The 34-Year Harvest

The old farmhouse survived the second alien harvest. Kate wanted to make sure it survived the third one. The 17-year anniversary was coming up and Kate sat at a dining room table covered in materials scrounged to make shells for her father’s shotgun.

She always thought of it as her father’s shotgun instead of hers, though he’d been dead for over thirty years. Killed in the first arrival. Just like she thought of it as his house and his table. The china in the cabinet was her mother’s. The silver and the crystal water goblets were her grandmother’s. The only things that she thought of as her own were the post-harvest additions. The maps of the county pinned to the walls. The metal shutters. The supplies and pre-harvest books stacked up the walls almost to the ceiling. And the bunker. The storm cellar under the house that she and her neighbors had strengthened and stocked to hide from the attacks. These were the things that she would pass on one day.

Her daughter, Jean, burst into the room. “Mom, there’s a man coming up the drive. Never seen him before.”

“Run to Boyce’s farm and raise the alarm,” Kate told her, taking up her father’s gun.

She waited until Jean was safely out the back door and into the fields before she stepped off the front porch. They’d converted it to a wheelchair ramp when they rebuilt it after the last harvest. Boyce’s farm was miles away. They wouldn’t get here in time to help, but at least it would get her daughter out of the way.

The man came through the field in front of the house. His leather jacket was beat up and his boots were well worn. He had a dusty scarf over his face that he pulled down so that she could see his features. He approached with his hands in plain sight. If he was looking for food, he could have stripped the corn on the other side of the field without approaching the house.

Kate stood on her father’s farm land and leveled the shotgun at him.

“There’s nothing here for you,” she said. “Turn around and go.”

“You’re gonna lose this corn when the Harvesters get here,” the man said. He strolled towards her despite the weapon pointed at him, as if he were a neighbor out for a walk.

“What’s it to you?” Kate asked.

“I used to work on a farm over in Lyon county. A long time ago. Just need a place to hide when the Harvesters come. I’ll trade you labor for a bunk if you’ve got room for me,” the man said, stopping halfway down the lane.

“Keep walking,” Kate said. “There’s a dead farm ten miles south. The ground’s been scorched since the last harvest, but you might find a bunker and a bed still there to hide in, if that’s all you want.”

She waited a minute, watching him. A man who’s desperate enough could pull a weapon on her. A smarter man would keep walking and circle back around tonight. She’d have to set the shutters and keep a close eye.

“Get this corn in or your farm will be dead when they come,” the man said.

“Not your land. Not your problem,” Kate said.

The stranger took a step forward, keeping his hands still. “You’re not gonna shoot me,” he said.

Kate kept the weapon aimed at his chest as he took three more steps.

“You get any closer and I will,” she said.

He took two more steps. “If you were gonna shoot me you would have already.”

She narrowed her eyes and squeezed the trigger.

“Shit,” she said as the gun jammed, but he was almost on her by them. She just had time to swing the butt of the gun at him before he slammed into her.

He was faster. There was a weapon pressed against her ribs before she do anything. She stopped. He stopped. And Kate waited to die.

“I’m just looking for a place to hide,” he said. “The world doesn’t need anymore dead.”

“That’s an alien weapon,” she said. “No one has Harvester weapons.”

He stood up, taking her shotgun out of her unresisting hands. She kept her eyes on the alien weapon he carried. She needed that weapon. Shotguns weren’t effective against the Harvesters.

“I’ll trade you space in my bunker for that weapon,” she said, standing up.

“You don’t want this weapon. I’ll take my chances with the dead farm,” he said.

He adjusted his pack and turned his back on her, taking her father’s shotgun with him. Without thinking she slammed into him, knocking him forward onto the earth. The jammed shotgun fell out of his hands, but he kept a firm grip on the Harvester gun.

She grabbed for it. He pushed her away and she felt a knee in her ribs. He was bigger than her and stronger. She had to be fast. She slammed her elbow into his face once, twice, trying to get him to loosen his grip on the weapon.

He was a mess of knees and kicks beneath her. She managed to get her hands around the weapon, it was cold in her hands, but he found the momentum to roll her off him. Her arm scraped against the packed dirt beneath them.

He pinned her to the ground, yanking the weapon out of her grasp.

“I need that,” she said.

“Not your weapon. Not your problem,” he said. “This weapon has brought me nothing but misery.”

She punched him hard in the face and was disappointed that no blood appeared. He did pull back from her and she managed to wriggle free.

She was about to start the fight all over again when a truck roared up from behind the house.

She saw two of Boyce’s boys come out of the corn with shotguns of their own. Boyce’s old farm truck pulled up on the other side of them, between Kate and the house.

“Why don’t you turn around and go back where you came from?” Boyce announced from the back of the truck.

The stranger put his hands out to the side. One holding Kate’s shotgun and one holding his own Harvester weapon. “I was just on my way to the dead farm this lady told me about.”

“Don’t let him leave with that weapon,” Kate said.

She kept her eyes on the stranger.

“Leave the lady’s shotgun,” Boyce said.

“The other weapon,” Kate said.

She couldn’t see Boyce behind her, but he waited a beat before speaking.

“You can’t make him go out there undefended,” Boyce said.

Two of his boys moved in on the stranger and took the shotgun out of his hand.

“I’m not letting him leave with that weapon,” Kate said. “He can have one of my guns, but the Harvester weapon is mine.”

“Kate,” Boyce started.

She turned back to look at the men in the truck. “Go and fetch one out of my library.”

She heard the thud as one of his boys dropped out of the truck.

“What are you doing Kate?” Boyce asked.

“Protecting what’s mine,” she said as the man reappeared with one of her guns. She took it from Boyce’s man and walked it over to the stranger herself.

She eased up to him and held the weapon out. “You weren’t going to fight anyway. You can hide better with this.”

“And you can’t hide at all with this,” the man said.

He held her father’s shotgun out to her, but Kate nodded to the ground. He dropped it into the dirt. He didn’t offer the Harvester weapon to her.

“You don’t have any other choices,” Boyce said.

The stranger stared at Kate. She didn’t look away. He seemed to be searching for something in her face. Whatever it was, he didn’t seem to find it. Finally, he held the Harvester weapon out to her. She took it and practically threw her own gun at him.

“Head due south. You’ll find the old bunker there. And Godspeed,” Kate said.

“Godspeed to all of us,” the man said as he walked away.


“Where’d you boys come from?” Kate asked Boyce, dusting herself off. She kept the weapon cradled tight.

“We were on our way to help you bring in the last of that corn,” Boyce said, hopping down from the back of the pickup.

“I didn’t ask you to do that,” Kate said.

“Harvesters’ll be here any day, now. We need to get that ground tilled before they come,” Boyce said.

She ran her hands along the weapon. “I’m not brining the corn in, Boyce.”

“What’re you talking about, Kate? You leave that corn out and it’s like a beacon to the Harvesters. We all decided to lay low and play dead. Maybe they’ll pass us by this time,” Boyce said.

“And maybe they won’t,” Kate said, shaking the Harvester weapon in front of him. “Don’t you see. This is our chance. With this weapon we can turn them away to go pick some other county clean. Give us a chance to rebuild for once.”

“Can’t do it,” Boyce said. “I’m ordering my men into the bunkers.”


“Like hell. You wanna get your pa’s land scorched like the Huff farm? See your house burn down? Lose all of this?” Boyce asked.

He was getting older. The fight had gone out of him in the last few years.

“To wait for what? Sit around here and wait for my Jeannie to get sick? Or for the crop to fail and we all starve to death?” Kate asked. “This isn’t the life I want to give her.”

Boyce put a hand on her shoulder. “This isn’t the life any of us wanted to live. But we will live if we hide. If you fight back, they’ll scorch your land and you’ll die. Then what will Jeannie do?”

“Get out,” she said, shrugging his hand off before he could feel the way she was trembling. “I don’t need your help here.”

“I didn’t abandon you last harvest. I’m not letting you do something stupid this harvest,” he called after her. But she was already back into the house.

The old farmhouse survived the first two alien harvests. Kate stood inside of her father’s dining room turned library, an alien weapon gripped in her calloused hands. There was food and seed and information tucked away in the bunker. She intended to see that it survived the next harvest. For her daughter.

Dianne Williams lives in Lawrence, Kansas. She grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries and classic science fiction. She once dreamed of being an astronaut. Or maybe a lawyer. Or an artist. She settled for being as many of them as she could all at once through fiction writing.

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