The Hollyfield Massacre
Somewhere in colonial America…
“This is going to be a rough summer,” Father says. It is already late April and the spring rains have yet to appear. Donnet knows what this means. It means the crops will not grow. They will have to sell their only cow in Haverton market for enough beets and corn to survive the summer. None know if they can save enough to make it through the following winter. Father kicks the ground, sending up a cloud of dust.
“There is time yet,” Donnet says.
“Yes, I suppose so,” Father says. He furrows his brow and returns to the house.
Donnet stares out at the dry, sun-baked fields for a while. Eventually, he hears his mother calling him. “Donnet,” she says.
“Yes, mother?” Donnet answers.
“I need you to go into town for some cloth. Pick up three pounds of wool from the Bensons. Here’re three half-crowns,” mother says, dropping the coins into his hand.
“Yes mother,” Donnet answers.
“And stay away from Mad Man Simon; don’t even talk to him,” mother warns.
“Yes mother,” Donnet answers.
Donnet takes the money and walks to town. It is only across the field and through the woods to the main road. From there, it is less than an hour to Hollyfield center. It is a small town, but anything one could want can be found there. Donnet walks slowly past the candy shop, peering through the display window. He longingly gazes upon the exotic honey drops, made with foreign herbs and spices. Finally forcing himself to move on, knowing he doesn’t have the money, he stops in the cloth shop. “Hello, Mrs. Benson.”
“Oh, hello Donnet,” Mrs. Benson responds from behind the counter. “What does your mother need this month?”
“Three pounds of wool,” Donnet answers.
“Alright,” Mrs. Benson says. She measures out the wool. “Here you go.” Donnet hands her the three half-crowns. She takes two and hands the third back. “Thank you, but we received a recent overshipment on wool, so it’s on sale this season.”
“Thanks,” Donnet says, taking the coin and leaving the store with his wool. Donnet walks down the street intending to return home. His mother will be pleased when she finds out how much she saved. Hold it! He could buy himself some candy now and she need never know. What luck! He stops in front of the display window, deciding which of the hundreds of flavors to choose.
Then he hears a voice behind him. “Awfully dry weather we’re having, isn’t it?” Mad Man Simon says. “It seems the eco-dome has a glitch.” It was normal for Mad Man Simon to speak in such gibberish. Some said his tongue was bewitched, others his mind.
“Uh, it is very dry. If rain doesn’t come soon, the seed won’t sprout,” Donnet responds. He never knew how to just walk away when asked a question, and he kind of liked Mad Man Simon; he was entertaining.
“True, unless the bots mend the tubing,” Simon says, continuing to speak nonsense.
“Well, I’d better go. If I tarry much longer my parents will want to know what I was doing and who I talked to,” Donnet says.
“That’s a shame. You’re lucky you ran into me today. I can solve all your problems and it will only cost you one half-crown,” Simon says.
“How? And how do you know I have a half-crown?” Donnet asks.
“Oh, I know a great many things. I even know how to make it rain,” Simon says.
Donnet pauses. “How?” he finally says.
The madman reaches into his coat pocket and removes half a walnut shell, holding it out on his palm. “This is an enchanted nut. Put it under your pillow tonight, and it will rain tomorrow.”
Donnet eyes the shell suspiciously. It seems perfectly ordinary, but he wants to be able to help his family, and he knows it won’t cost him any more than just one coin that he did not even expect to have to spare this morning. “Okay,” he finally says, handing over the coin and taking the shell.
“Good choice. Just place it under your pillow at night any time you need rain – but remember, never leave it under your pillow two nights in a row. This is very important,” Simon says.
“Okay,” Donnet says, “Thanks.” Excited, he runs home. When he arrives, he burns to reveal his secret good fortune, but knows his parents will want to know where it came from and then he will be in trouble.
“You’re in a good mood,” mother says.
“I have a hunch it will rain tomorrow,” Donnet says.
“Why’s that?” mother asks.
“I just do,” Donnet answers.
“Well, it had better. It’s already the twenty-ninth. We can’t wait much longer,” father grumbles. That night, Donnet carefully places the walnut shell under his pillow and dreams happy dreams.
The next morning, Donnet wakes to the sound of heavy rain. It is April thirtieth. It is dark from the thick clouds. He runs outside and jumps for joy in the mud. “Donnet, hurry up and gather the eggs and come back inside before you catch some horrid disease – and clean off your feet!” mother calls from the kitchen.
Donnet obeys and soon joins his parents and sister for breakfast. Mother cooks the eggs while father sips his coffee. “The April showers finally came on the last possible day. A couple more rainy days like this and we’ll be fine,” father comments. He smiles. Donnet had never seen him this happy.
“How are the chickens handling the weather?” Mother asks.
“Fairly well. Betty still hasn’t laid any eggs,” Donnet answers.
“Well, she is getting old,” Mother says.
“It’s too wet to play outside,” Sister says.
“Sounds like a perfect day for you to help me spin the yarn,” Mother says.
“Are we going to make mittens? I want pink ones!” Sister says.
“I think we can manage that,” Mother says.
“I suppose you and I are on churning duty,” Father says. Normally Donnet hates churning butter, but today he felt like doing everything – right after finishing his eggs and biscuits. It continues to rain heavily all day and into the night.
The next day it rains again. It is May first. Donnet joins his father on the covered porch, staring out at the fields. “It sure is coming down heavy. Another day like this and the seeds will drown.” Father comments.
“Oh,” Donnet says.
“Hold it! Did you see something move out there?” father asks.
Donnet strains to see through the rain. There is indeed something moving. Father grabs his pitchfork and jogs out into the rain. Donnet follows. They soon arrive at the spot of the movement, but there is nothing but a few strange, tall, thorny stalks bowing and swaying under the torrent. “What sort of weeds are these?” Donnet asks, indicating the stalks.
“I don’t know, but they shouldn’t be here,” father says. Donnet sees a very large green bud on one of the stalks. It must be over three feet long. He leans closer to examine it. Suddenly, it snaps open, revealing an enormous green flower. Donnet leaps back, startled. Six eyes in the middle of the flower stare back at him, each winking a separate rhythm. The large petals are lined with what look like sharp, curved teeth. “That is not natural! Get back to the house!” father orders.
Donnet runs but turns back when he hears his father yell. He watches as his father is grabbed by a flower and swallowed whole, becoming a bulge moving down the stalk. He runs right up to the flower in anger but freezes when it bends over to face him, hissing and oozing red liquid from a slit right in its center. The flower lunges at him, but so does another flower at the same time and they bump each other out of the way. The two flowers face each other, hissing.
Wasting no time, Donnet takes advantage of the distraction and runs back to the house. He races upstairs to his bedroom and retrieves the walnut shell still under his pillow. How could he have forgotten? He stuffs it into his pants pocket. “Where’s father?” sister asks from the bedroom doorway.
“Never mind. I have to fix something. Just stay inside,” Donnet says.
“Why?” sister asks.
“Just stay inside!” Donnet yells, “Where’s mother?”
“She’s feeding the cow,” sister answers. Donnet runs outdoors through the rain to the barn. There is no one inside. He runs out the back door and almost collides with another giant, thorny stalk. There is a large bulge in the middle of it. The flower bends down, snapping its petals.
“Donnet, get back! That thing ate the cow!” mother yells from behind him. He runs to join his mother. “Go get your father and tell him to get his musket.”
“No, just get inside,” Donnet says.
“Get your father first,” mother says.
“No, I did something stupid. Father’s gone. Just go inside,” Donnet says.
“What are you talking about?” mother asks.
“Just go inside. I’ll fix it!” Donnet yells and runs out across the field. There are dozens of the monster plants out here, but Donnet runs in great arcs around them, staying just out of the range of their snapping petals. He reaches the woods and takes the trail to the road. He runs almost the whole way to town. Out of breath, he stops under the eaves of the tobacco shop to rest, completely soaked.
Someone approaches him from behind. “You fool! I told you not to leave that thing under your pillow,” Mad Man Simon scolds him.
“I forgot! Now there are monsters! They ate my father!” Donnet yells.
“Yes, those are called May flowers – beings that feed on magic and flesh. There’s always a cost to performing magic. Don’t you ever watch television?” Simon says.
“Please, I don’t understand what you’re saying. Just help me,” Donnet pleads.
“There might be a way to kill them. I’ll Google it on my laptop and send you an email. Does your cell have text capability?” Simon says, relapsing back into gibberish. The crazy man can be no help now. Donnet runs crying back home.
“Okay, TTYL,” Simon calls out random letters after him.
On the main road, Donnet runs into his friend Lamar. He is carrying two swords. “Donnet! Don’t go into the fields. There are monsters everywhere. I’m going to go check on my uncle over yonder hill.”
“I know! My farm is covered with them, too,” Donnet says.
“Oh! Here, take one of my swords. Chop them off near the roots and they die,” Lamar says.
Donnet takes the sword. “Thanks much, Lamar.”
“No problem, and good luck,” Lamar responds. The boys part ways, running.
Returning to his farm, Donnet slices down one May flower after another. Sure enough, the moment they are separated from the roots, they collapse, motionless. Finally, Donnet encounters an especially feisty flower. It whips around violently and knocks Donnet right over. He drops his sword for only a moment, but as he reaches for it, the flower reaches it first, grasping it in its petals and tossing it far away. In the thick rain, Donnet cannot even see in what direction it landed. The May flower waves its leaves menacingly. It snaps at him. He backs up rapidly until out of its range. Suddenly, he feels himself lifted up into the air by his coat from behind. Tearing off his coat, he falls to the muddy ground. The second flower spits his coat out. A third flower comes after him and he slips in the mud, trying to get up. Very rapidly, the third flower grabs him up, swallows him, and crushes him inside its stalk while the other two flowers look on in jealousy that they lost a meal.
Donnet is slowly digested, including his bones, teeth, and clothes. Then something happens. When the enchanted walnut shell in his pocket digests, the magic fails. Every May flower in Hollyfield instantly and simultaneously dies, collapsing to the ground.
The next day, the rain stops and the sun shines. A couple dozen people and animals are dead or missing, but most survive. The survivors never learn the full story of how the May flowers came to be or why they suddenly perished, but to this day they still tell the tale of the flesh-eating plants to their children, passing on a warning to every new generation in the form of this saying: April showers bring May flowers.