);

THE HARVEST SEASON by Brian Morse

Henry had to abandon his car. It was clear that the winter storm had curbed all travel, as massive snow serpents slid across the vacant highway. Had he hit a deer, or was it a person? Either way, any visible evidence had disappeared, and the car wouldn’t start. He was on the highway miles from civilization, but the county’s landfill loomed close like a craggy white mountain, where a single soft green light pulsed. He fled for help.

Snow quickly filled Henry’s boots as he plowed through a deer run toward the dump. Before squeezing through a small hole in the rusty fence, he turned back to affirm the location of the road, or to find a landmark in which to anchor his direction, but everything turned blinding white, and Henry’s orientation became scrambled. A foreboding chill swept over him.

Beyond a small trash heap of a hill littered with thousands of gulls, he saw the light that pulsed from inside a small concrete structure. Weaving in and out of the tittering gulls, a deep but quiet voice called out to him. Paralyzed with fear, the voice came again. Looking down, coming from all things, a gull. He nervously adjusted his knitted winter hat, and muttered, “The fuck?”

Casually, the gull said, “Friend, you will die here.”

Henry disagreed and barreled through the snow toward the structure. That conversation never happened he thought, he must have been hallucinating from the crash. Out of nowhere, a heavy bill whacked him in the head and ripped at the back of his neck. Henry fell down, covering his head. Panic set in, it was real.

Every time he attempted to walk towards the glowing structure, thick bands of snow would develop and turn him around. He wondered if something was actively preventing him from seeing what was inside of the structure. If not snow, the crows would swoop in, litter the ground leading to the structure, and block him from continuing. He tried hiking back to the road, but that was equally unsuccessful. Henry scrapped the idea and decided to escape in the morning, so for the night, he carved out a spot within the mass of gulls, hiding from Gene, the one that attacked him.

Unfortunately, morning never came. It stayed dark for days, the snow subsided and it turned warm—so warm, he stripped himself of his winter coat, at one point attempting to use it as a pillow. He fell asleep on and off between the unworldly noises the gulls made. How long had it been night, he was unsure, but he knew he needed food. A gamey, malodorous smell now consumed the wet dump. Henry’s nose burned from the soupy garbage, he couldn’t understand how the warm spell came on so quickly.

A fog, as thick as cake batter, kept him from finding his way out of the rank hell. Further disoriented, he tripped over a bowling ball and fell on a broken bottle. He conjured everything inside of him to get to the structure. The light flickered. He dragged himself over as far as he could go. Henry finally closed in, although now, the mud thickened and swallowed him. The pulsing glow electrified the top of his head, he was so close. Out of nowhere, Gene, like a kamikaze pilot, came up from behind, and Thwap! His thick spear of a beak went right into Henry’s ear puncturing the eardrum. Already trapped by the thickening, slurry mud, his arms were stuck to his sides. He cried out like a short-circuited ambulance siren. His hat was being carried off by a lousy crow. Gene sidled up next to Henry and and said, “Get up.” Knowing full well Henry wasn’t going anywhere.

Bright fluorescent lights from all angles suddenly flooded the dump, and tens of thousands of gulls consumed the sky, whirling in a giant mass of screaming havoc.

His last flickering visage was of a large 4-wheeler charging towards him with two glass-masked men who appeared to be dressed as surgeons, blades out. They shoveled Henry’s limp body into the back of the open air vehicle and roared back to their bunker. The green light turned off until the next one arrived.

Gene hardly registered the commotion, instead, he preened his pale white knives, alone, lording over his kingdom of beautiful, rancid wreckage.

Read Next: THE LIGHT AND STARS by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips