Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1993 11:35:34 PST (-0800)
On Mon, 27 Sep 1993, Mark Rafn wrote:
> I won't be available Friday (or in fact most of the weekend).
I'll be in
The Shadow over Ellensburg
When the autumn winds creeping down from Wenatchee begin to freeze those lonely souls foolish or headstrong enough to be up and about before 6:00 am, when early morning travelers catch glimpses of odd vapors seeping back into the ground before the suns rays banish them, when the perennial reports of children and hikers becoming unaccounted for in the vicinity of Mt. Stuart start picking up again, when the Yakima River takes on that not-quite-metallic, but definitely unfriendly sheen, it is generally considered wise to keep clear of Ellensburg unless absolutely necessary. Denizens dissemble over wedding invitations, "forget" birthdays, and perpetuate the unanimous rumor that there is absolutely nothing worth seeing or doing in town. "Accidental" rockslides on Stampede Pass increase as the equinox approaches, and reports of Federal malfeasance on the Military Reservation flood newspapers in Yakima, Spokane, and "West o' the Pass." This pall of inactivity and inhospitality usually lifts by Thanksgiving and the Apple Cup, when family and commerce prevail.
But this far-off reprieve from the Shadow was nowhere in evidence on that Friday evening in early October at the Kittitas County Fairground as sullen townsfolk, without a word, assembled tents, shacks, booths, latrines, tables, and benches in preparation for some unspoken, but all the more pronounced for its implicitness, rite. The sounds of hammers, saws, glass clinking, and gurgling liquids filled the air and would enclose any novitiate with such a tremendous sense of inevitable Purpose that to propose any deviation would invite, not wrath, but silent, resigned annihilation. So the only thing more thunderous than the grim purpose and the industry it demanded in that lonely valley was the silence that erupted when that activity ceased and the huge, malformed heads of the workers turned to look upon the the cloud of dust thrown up by the 1993 cherry Saturn and its driver, Mark Edward Rafn.
They took in this vision of the interloper, an obvious threat to the impending Doom headed for that forsaken valley. They knew, of course, that there would be no mischief caused by the contamination, as the order of the Day would not permit it. The only question was how many of their bulbous, shiny heads would roll before the infection was removed. No one had ever breached the Circle to this extent before in the racial memory, and so they were prudently cautious. In order to gauge their adversary, one stepped forward and sought to discern his susceptibility to Aqua Vitae. "Apple juice?" he asked. "Sorry, you've got the wrong guy," Mark replied, "I have a Unix machine."
It was then that they knew. They had been warned of this outsider. His exploits were legendary, his danger untapped. It was expected that he would try to intervene, and to this end a special reaction team had been stationed along I-90 with orders to assimilate the cancerous threat. It was now obvious how they had failed; the target was thought to be driving a 1983 tan Camry. Someone would get pulped for that error. In the meantime, they would have to deal with the long-haired, small-headed freak. "What are you doing here?" they asked.
"Beer, my friends. Beer and babes. My pal, Whoa Tiergartner, told me you folks put on a mighty fine Oktoberfest. I said I'd be here and help him get stupid. He said I could have my pick of Ellensburg's finest female produce. He didn't say NOTHIN' about inbred citroencephalitis."
They all knew about Tiergartner. Many had spoken out against his inclusion on That Day, for fear of this very scenario. But the Crop spoke, and so it was that Tiergartner was permitted to observe That Day with the rest. Now he had gone abroad, promising harvest privileges to heathen. And this one had the affrontery to blaspheme against the Sign of the Tree of Life as a disease. Surely the Crop will reject this strain, for assimilation was obviously impossible.
"There seems to have been some misunderstanding," they said with restraint. "Let's go see the Harvest Master and see if we can't straighten this out." They all headed to the Barn, where constant communication with the rhythyms of the Soil keep the Crop as one. No one came within three meters of the interloper, lest he spread his infection. Firelight played upon the ground and stalks, producing a quasi-tidal effect. The moon was gibbous. Mark gibbered back.
"Whoa!" Mark cried out. The procession faltered, until they realized that the invader was calling out to Tiergartner. A shape staggered out of the Barn, his swollen cranium upsetting his balance. Everyone, both outsider and insiders, gaped at the figure. His head glistened with blood and pus, hair, just fallen out, littered his shirt and trousers. But what evoked the most horror was the steaming applesauce that dribbled from his lips. Peering past the figure they could see the decapitated corpse of the old Harvest Master, and the mangle and bucket beneath, and pulp splattered everywhere. The Succession was complete.
"What a rush, Mark!", crowed the figure, now known to be Tiergartner. The Crop were aghast, but they knew now that the Plan was wise. They had thought Tiergartner to be apostate, but they now deferred to the wisdom of the Soil. The Cycle continues.
"Ya gotta try this stuff!", said Whoa, offering Mark a stein of steaming pulped apple. "Too late," replied Mark. "When it comes to metamorphic substances, I've outgrown my experimental stage." Whoa tried shaking his head in disgust, but he lost his balance and fell over. "This is gonna take some getting used to," said Whoa. "That's what they said about puberty," said Mark, "and I'm still working on it." "Well, if you want to partake of the bounty, you're gonna hafta join the Crop," said Whoa. "I don't need this bounty that bad," said Mark, and headed back towards his car.
"After him!", roared Whoa, the new Harvest Master. The Crop trundled into their pursuit vehicles, specially adapted for hunting Mark. Alas, they had expected to be chasing Mark's Camry, and so to exploit their relative advantage, their cars were fitted out so that they could only move in reverse. As the chase neared Rosalyn, it became apparent that Mark's Saturn, proceeding up the pass in 2nd gear, was outrunning even the most robust Crop vehicles. Mark still didn't return to Seattle until Sunday night, but when he did, he finally understood the true meaning of sacrifice.
Copyright © 1993 by Eric Scharf.  All rights reserved.