Frozen, he watched the little bird die. Its fragile chest rose and fell. Wild eyes staring out towards oblivion as its fluttering heart mechanically pumped its blood into the earth. He was surrounded by withering sunflowers–his family’s old farm–and their brilliant explosions of yellow contrasted against the dark land beneath the unforgiving sky.
Now there was also a slash of wonderful red. A sacred red river that the dry, hungry earth swallowed, lapping it up like the rain that never fell.
He dared not breathe. He could not look away; yellow and black swallowing the red. Eternity in a moment; life and death swirled around in a cycle that he felt he could almost reach out and touch…
Eventually, he heard his father shouting for him. His hands curled into fists at his side. He had lost track of time out in the field. His father sounded drunk again but something was different. It did not sound like anger. He hoped he would not hit him tonight.
At that moment, the thunder broke and the heavens opened up. He had not noticed the clouds rolling over, and wondrous, fat raindrops began to fall.
When he made it back to the farmhouse, his father was dancing with his mother in the rain. They were stomping through growing puddles and the black mud was splattering on his mother’s white dress. But she was not shouting and his father was not breaking things. No, they were both laughing and smiling. He could not recall seeing them smile before, let alone dancing.
Wild clouds swirled above and rain kept falling as a brutal sunset pierced through it in patches of gold and red. His father howled and spun his mother around, faster and faster. The rain kept falling and his parents splattered the mud around them as they danced.
He was sure he saw another colour in that black mud. Yes, he was sure he saw red.
Smiling, he turned around and looked out across his family’s field of yellow sunflowers that soaked up the delicious rain. All he could think of was the little bird. All he could think of was its blood soaking into the earth. The brilliance of the yellow sunflowers, roots clawing in the black earth and hungrily drinking of the red blood.
He showed his teeth to her, leant in, and pressed his lips to hers. She was warm and smelt of something sweet. Small and delicious, he could feel her heart fluttering and her hand reached up and gently touched his cheek.
She giggled and pretended to pull away, but he pulled her closer and they kissed deeply.
He could feel the dry, dark earth below him straining with hunger. The rain had not come this year either. Around them, the withering sunflowers loomed, a baleful, brilliant yellow. Tortured, twisted stems held wilted, dying life and the vast sky stared down mockingly at that dark field, waiting.
Waiting. The sky was waiting. The black earth was waiting. The yellow sunflowers were hungrily waiting…
Black and yellow, just missing delicious red. Again.
“Take a breath, son,” the weathered, elderly man said, “Now, what are you babbling about?”
The scruffy youth gulped a large breath. He tried to slow down his torent of words, but his voice rose in pitch as he spoke longer and, as he went on, the eyes of the elderly man grew wider and wider.
“And you say the lads in the south field also found one? Jesus…”
The youth jerked his head furiously in agreement.
“And, ploughing the first fallow, you found one too? God, more than one…”
The youth’s head moved even faster.
“Dear God,” the elderly man breathed out, his legs wobbling and stepping backwards–almost as if he could step away from the news–“Dear God, son, we need to call the Sheriff and get him out here. Get the lads back here now. Stop everything that we doing. God, what horror did we buy from that estate…”
It was silent at the old farmhouse. The baked, dry earth crunched beneath the men’s boots as they laboured, carefully carrying their loads back to the centre. Their faces were dark and their eyes tried not to look too closely at what they were doing as they carefully laid their burdens out on the sterile, white body bags.
Some were little more than clean, white skeletons; their identities lost, swallowed by the black earth, along with their tragic stories. Others were bundles of rags, twisted and rotting with the roots of the malevolent sunflowers clawing hungrily at their last remains.
Others were even more recent…
It was hot at the farmhouse and hellish out in the fields. The rain had not come for years now. It has stopped around the time that the old man who lived here had died, and many farms had gone under with most fields now little more than dust and death.
But, it was quite something else, the death that they dug up from the black earth in that old sunflower field.