Literary Corner: Harvestmen

There is an old, wooden shed under a mountain of ivy where the harvestmen come and go. The ancient hinges, rusted the color of dried blood, creak when the door is pulled open. The rocky hills echo their groans of protest, causing forest dwellers to perk their ears for a moment before returning to their routines. Once the warped door is propped open by a fallen log, the hinges soften back to sleep. The dead leaves, then, rustle their own indignation as boots scrape, dragging a heavy object wrapped in burlap through their brittle enclave.

The hot-copper scent of life and death is not new to these woods, not new to the harvestmen, not new to the hinges or the leaves or the shed. The hot-copper scent lingers and then fades and then lingers again, especially in the fetid days of long-sun short-moon. The scent lingers elsewhere through the forest as well, but not with the rock-and-stone consistency of the old wooden shed under the mountain of ivy.

The hinges cry out a second time as the fallen log propping the door is nudged aside. The burlap burden remains, though the boots that brought it retreat, and the hot-copper scent fills the shed with potential.

It is then that the harvestmen come. First in a line, and then in a drove, as the message is carried on the wind.

The burlap falls open at their needle-thin touch. The body beneath is still warm under gossamer and twine. Skin without fur or feather or scale is a rare delicacy that only the shed provides. So the harvestmen return, year after year, as their fathers did, and their fathers’ fathers, and their fathers’ grandfathers before them, lending their long legs to the reaping.

Mary Elizabeth Summer is the author of the young-adult Trust Me mystery series. She lives in Beaverton with her wife, their daughter, their dog, and their evil overlor—er, cats.