This morning, instead of running through neighborhoods, where I’d smell the familiar Sunday morning scents of warm coffee, salty bacon, and sweet pancakes, I decided to run into the hills, away from people, and into the corn.
Until I was in it, I didn’t think about the corn. The stalks, with their green leathery leaves that blocked my view down the rows, towered over my head, and golden tassels hung from each plump ear. The rows were so close as I ran by, I could have reached out and touched them. Luckily, the air was still – no breeze moved the tall stalks or rustled the leaves. I watched the tops for movement, then looked away, knowing I wouldn’t be able to handle it if they began to sway.
I thought about all those years I drove alone between Savannah and Athens, along country roads in Georgia, where corn fields snuggled up to the shoulder for miles. I was always terrified of those sections, not with a normal country-road fear of a deer jumping out, but with a fear far worse. A fear of the Children of the Corn.
As I jogged within arm’s length of the endless rows, on a new path I’d never run on, with no houses, cars, or people in sight, I turned up my music so I wouldn’t be able to hear if the corn started to whisper. I expected any second now, a pair of white hands would emerge from between rows, part the rustling stalks, and Malachi, child of the corn, would step out in front of me. Just like he always did when I drove at night on those corn-lined country roads. I’d lean forward in my seat, both hands gripping the steering wheel, my high beams lighting the empty two-lane road ahead of me, and I always feared that out of nowhere, Malachi would materialize in the middle of the road. My headlights would shine on his pasty skin, and red hair, and clear eyes. Especially his eyes. They’d be looking straight into mine as I slammed on the brakes and screamed, and he’d stand motionless, unafraid, as my car would swerve and hit him, and my head would strike the wind shield, shattering glass and spattering blood, and then the children of the corn would drag me by my feet, between the tall whispering stalks, to sacrifice me to He Who Walks Behind the Rows.
No, I didn’t smell coffee and bacon on my run this morning. I smelled the sweet sickening scent of dew laden vegetable matter at the end of summer. Instead of pancakes frying, I smelled a heavy, cloying scent that clung like oil to the back of my throat. A scent that mixed wet greenery with brown decay, that mixed damp earth and the dry dust of grain, that held the perfume of honeysuckle and clover along with the rot of dead grass and leaf litter, decomposing and crawling with beetles and worms beneath the dense brush that lined the never-ending cornfields. The rotting scent reminded me of Pennywise, the evil clown from another Stephen King story, IT. Now, with the rot, in addition to expecting the corn to part and Malachi to grab me, I expected to see a balloon rise up from between the rows, and then I’d know Pennywise was coming to get me too.
Damn you Stephen King.