Short Fiction: Clem’s Harvest

Clem stood on the balcony and surveyed the cornfields: tall, ripe, peaceful green, as far as he could see. Twenty-two years he had worked his farm, and this looked like the crop that would finally make him some money. All he had to do was keep his pyromania in check.

Wendy came out and stood beside him. “Clem, sweetheart,” she said, “I do declare this is the finest crop o’ corn the good Lord ever done blessed us with.”

Clem clenched his fists and ground his teeth. “I’ve told you a thousand times,” he said, “just talk normally.”

“Well,” said Wendy, “I jus saying like my ol’ mama done taught me. It ain’t so bad.”

Clem turned and stomped inside. He re-emerged downstairs a minute later with keys in one pocket and a cigarette lighter in the other. Climbing onto his old dirt bike, Clem felt a heavy, otherworldly weight in his chest. His sight flashed white and then returned to normal; the weight was gone. In that blinding moment Clem had had a premonition, a vision of a dragon igniting seventy acres of corn in raging flames. He shook his head and cleared his throat. The motorbike growled as he revved it and tried to forget what he had seen.

Up by the barn, old McLeary was feeding the horses. He was feeding them wet tissues. Clem called Phil McLeary and told him his father had wandered onto the farm again. Phil apologised and said he would come immediately to collect him.

Clem rode out to the shed on the far side of his property. He unlocked the door and it creaked open. Clem stood still. A man had died in that shed. Though they had taken the body away, Clem was sure the man’s spirit had remained. A duck waddled out from a dark corner and stood where the red morning light spilled across the floor. Clem retrieved a small paper bag from inside his jacket, opened it and shook out a handful of stale bread pieces. The duck rushed over and gobbled them up, then looked up at him. It kept a suspicious gaze upon him, and then stepped backward into the shadows. Clem closed the shed door and exhaled in relief.

At lunchtime, he rode down to the dam and pretended to eat soup. He regretted not chasing his dream of being an actor. He lay down there and slept. Hours later he awoke in the middle of a cornfield, naked and reeking of petrol. The sky was dark and red. He stood up and saw above the plants the familiar haze in the air, and felt the sweet, sweltering heat. The mumble and whoosh in the distance told him it had happened again. He ran out into a clearing between fields. Giant swirls of black smoke ascended in the southern fields. He turned around and looked up the hill to the shed. In the upper window the duck watched.

 

© 2018 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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