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1st Installment

Happy Hills and Forlorn Fields

HH & FF.png

By: Denishea Young

Posted 4/2/2021
Completed 12/10/2021

Part 1     

      The day started out innocently with the sun shining merrily. The sky a poignant backdrop that declared to all who gazed upon it..., summer. Only hints of clouds every now and then floating by as if dandelion wishes in the sky. Continuously warping, mashing, and contorting into mysterious shapes; Ever on the move. The elegant jive of the tree tops bending and twisting provided weighted evidence of the wind.  Yet down below not a thing stirred. The grass was deathly still. Reminiscent of soldiers on watch standing straight and tall, never wavering and deadly to an unwarily bared human foot. Their green was one that glowed, like the best cared for and polished officer’s uniform. Their tops were sharper than a soldier's bayonet; a vast and unconquerable army stationed, in the area known as Happy Hills. Far and wide it stretched never daunted by knolls or the occasionally deserted car. It continued on growing, glowing, and glaring at any who dared to try and enter. Sharpening its tops in hopes of one day eliminating its various enemies. From afar this valley lived up to its name. Appearing gay without a worry in the world with the sun beaming down beckoning those near and far to come play.

 

     In stark contrast Forlorn Fields contained different joie de vivre. The field reverberated with the sound of children running around with an energy that teachers’ envy. Harried parents race behind them, loudly scolding their children. Euphoric dogs of all ages gathered and played with their human pack members. While insects weaved a delicate yet precise dance as they went about their business.  The little grass left yielded beneath the clothed feet and paws of the ever-changing occupants. Dotted sparsely across the field in zealously guarded spots of shade were vendors. They blasted their music and called out to entice the unwary children and money deprived parents to their locations. Yes, from this valley of Forlorn Fields, Happy Hills looked quite a prize, the perfect place to have a picnic. And many a newcomer has headed toward Happy Hills with hopes of a quieter location where one need not be on the lookout for mini bulldozers (kids), food thieves (dogs) and hand launched missiles or worse (Frisbees, baseballs and dog poop, oh my!). 

 

     Yet as they drew closer to Happy Hills their steps faltered midway as a seemingly inexplicable feeling of intense unease crested upon them. Some turned back at this point but many others continued onward their steps decreasing in length. The joy that precipitated the move dissipating in the wake of their body's instinctive awareness of danger. It is only as they neared the unmarked boundary between Forlorn Fields and Happy Hills territory that they registered where the sensation of unsettledness descended. It wasn't that the sounds of the area were too loud. It was the absence of sound that raised the neck hairs in primitive warning. One often unheeded by many. Nervously laughed about and shrugged off. After all the quiet was why they had decided to come. There would be no dogs and children running wild, there were no harried parents, no flying objects to duck and dodge. It was after all what made Happy Hills appealing from afar.  The absence of the background drone of insects as they go about their business in such a nature filled area was unsettling to say the least. But to those who continued onward they saw it as only another reason why Happy Hills was much better than Forlorn Fields.

 

      Such was the case with the Monroe family. The Monroe family was a family just like any other. It had the two loving and doting parents that had just the right amount of discipline and love for their two children. That isn't to say that they got the mixture right all the time. As with any parent the Monroes sometimes struggled with the amount of ingredients for their mixture of discipline and love. Point in fact the time when Johnathan Monroe now ten years old was two was quite a trying time for Mother and Father Monroe. The only words he would say were 'Negative' or 'Hell Naw.'

 

     It was of course entirely Father Monroe's fault as he was on an Ice Cube binge that weekend and didn't realize the damage that was being wrought in the mind of the very impressionable two-year-old that was Johnathon at the time. Granted he thought that he was sleeping and was too into the movies to realize that he had awoken half way through and was paying special attention to the words that Father Monroe liked to repeat hence the fixture on ‘Hell Naw’ and ‘Negative’. Needless to say, Mother Monroe was not at all happy with Johnathon's new favorite words and Father Monroe was convinced that she would never let him forget it. Of course, he was correct and it didn't help matters that he was more or less secretly amused by his son's language choice. He took great joy in its shock value towards older people. They often had a dazed and confused expression after Johnathon's adamant refusal of "Hell Naw" when asked if he wanted a hug. Now although Johnathon's vocabulary has grown exponentially, he still loves to say ‘Negative’ and ‘Hell Naw.’

 

     "Dad I'm tired of playing at Forlorn Fields. Can we play at Happy Hills?" begged Johnathon.

 

      "Why?" questioned Father Monroe "I thought you enjoyed roughhousing with the other children. It's not often we get out here you know and its quite..., lovely." Choked out Father Monroe while dodging a frisbee and swatting mosquitoes.

 

     "Yeah, it is, but I am tired of playing over here. Plus, there isn't that much shade especially since we got here late. And you knooow how much I hate eating ant and jelly sandwiches." whined Johnathon.

 

     "Yeah" seconded his sister, Justicè "Its Groossss Daddy! Puhhhlease can we eat at Happy Hills it looks way calmer over there anyway." added Justicè.

     "No little missiles to dodge," said Johnathon wistfully

 

     "No thieves to protect your food from" cried Justicè happily

 

     "AAAAnd best of all no ant and jelly sandwiches!!!" said the siblings together.

     'Well… thought Father Monroe it would be nice not to have to dodge missiles and to not run after thieves. I'm too old for that now. My knees are killing me.' He looked at Mother Monroe who was looking towards Happy Hills with a thoughtful expression.

     'Hmm Happy Hills,... it does look mighty peaceful over there and it woould be nice to have jelly sandwiches without the ants. Although they are a good source of protein, thought Mother Monroe but as nice as it looks why isn't anyone else over there? SUSPICIOUS!!!' While Mother Monroe was pondering why she never saw anyone at Happy Hills a couple of meters away some kids were practicing for the upcoming Moody Town Frisbee championships.

     “CCCCAAALLLVVVIIINNN!!!” called Mrs. H’onker be careful with that Frisbee remember what happened last time.

 

"Yeah, MOM I am!!!" As Calvin retracted his arm to throw the Frisbee to Mark the wind gusted by shutting his eyes quickly Mark held on to the Frisbee and turned his back to the wind waiting until it died down. 'Phee, that was a close one' he thought as he flashed back to the time last year when he'd thrown the Frisbee just as a gust of wind blew in.  He could only watch helplessly as the frisbee hurtled off course; aimed instead at an elderly man's head. Although Calvin called out a warning; the poor old man just wasn't fast enough. The Frisbee caught him right at the temple and knocked him flat on his back. With the help of bystanders, the old man eventually got up. Everyone asked him if he was okay but he only brushed them off and shook his fist at Calvin.  Turning his back, he hobbled away with his cane towards Happy Hills fussing under his breath loud enough for Calvin to hear,

 

     "these dang gun whippersnappers."

 

     Of course, he didn't actually say it that way but Calvin's Mom always seemed to know when he was thinking about cuss words so he learned to pg-13 every thought whenever his Mom was in arm distance. After the old man disappeared swallowed by the tree line, he got a loud earful from his Mom. Even though he told her several times "It was an ACCC-CIII-DENT!!!!!" and he said he was sorry.'  It served only to increase his mother’s tirade.

     As the gust came to an end Calvin sighed in relief, ‘Whew! Dodge that bullet… this time’ he thought as his arm flew outwards towards Mark who was posed to catch the Frisbee.

 

     "I got it!! I got it!!!" as Mark ran to catch it, he paid no attention to the direction he was going. Those who saw him coming got out of his way yelling at him for making them move. Mark paid no attention by this time used to the way that the park occupants behaved towards one another.

 

     "Dude you got it!!! You got it!!!" As Calvin egged Mark on, he noticed that one park occupant wasn't moving but was looking towards Happy Hills with a thoughtful expression. "OOOOYYYYY Watch OUT!!!" yelled Calvin but it was too late. Time slowed as he watched it all play out.

 

     The lady turned her head, her eyes widening with surprise and horror as she finally noticed the ten-year old's body that was heading towards her. As she tensed to move out of the way Mark jumped for the Frisbee his only thought of catching it. 

     He stretched out his hands snatching his victory from the air all while he continued his backwards dive. Two things registered to Mark. One they were totally going to win the championship game. Second something soft and warm was at his back, giving way under his weight.

 

     The lady fell back, her body cushioning Mark's fall, her eyes appearing comically wide to Mark. Mark's own face was one of elation and surprise which quickly changed to horror and fear at the sight of pain on Mother Monroe's face as her body smashed into the ground with enough force to echo in the sudden silence throughout Forlorn Fields.

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© Denishea Young
2nd Installation
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Part 2   

     "Ummmphhh...." the sound of Mother Monroe's broken and muffled moan whipped throughout the park galvanizing her family into action.

     "Mom!!!" cried Johnathon.

     "Mother!!!!!" shrieked Justicè.

     "Honey!?!?!?!" inquired Father Monroe as they rushed to her side.

 

     "Great Googly Moogly!!!" cried Calvin.

 

     "Not again!!!!" wailed his mother as they too ran to where Mark had taken out Mother Monroe.

 

     Father Monroe was the first to reach her just as Mark was rolling off Mother Monroe. He kneeled by her side his hands hovering over her body wanting to touch her but afraid of causing more pain; "Honey... Honey are you okay?" said Father Monroe fearfully although her eyes were open Mother Monroe was not responding. "Honey... Honey say something? Do you hurt anywhere?" asked Father Monroe.

 

     "Mom..." whispered Johnathon.

 

     "Mommie" whimpered Justicè.

 

      Mother Monroe still didn't respond.

 

     Father Monroe bent his head to her chest in an effort to hear if her heart was beating but was unable to hear anything over the yelling.

 

     "Oyyyyyy!!!! LLLLLAAADDDYYYY You dead!!!!????"

 

     It was at that time that Calvin and Mrs. H'onker slowed from their mad dash to reach them coming to a slow jog and stop by a still yelling loudly and insensitively Mark.

 

     "OOOOOOYYYYYYY LLLLAAAADDDYYYY YO-- "

 

     SMACCK!!!

 

     "OWWW!!! WHATTCHA DO THAT FORRR MRS. H'ONKER!!!" cried Mark.

 

     "STOP YOUR CRYING BOY CAN'T YOU SEE THE WOMAN MIGHT BE HURT AND HER FAMILY IS WORRIED. YOU DON'T ASK INSENSITIVE QUESTIONS LIKE THAT WHATS' WRONG WITH YOU!!!!" yelled Mrs. H'onker.

 

     While Calvin's Mom yelled at Mark for being insensitive Calvin was quietly absorbing his surroundings. The lady was still on her back on the ground. A man who must be her husband had his ear to her chest. Two young kids a boy and a girl on their knees watched her and crying for her to say something... to do something. All Calvin could think of was if she were dead, they were in some deep sh---'

     Mrs. H'onker’s hand moved catching Calvin unawares on the back of his head.

      SMACK!!!

     "Calvin, I taught you better than that" yelled Mrs. H'onker "Did not I!?!?" questioned Mrs. H'onker.

 

     "Yes, mam you did" Calvin responded tearfully on an exhale of breath trying bravely not to cry and resisting the urge to rub the back of his head.

 

     Mark felt no such inclination and rubbed the back of his head vigorously in an attempt to get the stinging from Mrs. H'onker’s slap to go away. The two boys shared a look of mutual understanding of misery.

 

     "Breathe honey breathe" encouraged Father Monroe.

 

     "Please Mom please..." tearfully begged Johnathon and Justicè.

 

      "Ohhhhmmmmm.... watzzz going on...???" came Mother Monroe's voice as she blinked her eyes several times.  "Hey, hey, hey what's all this!!!!" cried Mother Monroe while Father Monroe, Johnathon and Justicè crowded around hugging and laughing; ecstatic that she was finally talking and moving again.

      Mrs. H'onker stopped yelling and started wringing her hands fidgeting from one foot to another making sounds that to her sounded comforting and to everyone else like a whale dying. "OOOOoooohhhhh you poor thing. OHHHHHHHHmmmmm!!!!!" croaked Mrs. H'onker.

 

     Calvin looked at the ground embarrassment heating up and turning red the back of his neck and ears. 'Why me... dear lord why me....' wailed Calvin silently in his head. At that moment Calvin felt an intense stare directed at him and upon looking up he saw Mark staring at him with an expression similar to pity and with what suspiciously looked like barely contained laughter.

 

     'Dude that’s gotta be embarrassing so glad she's not my mom. Poor Calvin..... heh heh heh heh' thought Mark trying desperately not to show his amusement.

     Meanwhile Mother Monroe was remembering the past events with the help of her family.

 

     "Don'tcha remember Mom...." asked Justicè "we were talking about going to Happy Hills when...

 

      "BOOM that kid knocked you out" inserted Johnathon.

 

     "While he was making a wicked Frisbee catch " finished Justicè.

 

     "Honey... are you okay now? Do you think you can stand?" asked Father Monroe as he tenderly stroked her back and hair.

 

     "Yes, darling I remember quite clearly now." stated Mother Monroe while glaring at Mark through her family's bodies. "I believe I am capable of standing if you would assist me.... please" Mother Monroe said as she gingerly began the process of standing up. With Father Monroe's assistance and with her children by her side Mother Monroe got to her feet swaying slightly as her body adjusted to its now vertical position.

 

     Throughout Mrs. H'onker never let up with her non-stop chattering "You poor Dear...," "Are you okay?" and "How can I help you?"  broken up only by her 'comforting sounds'. "It looks like you are alright, no broken bones, no broken skin. Any aches or pains?... I'll take your silence as a no. He didn't really mean to hit you, you know. He wasn't looking behind him. I always tell them, pay attention to your surroundings especially when playing at Forlorn Fields..... You know it's always busy here. They do alright but sometimes. You know things happen..... But it really wasn't his fault!!!... Everyone else moved out of the way! You ought have kept your eyes on your surroundings. You know how things work at Forlorn Fields dodging is the name of the game eyes on 360 is the way to stay pretty...."

 

      Justicè was the first to finally notice the lament of noise coming from Mrs. H'onker's mouth. "Mom I think she is trying to blame you for the boy running into you" remarked Justicè with such disdain in her tone that the rebuke in her words did not go unnoticed by Mrs. H'onker.

 

     "Well, I never!!!" Huffed Mrs. H'onker "What I am trying to say is..."

 

     "We got what you were trying to say!" remarked Mother Monroe coolly glaring at Mrs. Honker. Who although was taller than her by several inches seemed to shrink before the fury reflected in Mother Monroe's eyes. The combined scorn and contempt that radiated from the rest of the family succeeded in her surrendering several more inches.

 

      "Well, I wasn't implying anything. If you had been paying attention you would've moved out of the way." At this Mother Monroe who had still been supported by Father Monroe and Johnathon stood ramrod straight with narrowed eyes and a look of astonished disdain upon her face stared incredulously at Mrs. H'onker who continued on with her tirade of passing the blame. But gradually to the astonishment of Mark and continued embarrassment of Calvin Mrs. H'onker's voice got softer and softer until it trailed off into nothingness; leaving her speechless with only echoes of the defiance left in her stance. After a couple minutes silence in which the Monroe family continued to glower at Mrs. H'onker it was Father Monroe who spoke first.

      "We understand that children will be children and we understand that the young man did not see my wife. However, for a grown adult to try to push the blame of a child's error onto another adult and to be so very belligerently loud about it and so very, very wrong is what we" gesturing to his family with an elegant sweep of his hands "have a problem with. Now had you come to us with a different attitude we would not be continuing to discuss this matter. As it is, Honey are you okay?"

 

      "Yes, I am fine Dear." 

 

     "Would you like to say anything or would you prefer I continue to handle it."

     "Do your thing."

     With a nod of affirmation Father Monroe continued "Since my wife is not physically hurt, we only need an apology from the young man as well as an acknowledgement that while people generally get out of the way when someone is running at them it is your job as the person running full tilt in a populated area to be aware of your surroundings."

     "BBBut'' sputtered Mrs. H'onker.

     "Unh unh, unh," holding up his hand in the universal stop sign "I'm talking".

     If it was possible Calvin who had been avidly working to sink into the ground finally made some progress slipping a barely visible inch.

 

     Meanwhile Mark avidly followed the conflict thoroughly wishing he had some popcorn, his head swiveling back and forth as he watched the drama unfold occasionally shooting pitying/mocking glances at Calvin. However, as Father Monroe's request for an apology registered Mark felt the humor of the situation drain from him as all eyes on the park landed on him. "Gulp! Ummm I'mmm sssorry for knocking over your wife and, and, and"

 

     "psst, watching where you go" whispered Calvin to him.

In that instant Mark remembered why Calvin was his bestest friend. "I will watch where I'm going from now on especially if I am running really fast. I'm really sorry mam I didn’t mean to run into you and I am glad that you are okay."

     Throughout the apology Mrs. H'onker silently steamed "Well I never it's not like-"

 

     "Apology accepted" interrupted Mother Monroe "Thank you for being mature enough to do so." With that statement and one last glare at Mrs. H'onker, Mother Monroe turned to her family's designated picnic location for the day and began packing. Silently without asking the usual slew of questions the children began helping her pausing every once and a while to brush off the ants trying to make off with their food.

 

     While his family packed Father Monroe looked first Mark and then Calvin in the eye making sure that they got the message across that he was not at all happy with the physical harm that had come to his wife and the panic that had followed. They were only able to hold his gaze for several seconds before finding the grass to be very interesting. Finally, Father Monroe turned his gaze to Mrs. H'onker whose bluster had returned; glared at first but soon found herself no longer able to hold his eyes; as his eyes conveyed more poignantly than words ever could the anger and simple disappointment for another human being.

 

     Mrs. H'onker for the first time felt an emotion that she often heard others speak about but had never experienced herself: Shame.

 

     Once Mrs. H'onker dropped her gaze Father Monroe gave a short nod and turned to his family. "Ready Mother Monroe, kids," with their nods of assent Father Monroe gathered up the picnic basket from Mother Monroe who although maintained that she was fine, seemed to him at least, to still be a little shaky from her ordeal. Placing her hand in the crock of his arm with the basket on the other, and the children on either side of them, began the journey to Happy Hills.

 

      Mrs. H'onker, Calvin and Mark looked at each other in a sort of frozen horror. They could only watch as the family traveled through the rest of the park's patrons.

 

     By this time many of the park patrons had gone back to their various activities only pausing now and then to check in on the drama that was playing out between the two groups. They paused once more watching the family proceed to Happy Hills, their faces and bodies frozen with the warring desire to warn them versus their politeness factor of not getting into other people's business.

 

     The Monroe family was acutely conscious of the attention but resolved to ignore it and not provide more of a show. So, with heads held high and a slowed pace to match Mother Monroe's slight they proceeded to Happy Hills. They needed not veer from their path as the park patrons moved aside like the two halves of the Red Sea. The rapidly spreading whisper of "Look they’re heading to Happy Hills" and the head nod and raised eyebrows proved more than effective in clearing their path.

© Denishea Young
3rd Installment
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Part 3

 

     Justicè was the first to break the family's silence. "Hey Johnathan?"

 

     "Yeah, I know" "it's kind of " "creepy?!!!"

 

     "Yeah..." and with that they continued on pressing a little closer to their parents.

 

     Mother Monroe and Father Monroe shared a quizzical look but continued onward. Rounding the bend and finally out of sight of the searing eyes of the park's patrons the family breathed a collective sigh. Once again comfortable in their own skins they spread-out on the path.

 

     "I do wonder as to what all that was about" pondered Mother Monroe.

 

     "It was probably nothing. No doubt they just wanted to see if more drama was to be had." replied Father Monroe.

 

     While that idea did make sense to Mother Monroe, she couldn't help but feel it had to do with something more. 'Ah well it's probably my imagination' she thought. 'It's so very peaceful here I wonder why we never thought to do this sooner.’

 

     As they continued walking, they were quickly enveloped by the woods their senses seduced. Sounds of birds chirping as they went about their business, the sight of butterflies flitting here and there gave them a sense of spring and newness in the air. Even the sun sprinkling through the tree leaves overhead gave the area a utopia likeness making the tree leaves seem vivaciously alive in the light while creating a mystical timelessness in the shade. It was a heavenly escape one sorely needed after the Forlorn Fields kerfuffle. The Monroe family enjoyed every bit of it, soaking themselves in the hypnotic allure of the woods. As they continued on the winding path to Happy Hills the Monroe family wore wide happy grins that were occasionally interrupted with bursts of giggles at the occasional spooked rabbit and the ‘you can’t see me squirrels.’ As they reached the last bend their footsteps slowed, their breaths quickened, and their hearts soared for they had finally, finally reached their destination for before them lay Happy Hills.

 

     Happy Hills was devoid of the constant crush to be found at Forlorn Fields. Its grass was truly greener than any other that they had before witnessed. The air was sweeter than melting ice cream on a summer day, the trees around the border of Happy Hills together formed inviting nooks and crannies perfect for napping. Indeed, some spots resembled the perfect bed with the tree roots providing the framing. The glowing green grass made up the comforter and the flowers made the most inviting pillows.  Ah it was a feast for the long-starved senses of the Monroe family, a place where hypervigilance was no longer a necessity for survival.

 

     As they walked closer it was Mother Monroe who commented on the absence of the constant drone of insects. "Wow do you hear that?" asked Mother Monroe.

 

     "Hear what?" asked Justicè.

 

     "I don't hear anything except the wind" remarked Johnathon puzzled because although he heard the wind not a single blade of grass did, he see sway.

 

     "Exactly, no mosquitoes... no hordes of gnats.... no whopper sized flies..." with the naming of each and every insect that inhabited Forlorn Fields in abundance Mother Monroe's excitement and enthusiasm grew. It wasn't until the absence of these insects that Mother Monroe realized just how much she disliked them.

 

     Father Monroe, Johnathan and Justicè looked around confirming the truth of Mother Monroe's words.

 

     "Whoa Mom you're totally right!" cried Johnathon with a little jump and fist pump in the air. "It's like a bug free zone."

 

     "I don't even see any ant mountains" squealed Justicè with a huge grin on her face. "Finally, finally a picnic with no ant and jelly sandwich!" Sighed Justicè in pure happiness at the thought. 

 

     Father Monroe was the only one who abstained from the enthusiasm generated by the rest of his family; Only voicing his concerns as they walked to the opening of the small white gate that encompassed Happy Hills. "But don't you think it's peculiar that there are no insects up here especially with all these flowers, trees and plant life?"

 

     "DDDAAAaddd!!! cried Justicè "it's probably the plants that’s keeping them away. Remember, we watched that documentary last week Plants: Nature's Perfected Weapon" said Justicè in the properly dramatic and theatrical voice.

 

      "Well maybe, but..." started Father Monroe. "Yeah, remember Dad, they said some plants even ward off birds, remember Dad?" said Johnathon wanting to remind his Dad that he was actually paying attention to the movie while simultaneously defeating a major boss on his latest game obsession Crushers of the Night.

 

     "Yes, I remember. However...." began Father Monroe.

 

     "Yes Dear, I do recall that documentary as well quite enlightening. Look that purple flower over there; Yes, it looks quite similar to the one they said that bugs avoid with a vengeance. Look that one over there, that orange one with the white stripes. Apparently, it's really good to keep the deer out of one's garden. And that red one there with the white berries apparently birds truly dislike the smell of it and generally avoid it. We could certainly use some for our garden Dear." Murmured Mother Monroe as she continued to mentally calculate the various usages of the plants and how they would look in her backyard.

 

     Father Monroe looked around and felt agitated for some reason. It was a peculiar sensation one he had never before experienced and as such was unable to put it into words. All he knew was that something was bothering him, something was wrong but for the life of him he was unable to figure it out. As the family continued to chatter to one another exclaiming about the colors, the lack of insects and the abundance of both space and shade Father Monroe continued to look around certain he was missing something important.

 

     Mother Monroe, Justicè and Johnathon walked through the gate opening not noticing that Father Monroe's steps had slowed and continued to slow as they continued onwards.

 

      As Father Monroe reached the gate opening and he placed one Adidas covered foot across the barrier of Happy Hills he felt as if he had slammed into a barrier one to be sure was invisible but whose effects on his body were clear. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise and his breathing increase compensating for his surging heart rate. His skin broke out in a cold sweat even though the temperature had not changed and the gentle breeze continued onward; Allowing for the air to circulate the pervasive perfumed sweetness of the plants in the glen.

 

    It was a full minute before Mother Monroe and the children realized that Father Monroe was no longer behind them.

 

     "Dear?" called Mother Monroe.

     

     "Dad?" asked Johnathon.

     

     "Daddy?" inquired Justicè.

 

     "Is everything alright Dear?" asked Mother Monroe as she came closer to Father Monroe.

 

     "You look positively terrified."

 

     'Terrified that's it' thought Father Monroe 'Terrified I... Am... Terrified!!!' with this epiphany came an immediate rejection, for Father Monroe had never before been terrified and refused to be so now. "Noooo, I'm fine I just was realizing that I forgot to lock the back door." said Father Monroe as he forced himself to move past the invisible banner one slow step at a time.

 

     "But Dad, remember you told me to go lock it before we left," said Johnathon. 

 

     "Oh yeah your right. Ha, ha, ha just getting up there in age." said Father Monroe still walking in the slow watchful steps of prey animals who knew they were being stalked.

 

     Mother Monroe, Johnathan and Justicè stared at Father Monroe never before had they seen him so tense, so agitated almost as if he was afraid. But as soon as the thought crossed Johnathan's and Justicè 's mind it was dismissed for they had never before seen their father afraid and could not imagine him as being so now. Besides there was nothing to be afraid of and with the innocence and absolute belief in the strength of their parents that is embedded in young children they set off to explore; The grass blades crunching beneath their shoes. Mother Monroe who had known Father Monroe for much longer and was much wiser to the capabilities of adults paced closer to Father Monroe picking up on his absolute terror that he was unsuccessfully trying to hide.

 

      “Honey, What’s wrong?!!” asked Mother Monroe all her earlier enthusiasm nonexistent.

 

     “I don’t know… I’ve never felt this way before...” muttered Father Monroe still moving forward in the slow stork like fashion. “I, I, I think it’s this place.” offered Father Monroe.

 

     “But there’s nothing here that could possibly harm us” said Mother Monroe looking around at the green grass, the towering trees and the deep inviting bedlike roots and flowers. “It’s beautiful here, the wind is perfect, the shade looks sublime for a picnic, and best of all there are not any boys playing catch with any kind of throwable objects.”

 

      With each word that Mother Monroe spoke Father Monroe became calmer and his gait grew steadily smoother approaching a stride of a normal human being as he walked with Mother Monroe to the largest bed-root system; which happened to be situated under a huge tree of the likes he had never before seen. The grass under their feet crunching beneath each footfall. The children who had already reached the spot were thoroughly enjoying themselves while examining the tree.

 

     “You know what?! Your right; There’s nothing here that can harm us and I especially like the absence of the mini bulldozers.” said Father Monroe his body finally settling into its normal rhythms as the logical human mind overrode the body’s instinctive recognition of danger. As they reached the tree trunk Father Monroe dropped the rest of the items that he had been carrying next to the things that the kids had dumped there and turned to Mother Monroe. Looking down at her as she tilted her head up towards him, they smiled at one another. Pleased to be in each other’s company without the threat of something happening that was ever present at Forlorn Fields.

 

     Mother Monroe went on her tippy toes and Father Monroe bent down and they kissed with the passion that had never waned in their fifteen years of marriage.

 

     “Eeewwww!!!!” exclaimed Justicè and Johnathon as they came around the other side of the massive tree trunk that they had been exploring.

 

     “We can’t leave them alone for a moment" said Johnathon as he shook his head in the typical grossed out young boy fashion, his arms crossed and face demonstrating his extreme disappointment.

 

     Justicè not to be outdone by her older brother was also looking at her parents with disappointment, while shaking her head, making noises of disapproval at her parents conduct “Uhn unh unh”. Then as if they had practiced ahead of time the siblings looked at one another and giggled which quickly transformed into boisterous laughter.

 

     Father and Mother Monroe looked on as they held onto one another taking in the joy that their children provided them and that they provided each other. Sighing in happiness Father and Mother Monroe headed towards the tree and began once again the process of setting up a picnic area with the family. All the while the grass crunched underfoot.

 

     Mother Monroe with Justicè's help unfolded the blanket for the picnic spreading it as thoroughly as feasible over the bed-roots. The purple flowers strategically placed beneath where their heads would rest. Father Monroe and Johnathon gathered the rest of their items and secured the blanket to the ground with a picnic basket at one end. A jug of sweet tea at the other end and a cooler filled with need to keep cool items at the other end and a large rock found right by the tree trunk. It was the one-of-a-kind type of rock, the perfect weight to keep the blanket down without being too heavy to move or edged to cut up one's hands. The family completing their preparations commenced to sit down and prepare to eat. Ignoring the ever present

 

     “crackle, crunch, crackle

 

     of the grass underneath.

 

     Once the family had each settled into surprisingly comfortable positions, Father Monroe led the family in prayer over the food. Each family member reached for the closet family member's hand as they had done so many times before bowing their heads and closing their eyes as Father Monroe began the familial blessing.

 

     "Father, we thank you for allowing us to partake in this gorgeous day, and for the food that Mother Monroe has prepared for us. Lord, we thank you that Mother Monroe was not as seriously injured as she could have been when that young man hit her in the fields. I ask that she be fully healed lord with no side effects. I ask that you continue to bless this family as you have done so many times over the years. God thank you for everything but most of all Lord thank you for my family. Amen" ended Father Monroe.

 

     "Amen" echoed his family with that they all started to spread the food.

 

     It was a picnic just like any other except there were no food thieves to concern oneself about, no ant and jelly sandwiches much to Justicè's delight. No bulldozers or flying objects; it was just the family, their food and nature. It was a bliss never before known to the Monroe family and they soaked it in as deep as they possibly could, wanting to imprint the feeling of peace and safety of complete and utter serenity. Once everyone was full and the leftover food and cutlery had been put in its proper place the family as one stretched out with their heads on the pillowy flowers. The rest of their bodies were supported by the bed-root system. The crackle, crunch of the grass and soft rustle of the flowers were the only accompaniment to the sleep filled voices of the Monroe family.

 

     Mother Monroe was on one outer side with Johnathon beside her already sleeping the deep sleep of a child who knew his parents would protect him. Whistling lightly with each exhalation of breath Mother Monroe ran her hands lightly through his hair remembering when he was still a babe who could fit into the crock of her arm. Wishing that he was still that young and that innocent and easy to protect yet at the same time accepting that he was turning into a fine young man, one who would be great at whatever he decided to do.

 

     Beside Johnathon, Justicè lay on her back her head resting on her father’s outstretched arm continuing to look at the underside of the leaves against the backdrop of the light blue of the sky wondering as to how they could be so complex yet at the same time simple valiantly fighting sleep as she contemplated that mystery.

 

      Beside her Father Monroe lay on his side, his head also resting on his outstretched arm. As his family either drifted willingly, and thoughtfully into sleep. He too felt the need to sleep, weighing heavily on his body yet his mind refused to be silent. His body however was relaxed to a state he had never before known. "hmmm" sighed Father Monroe and as he opened his eyes one more time to check on his family, he noticed movement out of the corner of his eyes. 'huh what is that?' thought Father Monroe as he willed his body to move the movement that at first was barely noticeable seemed to be increasing. But much to his horror he found that he was unable to move his body; indeed, it was becoming harder to even keep his eyes open. The only thing preventing them from fully closing was the sheer terror that had been repressed coming once more into the fore of his mind. As he continued to try and get his body to move the movement came closer, gaining in speed. Until it came into focus and Father Monroe felt true horror because it wasn't an animal and it wasn't just one thing it was.... an army of grass.

© Denishea Young
4th Installation
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Part 4

      Yes, the grass of Happy Hills was moving and changing from its benign state of normal grass to its more deadly active predator form. For the grass had been seducing the Monroe family indeed any individual/group from the moment they looked its way. All that bright and lovely shade of green wasn't just for show. No, the green is to entice from afar and to look soft and plush up close. The flowers and the bed-root system being the deal closer and with one step into Happy Hills one's fate is sealed as the Monroe Family would soon find out. 

 

      As the solidified wave of grass encroached upon his family, Father Monroe's feelings of terror were realized. The threat that he felt but could not identify was before him and while he could see it coming. He could do nothing. Try as he might he was unable to move his body which he now realized wasn’t just relaxed but paralyzed. He tried with all his strength to open his mouth to yell a warning to his family but his lips did not move. He tried to move his arm which his daughter's head still rested upon but nary a finger twitched in silent refusal to his mental battle. All the while the grass came closer, the flowers which had been cushioning his head were now opening revealing an abomination. 

 

      In the center of the flower was not the usual pollen bed surrounded by petals. Oh no, the inside of the flowers held eyeballs that moved around and focused hungrily on Father Monroe and his family. It was at this point that his fight or flight instinct took over and with a valiant effort to run away, to simply escape he managed to wiggle his pinky finger an inch. Resulting in all those horrifyingly hungry eyes focusing on him. The feeling of all those eyes, dead yet alive, boring into him heighted his fear to a level he had never before experienced. Father Monroe stared in impotent fear at the flowers. They in turn eagerly watched their attention flowing back and forth between him and the unstoppable march of the grass as it swallowed the Monroe family like a pelican swallows an unsuspecting pigeon. He felt it as each strand caressed his lightly clothed body. Each piece slicing deeply through his clothes and skin drawing blood as each blade passed. Moving every forward until he was wrapped in an inescapable cocoon of green and red.  Yet oddly enough he felt no pain. Through the haze of tears, he could see the blood pouring from each cut yet he felt… nothing. In fact, he felt good. Really, really, good as Father Monroe rolled his eyes to his left, he could see the blood also pouring from the wounds of his family, his wife already covered by the grass, her face and her hand on Johnathon's head was the only part of her visible. 

 

      The flower eyes realizing that Father Monroe was not a threat looked on at their respective charges with seemingly delight, their petals swaying in unison back and forth to some unheard beat; their leaves unfurling, greedily taking in the stray droplets of blood that came their way. He could only imagine what their roots were doing. Even though he could still feel the object horror in the back of his mind it had receded with the knowledge that he was going to die and his family was going to die. In the face of danger, he could do nothing. His natural survival instincts had given him a warning and he had ignored it and now they would die. However, with this acceptance came one clear thought. ‘Well, there are worse ways to die.’ He forced his eyes once more to the faces of his family; their bodies already covered with a sickening mixture of blood and grass and was surprised to discover smiles on their faces.

 

      They were the same smiles worn when they were deep in sleep and which had always made him wonder what they were dreaming about. As he wondered this for the last time he finally succumbed to the euphoria and drowsiness and closed his eyes. As he did, he dreamed, he dreamed that he was once again in Happy Hills but this time he felt no trepidation stepping into the meadow. He could hear music in the background, one whose beat seemed to throb though his body and which his heart seemed to echo. It was the same beat that the flowers had swayed to. As he walked further into the meadow the trees and shade beneath came into sharper focus and unlike before beneath each tree were groups of people eating, laughing and playing. Children ran around with their dogs and parents kept a vigilant but non-paranoid eye out for them. As he walked forward, he realized that the meadow was much larger now than it had been before because although it held by far more people than Forlorn Fields it did not give off the feeling of being oppressed, of having to watch everything all at once to maintain one’s health. Rather it still gave off the feeling of tranquility and peace that had eventually lulled him into a false sense of security. However here there was no fear, no horrors, and no pain; Just peace, love and honestly happiness. As he took a look around his new environment it was then that he heard them.

 

      "DDDDAAAAdddddddd!!!!!" Yelled Johnathon and Justicè "over here!"

 

       "Honey" came Mother Monroe's voice "We are over here."

 

      As Father Monroe turned towards the voices of his family, he saw that they were under the same tree in which they had died and that they were not alone. There was an old man with a cane relaxing against the tree trunk, a couple feeding each other in a beautiful but thoroughly nauseating lovey dovey scene, curiously enough there was a dog that didn't seem to belong to anybody just lying down watching his surroundings seemingly at peace with all the activity around him. As he came closer to his family, he noticed that there was no evidence of the deep wounds that the grass had inflicted the flowers beneath their feet while open did not contain eyes but a deep rich red pollen that was truly eye-catching amongst the various outer petal colors. Their leaves remained unfurled and raised towards the sky in a completely normal effort to gain sunlight. 

 

      "Honey what took you so long" asked Mother Monroe as she handed him a plate of food. 

 

      "Yeah!!!" Emphasized Johnathon and Justicè, "We were waiting a long  time for you to come." said Justicè. 

 

      "I don't know" replied Father Monroe as he reached out his hand and stroked his wife's cheek to attest to her realness. He was perplexed to find that he could indeed feel her and that she felt the same as always warm and soft with a hint of very fine hairs that tickled his fingertips. 

 

      "Honey???..." said Mother Monroe with a hint of befuddlement and love for him on her face, "Is everything alright?" 

 

      Father Monroe did not answer because he did not understand. The last image of his family was one of helplessness, blood, gore and death yet here they were. As he continued to stroke his wife's cheek, he put down the plate he had in his other hand and touched each of his children's heads one at a time to make sure they were real. Their hair was the same satiny suppleness of a child just like always.  'They feel real, they sound real so maybe this is real’ thought Father Monroe. ‘Either way’ he decided ‘it's real enough for me’. Father Monroe accepted it and moved on because at the end of the day his family was here, without pain and even though he knew they had died in Happy Hills they were all safe and whole now. Smiling with acceptance Father Monroe opened himself to the peace, love and happiness around him and finally answered his family's questioning gazes "Yes everything is just fine" and Father Monroe picked up his plate sat by his wife who leaned her head against his shoulder and commenced to eating his food content to be in Happy Hills with his family.

 

      Meanwhile in Happy Hills the bodies of the Monroe family had been completely decimated by the grass, their blood soaked up by the thirsty roots and leaves of the surrounding plants. The grass that had swarmed them pulled the remaining bits of hair skin bones and teeth into the ground. It was an interesting and disturbing process to witness. The remnants were not visible from an outsider looking in rather it looked like four different sized mounds covered in grass. Which steadily decreased in height as Happy Hills pulled the Monroe's family remains deep, deep, deep underground to its final resting place next to remnants of a varyingly aged human and animal bones, a plastic cane and antique containers from across human history. The Monroe’s family things were no exception. So too were their belongings hidden. Never would there be a visible trace of their existence. Nothing to mark "here lies the Monroe family". The only concession being the addition of six purple hooded flowers grouped together sprouting from the ground, their petals closed and their leaves curled adding to the hundreds of millions already there.  Nothing dissuaded the next victim from entering into their forever resting place as once more the grass stood at attention their ends sharper than a soldier’s beret; Daring any and all to enter nourishing themselves on their enemies awaiting the prey that Forlorn Fields sent its way.

© Denishea Young
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