Skip to content

In a Cornfield

by Erin Lyndal Martin

Dear K—–,

I don’t know if a cornfield can ever truly be empty, but this one is. I am waiting for you here and the wind sounds like knives on hubcaps. Ever since we met here that night and explored the spacecraft’s ruins, I have had a light at the base of my throat. The light seems to be shining from somewhere near my collarbone but it feels so…human…to describe it in relation to bones. There were no signs of life in the downed ship, nor were there any bodies of extraterrestrials or any other beings. Mostly there was steel and the scent of hot ozone. I don’t know if those are the things you remember too. My light has begun behaving differently, sometimes blinking in ways that seem like Morse code. I looked up Morse code and stood in front of a mirror trying to decipher it. But the letters it spelled out weren’t any combination of dots and dashes that we recognize. When the blinking first started, I thought it was because I’d been eating so much junk food, and I guess that could be it. But when you have an alien light trying to signal something, it probably involves the aliens who illuminated your clavicle. I thought if I came back to the place where it happened, things would become clearer. The light would reset or the aliens would return, if there were aliens. So far, I only hear the friction of cornstalks in wind. I don’t know how you manage your light. I never saw a doctor for mine—how would I have explained it? I can’t remember what I was doing that night before I came to the cornfield or why you were there too. I guess something there must have deleted my memory. I do remember the lightning and you offering me cinnamon gum while we were in the spaceship. It was a funny thing to think about in a spaceship. I am older now and we may not have anything in common aside from that night and these lights in our voiceboxes. Of course, you could be covering yours up. Hating it. Some days all I do is watch the way my own light beams, watching it land on walls. It’s a lovely yellow-green, like the one you see in rainbows made by prisms. The night that I discovered the light, I was still in my freshman year of college. It was distracting to see it hit the pages of my textbooks. I had to take incompletes that semester. I saw a therapist, but I could never talk about what actually went wrong. She was nice enough, an all-business sort of lady, and she seemed to really want to understand even what I was omitting. I would sit in her office at the health center fingering the fringe on a throw pillow and bringing up whatever normal person problems I had. Once, I broke down. I said, “Why did that thing have to crash in the only cornfield I was standing in?” When there is lightning I remember the sound of metal crumpling. We must have seen the spaceship approaching, but sometimes things make such little sense that we don’t register them at all. I wonder if I was destined to walk into the wreckage that night, to pick up brass knobs, opening and closing my hand around their circumference. Do you remember that pile of mirrors? They were all broken by then, and I stepped into the fragments because I wanted to see if they acted like ordinary matter does. For some reason I felt like I was going to pass out when the glass crunched under my boots, and I put two fingers to my wrist to check for my pulse. I looked back at you and you were holding a small stuffed whale. It had a loop as if it might have been hung like fuzzy dice. All around us were the insides of impossible machines. I did not find any captain’s log and wondered how they charted where they had been. I did not find any signs of language at all. It’s possible that they are watching me through the light in my body. I have read so many stories of alien abductions and UFO sightings since that night. You have read the same ones. You must have. Some don’t seem possible. What happened to us doesn’t either. I said “us.” Now I am back in this cornfield. I can’t be sure it is even the same cornfield. The stalks have grown over it. Like how a scab comes together. I think it was you trying to reach me and not the aliens after all.

Erin Lyndal Martin is a writer and artist from southwest Virginia. She received her MFA from the University of Alabama, and only once did she walk the Alberta city train tracks by that one magnolia tree. Her flash fiction has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, New World Writing, Utter, and is forthcoming in  Fiction Southeast.

Lead image: [Untitled] (via Flickr user eflon)