I saw her from far off into the distance, staring towards my window that dark October evening.
At least I thought it was a “she” as it was very hard to tell from so far away.
The sun was still going down in the horizon and it was foggy; a light mist covering the ground making the bare trees look like grotesque, gnarled hands of some giant coming up through the barren earth.
This farm was a joke. My dad bought the place 2 years ago in hopes of raising corn but it was almost as if the place was cursed. He’d tried the last two seasons and barely gotten a few bushels to keep for us, let alone anything to sell.
And we were broke, or very close to it. I’d heard my mom on the phone earlier with the bank and crying afterwards when dad came home. They were going on 6 months behind in the mortgage payments and if something didn’t happen soon we’d lose the place for good.
Where would we go? We had no real family…my parents had both been only children and my grandparents had passed on years ago. So I had no cousins, brothers or sisters. Actually that was a lie. I’d had a sister, but she was dead…died when she was 12. Doctors had said it was just one of those things. They found nothing physically wrong with her so they didn’t know what had happened, she was just gone. Went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. I still missed her a lot, and I cry myself to sleep sometimes. She was the only friend I really had as we had moved around a lot and never hung around long enough to get close to any local kids.
I dreamed about her that night, standing in front of the old tree at the end of the field. She kept whispering my name and I wanted to follow her but I was afraid. She was holding a small sickle…I don’t know why because she was always afraid to go in the barn where all dad’s harvesting tools were. And there was blood dripping from the blade.
The corn in the fields was coming up but it was so poor. Made me think of that story in the Bible when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream about the withered, dying ears of grain. Dad had tried so hard, dug so many irrigation ditches and we’d been really fortunate that the crows had stayed away. It just wasn’t helping at all.
He was at the far end of the field cutting some of it down with a scythe to save gas for the combine. It was kinda funny to watch him with it because he wasn’t used to it and it wasn’t as sharp as it should be but somehow he was getting the job done. He saw me and smiled.
“Hey Sarah, want to give me a hand? There’s another one of these in the barn…it’s not really hard once you get the hang of it.”
“Sure dad, just give me a second & I’ll be right back.”
I opened the barn door and found the wall with all the tools hanging from it, seeing the large scythe and running my fingers along the blade. It was very sharp and I had to be careful not to cut myself. Funny, dad should have picked this one to use. It was a lot lighter than I expected as I pulled it down and walked back outside. And there she was again. Just like I’d seen her from my window. I knew it was a “she” now as she was wearing a dress…just like the one we buried her in.
I felt like I couldn’t move when I heard dad’s voice again.
“What’s wrong Sarah?” he looked in the direction I was staring and looked back at me. “What do you see over there?”
“I’m not sure dad but I think there’s something over by the tree.”
“Well, go look if you want to” he said, “but come back quick. I want to see if there’s anything here we can save.”
I was shaking as I walked slowly towards the tree. She’d moved and was now standing directly beside it, still holding the bloody sickle.
“Melanie? What are you doing here? You’re dead.”
She didn’t say a word, only stared at me and smiled.
“Is there something you want?” I asked, “Why are you here?”
She opened her mouth but I heard nothing for several seconds, then a light hissing noise as her voice cracked and she whispered the word “Sacrifice.”
Sacrifice? “What do you mean Mel? I don’t understand.”
She held up the sickle towards my hand and as I touched it with my finger I saw the image, a scenario playing out in my head. It was the only way we could save the farm.
“Are you sure Mel? Is that what we have to do?”
She nodded and turned away, disappearing around the tree. I ran after her but she was gone. My heart was beating in my chest as I turned back to the field to help my father and think about what needed to be done.
It was really hard to fall asleep that night. I kept having the dream again and now there were rivers of blood running through the corn. There was nothing else to do. I had to tell him.
We had finished breakfast the next morning & mom was in the kitchen cleaning up as dad was in the living room preparing to go back out in the fields. He’d just poured a cup of coffee as I sat down & got his attention.
“Mel was in the field yesterday.” I said, “She told me how we could save the farm.” I whispered to him so mom wouldn’t hear.
He stared at me in disbelief. “What are you talking about Sarah? Is that what you saw by the tree? Are you saying you saw a ghost?”
“Yes dad, and you may not believe me but I have to show you something.” and I touched his hand.
He jerked back as if I’d shocked him, but I knew he believed me, because he’d seen it too.
“Ok,” he said, and his face was ashen. “If that’s how it has to be then that’s what we have to do, but your mom is staying out of it. I don’t want her involved.”
“If it happens like I saw we’ll do ok just the two of us. That’s why I told you here.”
Mom came in the front room, got her purse & said “I have to head in to town…I’ll be gone a few hours to the grocery store and I have another appointment with the doctor.”
Dad got up and kissed her, smiling. “Ok hon, just take your time. Sarah and I will take care of everything here.”
We watched her get into the car and drive off then went to the field & got to work.After we’d been there for about 30 minutes clearing the irrigation line I heard a noise in the direction of the house. I looked up seeing a strange car pulling into the driveway and two people get out, a man and a woman. I got dad’s attention and he looked up as the couple walked in our direction.
“Good morning.” the man said, “My name is Robert, this is Amelia and we’re from the First Baptist Church. We’re just going around to some of the farms here on the outskirts of town to see if you’ve any interest in coming to join us for worship this week.”
“I know you’ve been here for a while now,” Amelia said, “and we weren’t sure if you already had a church home or if you’d be up to trying out our family. Can I ask if you know the Savior?”
Dad smiled at her and said, “Why yes ma’am I do, and so does my daughter here. But I’d be obliged if you’d come in with us for a talk.” They both nodded and smiled as my dad led them to the house.
Back inside I made a pot of coffee as they sat at the kitchen table with dad going over leaflets. I poured 3 mugs full and sat down as they all started to drink.
I listened to their chatter and poured them all more when I noticed the odd look on Robert’s face as he drank slowly.
“The water here gives the coffee a funny aftertaste,” I said. “We boil it first but it doesn’t help much…I’m sorry.”
He assured me it was fine and continued his conversation with my dad as I put away the coffee and washed the empty pot.
I saw Amelia start to stand up and then watched her fall to the floor, trying to catch herself on the chair but she hit it hard. Robert got up fast to help her, too fast though and it happened just as quick for him.
Neither were fully unconscious but completely paralyzed by the strong drugs I’d slipped into their coffee as dad took hold of Robert’s legs and drug him out into the backyard. I went outside and tied a rope around his legs as dad pulled Amelia out and laid her next to him.
Dad tied the rope around her legs as I attached them both to the saddle on our mule Chester. He wasn’t quite as stubborn as most mules so with a little coaxing he pulled them both to the water tank dad used to irrigate the corn. We’d worked all morning to get something constructed that would hold them above the tank. We’d dug supports deep into the ground on both sides and ran a log across the top. It took all our strength and Chester’s to get them hoisted up and tied upside-down to the top log.
Once they were securely fastened we got off the tank and pulled off the lid. Amelia was starting to struggle but she didn’t have much in her…the drugs I gave her were very strong. It was a combination of muscle relaxers and pain killers that were left over from mom’s surgery 6 months ago. She’d probably wonder what happened to them later but we’d deal with that when the time came. I reached down and picked up the scythe I’d been using to reap the corn and held up to her face. She’d started to cry.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but we’re going to lose our farm and this is the only way to save it. The spirits deep in the earth ar thirsty and you’re blood will bring new life to this place.”
At the last word I ran the blade quickly across her throat and watched the blood drain into the water tank. I heard a gurgle from Robert as dad almost decapitated him, watching their blood mingle together. I saw dad put the snath of his scythe into the tank and he looked at me, smiling as I did the same with my own. We mixed it all in as it continued to flow, the color deepening almost to a dark red ochre. Each cut had been made wide and deep, therefore it didn’t take as long as I thought to drain away. When it was done we put the lid back on the tank and lowered the bodies, dad putting them in the trunk of their car before driving it off far into the field. He would dispose of it later.
Back at the farm we opened up all the channels and let the red water flow into the field, soaking into the hard soil surrounding the corn. I stood at the edge and noticed a difference almost immediately, the ground seeming almost softer underneath my bare feet as I walked between the rows. And then I heard the whispers, like they were coming from the corn itself…it was coming back to life. It wouldn’t happen overnight but in a few days the field should be alive with good corn, and a good harvest was sure to come. We wouldn’t have to leave this place, and as I smiled I heard her laughter. She was standing by the tree again, still holding the dripping sickle.
“Was it ok Mel? Did we satisfy the spirits?”
She smiled and the soil began to bloom.
“Don’t ever leave me again Mel, ok?” but she disappeared into the fog.
The Queen of Hell
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