The idea for this story came from a dream I had last week. My wife shook me awake because my rapid, heavy breathing woke her up (and she's no light sleeper). It's a flash fiction (less than a thousand words), so take a two minute break and enjoy!
Hector stood upright and arched his back with a grimace. In the fading sunlight, he could see the remaining rows of corn wave stiffly, singing a dry, scratchy song as they swayed in the hot October breeze.
“Come on, greenhorn,” a leathery man beside him said from his haunches, “we only got another half-hour before dark.” He arose with an armful of ears of corn and turned toward the truck. “Grab that other handful for me, would ya?”
Hector squatted and gathered what remained. There was a feeling of being watched that made his skin prickle. He stood up, then jumped and dropped his load, “Oh shit!”
No more than fifty feet away, near the edge of the remaining rows, stood a gray, featureless figure. It was an opaque shadow of a man, but for its eyes. They were huge, ghostly, pale green emeralds. Hector’s eyes had only a fraction of a second to register before the figure vanished, silently retreating backward at some instantaneous, unbelievable speed into the cornfield. The stalks parted only slightly, as though hardly disturbed, then returned to normal. The other workers turned toward Hector, startled, looked to the cornfield, then returned to their work.
“Relax, greenhorn,” the leathery man called over his shoulder.
“What the hell was that thing, Terry?” Hector stammered, jogging toward the truck.
“That’s a visitor,” Terry replied. “Started coming around about six months ago. Far as I can tell, they’re harmless. They show up in the evenings and watch us. Sometimes they stay at the edges of the fields, sometimes they get close. If you look directly at them, they just—” he put a finger up in the air and jerked it backward, whistling.
“Where did they come from?” Hector scanned the cornfield with his eyes.
Terry shrugged and looked up. “Beats me,” he sighed, pulling out a pack of cigarettes.
“And they just watch us?”
“That’s all I’ve seen them do, yeah.” He lit the cigarette and took a long drag.
“And that doesn’t creep you out?”
“It did at first,” Terry exhaled, and spat on the ground, “but now?” He shrugged.
“They’ve gotten bolder,” another worker put in, dropping an armful of corn into the truck bed. “They used to not get so close, but now they come right up to you if you’re not careful.”
“Don’t be so paranoid, Martin. Think of it like a zoo,” Terry turned and leaned against the truck. “We’re the lions in the cage. They’re spectators; just curious about us, is all.”
“Yeah, curious about how we taste,” Martin laughed. “Feels more like hunting to me. We ain’t the lions here; we’re the antelope.”
Terry ignored him. “C’mon,” he patted Hector on the shoulder as he passed, “let’s clear this row before dark.”
Hector looked over the bed of the truck as another visitor flashed backward into the cornfield. He turned and hurried after Terry, his head on a swivel.
“Are there a lot of them?” Hector whispered.
“Couldn’t say,” Terry replied. “Only seen one at a time, but the way they move—” he motioned with his chin out into the cornfield. “—no telling if it’s the same one or if there’s more.” He hefted an armful of corn.
“I saw two of them together last week, when I was slashing stalks,” Martin said. “I dunno about you, but they make me nervous as hell. That’s why I carry this here,” he tapped a machete in a makeshift sheath at his side.
“Why not a pistol?” Hector asked.
“You kidding?” Terry scoffed. “Think you could hit one of them moving with a bullet? More likely to hit one of us.” Martin chuckled.
“Why haven’t you reported anything?”
“What, and invite the government out here? No thank you; they’d swarm the place and shut down the farm, and then there goes our jobs, yeah? Like I said, just leave them be; we’re zoo animals to them.” Terry looked back at Martin for approval but received a dubious stare instead.
Again, Hector felt the sensation of being watched, and, in his periphery, he saw that a visitor had appeared from the corn and was facing him. He fought the urge to look directly at it as he bent down to grab an armful. When he arose, the visitor had cut the distance between them in half. The urge overwhelmed him, and he looked directly at it. The visitor sped back into the cornfield.
“Hey fuck you!” he shouted after the visitor. “You hear me?!” He dropped his armful and threw an ear of corn into the cornfield, “I ain’t no zoo animal for you to gawk at!” He roared at the waving corn and threw another ear, then gathered the armful again, constantly glancing up at the field and cursing under his breath. He stood and turned toward Terry and Martin, who were having a smoke against the truck.
Terry said something and Martin threw his head back in laughter; Terry laughed along with him and drew on his cigarette.
Then Martin was gone. His cigarette flipped in the air momentarily before falling between a now-empty pair of boots and a sheathed machete. Hector cast off his load and sprinted to the truck where Terry was screaming hysterically, “Martin—Oh shit, Martin!"
Terry had grabbed an empty boot and was picking little white pebbles off the ground, but when Hector got closer, he saw—they were teeth. Hector whirled around to witness the other workers, one by one, soundlessly vanish into the cornfield.
“Terry, pull it together,” Hector yelled, “we gotta get out of here!” Hector spun to see only the truck, an empty boot, and a few scattered teeth.
Hector turned slowly. Dozens of pairs of pale green emeralds gazed at his terror-stricken face. But there was no retreat this time; now they stared back. Hector reached for the machete and raised it overhead, roaring in defiance at the silent gray multitude.