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I’m the Henchman from Witness Who Was Buried in Grain, Here to Warn You About the Dangers of Silos

Story by Dorian Fox (Read author interview) January 3, 2022

Photograph by Justus Menke

In this divided, technology-driven era, I’ve seen a lot of cautionary articles about the risks of getting stuck in silos. I’m here to echo those warnings.

It can happen to any of us, in any number of situations. Maybe you feel isolated during the pandemic and have started spending more time on the internet. Maybe a friend invites you into a private Facebook group that begins to shape your news intake to the exclusion of other, less partisan sources. Or maybe you’re ominously stalking toward a picturesque Pennsylvania farm at dawn, with none-too-subtle orders to “take care of” a young Amish boy who witnessed a murder in a Philadelphia train station bathroom – a crime whose implications could put you and your fellow dirty cops away for good.

And maybe the boy’s only hope of staying alive is a formerly cynical and roguishly handsome detective named John Book, who, in an attempt to draw you away from Samuel and his mother, Rachel – who, by the way, he’s now in love with – slips into a silo to hide.

Remember, even those we trust can feed us misinformation. Such as, “Hey Ferguson, go in that silo after Book. He’s a sitting duck in there. You’ve got a shotgun, he’s unarmed and vulnerable. Of course you’ll be the one to emerge from this encounter alive. Piece of cake.”

Have you ever been inside a silo? It’s more disorienting than you might expect. You’ll peer up into the shadows, thinking maybe you spotted him, and next thing you know Book yanks a lever and SLAM! – a ferocious deluge of corn spills down on you, quickly pinning the hatch door shut and engulfing you in a starchy grave.

Just imagine a robust summer’s yield of seed kernels exerting its full force on your tissues and organs as you choke on swirling clouds of coarse particulate matter. Very unpleasant! When it’s all over, only the sad blond tufts of your hair will be visible above the golden mounds.

With all of that in mind, it’s important to be vigilant and approach all information that comes across your transom with healthy skepticism:

  • Don’t accept anything you read online at face value – especially if it’s from a source you’re not familiar with – without doing some basic fact-checking first.
  • Be mindful of how confirmation bias might be steering you toward conclusions that don’t hold up against the facts. We all have our blind spots!
  • And crucially – sorry to be redundant here, but I personally think this is worth repeating – don’t go into a literal silo in pursuit of a wily detective who happens to be madly in love with the widowed mother of the boy you’re trying to kill, and who has spent several eye-opening weeks bonding with Rachel and Samuel and their entire community in an idyllic agrarian setting, sharing meals, learning their lifeways, and forging an unlikely trust across cultural lines.

You may think you have a chance against that man, but you don’t. He’s undergone a profound personal transformation and is running on pure adrenaline and an intoxicating current of sexual tension. Rachel tended his gunshot wound. They danced sexily to forbidden radio music. He helped raise a barn, for god’s sake. And even though it ultimately won’t work out between them – how would they negotiate their needs and roles in the long-term, they’re just too different! – the memory of their torrid, star-crossed desire will stay with him for the rest of his life.

And despite the delicious and credible suspense it injects into the climactic scenes, no brawny doofus like you with a pump-action is going to deprive him of that life, especially after the passionate make-out session in a wind-rippled field that Book and Rachel shared the previous evening. No, he’s going to take out you, then McFee, arrest Shaeffer with the unexpected help of the Amish, say his ambivalent goodbyes, and drive away down a dirt road as the credits roll. Trust me, any attempt to interfere with that cascade of bittersweet yet deeply satisfying plot points can only end one way: with several cubic tons of wagon-harvested farm product raining down on your naïve head, crushing you in place.

While it’s clearly too late for me, I feel compelled to stress these important warnings about silos, as a public service. It pains me to see well-meaning citizens disseminating false or misleading information to people they care about, or being suckered into attending a demonstration that is really organized by a manipulative super PAC for the purposes of optics, or being suffocated to death by a relentless, throat-clogging avalanche of corn.

It’s a complicated, fraught world out there, and we all need to be more careful.


This piece was a winner in the SmokeLong Quarterly Comedy Prize 2021 competition.

About the Author

Dorian Fox is a writer in Boston, where he teaches courses at GrubStreet, a nonprofit creative writing center. His essays and articles have appeared in Brevity, The Rumpus, Gay Magazine, Atticus Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, december and elsewhere.

About the Artist

Justus Menke is a photographer based in Nürnberg.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-Four of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Four

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