A Novelette By Robert Swartwood

Chapter 9

Tyler and I stand motionless beside each other in the cave. We watch the grass. It’s later in the day, so the light’s even dimmer, but still we can see it swaying, beckoning us.

“Do you feel it?” Ty asks.

“Yes,” I whisper, nodding, and it’s true, I do feel something coming from the grass. It’s a strange feeling, some kind of power, and it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I didn’t feel it before—at least not this strong—but now I realize what it is. It feels wrong, like it shouldn’t be here, like it shouldn’t even exist.

“Let’s do this,” my brother whispers. He aims his Super Soaker. All pumped and ready to go, his finger caresses the plastic trigger.

I look down at the water gun in my own hands. I take aim too, ready to fire when given the order (the matches are in my pocket too, almost burning a hole there), but right then I hear movement and breathing behind us, as someone’s making his way down the hole.

Making her way, actually, because when I turn I see it’s Amanda. She’s no longer wearing her sunglasses. She’s staring at me with wide confused eyes. Then I realize it’s not me she’s staring at, but at what’s behind me. Her eyes become cloudy and a sudden calm crosses her face, and without any hesitation, she starts forward.

“Don’t!” Ty shouts. She’s moving fast and has already somehow passed me, and he steps back, tries to get between her and the grass.

And right then is when it happens.

I don’t know how—he’s standing far enough away—but a dozen or more blades of grass reach out and wrap around my brother’s ankle. They jerk his foot out from under him. He flails his arms. His water gun hits the dirt a second before he does, the brightly-colored tube cracking and spilling pungent gasoline. It mixes quickly with that already rotten scent.

“NO!” I shout, dropping my own gun and lurching forward.

Then I stop.

In less than five seconds the grass has dragged Ty toward the other waving blades. Now they too reach for him, grip his other ankle. My brother is staring up at me, his eyes wide with terror, his face pale. His mouth is open but no scream comes out. He’s fighting with all his strength, clawing the dirt with his fingers, but it’s no use. He’s sucked right into the grass’s center.

And he’s gone.

In that instant.

Fucking swallowed.

I feel something on my back. It’s Amanda’s hand, and at that moment all I want to do is hit her. I want to slap her across the face, because this is all her fault. But when I do turn she’s crying and shaking her head. Once I’m turned around enough, she steps forward and hugs me, holds me tight, and I can feel just how much her body’s trembling.

“What—what happened?” she asks, her voice muffled against my chest.

What am I supposed to say now? Just what am I supposed to fucking tell her?

I have no idea, so I stare at the grass. It’s stopped swaying, gone completely still. And somewhere in the tall blades, I hear the same low growling noise I heard before. I think of everything Ty told me; I think of Laddie and know just what’s going to happen next.

“We have to go,” I whisper. “Amanda, we have to leave.”

She doesn’t answer me, just keeps on crying. I grab her and shake her.

“Now!” I shout into her face. “We must go now!”

I don’t think she even hears me, because she’s still crying, completely hysterical. And why not? She followed me out here because I was acting weird and pushed her away at the one time I should have been holding her close. Now she just witnessed something no sane person should.

She’s crying, and there’s nothing I can do about it, even though I know we can’t stay here much longer. I have no choice but to pull her toward me again, hold her tight, wait for her to calm down. And as I do, I look back at the grass.

The growling has stopped. The blades are waving again, slowly, as if to some mellow music. Every time they wave our way they reach out, extending themselves as far as they can. Searching for more prey.

<<< >>>