Small Town Rules
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Posted by Fly-Rin on: 11:02 AM, 11/ 3/21
“Don’t go into the cornfields at night.”

That’s what my parents told my siblings and I as we were growing up.

It was just one of the common rules we learned, like “Don’t take candy from strangers” or “Don’t wear loose clothing around an auger”. Wasn’t just our family either. That is what all the kids in my small town were told at an early age. Made sense due to the multitude of farms surrounding the town; even had a few fields inside of town.

Every year or so, we’d get reports of kids missing in the cornfields near late summer/early autumn. They’d usually be found fine. A bit terrified but when you can easily get lost among the tall stalks, it’s understandable to be a little shaken up.

I was only 16 when I got lost in the cornfields at night. It was back in 1999 when our school started teaching computer class and had internet access. My friends and I created Yahoo accounts and installed Yahoo Messenger so we could chat privately together while waiting in computer class. Sometimes we would just sneak into random chat rooms to talk with other people.

This was where I met Andy. I can’t recall his username anymore and I don’t even know if Andy was his real name. He had messaged me with the usual “Hey there” and “A/S/L”. I responded, telling him I was 16-year-old female in the Midwest.

Andy told me that he was 23, also from the Midwest, and sent a picture of himself. I thought he was pretty nice looking, and he asked if I could send him a picture of myself. It took a bit since I had to borrow a digital camera from a friend for it. When I sent it to him, he told me I was “super pretty. How can you be single with that figure? I would totally date a pretty thing like you.”

He was friendly and flirty when messaging me and gave me attention that, I felt at the time, not many of my classmates or friends would afford me. After about a month, I considered him a friend (probably even an online boyfriend) and told him exactly what town I lived in.

Showing enthusiasm, he said that if I wanted, he could drive over for a visit some weekend. I was excited about it, since he seemed to be interested in me as a girlfriend. I told him that maybe he could come down for one of our football games on a Friday night and we could spend all day Saturday together.

That Friday night, I lied and told my parents I was heading to the football game with friends. I told myself that it wasn’t really a lie though. I did consider Andy as a friend, after all. We were supposed to meet at the A&W close to the school so we could have a proper date.

When Andy showed up, something was off. I knew I would probably feel the “butterflies” in my stomach from nervousness when meeting with a person I only knew online. But I didn’t expect such a heavy weight in my chest when we greeted each other. It felt like all those floaty butterflies that I felt when I messaged him turned into lead bricks as he gave me a hug. It was like my body knew that this was wrong.

We got some food and chatted for a bit in the restaurant. Several of the adult staff behind the counter kept looking at our table. Most of them knew who I was, mainly because they knew my parents. One of the cashiers came over to ask what I was going to be doing for the evening.

After she heard that we were going to the football game, she told me that it was a nice night and that we should walk the two blocks over to the school. “Save fuel for longer rides later” she explained in a cheerful tone as she looked between the two of us.

Andy seemed perturbed but didn’t make much of a fuss. As we left, I could see the congested line of cars heading up the street towards the school. We walked next to the line of cars, a few people who recognized me calling out to me as we passed.

Andy didn’t pay much attention to the game. He wanted to be in the back corner of the stands, close to the stairs. Out of the way of where most people wanted to sit and watch the game. While we were there, the feeling in my stomach got worse as he put his hands on my legs, trying to run his fingers inside of my thigh. By the end of the first quarter, I was feeling uncomfortable and told him I had to go to the bathroom.

Now, the bathrooms were located behind the concession stand. A bit out of view from anyone on the field or in the stands. There was also a cornfield, about one and a half acres. The school usually cut paths into this field for a corn maze event near the end of October, early November. The stalks were still somewhat green, so nothing had been done to prep the maze yet.

I didn’t notice that there was no one around the concession stand as I went around to the bathrooms. I also didn’t notice that Andy had followed me. When I came out of the bathroom, there he was smiling brightly as he closed the distance between us.

Andy pulled me in for a kiss, but it didn’t feel right so I pushed him back. He chuckled and told me it was cute that I was being all shy. I shakily told him that I wasn’t comfortable with what he was doing but he didn’t seem to care as he tried to put his hand up my shirt.

Trying to get past him, I felt his hand grab my wrist, roughly pulling me back to him. I don’t know why I didn’t scream at that moment. Panic set in as I could feel his warm breath on my neck, the smell of chili dogs and smoke wafting from his breath.

I don’t remember how I got away from him. I don’t remember running into the cornfields. All I remember was the terror as I ran through the cornfield, leaf blades scratching at my face, arms, and legs as I passed. I remember hearing an angry yell coming closer. I remember tripping and falling hard into the dirt.

I remember hearing the scraping of something moving through the rows of corn. Seeing a large shadow move past me about three rows over. Covering my mouth with trembling hands so as not scream and give away my position. Feeling tears streaming down my cheeks as I wished that this was just a nightmare.

I remember hearing Andy’s voice getting closer to my area. A low, animalistic growl coming from somewhere ahead of me, getting closer as well. Listening as it went past me, the leaf blades of the corn stalks scraping against something in the dark corn rows. Listening as I heard Andy gave a startled shout, before his voice muffled in what I could only believe to be horrified screaming.

His muffled voice was soon drowned out by the sound of multiple corn leaves shuffling and scraping louder and louder in my ears. I shut my eyes tightly and tried to stay still, my heart pounding as my body trembled. It felt like hours before the sound subsided and the cornfield was silent once again.

Eventually, I could hear the band playing during the halftime show. I opened my eyes and lifted my head. It sounded like the band was coming from directly in front of me. Trying not to make a lot of noise, I crawled in the dirt towards the sound of the school spirit song. The music got louder as I continued, making me press on a bit faster. Just wanting to get out of the field. Away from Andy. Away from whatever was in the darkness…

Soon, I could see the concession stand, illuminated from behind by the bright lights shining over the football field. I got up and ran, not caring about the scrapes and cuts that were coming from the rough corn leaves. I finally got out of the cornfield and headed around the building and into the mass of parents and children getting their snacks for the next half.

A lot of the kids asked me what was wrong, why I was covered in dirt and scratches. But not the adults. Several of the men went around the back of the building as a few of my friends’ moms tried consoling me as I stuttered and stammered. I don’t think I even got a coherent sentence out, the relief of being in familiar faces and sounds overwhelms my memory of what was being said around me.

Two of the adults that were friends with my family took me out of there. One of them had to drive my car back to my house, probably due to the state I was in from the experience.
 
When I got back to the house, I told my parents everything. The chat rooms. Andy. The meetup plans. What Andy did at the game. Running into the corn field and coming back out.

They didn’t say anything about how stupid I was for getting myself into the situation with Andy or that I was just imagining things. My mom just sat next to me and held me tightly as I let everything out.

My dad and the other adults listened as I rambled. Dad whispered something to the others, but I was too exhausted to care or pay attention. My mom led me to the bathroom to get cleaned up and head to bed.

I didn’t hear anything the next day about Andy. I know his car was gone, the staff of the A&W said that the car was still there when they closed for the night. They didn’t have any fancy security cameras outside the building like most stores have nowadays. It’s possible he got back to his car and left after he got out of the field… if he did.

When the cornfield at the school finally started drying out and turning color, the school decided against the maze that year due to “finding a better location”. They harvested that field as soon as they were able to, leaving nothing by sharp, dried tillers of the stalk.

I managed to walk down and check the field after that. I wondered if I had imagined something in the field and that I just got lucky while getting turned around in such a large area.

I don’t know what I expected to find. Maybe I was just hoping for an answer to what else was in the field. Maybe I was trying to find closure to what was running through my dreams at night. Maybe I just wanted to see how much worse things could’ve been.

I didn’t find anything that I was hoping for. To be fair, the combine tires probably ran over any tracks that may have been there. The only thing I did find was a set of keys. I don’t know if they belonged to Andy or not. But if the keys were his and they were in the field, what happened to the car?

I never looked further into it. I left town as soon as I graduated from school. I stayed in bigger cities, away from the field that I had grown used to in my childhood. I made a new life. A new family. I still get calls and visits from my folks, but I haven’t stayed at my old childhood home in years.

But recently, my husband’s work led us to move to a new town. One surrounded by cornfields. The memories and terror from that night have come back in a nauseous, emotional wave. I know it’s not my hometown, not the fields of my youth. Even so, I tell my children. Just to be safe…

“Don’t go into the cornfields at night.”





 

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