AGATHA’S BARN: A CARPENTER’S FARM STORY (part 4)

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Welcome back to “Agatha’s Barn” by Michael Bailey. This is a tie-in to Carpenter’s Farm, the serial novel by Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box, Inspection, Malorie, and others. Created with permission, and free for all to enjoy during this strange time. Featuring illustrations throughout by Glenn Chadbourne.

If you’re new to “Agatha’s Barn,” be sure to read Part 1, and Part 2 and Part 3 first. I also I highly recommend catching up on Carpenter’s Farm (the first twenty or so chapters) before continuing. Josh adds new chapters each Monday, Wednesday & Friday.


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The old man’d left her there, having taught her all he could. The old man’d shown her the other crops, for there were many. Row upon unlabeled row, field after field. This one is power, this one empathy, this one balance, and this one decisiveness. “And this one is freedom,” she’d reasoned and said aloud, having planted those bone seeds herself, emptying her entire jar.

“Someone needs freedom,” Agatha said, “someone already here.”

She wondered if ‘need’ was a trait, and imagined it could be, that there was probably a field bearing that particular fruit. But can a person ever grow with need, or would that person forever be stunted in growth? Did certain crops hurt the way others nourished? Could some cause a person to wither, especially those from the dead fields? There were good crops and bad; some alive, some not. Agatha’d followed The Farmer to many but not all. She’d bent down to take what she needed (but not need), a temporary fill, but after bringing power to her lips, she had to remind herself that like gluttony and greed, no one really needed such things.

“Yet here they are,” she’d said, “for someone to feast upon.”

This one’s courage, the old man’d said, or hadn’t, but you’ve had plenty. And you’re familiar with these two already, he’d said or hadn’t (no, not with words) while tugging her by his invisible string from one dead field to the next, showing her pity and shame.

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Agatha’d thought of her jars of nails labeled the same, then, and how she’d pounded in those flaws into the barn to make her shelter stronger; not needing to feed on those traits, necessarily, but to purge them by proxy right out of her and into the old wood.

They were gone the next day, Aggie mused. Where’d they go?

“Back,” Agatha said, “they went back,” the nails back to their containers in the barn, a few of Oliver’s friends back to their homes before the farm, “but not all—”

“Which one’s empathy?” she asked the old man, but he’d gone and she’d already forgotten. He’d left her there. He’d returned to the farmhouse; she knew that much, the old man perhaps sitting upstairs in his green chair, looking down his hat, or maybe making his way around the rooms and shifting about like burn spots in a movie reel, flip-flip-flip­-flickering.

She felt him there, felt many still there (or not there at all): someone in the living room, someone climbing the stairs, someone in every room (no one in any of the rooms). A part of her knew a woman had returned from ‘The City,’ one of the guests from the dinner party, and she stood in the pantry at this very moment (brandy, was there brandy high up on the shelves?), the same spot Agatha’d stood not so long ago with the slated door closed; this woman contemplated a jar of decisiveness, she knew, uncertain but tempted to unscrew the lid and pour the contents down her throat. So many jars, each labeled differently. Not there before, but there now.

Why’d she come back? Who (or what) was she looking for?

Oliver’d filled those jars as he took over the farm, labeled them accordingly.

“Do we even need empathy?” she asked her younger self, shaking the thought.

She ran a hand through the soil, brought a handful to her face, inhaled. Doesn’t smell like empathy. Smells like regret, so foul, so familiar.

The question went unanswered, of course, as the sound of a door shutting in the distance caused her to let go of the dirt (someone had entered the farmhouse, or had left the farmhouse), which she let cascade through her splayed fingers. Not so hungry, not any more, though she’d nearly brought the handful to her mouth absentmindedly. The house was not alone. The woman in the house was not alone. Agatha was not alone.

Back. Someone else is back.                                              

Nights ago she’d watched from the grave behind the barn as one of Oliver’s guests’d walked out of the fields barefoot, the man’s sweater wrapped loosely around his bare chest, face covered in earth, as though he’d fallen face-first into one of the fields and’d filled himself with everything missing from his life. He’d made his way to the tree line of willows, had looked over his shoulder, at her or at the barn, then at the farmhouse, one last goodbye to his friends still there, perhaps, and to her, if he’d seen her, and then’d disappeared into the black between trees.

“Should I feel sorry for him?” she asked, meaning not this man but Chris (or maybe both). “Was he simply raised into becoming the monster he turned out to be,” (like father, no, not ever!) “not knowing any better? No one ever judges a predator for hunting prey, unless human. No one ever calls dominance over another ‘abuse,’ unless human. No one ever blames—”

You’re sounding like father, like Chris, like you’ve lost sense.

The man in the sweater’d resembled her mother in a way, Agatha’d thought then, not the woman of her youth, beaten till bloodied, or battered till “learned,” as her father would say, but Mother from the recurring dream. Both she and this man had carried with them the same determination, eyes and all other mannerisms edifying it’s alright, it’s okay, with intent of a greater purpose. Watch what I’m about to do, Aggie. Watch me jump. This man’d fed himself from the crops, ravenously, it seemed, dirty chin held high at having filled in all those missing pieces of himself, no longer lost, no longer wandering forever and ever

What Agatha hungered for now more than anything was reason; her stomach panged for reason. She figured she’d find a row planted somewhere on this farm if she looked long enough. And by the position of the moon stuck above her, she figured time no longer mattered.

She went down each row, asking, “Where’d’you plant this reason?” but the old man wasn’t there to answer. You’ll find it, she imagined him saying (though not with words), close to logic and rationality. Don’t worry, you’ll find it if you really need it, and you’ll find that, too.

On her way to the barn, she passed where she’d sprinkled her father in neat rows. Another knelt in that field, stuffing his face with dirt.

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“The recycling of people,” Agatha said in a whisper. Maybe she didn’t say the words at all as she admired the man cramming in handful after handful. Same night? Same man? Weeks ago? The déjà vu settled in again. This wasn’t the first time he’d come out to this particular field to eat, nor the first time she’d seen him do it; she could tell as much by his determination, and hers, and by the bare footprints leading in and out of only that part of the field, by the stains on his shirt. Dry-swallowing what, exactly? One person unknowingly eating the cremains of another, is it still cannibalism? What had she planted in the dirt that night (or this night, possibly the same) along with the ash of her father? Not freedom, she knew. A bad crop. She’d planted a bad crop. How long ago was that? She had cried, then, whenever that was, and the sky had cried with her.

But what had she planted? The man craved what was in the ground desperately, gorging himself (this time, last time, every time). He coughed and expelled a plume of cigarette-like smoke, and he gagged like father used to after waking from drunken stupors on the couch (his smoker’s cough, mama used to call it, remember?) and then turned to his side and retched and held his stomach and retched again, held his stomach like something inside wanted to burst out, and then he purged not a cancerous lung (as Aggie sometimes suspected her father would, the wet way it always sounded) but a mixture of dirt- and ash-mud, about a jar’s worth.

The man threw up bits of her father in turn, fragments of femur, a hint of humerus, jagged crumbs of jawbone, a chip of molar, maybe part of a rib. Just when she thought he was done, he retched yet again, and most of what came out next came out dry, making him cough more. But that didn’t stop him from taking in more of the bad crop. He hungrily grabbed at the earth. He scooped another handful, forced it down, scooped another handful, forced it down.

And he laughed, thought it funny, eating those ashes. Humerus, he was probably thinking. This is all humerus. The same dull and punny sense of humor as her father.

“Hi, dad,” she said under her breath to the rows (always dad and never Dad), and the cold thought came out as a stream, like her father letting out some of his Kool after a long pull.

The man in the field pulled more dirt, stuffing his face and laughing around the earth in his mouth as it went in and came out of him. Laughing, and rolling on the ground like a dog over a dead and decaying animal found in the grass to get its stink. A sick joke. Rolling in it.

Agatha imagined her father’s charred body pulled from the house fire all those years ago, later placed onto a cremation table just to be burned again. His bones’d been ground up as fine as flour, sure, but there were bits of hard white in that gray powder, she knew. Six or seven pounds—that’s what the cardboard box had weighed, maybe less because not all of him had been found in the foundation outline of what they’d once called home. She’d opened the seal right after receiving him, her father’s ashes collected in a bag, and’d ran her fingers through his death.

She’d laughed, then, because sometimes laughter conceals fear.

Most of the farmhouse guests had come to the fields at one point or another to fill their stomachs or to fill jars brought to the farmhouse, but only Agatha and The Farmer and his new apprentice had ever tended to the crops, as far as she knew (and if that’s what he’d shown her to do could be called). We planted a bad crop, chimed little Aggie, waterfall-watered them with our tears. You couldn’t have good without bad in the world. Good required bad to even exist in the first place—a constant struggle of balance between the two, always. Yin and yang. Right and Wrong. Horror and comedy. They’d planted a bad crop in this dead field, and for whatever reason this man needed what now grew there and curled himself around it tightly, survival-eating like a prisoner and unable to take the hunger seriously.

“What did we plant, Aggie?” she asked.

Maybe seed for need. Is wanting more such a bad thing?

He turned to Agatha then, hunched over, his face a mess. He tilted his head and made an expression one makes when sensing the unseen, the way a person startles when finding what’s not really there in the dark: a shimmer in the shadows, a mock silhouette from a stack of clothes piled on a chair, a suddenly-there reflection of one’s self in a mirror (say his name three times, I dare you). She’d seen plenty of not-quite-theres stepping in and out of the willows (and in and out of the woods, the fields, the farmhouse, the barn) long before any of these new arrivals came to Carpenter’s Farm. And she’d seen the new farmer planting and plowing the fields aplenty.

Roll over, Oliver. Roll over all of her, Aggie reminded her.

He snickered, as if hearing her made-up lyrics.

In the monochrome night, what stained this man’s face black could be mud or blood (maybe both), his face all-too familiar. He’d heard her voice, or perhaps her subtle crunch of footsteps as she stalked past, or perhaps’d only heard the wind. He stared at Agatha a moment with his muddy-bloody face, or not at her at all, bent like a question mark over his bare feet, then instantly insisted she never existed and returned to his maniacal business.

Too much need can turn to greed, Aggie sang, mud to blood.

She thought of warning the man of what he ate, part of her hoping he’d maybe head to the next crop over and have himself a heartier meal (joy was planted there, alongside happiness and wonder and glee, but she kept to herself and moved to one of the far fields.

“Just a taste,” she told herself, imagining bodies rolled into the earth.

Imagining The Farmer at the window in the farmhouse.

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The moon still hadn’t moved from its position half-watching over her, or moved so slowly (no, the earth spinning its pirouette, she told herself, the moon dead, just floating out there) that time seemed to’ve all but stalled. She’d gone to the fields, but how long had she stayed? Too long, not long enough? And what crop had she eaten and how much? Her fingers smelled of wet earth, of mold and decay. A maggot clung to the web between her fingers, which she flicked away.

“Something from the bad crops,” she said aloud.

What does cowardice smell like? she wondered, but she knew;  cowardice smelled like her hands, like her breath. Agatha spat out the grit clinging to her teeth. Spat again. Water had been plumbed to the barn, so she drank from the spigot and rinsed her mouth. Spat again.

As she drank, a raven or crow sat perched atop the barn, laughing at her.

Light shone afar from the farmhouse. Bodies passed between windows, downstairs, upstairs. The Farmer there (not there), and a few of the guests, though she hadn’t seen Oliver since the woman from New York City’d returned. She imagined him walking in the willows now because that’s where Agatha’d been before this, giving poems to the trees. The woman, she knew, the one who’d returned, wandered through the house alone, then not-so-alone; she’d had the brandy in the pantry, pulled to the liquid courage the way Agatha’d been pulled to cowardice.

Just a taste. Sometimes that’s all it took to ignite change, as simple as a child’s warm breath over the wilting fuse of a cigarette to spread the smallest of flames across—

“Cowardice is the direct opposite of courage,” Agatha said, and backed into the barn doors, which rattled on its overly-large hinges. Locked from the inside. Someone inside watching her shadow, she imagined, dancing across the fist-sized gap underneath. The whiskey was in there, another type of courage, yet even the smallest amount of what she’d swallowed in the fields kept her from wanting to go inside, afraid to go inside, for fear of what she might find, the little voice in her mind asking What’s in the barn? What’s in the Barn? What the fuck’s in the barn? Not around, not alongside, not buried in back, but awaiting inside the barn.

The raven or crow, the blackest of birds, called out its warning not to enter.

A sound similar to the man in a fit shoving fistfuls of dirt into his mouth.

If Oliver indeed hid (not hiding, no, not waiting either) and watched her from the willows as she had watched others contemplating whether or not to enter the barn (where she’d stayed— where she’d sheltered—for days upon days), would he see her new cowardice?

“Cowardice is yellow,” she said.

The yellow would be wafting off her and he’d (or anyone out there’d) peg her as such, as a damn yellow coward, and the leg-slip of shadow she’d seen had to be his, had to be, but was he out there searching for something (for her poems slit-stashed in the bark) or wandering about for other reasons, or was he simply there to observe her growing and / or withering?

She imagined the cowardice wafting off her body like hot shower steam, trailing after her. Had he found her poems before they’d fallen to pieces? If poems wrote themselves, Agatha considered, they could as easily unwrite themselves, absorbed back into the trees. She imagined comedy and tragedy masks laughing and not, first the smile, then its opposite.

Why do rainbows frown / Aggie mused / with their prismatic lips to the ground?

Not a panic attack, no, this was

Part of an unwritten poem from her youth, Agatha knew.

“They went back,” she said aloud, meaning her words, meaning some of the farmhouse guests. “No, not all of them went back. Some stayed. And some would never go back.”

Another poem flooded through her then as the bird above her cawed, the stanzas slicing syllables into her mind like some nocturnal waking nightmare, and Agatha’d title the poem as such because poems were all but capable of titling themselves, this one “The Nocturnal Waking Nightmare,” as the words formed and unformed, written then erased—

Agoraphobic tendencies
in the middle of the night,
begins with every finger tingling,
            / squeeze and release
            / squeeze and release
the tarantula hands ever-curling
but needing to stretch
            / breathe in
            / breathe out …

In my head: bold paintbrush strokes,
capital letters, first the A, three slow
lines of black, then the curves of a B—

Part of her wanted to pull the pen from her pack, to frantically scrawl everything down onto one of the few remaining pages in her notebook, to be the vessel, but her fingers—

It’s not enough—
Need to walk around—
Three in the morning and I can’t—
            / squeeze and release
            / squeeze and release
Each step is not enough
but this needs to get walked off
            / breathe in
            / breathe out …

One night she awoke gasping, startled out of slumber (the only memory of Chris she could recall that revealed even a mote of care), not with his hand held firmly over her mouth, but anxiety hitting her hard instead of him with his fists this time. Her heart beating erratically, baum-baum, baum-baum, every inch of her tingling with battery-licked electric intensity, each tendon in her body pulled taut and plucked by a dirty finger unable to let go as she thought I’m going to die, I’m going to

“What’s wrong, dear?”
“I just need— I just need to
  walk around is all, I just—”

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors:
Citalopram, Fluvoxamine, Sertaline …

Maybe one of the others,
the Luvox, the Paxil,
but will it be enough?

Every joint on edge, every fiber firing
            / tightness in the chest
            / the building pressure …

In my head: count back from a hundred,
ninety-nine, too distracted, ninety-eight,
can’t focus, need to focus on calming—

The medication had helped at first, a new kind of freedom from falling into depression, but her body had grown, had dosage-adapted, and so she’d required another drug, then another, and then more pills to help her sleep, others to—

It’s not enough—
Need to get out of here—
Anywhere but here, get it out of my head—
            / squeeze and release
            / squeeze and release
Each inhale is not enough
but needs to not be the last
            / breathe in
            / breathe out …

Chris’d cared then, that first and only time, touching her shoulder, gentle-like, perhaps just as startled out of his own sleep by her jaunted-jolt upright, saying,

 “Can I get you anything, dear?”

And she’d said,

“I don’t know— I don’t know
  what’s wrong with me, I—”

—before she’d gone to her medicine cabinet magic box to help make it all go away (all but Chris), though such things (to leave bad men) took time, took toll, her body the vessel—

Seratonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors:
Venlafaxine, Duloxetine …

Maybe switch to one of those,
the Efflexor, the Cymbalta,
but will it be enough?
Circling around the room, the spinning room

            / tightness in the chest
            / the building pressure …

In my head: death would be easier than this,
much easier, a single brushstroke, the slow
and simple curve of a C—

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The words in her head had come and gone as her mouth formed new ones. Agatha pounded against the barn doors screaming, “What’s in the barn?” as the raven or crow fluttered off. She wanted to know. She didn’t want to know. Cowardice needed the courage hidden inside in order to level out, to become balanced.

Like the woman we found (forever?) sleeping in one of the fields, done laughing.

She imagined a similar version of herself sitting inside and sheltered by the storm she now created, drinking Blanton’s directly from the bottle, painting imaginary black letters in her mind to try to settle her nerves, a fat-tipped brush as wide as her hand. She imagined her other self painting the uppercase alphabet (boys, Aggie mused) and each lowercase letter (girls) in wide strokes above her using an imaginary pool of paint. This mind-mimic helped calm her, usually—painting imaginary letters. There, then gone, like words carved into the sand and swallowed by the forever-hungry ocean.

Memories write themselves, same as poetry, she knew, ebbing and flowing, and they unwrite themselves, appearing and disappearing and reappearing on their own accord.

Wind did not rattle the barn doors this time, but her fists against the old wood.

She tried to remember the poem, but—

… the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;

No, that was Poe. Her poem’d already recessed, replaced by a few lines she’d been read as a child and had later memorized in eighth grade, still there, every last word:

So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door —
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door —
This it is, and nothing more.”

“What traits’re purple,” she said, “like the silken sad uncertain rustling curtains?”

Like the woman we found (forever?) sleeping in one of the fields, done laughing.

Compassion. Understanding. Sensitivity … all three considered purple.

Agatha closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, held it there for one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, four-one-thousand, five-one-thousand, six-one-thousand, seven-one-thousand, forcing the thunder as far away as she could muster. She finally released her breath and took another, held it for seven more seconds, heart thutter-thumping.

She’d eaten cowardice in the field, which had caused the anxiety, which had caused the attack. There were so many unlabeled crops, row upon row, like the bad crop she’d planted. This was no stranger to her, but she couldn’t remember the last time one’d hit her so hard.

No, not alone, Aggie reasoned. The Farmer showed us how to plant what (and who) we’d brought, and where, just not why.

She let the thoughts go, even those of little Aggie, draping her canvass in white. She began with an uppercase A, painting in broad strokes, then the B, then the C, her pulse slowly-slowing, the tingling lessening, and then she switched to lowercase, got to the end, repeated uppercase, and got all the way to O (for Oliver, Aggie mused) and opened her eyes.

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She sat inside the barn, legs crisscross-applesauce. Backpack in front of her, open. All the jars empty, or emptied. The hammer at her side, ready to headstone-tip another jar-full of nails. A light rain fell through the hole in the ceiling, directly upon her, then gone. Clothes soaked.

“What did we eat?” she asked.

Agatha couldn’t remember how she’d gotten in the barn, only the bolt-action rifle slip of latch sliding hard into place, a ghost echo, maybe an echo of an echo. Outside the swing doors, a shadow moved across the gap underneath. I dare you to reach under, grab an ankle. What little light outside the barn shifted, possibly from a partially-clouded sky. What Chris’d often called ‘half-stormy,’ the weather unsure what to do with itself, ‘just pissin’ people off.’

“I dare you to go up to the door of the farmhouse,” she whispered in the dark, her very words composing themselves. “I dare you to touch the door for three seconds, eyes closed, then run back.” Had she been here before, as a child, in a dream? “I dare you to go inside the barn, for three seconds, eyes closed, then stay there for three more. I dare you not to scream when you find what’s waiting inside.” The barn doors like teeth.

One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand.

She thought of the mirror in the upstairs bathroom in the farmhouse, remembered lighting the candle, staring into / through the mirror, saying a name like “The Farmer” three times.

“He’ll come for you,” she said.

Agatha’d had her fill of cowardice; what she needed now was courage to get her through whatever this was—one the opposite of the other, split by a line as fine as that between humor and horror. She smelled her hands: clean, like her hair (shampooed, conditioned), but how?

She must’ve gone into the farmhouse at some point, she reasoned, when no one was around (no, the house’s never empty, though it slept sometimes). No cars in the yard, no truck—that old beater Oliver’d sometimes drive into town. No lights inside for days.

She’d lit the candle, again—the memory now turned into a memory of a memory, a faded carbon copy of a copy of a copy. The smell of burnt-wick after the wind’d blown out the flame (that, she could remember clear as crystal), a little apparition rising from its death (she could only imagine), for the room’d turned black as pitch. She’d stood in the shower, then, lukewarm falling over her from a calcium-clotted showerhead. The recollection fell hard as the water.

Her newly acquired cowardice must’ve headstone-tipped a few courage nails into her noggin’ causing her to forget all these not-so-long-ago memory bits, but another part of her now, maybe Aggie outside her mind using the claw end of the hammer to pry out—

A shriek.

Highest fucking pitch she’d ever heard, as if blasted out a stereo dialed to eleven, and just as the light’d gone out in the bathroom (no, not Agatha in the old porcelain tub screaming, and not Aggie prying out those nails in the barn in her head in her past in the now or in the in-between) then and there in the farmhouse. The memory hot as fire.

Another shriek: impossibly longer, louder, despite being muffled by the ceiling: a Siren-fox calling out for help. No, not help, a distraction; it had sounded like a distraction.

Agatha clearly remembered turning off the water, the cartoon four-fingered hands for knobs calling out their impersonations of the noises above—that womanly screech—but like most dreams upon waking, the phantom-flickers of what-once-was (or never-ever-was) faded, and a single thought soft as silk came to her and she said,

“Say my name like that and I’ll come for you.”

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

Yet there wasn’t a room above the second floor, only an attic, for she’d seen walk-in stairs but had never dared to enter. And then whatever’d happened in the bathroom and thereafter was gone, the nail pulled clean free (there, made it better, little Aggie would say, just as momma used to after fixing a scrape). And whatever’d happened to her youth, the good parts, flooded in to help hide the bad with faint memories of her mother reading her poetry. Long before eighth grade assignments, Mother’d read her “The Raven,” which is why it’d been so easy to memorize.

The shadow under the barn doors split into two equal columns.

A man stood outside, legs apart.

Nevermore.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.

The swing doors swung inward, rattling. Whoever stood on the opposite side pushed, metal clattering, again, and again, not the wind, but the backs of fists pounding against the wood, screaming Let me in this goddamn door! without any words.

For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being …

Not her father, Agatha knew, for he was now truly gone (recycled), and not Mother, Agatha knew, for she was also truly gone (turned back to memory) and would never talk that way, not ever, not to anyone, always terrified of what trouble raising her voice might invite.

The Blanton’s called to Agatha from the shelf—liquid courage, which might help balance out the cowardice she’d devoured. The bottle sat covered in a thin layer of dust; this she could tell from moonlight permeating through the barns many holes. Only half-stormy outside.

But the barn had power now, and so she went to the wall and flipped the switch, which didn’t seem to do anything, the two hanging bulbs not offering a soft buzz. The lights swung like hanged men with long rope shadows. She couldn’t help but wonder if someone had partially unscrewed the lightbulbs at some point, leaving her alone (not alone) in the dark. She couldn’t remember anything other than waking—if that’s what it could be called—and sitting crisscross applesauce. But a single lamp came to life, offering scant light.

Her bike was there, leaning against a wall. Windless, the doors continued their jingle-jangle, the latch holding for now. Whatever she’d once feared inside the barn was outside its walls now, and didn’t having the lights on always make things easier? All that mattered was the whiskey, and so she went to it. A handprint had disturbed the dust, fingers longer than her own, or maybe a trick of the light. She yanked off the horse stopper, took a long pull.

Behind her a rifle bolt expelled a round as the swing doors swung wide open.


Agatha’s story continues here:

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I hope you’re enjoying this strange tale so far, as well as Glenn’s illustrations, and every other piece of writing, art, music, poetry inspired by Josh Malerman’s Carpenter’s Farm. Since this pandemic started, I haven’t been able to focus on writing anything other than poetry, so thank you, Josh, for getting me out of this rut!

After reading the first few chapters of his novel-in-progress, and Shane Douglas Keene’s chapter-by-chapter corresponding poems at Inkheist, (seriously, read them), I reached out, asked Josh if he’d mind me writing a tie-in short story, he said to go for it.

I wrote Part 1 (5,500 words) in a single day, starting at around noon on a Saturday and multiple drafts / edits by midnight. The next weekend I wrote Part 2 (6,000 words), and the following weekend Part 3 (5,000 words), and then Part 4 (5,000 words) the next weekend, with a final Part 5 on the way (5,300 words). Agatha’s Barn is a novella now, close to 27,000 words.

Anyway, I hope you’re having as much fun as I am … making the best of things.


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  1. I’m delighted you asked me along for the ride on this. A very unique experience and buckets (or mason jars) of fun!

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