Chapter 15 - The Leech Farm
A knock at the front door jolted Grant awake. He clambered his way to the door, still fighting off his drowsiness. After telling Rhett he would be out in a moment, he wrapped his finger in a bandage that was left over from the previous owners of the trailer, prepared himself for the day, and headed outside.
Across the street in Lars’s driveway, a truck ran, idling. Rhett had said they would be waiting out in the vehicle, so he jogged over and pulled open the back door.
Grant jumped into the cramped back seat with just enough room for him to fit on the seat. Old, dirty clothes, gloves, and shoes made a mountain next to him. He could smell and almost taste the dust from the interior of the vehicle, which looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in years.
Lars and Rhett sat in the front seats, making small talk to Grant.
The trailers passed by them as they began to make their way out of Lyros. Their speed came to a crawl, and once again, cats crossed the streets. Grant was certain now that they didn’t fear any vehicles. After waiting for the three cats to cross, the truck sped up and articles of clothing bounced around Grant from the bumps of the gravel road.
Once they approached the end of the gravel road, they took a right, going in the opposite direction of Nha-Stop, and continued heading down the highway. A bland view of empty fields and occasional trees surrounded them for a few miles until two buildings came into view.
“And here are the area’s main attractions,” Lars said as he rolled down the window, and placed his arm outside.
The establishments were made out of old wood, as if they had been there for a century. Light cracks rippled through the woodwork, and Grant could just imagine the creaking noises that would come from stepping onto the porches. Signs with big letters rested at the rooftops of both, with light bulbs spaced in the width of the letters. The buildings seemed to be the bar and hotel that Grant had heard about before.
The Caitsi Inn and the Caitsi Lounge. The parking lot of the hotel seemed half full, but the bar’s parking lot was empty except for two cars. The buildings were both unusually large for being in the middle of nowhere, and despite being old and slightly worn out, they both did have a lot of charm to them.
They continued driving through miles of fields with occasional ponds of water and hay bales resting alongside ditches. Although, one thing stuck out to Grant. An old church-style building rested between two areas full of taller grass. Was it currently in use? Probably not, as the area surrounded it appeared to be untended.
Twenty minutes passed by before they finally took another turn. They kept straight for about five minutes when Rhett pointed and told Grant they had arrived.
They pulled in front of a building which had a wooden wicket gate wrapped around it. Weeds danced in and out of the gate, creating a spiral pattern, climbing up overtaking the finials. Lars pushed open the gate as it creaked across the silent plains.
Stepping into the yard, tools were scattered across the vicinity with piles of wood to the right. If Grant had to guess, Lars had plans to extend the size of the building.
Grant followed them into the building, and a desk with paperwork sat on the right side of the first room. He turned his head and looked to the other side and was greeted with jars of creatures.
Papers were attached to each jar, and the leeches clung to the sides of the glass, tails dancing outwards through the water, like banners fluttering.
“Here we have the medicinal leeches that are ready for shipping. All we have to do now is wait for orders to arrive, which should be soon, and they’ll be on their way to helping out in hospitals,” Lars said as he walked past, observing the jars.
They continued walking straight down into the next room, where two, twenty-five foot long rows were indented into the floor, creating a trough full of nature, plastic caging surrounding the sides. Leeches, water, moss, and other plants filled the manmade ecosystem.
“Hmm, what should we have Grant do today?” Lars looked over at Rhett, scratching the scruff on his chin.
“We could have him sort out the leeches to try and determine which ones are pregnant, getting hands on with the leeches could jump start his familiarity with them,” Rhett said and smirked at Grant.
Grant’s eyes widened.
“Nah.” Lars chuckled. “We’ll ease him into that.”
Grant let out a sigh of relief and bent forward, observing the sunken habitat.
“Fine. Fine. We can have him do the easy work today, fill out all the paperwork and learn the procedures,” Rhett said.
Lars took Grant and guided him back to the entrance and had him sit at the desk as he brought out the paperwork and procedure guide. Grant sat with a stack of papers, mostly legal documents, as he faced the collection of blood sucking worms in glass jars across from him.
Grant filled out all of the employment and legal information, and made his way to the leech handling booklet. The book was about twenty pages thick, and had pictures amongst every page, some pictures he wished he didn’t have to see.
He flipped through it and skimmed the basics of what his new job would entail. His position would consist of helping keep the leeches reproducing and growing until their death would come: saving the life of a human, or being used as fishing bait.
Up front, the book described the uses leeches have for humans. They did help with many medical procedures, so already, Grant felt like he was doing something better with this than working retail.
Turning through a few more pages, he came across the feeding section and winced. Leeches were to be fed once a month, unless they were being prepared for medical use, then it was best to starve them so they would latch upon human flesh when needed.
That wasn’t the part that bothered Grant though, it was the fact the only thing they ate, or rather drank, was blood. The booklet described that blood should always be ready in the establishment for feeding. The recommended blood to feed was cow blood, as it was the easiest to obtain.
After an hour of soaking in all of the information in the book and finishing all his paperwork, he returned to the room with the leech habitats and found Rhett using a small net to fish them out, observing them and throwing some into a jar.
“I finished with all my stuff, what should I do now?” Grant walked up to Rhett.
“You can watch what I’m doing, you’ll get an idea of what you might have to do soon. I’m sorting out the pregnant ones, and going to transfer them into the incubation room once I grab enough. I’ll show you around there in a second, I’m almost done with this group.”
“Okay, what’s Lars up to?”
“He went out the back door to the garage, said he was preparing the blood for feeding. It’s about time for some of these hungry ones to eat.”
As soon as Rhett finished talking, the back door opened, and Lars came in with a container swinging at the edge of his hands.
“Oh, you finished just in time, eh?” Lars said as he set the bucket on the floor, a mixture of deep red swirling about, a few drops fell out onto the already stained concrete floor.
Grant stared at the blood filled bucket and showed slight discomfort, although he pushed through. There was nothing to be worried about, or even disturbed about. Even knowing this, the sheer amount of blood still attacked subtly at his anxiety.
“Don’t worry, you don’t have to do the feeding today! It’s actually my favorite thing to do, I haven’t even let Rhett do it yet,” Lars said as he seemed to notice Grant’s hesitation.
“Yeah, I’m kind of thankful for that too.” Rhett laughed and stood up with a jar of leeches. “Okay, so I have enough sorted out to show you where we place all the pregnant ones so they can lay their cocoons in the safest conditions.”
Rhett led Grant into a room with tanks scattered throughout, all containing leeches and fuzzy cocoons spaced around within.
The work day passed by as Rhett taught Grant all of his duties at the leech farm.
Finishing up everything that could be done for the day, they headed to Lars’s office.
“All right guys, I’d say that’s about enough for today, yeah?” Lars said as he sat at his desk straightening out paperwork.
He stood up and walked over to one of the shelves and picked up a jar of leeches.
“Why are you bringing all those leeches back?” Grant asked.
“Ah, well, I’m big on fishing and they can be pretty good for bait.”
“He always tries to drag me along with him to go fishing too, but it’s not really something I’m into. I prefer to spend my free time woodworking.” Rhett said as they headed towards the entrance.
“Like carving things?” Grant asked.
“Yeah, carving things, chopping down trees, all of it. I’m not sure if you noticed, but those wooden tortoises in the front end of my trailer, I made them,” He said with a smile.
“Oh yeah, I saw them. They reminded me a bit of a story one of my friends from Kandorr used to tell me.”
“Oh, so you know a bit of Kandorr culture?” Rhett asked.
“Not much, just that there are old stories of how tortoises used to protect people.”
“Yeah, it’s been a tradition in my family to always have tortoises on guard for us.”
They made their way outside through the messy farm yard and began their drive back. Grant laid his head against the window staring out at the plains. Once again, empty fields as far as the eyes could see. His gaze shifted to the clouds. He saw something.
“Hey, do you guys see that?” Grant asked.
“What?” Rhett restlessly searched around, positioning his head at absurd angles, trying to figure out what he was talking about.
“It’s what I was talking about last night, you know, the birds with four wings....”
Rhett looked up and his body twitched as he noticed it. “What the…”
“ I see it too. It’s nothing. Just some vultures. The ones around here have a tendency to fly too close to each, appearing to be bigger, or rather, combined,” Lars said, grinning.