Horror and Thriller Non-Fiction posted May 21, 2020


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It came from beneath the Barley

by Brad Bennett


















There is a magical place far up in the Pacific Northwest. It was here In a woodland, a brave knight once defeated a tyrant king in a sword fight. In a hayloft of a nearby barn, a fearless sea captain held off hordes of pirates. Over in the apple orchard, a lone cowboy bravely faced down a gang of outlaws. Across this land, there was danger lurking behind every tree-lined fencerow, every meadow of ryegrass, every stack of hay bales.

That's how it was for a twelve-year-old kid playing on an Oregon farm in that summer of 1957. I knew all those ventures--fought them all. After the bad guys were all dispatched, I would go in for dinner. My grandmother would have sizzling pork chops ready, hot biscuits on the table. The bad guys I had slain, now suspended up in their imaginary ether. I would find them on another day--bring them back to fight again.

My mother had left me for the summer on this little 72-acre farm. Here, I had my adventures and comic books. The term 'comic book' was a misnomer; these were the Classics Illustrated Books. They depicted Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and King Arthur. They were my reason to read, and the farm was my stage to play them out.

My other distraction was the local theater in the small town of Independence, only three miles away. Here I fed the rest of my imagination sitting in complete wonder, gazing up at that glistening screen. Grandma would usually need something for her chores, and I would ride in with her. I would watch the latest movie, and then walk back home.

One day there was a featured attraction coming, a monster movie called, It Came From Beneath the Sea. The beast had been created by radiation fallout from an atomic blast, the announcer told us. The monster was so frightening he went on, people had run from the theater screaming in terror. That cinched the deal. I knew then I had to see it, only one minor problem–the picture would run late, and I'd have to walk home after dark, but I could do it. I wasn't afraid.

So on opening day I rode in with Grandma, and headed straight for the theater. I got a seat way down in front, stocked up Sugar Babies and plenty of popcorn. I wasn't about to miss one scene of this movie, I sat in anticipated excitement when the opening credits rolled.

It began creepy enough, lots of ominous clues about a beast lurking under the ocean. The anxious music hinted it was slithering its way up beneath the water to New York City. Then, we were shown a crowded ferry, loaded with passengers, crossing to the Statue of Liberty. The music was getting even scarier. Frightened voices began building up behind me.

"Lookout, for the beast!" We all yelled, as if the ferry passengers could hear us.

"No! Not all those people," came a girl's shrill scream.

Then, it happened.

A long snake-like neck emerged from the water, the camera panned up to its ugly head. The beast's mouth opened, revealing its slashing teeth. It emitted a terrifying roar that shook the theater. Its head came down, and to our horror, bit a considerable chunk off the ferry as if eating a sandwich. It rose back up, with dozens of people stuck in its maw, dismembered bodies falling into the water. Our screaming was deafening. I was scared as hell, I wasn't expecting that!

When it was finally over, we nervously filed out the front. As everybody drifted away, I soon found myself standing alone outside the closing theater. It was getting dark, and I was starting to panic. Now, I faced a long walk home on a dark country road, after just watching a monster devour people alive. WHAT had I been thinking?

Quivering in my sneakers, I set my resolve and started down the highway into the shadowy void leading away from town. The sky was black now, with only a glimpse of light. Wisps of clouds drifted past the shimmering moon. Bravely I pressed on, every sound from the night made me stop and freeze, what was that? I kept on. The moon's glow provided just enough light to find the roadway. The shadows that lurked in the passing bushes were worrying. I heard a noise, a horse whinny. That was okay. It told me I was near Collins's farm. They had horses. Finally, up ahead, I made out the shadowy outline of trees indicating the turnoff to Grandma's farm. Suddenly, a stiff breeze came up, a screeching noise, a rattling growl came from the darkness. The wind and noise grew stronger, I quickened my pace, and passed the trees. The moon came into view, then...

Oh my God, there framed in its light, a long, black neck. This was the BEAST!

For what seemed an eternity, I stood fixed on that highway, the monster's profile in the full moon. Then the wind came up stronger; the beast dropped its jaw, a loud piercing screech came from its mouth!

I took off down the road in a dead run.

I reached the road sign and rushed past it--gravel crunching under my shoes told me I was still on the roadway. Soon, the distant light of the neighbors' farm came into view, a mile to go. I ran on in terror until I could run no more. I stopped to catch my breath. My chest was heaving, my heart pounding. I tried to walk forward on the gravel quietly. I prayed the beast couldn't see in the dark. Somehow I plodded on, trying to make sure I was still going in the right direction. I passed the neighbors' farm, their lights helping me to find my way.

I reached home safely that night. Grandmother was near her radio as usual. I don't believe she even noticed me come in. My gut was in so much turmoil I wasn't hungry, but I managed to eat what food she had left. I went out on the back porch and sat, my legs aching. I must have just set a record for a kid on a two-mile distance.

I gazed out into the dark fields below the farm. Was the beast still out there? Had it followed me? I quickly went back inside. I slept little that night, every sound that came from the dark shook me awake.

The next morning, I knew I had to go back, see what that was? But this time, I would see it safely from the back seat of Grandma's 1948 Plymouth.

That afternoon, grandma was ready for her usual town trip, I scrambled into the car. When we approached the junction where the beast lurked, my fear welled up again. We rounded the corner and reached the site. I stared into the field. There it was. Standing near a grain silo was a tall, barley-feeding auger, a long steel pipe mounted to a grain hauler. At its top, a hinged downspout. The wind must have caused the jaw to drop, causing the screeching noise.

My beast was exposed.

Many years later, I returned to the farm to visit. Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was see if the creature was still around. I drove the highway to find the site again. I parked and got out. And to my surprise, off in the pasture, I could see the old grain pipe was still there, battered and beaten, but still standing tall.

Even today, I still think about that farm and the farmer who lived there. I often wondered if he would ever learn what had happened that night? Would he ever know that on his farm, he possessed the beast that came from beneath the barley.


Horror Writing Contest contest entry

Recognized


There's nothing scarier for a kid, than to be stranded in the dark with a fueled imagination. That's when we bring monsters to life. That's what I found out. All of us have been there at one time or another. This is my story.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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© Copyright 2020. Brad Bennett All rights reserved.
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