You must login to vote
It was going to be a good night for planting. Ned thought as he headed out across the field. He looked up to watch the full moon creep out from the low hanging clouds, throwing silver rays on the bare ground.
The back gate to the graveyard was ajar when Ned entered. As the eldest Carter it was his turn to sow the Dragon’s Teeth.
‘Dragon’s Teeth,’ he thought, ‘what a morbid joke to play on Carter Falls.’
Ned could remember when Mr. Piler had coined the term from Jason’s adventures with the Golden Fleece. Piler had been a friend of Ned’s grandfather, both schoolteachers at the Carter Falls Normal School.
Piler had died two years before Tatum had. Ned could now barely remember his grandfather’s face as it had been before he died. He felt the wind rise as he took out the old leather bag. No one knew where the bag of teeth came from but Ned’s great, great, grandmother had been the first to use them. Somehow after being used they always returned to the bag before morning. Grimly he set about his work.
He threw the teeth as one would throw grass seed a few over every grave. The moonlight cast shadows across his lined face. Ned was sixty-seven. He would not have too many more years to do this. When he was buried his son should carry one, and then his grand son, and it would continue as it had since Henrietta Carter started it in 1752.
When the bag was empty Ned walked to the open gate. Bodies were already digging their way out of the ground, slowly lumbering over to the gate. Empty eye sockets stared blankly past Ned to the field that they were to work in. Ned fought back the urge to vomit, as he did every year, when he saw his father Francis and grandfather Tatum join the ranks of molding corpses standing behind him.
When he was sure there were no more to join him he broke out into the field and headed back to the house. Fortunately the wind was high tonight and it kept the fetid smell of rotting flesh away from his nostrils.
Without being told, the bodies took up tools and seed that had been left that day in the field and began working. Ned wandered about the field until he was sure everything was being done correctly, as if he could have changed anything, and then joined his wife by the large fire out side their tool bin.
“I’ll be out there soon.” He said.
“I hope to be gone afore I hafta see that.” She took hold of his arm.
Ned took of his hat and his thin white hair blew in the breeze. Cora, who had been with him for forty-seven years, looked out at the dead farmers.
“It ain’t natural.” She shuddered. “Someone musta done something powerful wicked to be cursed with such as this.”
“But without this help a lot of old folks wouldn’t have food for the winter.” Ned released his wife’s arm. “It may be the Devil’s work but God is also served.”
“Served, Hell!” She cried. “Served until they die to go on helping with the plantin.” She turned her back on the fields and walked into the house.
Ned could understand her attitude. Until two years ago Cora’s father had been one of the planters. Then last year he just failed to come up. Ned was under the suspicion that after so many years of working in the fields the penance was served and the dead were allowed to rest. Only those families that had been born before Henrietta Carter were subject to the rites of planting.
Whatever it was the town had done it was wicked enough to condemn it forever.
Ned watched the sky begin to lighten in the east. As the first hint of morning came the bodies stopped what they were doing and turned for the graveyard. As morning rose on Carter Falls Ned sat by the dieing embers looking out over three hundred acres of newly planted ground.
There weren’t as many this year. An entire field was going to hay because not enough rose to plant it. The young ones were leaving the Falls sooner, now, his own sons having gone to Portland over thirty years.
Maybe next year his grandson Davie would return to the Falls; he was to graduate from college as a teacher. Ned could only hope and wait. If no one returned to help with the sowing of the teeth a lot of crops would not be planted. A lot of people would not be fed. A lot of people would die before they had to.
As Ned watched the last sightless farmer pass through the open gate he wondered if maybe his wife was right. Maybe it would be better if there was no Dragon’s Teeth. He would think about that until it was time to harvest the crops; when again the teeth would be sown.
Maybe he wouldn’t sow them then. Maybe he couldn’t stop from doing it. Slowly he walked into the kitchen for breakfast.
“I’ll be glad when this can stop.” His wife poured him a cup of coffee.
“Will it ever?” Ned asked.