Fiction – The Harvest: Unwelcome Visitor

Today’s Flash Fiction is a continuation of the story I posted for the corn related challenge a few weeks ago. I plan on adding to this story serially (cereally?) over the coming weeks. They’ll be available on my Wattpad
page as well. Wattpad is a story sharing site and everything is free. Enjoy the story!

Victor Avalon pulled his car into the farm’s driveway and shut the engine off. There was no truck here and that was good. From what he’d been able to dig up, the guy that lived here only had one vehicle. He made monthly trips about this time to pick up supplies. The whole trip usually took something like eight hours. If he timed this right he had about four hours of quiet time and that was on the conservative side.

He reached into his glove box and retrieved the thirty-eight. He broke open the cylinder to make sure it was loaded. He grabbed a couple of speed loaders, the rings of bullets letting him reload without having to do it one at a time. The gun went into the right pocket of his windbreaker and the bullets into his left. He patted his hip to make sure the cell phone was still there and grabbed his camera. This was just going to be an information gathering trip.

He got out of the car and inhaled deeply. He’d spent his youth on a farm like this, but that had been decades ago. He never forgot the smell though, and how much he loved it. He didn’t know what he expected when he took the case, but to wind up here wasn’t it. He wasn’t convinced that the young man, Jake Pond, was responsible for the deaths in question. He’d keep an open mind though and leave it up to the eventual jury. He took a few minutes to walk around the grounds. The boarded up farm stand hadn’t been used this season. He pulled at a few of the two by fours and they were very sturdy with no evidence of rot. The nails that held them in place had oxidized a little, but were pounded in true and judging by the lack of holes he hadn’t set one wrong. It all showed a very ordered mind. The construction of the stand itself was nothing fancy. It was a good fifteen or twenty years old and had been patched here and there, but it stood up to the years and the weather better than some houses.

The boy he was here after hadn’t built it. Maybe the elder Pond or a farmhand was responsible. You couldn’t tell precisely by the limited information he had, but something told him that it was the boy’s father. The father and mother had died five years ago. According to his digging there hadn’t been anything suspicious. Satisfied with the shed, he moved towards the house. It was original to the family, built in the twenties, by the grandfather. This land went back a hundred and fifty years with the same bloodline. None of them had given in to make a quick buck on the land sale. That even the son had kept thing up was a little surprising. Kids these days usually didn’t value history.

The stairs were as solid as everything else. They did seem newer than the surrounding wood. The father had died in a fall. He scratched his chin. The screen door and the wooden one beyond were closed tight. The brisk wind tried to pull the outer door open, but it wouldn’t budge. He reached into an inside jacket pocket and pulled out a pair of blue gloves. He snapped them on with practiced ease and made sure that the camera’s strap wouldn’t get in his way. The screen door wasn’t latched or locked. The stout inner door showed a brand new deadbolt and a door handle that couldn’t be more than a couple of years old. The metal was bright, even on a dim day like this. There were no scratches around the keyholes.

He pulled out his set of picks and went to work. The deadbolt was tough, but he got it in less than forty-five seconds. The door handle’s lock yielded in less than five. He hesitated before opening the door. What if the boy was waiting inside for him? He reached down and pulled his cell phone free. It had four bars. His coverage was good even this far out. He put it in his left hand windbreaker pocket with the bullets and pulled the pistol from its place. He opened the door with his left hand, slowly. It didn’t creak; it just swung into an empty hallway.

The place was somewhere between a tomb and a museum. In the entryway there was a bookshelf to the left with all manner of books on theology and agriculture. That was, of the books whose spines he could read. Some were in foreign languages. There wasn’t a speck of dust to be found. The grandfather clock at the end of the entry way was stopped at one thirty-seven. He freed up his hands and powered up the camera. He made sure that it operated silently and the lens would take advantage of all the available light. Through the lens he could see that the furnishing and carpet were likewise scrupulously clean. There wasn’t a sound in the place.

He swung through the first doorway on the left and into a sitting room. The sofa and love seat were covered in plastic. Under that he could see hand tatted doilies on nearly every surface. The coffee tables were also covered. The only non-vinyl surface was a hardwood rocking chair. He was no expert, but he guessed that it was antique. The rest of the furniture was only twenty years old at most. He’d bought similar sets for his now dead wife. He took pictures of every square foot to pour over later. The door out of this room led into a small, formal dining room. The pattern was repeated here. Nothing appeared to be actively used and the dining table and chairs weren’t old by any means. Still, it appeared Jake wanted to make sure that nothing marred their surface.

From the dining room he could either go back out into the hallway or into the kitchen. He chose the kitchen. Here was the first glimpse into the twenty-first century. The refrigerator, dishwasher, range, and microwave were all gleaming stainless. The refrigerator was far larger than any one person would need. The only old thing here was the island and a butcher block rolling cart. The latter was a little scarred but well maintained. Various knife handles stuck up from the block top. Nothing was left on any of the sparse counter space. The room smelled faintly of strong coffee and bacon grease, with something unpleasant just underneath. He snapped a few more pictures and let the camera hang from its strap.

Satisfied it wouldn’t get in his way, he drew the pistol and made his way around the kitchen, opening cabinets and drawers. They were filled with a small amount of completely normal groceries and flatware. It was in this that you could see there was only one inhabitant. He had everything he needed for his own use and no more. He must have washed dishes after nearly every meal. It was also apparent that he cooked everything from scratch.

When he had become a bachelor everything came out of a box. Like this boy though, he now found satisfaction in making things the way Mom did. Finally his trek took him to the refrigerator. He was reluctant to open it, but couldn’t see why. Not one given to watch horror movies, life held horrors enough, even he knew about the kinds of things that happened in them. He held his pistol tightly, chided himself, and opened the door. There was no decapitated head or jar of eyeballs, just some milk, eggs, packages of lunchmeat, and some fresh vegetables. He let it shut and chuckled.

He opened the freezer and nearly screamed. There was the head he had feared. She looked to be about his age, old enough to be the boy’s mother. There were no pictures. That struck him. So far he hadn’t seen any pictures on the walls or book cases. He swallowed back the bile, pocketed his gun, and took a few pictures of the head for later identification. It was wrapped in clear plastic, but the features were clear enough. With a trembling hand he closed the door and pulled his pistol again.

Now he had something to go on. Still, he wanted to make hay while the sun shone. This wasn’t a large house by any means. He could have the whole thing searched and be done in thirty minutes. Suddenly he wanted to be out of here. The rest of the first floor held a bathroom and another sitting room. One must be a parlor and the other the living room. Damned if he knew which was which. There was no television on this floor. There was no computer either.

He went up the stairs. Only here did he hear his first creaky stair. There were three doors at the top, all closed. He started with the one on his left. It opened easily. This was a boy’s room. It was bigger than any one boy needed, but when the house was built, sharing rooms was more common. There was a single bed, made up in primary colors. Posters from a local baseball team and a national team were hung with care. A book case held books on the sciences, astronomy and anatomy taking a front row. He had a shelf with a few trophies, mostly baseball, but some football as well. They were all from about ten years ago. That made sense. A small telescope peered out of one window. On a whim he looked through the eyepiece. It was trained on the incoming road.

He was about to pull his head away, when a motion caught his eye. A truck was slowing down on the road at the end of the driveway. He couldn’t move his head if he wanted to now. The truck pulled in. It must be the boy’s. “Damn it. You were supposed to be gone all day.” He backed away from the window in a crouch. There was no way the boy would have seen him. All the damage would be done by now though. His car was plainly visible. He had thought about parking up the road, but there had been no good place to park.

“Think. Think.” He had to see what was in that last room. There was time and the windows on that side would mean an exit out of view of the driveway. He left the bedroom, careful to close the door and leave it as is.

The middle door proved to be a modest bathroom. Here were the first signs of real habitation. The scent of shampoo and deodorant hung delicately in the air. Anxious to answer a burning question, he opened the medicine cabinet. Small brown bottle filled one shelf. He took a picture, not wanting to waste another second. If he got out of here alive then he may have some more answers. He backpedaled out of the bathroom and opened the last door on this level.

He was flooded by a sense of normalcy. The queen bed was a rumpled mess. Dirty clothes littered the floor. In one corner he spied what could have been a gold mine if the boy hadn’t gotten home so early. The laptop was closed, but a light in one corner blinked at him. The printer beside it has a few papers stacked on top. He worked his way around the bed and peaked at the top sheet. It was a print out from a local newspaper. The faces of a young couple looked up at him. He was intimately familiar with them thanks to his client.

Satisfied that he’d learned all he could, though not all he wanted, he turned to one of the draped windows. He pulled the cover back and saw that this looked out on the back of the house. Perfect. He unlatched it and raised the window smoothly. A short space of roof, over the kitchen if he didn’t miss his guess, was like an island of security. There was a short drop, but provided he moved slowly it wouldn’t be a problem. He swung his leg through the open window and perched on the ledge. Once fully outside, he closed the window. There was no way to lock it. By the time the killer figured out where he had been he would be long gone.

A fresh breeze picked up and chilled his neck and legs. He looked down and saw that his pants where damp. He didn’t know if he’d pissed himself or sweated through the material. He didn’t have time to worry about that. He’d be ashamed later if there was any shame to be had in fear of this killer. The next part was a little trickier than he thought. There was no good hand hold for him to use once he lowered himself. He could hold on to the window ledge for a bit to stabilize himself. At some point though he would need to let go and trust his feet. He dropped his right foot off of the ledge and stretched it down for the roof below. Without being able to look it felt like he was going to step into thin air.

With a “Hail Mary full of grace” on his lips he let go and was thrilled to feel the solid wood of the roof beneath him. He almost tumbled backwards and at the last minute threw himself forward. He landed on hands and knees with a solid thump. Anyone below would be sure to hear the fuss. He moved as quickly as he could in a kneeled position. The edge of the roof wasn’t far away. He moved towards the absolute rear of the house, finishing the trip on his stomach.

He rose up just enough to make out what he could of the back yard. A small lawn tractor was parked near the house. A shed, probably for tools and chemicals, stood straight and tall about ten yards from the house. It was of newer construction than the rest of the house.

“Hello!” The voice carried well. It was deep and booming. “Hello! If you can hear me I bear you no ill will. You’re on my property and I want you off. It ends there.”

That deal wouldn’t last long. If he stood by it at all, once he saw the camera gear it would be a no go.

The voice didn’t get any closer. He repeated himself a couple of times, each time growing fainter.

Now he edged far enough out that he could see what lay just below the ledge where he lay. The flat strip of grass looked hard. It wouldn’t be a soft landing. He examined the gutter. He wasn’t sure it would hold his weight. There were a million reasons not to do this, but one great reason to get it done. He could escape almost certain death.

There was no time like the present to get it done. He secured the pistol in his jacket pocket. He didn’t want it bouncing loose when he fell. He’d do his best to land on his feet. If he broke a leg at least he could shoot the bastard if he needed to and finish the day off by crawling to his car. He didn’t worry about breaking the camera. Its memory card would survive the drop and that was what he needed.

He turned his body around and dangled his legs over the edge of the roof. The gutter bit into his stomach through his coat and shirt. There was a soft groaning as the sheet metal bent under his weight. He eased himself out more and more, kicking his legs. Finally he reached the gutter with his hands. It was the only thing he had purchase on. It held his weight long enough for him to stretch out his body’s length. He had enough time to wish he were a foot taller when the gutter gave way and sent him to the ground below.

He wasn’t able to get the “Oh shit!” all the way out of his mouth before he hit the ground. Rather than landing on his feet, he fell flat on his back. The air woofed out of his lungs and then his body locked up, refusing to replace the breath with new fresh air. The rational part of his brain knew that he wouldn’t die from lack of air. He’d be able to breath in a few seconds. The more primitive part of his brain knew that death was close.

He struggled with every fiber of his being to move. The blue sky above him filled most of the range of his vision. He was able to move his eyes and saw movement in one of the windows. If the maniac was taking the time to look around the bedrooms, he would make it. He drew a ragged breath and then another. The shock of the impact was wearing off. He rolled to one side. He was closer to that cornfield than he would like. Those places gave him the creeps. He shook off the feeling and made it the rest of the way to his feet.

He stifled his groan from the aches and pains. He’d feel that fall in the morning. Slowly, he began the walk to his car. After only a few steps he reached for his pocket to retrieve the gun. He freed it and was happy to see that it was all in working order. He pulled the hammer back and continued the walk. With his left hand he checked the camera. There was no time to check his pictures, but a cursory inspection showed no physical damage. If he could make it up the road, he’d upload the pictures to his online file storage. It needed a 3G signal or better or an open Wi-Fi hotspot for that. He wished he had one here. He’d upload them now.

His mind tracked back to the laptop. There hadn’t been any internet hardline attached to it, had there? He looked up at the house and saw the curtain move in the freak’s bedroom. Setting his jaw, he moved to the shed. It was closer than his car. He holstered the gun and lifted the camera to his face. A few button taps later and he saw an open wireless router listed. The “Netgear” allowed him to connect.

“Do you wish to upload your pictures?”

“Hell yeah I do.” He clicked the yes button and watched the first file begin to upload. Now, no matter what happened, someone would have pictures of what he’d seen. He let the camera fall back to his side and drew the pistol again. He would wait as long as he could to let the pictures upload.

A gust of wind plucked at his hair and rustled the corn stalks. It sounded like whispering.

He had a moment to register the shadow near his feet before a burst of fresh pain spread out from an impact point in the small of his back. He was able to cough out a scream before the point of a sickle erupted from just above his navel. The pistol cracked off a shot as his finger yanked the trigger reflexively.

It took great strength to lift a man a foot off the ground while he was impaled on the primitive tool. The blade was sharp and the weight of his body caused it to cut upwards. The blade was stopped by his rib cage. The awful smell of his guts spilling into the fresh country air filled his nose as the pain and shock took his mind away.

He felt his body falling and the blue sky was nearly the last thing he saw as he died. The other thing, a scarecrow of monstrous proportions, had to be a product of his imagination. Finally, everything went black.