The police officer gave her a smile so forced it would have shamed a politician.
“I’m sure it is,” she said. “I just need a few minutes and then I’ll take your statement. Why don’t you sit down?”
Emma took a deep breath. There was no time. Claire was missing already, probably dead, like so many others before her. Emma had to make them listen.
“It’s the rhubarb triangle,” she said. “It’s like the Bermuda triangle. Something about that shape. It empowers the dark forces, lets them ooze their way into our world, so they can snatch away our life force.”
“Life force. Right.” The police officer looked away. “How about a soothing cup of tea?”
“They took my sister,” Emma whispered, leaning in close in case they were overheard. “It could be one of us next.”
“Just sit down, pet,” the officer said. “Someone will be with you shortly.”
A sound from the street made Emma look around. A car was rolling past. At the wheel was Dr Stanley, the psychiatrist they’d sent her to after the town council incident. The man who had tried to have her locked up.
“I’m not crazy,” she said. “If you won’t help then I’ll stop them myself!”
She dashed out of the door and away down the street.
To her mild disappointment, nobody gave chase.
All the data Emma had gathered – the missing persons reports, the stories of mysterious incidents, the way the rhubarb lorries followed the ley lines – it all led her to this one place. A large rhubarb shed on a farm outside Wakefield, it was the sort of building farmers brought rhubarb into to force grow them before the so-called harvest. All a cover story, of course. There was probably a portal to another dimension there, hidden among the manure and wilted leaves, or some chasm from which the dark forces of the rhubarb triangle emerged.
She crept up to the barn. There were no windows. They said that was necessary to make the rhubarb grow tender, but she knew it was a cover story, a way of hiding the truth.
With trembling hands, she squeezed the bolt cutters shut. The lock fell to the ground. The door creaked open.
Heart pounding in dread, driven on by the need to know the truth, Emma stepped inside.
Something hit her across the back of the head, and the world went black.
Emma’s head hurt. Her limbs wouldn’t move. The elder forces must have taken control of her, letting her stay conscious just so that she could see her coming doom.
The cold, heavy grip of terror settled across her body.
She opened her eyes.
The cold, heavy thing holding her in place wasn’t a void-spawned tentacle or the workings of her mind. It was heavily manured soil, in which she was buried up to the neck.
A dozen people in robes stood over her, lit by candles. One of them held a knife. They were all middle aged or more, with greying hair and an impressive collection of wrinkles.
“Are you going to sacrifice me to elder gods?” Emma whispered.
“Oh no, dear,” the man with the knife said. “We’re going to feed you to the rhubarb. It makes it grow better.”
“You’re compost,” the man said, leaning down until they were almost face to face. “Just like the others before you.”
Emma had gone through horrified already. Now she found herself disappointed.
She wasn’t to die for the sake of fruit.
The soil around her was loosely packed. She managed to work one hand through it, up towards the surface.
“No point wriggling.” The man leaned even lower, bloodshot eyes twinkling. He smelled of blood and Werther’s Originals. “We’ve got you now.”
Emma thrust her hand through the dirt and grabbed the front of the man’s robes. She yanked him down, slamming his nose into the top of the head. It hurt, but his scream made it worthwhile.
She grabbed the knife as it fell from his grasp and pulled herself clear of the dirt, using the fallen man for leverage. Compost fell from her like rain.
“Who else wants to sacrifice me?” she asked with a fearsome grin.
Emma watched the police lead the rhubarb cultists out of the barn, some of them limping or clutching their wounds.
“Sorry about that conspiracy stuff,” Emma said to the officer who had been taking her statement. “I think I went mad for a while.”
“You’re better than this bunch of nutters,” the officer replied.
“Thanks,” Emma said. “Can someone take me home? I need a bath, and a long chat with a counsellor.”
“Of course,” the officer said. “You come this way.”
Behind them, in the darkness of the shed, the rhubarb stirred. The being that sent it had been relying on blood to open a portal.
Now it would have to find another way.
The rhubarb shook with frustration. It hated being kept in the dark.
* * *
The rhubarb triangle is a real thing, honest. Just not a very exciting one.
Unless you really like rhubarb.
Thank you to Emma for the idea for this story. If you enjoyed it, please share it and consider signing up to my mailing list, where you’ll get a free e-book as well as stories straight to your inbox every week.