Home > The Rains (Untitled #1)(5)

The Rains (Untitled #1)(5)
Author: Gregg Hurwitz

Those cored-out holes seemed to look right at us.

And then she lunged.

Patrick stumbled back, his ankle catching on the thick metal auger arm, and he went down, his hat tumbling off. She scrambled over the mound, her bare feet fighting for traction, rivulets of grain spilling beneath her heels. Her face was blank, devoid of any emotion, even as she reached the top of the mound and leapt for Patrick, limbs spread as they’d been when she’d sprung over the porch railing.

The sound of the shotgun inside the silo was deafening. The blast hit her in the stomach, knocking her back onto the mound of grain and embedding her in the side like a snow angel, arms thrown wide. The echo kept on, cycling in the metal walls and in my own head, crashing like cymbals.

Patrick pulled himself up, his face bloodless. He staggered over to the open hatch.

My mouth was working but could find no words. Although I couldn’t hear anything yet, I saw his lips moving.

And then the percussive crash lessened and his words came clear. “Chance. Chance. We gotta get help. We gotta get the sheriff.”

I tried to nod.

Behind him, I sensed movement.

Mrs. McCafferty, pulling herself stiffly up out of the mound of barley. Her torso and head rose as one. A few strands of hair swept across the back of her head, making the light through her eyeholes flicker. And then she tilted forward onto her feet, grain showering off her like sand.

She was right there, visible over Patrick’s shoulder.

I didn’t have time to yell, so I grabbed him to yank him through the hatch. I caught both his arms, the shotgun flying to land on the ground beyond me. I tugged his head through when she grabbed him from behind and ripped him into the silo with enough force to throw me off my feet. My forehead banged the hatch, and I fell into the soft mud outside the silo.

Somewhere Patrick was yelling, his shouts amplified inside the giant metal drum.

I willed myself not to black out. Grabbing the sill of the hatch, I pulled myself to my feet and forced myself to look.

Bleeding freely from her gut, Mrs. McCafferty had pinned Patrick to the floor on his stomach. He looked stunned and semiconscious; he must have struck the floor hard, or he would have overpowered her. She was crouched on his back like some feral animal, one knee between his shoulder blades. She ripped out a hank of her own long hair, and it came free with a plug of skin riding the end. Using her hair as rope, she started to bind Patrick’s wrists at the small of his back.

Drooling blood, my brother blinked at me languidly.

I started to climb in after him, but he was yelling for me to stay out.

“No!” I yelled. “I’m not leaving you!”

Terrified, I swung one leg through the hatch, straddling the metal lip.

That’s when his words finally registered: “Turn on the sweep auger!”

Mrs. McCafferty’s clawlike hands secured the hair in a knot, Patrick’s wrists cinched tight.

Then her head snapped up, those eyeless eyes pinning me to my spot.

I jerked back out of the hatch, stumbling to keep my feet beneath me. Mrs. McCafferty popped upright so quickly it seemed like she’d been jerked by a string. Then she flew toward me.

Panicked, I reached for the mounted box next to me, flipped open the guard lid, and hammered the big red button that turned it on.

The sweep auger roared to life inside the silo.

Mrs. McCafferty stopped midway between Patrick and me, her head cocked at the sudden commotion.

The auger began its rotation around the floor, the drive hooks raking through the mounds of barley, then skittering across the bare spots that provided no friction. Husk particles whirled up, filling the space inside.

Patrick rolled onto his knees, then stood, fighting his hands free. Dust clouded the air, bits of barley beating against him, blinding him. I raised an arm against the onslaught to block my eyes.

The metal arm rotated around the floor, a giant clock arm sweeping toward Patrick.

I yelled as loud as I could into the roar, “Jump, Patrick!”

Blindly, he leapt up, bringing his knees high as the drive hooks whipped beneath him. He caught a heel on the edge and fell, safe for now on the silo’s floor as the arm swung away into its next rotation.

Mrs. McCafferty started for me again. Sheets of barley rippled underfoot, slowing her progress. But still she came.

I fought my instinct to slam the hatch door; I couldn’t lock Patrick in there with her. Particles flecked my face, my eyes. My boots felt rooted to the ground.

Through the holes bored in her head, I could see my brother find his feet again, shaking his hands free of the restraint Mrs. McCafferty had fashioned from her ripped-out hair. Shielding his eyes from the flurry of hulls and spikelets, he took his bearings.

He’d never get to me in time.

Mrs. McCafferty reached for me, both hands tensed to yank me through the hatch.

But just as her fingers brushed my chest, she was ripped backward, her arms flying up over her head, her legs snared on the thick drive hooks of the sweep auger. The sturdy arm whipped her around the circumference of the silo, sucking her in toward the vertical auger in the middle.

Her lower half met the junction first. The drive belt squealed as the powerful teeth ground flesh and bone. She was still alive, clawing haplessly at the floor, her fingernails snapping.

Finally able to see, Patrick whisked his cowboy hat off the floor and jumped over the arm again as it flew at him. He sprinted for me and dove through the hatch.

We heard Mrs. McCafferty shriek as she was siphoned up into the vertical auger, too narrow for a human form. A crimson spray painted the swarming barley hulls and metal walls, and then Patrick’s muscular arm reached past me and slammed the hatch door shut.

He banged the big red button with the heel of his hand, and all of a sudden there was quiet in the world again. We both leaned against the closed hatch door, breathing hard.

We stayed like that for a long time.

Then Patrick bent over, picked up his shotgun, and headed for the house. “The kids,” he said.




Patrick and I stood side by side outside the kids’ bedroom upstairs. The door was locked. At the edge by the knob, fingernail marks marred the wood. The bottom panels were splintered from where Mrs. McCafferty had tried to kick them in.

“Hey, JoJo? Rocky?” my brother called. “It’s Patrick and Chance. Everything’s clear out here now. You’re safe.”


“Hey, guys,” I said. “It’s me.”

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