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Behind the Rows

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Gabriel meets the thing out in the cornfields. He’s not enough of a local to know to avoid the endless fields at night, but maybe that’s what saves him–it comes to meet him and Gabriel doesn’t know enough to run.

It’s enormous, shining like a beacon, fins pulsing down its entire length like some deep-sea creature plucked out of its depths and set into the sky. Gabriel stares up at the single eye, transfixed by the whirls of orange and yellow and electric blue in its iris.“Beautiful,” he breathes. 

Its voice is deep, rumbling through his bones. You’re not from the fields.

“No, I’m from Los Angeles,” Gabriel replies, a bit stupidly.

What are you doing here? the thing asks, whispering through the corn.

Gabriel’s lizard brain thinks he should be worried at how it’s circling him, but it’s so gorgeous– “One of my friends had a baby. I drove down here to help her and now I’m heading back home.”

Kind, it remarks.

“No, just–” Gabriel shrugs, embarrassed. “I guess. I dunno.”

What’s your name?

He doesn’t know not to reply. “Gabriel Reyes.”

Gabriel Reyes, the thing repeats, and though he can’t see its mouth he has a feeling it’s turning the words over its tongue. Tasting the way it sounds. Gabriel Reyes, will you stay the night with me? The fields are lonely.

“If you don’t mind me sitting in my car, it’s gonna get cold–oh!” The thing brushes closer, and it’s warm. Gabriel laughs, a bit giddily, staring at the pulsing organs barely visible under its pearlescent skin. He feels almost like he’s tipsy. Like he’s drunk. “Oh, God, you’re so pretty.”

I don’t get called that often, the thing says, and he has the impression it’s laughing at him. The eye tilts towards him, gives one big, gentle blink. I will keep away the cold for you, Gabriel.

“Thanks, I–thanks.” He settles down between the stalks of corn, grinning up at the impossible beast above him. “You are beautiful, though. I’ve never seen anything like you before. What are you, anyway?”

I am one of the many of the fields, it replies, and its circling brings it lower, almost resting on the ground. It should flatten the corn under its bulk, but instead it winds between the stalks, throwing shadows everywhere. And what are you, Gabriel Reyes, to call me pretty?

“I’m just a person,” Gabriel laughs. He wonders what its skin would feel like under his palms, but refrains from touching–somehow that seems impolite. “I’m nothing special.”

He gets the sense it’s laughing at him again. And yet here you are.

“Do you not want me to call you pretty?”

No, it’s… enjoyable. The eye blinks again, in what Gabriel thinks might be a smile. I meet many, but not all are as–happy to see me as you are. I am a solitary creature.

It should make Gabriel nervous, but instead he just feels a pang of sympathy. “Well, I’m here to keep you company tonight.”

I am glad, it says, blinking again, Tell me about Los Angeles? I do not leave the fields much...

They talk–or Gabriel talks, mostly, until his voice should be hoarse and his throat sore. Instead, he’s just warm, held in the circle of the creature’s body, and the words pour out of him like water.  He doesn’t even realize when the sun rises. Instead, it’s the creature that raises its head, stares out at the horizon. The dawn approaches.

“Oh.”

It looks back down at him. Will you return to visit me, Gabriel Reyes?

The words slip out easily. He doesn’t know enough not to let them. “Of course I will.”

The thing gives him one last, gentle blink. Until we meet again

It uncurls in a quiet whisper of skin against corn silk, circling up into the sky. Gabriel watches until it disappears into the glare of the rising sun, and then stumbles back to his car.  He gets twelve miles down the road before the veil lifts.

“Holy fuck,” Gabriel gasps, and it’s lucky that there’s no one around when he slams on the breaks. “What the fuck,” he repeats, twisting around as if he can still see the creature above the fields. There’s nothing–not even a crop circle.

He pulls over at the first farmhouse he sees, doesn’t even stop to worry about Stand Your Ground laws as he goes pounding up the steps to hammer on the door. His words tumble out past the irate homeowner’s yelling. “There was something huge–glowing–out in the fields last night. What is it?”

The old man stares at him. “What?”

“I met–something–out in the corn fields.” Gabriel gestures out towards the rows of green stalks. “Big, single eye, really deep voice.”

The man’s growing steadily paler and paler. Gabriel’s used to elderly white people looking scared of him, but the terror on this man’s face is… different. “Y'don’t need to know,” he finally rasps out. “You just count your lucky stars it let you go.” He pauses. “You didn’t give it your name?" 

Gabriel grimaces. ”…Yes?“ The door slams in his face. He stares at it, feeling something sinking in his stomach.

A breeze whispers over the corn on his way back to the car. It ruffles his hair, brings the memory of warmth with it. Gabriel sits down, turns his keys over in his hands. Remembers that slow blink, the sensation of laughter in his head and the vibration in his bones. His awe is still there, beneath the worry. It had been beautiful. One of the most beautiful things he’d ever seen.

"Gabriel Reyes,” he mutters to himself, “you’re a fucking idiot.”

The breeze blows through the car again, bringing some indefinable scent of the fields with it. Gabriel stares out at the waving sea of green and yellow, thinking.

The creature had been lonely.  

“You fucking bleeding heart,” he tells himself, but doesn’t stop himself from checking to make sure he has enough vacation days for another break after Christmas. There’s four–just enough for a quick plane trip down. 

He could swing a visit.