Tracy is up and crossing the grass. Long blades slide against her pant legs, sounds like an old man breathing. She’s going to punch Oliver in the fucking face. Here’s a man: shaded by the willows, could be a postcard, GREETINGS FROM THE FARM!, not a trace of blame on his smug prick face. She isn’t thinking about the Oliver from New York who earned sympathy and, sometimes, even protection from the actor friends who took him, who called him friend. Yes, they took him in, Tracy reminds herself. Like a stray fucking cat. But not one that was abandoned, oh no, this cat was a bad cat that bit people. This cat was a stray because it’s not always nurture, sometimes it’s nature. They welcomed this piece of shit into their circle because nobody else in a city of billions would and because fucking dammit Tracy and her friends are nice. Were. Are. Were. She doesn’t care. That Oliver is dead. The Oliver they found standing on the street corner with his eyes closed, the Oliver who kicked the table over and punched Donna’s drink, the Oliver who was splashed with street water as cars sped by, that Oliver lost his balance and fell into the road and got squashed by a car driven by an old man in a farming hat. Tracy doesn’t care if The Farmer erupts from the farmhouse or suddenly appears next to Oliver and drags her by her hair into the pantry. She’ll knock him out, too. This sonofabitch piece of garbage. Look at him. Look: not a teaspoon of remorse on his content, holier-than-Tracy face. Probably thinks she’s coming to thank him. For “fixing” her, for “showing her the way.” This meek manchild didn’t even have the guts to try to convince a group of people what was best: he just flat out served it to them for dinner. No gathering of the flock. No charisma.
Tracy’s close now, makes a fist, imagines the color pink exploding from Oliver’s nose.
And with that color comes the memory of a field of flesh, every conceivable mannerism and state of mind growing in the rows.
Tracy is twenty feet from him.
She brings her arm back.
A woman screams.
Tracy spins back to look where she just sat with Connie but Connie is standing now, alone in the grass, holding her hair entirely in front of her face, hiding under a perfect sun.
So if not Connie… who?
“Karen,” Tracy says.
Then she’s running to the farmhouse. Fuck Oliver. She’ll settle with him later. She’ll call the police and tell them what he’s done and if they don’t believe her she’ll serve them some gullibility for lunch.
“Karen!” she cries out.
A second scream. Coming from inside the house. Dammit. Tracy is moving fast, up the deck steps, through the French doors, past the pantry (thinks of Rodney, crops stuffed down his throat, traits he neither wanted nor needs, new Rodney, running from a house he doesn’t recognize, running perhaps not with fear but joy who knows). It’s not hard to imagine Baum or Morris forcing a new perspective on her. Or maybe they’d use something more traditional. A kitchen knife. Why not? Haven’t things gotten that far? Would it be that surprising if they all starting killing each other?
Halfway up the stairs she realizes she’s still making a fist. She can barely unfold it, the rage coursing through her, rage uneaten, rage coming from somewhere deeper even than anything Old Tracy.
Screaming, a woman screaming, like a woman discovering her man is made of knives, has knives for bones, knives for eyes, is looking right at her.
Tracy is up the stairs, into the room Karen and Baum used. But now… empty. Up the hall.
Following the scream. This room, empty. To the other end of the hall. Karen will not stop screaming. What is she saying? Are those words? What is Karen processing right now? What new thoughts, feelings, views, beliefs, what is Karen experiencing RIGHT NOW?
This room, also empty.
Karen, from above.
The attic. The fucking walk-in attic.
Tracy is shaking, up the hall, one glance back to the shadows at the deep end. She actually stops. Actually squints into the blackness as if she might see something, anything, in a place she knows is lightless.
A woman screams. From above. Tracy is moving fast, through the Karen and Baum room, to the attic door, oh thank God the fucking door is open, guys I’m coming, it’s just me, REGULAR OLD TRACY, we need to go, we need to get out of this house right now, cut our losses, we cannot eat any more of what grows out here, not the cycle of life but the cycle of person, the cycle of who, regular old me, Old me New me Newer me, Newer you, doesn’t matter, we go now, we go now
She’s rushing up the attic steps, can see the ceiling is high enough to remain standing, passes a window, sees Oliver outside, down below, looking up at the house, Tracy’s head hurts from the wailing, so scared for what she’s about to see, so scared, it’s gotta be Baum or not Baum, killed himself, Karen found him, Baum dead, Karen crazy, Tracy too scared to do anything but move.
When she turns to face the bulk of the attic, she does not see Baum, no Baum at all.
No Karen either.
Rather, The Farmer stands in the middle of the otherwise empty space, surrounded by corners, everything seemingly out of the corner of the eye up here, even if you look right at it.
It’s just the old man.
Screaming in a woman’s voice in the attic of Carpenter’s farm.