Beginning by @gaby-crb
Kayla’s boots hit the ground. The dry earth scattered into dust clouds as she strode across the front of the house. Manny was late again.
The harsh sun beat down against her brown skin. She looked off into the distance, the heat haze sat above the plain, rippling the sight of the far off mountains.
She lifted her arm, checking her watch. The sun reflected across the scratched screen. She ran her finger over the deepest scratch. It had still worked after her accident.
A young boy came hurtling out of the front door and blindly ran straight into her. The force knocked them both to the ground.
She fell hard. Her limbs scraped against loose stones and the scorched dirt.
“What in the devil are you playing at?”
She got up quickly, patting herself off in the process.
The young boy sat still. Tears rolling down his dirty cheeks. He coughed as he struggled to breathe, the fine dust getting into his lungs.
Manny stepped onto the veranda and placed his hands on his hips. His shirt hung open and his hat tilted on his head.
Kayla shook her head at the sight of him. She had known Manny her entire life but she was always surprised to see him so relaxed at his home.
“This your boy Manny?”
“Aye, that be Thomas.”
“He make yer’ late then?”
Manny walked down the front steps and helped his son up. Thomas took the offered hand reluctantly.
Kayla chuckled to herself.
“Better bring him with us. ‘Bout time he learned the family trade.”
Manny and Thomas followed Kalya towards her truck. The truck smelled of licorice and sawdust. The engine rattled into life. Thomas slid into the centre. His eyes still pooling with tears.
Manny opened up a hip flask, taking a sip. He growled as the harsh liquid hit his throat. He passed it to Kayla, she drank as she drove across the open land.
“What them tears about then?”
She asked as she passed the flask back.
Manny laughed. “He got a clip round the ear for talking cheek to his mother, didn’t ya’ boy?”
Kayla gripped the wheel tighter as the truck bounced over the rough terrain.
“Well, that seems rightly deserved then. Ya’ don’t talk like that to your ma kid, ya’ just don’t.”
The truck swayed as the tires followed the grooves and tracks of the land. Thomas was the most affected by the force, having spent very little time in vehicles of any kind. He watched as the truck traveled through a river, unaffected by the water.
Manny lit up a cigarette and tilted his head back as he exhaled. The smoke filled the air quickly, Thomas started coughing.
“Quit it will ya manny. The kid got weak lungs or summit’?”
“He’s a weaklin’ alright.”
Manny laughed as he clapped his son on the back.
A Sacred Crop
Ending by @raj808
The truck bounced over a rut and rumbled over the cattle grid. To Kayla’s left, low scrub land stretched to the horizon. But to her right the endless monotony gave way to a wall of tall slender stalks. There hadn’t been any cattle here for a long time.
Forlorn figures scattered fine grey dust over the tall crop of corn. Kayla pulled the truck to a stop and reached to open the door.
Manny grabbed her wrist. “Hold up a second. The boy needs a lesson.”
They both turned to stare at a wide eyed Thomas as he shrunk back into the tired old leather seat.
She laughed. “I’ve never seen a kid so timid. What’n you be a fearing Thomas? Ya pa just wants to teach yer the family business.”
Manny heaved the boy forward and cuffed him lightly about the back of the head. Then lifted him over the seats to sit up front on his knee.
“I told ya boy, yer needs to grow up sooner rather than later. There ain’t no place in this world for cowards.”
Thomas nodded up at him.
Manny flashed a quick slant of a smile at the boy. “See them workers out there.”
He pointed at the shuffling figures, wrapped close about with tattered sackcloth cloaks.
Thomas stared eyes never blinking. “Well them’s different from us... never forget that. Don’t get too close cause they attack anyone smaller than themselves.”
Thomas’ eyes glistened. “And if they get ya, they will bite.” He grabbed the boys wrist, laughing as the shaking child twitched and squirmed to get into the back of the truck.
“Ah ah ah, none of that.” Manny opened the door and the heat blasted Kayla in the face.
The corn waved in the windless heat haze. Manny grabbed his rifle from the back of the truck and slung it over his shoulder. He dragged Thomas along the rows of corn. A tall figure loomed up ahead among the cloaked and hooded.
The man turned at his name.
He nodded as Manny stopped ten feet away from the man and his cloaked companions. Gunther was stick thin but wizened and hard like a desert tree.
“Go get.” He barked an order at his charges.
They shuffled away, casting wide arcs of ashen dust skyward from their black buckets.
“How far have we got?” Manny asked.
“A furlong left boss.”
“One escapee dead from the whip. We had to make an example of him.”
Manny nodded. “I’ll take care of the corpse.”
Kayla watched the line of ‘the changed’ filling bucket after bucket with ash from the charnel pit. Thomas blinked back tears as his father dumped the corpse into a second smoldering pit.
Manny kicked the cloth aside revealing a face pocked with puss and scars.
Thomas gawped in horror. One eye was higher than the other and the mans teeth protruded where his bottom lip should have been.
Manny’s brow crinkled as he looked at his son.
“Them’s different from us, never forget. Don’t let them touch you.”
Kayla nodded as she stepped forward, pulling up her trouser leg to show the boy the withered flesh of her left foot.
© Rowan Joyce all rights reserved