I sit watching the light of the rising pale moon that dances across my bedroom walls, a beacon that softly illuminates the swaying stalks of wheat that whisper beyond my window. Hidden amongst the shifting shadows, their subtle voices murmur to one another.
The blanket that I pull tightly to my face does nothing to warm me. I can already feel the chill that creeps beneath my skin, tendrils of midnight air that caresses my bones. I don’t mind the coolness; I prefer hiding beneath the shallow darkness the blanket provides than warding off the cold. Downstairs, I can hear the murmur of my uncle stirring, complaining again about the noise of a screeching fox outside, one that has pestered him for days.
Do not move.
I listen intently as his heavy footsteps tromp down the narrow hallway. First to the rail that he keeps his coat on, and then the creak of the cupboard door, behind which he keeps my father’s old hunting rifle.
Stay where you are.
The footsteps pause by the door, and the annoyance in his mutterings travels up through the floorboards while he pulls on his heavy work boots. Sleep still clings to him as he clicks open the front door and gives a loud yawn. The door grates on the swollen wooden porch as it swings open, and boards give protesting groans as he steps out into the pale blue of the night.
You know you mustn’t move.
I slowly count the seconds as they creep past, listening intently. I can make out the rustle of leaves and corn stalks as they are brushed aside carelessly, even the soft sniffle in the cold air. I ignore the fact that I can now see my breath as it billows out from my blanket cocoon. I know if I look at my window that small flecks of crystalising ice would trail the pale green paint of its frame.
Do not watch.
Confused murmurs echo from the fields of wheat, my uncle pressing his way through the towering stalks. I can picture him clearly in my mind, eyes scanning the earth roots that are cast in shadow, rifle gripped lazily in his work calloused hands. The rustle nearby would catch his attention, and creeping down into a crouch, he would peer into the forest of black shade and pale gold.
Do not call out to him.
The cold clutching at him makes him pull his coat tighter, ignoring the chilling touches that creep along the bare skin of his hands. His eyes would dart in search, his pacing slow and wary now, hunting for his prize. What he doesn’t hear are the whispers that drift past his ear. Only I ever notice them.
His cry is muffled, but I can hear it all. The sharp crack of snapping bone, and the pair of thuds. First the rifle, then the body. My arms tremble as I listen, my eyes refusing to close, and my mind denying me sleep.
Why not come out with him?
Wrestling the blanket higher above my head, I block the rays of faint moonlight from reaching my haven. I can try to ignore the whispers and sounds, but there is no stopping the images that flash through the darkness of my mind. The body of my uncle grating across the cold earth, dirt burrowing into his nostrils and filling his pores. Entangled around his ankles, the pale yellow that is striped with mould, tendrils that creep out from the filthy jacket that the misshapen body wears.
By morning, my uncle’s body will have long disappeared, just as my father’s did, and then my mother’s. All the same as when I watched them taken, vanishing into the stalks of rotting wheat. All the same when my next family members come to answer the call, and lose themselves to the fields that were never theirs to take.