We All Fall Before the Harvest
by C.M. Forest
The beam from my flashlight cascaded across the walls as I moved along. I saw obvious signs of painting or photos having once resided on their surfaces—squares not quite as discolored as the surrounding water-stained wallpaper—but whatever treasures once hung within the mansion were now gone.
As I pulled open a cabinet that appeared to be held together by cobwebs as much as the original nails and screws that once bound it, I heard a noise from above.
I can’t really describe the sound other than to say it made me think of a huge object being moved across the floor by many feet. Craning my neck, I aimed my flashlight straight up just in time to breathe in a cough-inducing lungful of drifting dust from the ceiling above. The noise continued for several seconds before silencing.
“Looks like somebody’s home after all.” I was still hopeful we could avoid detection, but unless we came up with the object of our search soon, we would have to venture upstairs and would surely come into contact with the perpetrators of the sound.
I picked my way through two more rooms. The first, was a sitting room with hundreds of scattered books, most about farming. The second was an oddly shaped room that held nothing but empty cans of food—everything from pork and beans to dog food. I finally worked my way deep enough into the manor to reach the front foyer. Slinging my flashlight around the grand space, I managed to catch a glimpse of the majesty the house must have once commanded. Again, I thought of the elite, the aristocrats, that undoubtedly called the place home and wondered what had happened to them. Bits of antique furniture, all wilting and moth-eaten, cluttered the corners. Over my head was a chandelier comprised of hundreds of dangling crystals; they refracted my beam into countless spots of light, which danced through the drab interior. A wide, grand staircase rose up at the far end of the foyer, opposite the front doors, and proceeded to the second floor. I pursed my lips at this as somebody had meticulously laid sheets of plywood over the steps, transforming them into one long, rough rampway.
“Owen?” Lester’s voice caused me to jump.
“Fuck!” I spun, preparing to give the man shit for sneaking up on me but came up short.
He stumbled from a darkened doorway on the opposite side of the foyer with something square tucked under his arm. He had turned off his flashlight—or lost it, I never found out—before entering the cavernous room. When I aimed my own beam at him like a spotlight, he only stared back with a blank expression.
“Lester!” I whispered as loud as I dared. “Did you find it?”
He slowly looked down at the object in his possession as if having seen it for the first time and gave me a dimwitted nod. What the hell was wrong with him?
Above us, the sound I heard from earlier returned. This time it was faster, louder, and accompanied by additional noise. A chorus of chattering voices.
I exchanged looks with Lester, then grabbed him by the collar of his coat and began yanking him toward the front doors. “Let’s go!” The man was almost deadweight in my grasp. His feet dragged along like a person learning to walk for the first time.
Once outside in the frigid, night air, he seemed to perk up though and even managed to pull himself free and continue to my car under his own steam.
“That place…” he mumbled.
“Yeah, fucking weird. But you got it, right?”
“Got to be. It’s the only painting I saw. It was hung on the wall in a room full of—fuck, I don’t know—farm stuff?”
The drive back to the city was a quiet one. That suited me just fine as I’ve never been a fan of conversing with others. I used the time to try and come up with plausible explanations for the odd sounds I had heard in the mansion.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
My name is Christian Laforet, but I write under the name C.M. Forest. I have nothing against my own name, it is a perfectly fine name, as far as names are concerned. But there is just an air of mystery to C.M. Forest that I enjoy. Also, it is better than the name I wish I had as a kid: Hell-Bat Jones!
Anywho, I began my writing career with short stories. I thought they were the best things ever written. I was so sure of the platinum-level talent on display, that I submitted a few for publication. A very kind editor reached out and, very professionally, told me that I needed a lot of work.
With tail tucked firmly between legs, I went back to the drawing board and took things a bit slower this time. I joined a local writing group (they were far less civil in their critiques than that kindly editor) and started improving. Side note, if you are a rookie writer, join a writing group. It will help immensely!
After getting my butt kicked by the group for a couple years, I started taking the whole thing seriously. My first book, a short story collection called The Space Between Houses was a small, but significant triumph for me.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
Interesting? Probably. Unfortunate? Definitely. When I was 19 years old, I was run over by a dump truck. True story! I was walking on the sidewalk, coming up to an intersection, and an actual dump truck jumped the curb behind me, hit me, and ran over my leg.
Thankfully, and as is evidenced by this very interview, I survived the ordeal. In fact, all things considered, I came out of the whole thing in surprisingly good condition. Besides a bad knee and some scars on my right leg, I’m no worse for wear.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born and grew up in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. It’s very close to being the most southern point of the country, and, fun fact, there are 27 US states that are, at least partially, further North than Windsor.
How to find time to write as a parent?
I wouldn’t recommend it—having kids that is! I’m joking… But yeah, it’s tough as hell to do both. Especially if your kids are little (mine are 8 and 11). Recently, I’ve found a good routine though. I drop my kids off at school then hit the local library to get my words in for the day. I could work at home, but there are just so many distractions there (I’m looking at you, PlayStation!).
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
After getting raked across the coals by the local writing group, but before my short story collection came out, I started posting shorts on a blog I had at the time. The blog, which was a testing ground of sorts for my work, had almost no views or followers. To be fair, I hardly promoted it, as it really was just a place to dump stories. But then one day, while at the day job, a co-worker came up to me and told me she really enjoyed the newest story. Now, I’m not the best-looking chap, so I knew she wasn’t flirting with me, and we hadn’t talked much before that, so there was no reason to say such a thing just to be nice. No, she actually read the stories there, and really, truly dug them. That was the day I felt like a writer for the first time.
Do you have a favorite movie?
So many! But if I had to choose one, I would say either the Fifth Element or The Crow. For horror movies, I gotta represent my dude in the hockey mask and say Friday the 13th Part 4!
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I actually think We All Fall Before the Harvest would make a great movie. Novellas translate well to film because of their length and limited cast. Even if I hadn’t written the book, I would watch the hell out of that movie!
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
This one depresses me, because the answer is: not nearly enough. I have done a few writers retreats, but they’ve been fairly local to where I live. I would love—LOVE!—to take a cross-country road trip though. Just me, my computer, and a whole lot of time. That would be amazing. Staying in small towns, meeting new people. It’s on the bucket list, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.
C.M. Forest, also known as Christian Laforet, is the author of the novel Infested, as well as the novella We All Fall Before the Harvest. A self-proclaimed horror movie expert, he spent an embarrassing amount of his youth watching scary movies. When not writing, he lives in Ontario, Canada with his wife, kids, three cats and a pandemic dog named Sully who has an ongoing love affair with a blanket.