Observer Halloween Story Contest

Anna Giubileo & Ian Pallares, 2nd Year Students

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Ian Pallares – 2nd Year – 1st Place

Out in the countryside, my uncle told me that you don’t go checking out any strange noises in your fields after dark. And if you decide to do it anyways and get got, nobody’s gonna ask many questions.

Two days before I left for Case Western Reserve University, there was a meteor show. As anybody whose looked up on the walk back from Kelvin Smith Library can attest—it’s impossible to stargaze in a city. So, two friends and I decided that we’d have to leave St. Louis and drive out into rural Missouri in order to get the full experience.

We took the empty interstate out for around 20 minutes, trading the honking of cars for cricket chirps. We had no defined direction or plan, just a desire to get far enough away from our light pollution, families and responsibilities for a few hours. The drive out was a typical one, if melancholy, for our group; Curtis, Nick and I talked about girl problems and who had the best taste in music. 

We finally pull off the main highway and into a small town, so small there’s only two traffic lights on streets with names like Grand and Broadway. A dingy 7-11 shouldering a diner seems to be the hallmark of this place. We want to get even further away from lights so we take another right, off into the cornfields. Our cell reception decreases relative to the road manufacturing: the 4Glte of asphalt crumbles to the 3G of dirt, and drops to 1x as we find a suitable gravel road to crunch down in Curtis’ Prius.

The property looks nearly identical to that of my uncle’s up in Indiana. Fields of grass line the gravel driveway, with handmade barbed wire slacked along weathered wooden posts. A one-story ranch lies far up the path. This one had a porch light on, but all the windows were darkened. We kill the headlights as the car crawls up the driveway so as not to wake the owner and talk about what would happen if we were caught here. It was 11:45 p.m., way too late for anybody from the city to be lost in the countryside. So, we reasoned that we should just lay our blankets in the ditch next to the road, and pass the time from there.

Time passed. Nothing happened except Curtis throwing Nick’s jacket over the fence, and him having to squeeze through the barbs to get it. Hundreds of cricket chirps edged the seconds onwards. Eventually, it reached 12:30 a.m. and we decided to give it five more minutes, then head back to the city. A disappointing ending to an exciting summer. 

Curtis first heard it at 12:33 a.m., and if I had known how nervous he was I would have agreed to leave right then.

He described it as a low moan, mixed with a growl. Nick and I shushed him and pointed up—the first comet had just streaked past. Curtis sighed and dropped it, but kept looking over his shoulder. The sky grew dark again, the comet was a loner. 

Curtis heard it again. “Another,” he said, “Guys, what was that?” I turned my phone flashlight on and shined it through the fence, trying to penetrate the light mist that had been building all evening. The field was empty, an expanse of grass. I killed the flashlight, not wanting someone to see us and reassured Curtis that there was nothing there. This time, Nick was silent. I turn to him, trying to get him to join in on teasing Curtis but he looks at me with eyebrows knit and hesitantly says “No dude. Be quiet for a minute.” As if the crickets were listening in, the field drops nearly silent except for the heavy breathing of Nick and Curtis. 

Then, finally, I heard it.

Curtis was right, up to a point. It was a low moan, something that without giving much thought you could markdown as a cow. But I’ve seen cows at various farms and fairs, and cows don’t growl like this thing did. At first it was far enough away that I convinced myself, like the typical white guy in every horror movie, that maybe it was just in my head and the other guys were getting to me. But as I tried to lay back down I hear another moan, from the same direction. Rapt at attention, the three of us stare into the pitch black field. 

“Dude, what was that?” 

“I don’t know … was it a cow?” 

“No way dude, what?” 

“A cow? Like, maybe this is a pasture?” 

Our arguments were cut off by the noise again. Closer this time. I start breathing faster, my heart rate picking up.

“What the hell was that dude?” 

“Wait yeah. That couldn’t have been a cow.” 

“So what the hell was that?”

The growl interrupted us again, followed by another off to its left. The sound was definitely getting closer, and now there were more of them. All of us turned our flashlights on and shone them out, but the beams were cut short again.

Nick was the first to suggest it: “Guys, we should get out of here.” 

Curtis and I hastily agreed and started gathering jackets and blankets, but the noises didn’t stop. “Come on guys, hurry up,” someone said as we tripped over ourselves, dropping things as we threw them into the trunk as fast as we could. The sounds were getting closer together and approaching, easily within 20 feet. There were more of them. We can hear them breathing, same as we can hear ourselves. We cram in the car and start backing out, all worries about making noise or light gone. 

Just as we reach the end of the driveway I remind Curtis to turn his headlights on, and then with a morbid idea ask him to stop the car. He does, and I reach over and flip the high beams on. The three of us stare through the windshield out onto the field, easily illuminated now to the length of a soccer pitch. The field is completely empty, a plain of soft green grass. Slowly, the sound of the crickets picks up again.

Our return to the city was dead silent, but uneventful. We eventually found reception and navigated back to each of our houses, and said goodbyes as each packed for their move. Nick and Curtis remain close friends to this day. I saw them recently and brought up the incident, and we shared a nervous laugh over what “must’ve been some kinda farm animal.” But even so, I’m not sure that any of us would go back out there again at night. And I’ve never forgotten that sound.

Anna Giubileo – 2nd Year – 2nd Place

I walk into the Den and try to order.

I am out of special swipes.

But…It’s only Tuesday.