The farmer is scared of something and he doesn’t know why. He lives in a small windswept house deep in the countryside and he is waiting for his wife to come home. She hasn’t been home in a while, long enough that he can’t even remember her face, but he knows he’s waiting for someone to come home, and in the meantime he is alone. He thinks he is alone. He must be alone. 

Every day he goes to the root cellar and scrubs fruitlessly at the growing patch of mold in the corner. Every night he hears the rasp of a voice at his door, a not-voice; not his wife and not his own, and not the trader who comes round sometimes in the fall. It sounds like a fork scraping on cheaply-made plates; it sounds like a death rattle; it sounds like disease; and whenever he hears it the farmer cannot help but cover his ears and squeeze his eyes shut, as night after night, it pleads for him to let it in. He scrubs the mold in the cellar but it’s no use. Patches are spreading up through to his room, curling above his headboard in the shape of a tombstone. He refuses to look at it.

The farmer begins to sleep in the kitchen of his little house, on a roll of blankets pushed up against the pantry, under the hooks on the ceiling where the frying pans hang. He feels eyes on him when he walks the edges of the fields and he begins to hear things in the whisper of the wind through the trees, and one night, despite all the times he’s ignored it, the knocking starts to come not from the front door, but from inside the pantry. There is less pleading to it and more snarl. The farmer scrubs at the mold which clings to the kitchen sink. He tends his crops. Disease has entered the henhouse; the chickens are starving but refuse to eat, eyes cloudy, breathing ragged, and it’s too familiar for the farmer to bear. He abandons going to the henhouse because when he visits he cannot stop crying. He goes on a long and rambling walk and sees a fresh mound of dirt out near the woods that circle his home and his breath comes short and he runs all the way back to the house. The mold has grown more. He’s worried it’s going to make him sick but he already feels sick sometimes. It’s in his chest, in his throat. He ignores it. He has to keep going or his wife will be disappointed, that’s what her sister said, dressed all in black, looking earnestly up at him. She’ll be disappointed, you have to keep going. 

The farmer is scared of something and he knows why but he can’t say it. He scrubs at the mold growing in the basement and then, one night, as he lies with his eyes firmly shut, something raps against his chest and commands him, in a voice like never ending sorrow, to let it in.

DS Oswald is a nonbinary lesbian writer, illustrator, and animator. They decided they wanted to be an author in the third grade, and their extraordinary stubbornness has kept that dream fixed in their head ever since. They have been an obsessive creator since the age of twelve—books, short stories, audio dramas, video games, comics, illustrations, short films, and terrible songs that nobody should listen to—and they intend to go on this way forever.

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