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Monday, July 13, 2009

The Meadow

I've been contemplating posting this story for some time now, but what the hell. It was originally published by Bewildering Stories (, but has long since reverted to me.

It's crude, primitive, and sorely in need of a drastic rewrite, but I loved this story when I first wrote it. As a little bit of background, I initially conceived the story while standing traffic duty at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The gate officer said something that I found funny and I responded to her with "Well, what if the grass had teeth?". I then invoked a bunny that the grass subsequently ate. She was shocked and amused. That inspired the following story...



The meadow was idyllic in its unspoiled grace. Sunlight danced off the green, knee-high grass. Pollen dusted the meadow, giving it a misty quality. A narrow, two-lane dirt path cut across the grass between the groves of woods surrounding it on all sides. The buzz of insects and the twittering of birds broke the early morning silence. The trees sighed in a light breeze. The trudge of shoes through dry leaves silenced the woods. The meadow drew silent and seemed to hold its breath as small voices disturbed its revery.

“Hey! Look there,” said Bobby Waislow. He and his brother stopped at the end of the path through the woods. They stood at the edge of the trees, looking out onto the sunlit meadow that opened on the top of the hill.

“What?” Tommy asked. He started to unsling the .22 rifle he carried on his shoulder like he had seen soldiers do.

“Shhh,” Bobby whispered. “You’ll scare it away.”

“What?” Tommy asked again. He looked down the path where his little was pointing.

“A bunny rabbit. Right there on the path,” Bobby said. He voice carried his excitement to his brother.

“Shucks, Bobby. It’s just a gosh darned rabbit,” Tommy said. He felt a shivering thrill in the freedom to cuss out of earshot of his father. The thought of the backhand his mother would have given him on hearing him speak such words did not escape him either.

“But it’s so cute…”

“It’ll look better with one of its feet hanging from my keychain.”

“No, you can’t shoot it!”

“Why the heck not?”

“’Cause it’s so cute. But look, it’s acting all weird. Maybe it’s sick or something?”

Tommy looked at the rabbit. He admitted that it was acting strangely.

The rabbit seemed frozen to one of the two dirt paths through the grass. It faced the boys, its nose twitching in the air, its hind quarters quivering. Its short white tail was raised in the air, a clear sign of fear. Tommy could see nothing that might have frightened the rabbit, but it was frozen in place, cringing in the dirt, as far away from the grass as it could get.

“Why’s it doing that, Tommy? Maybe it’s sick or something?” Bobby asked. “Why’s it just sitting there?”

“Shucks, Bobby, I don’t know,” Tommy said. He shouldered his rifle, pointing it at the rabbit. He took another few steps out onto the path, coming out from under the leafy branches of the woods.

The rabbit bolted, no longer able to contain its fear. It darted off the path into the taller grass. It leaped, seemed to hang in mid-air for a heartbeat as if struck by a snake, then crashed to earth, thrashing. It rolled, giving voice to a thin high-pitched wail that sent shivers down Tommy’s spine. He heard agony in the animal’s scream. Long strands and blades of grass wrapped themselves around the rabbit as it struggled. As Tommy and his little brother watched, the rabbit was wrapped in blade after blade until all that was left was a round, green ball lying in the meadow.

Without warning, the ball erupted in a spray of red and brown. A fine mist of blood sprayed the surrounding grass and dirt, hanging in the suddenly-still air for seconds. The ball of grass collapsed in on itself then the grass begn to release its hold, folding back, untangling and standing erect once again. The grass seemed to sigh in the light breeze that came up again, standing tall and green in the morning sun.

“Tommy, the grass ate the bunny rabbit,” Bobby whispered. Tears began to run down his ten-year old face.

Tommy stood, trying to find his voice. His mind raced. He thought of the long walk home, the tall expanse of grass that stretched around and along the path through the fields behind them. The fields had seemed warm and friendly until now.

The grass ate the bunny, he thought. The grass ate the gosh darned bunny! How could the grass eat the bunny? Grass doesn’t have teeth! He realized he had dropped his rifle in the dirt of the path.

Tommy looked at Bobby. His little brother stood, looking up at him, tears streaking his dirty face. Bobby’s blond hair ruffled in the breeze. It always seemed to be messed up, no matter how many times Bobby combed it. He started to cry. Tommy wanted to slap him to yell at him, to tell his little brother to grow up. He held his hand, kept his temper. He felt like he was about to wet his pants. He looked up from Bobby, turning his eyes back to the meadow and the long grass, sighing in the breeze.

Was the grass leaning towards them? What’s that noise it’s making? Is it all leaning just a little bit towards us? Tommy thought. Against the wind?

Tommy looked over his shoulder, back along their path to the woods.

It’s going to be a long run back home, he thought. He looked back at Bobby, picked his rifle up from the dirt. He smiled at his little brother. He knew just how he was going to distract the thing in the grass long enough for him to make it home.

The grass began to sigh, a soft, hissing whisper of sound that echoed across the meadow as the shot rang out and the screaming started.


There's actually another version of this story that was heavily modified. I might put that up tomorrow.

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