will see sense and help the girl.

While James is gone, and he isn’t gone for long, the crowd decide to sentence this girl with their own hands. They scream and spit at her. Surround her and strip her bare.

Sam watches in horror as the spectators become the monsters.

They jeer and kick her into the hole.

Law returns as a proud father, but the crowd have lost the respect they once had for him and snatch the rope from his hands and pile it over the naked girl in the ditch. While the girl curls inside her tomb and cries, one by one they throw their lanterns and candles.

There are no more miracles. Justice has lost its courage. Once the rope sets alight it floods the grave and ignites the girl.

 

The perished girl’s eyes stain into Sam’s soul. She feels life vine around her disgusting hay-body. She feels the girl’s essence – her story – seep into her mind. Anna, a petty thief caught by a priest stealing a loaf of bread for her brother.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Many more are murdered on the farm. Hanged, burned, and, on rainy days, drowned in that ditch. Sam mourns for each of them.

For the duration of the winter solace, the witch hunter slouches on his lacquered chair and sips wine. He is a noble now. A shepherd of lambs that follow him in their sweet innocence to be hushed into ignorant sleep. He is a crusader against demons (at least, that’s what it reads on the plaque above his door). It is the act he is selling, and the lambs slurp it up like milk from his breast.

He sleeps with more women than ever. He sleeps with them in his dreams, too, Sam could hear his drunken laughter as he strung them up by their throats.

The screaming is here again. Has been ever since Anna’s death. Every twelfth hour, for thirty seconds (the duration she endured being hung). It emanates from beneath the farm.

It doesn’t bother James, never has, though she’s sure he hears it. In fact, it seems to soothe him. Every time it begun, he would rise from his chair by the hearth and march off to bed. He would tuck himself under his blanket and allow the screams to lull him to sleep.

That is what he did on this night. He lifts himself from his chair and shuffles upstairs, as he always does. He removes his tailored clothes and grins at the noose pinned to his wall, as he always does. Then he tucks himself in.

But the screaming doesn’t stop. And the ground shakes. And the wood beneath his bed begins to split.

The farm chews up the shack, crunching it up as it envelopes the Crusader’s bedroom in its maw. The floorboards rip open, gapping more and more. The ceiling collapses inward and the walls fold and buckle.

The bed goes first. The blanket floats in the air and knots around James.

He passes through the house from the bedroom to its belly, and is shat out the bottom, travelling further still: down the wretched manure-bogged soil. Splintered wood slits his sides and the flames from the hearth sets ablaze the blanket that smoothers him. The tunnel then retakes its original form, encasing James Law – farmer turned witch hunter, crusader and shepherd of the people – in mud.

The screaming of the farm ceases.

Sam laughs.

The sheep, they baa in symphony.

The farm, whether it was always a lingering entity – dormant and just waiting for a catalyst to breathe – or whether it was given a heart by Vengeance, sucks the atmosphere from the village. The mist engulfing the village accumulates into one giant whirlwind and compresses itself into a small but more viscous one above the farm and above Sam’s head. Sam is taken by its power as the force injects itself into her.

She moans with pleasure and with purpose. She has only ever known the life of a scarecrow, and it was a sad life. She was an outcast to the world; the conquerors of the sky afraid of her, the conquerors of the land repulsed and the conquerors of the sea indifferent. Her creator used her and the seeds she protected just didn’t care. She had always longed to explore the world.  

The mist gives legs to the possibility. The energy bombarding her is making it a certainty.

A wooden pole shoots out from under her torso so that two poles now support her. She snaps the pole buried in the ground and tries moving back and forth. She does the same with her stick arms. It hurts, and though she moves like a mechanical doll with no joints and no spine, she is glad.

A leather-like skin tightens around her and the hay begins flowing like blood. She is almost sure she can – “ah” – she can! – “ahnahna.

“Anna.”

She walks through the dead crops, enjoying the scent and moisture of the farm. She climbs a gate. The sheep flock around her and she strokes and pats, tingling with euphoria as they nuzzle her stumpy arms and legs.

She continues on to the slaughterhouse and unlocks it. She steps inside. The darkness horrifies her and she is repelled by the fetid odour of blood and vomit. Still, the stitches that form her mouth manage a smile.

There are a dozen prisoners inside: nine women and three men, six under the age of twenty and two over the age of seventy. They whisper in the shadows.

Sam approaches them, stretching out her stubby arms to embrace them.

Then there is shouting, screaming of monsters. Sam is disorientated; she doesn’t understand that their fear is directed at her.

A crazed girl leaps out from behind her and clenches her teeth over Sam’s neck.

Another two grab at her legs, exerting hard until they snap and she falls to the hay-covered floor.

One of the men clasps her scarecrow head, twists and squeezes.

Her head pops and the hay explodes out from her, adding to the masses on the floor.

The prisoners cheer and celebrate their freedom from this farm of monsters.


© Copyright 2017 Obscure. All rights reserved.

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