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Authors: Stephen Mark Rainey

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Strange Seed

BOOK: Strange Seed
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Strange Seed

A Novel by T.M. Wright
©1978, 2006, 2010 by T.M. Wright

All Rights Reserved

Crossroad Press & Macabre Ink Digital Edition

Copyright 2010 by T. M. Wright &Macabre Ink Digital Publications

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.  This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people.  If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with.  If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to your vendor of choice and purchase your own copy.  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author

“Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere.
Into here.”

-Song from “At the back of the North Wind”


With love for my wife, Roxane
May, 1957
Upstate NY

The tall man curses sharply in reaction to the sudden pain.
The pain fades slowly; the man turns to his son beside him and says, “Not a word to repeat, son.
Not a word to repeat.”

The child looks on wonderingly.
“Yes, Father,” he says.

The pain returns and the tall man curses again, and again.
When the pain subsides, he says once more, “Not a word to repeat, son.
Not a word to—“But the pain, renewing itself, chokes the sentence off.

The man slumps, groaning, to his knees.
“Father?” the child says.

The pain subsides, but not as much as before, and the man shakes his head slowly, in confusion.

It occurs to him that he’s dying and his acceptance of that fact is quick, nearly casual.
Because there are more important considerations: As a byproduct of his death, his son will be left alone in the secluded farmhouse.

Through the pain, lingering dully at the back of his head, the man motions to his son to come over.
The child obeys, and the man pulls him close.
“Go to…Mr. Lumas,” he whispers, “down…” and again the pain stops his words.

“Father?” the child says.

He’s more confused than I am
, the man thinks, despite the pain.

He tries to speak again, but speech is beyond him.

A quivering smile shivers along his lips.
He curses and falls face forward onto the wet earth.

These past few weeks, the rain has been nearly continuous and the earth gives testimony to it.
All about, the creatures who come out of the earth are showing themselves.
The thickets bordering the field are a vibrant green.
The small pine forest to the west—all winter and spring no more than a monotone darkness—seems in motion, as if in anticipation of summer and the changes it will bring.

“Father?” the child says.
The tall man lies still.
A burying beetle—small and efficient—probes tentatively at his chin.

Around the tall man, the earth lives, the earth produces, and swells a little in expectation of what this recent death will give it (only one of many thousands of deaths that second).

“Get up, Father,” the child says.
The child waits.
What he has known from his father until this moment has been life.
He has seen his father strain for hours at a stuck plow.
He has seen him smile wearily at the end of the day.
He has heard curses from him, and, each time, “Not a word to repeat, son.
Not a word to repeat.”
And he has seen him in the act of love—the act of life.

Get up, Father.”
There was small magic in the words before.
There is no magic now.

The child waits.
Night comes.
The child continues to wait.

There is no more bewilderment than grief in the child, now—a bewilderment with immense capabilities.
For, around him, creatures the earth has produced are becoming bold with curiosity.
One creature is within arm’s reach, but—and not because of the moonless dark—the child does not sense its presence.

The creature waits.
Because of all that the earth has produced in recent weeks, its belly is full, and so it is merely curious.
After many minutes, it moves off.

The child continues to wait.

Other things that the earth has produced—some as large as the child, some larger, and some so small he could not see them, even in daylight—move closer and form a very rough circle around the child and the tall man.
Still, the child is ignorant of their presence.

There are words prodding at the child’s consciousness—words that, in concert with his slowly fading bewilderment and increasing grief, have much to do with his ignorance of what surrounds him.
For he has no fear.
His father’s words have long since obliterated fear:
“There is nothing here to harm you, son, unless you invite it.”
And, “You are as much a part of this as any living thing.”

The child waits.
Eventually, the moonless dark lightens—a false dawn, but the end of darkness.

“Father?” he says.
The word is so mechanical, now, that he does not realize he said it.

He turns, hesitates, looks back at the gray, elongated mass that is his father.

And goes back to the house.

The house is very quiet—a maze of black and gray and harsh right angles.
Habit soon overcomes the maze; the child makes his way to the house’s second floor, to his bedroom, and settles onto the old bed.
Tears come to him, though he can’t yet consciously admit there is reason for tears.
They trickle down his face.
A dozen tears.

He is accustomed to the noises of the house.

Two dozen tears.

The noises of the house are like friends because the child has known the noises since before he realized the house was making them.
Vaguely he knows that the earth is partly responsible.
That the earth swells and recedes, swells and recedes.
Not as if it were restless—only breathing.
Because the earth, like himself, must breathe, and the house—a part of the earth—must breathe with it.

Three dozen tears.
The pillow soaks them up.

Groaning noises; if a man were responsible, wouldn’t he be very much like a scarecrow, or a stick man?
Rasping, groaning noises.
Wood sounds.
And the distant spray-of-water sounds—the windows being pushed by the wind.

Four dozen tears.

And the scratch-and-skitter sounds of the other living creatures in the walls of the house.

The tears stop.

It is a creative house.
Occasionally, there are new and often fleeting noises whose source is hard to pinpoint.
Only half-consciously, the child listens to just such noises, now.
And waits, expectation growing in him.

After a long moment, he calls, “Father?
Is that you?”
He props himself up in the bed and continues to listen.
He strains to see, but sees little.

“Father?” he repeats, though with uncertainty, because the noises his father’s footfalls make on the stairs are of a different sort—more pronounced, more purposeful.

The noises stop.

The child sleeps.


Realization, like punishment, comes swiftly to the child.
And, as to punishment, he winces and stifles a moan.
Here, in the bright sunlight, denial is impossible.
He sees that his father’s body is becoming what swamps are made of and soil is made of—becoming food for the horsetail, and clover, and burying beetles, and a million others.
Because the earth, the breathing earth, must be constantly nourished.

His father’s words are closer now, and understandable.
“Decay is not the grim thing it appears to be.
It is renewal.”

“Father?” the child pleads, realizing the futility of the word.
“Father?” he repeats, more in the memory of those times his father responded to the word than for any other reason.

—distantly, from the thickets to the south.
Barely audible.

The child looks up questioningly from his father’s body.
“Father?” he calls.


An echo, the child thinks.
Months before, he remembers, in the heart of the forest, “Hello,” extended, “Hello,” repeated, “Hello,” shouted back at both of them, father and son, by the voices of the forest.

“Hello,” the child calls.

replies the voice of the thickets.

“Hello,” the child calls.
And distantly, from the east, from the forest, “Hello, hello, hello,” decreasing in intensity.
And finally, nothing.

from the thickets.

“Hello,” the child calls.


“Hello, Father!” the child calls.

And the forest replies, “Hello, Father!
Hello, Father!”

And the voice of the thickets replies,
Hello, Father!


Chapter One

Rachel Griffin listened to an unfamiliar crowd of sounds—the varied chortlings of toads and frogs, the moaning and screeching of owls, the whir and squeak and twitter of a million insects.
Occasionally, the wind moving over shards of glass in the window frames at the back of the small room added—to the sounds of the rural night—a dissonant set of high-pitched whining noises, like a family of small tin birds calling at a distance.

Rachel felt, in the crowd of sounds, the conspicuous absence of the sounds of people.
She wished for the groan of traffic, for the comforting, hollow noises of radios and TVs, even for the neighbors having one of their periodic arguments.
But those, she knew, were the sounds of places which were far beyond her, places that—despite their many shortcomings—had variously served as home for nearly all of her twenty-six years and therefore didn’t give her the dismal sense of aloneness that this place gave her.

BOOK: Strange Seed
6.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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