September 2

The Quiet Farm (Part 6)

 

After yesterday’s exertions, Lara felt drained.  Instead of starting her daily chores around the farm, she returned to her own bed to take a brief nap.

She woke in late afternoon.  For a moment, she wondered why she was in her bed, fully clothed.  Then she remembered herself, and thought about the untended animals in their pens outside.

Lara gathered hay and grain and slop, and she dropped generous portions in the appropriate feeding stations.  Strangely, the animals continued to shy away from her; they also didn’t rush forward, pushing each other out of the way to get to their meals.

Inside, her guest remained in bed, covers pulled to her neck.  Corrinne slept silently, and her body made no movements beneath the blankets.  Lara considered touching her as she slept, finding the rise and fall of her stomach as she had the previous night.  She watched again for some movement, with the same attention she’d given her father in his final days.  This time, she watched for signs of life, rather than its dwindling end.

That night, Corrinne’s second in her home, Lara again had trouble sleeping.  She’d accomplished little during the day, and now that it was too late, she wished she’d driven into town for news.  No matter which dials she had turned, she still couldn’t get a signal on the radio or television.  Some background music might have been nice, to soothe her nervous suspicion that something had gone wrong in the world.

No music, but as she finally drifted off Lara heard whistling.  Her bedroom door creaked open, and she felt someone watching her.  Soft footsteps trod along the floor and slowly circled the bed.  The steps fell in a tentative rhythm — an elderly person on unsteady feet, or someone learning to walk again after a serious accident.

In her dream, a face hovered close over her own, and Lara kept her eyes shut to avoid seeing the visitor.  She heard the moist pop of dry lips parting in the dark.  Then a story slowly emerged, in the familiar drone of her father’s voice.  A sweet and warm breath flowed over her face and neck as the words flowed, offering a comfort that the story’s content denied.   The next morning, Lara could not recall the specifics of the story, but she remembered the sensation of hearing it in her dream.  It was far more terrifying than any of the local legends her father used to recount for her and for visiting neighbors.  In the dream, she wanted the voice to stop, she wanted to reach out in the dark, cover the mouth with her hands to keep it from speaking the next words, as the story grew more and more unpleasant.

But she was paralyzed in her bed, a captive and frightened listener.

[…continued tomorrow…]