First was your uncle, flattened by a tractor thirty years before you were born.

Second came your eldest cousin, who wishing to examine the inner workings of the cow feeder, split open their thighs on razor-sharp blades, only to be carried to the farmhouse and stitched together again.

Third was your father, who shed his blood in increments. A rambunctious bull and his kicks to the fourth and fifth fingers. A drunken four-wheeler ride into thorny bramble. Three times a tumble down the stairs of the farmhouse, each step framed by upturned nails, a nudity you never understood.

Your mother and brother, too, had their share of leaking. Three sudden, unexplained miscarriages for the former. A trampling via tractor for the latter which, unlike your uncle, proved traumatic but not fatal.

But you, somehow you had gotten away clean. Not even your stippled menstruation fed the land.

It is Thanksgiving and the remainder of your family have gathered. Because the meal is twenty minutes off you venture into the preternaturally green country that bred you.

The sheds are skeletal. Your live uncle sold the equipment a few months after your father passed. Running your fingers along the corrugated steel, you observe it has just begun rusting through. You hop dead electric fences and kick large tractor tires which once housed litters of kittens. When you were young, there were thirty cats at any one time.

The last stop is the bull pen, a square framing of thick iron which is rusted through, too. You straddle one bar, staring out into the overgrown field and thin line of trees. The grass below you rustles and something pounces your direction.

You fall. You scrape your elbows but the damage is cosmetic.

Brushing away grass, you look level to your assailant: a mountain lion. It isn’t just any mountain lion; you’ve met before. Fifteen autumns ago, this creature and its kin had lurked that thin line of trees. It had been born here, and its mother had slaughtered half the cats. Half-eaten carcasses had lined the southern edge of the grounds before, one day, the lions were gone.

After that, it was too apparent for you to ignore. The constant blood, the sickly cats and scab-ridden coyotes that expired in hidden corners, leaving their putrid decay in your nostrils always.

The beast leans down, stretching its back legs and whipping its tail from side to side. It pounces and rips your jeans with one decisive strike. The wound is deep, but you can still run and you do, although it has no interest in killing you. Running spreads the blood further and faster.

As you approach the farmhouse, you suppose this is only right, that every soul owes a debt and yours has finally been paid. On the front steps, you clasp your hands, look to the earth, and mouth a prayer, a thank you, really. You suppose this is the greatest fortune you could have asked for.

Chloe Seim

Chloe Seim

Chloe Seim is a writer living in Lawrence, KS. Her work has appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Five on the Fifth, and Visitant Lit, among others. She has been awarded the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award in Fiction and is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Chloe Seim

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