The Forgotten One


It is cold and dark. I can hear them. They are above the rotting old beams of the cellar, above the basement rafters, upstairs in the dining room. Pops is asking for someone to pass the carrots. I wonder if they even miss me. Surely somebody must realize that I am not at the table. They are having a lot of fun up there. I can hear laughter and many footsteps. It sounds like the entire Allison family is here. It must be Thanksgiving or it could just be Sunday. There is not much dirt over my face. I know I am close to the top of the bin. Maybe Nan will need more potatoes for dinner and send someone.


Her Momma calls her Gertie. Everyone else calls her Gert, or even worse, Gertrude. She hates Gertrude. Gertrude is a duck’s name and she wonders why her folks decided to give her such a stupid name.

“I wanted to name you Grizzelda,” recalls her father, “but your mother wouldn’t allow it.”

“You also suggested naming her Hedgehog. I wanted Violet Sunbeam. Violet Sunbeam Allison, doesn’t that sound fabulous?” Her Momma was a flower child—Gertie is lucky she wasn’t named after a color and an emotion.

Somehow, they compromised on Gertrude. Gertrude Elaine Allison. The Allison’s had lived on this farm, and most of the others surrounding it, for so long that I am sure they were the first to cut down the trees and pull out the stumps. Pops and Nan’s house was built long before there was power or plumbing, and these luxuries were added decades later. Gertie likes staying with her grandparents, and her Momma lets her have many sleepovers.


It is dark and cold. I am not sure how long I have been in the root cellar. I do know that I am in the large bin that is filled with earth. I helped Pops fill it with vegetables. I am buried under the dirt with the potatoes, carrots, and beets.  I feel them pushing on me, fighting for me for space. The carrots jab into my back. I cannot move my arms enough to push back. I want out. I want to be with my Momma. I want to have dinner with Nan and the family. I hear a small voice, barely a whisper.

“Forgotten,” it says.


Gertie is everyone’s little helper. She takes so much pride in being a big girl and doing chores for her grandparents, Pops and Nan. She is five and a half, well almost six you know. She helps Pops in the garden, planting seeds in the spring, pulling weeds in the summer, and carrying the harvest in the fall. Pops knows how to plow the potato rows just right, so that the ground rolls over and all the potatoes end up on top. Gertie runs around helping Nan pick them up.

“Oh, here’s one, and here’s another one, and there is one over there too.” For Gertie, this is more fun than Easter morning.

When the plowing and collecting is all over, Pops thinks up a new adventure for Gertie.

“Come along Gert and bring that basket of potatoes with you.”

“Where we going Pops?” Asked Gertie.

“We are going down into the root cellar, and I’m going to show you how we store food for the winter.”

“What’s a root cellar?” Gertie drags her feet along, struggling with the weight of the basket.


It is dark and cold. I feel my body slipping further down between the potatoes. I keep my eyelids shut. I don’t want dirt to get in them. I breathe out of the corner of my mouth. I can still wiggle my legs a little but it causes me to slip further. I am starting to feel the weight of the dirt above me and I don’t like it. I don’t like it in here at all and I want out. I try to yell for Momma but I cannot open my mouth far enough without eating dirt. I am breathing too fast. I can feel my heart pounding. I want to cry.

“You are forgotten.” I hear the voice again.


Gertie has been in the basement many times before but never dared open the little door. It is not a proper door, more a pile of boards nailed together with a couple of hinges attached. Pops pulls it open and leads the way into the dark. Gertie hesitates, she is not going to follow her grandfather. He pulls on a string and light fills the room. Gertie takes a breath, and catches up. She is surprised to see steps cut into the ground leading them deeper. The basement of the old farmhouse is already far below ground and now they are outside its walls and going deeper. To Gertie, the irregular shaped, sculpted out walls look like noses and indentations become eyes. She clutches on to her grandfather’s pant leg, knowing she would surely die if he were to run up the stairs and leave her.

Pops picks up Gertie and sets her own the edge of the bin.

“See Gert, we put the potatoes in here and we cover them up with dirt from the garden and then they will stay fresh all winter.”

“Won’t they start growing and make new potatoes?”

“No honey, it’s too cold and there is no light.”

“What about the worms?”

“What worms cutie-patootie?”

“The great big worms in the walls.”


It is dark and cold. I have stopped struggling. I am just lying quietly, drifting in and out of sleep. I am not really sure when or if I am awake. I am deeper now and it is much colder. The carrots are larger but they are limp and floppy. They can’t poke me as they did before. I can still hear the voices of family but they are faint and distant. I hear my brother, Derek, the most. He is the loudest you know. I don’t bother calling out. Nobody is going to hear me, except maybe the voice. I hear the voice a little louder now.

“You are the forgotten one,” it says.


Even the stairs to the basement are scary to Gertie. They are narrow and uneven and the wood in the center of the step has worn from years of use. There are no windows and only three bulbs provide light. Gertie can turn one on from a switch at the top of the steps. The other two use a string she can barely reach. There are places in the basement that are always dark for her.

A large wood burning furnace fills a big portion of the floor. The Allison’s feed it two-foot-long logs that burn for hours. The furnace groans and makes terrifying noises that scare the bejesus out of Gertie. She runs up on her tippy toes every time she needs to pass it, and she needs to pass it to get to the root cellar.


It is dark and cold. The potatoes are huge, they feel the size of footballs and they are covered with eyes. Big, deformed, gnarled eyes that fall off when I touch them. I have not felt a carrot in a long time. I don’t think they can survive this deep.

The potatoes shift under me. I no longer hear the family. I no longer hear anything at all, except the voice.

“You are the forgotten one and now you are mine.”


“Go get Nan some apples dear. I need eight or nine to make us a pie.”

“Sure Nan.”

Gertie tries to put on brave face. She wants to look eager to help her grandmother. She has made many trips down to the root cellar but it does not get any easier. Gertie is fine until she starts down the stairs, then fear creeps up on her, paralyzing her little legs and slowing them down. She takes one step at a time, pausing to listen for wild beasts or perhaps even the furnace monster trying to claw its way out. She stares into the dark corners, looking for movement before going down another step. She needs to make her way past the furnace and through the dark half of the basement to get to the root cellar. The furnace creaks and lets out a loud groan. Gertie feels her heart pounding, thumping against her ribs—she runs past the fire-breather. Making her way through the darkness, she reaches the little door. Gertie opens the door and takes a step into total blackness. She is on her tippy toes, her arm waves above her head, searching for the little string. She is so exposed, so vulnerable, she anticipates the bite, wondering if she will be swallowed whole. Time stands still. There is complete silence and Gertie can actually hear her heart beating, bum-bump, bum-bump, bum-bump. Her fingers touch the string, her lifeline. The root cellar is flooded with light. Bushel baskets full of apples line the steps.

Once Gertie has the apples, everything is easy. She calmly walks out of the cellar, the light from the far side guiding her across the basement floor. She clears the furnace without a care. Yes, all is well until she starts up the stairs to the kitchen. Then she must run, run for her life because she is certain the monsters are coming for her. She is too afraid to look, but she is sure they are right behind her. This is the last chance for them to get her. Gertie holds her breath, she is almost to the top. She makes it and bursts into the kitchen.

“I got the apples!”


It is dark and cold. The potatoes shift more and there is movement. I am sliding down, gaining speed, tumbling with the potatoes like we are going down a funnel. I am falling now, falling in the air, free of dirt. I land softly on my back on a bed of fibers. My arms and legs are free. I take a deep breath. The air is stale and tastes musty. There are hundreds, thousands of thin strings, hairs maybe, that cover the floor and walls of this chamber. My hands follow the little hairs, there are so many of them, merging together and growing thicker, turning into roots and ending at something large and hideous. I put my hands on it and I know what it is. It is a monster beet. The beet speaks to me.

“Forgotten One, Forgotten One, Forgotten One.”


Gertie’s family is at her grandparents’ house for dinner. Her Momma is helping Nan prepare dinner. Pops and her father are watching football and her brother is playing on the computer. Gertie has already made two trips to the root cellar. Her Momma asks her to go one more time, but Gertie doesn’t mind. It is not so bad going into the basement today, they have left all the lights on for her. Once down in the cellar, she is distracted by the potato bin. It is so interesting to her. She needs to get in it, she needs to explore. She completely forgets what her mother sent her down for.


It is dark and cold and I hear noises, very loud footsteps, banging on the floor somewhere far above me. I hear the cellar door bang open. Something is coming, maybe to get me, maybe to eat me. The monstrous beet is gross but I try to wrap my arms around it and hold onto it tightly.

“Too late,” says the voice.


“What are you doing in the potato bin, honey? I sent you down here twenty minutes ago.”

“Oh Momma, you came, you came and saved me,” Gertie climbs out of the bin and drops the beet she was holding, “I opened the door and I turned on the light and I went down these stairs and then the potatoes said they wanted to play with me so I climbed in with them, but now I am not the forgotten one anymore.”

“I would never forget you honey, now upstairs silly rabbit, your dinner is going to get cold.”

Gertie’s mother leads her up the dirt stairs and through the small hobbit sized door into the musty basement. She pulls down the string, turning off the hanging bulb that provides the only lighting for the root cellar. Had she taken a look back, she may have seen thousands of little red fibers shrinking back into the bin, hiding under potatoes and squirming deeper into the soil.


It is dark and cold in Gertie’s bedroom. Tossing and turning, her sleep is restless, disturbed. Tiny red fibers spread through her body. Travelling in her veins, they enter her kidneys, her heart, and spread into her lungs. They grow rapidly.

“You are the one.” She hears them in her sleep. They have taken root inside her.