No new Dethm8 tonight. I’m under some self-imposed deadlines and haven’t been able to devote any time to it. In the meantime, Field of Screams is a story I wrote back when I was fifteen. It didn’t get finished until I was in my 20s but I never saw anything to do with it. So enjoy!
“Hey Ma, where’s Bobbie?” Ryan asked, tossing his baseball glove on the couch and looking around.
His mother turned her head in his direction, but her eyes still had the same glazed over look they had when she was looking at the television.
“He went… he went out with his new friend,” she said, tired. “I told him to be back by dinner.”
Ryan figured his mother’s pain must have been really bad. She must have taken two or three pills to be this out of it. After helping her into bed, he kissed her forehead and cheek as she had done so many times to him as a child and turned towards the door.
“Ryan,” his mother called. “They were heading to that old barn you used to go to.”
“At that, a chill ran down his spine. The old barn was the place he told his mother he was going when he was younger, when in fact it had burned down several years earlier. He had only gone down that way with one person. To the place where It happened. And now that was the place Ryan was sure Bobbie was going.
“Sweet dreams,” he tried to say but his voice cracked audibly. Ryan stepped out of the bedroom and closed the door as quietly as possible.
He burst through the front door, already forgetting his sleeping mother as he fumbled with the car keys. He unlocked the driver’s door and slid behind the wheel, bumping his head on the doorframe. He keyed the ignition, ignoring the ringing in his ears.
After passing where the old barn had been and going over the train tracks, he stopped ten yards farther down on the upward slope of a wide hill. He stepped out of the car and squinted his eyes at the false horizon line and took a dry swallow in apprehension. Subconsciously, he touched the raspberry burn on his arm and realizing, he wiped the excess petroleum jelly on his pants leg.
Ryan took the keys out of the ignition and popped the trunk. He ran around to the back and grabbed a crowbar and a flare gun he jammed down the front of his pants.
As he rounded the crest of the hill he began to see the treetops of the forest. He got the feeling of a thousand tiny fingers crawling all over him but ignored it and kept going. The cornstalks that outlined either side of the road here began to thin out until they were altogether absent thirty yards away from the forest.
Ryan dashed the last yards to the forest. He got down on his hands and knees and realized this was the same way he entered the forest when he and Denny had come down here all those years ago. They had come here on a day much like this one and gone deep into the bowl-shaped forest on some well-worn path until they came to the biggest hole he had ever seen. Ryan had been afraid to approach it while Denny would throw rocks and spit in it.
Ryan reluctantly approached, but before he could work his way down, he tripped, flinging his arms out in front of him and knocking the wind out of himself as he landed face down.
He got up, Denny was nowhere to be found. He’d called out after him for half an hour, searching everywhere. Figuring he had gotten chicken and run off himself, Ryan began to head home when he’d heard it. They’d never seen anything bigger than a squirrel on the way to the forest and hadn’t seen anything while they were in the forest, but a low groan that carried all throughout the forest came from behind him as he approached the enclosing branches and bushes. Ryan crawled through and hurried out not looking behind him as the groan rose to the fevered pitch of a scream that went on and on in a voice all too human and all too familiar.
Ryan awoke from his daydreaming, sweating and clenching the crowbar. He crawled the rest of the way through and began walking the downward slope. He came to a crest of bushes that rose to his chest and peeked over. Bobbie and a barefoot boy wearing what looked like a burlap sack for a shirt were hunched over with their hands on their knees. Parting the bushes with the crowbar, he crept through as silently as possible. Bobbie’s friend raised his hand as if to pat him on the back and Ryan broke through the bushes like a raging bull. The hand came down and swatted him on the back and just as Bobbie was tipping over into the hole, Ryan leapt and reached out, almost flying through the air, and hooked his little brother’s shorts with the crowbar. He hit the ground, bounced and slid, but got his fingers deep enough into the dirt, keeping them both from falling in.
Bobbie immediately began twisting to try and get a handhold on whatever had saved him. Catching hold of his brother’s arm, he turned and Ryan let go of the crowbar and grasped Bobbie’s arm and began to pull, nodding at him because he hadn’t yet caught his breath.
“Wait a minute, this thing is in my back!” Bobbie let go with one hand to pull it free. As the crowbar ripped free of his shorts, Bobbie’s friend roared and fell on Ryan, grabbing his ears and ramming his face into the hard-packed earth.
Dazed and bleeding, Ryan tried to hold on, but his brother’s hand slipped. Bobbie swung wildly around with the crowbar and caught it on the lip of the hole. Ryan flung his arm out and rolled to get the boy off him, but he straddled him again and locked his hands around Ryan’s throat.
Ryan gagged and clawed at the hand like a vise on his neck and bucked and kicked in a vain effort to throw him off. Stars danced in his vision as he felt his strength waning. There was a thick crunching sound and the boy’s head jerked violently to the side. He slumped over to the side, his eyes rolled up into his head.
His brother stood before him as Ryan shoved the boy aside, gasping for air. Ryan slowly stood and began to usher Bobbie away from the boy, laid out like a tossed aside rag doll. They got a few feet up the slope when a rock hit Bobbie between the shoulder blades and he went down with a sharp cry. Ryan turned and was tackled by the boy.
This time Ryan got a good look at the face that was the same as Denny’s, save for the deep grooved gash at his temple. The boy’s face swelled and turned a deep green. His face hardened and cracked from the middle of his forehead to his nose and then split and ran underneath either cheek to form an upside-down Y.
Ryan struggled with the hands suddenly stronger than his own. The thing’s eyes became vertically ovular and took on a pink iridescent hue as the face became rigid and lined. Ryan screamed as the Y split burst open revealing dozens of rows of tiny claw-shaped teeth in a cavern of a mouth that was the thing’s entire head. It pinned one of Ryan’s arms down and leaned in, its mouth yawning even wider.
Ryan’s free hand scrambled between them and snatched the flare gun from his pants. He jerked the trigger with the gun pointed at the thing. It pulled away and screamed as the flame ball danced crazily around in its mouth. Ryan pushed its head up to keep it off him and they began to roll back down to the hole.
It clawed at Ryan all the way down and right before they rolled over into the hole, Ryan spread his legs, and threw the thing away from him. His wrist was still in its grasp and as his arm hit the ground he heard his elbow snap. Its grip slipped free from his lubricated arm and Ryan rolled over on his side, clutching the wounded arm.
He blinked through his tears and saw Bobbie coming down as he got to his knees.
“Bobbie, run. I’m right behind you,” he said weakly. His brother looked at him confused when suddenly a violent scream exploded from the hole.
The earth shook and immediately began to crumble underfoot. Ryan struggled to his feet and screamed at Bobbie. They both began running, the animal sound coming from the hole rising in pitch as it began to close. Ryan ran as fast as his throbbing arm would allow as trees, grass and bushes all converged on the fast contracting hole. Wind rushed in their faces, pushing them back.
The screaming stopped and everything was quiet. Bobbie stopped and turned to look back at Ryan.
“Don’t stop! Keep going!” Ryan called, feeling on the verge of fainting. Trees started falling into the hollow ground, leaving jagged holes from where they had been rooted just a moment before. The ground cracked under each footstep and Ryan looked up to see a wall rising where the edge of the forest was.
He caught up with Bobbie and tried hoisting him up with his good arm, but it was too high.
“I don’t want to leave without you!” Bobbie shouted over the rumbling earth.
“Go now! You’ll never be able to help me over. I can jump.”
Ryan got down on one knee and Bobbie climbed up on his shoulders. Bobbie reached the top and scrambled over the other side. He fell on his side and saw the wall fall over where Ryan should have been.
“Bobbie run!” he heard his brother shout for the last time.
He stumbled to his feet and turned to go, but as he saw the forest receding he fell back to his knees and wept helplessly, hearing his brother’s muffled screams.
The forest stopped receding and the land began to smooth out again. Bobbie could almost see the grass growing and young trees reaching up from the rich, fertile-looking soil. Ryan was gone from the last place he thought he’d seen him.
His eyes had been closed for quite some time when he heard the footsteps.
“Ryan?” he called. No one answered, but he could hear someone coming closer, pushing through the thick foliage. Bobbie searched the renewed forest, but it was too thick to see anything.
An emaciated figure stepped out from behind a cluster of tall bushes, walking with his hands behind his back. It looked like Ryan, but all the angles of the face looked too high and the eyes looked menacing somehow. Slowly, the face began to relax, looking more like him. But then Bobbie noticed the clothes were all wrong. He was barefoot, wearing an old pair of jeans and a shirt that looked like he’d cut holes for his head and arms out of a potato sack and put it on.
He brought his arms out in front of him and instead of hands, he had long branches twisting down midway to his calf, a leaf here and there amongst them.
“I thought I told you to run,” the Ryan-thing said.