To read the beginning: click The Girl In the Corn
Manuela woke to the strange feeling of being watched. She peeked through her lashes to see sunlight splashing across her bedroom walls. Suddenly alarmed, for the sun was so bright, she realized she must have slept too late. She sat up quickly and realized her mother was standing in the doorway. Manuela saw the flicker of a shadow pass over her mother’s face, but it was quickly replaced with an all too familiar scowl.
“You are late, Manuela. You father has already completed your morning chores for you! UP! Eat before it gets cold!”
Manuela hurried out of bed and dressed for the day. When she walked into the kitchen, she found her father and mother sitting at the table talking over cups of coffee.
“I wonder who will take care of his land…” Manuela’s father stopped mid-sentence as Manuela entered the kitchen.
“Whose land?” Manuela dove into the conversation as she sat at the table and heaped scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast onto her plate.
Manuela’s mother gave an exasperated sigh. ”None of your concern, child.”
“No. No. She is bound to find out.” replied her father. Turning to her, he said,”Old Jorge was killed last night.”
“What?!?” Manuela exclaimed dropping her toast on the floor in shock.
“This morning, his son, who was supposed to help him with his fields today, found Jorge dead from a couple self-inflicted gun shots.”
Manuela’s mother broke in,”That’s enough. She does not need to know more! That was too much! With her imagination, she will have nightmares now!”
“Fine! But I do not want to hear you complain that you could not sleep! After last night, I really think… Nevermind.” Manuela’s mom stood up and left the room leaving Manuela staring at her father to continue.
Her father fiddled with his cup. ”Maybe your mother is right.”
“Why, Papa? We all knew he was crazy! Why would his suicide be something that would cause me nightmares?”
“Because, daughter, none of us believe he was crazy enough to kill himself, even by accident. Even the officers at his house said there was something not right about the way his son found him. If everyone had not seen his son at the coffee shop this morning, he would have been a suspect for his father’s death.”
Manuela’s father sat silent for a minute. ”Those things you have been hearing. When did you say they started?”
Manuela thought back. ”I have been hearing them for a couple weeks now, Papa.”
“And when did you see that apparition?”
Manuela felt chills along her spine again. ”You… You believe me, Papa?”
With a gentle nod and a glance to the door where his wife had exited, he looked at Manuela.
“We both believe you, Manuela…”
“Your Mama is afraid of what you are seeing and hearing, and now with what has happened to Jorge, she and I both think we should send you to your cousin’s on the other side of town.”
“Have you not heard the legends of the girl in the corn?”
Her father let out a deep sigh. He stared at his cup, while Manuela squirmed in her seat and took a bite of her breakfast. She felt her father’s hesitation, and was ready to speak to encourage him to continue.
“A century ago, when the town was just being settled, a family moved out here and claimed some land to farm upon. The family settled in and were successful on the land while farms around them struggled to get their crops started. Several of the other farmers began to resent the family. A few were convinced that the farmer must be doing something unnatural for his land to be so fertile while the lands surrounding it were so desolate. Rumors started circulating among the farmers and spread to the townspeople. After a while, the family noted that they were being treated differently. They were not getting fair prices for their crops. They were not welcomed openly at town gatherings, or even at church. Finally, giving in to pressure from the people, their pastor even asked them to stop going to their church because they made the other people uncomfortable. Crushed, the family became reclusive to their farm. They were forced to travel to the next town in order to sell or trade, which meant their farm was often left unattended, for the farmer had only daughters, and he was afraid of leaving them or his wife alone on the farm.
However, as the years passed, the farmer found it harder and harder to keep taking his entire family with him to trade. No one had attempted to harm his farm with no one around, so he doubted anyone would harm his family should he leave some of the oldest girls behind. He decided to make a trip with his youngest daughters and his wife and leaving his two oldest girls to take care of the farm. He was only supposed to be gone overnight; he was certain his girls would be okay.
When he and the rest of the family returned, they found the farmhouse burned to the ground. In shock, they searched the land for any sign of their daughters. Near one corner of their land, buried in a shallow grave, they found their oldest daughter with chains wrapped around her neck. In horror, they tore apart the rest of their farm in search of their other daughter. They begged for help from their neighbors. They begged for help from members of their old church. But they were cast away and were told that their witchcraft had brought this “curse” upon them. The farmer and his wife completely tore up the rest of their farmland in search of another shallow grave. They were convinced that the person who killed the one daughter surely would have killed the other. However, they never found her body. When they finally gave up, their farm was useless to them. They had never rebuilt their burnt home. They never repaired thier fields. According to legend, they simply gave up, and left. No one knew when. No one knew where.
Since then, many people have tried to live on the land. No one had been able to farm the land successfully, until old Jorge moved onto the land. Everyone told him it was cursed, but he did not listen. From all accounts, it seemed he was able to lift the curse. But the thing that is so scary about how his son found him this morning is not that Jorge appears to have shot himself, but that he was lying on the ground with chains around his neck.”
Manuela sat in silence her food forgotten on her plate. She stared at her father and tried to process the horrific story he had just told her. A million questions fought in her mind to find their way to her tongue. Had the farmer’s family dabbled with magic? Were they shunned for a good reason? What really happened when the farmer and his wife left the oldest girls behind? Did anyone ever find out what happened to the other daughter? And Jorge- was he crazy when he moved onto the farm, or had the farm made him crazy? Why was he able to make the land successful when so many others failed?
“Papa, why would I see and hear these things? Has anyone else before? And why do you think I need to stay with Rosana?”
Her father stood up suddenly and with his back to her while he rinsed out his mug at the sink, he said,”We want to send you to Rosana’s because you are not safe here, if the rest of legend is true.”
“The rest of the legend?”
He turned back to Manuela, deep worry creasing his forehead.
“Supposedly, the reason Jorge was successful was because he had no daughters to succumb to the curse. Every other family who has tried to live on that land has had daughters right around your age, the same age as the two girls left behind. It is said that the following families witnessed strange things happen to their daughters. Two of them had their daughters disappear. One girl was said to have run away. The other, a girl who its said was afraid of her own shadow, simply vanished without a trace. The rest of the story claims that the girl in the corn, whom you have seen, is the last girl claimed by the curse.”
“But who cursed the land?”
“Does it matter, Manuela? What does matter is that you are the first person to have heard or seen anything strange on that land since Jorge moved onto it. That is probably why you were completely unaware of the legend at all!”
Manuela tried to clear her head. ”So, what you are saying is that the girl in the corn that I saw was not the ghost of one of the farmer’s daughters, but actually one of the most recently disappeared girls.”
“Yes. If the speculation is true.”
“But, Papa, that does not make any sense. The girl I saw was dressed like a girl from the days of the farmer.”
“Manuela, since when do legends and ghost stories make sense? Do you not feel awkward and strange simply having this conversation with me? I know I feel absurd! Everything in me screams that this is ridiculous, that there is no such thing as ghosts. And yet… My skin tingles when I think of what you shared with us last night, and now Jorge’s sudden death. Something is not right, and I want you away from here.”
At that moment, Manuela’s mother walked into the room.
“Enough of this blather. Manuela, we might be insane, but you go pack some bags. I spoke to your cousin. You are expected there this afternoon, and you will stay there for a few days at least.”
Manuela started to speak up, but her mother raised her hand to silence her. Manuela noted that her mother was pale and visibly shaken. Nodding her head to show her submission to her parent’s decision, Manuela went to her room to pack.
An hour later, choosing to walk so her parents could save money on gas, after all it was broad daylight, Manuela set out. She waved goodbye to her parents as she left the driveway. The sun felt good on her face even as the winter breezes motivated her to move briskly. She knew her Mama had called to let Rosana know that Manuela was on her way, though Manuela spoke loudly behind her that she was planning on stopping at the store. Manuela jumped despite herself as a cop car pulled out of Jorge’s driveway hundreds of yards ahead of her. Not able to see clearly from where she was, she could only imagine the house that stood at the center of the corn fields. Trying not to dwell on Jorge, the girl in the corn, or even the horrible ghost story, Manuela forced herself to hum as she walked down the road.
She just passed the corner of her own family’s land when the sudden fog rolled in. Still able to see the sun shining overhead, Manuela continued on her way. Step. Step. She could see Jorge’s driveway, but then suddenly, the fog was so thick that the driveway disappeared. Manuela fought the panic welling inside of her. She looked up and realized she could no longer see the sun- not its outline, not even a filtering of its light.
The fog was all that existed around her. She raised her hand in front of her and could barely make out its shape at arm’s length. She looked down at her feet and was startled to see that the fog made it appear that her body stopped at the thighs. Resisting the urge to run, knowing that would likely get her injured in the ditch, Manuela reached into her coat pocket and pulled out her flip phone. She dialed her home thinking she could get her dad to come get her, but sighed in frustration when the phone refused to connect. She lifted the phone trying to get some bars and turned one direction, then the other. Realizing she would not be able to get help that way, she turned in the direction of her house and started to walk back.
The fog thickened so much that she felt its moisture collect on her face and in her hair. She felt the moisture bead up and start running down her face and neck. She felt her hair; it felt as though she had been caught in a rain shower. She wondered at the strange fog and fought the nagging thoughts in her mind.
When she walked right into a corn stalk, she could not help letting out a frightened scream. As soon as she stopped screaming, she turned to walk in the opposite direction. Less than two steps, she found herself staring at another stalk. As she turned a little to her left, she heard the chains start rattling. Those all too familiar chills ran down her spine again as she struggled not to panic. She turned away from the sound of the chains and found herself almost touching the apparition of the girl in the corn. Instinctively, Manuela sucked in a strangled breath and stepped back from the girl and into the corn.
The ghostly girl slowly reached out her hand, and lifted her head so Manuela could see the ghostly face more clearly. There was so much sadness, fear, and pain in those watery eyes. Unable to stop herself, Manuela reached out her own hand…
Manuela watched from the rows of corn as the sun set. She watched the blond-haired girl help her brothers with their chores. She watched the girl glance in the direction of the field where Manuela stood unseen. As the girl walked into the house that Manuela remembered so well, the sound of chains began behind Manuela, and she began to scream.
((This short story is an original work of fiction by C. Borden. It is protected and not to be used without the author’s express permission.))