The run across the cornfield was to be a quick one; it was a test of will, not of physical capacity. They simply had to reach the other side by nightfall, not a long distance. No stops would be made along the way, except at the the tractor road that crossed the field, the agreed meeting place. They took off into the dense, dark wall of vegetation as the last colors of sunset bled into the sky. Within the tall stalks, they were only distinguishable by their path through the field. One weaved smoothly through the corn, leaving only a clean parting in it’s wake. The other bent stalks and flattened leaves, cutting a distinct line that marked its owner’s progression across the field. One boy, to whom the smooth path belonged, moved quickly, but unhurriedly through the cornfield, heart thumping with exertion, not from fear. No, fear was for his contender, the one with the marked passage, whose frantic breaths and wild eyes set him far apart from the other boy.
He almost smiled to himself as the flat leaves of the plants wiped the sweat from his face and neck. He was near stranger to the world of fear, the dark abyss in the back of his mind, the part of him that planted images of ghosts and strange creatures in the growing darkness around him. Deep in his mind, he cherished one truth above all others; whatever seeming threats presented themselves to him, the apparent dangers were never truly dangerous. They were simply designed to invoke a fearful response in him, and in resisting such a reaction, he neutralized his fear. This was the blade he brandished against the creatures in the dark, the rope which he clung to to save himself from the void, the uncharted abyss boring into him. This was his truth, his manifesto, his religion.As he approached the tractor path that he knew divided the cornfield, he heard the rustle of brush behind him, the soft crunch of leaves. His heart momentarily jumped, but was quickly quelled by his truth. There was no monster, no demon stalking him. He had nothing to fear. And then there came the scream, a howl so quick and terrible that he must have imagined it. The boy’s breath rasped in and out, and he begins to run faster in spite of himself. Then he forced himself to halt and stare into the tall stalks, and silently repeated his mantra. For a second, a moment as short as the imagined scream, he strayed to the dark nether regions deep within him, the dreaded, hallowed ground where he must not venture. For this would lead to fear, and fear was death.
He came to a stop at the road, and looked skywards as the sun cut a bloody arc over the horizon that spilled on to the clouds. The gash in the sky was rapidly stitching itself closed, and inky skin of night was being drawn over it. The boy turned round, squinting in the newborn night for his competitor, as his vision faded with the dusk, into blackness.
He experimentally called out in several directions, and received no reply, save a rustling of cornstalks from the way which he came. He moved blindly toward the sound, and heard a noise advancing upon him, a friction of fabric against leaves. But he knew this was not the other boy in the field. It moved with a design, a malevolence that so sharply contrasted the beaten course through which his opponent moved. He backed away, and his foot caught on an unseen knot on the road. He fell to the ground, and in the corner of his eye, he could see the creatures of the night infringing upon his vision, upon his mind. In the depths of his consciousness, he reached out into the abyss, desperately searching for the rope of truth to hold; searching and finding nothing. The corn stalks parted as the first light of the moon shone down and glinted upon the knife grasped by the dark figure in front of him, slick and dripping with blood. And as the strange creatures of his mind drew ever nearer, he plummeted into the abyss which he had not known before. And now he knew fear.