Bad Season

by R.T. Allenson

The last of the spaceships wheeled upwards, its fiery engines painting the orange sky a deep blue as it ascended into space. From the ground Bill Matthews waved at the now distant speck of silver, a rake in his hand as he idled from tilling the soil.A cerulean halo formed in the sky where the spaceship had passed, filling the entirety of it with a cold after image.

He felt his hand tighten, gripping at the rake uncontrollably as the last echos of the spacecraft resonated and died into the sky. He then stared at the untilled patch of ground and clawed at it for a moment. It’s getting worse, he told himself as dust escaped from a scar he had made on the barren ground. He scratched at the ground some more until a green, viscous fluid erupted from it, like blood from a wound. It had been like this for months since the first word of strange phenomenon was reported across the town; from rumors to first-hand accounts, there was something terrible in the soil. Bill and his family didn’t believe it at first but how can you disbelieve such rumors when the harvest yields blue-eyed, blinking produce? Some said it was caused by the fertilizers and some, through fanaticisms, said it was a government experiment.  Despite protests and pleas for answers, there was no official statement and the phenomenon was largely ignored. We gotta make do with what we have, Bill’s father told him that day when they took the harvest. He still remembers the corn he held in his hand, staring at him with its beautiful ocean eyes. And none so terrible in fear, than the shuddering corn when it saw its death in a boiling pot. The shrieking was hard to bear and for the first time then,  he felt uneasy eating something taken from the fields.

Bill crouched to the ground as the sun above him lathered him with heat, feeling the slime in his hands for the first time. It was cool to the touch and it played in his grasp like water but leaving nothing as it ebbed between his fingers, no dewdrops or even the feel of moisture. He let the verdant liquid hang from his fingers as he dangled his hand upwards, noting that the sunlight passed through it.  It shuddered from the contact and quickly descended to the soil,  escaping from his fingers with a popping sound. Edging closer to the ground, Bill examined the fallen liquid as it squirmed in the blazing heat;  its green color slowly fading into a sickening yellow hue. Like a worm it attempted to squirm towards the hole where it came from but it failed to do so as its form seemed to solidify in the heat of the day. He moved closer to the ground, examining the liquid as it desperately attempted to crawl back into its hole. He then positioned himself so that his shadow was cast over the writhing thing and immediately, the abstract fluid bubbled furiously and regained its green pigmentation. The slime seemed to acknowledged this act of compassion and moved in such a way that is seemed like it was dancing. Curios, Bill moved even closer, blinking as the slime bubbled and danced before him in an ungainly fashion. A strange thing, he said to himself as he blinked in unison to the popping bubbles of the slime. A large bubble had formed at the center of the slime which now took a circular form beneath his shadow. It was more translucent than the others and more fragile looking and, owing to his curiosity, he popped the large bubble with his finger.

The slime was still for a moment; its bubbles dying down as it shifted in its place, reforming from the touch. The place where it had been touched was left with a visible impression, like a crater or a scar. Bill took the slime in his hands, carefully hiding it from the sun and examined it further. The surface where he had touched now seemed to hiss at him, a hissing like air escaping from a tractor wheel. It then squirmed and hissed as a globular object protruded slightly from its surface, presenting itself to the dark-haired man.  The hissing grew louder and after a few moments of shifting in its place, the globular object opened as it revealed a blue, blinking eye.

Cold sweat ran down the length of Bill’s face as he ran towards the homestead, passing rows and rows of nictitating stalks of corn. It’s everywhere, he thought. The eyes. The blue eyes are everywhere. He thought of the others, farmers like them who harvested eyed vegetables. Just the other day he saw Ollie with a sack of potatoes, shivering and hissing as their captor took them to be peeled. The man cared little for their sentience and took great delight in poking their eyes as they screamed in pain. It was a horrifying scream, like that of pigs in a slaughterhouse except louder. Like the screams when he tore the husks from each of the harvested corn. A wailing so real and so full of pain. So very human, he thought. Like her scream when the light tore her up.

“Dad!” He called out from across the fields, voice hoarse from the running and the heat of the day. He stopped near the parked tractor, catching his breath as he called at his father in between gasps. The dust bit at his throat, a painful itching that ired more as he took desperate breaths. He was far now, from the corn rows and at least for a moment he was away from the clicking and the hissing. “Bill? Bill!” He heard from a distance. “Bill, where the hell have you been?” Looking up he saw his father standing outside the porch, angrily beckoning him to come inside. “I told you to come back after yer done in the fields. Do you know what time it is?” Bill scrambled to his feet as his father went inside, slamming the door behind him. A warm rush of wind blew past him, carrying dust and fallen silk from the corn. It irritated him more, almost choking if had he not pulled his scarf up to cover his mouth. He made his way to the house, nervous of the imminent yelling he’d get from his father.

His father was sitting next to the wide panel, staring intently at the news. In it the president was making a speech about deteriorating trade relations with New China whilst subtly referencing the colonies as the main reason. “New colonies will be placed in Mars.” , she said, smiling as the applause roared. “The success of New Oklahoma is proof enough that our–“. His father turned the panel off, murmuring something beneath his breath. “Success eh?” his father grunted. “She doesn’t know how hard it is ‘ere.”He turned towards Bill, hat in hand as he prepared for  a scolding. “Well what are you standing there for? Where’s the shipment?” Bill clutched the straw hat in his hand, sweat rolling down the locks of his hair. “There wasn’t any. They only delivered the reformer and the…a week’s worth of oxygen.” His father was still for a moment, fist clenched and face red as he stared at his son.

“Well then, get ready for tomorrow. We’re heading to town to get some supplies.”

Bill sat down next to his father, wiping the sweat from his forehead. His father had turned the panel on again, showing the congregation of people shaking hands with the president. More colonists, he whispered to himself. The details were flashing across the screen, New Oklahoma will be just one of the many colonies of the United States in response to growing agricultural crisis on Earth. A total of four new colonies with names still being registered, the first three landing a few weeks from now. Bill thought of the new colonists, if they really had a plan or were they just thrust in to the whole mess like they were.

“Mr. Johnson told me that he was leaving for Earth next week.”

“Gabe?” His father chuckled. “The crops must have got to him. Couldn’t stand them anymore eh?”

His father coughed coarsely, switching the channels of the panel rapidly. Bill sat uneasily in his seat, nervously picking at silk hanging from his hat.

“I was thinking of coming along with him. Go home, I mean.”

His father stared at him for a while, an expression of disbelief painted across his face.

“The heat’s got into your head. Come on, go get ready for tomorrow.”

“No Dad! I want to go home. I want to go back to Earth, I hate it here!”

“You ain’t going back and I am not allowing you to go!”

“Mom would..” Bill muttered beneath his breath. His father stood up, hitting him in the head hard with his clenched fist. “Go upstairs and get ready for tomorrow. Come on, get!”

Bill left the living room in a huff, ascending the stairs as he made his way to the bathroom. Touching his palm to the glass panel, he entered the shower which immediately undressed him and lathered him with a moist fluid. The panel below him opened slightly, revealing a glass structure that drew the fluid from his body. He was clean from his hair to his feet and the panel presented him with his sleeping clothes which transformed from a couple of small circular beads. He then exited the room, walking across the hall towards his room which as in everything in their home was regulated by panels. Again placing his palm on the panel’s surface, he entered his room and immediately lied down on the bed. The room, sensing his presence, immediately activated his personal amenities and regulated the temperature according to his own. The bed levitated a few feet from the floor, ascending slowly until he met a smaller levitating panel. Bill tapped on the surface, revealing his personal computer with a notification of received mail. It was from his father, a nightly, almost automated reminder to turn on the rain for the night. Bill rolled his eyes, stood from his bed and slammed the weather button. From his window, the dark clouds had already gathered and were pelting the fields with a light rain. He stared then, at the dome where he toiled and lived in for a year already; two in earth years. The sturdy yet sleek half-globe that enveloped their fields and homestead was a marvel of engineering but was a nothing more than visually appealing prison for Bill. From this angle he could perfectly see the outline of the dome’s ceiling as it reflected the light from the sun; with the martian landscape in the distance as vast and wide as his eyes could see. It would have been alluring to had he not harbored such contempt for it; a lonesome place where time stretched as far as the landscape, with nothing but sand and empty promises. Earth is where he wanted to be. Back in the aquamarine gem that beckoned him from the martian sky, sparkling ever so cruelly and out of his grasp. The thought of sneaking in the transport craft never left his mind but where would he go from there? His father was right, there was nothing in Earth waiting for him. That’s all there is, he whispered to himself as he stared at the fields. That’s all there is.

Bill took one last look at the fields and then fell on his bed. The panels swiveled around him, his bed levitated and the temperature became cool as the rain outside. The distinct humming of the bed filled the room and the panels, seeing nothing to do, deactivated and vanished beneath the floor. Bill stared at the ceiling which like everything in his room, was a semi-sentient device that scanned him regularly. He scowled at it and the panel, sensing his displeasure, re-colored the whole room from gray to soothing purple. There was a noticeable click and the humming of the bed was slowly replaced by a melodious, chime like sound. Great. He sneered. This room thinks I’m throwing a tantrum. He held his hand over his eyes, away from the panel’s tuneful display but instead of being greeted by the familiar pink of his hand, a great blue eye stared at him balefully. Bill screamed, but the sound that escaped from him was not his own.

Outside, the corn field was silent.

A/N: This was my entry for Writealogue’s challenge. This story was originally posted at my old website and I’m reposting the story here since that old website is now inactive.