Spirit of The Corn, short story by Richard Prime at Spillwords.com
Gaspar Uhas

Spirit of The Corn

written by: Richard Prime


Travelling home from a day at a client site, the car began chugging and stalling. James Carter had successfully upgraded the libraries for his IT firm’s software at the client site in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, and was driving home to York, south along the A19. The journey would take approximately one hour, but James planned a small detour along the route to the Horseshoe pub in Easingwold for his dinner. He had only just turned on to the Thirsk Road to Easingwold when the engine died on him altogether.

James coasted the dying car onto the grass verge in what might as well have been the middle of nowhere. It was late October and the darkness and silence of the evening made him feel like the only person alive. Easingwold was still ten miles distant. He had spoken to a garage in Shipton, North of York, only a day earlier, and was planning to have the car serviced. It was the fuel pump, they said, and it needed replacing urgently. James had to work, and that meant being able to travel. In that respect, the car was his lifeline to his job. Now it was dead. James reached for his mobile phone, intending to call the garage and request a call out. There was also the Automobile Association that could tow his vehicle home. Problem solved. The difficulty was that he was miles from civilisation upon the North Yorkshire moors – and there was no signal. The car was dead. So was his mobile phone. It was raining – typical Yorkshire weather – and a ten-mile walk in that downpour could lead inevitably to pneumonia.

James sighed. He had two choices: either walk or sleep in the car, and later maybe flag down a passing motorist and ask for a ride into town. A long shot, really. The only travellers along that route were other businessmen heading for the Horseshoe for their evening meal. He locked the car door and began walking.

Fate smiled on James Carter that night. After walking for no more than half an hour he came across a track leading away from the road and, beside the track, stood a signpost announcing the presence of Groat Farm. James shrugged, maybe there would be a telephone. He followed the track until he saw lights in distant windows. Barns and sheds, like ghostly silhouettes in the night, watched him pass. The farmhouse was a stone cottage, but he could see the warmth of lights in the windows and a curl of smoke from a chimney. He knocked on the door.

A middle aged woman answered the door and, noticing how sopping wet James was, she greeted him with, “Are you alight, love?”

James seated himself by a huge stone fireplace. Logs burned harshly in the hearth and James could feel the rain evaporating from his suit. He explained his situation and asked if he might use her telephone.

“No,” said the woman. “No phone here.”

James felt his spirits sink.

A door opened and a large, ruddy faced fellow saw James and said in his Yorkshire brogue, “Hey up, wassop bahn erstwhile?”

James opened his mouth to speak, but the woman cut in. “This is old Groaty,” she explained. “My husband.”

“Hello, Sir,” said James, greeting the farmer. “I hope you don’t mind, but my car’s broken down on the main road. It’s the fuel pump. I was hoping to use your telephone.”

Groaty was pouring himself a cup of tea from the pot. He eyed James suspiciously and replied, “Fuel pump? Theyr’s ollis summat gang wrong wi cars.” Then he turned to the woman. “Gerim out them wet claarts, im’ll cop his death.”

“I’m Dilly,” said the woman, offering her hand to James. “You can stay here tonight. I’ll find you some dry clothes and wash those you’re wearing.”

James shook her hand and took the steaming cup of tea she offered. “Thank you.”

By the time James had been shown to his room, Groaty had lit a fire in the hearth. Dilly had laid dry clothes on the bed. James dried himself down with the towel she left and changed into the new clothing. It wasn’t the right size for him – too big – but better than those he wore when he arrived.”

Sitting by the downstairs fire, James asked, “If you have no phone, how on earth do you do business?”

“Markets,” Groaty replied. “Leeks un January, Carrots un February, then all greens un t’ Spring. Thas have Pigs an Cletch an Goats. erstwhile time t’year thas sell Pumpkins for soup an for roasting an for hallowe’en.”

Satisfied, James smiled. Hallowe’en was only a day away, though James never observed the festival, except for, as a child, when he went trick or treating.

“Give ‘im a coat, Dilly,” Groaty said to his wife. “Thas’ll order t’ tractor an taew his car un t’ farm.”

An hour later, James was seated by the fire again, having towed his car onto the farmyard.

It was then that James Carter met the most beautiful woman he’d ever had the pleasure to see.

“Tamsin,” said Dilly. “Our daughter.”

Tamsin was of medium height. Wide eyed. Red lips curled into a smile when she took James’ hand. “Pleased to meet you,” she said.

James didn’t sleep so well that night. He sank deep into the feather-down mattress, and the slightest movement caused him to bounce in the bed. There was also the sound of sweeping outside his room. He mentioned that over the breakfast.

“That would be me,” said Tamsin.

James accepted the explanation. Farm people must be meticulous about cleanliness, he decided.

There was still no signal to his mobile phone, either up or down stairs. Rain continued to pour outside, and James decided against walking into town. Instead, he chose to explore the farm. Outhouses contained farming accessories and machinery; air compressors, combines, great rolls of barbed wire for fencing, sack trucks and water containers. James heard squealing from one shed. He peered through the door to see Groaty dispatching a pig. Then he felt a soft hand in his. He turned to see Tamsin. “Come with me,” she said. Tamsin led him to an empty barn and, once the door was closed behind them, she kissed him. James did not object. They petted for some time in the gloom, until James finally pulled away and retrieved straw from his mouth. Tamsin giggled. “Sorry,” she apologised. Then they kissed again.

At dinner that evening, Dilly explained that “When it stops raining, Tamsin will take you to Crayke Hill. You’ll find better reception to your mobile phone there.

That night, James was woken abruptly when someone sat on his bed. He opened his eyes, expecting and hoping to see Tamsin, but sitting by him was a grey-haired old woman. “Thas’re un ar bed,” she demanded. By the time James had turned on his bedside lamp, she had gone. The next morning, he mentioned this to Dilly.

“That’s Nana Tata,” she explained. “Don’t mind her. She’d harmless.”

“But I was in her bed!” James protested.

“Not any more.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s been dead for ten years,” Tamsin announced. “She won’t harm you.”

“T’dead cos’t gyp thas,” Groatie interjected. “Un t’ living, blake.”

James swallowed hard. “She’s a ghost?”

Tamsin nodded. “But harmless.”

The rain had finally stopped. Tamsin handed James a coat and said, “Come with me.”

Together, he and Tamsin followed paths through the fields to Crayke Hill. The corn had been harvested and through the fields stood castles of hay bales waiting majestically to be collected. They stopped many times to kiss. James didn’t mind that, each time he and Tamsin kissed, he found straw in his mouth. It must be a farm girl thing, he decided.

At the summit of Crayke Hill, James was able to call the garage at Shipton. They arranged to collect him and his car the following morning. On the journey back to the farm, Tamsin kissed him again, and said, seductively, “Tonight.”

Groatie had taken the tractor and had gone to market to sell Hallowe’en Pumpkins.

Tamsin spent the afternoon sitting on James’ lap with her arms about his neck, embracing him. Dilly didn’t seem to mind.

That night, James lay in bed and waited. It was his final night at the farm, and Tamsin had said she would be there. Then he heard sweeping outside his door. Curious, James threw on a dressing gown and peered out of the bedroom door. He saw Tamsin sailing across the floor, to disappear around a corner. James rubbed his yes. I must be more tired than I thought, he wondered. He closed the door and turned around.

Tamsin was lying in bed, waiting for him. James threw off his dressing gown and slipped between the sheets beside her. “I didn’t see you come in,” he said. Then they made love.

Later, Tamsin said to him, “You’re mine now.”

“Always, I think,” he replied, kissing her. “I’ll come back.”

Tamsin shook her head. “You don’t understand. You cannot leave.”

“Don’t be silly!” James argued. “I have a job to do.”

She said, “Look!” and pulled the sheets back. Instead of the beautiful naked woman James had made love to, from her neck down, Tamsin was a corn dolly.

James gasped.

“Now look,” she said, pulling back the sheets and revealing his own naked body.

James tried to rise from the bed, but his legs refused to co-operate. Instead of legs and feet, James had sheaves of corn growing from his pelvis.

“You’re mine,” said Tamsin, repeating herself.

James began to scream.

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This publication is part 63 of 103 in the series 13 Days of Halloween