Now that Halloween has passed and the spirits’ve gone back into hibernation, we’re officially packing up and rolling on out of spooky town. Let’s have one last hurrah on the way out though, because this week we’re writing about a slightly darker-sounding aspect of the season of the Turkey…
This week’s prompt is:
Read the Rules and Guidelines below to participate!
Make it grim, make it dark, make it vaguely autumnal. There are a lot of directions to go with this prompt, but some of the most alluring out of the gate, especially if you’re leaning into the general creepiness of the prompt, is toward the harvest of people rather than produce. And those stories are bound to be a lot of fun, but remember, “harvest” can be a very broad theme. It could be about the things attached to harvest time as well: hunger, scarcity, plenty, reaping, sewing, life and death, etc., etc., etc. Just as scary to realize during harvest time that you’re facing famine as it would be to realize you’re the one being “harvested”.
Happy harvesting! Can’t wait to see what you all bring to the table.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or song lyrics.
- One submission per participant.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- You must leave a review on two other submission to be eligible, and your reviews must be at least 50 words long.
- No more than 350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Include a story title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name).
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission live on stream and share it on our social media sites. You will always be credited as the author.
- Comments on this post that aren’t submission will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing entries
The Scarecrow by Domtron
Mark Cowl pulled up into the driveway of the Adam’s to check up on the matriarch Margret. he got out of his car smelling the cool autumn air. “Mrs Adam?” He calls out before hearing a familiar southern voice. “I’m over here Mr Cowl by the scarecrow!” Cowl followed the sound of the voice before meeting the kind old woman picking up food for the harvest “working hard? Or hardly working” Cowl chuckles as Margret giggles sweetly “working hard just like my Bobby” Margret responds as her eyes met the scarecrow. Cowl looks at the scarecrow seeing it was wearing Bobby’s clothes “interesting scarecrow you have there Margret, aren’t those Bobby’s clothes?” Cowl inquires as he inspects the scarecrow closely.
“well Bobby likes wearing his blue button up and black pants” The doctor was taken aback by Margret’s response. “You named the scarecrow after your late husband?” Cowl questions. “Why that IS my husband Mr Cowl” Margret’s eyes opened wide as a smile grew on her face almost as if she was excited. Cowl was in disbelief that Margret would be in this huge state of denial “Margret…” he was lost for words as he tries to collect his thoughts “…not to be mean but you know that Bobby’s dead, I know you’re having a rough time right now but-“
“Oh no Mr Cowl I’m not having a bad time at all, Bobby has been helping me with the harvest, speaking of which let me get you some food I picked out so you can’t take home” the old woman smiles before walking to her house. Cowl was alone with the scarecrow unsure what to think about the way Margret is going through this grief if she’s even going through it. He inspects the scarecrow closely wanting to know more about the scarecrow. He felt as if it was looking at him, staring at him. Cowl’s heart stops as saw a face behind a scarecrow mask, a decaying face that was probably a few weeks old, the same time Bobby has been dead.
“Another Great Year”
By William Maitland
His bony, shaky finger pointed at me. All eyes in the town fell upon me. I tried very hard to hide my frown. We all knew what was about to happen. I’d had a gut feeling about this for weeks. I knew my day was coming.
The harvest festival’s myriad aromas still hung thick in the air. Fresh-cooked meats, the baker’s annual sweetcakes, even the stew in the shaman’s pot. That one stuck with me the most, in that day of revelry beneath the shadow of the Effigy.
My father had pulled me aside, and tilted my head up by the chin. “What an honor it is,” he told me, “that you are chosen for this. The gods will be good to us, for your sake.” I nodded, but in my heart I wondered if that was true. My mother was sniffling. She didn’t want me to catch her wiping away her tears. I caught her, but decided not to ask about it.
I had something to do. I was going to bring my people another bountiful year.
I stepped forward and faced the crowd. When I raised my fist and shouted the mantra, morale soared. They picked it up quickly. A chant. A chant to cheer me on my ascent. My slow, splintery ascent up the left leg, and into the chest, of the Effigy.
It never occurred to me that I might fall. Not once. I could’ve lost my grip and splattered on the ground. Would the gods even pick another? Or would they just consider this year a botched one, and turn all the gourds black, and give our cattle wasting-plague? None of these questions crossed my mind as I went up, took my seat, and dragged the wicker door shut in front of me.
Once more I gave the cry, from my high perch. The torchbearer came through, and ignited the leg I’d climbed up on. He scurried back, then, to join the circle in their song.
The last thing I took notice of, as sweat started to pour, was the shaman’s wolfish grin.
“Sustenance”, by Lily
I wish you could see it mother. The beautiful colors of another fall day decorate the world outside your kitchen window. Of course, though, you knew the end was near. I’m sure you soaked up as much of it as you could while you still had the chance.
The baby is due any day now. If we were any other family, you’d be preparing her room, gathering decorative frames to show off your beautiful new granddaughter, but we are what we are. What could I have done to change things? What could I have possibly done to stop myself? My baby was hungry. The cravings were so strong. You understand. After all, you did the same thing to feed me, didn’t you mother? And Grandmother must have been so proud of you.
The table is decorated just like you taught me. The perfect Thanksgiving display. Pumpkin and pecan pie, stuffing, casserole, yeast rolls, everything you could want, and all with the most wonderful centerpiece.
You’ve never been so beautiful mother, and this year, I want you to know how thankful I am for your sacrifice. I know it must have hurt. I know it must have been scary, but you taught me that the things we do for our children are often scary and painful, and that it’ll all be worthwhile in the end. I’m providing sustenance for the next generation after all, and I’m taking careful measures.
I want this to be beautiful. I want this to be respectful. I want this to be something you would have been proud to be a part of. I want to lead by example, like you did mother, so that one day my own daughter will grant me the same dignity when motherhood comes to her.
I’ve seasoned you perfectly, and only stolen a small portion for myself and the baby, to satiate the cravings, you know. You’ll be the most delicious dish at the table this year.
“Honest Work” by Exce
Metal scraped over metal, a sharp noise that echoed in the wooden shed momentarily.
The man turned the blade, the golden light of the morning reflecting off the sharp edge as it fell in through a window.
At that, a smile split the man’s red beard and he rested the scythe over his shoulder as he stepped out of the shed.
In front of him the mountaintop was basked in the early light, and one of the many partitions of his mountain farm was filled with ears of corn that looked as if of solid gold.
Even if he nowadays had longer hair around his chin than on top of his head, having cut his hair shorter due to convenience, the air still found some longer hairs to tickle his neck with.
In this moment of peace, he couldn’t suppress a twitch in his free hand. Fingers slowly curling into a fist.
He gritted his teeth and forced his hand to open up again, taking a deep breath. His grip on the scythe’s handle tightened and the man sped up his pace, flipping up the latch and letting the gate swing open.
Now that he stood surrounded by the golden ears he forced himself to breathe slowly, taking the scythe in a practiced grip.
Sometimes it was easy to forget, but when there was nothing to do the instincts and memories began to creep up again.
So time to work, the blade passed through the stalks in front of him.
He had had many names over the years…The Red Scholar. The Red Beast. But he had always wanted to just be Excelsius.
From side to side, tufts of golden wheat collected around Excelsius’ feet.
Nowadays, when he went to the market or met people down in the foothills..they didn’t look at him in fear or awe. They nodded and went on their way.
He wasn’t mourning the times in which they would whisper behind his back or cower in fear.
Now he was just one of many Ranchers in this region. And he was, finally, at peace.
It began with the Harvest.
(Fog of Obscruity Series)
“For an Age we have stood and watched here. In this village that once was part of what lies beyond the river, in the fog with its droning sounds. For this protection had been raised and never lowered.
We watched as tall black ships left the sea harbor beyond the fog. Their holds laden with strange goods, only to return with riches untold, luxuries, curiosities and strange folks.
We watched as our part of the riverbank fell into poverty and disrepair, our lives becoming the play things of lords far away, while our supposed sovereign sat behind the fog.
Many searched for a way beyond the fog, none ever returned. Our small village prospered some in those times. But when the black ships stopped their trade, so too did the interest of the lords disappear.
Now an Age has past since the fog appeared and the black ships never returned. The fog and this village have passed into obscurity and strange curiosity, but we have not forgotten.
Beyond the fog still laid riches, still laid prosperity, still laid the promise of a better future and we, we have found a way in.”
Coltons gaze flew over the remainder of the book in his hands. It told a tale of how the village had explored the lands beyond the fog.
How they had found no inhabitants, only too few skeletons arranged like scarecrows.
How it had prospered from the resources they obtained from beyond the fog.
How new strangers came to profit from what they had waited generations for.
With a stoic look on his face he closed the book. It was true, afterall he wasn’t the first one to come here seeking profit and he certainly would not be the last. But, looking around at the empty village, he might be the first to find a new way to find his fortune.
With a nod at the corpses hanging limp from their stands in the marketplace, their arms outstretched, Colton turned.
There was an opportunity to be sized.
Wind blew across his face as he stared across the field. This wind, that he had called ‘Harvest Wind’, was revitalizing to him, although late autumn wasn’t kind in any other way. The special kind of nostalgia this Harvest Wind gave was closely tied to memories of running through the pumpkins with friends in times long past.
He knew that wind like nobody else. Now I know that wind, but it’s not the same. I only give a cruel mockery of the way he knew the Harvest Wind.
On Harvest day, a day that nobody expected, he would look out and see the sprawling fields and smile fondly when he’d see the biggest, most plump pumpkin, and he’d almost always chuckle to himself at this. That was the one, he would have thought, the one that would represent his love.
Harvest day again, but this time he’s not here. I’m here. I see the vast crowds and smile when I see the most corrupt, vile person there. That’s the one, I think to myself, the one that will represent my hatred. This isn’t what he wanted, but it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters now.
Harvest day again. No longer a matter of how close to ripe the crops were. A day I set on the calendar with grim satisfaction. They loved him, the kind farmer. He gave happiness to any who would visit him. They fear me, the remorseless and silent reaper. I take lives from any who dare oppose me.
They knew him.
They don’t know me.
They’ll never know me.
They’ll never know.
“Frost” by Grey
Elizabeth frowned at the engine as it roared to life, the machine beginning to rumble as the hot steam was pumped around the system. She lowered the goggles over her face as steam rushed out of a connector pipe leading to the farm. Rolling out her tools, she began to work.
As she tightened the bolts, a thin man stepped down into the room straightening his frock coat. Elizabeth sighed, “You know I don’t like to be interrupted while I’m working Mr. Simmons.”
“I’m afraid you are incorrect, Ms. Evergarde.” The wispy voice caused Elizabeth to spin, her hair whipping her face in the process.
“I… I didn’t realize…” Elizabeth quickly brushed off the dust from her woolen shirt and pants, “I thought the harvest wasn’t until next week, Mr. Cross”
“The king has decreed an early tax,” Mr. Cross produced a clipboard, “What is your current produce?”
Elizabeth shifted, her heart began beating rapidly, “I have a multitude of produce, I’m about to collect on some potatoes.”
Mr. Cross raised his eyebrow, “From Mr. Simmons I presume?” Elizabeth nodded, “Then we may have an issue. See Mr. Simmons is unable to meet the quota for this harvest.”
Elizabeth froze, her blood pounding against her skin. She hadn’t considered that Mr. Simmons wouldn’t be able to pay. As she stiffened, Mr. Cross lifted his hand and motioned for the guard to come in.
Two guns pointed at Elizabeth, her voice shaken as she said, “You can’t take me, I keep most of the engines working in this community… I… They won’t be able to produce…”
Mr. Cross clicked his tongue, “Either you produce, or we will have to acquire our produce another way. Seize her!”
by Samantha Realynn
As soon as I stepped across the threshold a great warmth enveloped me, sinking down into my bones and my tremors ceased. The door behind me closed, shutting out the last of the bitter cold that had almost claimed my life. My savior draped a blanket over my shoulders and led me from the entrance.
“There we go. Now, we’ll get you proper warm in no time.” She smiled at me, her eyes soft and kind. I smiled back. I already felt far better than I had before she found me, freezing just outside of her cottage. I didn’t remember seeing it before I collapsed, though how anyone could see in that terrible, cold darkness was beyond me. The cottage seemed simple, bathed in light and decorated in warm colors that reminded me of home. Home…where was home…? Where…
I was led to the dining room and my jaw dropping at the sight of food already laid out, hot and fresh and ready to eat. There was enough for an army to feast and still have leftovers. The smells alone made me drool. I would have blushed at the noises my stomach made but I was too hungry to care. All I could think about was the food.
My host laughed and led me to a chair. “Please, eat your fill. I know you must be starving. The harvest was excellent this year, as usual. Please, partake.”
I lunged at an already prepared plate, marveling at how good the food tasted. All of it my favorites that I hadn’t tasted in years. Food was scarce, had been for ages. The cold destroyed so much. But not here. I paused, how could there have been a good harvest here? Where did all this food come from? All I remembered outside was the cold…
A warm hand rested on my shoulder and a suffusion of warmth made me look up at my kindly host. Her warm smile banished any worries from me.
“Now don’t you fret. Eat your fill. There will always be more. The cold will make sure of that.”
“Ritual” by Matthew
Societies dependent on agriculture are fragile and depend on a delicate cycle of birth and regrowth. One bad harvest year means sleepless nights, empty bellies and frugal rationing. Two bad harvest years mean disease, starvation, and death.
It is by these thoughts the village leaders feared the coming year. Winter had just arrived, and a dry spell had stunted the growth of the previous season. The Johnson’s had a two year old toddler, and the Jones’s had recently birthed a new baby boy of their own. The village depended on a good harvest, but no guarantee was provided.
Motivated by fear, uncertainty, and love, the villagers consulted their elders who told of a mystic ritual preformed by their ancestors in times of peril. They told tale of Freya, the wife of Wotan, and goddess of fertility. Freya’s blessing was needed if next years harvest is to be successful
On a cold, winter night, the men of the village gathered and made their way into a clearing in a nearby forest. A carpenter provided several recently carved ritualistic busts and began to place them in the center of the carved posts being erected by the other men.
With a spark, the busts began to catch flame. The fires were reluctant at first, but the dry air and hastily added brush aided their cause. Flames began to leap from burning face to burning face as the men stared vigilantly at the bonfire.
The loud cackling of timbers was interrupted by an aged voice begging forgiveness of Freya. The rest of the men then joined in and began to chant while walking counterclockwise.
At the end of the procession, the carpenter cast the last remaining carving, a strong mare, into the fire. The largest offering presented, the men bowed their heads in silent prayer, begging for security, life, and health.
But the feeble gods of Earth were unable to answer their call. The cold unfeeling planet continued, unaltered from its inevitable course, and unfazed by the desperate pleas of a vulnerable people.
Green Silence, by Tim Zygor
It had only been a year since I last visited my brother’s cottage on a green-filled cliff, overlooking the sea. When I stepped out of my carriage, I could tell something was off immediately, there was no noise. Not even the – usually omnipresent – crows made themselves known. I rushed through the fields with little interest for Thomas’s trade. All I could think about was what had happened. Had he been falsely imprisoned, like so many? Had some bandit gotten the better of him?
Once at the cottage, I shouted into the yellow, evening air: “Thomas! Where are you?”. No answer. I was worried before, but now panic gripped my chest and squeezed it tightly, my lungs refused to work as I rushed off towards his house.
Open doors everywhere I looked. No fires or flames, even if fall had taken the warmth of summer with it long ago. Yet, no signs of a fight or hurried escape, it looked as if everyone had just disappeared. No matter. “Maybe they’re working. That must be it.”, I told myself, trying to fight down the panic closing its hands around my throat.
Finally, my search brought me to the barn, its door slightly ajar. As I stepped closer a terrible odor was in the air: Sweet and pungent, it hung around the barn like a black veil. Gingerly stepping inside I quickly found the source of the smell: A pile of… potatoes? Surely not. For one, potatoes are not black and slick and they certainly don’t smell like disease. “What were you harvesting Thomas?”
I must have said it out loud because a voice answered me: “What we harvest? Doom.” The voice rattled with laughter, before exploding into a coughing fit. Even now I recognized my brother and ran towards him, a strange, malnourished form propped up against the wood. With no sign of recognition, he made one more belabored breath: “We even export it.”
“Life Reaps Death; Death Reaps Life” by Magan (350 words)
The witless vegetable-sheep bleated panic, straining against rooted umbilical stalks to flee, their cotton-wool blazing with autumn colors. Shepherds frantically sought to calm them with powdered balms, facing the monster despite their terror. The sheep were not ripe enough to risk fatal stalk breaks. The beastfolk village would starve if this crop-herd were lost.
This mindless giant spider was new to this region of Dracora, harrying Mossglen for days. Their usual weapon and magic tactics failed. They were too small for a hunters’ guild, too poor to hire loners. Several villagers lay dead already, drained, or poisoned. This spider had no anti-venom yet.
The hunter came on the 8th day, Mossglen despairing from grief. A battle-scarred, winged lion, armored and bladed, he took no payment but still fought. The battle lasted hours, the spider slain, but the demigod poisoned. Poultices and comfort were all they could offer their wounded savior. There was no mage-healer among them, too isolated to find one in time.
He wouldn’t last the night.
Priests traditionally came for the dead at dusk. Vulture, jackal, raven, clean scented and skull-masked, jeweled in bone and white tattoos. They and other carrion eaters took the bodies into seclusion to free their souls from flesh. This feast was their right, an exception to taboo. Beastfolk did not eat beastfolk. The bones were scorched to cleanse them and returned for burial. Where possible, the pelt was preserved to cloak the returned soul, should they choose to visit on sacred holidays. The fallen hunter received such honor as well.
The villagers left small gifts and sang prayers to guide the souls to the Rainbow Dens, or rebirth if their cycle of three lives was incomplete. More so, they asked for loved ones’ safety from the Maw of Oblivion, which devoured lost dead who strayed from their psychopomp.
When the rites of death were complete, life returned once more. The dead spider was butchered and made use of. Months passed. The ripe vegetable-sheep were reaped and prepared for winter, their cotton-wool warming homes. Mossglen celebrated Equinox Festival in thanks for a saving harvest.
“The Hand of the Saint” by Connor/Dragoneye
Squeak went the cathedral doors as they opened slowly. The lone figure in sable garbs stepped onto the cracked stone floor, clacking his boots together and scraping the mud off them as he dragged rattling manacles behind himself. The wind and rain battered against the old structure, with small howls whispering in the cracks of the walls.
The enterer stepped into the dimly lit sanctuary, where in the pews sat Hollows, donned in rags and hands clasped together. The chamber was silent, besides the wheezing gasps of those who were deep in prayer. Incense that smelled of charcoal and raspberries burned within the rusted gold censers that sat at the entrance of the doorway.
He yanked the chain harder as its captive resisted. It let out a deep guttural growl.
“Now, now, don’t be afraid. A goodly home, this place will be for you.” The captor caressed the monstrosity’s snout poking out of a tattered sackcloth draped on his head. He then reached behind his back and unveiled an ornate silver chime. Before the captive had a moment to unleash its rage, the bell’s soft ring soothed its boiling blood, and it followed him to the altar, docile and content.
Standing on the apse was Saint Alexander. “Venan. Another of the clergy?”
“A Cleric of Lucielle, in Carim. He was reading the prayer as soon as I got there,” Venan answered, gesturing to the shackled beast. Alexander responded, “Well done. This should be enough of them for now.” As they conversed, the saint raised his bishop’s staff towards the creature’s face. A deep purple sludge dripped from its crook as he uttered a prayer under his breath. From the sludge, a large writhing grub burst forth and flew into the maw of the captive beast. It remained still, the worm inching down its throat.
“So, now what?” asked Venan as he leaned against the wall, staring at Alexander and the Miracle that he recited.
“Find the Lords of Cinder. Remind them of the truth. Once you do so, it will all fall into place.”
Quarry, by Zendrelax
His path was stymied. The mist obscured the track, as the underbrush clawed at his legs. He leaned down to get a closer look at the ground at his feet. A broken twig. An upturned rock. He peered around a stem– there. A hoofprint, fresh. They would feast, now. Gently, he slipped a bow down from his back, and he moved to stand, and jerked to a stop.
The brush grasped his arm. He tried to pull away. The grip only tightened. His movements grew more frantic. They whispered in response, but would not let go. He straightened his legs, stooping. He jerked back–
He fell backwards, crashing into the undergrowth. Even as it snapped underneath him, as a mass it writhed and curled around him, holding tight. He could hear something moving, now, slowly and gently.
Ever so faint, a pale light danced through the mist. He strained against his bonds.
A single hoof came down in front of his eyes, as if struck from gold. Slowly, he turned his head up, tracking a slender leg, the mist coiling around its coat of pale bronze. It ended abruptly in fire, a small sun wrapped around the chest, and rising up the back of the neck. The strong, sturdy neck, holding the head, the snout, the–
The eyes were stars some god had plucked from the sky, yet still peering down at him from above. The eyes were not angry. They…
It was sad. A breeze rolled through the underbrush, it almost sounded like someone asking “Why?”
His breath shuddered. “The Rot, it took our harvest from us. My family, I–“
It pulled its head back, and its horn dropped lower. He screwed his eyes shut. “I’m sorry.”
He heard the sound of hoofsteps again. The undergrowth loosened around him, and he opened his eyes to find the forest had opened. Its tail was tipped in fire. Its horn rose high above its head, washing the forest with silver light. For just a moment, he eyed where his bow had fallen.
He followed, and left it where it lay.