September 5

The Quiet Farm (Part 9, conclusion)


[…continued from September 4 entry…]


Lara’s stomach hurt, the way it sometimes did during her childhood when she thought of her absent mother.  As the pain in her stomach intensified, the photograph Corrinne had given her transformed once again.  The toothsome smile disappeared from Lara’s younger face, and her mother, too, slowly disappeared from the image.

“The truth is painful,” Corrinne said.  “I can give you a different kind of pain.”

As she spoke — this guest in Lara’s home, now an intruder into her bedroom — a red stain began to appear over Corrinne’s stomach, blood soaking through the fabric of her clothing.

The window was still closed, curtains pulled to shut out the light, but noises from outside began to assert themselves.  Squeals and neighs, braying and lowing and clucking from all the animals who’d remained silent the past few days.  Lara imagined their stomachs bursting as they cried out.  She imagined the animals fighting to escape their pens, biting at wood and wire with tender teeth, splinters and sharp metal tearing at their lips.

And her own stomach began to hurt even more — not the nervous pain of a child overcome by guilt, or the tight ache caused by hunger.  This pain was sharp and rhythmic, following the beat of her heart…or the regular motion of grinding teeth.

Corrinne was no longer standing beside the bed.  Lara glanced down, saw the glow of strawberry blonde hair as a head hovered over her stomach.  Digging in.  Chewing.

And in the intoxication of a final dream-vision, Lara saw the nightmare of the world outside:  on her own farm, the animals battened upon by humanoid creatures that gathered strength during the day and attacked at night; and the Headleys, deceived by a young visitor and drained one by one, through their stomachs, and their bodies hidden throughout their home, Andrew flattened behind a cabinet, his mother curled behind a stove and his father folded into the fireplace chimney; and similar invasions at other houses in town; and beyond, spreading through the countryside, all natural life overtaken by powerful beings that had no need for radios or television, automobiles or airplanes, and this terrible vision spread further, and the pain in Lara’s stomach grew worse and worse and…

The pain ceased.  Lara felt suddenly calm, as if she stood in a sun-brightened field.  She felt young again, and the thought made her smile.  Her mother placed a loving arm around her shoulder, and her father took a picture.