's 2016 Horror Write-off:

Grasshopper Glacier

Submitted by rahkshasarani

The man and the boy stepped out of the red jeep.

"Here we are, buddy," the man said, "Grasshopper Glacier."

They stood at the foot of a steep hill. Snow still clung to a few areas of shadow. A lake spread out in the lap of the hills, deep blue.

The boy picked his nose.

"Did I ever tell you about the Rocky Mountain Locust, buddy?" A shake of the head. "It was a kind of grasshopper that used to swarm the old west. Ate everything. Clothes on the washline. The handles of pitchforks. Darn near drove the pioneers to starvation."

The man knelt by the boy, adjusting the straps on his pack. He held out a hand and they began walking.

"Laura Ingalls talked about it in that book you read for class last year. Did you know the biggest swarm stretched all the way from Texas to Canada? That's around 2000 miles. Imagine that, bud."

The boy's face was passive. He was looking at the hills around them.

"Where's the ice?" he asked.


"The pictures we looked at before we came here had ice. Where's all the ice?"

The man cleared his throat. "Well, the earth's getting warmer, bud. That' why we're here. I wanted to take you before it's all gone. You know why they call this Grasshopper Glacier?"

The boy shook his head.

The man smiled. He stretched a hand out. "Well, the grasshoppers all died out. They didn't notice at first because they'd only swarm every ten years or so. But the grasshopper went from swarming to nothing in about thirty years. Nobody really knows why. They think they know, but no one can say for certain."

The man stooped and picked up a rock, turning it over in his hand. 

"People were trying to kill them already, and couldn't. They burned tires and threw blankets over their crops. But for all the grasshoppers they killed, ten more took their place. See, the grasshoppers laid their eggs in the ground. They'd sleep until the right time came, and then they'd hatch. Some people think that's why they died out. The people coming out west brought cattle that trampled the ground. They tilled it for crops. Just by living, they killed it."

"Like the buffalo?"

The man nodded. "Yeah. A lot like that. But by accident."

"So what does that have to do with here?"

The man grinned. He had been waiting for that question.

"Well, why do you think they call this Grasshopper Glacier?"

The boy squinted. They were drawing near one of the last pockets of ice as they walked. One marked by layers of silt. 

"Some of the last rocky mountain locusts are here," the man said without waiting for an answer, "frozen in the ice. I wanted you to see it before the ice melted."

The boy looked up at the glacier. "I don't understand."

The man paused. "Well, when the ice melts—"

"No. I don't understand why they'd be here. There's nothing to eat."

They looked out at the brown and white landscape. The flat, bare earth bore no life aside from a select few lichens.

"Well, there's a few theories about that," the man said uncertainly. They were drawing close to a narrow crevasse, where the undulating walls of the glacier drew in. "some think—"

"What's that?" the boy had stopped.

The man stopped. "What's what?"

"That noise." The boy held up a mittened hand. 

The man stood still. There was a far-off droning, as if a large, brassy siren was going off.

"Probably just the ranger's station," he replied, not at all sure as he sounded.

They kept walking. The cavern made the occasional dripping noise to accompany their footsteps.

"Does anything else live here?"

"Oh, some birds. Some mountain goats." The man was uneasy and trying not to show it. The drone grew louder as they walked. It reminded him of the all-clear tornado siren.

"Anything big? Like, really big?"

"No, I don't think. Maybe some horses." the man cleared his throat. "Did you know Spanish explorers brought over the first—"

"No," the boy interrupted. "Really big. Bigger than anything."

The man stopped, puzzled. "What do you mean?"

The boy pointed ahead. There was a rock formation ahead of them, a massive, rotund chunk of rock.

 A formation that, as they drew closer, came to resemble an outsize leg joint. The man stopped. 

"That's a rock," he said in a very careful voice, "just a rock. There's nothing here that big."

The boy was not really listening. He was studying the walls around the formation.

"So, what if the grasshoppers aren't extinct? What if they're just sleeping?"

"They're dead." The man began to walk backwards, grabbing the boy's hand. Their feet made crunching noises.

"What if they were sleeping in the ice?" The boy went on, "what if they came here because it was safe? What if there's a big—"

"They're dead," The man said curtly, picking up the boy, "and we're done here. We're leaving."

The boy pointed down. "They don't look dead."

The man looked down. The crunching of their feet had been countless bodies of grasshoppers littering the cavern like dried leaves. The siren had grown in volume so that they vibrated from it.

No, not vibrated—

The man turned and ran over the carpet of living grasshoppers.

"It's moving!" The boy cried out.

The man did not look back. He did not reach down to knock off the grasshoppers crawling up his pant legs. The first bite into his flesh only slowed him for a step. He ran as his pants were chewed to pieces. His legs bled as they exited the cavern before the terrible roar of the vibration, which no longer resembled an all-clear drone as it did the thrum of some huge, horrible machine that would grind them in its teeth. 

As the first few pinches landed on his torso, he dropped the boy and battered at his coat.

"Run," he said to the terrified boy, "run to the car, no matter what you hear, and lock yourself in."

There was a groan of cracking ice. A chorus of squeaks like the wails of doomed souls. The boy's eyes were wide, gaze pinned to the canyon side behind them.

The man gave him a shove with a bloody hand.

"Run," he said.

The boy ran.

"That's it go, keep running, don't stop, just keep running keep running KEEP RUNNING—"