Follow Me to Ground Page 1

Author: Sue Rainsford

Genres: Fantasy , Horror

For Angie, cool hand on my brow

For Ali, deep breath in my lungs

For Pat, iron flecks in my will

And for Conor, hot blood of my heart.


The summers here are made of long, untended grass and flat, lemon light. Baking ground. Sunshine-haze. Shadows cast so dark and deep they seem as solid and alive as the bodies that throw them.

The summers here see even the mornings sharp with heat, and every morning I leave the hot mess of my sheets to stand outside on the patio stones, and study the drain.

This gullied, gutted hole.

Even now it sparkles with its secret wet supply.

I’m fearful of it.

The drain.

Fearful because no matter how long and dry the summer, slugs come up the drain and creep on their snake-bellies ’round the patio, trying to get into the house.

I’ve hated slugs since I was a child. Once, I pinched one between my forefinger and thumb and rubbed it to death. It was a baby, no larger than a bean.

At night I hear their slow procession, all the slugs that live beneath the house. I hear them moving around, shrivelling over the pebbles and dirt like the skin on staling fruit. Wandering blindly up and down the lawn. Stalk-eyes roving.

Now, in the daytime, the garden is all rustle and sigh and I can’t hear whatever sounds their lithe bellies might be making.

I see one: its blind snout appearing – a thumb-sized black snake departing the rim of the cracked drain’s edge. It heads for the dry grass that sits like crust over-cooked around the lush innards of the lawn.

If Father were here he’d scatter salt.

He’d pour it down the drain.

If I’d the stomach for the sizzle and stink their thousand corpses would make I’d do the same.

Father didn’t hate slugs, but he was wary of them.

Liquid and solid, they’re neither one thing nor the other, and they take their time in coming.

It’s fitting, I suppose, that I should be tracking one today. This day that sees a long wait come to a close. Because The Ground is moving.

For the first time in all these long, pale years. It’s moving.

It’s finished; done.

Nearby the lavender, grown in a heap, has had its scent worn away.

Such is the way in this heat.

Little keeps.

Little, that is, above ground.


Father was always more creaturely than me.

There were nights when he’d let his spine loosen and go running on all fours through the woods, leaving sense and speech behind.

He’d come back ’round dawn, his throat and his chest and his belly smeared with red, pushing in the back door and straightening up in the kitchen. Bones clicking, shoulders rolling into place, he’d say –Why don’t you ever come hunt with me, Ada?

And I’d laugh and remind him that I’d pleasures all my own.

Every morning when we were expecting a Cure, he’d say

–You’ve a Cure today, Ada.

As if he needed to remind me. As if I’d ever once forgot. I’d be kneeling in the grass, getting familiar with a cricket or a bird, and he’d call to me – just for the satisfaction, it sometimes seemed, of disrupting me: Cure today, Cure today …

This particular morning it couldn’t have been long after six but already the summer heat was settling in, the sky wide and bleached, and The Ground calling for rain.

The garden is long and mostly grass but back then, close to the house, we kept a patch of moist, fragrant soil. This was as much ground as Father had managed to tame, and it was where we put Cures that needed long, deep healing. The easier ones we saw to in the house. The rest of The Ground we didn’t use for anything; it was too temperamental, and kept to rules we couldn’t follow. The Burial Patch let Cures sleep their sickness away – sped up stitch and suture – but The Ground, the long long lawn, it gorged on bodies. Shaped them to its own liking.

The Ground is where Father and I were born.

Inside the house Father was bent over the stove, stewing a broth that had a citrus smell. He was so tall and had to bend so deep it often struck me he’d have been better kneeling. His faded white shirt and his faded white pants gave his skin a sandy sparkle. When it was hot enough to sweat he glowed against the dull house, against the cracked porcelain and the faded pine and the rugs whose colours looked like they’d been watered down.

I nodded at the broth.

–Is that for Mrs Levine?

Claudia Levine was that day’s Cure.

–No, it’s not for anyone. I’m trying something new.

Claudia Levine arrived at noon and I sang her belly open, sang her sickness away – tricked it into a little bowl under the table. Closed her up again, woke her up again. Told her she’d be sore in the morning, waved her away down the drive, poured her sickness down the drain.

And then I went out to meet Samson.

Such was the easy, sing-song pattern of my days.

Often, a Cure would say You probably don’t remember me but I’m Such-And-Such’s daughter and we’d say Oh yes we do of course we do while recalling some unspectacular mother or father, and they’d look at us long and wistful, hoping for some little glimmer of our private selves.

We tried not to get too personal with Cures or let them see too many of our ways. They scared easy, and while they knew that we didn’t eat and that we aged slow, they didn’t know I stole the song out of baby birds or that Father ran through the woods like a bear.