The credit for this story goes to my four year old daughter. The other day as we were outside swinging on the swing set she asked me, “Are there people under the grass?” Ha! I love the way kids minds work. Of course I told her no, there are not people under the grass, but that the idea would make a great story. I asked her what they would look like and what they would do. She came up with some impressively creative ideas. I took some of those ideas and added my own and wrote the following story:
The People Under the Grass
The dirt trembles, shifts. A strange, flat appendage moves upward from below the grass, splitting the earth with its razor sharp edges. Slowly, methodically, it moves the earth and grass aside. Slice, turn, dump. Slice, turn, dump. Each movement is expert and precise. Practiced. Soon a gaping hole yawns wide, the earth’s underground breath escaping into the cool night.
Two shovel-like, fingerless hands, extra long and flat, each edge a sharp bone made for digging, reach upwards and then plunge into the sides of the hole. With fluid grace the creature launches himself up and out, crouching low next to the hole. Dirt spills off his shoulders and head, raining down with a subtle, hushed tinkling. Mud-colored eyes, as round and big as an owl’s, blink furiously, adjusting to the new found light and then dart back and forth, scanning the sleeping land. He gives his head one vigorous shake, more dirt and mud falling from the crop of grass green blades of hair, shooting outward from his skull in every direction.
Then he stands, slow and easy. He turns his head and the soft, yellow light of the street lamps wash over his brown face, the skin cracked and pieced like drying mud. His whole body is dressed in this thick tree-bark, earthen skin, the perfect camouflage for an under-dweller.
He motions with one of his strange hands and a procession of creatures crawl from the earth, a league of grass-haired, mud-skinned, shovel-handed people. They move silently up and line themselves behind the first.
Beneath the dark, moonless sky they have only a few hours to accomplish their goal, to satisfy their aching need. Once a year the need grows so strong that they can no longer stay below and they must enter the world of the above-dwellers.
The leader sniffs the air once more, the myriad of scents assaulting his senses, but through all of it he can smell it, the thing they come for. The feral group moves forward, backs hunched, sharp hands nearly dragging on the ground. The houses around them are quiet, tucked in for the night, but not unprotected. Every light is on. The group hides their eyes, turns away from the harsh light.
At the bottom of the drive-way of the first house they find the first offering: a basket of oranges, milk and raw red meat. Like a pack of wild dogs the creatures fall on the food, scooping and dumping it into their ravenous mouths. The offering is gone in seconds and has only flared their appetites. They fly down the street from basket to basket, all the time keeping their backs to the lights.
The house at the end of the street has left no basket, no offering. The creatures stare down at the empty spot on the driveway and then raise their glare to the small house, dark and quiet. Snarls rise in a few throats, but the leader silences them with a flick of his flat hand. His round eyes focus on the house, unblinking. He licks his lips.
Across the street a neighbor’s curtains fall back into place.