The soil in my backyard was a sandy mix of gravel and dirt barely capable of supporting so-called civilized life.  Sure, it was great for growing weeds and poison ivy and random baby oak trees that sprouted from the neglected acorns the squirrels had forgotten in their winter fervor to stash food wherever they could bury it.  But I was trying to grow carrots.

It was an annual tradition.

Miraculously, I always managed to get the seeds to sprout, fan out leaves, and form into long winding gnarled up tendrils that fingered through the ground.  But they would grow together at odd angles as if they were offering poorly plotted directions on how to navigate the New York City subway system to a foreign tourist who spoke only intermittent English at best.  By the end of the season, no matter how much I tried to thin them, they were a muddy tangled mess of roots.

Nonetheless, I would harvest these so-called carrots and make a point of cleaning, peeling, and cutting them up into small misshapen discs to add to some soup, stew or shepherd’s pie where they could hopefully blur into the background without vying for the center spotlight of the dish.  These weren’t the sorts of carrots any cook with any sense would want to draw that much attention to, and regardless of what I did to try to improve upon their lackluster flavor or hard-yet-still-spongy texture, the resulting food was always barely palatable, proving that the labor of love does not make all things better.

kaleidoscopic image of gnarled tangled carrots, clearly carrots

Even the wildlife avoided them.

Despite the abundance of rabbits and squirrels that frequented my devoid-of-dogs backyard, everything that passed through and even many of the returning critters that lingered awhile left the carrot patch alone.  In fact, nothing touched them all season long every year, and my husband cringed at the eventual harvest that meant more cleaning, peeling, cutting and dicing than the impending outcome warranted.  Perhaps even more distasteful was the eventual outcome itself of having to sit together and politely smile while trying to choke down the unpalatable bitter pale orange tubers as they disgraced yet another bowl of curried lentils or lamb stew.

So, imagine my surprise to discover that my carrot patch had been raided just as it was reaching its peak stage of undergrowth, right before the harvest.  The thief or thieves had come during the dark cover of the new moon, as the mantle of night was as black as it could possibly be.  The carrot patch was a muddled up mess of upturned roots, crushed and gnawed upon pale orange tendrils, and scattered gravel and sandy soil flung about.  Trampled broken leaves littered the ground in disarray and muddy prints snaked through the surrounding soil.

The carrots were ransacked.

My husband surveyed the scene and placed a hand on my shoulder to console me, squeezing gently to show his support.  His relief at his improved situation could be felt through his touch, palpable just below his calm and collected exterior.  He had been spared from the impending harvest and he could scarcely contain his excitement for all that he tried to appear outwardly supportive.  But I could see right through it.  I burrowed into his shoulder anyway, furious and hurt.

What dared come in the middle of the night to ravage my carrot patch?  It had left some areas a little more intact, and something told me it would be back.  So I staged  a sentry.  Poised and staring out my back window from the kitchen, I fixated on the scene and waited.  Surely the motion sensor light would come on as the thief approached.  I was ready shovel in hand, to make a complete fool of myself dashing out the back door to surprise the unsuspecting carrot thief.

kaleidoscopic image of gnarled tangled carrots, becoming fleshier

I was unprepared for what I found.

I was nodding off dozing when the flash of the motion sensor light caught my eye and I jolted upright.  I stared out the window, straining to make out a shadowy form in the carrot patch.  At first glance, it appeared to be a rabbit.  But it was strangely bulky and moved in a haphazard manner, jerking from side to side.  It was also somewhat larger than a normal rabbit, and there was something… unsettling… about it.  Whatever it was, I couldn’t place it.  I leapt to my feet and darted out the back door anyway, arms flailing in the conditioned response I’d been working up all evening.

“Shoo…  Go AWAY!” I shouted as I approached the creature.  It just stood there, motionless.  As I got closer, I became more aware of how it glistened in the light of the motion sensor, it had an almost ethereal or otherworldly presence and seemed to be bathed in an aura of hollow bluish light.  But otherwise, it was as black as the night itself and I couldn’t make out any characteristics of real significance.  The form seemed to both emanate and absorb light simultaneously.  It continued to just stand there, surrounded by a scattering of soil, gravel, grit and what remained of the would-be carrots.

As I neared six feet of the creature, it turned to face me.

I was filled with an unexpected sense of unease as I approached.  Something was unnervingly not right.  It still more or less resembled the outward shape of a rabbit, but I couldn’t get a good read on it.  Every time I tried to focus on the creature, I felt woozy as if I were looking into a deep abyss leading into the depths of the universe.  Within the silhouette, there was nothing, no sense of where an eye or nose or whisker might be.  It was just a void.  It almost seemed as if it were not wholly there at all, like it was both there and someplace else at the same time or as if it were a spot on a mirror, one of those blemishes to the surface that you cannot seem to wipe away from either side of the glass.

Suddenly the creature emitted the most soul-curdling sound I’ve ever heard.  Rabbits can make the most terrifying shrill screams when they feel threatened, but this was no ordinary rabbit screech.  It was deep and throaty and bellowed forth with the resonance of something unholy unleashed.  My mind reeled as it resonated within my bones and filled me with dread.  As the sound washed over me, the creature flickered from within, more pale blue light electrifying deep darkness, and then vanished right before my eyes.  My mind stopped racing and went completely silent as I lost my footing and fell to my knees, quivering.

kaleidoscopic image of gnarled tangled carrots, an abstraction of seeming nude fleshiness

I must have blacked out momentarily.

When I regained my composure enough to glance up, there was no sign of the rabbit-creature.  The motion sensor light had gone off and it was completely dark except for some glowing orange forms that I hadn’t noticed before.  The carrots!  What was left of the pale, unappetizing tendrils also had an otherworldly quality about them, emitting a subdued pale orange glow like several nearly faded glow sticks found discarded the morning after a rave.

I never saw the rabbit-creature or its kin again, and I have since stopped trying to grow carrots.  Maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s the soil, but the idea of gardening just hasn’t had the same appeal, and I was never all that good at it anyways.

interdimensional rabbit coming into clarity, eyes glowing green through the darkness
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
About the Author

Jennifer Weigel is a multi-disciplinary mixed media conceptual artist residing in Kansas USA. Weigel utilizes a wide range of media to convey her ideas, including assemblage, drawing, fibers, installation, jewelry, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video and writing. You can find more of her work at: https://www.jenniferweigelart.com/ https://www.jenniferweigelprojects.com/ https://jenniferweigelwords.wordpress.com/

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