For most kids, the sighting of a fairy is a dream come true. For young Thomas, it’s the harbinger of doom—doom for his family, his home, and his innocence. His fairy ushers in a world where a hungry destroyer awaits, one that sends Thomas into a spiral of despair and terror.
Years later, as an adult, Thomas has shoved away the memories of the wreckage caused by his fairy, and the resulting months in a mental care institution. But when he encounters a young man and woman who he last saw in that institution, he realizes that the fairy and the destroyer Dauðr are still waiting for him.
This enthralling, horrifying dark fairy tale is featured in the upcoming February/March Creepy Crate, and we’re thrilled to be featuring a sneak peek inside its pages.
Read on for an excerpt of The Girl in the Corn, then subscribe to Creepy Crate to get your copy!
Suddenly Thomas was someplace else.
He stood waist-deep in prairie grass and flowers, the pink, yellow, and blue blooms so electric he was afraid to touch them. A sparkling red bird fluttered in a deep blue sky. In the distance, a calm sea stretched to the horizon; boats sailed on that sea, but were too far away for Thomas to see what they looked like. The gentle salt wind wafted a mingling of scents over him—lilac and cinnamon and rain on hot asphalt.
He opened his mouth to shout for someone, anyone, but words didn’t come. The air tasted of Twizzlers, then of winter, then of smoke. The landscape melted.
This isn’t real, he thought. It can’t be real.
Suddenly, on the hill where Thomas stood gazing across the fields of flowers dotted with trees, the trees burst into flames. Snow began to fall in great clumps but melted before it touched the ground. In the distance, the sea boiled. Prairie flowers ignited and disappeared as the flames ate them alive. Snow changed to ash and buried the land in gray.
The world whizzed by in fast-forward. Smoke rose from craters of fire that burst through the ground, the once-green fields of flowers and trees now bald and ash covered, the few remaining trees bone-white and limbless. Charcoal clouds stretched over what had once been the calm sea but was now dry and littered with ancient boats and the skeletons of unfamiliar creatures. Thomas coughed. The air burned his lungs.
“Where am I?”
“My home,” a voice said. A hand, smooth and comforting, laced its fingers in his. Thomas jumped and screamed. It was the girl from his room.
“Wha-what happened?” Thomas coughed again and spat onto the dusty ground. I’m dreaming. I have to be dreaming.
“You’re not dreaming, Thomas,” she said.
“This can’t be your home. This can’t be anybody’s home. This place is—”
“Dead,” she said. The grip on his hand tightened and he squeezed back. He needed this hand in his—this soft, solid hand—or Thomas knew his mind would unravel.
“My world was once green and blue—”
“—and tasted like Twizzlers,” Thomas said. “What happened?” She breathed deeply, then coughed from the smoke.
“Dauðr, the Death,” she finally said. “It is always empty, always hungry. It feeds on worlds, leaving dust and smoke and sadness.” The girl motioned forward. “Come.”
A road, as gray as the landscape, ran under his feet and snaked down the hill, sometimes buried in dunes of slate-colored dust. Something moved in the distance, but he couldn’t tell what.
Smoke sent him into a fit of coughing. The girl pulled Thomas’s pajama shirt to his mouth to try and filter out the polluted air, and they started down the road. A fire sprang from a fissure next to the road, igniting a smooth, barkless tree; Thomas jumped, his sweat-matted hair heavy on his head.
“Dauðr is power,” she said. “All-consuming power. It eats whatever is growing. It sucks energy, leaving death.”
They continued in silence. With the distant sea gone, the plains seemed endless. They passed through a field of boulders. Then Thomas saw them—filthy, ragged people bound to those boulders with rusted chains. They moaned, swaying as if caught in a breeze, but no breeze graced this awful place.
“Who are they?” Compassion pulled from deep inside. Save them. Set them free.
A man, his teeth long gone, stood and leaned toward him, arms spread like a zombie’s. Thomas jumped back, but the man had pulled the short chains tight, and he dropped into the dust. The gust of air from the chained man’s fall struck Thomas with the stink of rot and death.
“Help. Help me,” came through the man’s crusty beard, the stench of blood reaching Thomas’s nose. He gagged. “Please. Please kill me,” the man said.
“No,” Thomas said. His head started to swim. “I can’t.” “Kill me,” another voice said.
“No. Kill me.”
“Me. Kill me,” the rough voices called down the road.
“No,” Thomas moaned. “I can’t kill anyone. I’m lost. I don’t even know where I am.”
The girl held fast to Thomas’s hand to keep him from running.
The crusty man rose to his knees before Thomas; fresh blood dripped from his wrists where the manacles bound him to the stone. “Land of da fairies,” the man said, a cough splattering blood near Thomas’s feet. He pointed at the girl who held Thomas’s hand.
“Her land. Ain’t this a fuckin’ paradise.”
“Why are you here?” Thomas asked.
The man cackled, more blood spraying the dry ground. “Ate fairy food. Next thing I know, I’m here. The fairy played with me for a while, then this.” He coughed. “Then the thing with the teeth came and turned this place into hell.”
The girl’s grip relaxed, and Thomas’s hand fell to his side. He looked at her. Why are you smiling?
He turned back to the bloody man. “What’s the thing with teeth?” he asked.
The bloody man’s eyes grew large, terror gripping his face. “It’s behind you.”
Thomas swung around. The girl had vanished; in her place a black wave of smoke curled on top of itself, rolling toward Thomas. He fell to his knees and screamed. A slit opened in the wave, and row after row of dripping needle teeth gleamed through the blackness. The thing’s hot, fetid breath crashed into him with the stench of a sun-swollen carcass.
Thomas woke, covered in vomit.
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Featured image: Meredith Petrick / Unsplash