by Chris Phillips
The hallowed fields of the Ludlow farm waited a safe distance from McClernand,
Kentucky. Clydette Terry, a sixth grader with sad eyes and a tangle of hair, hid her bike and
paused at the edge of the long, dark driveway, trying to catch her breath. So far from town, all
the roads were dirt stretches barren of anything except for washed out gouges and empty beer
cans tossed out by teenage kids, but even drunk kids wouldn't dare to venture to the Ludlow
There was a rumor bleeding through town that if a person traveled far enough up East
Cliff Road, they'd run right into the gates of heaven. . . or hell, depending on who you asked.
Clydette had no intention of going any further up the road. At night, the profound Kentucky
darkness thrummed with sound, a chorus of bullfrogs and crickets all trying for first chair in the
orchestral choir of midnight. Now and then, a woman-like scream cut through the insect
It wasn't human, though. Coyotes had taken up residence in the Bluegrass State and
helped themselves to stray cats and all the rabbits they could catch. Clydette wished everything
would shut up so she could concentrate as she sneaked down the driveway toward the rows that
the locals called their destiny.
The Ludlow Garden, which most people spoke of in whispers if at all, was the place
where the dead made their transition from this life to the next. Clydette's mother had been
driving the school bus at the time of the accident. That was six days ago. On the seventh, Ludlow
would harvest fifteen heads and bring them to town for communion. Clydette would buy herself
a miracle before that happened.
Cottonwood branches slapped her face, making her sneeze, while the spiny fingers of
hawthorns snagged her clothes, pleading for her to turn back. Clydette pushed through the
boughs and tried to control her breathing as she moved along the narrow, rutted drive. In a pinch,
David Ludlow might shove a lawnmower pulling a small cart with a body down it, but most of
the time he walked where he needed to go, catching a ride from a Christian whenever the
preacher wasn't looking.
She emerged into a field backed by a dense wall of foliage. The moonlight reached down
from overhead, shading the place in pale blue with a half-shuttered crescent stare. A tiny house,
dark as the asphalt through a graveyard, clung to a low rise as if in defiance of the forest. A large
section of the field was dedicated to sheep. The animals were silent, but the earthy scent of wool
and manure sat heavy in the empty space. Clydette swallowed as she scanned the area for the
garden gate, grimacing as the whiff of sheep manure coated her tongue.
Her mama used to say that the hallowed ground was protected by magic. How she knew
this, Clydette had no idea, but when knowledge ran scarce, rumors did just fine until experience
filled in the gaps.