The countryside of the UK was nothing new to me. I’ve lived there for most of my fifteen years, and I always had to deal with rude awakenings from the neighbouring farm animals, or the stench of my farming neighbour’s fertilizer. It smelled worse than pure sulphur, was that possible. I once, around three years ago, asked him what was in it. His reply was as mysterious as it was chilling.
My neighbour was Peter, a common name in the West, but he was one of the most unique men I ever met despite that. His uniqueness came mainly from his tendencies to never give a straight answer, relying on cryptic speech and the person he was talking to’s deductive abilities. But his reply was more than cryptic. It was slightly creepy.
He just turned slowly to survey his plot of land. Peter never seemed very rich but he owned at least fifty acres of fields, all but one of which, filled with livestock, were empty. Oddly, he fertilized each and every square inch of land once every two months. Then, he looked me in the eyes, tapped the side of his nose to symbolise a secret, and spoke:
‘It’s a special mix, Adrian. Only me, and my grandfather knew about it. But one thing’s for certain. It keeps the soil alive.’
I didn’t know what he meant by alive, but… I just took his word for it and nodded like I understood. When he turned again, I shot over the road like someone had stuck a hot iron to my a*s. I looked through my sister’s bedroom window at him. As if he had been expecting this, he looked deep into my soul. His eyes looked wet with a sadness, but more than that… Fear. He mouthed three words.
‘It’s almost time.’
Now I was fifteen, the familiar odor graced the village every two months, and once again I intended to go over to Peter’s farm. Not to talk to Peter. But to see what happens in those empty fields. Yesterday was fertilizer day.
I had never been farther than three fields away from his house, which was when we moved here on my third birthday. Peter had asked us in, for coffee and the odd information on our village. Me and my sister Charlotte were toddling off into the fourth field when Peter caught a glimpse of us from the kitchen window. Sprinting as if possessed by a demon, he got to us and told us, eyes wide, NEVER (he did shout that) go past his first field. At the time, we thought he just didn’t want us messing up his fields because he was going to plant stuff in them. But he never did.
Back to the present, I watched him in the living room window, drinking tea and watching a show I can’t remember the name of. Scouting around the house, I saw that everyone was either outside or elsewhere. I crossed the street. My curiosity burned more and more, becoming a pain in my mind. I HAD to see what happened. The first field passed by me, animals shuffled out of my way as I ran like a madman towards the horizon. The hedge boundary pricked into my side, but I didn’t care. The desire to know had dulled all senses.
This is the farthest I’ve ever been in Peter’s land. Twelve years ago. Trembling legs push me forward. I was driven by an engine no car could compare to. Four fields flew by, five, six. Sudden realisation struck me, I stopped before slowing down, and toppled over. The sun was in the exact same place in the sky, despite a good forty minutes passing by in the crossing of fields. Another thought jolted my mind. I wasn’t tiring. No matter how fast, or long, I ran, I wasn’t getting tired. The desire overtook me again, and my legs moved without thought.
I ran for hours, counting fields as I seemingly glided on numb legs. Field number forty three was ahead. Tentatively, I stepped forward. The second I pass through the hedge, the sky was black. Night consumed the field like no darkness I have ever witnessed. Stepping backwards provided the same, previously unpresent darkness in field forty two. I shiver, but the air was not cold. I shiver because in the distance, invisible from all fields but this one, was mound of earth covered in red vines.
The sight of this hummock scared me so much that I wanted to turn back. But my urge to know returned, this time accompanied by a clear whisper.
I said no. Loudly, to myself. Yet my legs were moving forward, each step bringing with it an increase in volume of the voice. The mound resided two fields from me. The vines glowed dully, however enticingly. I trudged on, regaining control of my body only at the hedge separating me from… It.
Passing through the leaves with ease, the mound is revealed to me in all its mineral-rich glory. I looked, awestruck, for two full minutes, until I spoke to myself.
‘What is this thing?’
More importantly, though the question did not present itself to me at the time, WHY did Peter have it in his field?
I fell back, barely registering soft noise in my ears, until it focused in my mind. The whisper. It had been the earth, calling me to it. I stood, and saw too late that the vines were not vines.
Pulsating at an alarming rate, their dull glow rose to an illumination bright enough to show me the surface of the dirt mound. It was hideous.
Maggots, fat, squirming maggots, were embedded upon the surface of a small portion of earth. Even more disturbing, they were forming a cartoon smiley face, much like those drawn by children. Two maggots, vertical, side by side made each eye. A group of over forty aligned in a smile that reached way past the eyes, curling up where the forehead would normally be. Then something more disturbing than all previous events occurred. The mouth moved. It spoke my name, in my mind. Just one word, my name. Repeatedly. Covering my ears did nothing to quieten it. It only stopped when I responded.
The voice spoke new words.
‘I have awaited you, Adrian.’
‘Me?’ I responded almost silently, not noticing the growing wet patch on my trouser front.
‘You have been curious. You came farther than he would normally let you.’
I realised he meant Peter. This… Thing was why he stopped me and my sister so frantically. Why he was afraid.
I was snapped back to reality as I came to realise the ground was coming up to meet my face. And as this happened, the maggoty visage descended with me. Deep in the ground, I was in some sort of negative space. I could breathe, and feel the weight of the soil all around me, but I could see the face. Not right in front of me, as you would expect, but at the same distance. I could see it through the soil that separated us. The maggots forming its lips parted. And through the gap, instead of dirt… Was what I can only describe as hell. Not fire, or lava, as some would imagine. Just blackness. A blackness that seemed to echo, pull you in, emanate. I felt a sudden rush, my body jerked in the earth. Once again the voice spoke.
‘It’s that time again. Only this time, there will be no fertilizer. There is no need.’
I silently screamed, as I drifted through the negative towards the gaping maw of the void, and I could hear only one thing. Peter’s reply.
‘It keeps the soil alive.’
And I did.
Nearly fifty years passed. I awake in a warm bed, and slip out, nearly shouting in surprise at how achey my joints were. Looking in the mirror, I screamed. And Peter screamed back at me. Ambling to the window, I saw a moving van over the road, accompanied by a man, woman, and a little boy. The boy looked and pointed to my farm. Exiting the house, I ask in Peter’s voice:
‘Would you like to come in for some coffee?’
As I watched the boy walk through my front door, my mind echoed.
‘It’s almost time.’