The Farmer owned him for three days and he did his job well, the field was unbothered. On the third night after he had wrapped sticks and rags together he was awoken late by a sound. Lazily he walked to the window to check the latch, but it was secure, unfettered he looked for Moose, but his faithful hound lay at the foot of the bed, on his back, occasionally sniffing and grunting, chasing a quail in his mind. He shuffled down to the bathroom sink, drained the weasel and washed up as mildred would have insisted were she still here to scold him. Back to bed, check the shutters tomorrow he surmised. It was as he lay down and turned to his sleep sid that he caught the dim reflection, looked back and then slowly turned as mildred's icy cold chill latched on to him once more.
The shadowy figure was indistinguishable, only in the ripple of light from the tree dancing with the moon could you see the left eye fixed upon his own. It moved slowly forward, blurring and revealing in turn and when it tilted its head downward, ever so slightly cocking to its left he caught a glimpse of a terrible grin. He dared to speak but he had no words, his throat seemingly a desert of sand, ever tightening. "The Scarecrow....." the figure hissed..."he belongs to me now. You no longer need tend to it. He is mine. Leave him alone. Do you understand?" The eye fixed upon him further and a glint from its neighbor soon followed. The Farmer shook his head slowly, then vigorously, he closed his eyes praying this to be a dream and when he opened them the figure was gone. He felt the trickle of tears down his cheeks and began to sob. Once composed, he changed his soiled garments and went to the closet. He loaded the shotgun and slowly descended to the lower level.
After checking the house he opened the holiday wine and poured himself a glass, unsatisfied he carefully retrieved the whiskey, still hidden from Millie in the bottom drawer of the buffet, he apologized silently and looked up before downing a third of what remained. Slinking down into a dining chair he tried to rationalize what he believed had happened. He had nearly convinced himself of his senile insanity when he looked up to see the shadow once more.
The ringing was unbearable, the shotgun blast echoing through the house as if it were bouncing up and back at him, pelting him with throbbing tension grenades at either temple. His aim, true as the day he first learned to shoot with his Father, the target lay slumped at the base of the stairs, black, white and brown in a black crimson pool. He stumbled over, crouched down and sobbed some more. He awoke with a start, sunlight blasting from all angles, he fixed his gaze and turned to his beloved friend, but the hound was gone, no hair, no blood, nothing, not even his old age calling card of yellowed piss. The gun lay atop the dining room table and an expelled casing below on the amish plank floor. A knock at the door stirred him from delirium and he checked himself, readying for interaction. "Helo Clarance," the deputy said, extending his hand "Mr and Mrs V over the way, they said they heard a shot sometime around 2 am, you know how Ms V has been sleepwalking, well Mr. was up taking care of her and he said it was so loud Ms. V woke right up and asked if they could get taffy, thought they wuz at the circus. Of course with Ms Millie passing on so recently, Clarance we know how hard you must be feelin', everyone is just concerned, you know. Anyone can get down in a dark place and nobody judging." Explaining away the shot as a clumsy Moose and a forgotten round seemed easy enough and soon the good deputy was pulling away in the beige sedan with the bulbs and fancy stars on each side. As he watched Cyrus roll lazily down on to Ridge Road his gaze naturally came upon the black husk perched atop the corn field adjacent to the Mail Pouch barn. Something about it semed...wrong, one hesitant step, then another, enboldened by his Fathers "to be a man" speech echoing along the rows and soon he was a scant few yards from the black shape.
Twine, rope, limbs...wrecked upon each other, haphazard, but clearly with intention, the jagged toothed pumpkin stared down at him, daring his further approach. He chuckled inside at his own unease, "I built this effer", he thought, "get a pair you pussy". It was at his next step that he heard the slow roiling rumble from his left and he gazed over at his faithful companion, teeth bared, staring back. He forced a wary laugh, "Moosie, what are you doin out there, whats the matter now, come over here". A slow gutteral growl followed, but the man was undaunted, his slow approach brought further fury and though he only felt it, he believed the black pumpkin behind him, turned...ever so slightly. He reached at hair, standing up at attention and his recoil was quicker than he thought he could muster, but not fast enough. He made his way back to the house, the bleeding stopped sometime near suppertime. He would periodically gaze out upon the field, perplexed in his dilemna. He rose with the morning sun and first noticed the black pile on his porch around 11. He pushed the screen door open and pondered the bizarre mess at his feet, 20-30, maybe more, the crows lay in various stages of mutilation. He stared out at the menacing structure, chilled at the thought of it staring back. He shoveled and bagged the black carcasses and threw them into the junk room of the barn, refusing to go further towards the field. The next morning there were more and even more the following day. On the fourth day he had to use the side window to get out as all the doors were pinned shut, but on the fifth day, nothing. From the porch he yelled, defiant, confused, scaredhe walked to the edge of the field and in one beautifully arched toss, like the high school qb he once was, he drilled the black devil in its head with the largest rock he could find. He half expected the black husk to reach down, retrieve its topper and go on about driving him insane, but the figure never flinched, still the same pose, never moving.
A creaking sound and the clink of 13 locks unlatching in sequence brought him to consciousness, he gazed groggily at the yellow lighted numbers on Millies digital alarm and realized it was 2 am, his bedroom door was ajar and he was not alone. The dogs breath was unbearable, death clung to its every wheeze, its teeth ratcheted upon his right arm and he reached his belt at the side table,slashing at its eyes with the pointed buckle. Finally gaining his release he fixed the strap around its neck pulling for all his worth until bones snapped and breathing subsided, kicking the bulging carcass to the floor. "I told you it was mine..." the figure hissed from out of view, "I told you it did not need tending." The eyes, now fully in focus, glaring intently, slowly closed. When they peeked open again they looked down at bedside at the shotgun nestled at his side, the Farmer began to cry.
It was a blinding Sunday morning but Ms V was insistent and the deputy knew that the dry, baking, 9 mile drive to the Pelcher farm was worth avoiding the wrath of a 75 yr old retired principal. He shuddered at the memory of the tiny heart shapes burned into the oak plank used to "adjust the attitudes" of the unruly few who threatened to disrupt the enviable harmony of Oak Ramble Elementary and the calm ease...and unexpected force with which Mrs. Ermeline Valentine administered such adjustments. He adjusted in his seat, still certain that a bone or two had never quite recovered from his own such lessons and decided to forget such awful memories. Ms Deb at the bakery would have bear claws ready for him, perhaps a little extra cream in the upstairs loft even and he smiled at the thought. The house seemed quiet, nothing out of the ordinary, he knocked repeatedly and alerted Mr. Pelcher who he was and that he was entering through the unlocked side door. As he entered the kitchen he felt a slight unease and unholstered his firearm, still never fired in the line of duty, thank Jesus, passing through he barely paid a glance to the black, carved pumpkin sitting in the center of the white tiled kitchen table. A trip upstairs and down into the wine cellar confirmed that nobody was home and he eased the door shut thinking about Ms Deb and the upstairs loft. The scarecrow, a mostly black, stringy mass of this and that, twisted into a the shape of a descending bird perhaps, stood about an endzone away and at first glance he had to adjust his gaze due to the sun. Warily he approached then quickened his pace, his sidearm at the ready, eyes glassy, hair disheveledmouth agape....hung at the end of the scarecrows neck, a sturdy limb wrapped in black and gray tinted sheet fabric, was the severed head of Clarence Pelcher, a large hole in the back allowing access through his open mouth. Deputy Tim Renard stopped, stumbled back a bit and reached for his phone, realizing he'd left it in his squad car he turned to retrieve it. It was then that he heard a soft, gutteral growl begin.