Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Good to be Afraid -- 01, October

Ah, it's finally here!  We've worked long and hard to make sure this will all be done on time.  I hope everyone can get some enjoyment out of reading it.  We had a great time creating the story, world and characters.  

We're finally at day 1 (only 30 left!), so here we go with:


J. D. Lockhart

01,October - Night

He felt the midnight dewdrops form on his fingertips. The corn stalks rustled around him. There was only a slight breeze, but their swaying amplified it to a hushed whisper. He shivered at the touch of the cool night air. . . and the his eyes snapped open in amazement. He was shivering? And then, even more amazement: He could open his eyes? The scarecrow flitted them left, then right, his shock growing. He was beholding everything around him. Though muted by the darkness, he was seeing everything in a vivid detail he never would have imagined possible. Then, most amazing of all, he drew in a shuddering breath and felt himself gasp. He was breathing.

He pulled one hand from the crossbeam beneath his shoulders. He held it up in front of his face. He counted his fingers, one, two, three, four. . . not quite five. His hands had at one time been constructed of an old damaged pair of simple workmen's gloves, a pair from which the little finger was missing. His body had undergone some change under the light of the moon, though, and that fact was made positive by the tip of bone protruding from the glove, reaching out longingly for where the rest of the digit should have been. Still, though, an incomplete body was so much better than none at all, and he didn't lose the absolute wonderment he felt at the thought of being alive. He breathed in again and watched the fog form from his breath as he exhaled.

The scarecrow was about to raise himself from the wooden stake attached to his back when he heard a noise. There was a small scuttling sound, a scampering of feet, and dimly through the darkness he could make out the stalks of corn parting as something made its passage. Quickly, the scarecrow returned his hand to the beam and remained perfectly still.

He kept his eyes open, however, and watched as a child emerged from the corn rows and then took a seat in the small clearing below the straw man's pole. The scarecrow looked out across the field to the farmhouse, from where the boy must have come. It was entirely dark. Only a dim halo of light reached around, from where a lamp must have burned on the front porch.

Turning his eyes back down, he saw that the boy was still sitting below his feet. He was perfectly silent and seemed to just be staring into the corn rows. The scarecrow wondered if he was going to go to sleep. He would never have a chance to get off this pole if that happened. He waited for some time, but it was clear the child was not going to move without some encouragement.

Gingerly, the scarecrow worked his jaw. He felt that he had a tongue and teeth. He would be capable of speech if only. . . as he tried to open his mouth, he found that it was held tight with at least a dozen thick stitches. He removed his right hand from the crossbar once again and slowly began to work at the stitches, pulling at the loops. Gradually, they became loosened enough that he could part his mouth. It wasn't enough for him to form words yet, but he could do one thing.

He growled.

The boy looked up sharply. The scarecrow growled again and leaned part way off the post, still holding on by his left hand. The boy jumped to his feet and ran away at last. The scarecrow was finally free to drop to the ground. He did so none-so-clumsily, landing with an agility that was quite surprising for something that had only been alive for mere moments.

The boy hadn't gone far. He had his back to the corn. He was trembling, possibly from the cold air. He was holding something out toward the scarecrow-- a farming implement. A sickle, the scarecrow recognized it. It wasn't something that belonged in the hands of a child.

The scarecrow held a hand out for it. The boy backed up until he bumped into a stalk of corn. The scarecrow drew closer, his shadow drawing over the child. He moved his hand ever slowly toward the boy, the four and one-half fingers turned palm up. He exhaled once sharply through his nose. The boy was reminded of a bull about to charge. He released the sickle and it fell neatly into the scarecrow's palm.

The scarecrow drew back quickly, turning partly to the side, and brought the tip of the curved blade up toward his mouth. Working carefully, he cut through the threads that bound him from talking, sawing at each loop one at a time. Once the work was done, he opened his mouth wide and took in a deep breath. He looked at the sickle, then at the boy, who still had not fled.

“Boy,” The scarecrow said. “What are you doing here, in my field? It's late, it's dark, and this is no place for you.”
“What, what are--” The boy stammered. “You're not. . .”
“Alive?” The scarecrow asked. “Real?” A thought came to him suddenly. He could kill the boy in a single move. He could see it in his mind, a single swipe with the sickle, a bloodless gash in the boy's throat quickly turning to red. The thought was unbidden but acute.
“It's our field,” The boy said. “Grampa. . .”
“I am alive,” The scarecrow responded. “I am real, and it is my field I protect from intruders. You have no reason to come here.”
“I do it all the time.” He seemed to be getting over his shock. In fact, the boy was starting to sound angry. “I come out here and I talk to you. Don't you remember?”

The scarecrow was confused by the idea. Could he remember things from a time when he had no mind? He had some foggy notion of things that had come before. He knew what he was, he knew his purpose. And yes, vague as it was, he had the impression of time spent listening to the boy talking, telling him what had happened during the day, and the things he was afraid of.

“Yes,” The scarecrow said. “There is some. . . familiarity. Some nights you came out here, and you kept me company.”
“I always thought you were pretty cool,” the boy admitted.
The scarecrow, who had been leaning in to hear the boy's quiet words, stood up to his full height now. The light breeze made his oversized patchwork flannel shirt shiver in the air around him. He reached up and touched the brim of the straw hat on his head. “Pleased to meet you, finally.”
“Now you're really cool!” Said the boy. “You're alive. You're my friend-- my real friend! What's your name?”
“My name? I am. . . the scarecrow. Do you know a better name?”
The boy thought for a moment. “What about Jack?”
“No. . . I know another Jack. That would be confusing”
“Oh, I didn't know you had other friends.”
“I do. I see them rarely.”
“Oh.” The boy was quiet for a time and seemed to be studying the earth that made up the floor of the field.

“Room for one more, of course,” The scarecrow told him.
The boy looked up suddenly and did the thing that surprised the scarecrow most of anything that night-- he suddenly lurched forward and hugged the scarecrow's leg. The scarecrow was nearly knocked off balance. He pinwheeled his arms wildly, and the tip of the sickle's blade came sickeningly close to the tip of the boy's head. Once he regained his stance, he patted the boy's head with his left hand, and the child released him.

“You really should not be out here so late, though,” He instructed the boy. “It's cold, it's damp, and you're not even properly protected from the weather. Don't you have school tomorrow?”
“No, tomorrow's Saturday. And I hate school, anyway.”
“Hum, Saturday. It always takes so long to get my bearings.”
The boy looked downcast again. “No one is even going to believe me when I tell them about you,” He said sadly.
“Then do not tell them. Do not tell anyone. Not for a while.”
“You're the only one that listens to me, anyway. And that was just because you couldn't get away.”
“I could get away now,” the scarecrow reminded him, “And I haven't. If you go to bed now, and you come back tomorrow with a coat on, we can talk again. And. . . I might even be able to introduce you to a new friend.”
“Really? Well, I do have to get up early. My mom has to work, and I don't want to miss her before she leaves.”
“We all have responsibilities,” The scarecrow told him, “And we must fulfill those responsibilities.”
The boy seemed to consider this. “Another new friend, huh?”
“I can't promise it. But, if Fortune goes as I hope, I think he might be coming by this way. Be good, and don't tell anyone.”
The boy nodded. “Goodnight,” he said, then added, hesitantly, “Good luck at your job tomorrow!” The boy waved, and then disappeared back into the rows of corn.

The scarecrow turned from his new friend and climbed hand over hand back up the pole, then resumed his position. His awareness, his memories, his sense of self was all returning to him as the bleariness of a year's sleep dripped away.

He looked to his right, where a road to the east crested a hill. Could it really be possible, he wondered. Could something so wonderful be happening? But he had a body, didn't he? He had life in the crisp, clean fall air, and just possibly, Fortune was allowing Halloween to come to this small, out of the way town.

01,October– Day

He weathered the entire day on his pole. Mostly he was alone, listening to the swaying of the corn stocks, hearing rodents dashing through the rows. Several times, the old farmer had come near, and he was forced to hold perfectly still in an imitation of lifelessness. The old man was probably looking for the sickle, which was now hidden away in the scarecrow's shirt.

Shortly after the sun rose, his stomach had started growling. Moving around would have been too risky, however, so he stayed put and watched. Providence struck after many hours when a crow was brave enough to land on his crossbar. The scarecrow had moved only his eyes. He could observe the beak of the thing barely in his periphery, and yet the bird vanished in a blur as his hand wrapped around its body with crushing strength. It was gone without a sound, disappeared in only two bites and a spray of feathers into the air.

No comments:

Post a Comment