Once upon a time this guy Higgins came to town. People said he was selling something but he carried no briefcase and made no spiel. He wandered down the old roads in a nice suit of dark gray-blue. A suit like a cloudy sky, someone said. Everyone he spoke to looked different afterwards, a little heavier or a little lighter, depending on the person, depending (it was said) on what was going on in their lives.

Fields bloomed not long after. It was a bumper crop that year, everything fat and healthy. Biggest yield in decades, was the common belief. Corn tall as trees, alfalfa like a jungle. Carrots thick as wrists.

But the plows were left untouched in the fields, rusting in the rain. The cows were tainted with sweet perfume. Chickens scattered for distant lands.


A man can walk for miles and see nothing but the ground.


They said, at first, that nothing bad can come from the visit of a man, nor from the presence of various portents seen in the sky. Once there was a moon seen by an expectant mother, she looked up and saw it cracked in half, right down the middle, all jagged edges and crumbs on the side. She carried her baby to term nonetheless. A healthy baby, too. A girl. Ten fingers, ten toes. Two eyes. Prettiest little smile anyone had ever seen.

Nobody asked her mother what she was doing out in the wooded clearing that moonlit night, pregnant and alone.


Clarence Turner thought he saw something flying through the sky around dusk twenty years ago. He would tell the story in the tavern or the store, to anyone who would listen, despite the protests of his wife.

He said it had wings. It was the size of a horse, and it never flapped those wings, just glided through the air silent as an owl.

The head, he said, was twisted as a piece of driftwood.

People nodded when he told the story, but they said nothing. They had seen the same thing themselves, some of them. And none of them were as crazy as Clarence Turner.

There was a gathering one night, many people meeting at the old Town Hall, mothers and fathers and grandparents. But no children. This wasn't for the children.

They discussed the current state of madness. Twenty-odd years ago Clarence Turner was not the only crazy man in town: there was Luella Seekum, who had run off through the graveyard one night naked as a baby; there was William Tanfolk who took to travelling the old backroads with the rotting corpse of a fox he had found (and claimed was magical); there was Dorothy Randolph who spoke to voices that told her it was all right, it was all right, the end was near and everything would be calm; and there was the original priest, Father Rudolph Polkin, whom everyone knew was a bit odd, but trusted anyway. Father Polkin shot himself with a stolen shotgun at the altar of his church, leaving behind a note that said in part:

"When the time comes for the gates to open and the unholy creatures to wander the world, even the righteous man will not prevail. Friends, I've done my best but that don't mean a hill of beans anymore."

So the people who had seen the winged creature spotted by Clarence Turner did not speak up. No one spoke up. Everyone claimed that everyone knew who the crazy folks were, while all the time they had their own secrets, their own visions seen at midnight, their own hallucinations at dawn.

But it was best for no one to know these things. And it was best, the town decided collectively, for no one to know any of the things seen, done, or heard in the area. Twenty years ago the Knockwood area fell silent about such things. Mouths were sealed. Diaries were torn up or burned in bonfires. Some of the children were sent away to live with relatives before they saw something they could talk about.

Everything was plowed under. Forgotten.

But it flows through the blood like a fever, some thought. And it passes itself down through the generations like genes.

Plow it under the ground, they all said. Bury it like a casket. Forget it like the forgotten dead, and pray it ain’t no zombie.

Just plow it under the ground.

And let's get on with our simple lives.