Hugging William his mom told him how she appreciated him coming out to his grandpa’s farm. She had brought him out to stay for the week. “I wish grandpa did.” William replied with a tinge of sarcasm. Holding him at arm’s length she looked at William “He may not show it but I know he does.” She said giving him a sombre smile.
Letting go of his arms, she turned to walk towards the car. “I will be back to pick you up next Sunday around six.” She hollered without turning around. “If you remember.” He whispered to himself. She gave William a little wave then jumped into the old station wagon. William stood looking marooned as he watched his mom’s taillights disappear in the dust.
His Grandfather was at ‘The Pigs Ear’, the only bar in town. He was a man of routines and days were ended with ‘the boys’ down at ‘The Piggy’ (as locals lovingly called it). William’s mom had given him a key to the old place before they left. She kept a spare key in case of emergencies. She had also laid down grandpa’s house rules. This left William less than enthusiastic for the week.
The outside had looked a bit rundown but somewhat welcoming. Inside of the house was a different story. The downstairs living room was dark and shadowy. A pungent smell hung in the air. The smell was like dust and what William could only accredit to ‘old person’. The stairway wall was filled with picture frames. Some pictures were of familiar faces but a lot were much older. The really old ones William found creepy. He wondered why no one seemed to smile back then.
Upstairs was brighter; the old curtains covered everything in a soft yellow light. William unpacked his things neatly in the guest room’s chest of drawers. He moped thinking about his mom’s instructions. She had repeatedly said that grandpa liked things in their place. He picked up an old picture frame. It had sat on an antique corn crate that served as the bedside table. It was a picture of him standing with his gramps holding a fishing pole. He couldn’t have been more than five and was smiling ear to ear. He put the frame back thinking it had been a long time since he smiled like that.
Sitting on the bed he fell back on to his elbows. It felt good to relax in a quiet room, as things at home had been a little tense this past week. His mom and John (her boyfriend) had been fighting a lot. William had liked John OK, he was nicer than some of her others. His mom had told him on the drive over they just needed some alone time to work things out. But she sounded more to be reassuring herself. William didn’t buy it; he had been through this too many times before.
Other sixteen year olds would have run away before wasting a summer week at a farm. But William figured his mom would owe him one. There was opportunity as well, he could do some chores and earn money for his car fund. Hanging out with his grandpa wasn’t so bad either, he did admire him. The man may be cold but he was the only real male role model William had.
His grandpa didn't usually get back until eight or so, which was bedtime in the house. William would pass the time before he made his dinner by exploring the surrounding foothills. He also liked checking out the ancient rusted equipment collection his grandpa had amassed in the barn. There wasn't much out by the farm but there was one place that he was told not to go. That place was a fenced off field at the end of the south property line. It was part of the old Wilson farm which had been unoccupied well before his gramps got the land 30 years ago. All the buildings had burnt or had fallen down. The only thing that was left was this huge field with an old dilapidated fence around it. Towards the middle of the field was a little hill. On that hill in the only spot not covered in weeds as high as full grown corn stalks was a scarecrow on a pole. William had asked why the land stayed vacant so long; his grandpa just said the soil was bad. It didn’t seem true for the weeds, William thought.
The scarecrow always caught William’s eye. It was far from the fence and when William got out that way the sun was usually hazy. Because of this he never could make it out very well. It stood like a faraway sentinel and had inspired his curiosity since youth. One Saturday when coming back from a hike he approached the fence and saw an animal trail through the weeds. He figured it must have been made by deer, and when he stood on the fence it looked to go all the way up to the little hill. It was only four thirty and a good two hours before it would start getting dark, so the idea of a little adventure was too much. William hopped the fence without a second thought and landed right in the middle of the trail.
William started down the path, having to duck a lot in the beginning. The path was more of a cave through the brush at first. For the most part he could stand up straight as he walked just fine. The summer's heat and all the vegetation had made the air humid and heavy. He thought to himself how glad he hadn't had allergies like his cousin. As he continued the undergrowth got lower and started to lighten up. He started to see glimpses of the hill as he moved along. He didn't know why but the closer he got an anxiety began to build within him. There was a bad feeling to this place and little by little it was getting worse. As he got closer to the hill the ground became stony and there were fewer weeds. He could tell he was on a grade now and walking part of the hill you couldn't see. Ahead the open clearing on top was approaching fast.
He made it not more than a few feet out of the weeds and was standing maybe not thirty feet from the Scarecrow, which stopped him in his tracks. It wore old work boots the color of dust. Its jeans were tattered which, like the shirt, were almost tissue thin where there weren't holes. They flapped against a stick frame that gave the appearance of bones. Arms stretched out over a cross pole in a crucifixion-like pose. Heavy rawhide work gloves hung at each arm’s end. He couldn't see more of the face than that it was stitched leather. The leather was the color of over tanned skin. Its head hung down, he could only see the side which consisted of one black socket and a sharp end of a twisted smile cut into the leather.
But it wasn't its forbidding appearance that stopped him in his tracks; something was wrong. At first he thought it was just the wind. But then as much as it didn't make sense, as incomprehensible as it was, William understood why he wasn't supposed to come here. The scarecrow was moving. He was frozen with fear as he watched one arm unhook itself then untie the other, all the while its head remained down. The one black socket he could see seemed to be focused on William. Its limbs moved disjointed and inhuman, the elbows and knees bent both directions. It bent holding the pole with one arm and began untying its legs.
William broke through the paralysis and turned around. He bolted down the path almost tripping on stones. He had had a long day and his muscles were weak and breath short but he ran as fast as he could. He didn't know how fast that thing could move but he knew he had a good head start. As he approached the fence he had a feeling of relief, until he passed the last low hanging boughs of the tree-like weeds. Sitting on the fence just ahead was the scarecrow. Its head lying to one side like a creature with its neck broken, its hands were grasping the fence. Because of its overly long arms, its elbows were bent sharp and high looking like those of a marionette. William stopped, not sure what to do. He looked on in horror as the creature raised its head from its shoulder, both of its sockets affixed on William. The scarecrow’s mouth opened wide with thick strings of saliva, it let out a horrible screech.
William paused; there was no place to run but back the way he had come. Mid turn he heard something like a flag flapping in the wind. At the same time a shadow swiftly moved over his head. William ran with the dread of knowing what was going to be waiting for him around the next corner. Seeing an opening in the brush he dived into it. Thorns and nettles scraped and stung his Face and hands as he crawled. Unable to move very far William pulled his legs up and went into a fetal position. He laid there wondering how long he should wait before making another run. His thoughts disappeared when something touched his leg. Looking down he watched the old dusty work glove tighten its grip around his ankle. It pulled his ankle with tremendous force. William flopped out of the bushes like a rag doll being flung around by a child. Under the creatures grip bone began to crack, William screamed out in pain. The trail tore at William’s back while the creature pulled him at unnatural speed.
At the hill clearing they stopped, the creature dropped William’s mangled ankle. William put his hand to his face. His face was wet with blood, covered in gashes and flaps of torn skin. Whimpering and unable to rise William looked up to see the scarecrow standing over him. Its arms to its side and head cocked like a confused dog. It lifted its arms and removed its gloves. The scarecrows hands were made out of twigs but looked skeletal. It slowly lowered itself towards William. Closing his eyes out of pure fear, William quietly began saying a prayer. The prayer was one his mom had taught him for bedtime as a child. William felt a boney grasp as one hand wrapped around his throat. With his eyes tightly shut he shuddered when the pointed fingertips of the other hand brushed his stomach. William convulsed as the scarecrow’s fingers penetrated his stomach slowly. Then like a frenzied animal the scarecrow began disemboweling him.
William's Grandpa had gotten home later than usual and went straight to bed. In the morning when he didn't find William in the guest room he figured he got an early start. After finding no trace of him at any of the normal jobs he became worried and jumped into his pickup. He drove all the field service roads but when he got to the end of the south field by the old fence something caught his eye. Looking up on the hill it was the old scarecrow. Even though he couldn't see it very well he had been looking at it for thirty years. In that time it always looked one breeze away from dust. This morning however it seemed as if someone had just put it up there. The scarecrow’s shirt wasn't flapping in the wind any more. Now it had the appearance of a belly, like it had just been stuffed.
William’s grandpa’s got in his truck and headed back to the farm house. Inside he went to the kitchen and grabbed a beer. He took a seat at a little kitchen table beside the window. Maybe he went hiking or to town he thought. Sipping his beer he contemplated how long to wait before calling the boy’s mom. Looking out the window his thoughts changed for moment. His focus was on the plants and trees. The leaves were starting to change; autumn was coming. The year had gone by too fast and it hadn’t been a good one. He was losing hope for the farm, largely because of this feeling he had that had grown stronger today. It was a fear that like the old Wilson place, his soil was going bad.
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