By: Erin Weber Boss
Ron had roots in the community. He was grown from the rocky North Carolina dirt and nourished by its streams and lakes. Like everyone, he had dreams about leaving his hometown, but knew it was probably safer at home. Less likely the world will chop him up and all that.
At eighteen, he got a regular job doing regular things during regular hours. He liked it well enough and at night, he passed the time shooting the shit with his friends and drinking up whatever cheap peat he could find. “Puts hair on your chest,” his father had told him.
His father disappeared when Ron was only a sprog. Or took off. Who gave a fuck really. It was the same story told a million times. And Ron had grown tired of telling it. He’d grown strong of his own accord. Not knowing still irked him, though, and late into the night Ron listened to the whispers in the trees, the only witnesses to what had been.
“He was robust and held his ground.”
“In the early morning, they came.”
“A whistle and a twist.”
What he heard was likely his imagination, a mere trick of his anxious mind and the unknown collaborating in the early hours of the day. Sometimes, when the winds were calm, he thought he heard a rustling at his door, but saw nothing when he peeked into the darkness outside.
At 25, Ron settled down with a nice girl. She had rosy cheeks and an attractive plumpness. They went about their lives as normal married couples do, but at night when she slept, Ron was still restless. He felt the turn of the seasons and a foreboding he could not explain. He heard the muffled footsteps, the creak of a gate in the distance, a soft crunch of vegetation.
When he hit thirty, he saw a therapist. They discussed cognitive behavioral therapy. When that didn’t work, the therapist suggested antidepressants and hit a wall when Ron explained that he didn’t believe there was truly anything wrong. He was reasonable and the fear was real, so the fear must also be reasonable. He didn’t need to be fixed; there was something out there. “I’m not batshit,” he’d said evenly. “I think others might feel it, too.” The therapist wrote the perscription anyway and Ron let the wind take it once he’d left.
One morning, he felt a warmness spread over one limb. He wasn’t totally awake yet and the compressing feeling grew and grew, warming him completely, as he wavered into consciousness. He woke up just as the pressure became too much and he felt it all, the land he’d known his entire life spread out before him as his bulk lifted towards the sky.
“Another lovely one,” a woman’s voice said as she rolled the harvested root vegetable in on gloved hand. “And this other one is so plump; the red coloring is perfect.”
The man whistled. “I love a fresh radish.”
Erin Weber Boss lives in Western North Carolina but grew up a military brat. Her work has appeared in The Great Smokies Review and Progenitor Art and Literary Journal.