On Silos: A Q+A - Matthew Forsythe

On Silos  - Eric Clausen

On Silos - Eric Clausen


Consider the silo.  These classic structures spawn more than vermin—legions of rats in the grain, snakes with the girth of a child’s thigh.  No, they also provide the breeding ground for urban legends, tales that contradict the adjective in their name, given the rural nature of our sketch.

Picture a forlorn setting: acres of leached-out farmland, now covered in twelve feet of muddy water. 

Q:  ____________________

What caused the flood?  The Army Corps of Engineers, I suspect.  But don’t obsess about the logic.  Instead, focus on the derelict structure that now rises from the center of an implausible lake, the sentinel in a vast lagoon beyond space and time.

Q:  ____________________

I’m not sure.  Probably somewhere in Ohio.

Add a handful of errant youth.  Our teens will provide the yeast, allowing the legend to rise.  Already they have scaled the exterior and breached the hollow core, where dark water now fills the bottom of the cylinder.  The surface appears placid, a fathom beneath the hazardous perch of our delinquent heroes.

Q:  ____________________

Tardy?  Who said they were tardy?

Q:  ____________________

Fine, whatever.  A fathom beneath the hazardous perch of the delinquents, our heroes.

Q:  ____________________

Never mind how they got there.  Surely one of them owns a boat.

Q:  ____________________

How did they climb the corrugated hull?  Use your imagination, like they did.  Supply ladders and access panels at your discretion.

Q:  ____________________

How can they see the water in the darkness?  How do they know it is placid?  Peel away the roof with a windstorm: Let there be light.  Remember that tempest last April?  Summon a waterspout, and drive it across the surface of the lake, the breath of God, a pressure washer gone berserk—

Q: ____________________

Enough with the cross-examination.  You’re putting more thought into the plot than our protagonists. 

Now relax.  Pour yourself a drink.   Take a leap of faith, no bigger than the dive they’re considering, that epic plunge to the waters below.  Observe as they taunt one another, gauging the potential risks: the flotsam in the pit, the debris that could ruin a limb.

Twenty bucks says one of them accepts the challenge.

Q: ____________________

His name?  His name is irrelevant.  Sam.  Larry.  Clint.  Ross.  He is sunburned, lanky, and shirtless.  That Cabela’s cap seldom leaves his head.

Suggest that he’s a cliché, and he’ll kick your ass.


Don’t expect grace, a swan dive toward immortality.  In fact, the drop itself will be anticlimactic: he leans away from the side, gravity handles the rest. 

It might even be an accident.  Who knows?  A half-dozen beers in the summer heat, the climb up the tower, the struggle to stay awake.  One nod of the head, and his belly flop echoes against the walls.


At the bottom of the cistern, his dive is swallowed by the murky depths.

“Holy shit!”

“No fuckin’ way!” 

The witnesses are thunderstruck.  They wait for their prophet to emerge, baptized and triumphant.

But the water begins to churn, slowly at first, a gentle undulation, then a harder and faster roil.  Tails whiplash in the pool, a living globe of serpents, thrashing against the steel walls.  One arm breaks the surface, only to disappear amid the coils, the moccasins guarding their lair.

Q: ____________________

An urban legend?  You’ve heard this cock-and-bull before.  So what?  Surely it happened once: Nothing says it can’t happen again.

Q: ____________________

Water snakes don’t cluster in packs?  Save your objections for the naturalists, my skeptical friend.  This gang might be an exception, a commune of hippie moccasins. 

Q: ____________________

It doesn’t even have to be a silo, if you’re that determined to be an ass.  An abandoned quarry will suffice.  A haunted mine shaft.

You don’t even need snakes, though they’re really the best option, more terrible than a displaced gator or a monster catfish.  Less personified than Hickory, that ancient snapper, a turtle older than Job.

In the end, it doesn’t matter, not to the body thrashing in the deep.  In this world, all roads lead to bloodshed.  Whatever route you select, somebody’s losing a hand.




Matt Forsythe is a Lecturer in the English Department at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he teaches creative writing, American literature, and composition.  “On Silos: A Q & A” is an excerpt from his dissertation, The Road to Nowhere: Sketches in Search of a Novel, which he completed at the University of Georgia.  His nonfiction has recently appeared in Mid-American Review and War + Ink: New Perspectives on Ernest Hemingway’s Early Life and Writings, and his fiction is forthcoming in Fiction Southeast.