Death by Silo
Since my mom died five years ago, I haven’t had a break. None. Every day, I’m managing the damn family granary and tending to my 46-year-old mentally handicapped brother, Rudy Ellis, Jr.
About two months ago, I collapsed of exhaustion right in the middle of our wheat fields. One of our young field workers, Britt Hammer, found me a couple hours later and helped me get back to the barn. After she got me some food and water, she looked me straight in the eyes. “Jolene, you need a break. You’ve been working too damn hard out here. Please,” she said.
I told her not to worry. After all, I’m only 52 and in relatively good shape. But she had a point, given that I just collapsed in a wheat field and could’ve died if she didn’t find me so quickly.
Over the next couple weeks, I talked with Britt almost every day about vacation ideas. From the beginning, I put anything that was longer than three days off the table. And nothing involving airplanes. We talked about gambling in Wendover, wine country tours in Grand Junction, or even getting a hotel in downtown Salt Lake City and seeing a show or something. In the end, wine country called my name and I answered.
Once I decided on a trip, I went about prepping Rudy.
I don’t know why Rudy is mentally slow. Mom always told people it was cause she painted the house—with lead paint, no less—while she was pregnant with him. He’s 46 years old physically but about 11 years old mentally. Sometimes, it’s a very immature 11 years old, mind you.
Now, could an 11-year-old manage themselves for a weekend? It depends. If the 11-year-old is mature—leaning more towards the teenage years than childhood—then sure, why not? But if the 11-year-old still gets afraid of the dark and wets the bed, then maybe not.
I walked things through with Rudy a thousand times. I had a fridge stocked with food; I had all his favorite DVDs teed up. I gave him the emergency numbers. I even told the Jensen’s—our closest neighbor about a mile away—that I would be out of town.
When that Thursday afternoon came, I felt good. I felt like I had things in place and that the granary and Rudy would survive the weekend without me. I left right after lunch on Thursday, with instructions to Britt to see things through the rest of the day, then take Friday off.
I put Space Jam into the DVD player and handed Rudy a ham and cheese sandwich before leaving.
“I’m gonna miss you,” Rudy said, eyes glued to the TV.
Tears welled up in my eyes. “I’ll miss you too, buddy. You’ll do great, ok?”
“And you can call me anytime, ok?”
“You feel good about everything?”
It was the part where little kid Michael Jordan dunks the ball in his driveway basketball hoop, transitioning to a very high-energy movie intro. I knew I wasn’t gonna get his attention away from that. I patted him on the head, swung my bag around my shoulder and walked out the door.
Well Jolene, why didn’t you have someone stay at the house with Rudy while you were gone? You could’ve avoided this whole thing.
Yeah, no shit.
If I could go back in time, I would’ve done a thousand things differently. NOT going to Grand Junction for one.
I’ll admit I cried the first fifteen minutes of the drive, following the winding country roads to the highway. But once I hit the open road, I felt like a million bucks.
I was a free woman.
I could do anything I wanted. Go anywhere I wanted. I could be whoever I wanted.
My mom took care of Rudy full time until my dad died, when I was a sophomore in college.
Rather than sell the ranch, she convinced me to come back home and run the business while she continued taking care of Rudy. I grew to love the ranch and that old granary over the years.
When my mom died, shifting the responsibility of Rudy (in addition to the ranch) to me, it nearly broke me. I was used to the business world—to playing hardball. I wasn’t prepared to take care of a 300-pound child. Nevertheless, I grew to love Rudy too.
Something else about my mom—she was unbanked—meaning, she didn’t trust traditional financial institutions. That meant that all her retirement was in the form of $250,000 in cash. Before she kicked the bucket, she had the wisdom to show me where the money was stored—behind a false wall in her bedroom. She told me to keep it secret because, as she said, “all hell would break loose if Rudy ever found that money.”
Boy did it.
The night I got home from my trip, after hauling my case of wine out of my trunk, I heard a humming at the big silo. The conveyor was left on. I instantly felt sick to my stomach. The last person to use the conveyor had to have been Britt on Thursday, I figured. That meant it had been sucking juice for three days.
I clicked it off and went back to the house where I started hauling my wine case up the stairs. Halfway up, I saw blood pooled underneath Rudy’s door.
The room started spinning around me.
“Rudy? Rudy!” I screamed. The door was locked and Rudy was silent.
I took a step back and rammed my shoulder into the door, knocking it loose.
Rudy was lying on his side on the floor with blood pouring out of his mouth. His floorboards were open revealing the stacks of DVDs and books I had never seen before.
“Dammit Rudy!” I yelled, tugging on his body to get a pulse. He was still alive, but barely. I called 911. My first inclination was that he was vomiting blood, but there was so much blood I knew there had to be something more.
He was unconscious the entire time the medics took him away. It wasn’t until after they moved his body that I figured out what happened. Beneath him was a bloody knife—his favorite bald eagle knife—and a severed tongue.
I hated myself so much. I knew I shouldn’t have taken that damn trip. Other people can take trips. Other people can do self-care, but not me. Other people don’t have Rudy.
Then I hated myself even more for thinking that way. Rudy didn’t choose to be the way he is. The poor guy can’t get through a meal without spilling on himself.
God, I’m cruel.
I spent the night at the hospital, gripping Rudy’s hand and sobbing like a child. He didn’t wake up a single time. When the police came by, I explained that I had taken a trip, leaving him alone when I shouldn’t have. I explained that he’s mentally handicapped and that there’s no telling what drove him to do something as odd as cutting his own tongue out. They told me to call if I thought of anything else.
How would I even communicate with Rudy once he woke up? You can’t talk without a tongue, right?
I snagged a coffee from the visitor break room and headed home, figuring I’d give myself a few hours of sleep before returning to the hospital.
As I stepped into the house, I heard a buzzing.
“Hello?” I called, stepping carefully on the old wood floors. As I turned the corner into the living room, I found the source of the noise—it was static on the TV. I guess I didn’t notice it the night before when I found Rudy.
When I went to turn it off, I realized that Rudy’s handheld camera was attached to it, and a tape was loaded.
What the hell was Rudy up to?
I kneeled in front of the TV, rewound the tape, and pushed play.
The footage started with Rudy riding his four-wheeler down the dirt driveway. He was smiling like a kid with the wind blowing through his unruly curly hair.
After a couple minutes, he reached the end of the driveway. He put the vehicle in park, took off his sunglasses and looked straight at the camera. “Welcome to the first annual Rudy Ellis Jr. Horror Contest. I’m your host, Rudy Ellis Jr., and we are about to meet our contestants,” he says and looks both directions down the street. “I guess we’ll—”
Rudy is now in the abandoned warehouse on the east end of the property that used to house a pallet business back in the day. The camera shows three other people in the warehouse, each standing next to each other facing the camera. Two of them are young men in their late 20s, I’m guessing. The third is a girl that may even be a teenager. They are all well dressed, like city-folk.
“Welcome to the first annual horror contest,” Rudy says. “I mean—”
Take two. “Welcome to the first annual Rudy Ellis Jr. Horror Contest, I’m your host Rudy Ellis Jr. and these are the contestants.” He walks the camera up to the group of three, each of them smiles awkwardly and nods at the camera.
Rudy whips the camera back to his face. “Now after a very careful selection process, I have chosen these three horror writers all from Nosleep Reddit.” He leans in close to the camera. “It’s a place on the internet where they have scary stories,” he whispers.
“The winner of tonight’s contest will get two hundred and fifty thousand dollars!” he yells excitedly into the empty warehouse. The three nod a bit more enthusiastically. “Ok—”
In the corner of the warehouse, the three contestants are sitting at an old table with notebooks and pens set up in front of them. They sit quietly, waiting for instructions.
Rudy sets the camera on a tripod and faces the camera. “The rules are simple. Each contestant has one hour to write a horror story. The author who writes the best story wins the prize.” He pats one of them on the shoulder. “And, oh yeah, the villain in each story has to be me!”
He laughs in a villainous laugh then walks to the camera again. He holds a stopwatch for the camera to see. “Everyone ready?” They nod. “And go!”
I fast-forwarded for the next twenty minutes or so with the contestants writing furiously in their notebooks. Rudy paces behind them, occasionally glancing at the camera. At one point, Rudy says something and the three turn and look at him. I rewind the tape and play it at normal speed.
“Remember contestants, I have a real taste for evil. Muahahahaha!” he says.
One of the boys gives him a thumbs up, the girl looks incredibly uneasy and nods. They continue writing.
“Time’s almost up. Just ten minutes!” Rudy looks at the camera. “I’m about to get personalized horror from the world’s brightest minds. It’ll be all mine! No one else to share it with!”
“Time’s up!” Rudy says.
They drop their pens and look at Rudy. One of them stands up.
Rudy sets the camera up on a tripod in the living room. He appears to be alone with the three notebooks in front of him. “Now I read,” he says.
I fast forward through Rudy reading the pages glacially slow until the tape cuts about an hour later.
There is a horrible humming noise and the screen is dark. I hear yelling in the background, but it’s not clear who is yelling or what’s being said. The camera jerks back and forth then finds the girl writer. She’s holding the camera on herself. “I don’t have service up here, and I don’t know who is gonna get this,” she says. “I’m the winner, so I guess I’m safe, but Rudy took the other two somewhere on the property. I don’t know what’s happening, there’s yelling and—oh my god—I’ve got to get out of here.”
The camera shows the girl’s face again, this time with tear-streaked mascara. She’s outside. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I heard the yelling come from up here.” She flips the camera around showing that she’s climbing up the exterior staircase of the wheat silo.
“I’m terrified of heights. Good god. Almost there.”
The camera focuses on a small lit room I recognize to be the control room at the top of the silo. It’s Rudy holding the two boys by the arms. They appeared to be tied with rope. He’s says something then steps to the control panel and flips the lever for the conveyor belt. Grain begins pouring in front of them and into the silo below. One of the boys tries to jerk away but Rudy smacks him over the head.
Never should’ve gone on that damn trip, Jolene.
The camera is closer now. Rudy is looking over the edge of the platform. The two boys are tied to the railing.
What are you doing, Rudy?
The girl steps closer with the camera. Finally, you can hear what they’re saying.
“It was her story, it’s not my fault,” Rudy says.
“It’s not real—it’s not meant to be reality, it’s just a story. For fun,” one of the boys says.
“Yeah, but it’s so much better if it’s real life.”
The other boy is shaking, sobbing.
“Please Rudy, let us go.”
Rudy looks down the silo and back to the boys. Then he notices the camera just outside the control room door. “What are you doing here?” he says and runs toward the girl. She turns with the camera, then the feed cuts.
The girl is apparently still holding the camera, this time from inside the control room on the platform. The boys look at her with fearful eyes. Rudy is smiling.
“You know, this is actually better. To have it on film, I mean. I can add it to my horror collection,” Rudy says.
“Rudy, please,” the girl says.
“Shut up! You stand there and you film. That’s all. You already won the contest, I’m not gonna kill you. Why would I do that?” Rudy says.
“You don’t have to kill anyone, Rudy. They didn’t win the contest. No big deal, they had fun and life will go on,” the girl says. “Let’s get them down. What do you say?”
“You are the reason we’re doing this. You’re the one that wrote the story that ended with me killing someone by throwing them into a silo, didn’t you?” Rudy says.
The girl is crying, the camera shakes. “It was a story for chrissake.”
“And you almost described it perfectly—death by silo,” Rudy says. “A little lesson for our viewers of what these two dudes are about to go through. When you fall in a grain silo, you sink. Fast. Within four seconds of hitting the grain, you will be unable to move. After about twenty seconds, you will be completely covered. At that point, you’ll either pass out because of the fumes or the lack of oxygen. Then you die. You’ll make your way to the bottom of the silo and I’ll pull you out in a couple days.”
Rudy’s coherence explaining grain engulfment was chilling.
“Please, god, no,” one of the boys says, sobbing.
The other one has his eyes closed and appears to be muttering a prayer.
“Rudy…” the girl says behind the camera.
“DO NOT cut the camera,” Rudy says to her.
Then he does it.
He cuts the first boy’s rope attached to the railing and picks him up by his hair. The boy tries to fight back but Rudy is too strong. Rudy drags him to the end of the platform and pushes him against the railing. Then he turns to the camera.
“Third place goes to U slash dark water three three.” He pushes him over the railing, the boy flipping almost a complete rotation before crashing into the grain about twenty feet below.
He screams as he tries to swim through the grain. The other boy is sobbing hysterically.
Rudy turns to the camera. “The more you move you like that, the faster you sink,” he whispers, smiling.
“You’re sick,” the girl says. “Oh my god.”
“No, I’ve got a taste for evil, remember? Muahahaha!” Rudy laughs and sticks his tongue out.
Just as Rudy explained, the boy was completely gone within about five seconds and was out of sight shortly thereafter.
The camera shakes.
“Now, second place goes to U big underscore rock underscore one one one,” Rudy says grabbing the second boy in the same fashion.
“Please, please, I’ll give you money, I’ll give you whatever, don’t fucking kill me, man,” the kid begs.
“All those at home, count with me this time. Ready, set, go!” Rudy shoves the kid over the rail, who flails through the air, landing headfirst on the grain. “One, two, three, four—now he’s completely stuck—five, six, seven, eight—almost gone—”
My cellphone rang in my pocket making me jump. My heart was beating out of my chest and I had been sweating. I just watched my brother kill two innocent boys without batting an eye. Who the hell is this version of Rudy? How long had he been hiding this version of himself from me?
I answered the phone, not recognizing the number.
It was the hospital.
Rudy had died.
I’m sure the nurse I talked to attributed my seeming indifference to shock, but I was glad Rudy was dead at the moment. After what I had just seen, a monster like that shouldn’t continue living.
I probably should’ve gone straight to the hospital, but there was more tape left, and I wanted to find out what happened to the girl.
I pushed play.
The girl is running down the stairs of the silo, occasionally turning back to an angry Rudy storming down the stairs behind her. “Let the record be known that Rudy Ellis Jr. of Green River, Utah has murdered two innocent men, and is trying to kill me. If I don’t make it out, Mom, Dad, I love you. I’m sorry.”
The girl is in the house, upstairs, hiding in Rudy’s room. She whispers to the camera. “If I make it out of this shitshow alive, damn straight I’m keeping this money.” She fumbles for something on Rudy’s dresser. “Where are the damn car keys?”
She finds something else instead.
Rudy’s bald eagle knife.
A door slams in the distance and Rudy yells, “Where are you?”
“Wish me luck,” the girl whispers in the camera.
The camera shows the girl sitting on the floor of the living room, in almost the exact same position I was sitting in. She is crying, mascara streaked even further down her face than before.
“I think I may have killed Rudy,” she says, she sniffles and wipes her nose. “It looks like Rudy had a sister that lived here with him. I don’t know your name, and I pray to God that you are a sane person, but I’m setting this camera up on the TV so that you can find the truth about your brother.”
A pair of headlights shine through the living room window behind the girl. I check the time. It’s me getting home from my trip.
The girl stands up. “I’m keeping your fucking blood money, by the way.”
The camera cuts for the final time.
The TV returned to static and I laid down on the carpet. Rudy is dead. And so are two innocent boys. Because of me.
Not to mention, all the inheritance is gone and the entire silo of wheat is unsalable. What the hell am I supposed to do now? I thought about the boys’ families. They need to know what happened, right?
Are their murders going to be pinned on me, since I was responsible for Rudy? I can’t go down for this. I won’t.
I threw some firewood in the fireplace and struck a match. I grabbed a blanket and sat down next to the fire. When I sat down, I noticed something on the ground next to the front door.
It was the girl’s wallet.
My heart sank.
Abigail Hunter. From Roseville, California.
I flipped through the wallet. Between all the cards and memberships, I had her address, phone number, even her email address.
The girl that killed my brother and stole my inheritance.
The girl that survived my murderous brother.
The girl that knows the truth.
I held the tape in my hands. The tape that holds the truth—the undeniable proof. I held it to my chest for a moment, then tossed it in the fire.
Abigail Hunter, there’s a good chance that you’ll read this, since you’re a Nosleep regular. So, if you do, please message me. We need to talk.
In the meantime, I’ve got a silo to clean.