The Wind Across the Prairie Whistling In the Tall, Tall Grass
By Jeff Baker
(A Billy Gonzalez story)
I hadn’t been to the trailer just outside Pending, Kansas in about five years but I’d lived there the summer after I’d graduated college, working in a warehouse nearby. Ronnie and I had split the costs and I’d had my own bedroom but we’d made out a bunch of times. We’d split up that fall when he’d gotten a job in Kansas City and I’d started working back in Wichita. We kept in touch and I knew that Ronnie’s family still rented out the trailer but I didn’t expect Ronnie to get a hold of me about the trailer.
And I hadn’t expected him to sound so desperate.
“I’m really glad you could make it out here, Billy,” Ronnie said as we stood in the driveway, surrounded by brown grass about as tall as my knees. I could see the water tower and grain elevator in the distance. I was a city kid but I’d loved it out here.
“This was my parent’s idea,” Ronnie said. “They’re really having problems with the place and I thought about calling you.” I gave Ronnie the once over. He still had the blonde hair, blue eyes, a dazzling smile and a little bit of a beer gut. That was part of the reason I was helping him move his Mom’s big potted fern into the living room.
“Uh, what do you mean?” I asked. “I don’t do plumbing.”
“I wish it was that easy,” he said.
The trailer hadn’t changed a lot in three years, it was still old and battered but inside the carpet was clean, it didn’t stink and a lot of the furniture I remembered was still there.
“When did the…funny stuff start?” I asked. I was gathering that was why Ronnie got a hold of me. I’d gotten a reputation for dealing with the weird, which had a knack for acting up when I was around. I’d never seen anything strange when we’d lived there.
“About a year after we moved out,” Ronnie said. “My folks rented to some couple and they left a couple of months later, pretty much in the middle of the night. They left a mess. Fur and vegetables all over the place in the trailer.”
“Vegetables?” I asked.
“Yeah. Onion peels and lettuce and stuff,” Ronnie said. “My folks paid to have it cleaned up and then they started renting it out. The next couple, they were in their thirties, lasted about five weeks. Then they rented it out to some old man and he only stayed here about a week. Then they rented it out to a couple of kids from the JUCO.” Ronnie shook his head. “They left in the middle of the night and didn’t even take the cases of beer they brought.”
“Anything else I ought to know?” I asked.
“The only thing anybody said was that they heard some kind of heavy breathing,” Ronnie said. He grinned. “Not over the phone, all through the trailer. And always at night.”
“So, I take it you had all this checked out?” I asked.
“Yeah, I talked my folks into hiring some guy to check the trailer out with some electronic gizmo, looking for electronic devices, speakers and the like. He said the electromagnetic field was, well, funny.”
“Oh boy,” I said. “So, what do you want me to do?”
“This thing wasn’t happening when we lived here, so I figure we stay here a couple of nights and check it out.”
“Nights?” I asked in dismay.
“Yeah, nights.” Ronnie said. “That’s when the stuff usually starts.”
“Terrific,” I grumbled to myself.
I was getting used to this. I’d had some weird things happen to me and I was getting a reputation among my friends as being “a walking magnet for the walking dead” as one of them put it. But I didn’t have anything to do for a few days and I’d kind of missed living out here even if Ronnie and I weren’t anything other than friends anymore it could still be kind of nostalgic. Besides if things got weird I could sleep in my car.
“Gimmie an hour or so and I’ll be back,” I said.
The main drag of Pending, KS hadn’t changed a lot and it didn’t take me long to check a few things in the town library, mainly by asking a few questions from the librarian who remembered me from the summer I’d lived there. I grabbed a burger and a soda and sat in the convenience store (one of Downtown Pending’s few businesses that wasn’t boarded-up.) and searched the internet. By the time I finished the soda I had found what I wanted. Or maybe didn’t want.
“The couple who lived here after we did were the Curtises,” I said as Ronnie and I sat in the darkening living room of the trailer sipping more soda.
“Yeah, I remember,” Ronnie said.
“Mrs. Winters at the Library told me they came in and borrowed a bunch of books on spiritualism and stuff like that. They said something about already having an Ouija board. And the records I found said that this is the only structure ever built on this land. The Indian…I mean, Native Americans were in the area but I found a reference to the Tribes saying there was a ‘bare place’ they would not go near. They said there was something ‘old and to be feared’ there, or rather, here.”
“Here?” Ronnie said. “I used to mow all over here. There’s no bare place on the ground, just grass that grows too fast. I used to mow it.”
“Yeah, I remember. Except right where this trailer is sitting. I think the Curtises held a séance or a bunch of them and called something or woke it up. Maybe something prehistoric.”
“A Prehistoric ghost?” Ronnie said smiling.
“Or a demon.”
Ronnie’s smile vanished. We sat there in silence. As it grew darker I heard the wind outside. I remembered a poem I’d read once, something about the wind across the prairie whistling in the tall, tall grass. I looked up with a start. The sound of the wind was inside the trailer. Rhythmic.
Something was breathing.
I looked around; I could see the lights on the top of the grain elevator through the window. Right under that was the bulk of the couch. Wait; We were sitting on the couch, whatever that was wasn’t the couch. It was moving slowly. In the dark I saw it had a paw and claws. It was munching on the fern Ronnie had brought in. As I grabbed Ronnie’s arm and pulled him out the front door my mind raced with the results of my search for the previous inhabitants of the area; I’d read a bit about Prehistoric Sloths. They had been here millennia ago, furry and vegetarian.
This one was still here. At least it’s ghostly essence was.
We were outside before I realized Ronnie was screaming. When he stopped and we realized the thing wasn’t coming after us Ronnie managed to blurt out “How do we get rid of that?”
“We don’t,” I said. “Maybe call an exorcist. Meantime, lock the door and leave the trailer alone.”
“Yeah,” Ronnie said. “Hey, follow me in your car. You can sack out at my Mom and Dad’s. I still have my room in their basement.”
“Sounds good,” I said. My heart was still pounding. “Your folks have any of that beer the Curtises left behind?”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Continuing my celebration of weekly flash fiction stories for five years, I’ve published a couple of stories about Billy Gonzalez and his knack for stumbling across the weird in places other than this blog. He had to appear to celebrate this anniversary and bring some spookiness with him!