22 Dec When the Wheat Grew Over our Heads, we Weren’t Allowed Outside – Creepypasta
This is the first thing I remember.
When the wheat grew over our heads, Mother and Father sat my brother and I down at the kitchen table, looked us each in the eye and said: “You can’t go out into the fields.”
“Why?” I asked. I had been asking ‘Why?’ to almost everything my parents would say:
You have to brush your teeth. Why? You have to to wash your hands. Why? You can’t push your brother. Why?
So, when they said we weren’t allowed outside, my response was almost automatic:
I looked over at my older brother, the one who made me laugh all day, the one who was always being silly, not listening to Mother, getting into trouble anytime he could. Always happy, always smiling.
He wasn’t smiling now.
He was wide-eyed and unmoving. Hands stuck, trembling on the table. Frozen. Staring out the window behind me. Locked-in to the nightmare.
My Father put his hand on my shoulder, gently but with enough pressure to snap my eyes back to his. He breathed the words out, distantly, dead-pan serious:
The Gah – ree – lo will see you.
The Gah – ree – lo will take you.
Gah – ree – lo
When the wheat grew over our heads, my brother and I shut the curtains in all the rooms. If I could see the fields through the window I wouldn’t be able to stop looking. My Mother found me one day, standing and swaying, dancing with the wind-blown wheat. She tried to get my attention, clapping in my face, screaming my name, but if she touched me I would let loose a shrieking, blood-curdling scream. Wailing and wailing like a screeching kettle. My brother ran to the window, closed the curtains, and I stopped screaming. Then my brother, my mother and I stood there, hugging each other, crying together.
The Gah – ree – lo took three that year.
It doesn’t seem possible now, but the wheat had barely begun to burst out of the ground one day when the next morning it was just……there. A great sheet of yellow and grey, a tidal wave of weaving wheat stalks, tossed around in the wind like kelp in a storm surge. I cried and yelled and screamed at the windows, and my Mother ran to me, hugged me close, and whispered,
“Please be quiet.
The Gah – ree – lo will hear you.
Only one was taken that year. His head was left on the doorstep of his house.
The Gah – ree – lo always left the head.
When the wheat grew tall enough, it began to bend and break under its own weight. It would slowly droop over like an old man with a broken back. Then the morning came when the wheat could no longer hold itself up and it collapsed to the ground. My Father would rush into our bedroom, hooping and hollering with an unbridled joy I never saw from him any other day of the year. He would whistle some tune as he put on his boots, and went out to the fields with a grin plastered on his face. In his hands he held a giant blade, a reaper’s scythe, and with eerie precision my Father would whip it through the air, decapitating each stalk.
I’ll never forget the sounds. That whipping sound as the blade cut through the air:
Then the halting
as each stalk fell to the ground.
One by one the wheat would fall.
We called this ‘The Culling’. The moment when we were finally free, if only for a short time. It would take 3 days for Father to clear the whole field.
Each day I would sit at the window, watching my Father, big and strong, cutting down the stalks.
Not watching my Father.
Watching the fields.
Waiting for the Gah – ree – lo to get my Father.
To take my Father.
To eat everything but the head.
Each day of The Culling I would open the front door and find my Father’s head on the doorstep. I would scream and scream and my Mother would come and hold me, telling me Father’s head wasn’t there, not really.
It’s just in your mind.
Still, I waited.
For the Gah – ree – lo to come.
It was outside my window.
The Gah – ree – lo.
Pitch-black night. I could hear it through the windows even though they were closed. Short bursts of quiet, high-pitched grunts:
Then slamming, a vicious thundering on the front door that shook the floorboards. Concussive waves that were almost rhythmic.
The sound ripped my ears apart from the inside. So loud it felt like it was in the room, screaming into my face. I instinctively hit the light switch and suddenly there was nothing.
Dead quiet in a brightly lit room.
A still moment as I took a breath.
Scurrying noises on the wall outside my room made me scream. In seconds it would be at my window. Too late I realized this and caught a glimpse of it framed through clear glass.
The Gah – ree – lo.
Monstrous. An ancient. An antiquitous terror. Sinewy, spiderous limbs hung low in the air. Crrrrrrrawling. Sllllllllithering. I screamed, and it looked right at me.
I have never had a sleep without nightmares since.
No human deaths were recorded that year, but a herd of wild horses was found slaughtered the next morning. Fifteen eviscerated and decapitated corpses, soaking the surrounding grass meadow in a sickly red.
The wheat had begun to sprout, and it was like a permanent shadow had fallen over our home. We felt it in our bones.
The Gah – ree – lo was coming.
For the first time, my Father took me into town. The “town” was no more than a single main street, something you’d drive past on your way to somewhere else. We needed supplies, things to last us through the wheat season. Sometimes it took weeks for the wheat to grow tall enough to fall over, sometimes it took months. Weeks and months where we’d have to stay inside.
The thing I remember the most about that visit were the other people. I had only ever saw Jeffery and his Father, our far-off neighbours who came around once a year to visit. And to trade.
Trade what, Father?
Whatever we need.
But walking down that small, simple main street, I remember the other people.
How they all looked away.
When they saw us they’d avert their gaze. Heads down. Eyes almost closed. Then I would look at my Father, his head high and proud, eyes always forward.
Why aren’t they looking at us, Father?
They are ashamed.
Of us, Father?
No son, of themselves.
He wouldn’t tell me why they felt shame. Why they wouldn’t look at him. Or me. I should have asked. Maybe he would have told me.
I also remember the girl, Sandy, walking hand-in-hand with her mother. She was the only one who looked at me. Bright blue eyes, straight blonde hair down to her shoulder. Probably only a little older than I was at the time. Sandy’s head was found the morning after The Culling.
The winter’s snow had melted, revealing the bare earth that would soon begin to sprout. In the weeks that followed the melt we had lots of adult visitors come to the house. I just remember my parents sitting in the living room with the visitors, hushed voices, constant glances towards the windows where the wheat fields loomed over us. Then my Father, big and proud and strong, finally standing up and saying “No. We will never.”
When the wheat grew over our heads that year, we heard the Gah – ree – lo every night.
A mournful, angry call. Sometimes it felt far away, distant rumblings of a passing thunderhead.
Other times it was in our field.
We shut the blinds. Didn’t turn on any lights after dark. My Father, sitting on his chair that faced the front door, his huge scythe laid across his lap.
Sometimes the Gah – ree – lo would slam against the house. Not against the door, never the door. Thundering thrashes on the very foundation, rattling the floorboards. My Mother, holding my Brother and I, telling us to stop crying, please you must be quiet.
Then one night, human screams cut through the air. The next morning, the wheat had fallen over, and my Father started The Culling.
One of the Spring visitors came to our door. He was on his knees, head in his hands, sobbing uncontrollably. My Father held onto him, and the man just kept saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” over and over again.
The Gah – ree – lo had taken both his sons.
I saw him the next time we went into town, but he wouldn’t look at us.
The town-hall meeting. I was finally old enough to come to the annual event, the only time the whole town came together in one spot.
Hard to remember everything that was said. Lots of yelling. Lots of people huddled together, crying, screaming at each other. Then my Father stood up and everyone went quiet.
Everyone here knows what they have to do, for their Mothers and their Fathers, and theirs before them, knew what they had to do he said.
Those who have decided not to know where they stand with me.
No one is coming to help.
Then a group of men, six in total, stood up and said “We will kill Gah – ree – lo once and for all”.
No one cheered. No one clapped.
My Father sat, shaking his head.
The six had heavy jackets, backpacks, guns, axes and machetes strapped to their bodies. They came through our fields. To the forest that lay far beyond our property. A dot on the horizon.
Where the Gah – ree – lo comes from.
The six never came back. One head did. My Father found it on our doorstep.
Our closest neighbour, Jeffery Farling, or ‘Farling’ as my Father would call him, came to the house with his son, Jeffery the Third, as they did every year after the Culling. Jeffery the Third was the same age as me. After The Culling we would visit each other and play as I imagined normal children did when they didn’t have to think the fields.
This year though, something was different. Farling was worn-down. Eyes sunken, loose skin that hung off his face. He and my Father were arguing in the kitchen. I only remember snippets:
Farling: “We can’t keep—”
Papa: “We have to, we are the only ones—-”
Farling: “—given everything—have to fight—”
Papa: “–tried—lost everyone—-”
My Father turned and seemed to sense, for the first time, that I was there and I could hear them. He stood up and shooed us out of the house.
We started running around the yard outside when Jeffery the Third suddenly froze in place.
I asked, Are you okay?
He whispered back, The Gah – ree – lo will get me.
I shot him a look. We never spoke its name outside of the wheat season.
It won’t. Not if you follow the rules. I hushed to him.
He stood with his back to me, gazing out into the fields.
Just like it got my brother. he said. It was the first time he had said anything about it. Jeffery the Second had been taken two seasons before.
He turned around to look at me. Look THROUGH me. Then he pointed a small, bony finger to the horizon.
The Gah – ree – lo will get all of us.
And then he walked back into the house.
On the day after The Culling, Papa went to visit Jeffery’s farm. Farling hadn’t come, which was something that hadn’t happened in 10 years. When he came back my Father’s face was pale, ashen, and streaked with tears. Tears. The man was a walking block of granite.
Jeffery Farling had woken up on the morning of The Culling and couldn’t find his son. Instead, he found two small finger nails dug into the soil outside the front door, and drag marks going back into the wheat fields.
Papa held Farling, held him close and tight as Farling kept rocking back on forth on his knees, whispering the same thing over and over:
“I thought it was okay.
It was supposed to be okay.”
Jeffery’s head was never found.
My brother’s sixteenth birthday. In the morning my Father came into our room and hugged him. My Mother cried. I could never stand to see my Mother cry, but when I went over to her I realized she was laughing. My Father and brother too, all smiling and embracing and laughter coming out of them.
They looked at me and must’ve heard the questions rolling around in my head. My Brother bent down and said, Now I can help Papa. Now the Gah – ree – lo won’t get me.
On The Culling, my Father gave my Brother his very own scythe, and they went outside to begin.
I stood there, on the porch, unable to touch the ground below. I scanned the horizon, looking for the Gah – ree – lo. Daring it to come.
You can’t get them now Gah – ree – lo..
Day two of The Culling had come and gone, and my Brother and I sat awake in our bedroom. I was asking him all about the wheat and the fields. Were you scared? Was it tiring? Will I get my own scythe?
He was so tired he could barely reciprocate the energy of my youth. Just non-committal grunts. I went to sleep to the sound of his snoring.
I woke up to the sound of something else.
The room was pitch-black. No moon. No light anywhere. Why did I wake up? Something in my dream. I was being pulled across the floor. No, not the floor. The fields. I was being pulled through the dirt. Crying and begging. I dug my hands into the soil and the nails ripped off. I was Jeffrey the Third.
The Gah – ree – lo had me.
Then I remember why I woke up.
The Gah – ree – lo. was in our house.
I looked over at my Brother’s bed, but it was empty. His blanket on the floor.
It had to be a dream. I willed myself to wake up. My brother was 16. He was going to be okay. He was supposed to be okay.
I summoned the courage to get out of my bed.
Only then did I hear him.
So soft it was almost imperceptable. But that was my Brother’s voice. I followed it to the open window in our room, the one that looked out over the fields, the one that was never, EVER, open. The curtains were NEVER up.
But they were now. They were up, and the window was open, and I caught my first glimpse of my Brother. He was standing at the edge of the lawn, the place where the grass stopped and the wheat began. His back was to the house, to me, but I could see him out there, swaying in the wind, matching the movement of the wheat.
There was a section that hadn’t fallen over yet. Impossible.
And my Brother was standing right in front of it.
But he was 16.
He was supposed to be okay.
Then a shimmer, a wave of movement so quick I almost missed a…thing move across the air.
My Brother’s head was taken off his body so quickly that his body still moved. His hands dug themselves into the dirt in a last gasp of instinctual preservation so primal that it was ingrained into his bones.
The Gah – ree – lo was taking him.
The Gah – ree – lo would eat him.
My Brother’s head, sitting upright on the grass, the last surprised look of his open eyes staring right back at me.
My Father’s, who stood on the porch.
And the Gah – ree – lo.
The wheat wouldn’t stop growing. It wouldn’t fall over. We had been inside for three months. Every morning my Father would take a deep breath and open the curtains, and every morning his body would visibly sag.
My parents shared a look. I could see the fear in both of their faces.
I asked my Father if this had ever happened before.
He just shook his head. He hadn’t spoken a word since my Brother the year before. Then the wheat stalks began to move. On the back edge of the field they shuddered and shook.
The Gah – ree – lo.
We shut the curtains. Turned off the lights. We sat together, huddled on the couch, gripping each other. My Mother was silently saying prayers under her breath.
My Father just stared straight ahead. Looking at the picture set on the wall above the door. The same picture he always looked at every morning. He would put his hand upon it every time he left to go outside. I asked him about it once, years ago. I asked him who the group of people were, the ones who all stood side-by-side with axes and saws and scythes in their hands. There must have been a hundred of them. They were standing in front of a forest.
The same forest that lay beyond our property.
When I asked him all those years ago, all he told me was this:
Those are my ancestors. And yours. They took this town. They made this town.
That was the last he ever spoke of it.
Now he stood up, an unfamiliar look on his face. My Mother began to cry and plead with him. Don’t do it, she said. You can’t, she said.
My Father simply stood there, looking at me, and then smiled the saddest smile I’d ever seen. I hadn’t known a smile could be sad.
He bent down, put a big, strong hand on my shoulder, and said he loved me. That he wanted me to be free. That he had been wrong all this time.
About the town.
About the people.
About my Brother.
About the Gah – ree – lo.
Then he walked out the door and into the field.
Watching my Father as he went into the field, I saw something…open up. Some great, gaping maw of darkness.
My Mother, crying.
Me, crying for my Father.
FATHER COME BACK
He kept walking. Did he not see it? THE BLACK. THE BLACK. FATHER DON’T GO.
Then a hideous screech.
Then everything was just….gone.
In one fell motion the entire field of wheat simply toppled over.
And my Father was never seen again.
My Mother and I waited until the snow fell, when the fields were glazed with a white sheet of ice, before moving out and away from the only place I’d ever known. When we left, the effect was almost immediate.
I began to forget.
About my Brother.
About my Father.
About the Gah – ree – lo.
My Mother never spoke about either of them, or the town, or any of it ever again. I don’t think she forgot, though. Some nights I’d catch her crying to herself. I left her in peace. She died in her sleep, old, loved and alone.
The next phase of my life was mundane and unremarkable. I got a job. Met someone. We had one child, a girl. It was when she turned sixteen that everything changed.
She wanted to go to the country. For all of my life I’d never been interested in it. All that open space, that open air, the fundamental lack of civilization. I hated the idea of it, but I could never figure out why.
Then we drove out to a farm where she could pick apples.
I screamed in the car when I saw it.
Fields of it. All around me. I screamed and screamed until my partner pulled us over and she grabbed my face. I saw her and heard my daughter crying and everything flooded out of me.
The Gah – ree – lo.
We didn’t continue on that day. I couldn’t move a muscle. Couldn’t drive. Couldn’t talk. Couldn’t do anything.
Because the Gah – ree – lo was still out there.
It would find me.
It would take me.
Don’t Ride the Subway
The Horsefly King
I have submitted this elsewhere online, but…someone told me more people would read it here. And I want it to be read. This isn’t autobiographical, it’s…for a friend of mine. She couldn’t write it herself.
I don’t know how long the pool has been there. It seems to have always existed, to always have been laying in wait. Waiting for…something. Or maybe for someone. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since the rain; it never seems to disappear, or even to get shallower. It’s such a little thing: no more than ten feet around, with patchy tufts of tall grass piercing the surface. It must only come up to your ankles. But something about its stillness, its almost black luster, its persistence…
In my youth, I…I never truly believed the thing to be cursed. I was told it was, and I was afraid for a time…but it passed as easily as a dream. Like many childhood fears do. Now, as an adult, as someone battered and wearied by the world, you would think the place held even less meaning. I flatter myself that it does. Usually.
I do not believe in The Horsefly King.
Not in the light of day. But sometimes, when the sun sets over the park and the sanguine glow of it hits the still water in just the right way, or when the moon is cold and high over it, the place still captures a terror I have not known since childhood.
The memorial park stands on the remains of a WWI battlefield. The barbed wire has been torn up, the craters from shelling filled in, grass planted in the mud, and all that remains of the butchery is a plaque in a picturesque little gazebo commemorating the battle. That and the bullets. Sometimes children still find them buried in the earth.
I was a child myself when I first visited the place.
When I first heard the story of The Horsefly King.
It was a pale, sickly boy named Nicolas who first drew my attention to it. Wearing the shit-eating grin that only little boys and psychopaths can wear. I once saw him rip a caterpillar open with a nail to see what color its insides were. He was that kind of boy; the kind you’re afraid of as a child without fully understanding why.
“You see the puddle over there?”
I had simply shrugged my shoulders. “It’s a puddle.”
His grin grew wider. “That’s where the horseflies lay their eggs.”
My skin crawled a bit and I must have made a face. Like most people, I think, I have an aversion to the repulsive, biting creatures. The idea of their eggs and larvae crawling around in the filthy water was disgusting enough. But Nicolas wasn’t finished.
“Did you know only the females drink blood?” He didn’t wait for a reply. “It’s true! They need blood to lay their eggs. I heard that they take all the blood they suck up, and they take it to this puddle and drop it in. Right here. That’s why it never goes away. It’s a special puddle.”
At the age of ten, many years ago, such things didn’t sound quite as ridiculous as they do now. I didn’t necessarily believe him, but I had a morbid fascination all the same.
“Well…” he dropped his voice low, like he might be overheard. “That’s where he lives.”
“Their king. The horseflies’, I mean.”
My mind immediately went to the more reasonable assumption that he was talking about some kind of colony, which was disgusting enough. A massive, swollen horsefly at the bottom of the pool with a distended stomach and atrophied wings, drinking up blood.
“What, like a Queen bee? That’s disgusting.”
“No! Something else. Something worse.”
The puddle remained still and black in the light, one of the wretched things was buzzing in lazy circles above it, and the air shimmered. The heat, I suppose. I felt, or think I felt…something. Some change in the water’s demeanor. I know how it sounds. But before, it was sluggish, sleepy. Now it seemed to have…perked up somehow. To my mind, it seemed that some great, invisible head had turned to face us and listen.
The feeling passed, and even at that age, I was abashed for feeling that a puddle in the grass was looking at us. “What are you talking about? It’s what, six inches deep?”
“Yeah, it’s six inches deep. It’s six inches deep, but five years ago a girl named Emma wandered away from her parents and started screaming and screaming and screaming. She cried out for help, and her parents were just over that hill there, it took them no more than 20 seconds to get here, but by the time they did…she had drowned in it. Only six inches deep, and she drowned in it.”
I looked at Nicolas warily, trying to parse out if he was just fucking with me. “Did they get the guy?”
He seemed exasperated, like I was an idiot for not immediately following his insane kids’ story. “It wasn’t a guy! That’s what I’m telling you! Nobody was around. She wasn’t hurt at all, there’s nowhere for anyone to hide, they would have seen him! Nobody else was here. It was…” he gestured with his eyes towards the puddle again, “Him.”
“The Horsefly King.”
“You don’t believe me!”
I had laughed at him a bit. More to make myself feel better than anything else. You can’t be afraid of something you laugh off as ridiculous, after all.
He had grown angry with me. “All right, if it’s so stupid, put your hand in it!”
“You heard me.” The shit-eating grin returned. “There’s no such thing as a Horsefly King, right? So put your hand in the water. Watch what happens. Just watch.”
“Gross! I’m not sticking my hand in some dirty puddle horseflies lay eggs in!”
“Because you’re scared he’ll get you!”
“I am not!”
This continued in the way children’s arguments do, before I settled on a compromise: I would take a stick lying nearby and put it in. Stir the water about a bit, smack the surface, and if no monster ate me he had to admit he was full of shit.
And I did. I hesitated a moment,, staring at the murky water, and in that moment it didn’t look like a puddle. It looked like a diseased hole in the world, a window to a different place, an infinite world of blood and dirt and biting things. A moment in which I was almost convinced something was going to jump out and eat me…but it didn’t. I put the stick in until I felt the earth below. It was only a depression of a few inches, after all. I laughed and stirred and splashed the water. I called in a sing-song voice for The Horsefly King to come out and play, to come and bite Nicolas. He had pouted the whole walk home, like he had actually wanted something to drag me under.
But it had been nothing after all. A scary story about a pool of water in a park, told by a maladjusted boy trying to get a rise out of his mate.
I didn’t think about it for years afterwards. Sometimes I would return to the park and see the pool, just as stagnant, just as deep as it always was, shining in the sun with the colors of water so contaminated it looked like oil. I’d smile a bit to myself and remember Nicolas and his killing caterpillars and his stories of Horsefly Kings and wonder where he was.
I hadn’t spoken to him in years when I heard of his passing. It was hardly a surprise; everyone knew he’d been a troubled boy, grown into a neurotic young man. There were no gasps of shock when he took his life, only weary sighs and shaking heads. Tongues clicking and saying “I suppose we should have seen it coming,” and “it was only a matter of time.”
But there were whispers. Gossip, really. That’s all it was. I was raised not to speak ill of the dead, and I never found out for sure, so I hesitate to slander his memory or bring undue grief to those closer to him than I, but…the way he had done it, people said.
It wasn’t natural.
Nobody seemed exactly sure how he’d done it, only that it was horrible. I heard conflicting accounts. I heard he had choked himself to death trying to cram flypaper down his throat. I heard he had taken a pin and stabbed himself through to the bone in hundreds of places all over his body. “Like how they used to test for witches in the old days,” the man who told me that had said.
I heard one that gave me pause more than any other. I heard that he was found in his bed, staring at the ceiling, bone dry…but his face was frozen in a scream of horror, and his lungs were full of filthy water.
Filthy water and eggs, a voice in my head wanted to correct the woman who told me that version. Not my own voice, surely. Where did that thought come from? I still lay awake nights and wonder.
I was in my twenties then. Too old for fairy tales. I did not believe in The Horsefly King.
I do not believe in The Horsefly King.
But the nightmares started soon after. My mind was just full of anxiety, full of depression and that half-formed mix of guilt and grief when you lose someone you used to be close to, or didn’t know as well as you should. That’s why I see the pool in my dreams, why I’ve been seeing it for almost a decade. It was scary. A boy who scared me as a child killed himself. Nightmares are perfectly normal. Everyone has nightmares.
In mine, I’m standing in front of the pool, and there are flies buzzing around it, much larger than any real flies. Their wings are grey and ragged and papery, and you can see the veins…almost like bats. Torn, buzzing, biting bats with chitinous black skin and red eyes and a dagger for a mouth. I look closer and I see their eyes are drops of blood, and they’re not buzzing, they’re screaming. They’re screaming and flying in ritual circles around the pool that’s begun to ripple and change shape. Something is inside it, and it’s coming to the surface, and if I see what it is I’ll go insane and die of fright-
And I awake in bed, screaming and soaked with the sweat of terror, the kind that penetrates through your skin down to the bone and makes you so cold you forget how warmth feels.
I don’t sleep much any more. So I lay awake and wonder whose voice was telling me it wasn’t just filthy water, it was eggs, too.
I do not believe in The Horsefly King.
But I have gained something of a morbid interest recently. I wondered where the story came from, you see. Perfectly natural. I thought maybe it was a depression left over from a shelling crater. The thought had a certain romance to it. A spot cursed by a man, or more probably a boy, his bones and tendons and flesh blasted apart and filled with shrapnel and mud, all for a senseless war. That would make a wonderful story.
But it had already been there. I know because I hunted tirelessly for any first-hand accounts of the battle that park desperately tries to make pretty. Like make-up covering a black eye from-
Forgive me, it’s anxious work writing this all down. I don’t want to give the impression I come apart at the seams over such fantastical and childish things.
Yes, the battle. A journal from one Lieutenant Ronan spoke of the damned thing. It seems impossible it should have survived a century and all the landscaping, but somehow it did. A persistent blemish, if nothing else.
It seems our boys had dug their trench just a few yards behind the thing and that, even then, it was a source of vague repulsion and horror. Ronan never uses the term “Horsefly King”. I still don’t know where Nicolas came up with that…if perhaps a voice not quite his own just said it in his head one day, the same voice that assured me yes, eggs in his lungs, and once he’s in the ground…
I get distracted easily. It’s hard to gather my thoughts. At any rate, the pool is mentioned as the probable cause for one Private McBride getting trench foot. Ronan said he had walked through the water going to scout No Man’s Land, and that he thought something bit him. He was a healthy boy, 19 years old. But that night, when they stripped his boot off, when they cut through the sock that was stuck to his skin
his foot had already begun to rot. There were maggots in it, Ronan said, and he had started screaming. They had to take his foot off. He didn’t survive the procedure.
A few nights later, one of the sentries was found in the barbed wire. He had caught himself on it somehow in the night, and ripped himself open in maybe a dozen places struggling to free himself. Ronan stops to describe the smell of his organs hanging out of his stomach, his intestines drooping in the dirt.
The sentry’s blood ran in a rivulet straight into the pool.
It was strange, he remarked in his next entry, that no one should hear him screaming. He must have been in that wire for upwards of an hour before he died…but nobody heard him. To a man, not one of the soldiers had heard him scream.
It seems after that incident, the men avoided the thing like the plague for their few remaining days on Earth. The battle was a catastrophic failure, the boys butchered and shelled and gassed.
Sometimes I wonder what became of the Germans who killed them. There’s a cold certainty in my heart that they didn’t fare much better.
I do NOT believe in The Horsefly King.
I’ve just done some digging, that’s all. A friend of mine died. Not a friend. A terrifying boy died a terrifying death and I have grown anxious, and that is all.
After the war, when the park was first planted, one of the men who had landscaped it was found laying next to the pool. Every inch of him was covered with horseflies. A black, crawling mass, covering his skin. They had bitten him to death. They had bitten him on his tongue and his eyeballs and crawled into his throat.
In 1954, a woman who frequented the park suddenly went raving mad. She nearly killed herself trying to destroy her ears, trying to “make the buzzing stop”, she said. She died in the hospital, her hands still clamped over her ears.
In 1978, a man murdered his own wife. His own pregnant wife. I will spare you the details, but you should know the police found him next to the pool, having slit his own throat after dropping something small and bloody into it like a sacrifice.
In 1993, the girl named Emma disappeared. Nicolas hadn’t known the whole story. She didn’t drown in the pool. Not immediately. She vanished without a trace. They searched for her for three months before they found her body face down in the pool, right where she vanished.
And then there was Nicolas…I know what these things are. Isolated incidents. A meaningless correlation, my own confirmation bias. Every minute of every day, someone walks right past a dirty puddle and nothing happens to them at all.
But sometimes, just sometimes, when the sun hits it just right…
My nightmares have grown worse of late. Nicolas’ voice is hard to hear, he gurgles and water keeps pouring out of his mouth as he stands over me in bed. I think I see something wriggling in his voicebox.
He tells me The Horsefly King bit him good, just like I asked. Bit him so he burned and burned and drowned but didn’t die, can never really die. He says the eggs need blood and the blood needs pain and all the stagnant water in the world is his domain. The pools are his eyes, and he sees everything I do, and to me it’s been decades, but to him, I’m an amusing little distraction for a moment.
Nicolas smiles and I can see his teeth are black as he says “like a boy pulling the wings off a fly that bit him. That’s what you are to him. You bit him, and he will do things to your body you didn’t think were possible, he will make you scream and scream and scream…”
I do not believe in The Horsefly King. It’s tinnitus ringing in my ears that just sounds a bit like a buzz sometimes and that red circle in the sky is the setting sun and it reflects off the water, it is not the eye of a great fly or a drop of blood drawn from God’s flesh with the unholy dagger mouth of an abomination that tortures men and women for decades because it feels a moment of boredom.
I fear some horrible fate will befall me. I think I may be sick…whose dark dreams are these? Whose deranged thoughts? Not my own, they can’t be my own. It is as if a fever has come over me, slow-cooking my brains in my skull. I say it is only sometimes, I try to force myself to assure you it’s just my writing about it that’s made me come undone, that I am a sane man. That nothing is in that water. There are no ghosts or goblins or beasties in this world.
I tell myself that all the time. But when Nicolas floats over me at night, in the still water dripping from my ceiling onto my face, he tells me The Horsefly King likes the taste of liars the best.
I purchased a revolver. I don’t know what I intend to do with it. I dare not tell anyone. They look at me strangely enough since I fell into the bottle. They fear I may do harm to myself.
I fear someone, something else might.
That’s why I’m going tonight. I’m polishing off this bottle of bourbon and leaving this letter for friends and loved ones to grimace and sob over and doctors to dissect and fools to laugh at. I’m taking my gun and I’m going down to that water. I am going to walk in…and wait a little while, and see what happens.
I’m sure I have nothing to fear. After all…
I do not believe in The Horsefly King