Dark Maize by David J. Ruthenberg

Sgt. Tim Halloran leaned over the hospital bed where the boy in the coma lay. He insisted on seeing every overdose victim personally, to remind himself of why he fought the fight he did. This was the second victim of cob he had seen today. The fifth this week. The three hundredth this year alone. But still, each case got to him.

His own son had been a corn freak. Timmy. He had ignored the signs. The sudden interest in county fairs. The constant flossing. The sticks of butter under the bed. The corn had taken Timmy from him, and every bed he visited was another Timmy he couldn't save.

But how? He'd busted every cob-slinger in the city, he was sure of it. He hadn't seen a single kernel on the street in months. Why were there more victims, more children of the corn?

“Halloran.”

Lt. Pembley's voice had more gravel than the streets he walked. He leaned against the door frame, six feet of veteran cop muscle. He tossed a foil wrapper onto the bed.

“Here.”

Halloran took the foil into his hands. It was warm. He looked up to Pembley without a word, questioning.

“Open it.”

Halloran did so, his rough hands trembling. Inside was...was what? A flaky yellow disc, almost like a pizza crust, but far too thin. He spoke, and found this throat was dry.

“What is it?”

Pembley's mouth was a hard, thin line. “Corn,” he said.



Halloran could feel sweat begin to bead on his forehead.

“This? How?”

He knew instinctively that what he held in his hands was every bit as dangerous as the .44 Magnum that hung heavily beneath his shoulder.

“We don't know how,” said Pembley in a voice filled with cigarettes. “The boys in the lab are working on that. But it's corn, there's no doubt about that. This shit's been on the streets for months now. We completely missed it.”

Halloran dimly realized he was crushing the disc in his fingers. Greasy yellow flakes crumbled between them.

“They call it tortilla. From Mexico.”

Tortilla. From Mexico. Halloran rose, feeling the hate well up inside him. Good. He was going to need every bit of it for the job to come. He took one last look at the boy beneath him and turned to his partner. “Book us a flight,” he said.

The hunt was on.


David J. Ruthenberg lives near Chicago and needs to be employed. You should hire him.