Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's Good to be Afraid -- 09, October


Henry was tired from walking, but it was the only way he knew to get real thinking done. The proposition the scarecrow had come to him with during the previous night was a lot to think about. The creature was a little strange, as always, but not unreasonable. The problem was, he couldn't help but feel there was also a trick to it, which was decidedly unlike the old fellow. Henry worried that after the years, Jack was beginning to rub off on him. They were always the first two to arrive in a town for Halloween, and consequently, they wound up working together a lot, despite their opposed personalities.

As his friend, the moon, rose above a passing cloud, Henry found that he had come to an all-together appropriate place to do his thinking. He smiled at the irony of pondering life in a place that celebrated death, and took a left into the cemetery. The scarecrow's suggestion was repeating in his head.

“Check yourself into the hospital,” He had said.
“I don't think they have the cure for my condition just yet,” Henry had replied.
“Not that hospital. I have a different one in mind. There's one just to the far side of the river. It's. . . quite secure.”
Henry had smiled at that. “Now I know what you're talking about. The white building on the cliff? I passed it on the way into town the other day. The asylum. I'm not crazy, you know.”
“On no, Mr. Talbot, not at all. You only lose complete control of yourself once a month. Indeed, they cannot treat your condition, but they have heavy doors and heavier walls. You will be secure inside, and those without will be safe as well.”

Henry thrust his hands into his pockets as he walked. It was a good idea. The problem was, he couldn't help but wonder why scarecrow would suggest it. It wasn't in scarecrow's nature to suggest hiding his other side, and certainly not locking it up.

His train of thought was broken when he suddenly stumbled across something that should not have been in the path. He would have thought it nothing more than an errant stone, except it gave so easily when he struck it, and then it let out a whimper.

“I won't go,” said the object.
Henry leaped back, startled. “What?” he said.
The shape suddenly drew up to its feet, and he could see that it was actually a boy. It turned and started to flee, but Henry's hand shot out and grabbed it by the shoulder.

The boy screamed.

“Hold on!” Henry said. “You shouldn't be out here.”
“Let me GO! I won't go with you!”
Henry was struck by the familiarity of the boy's voice. “It's you again?”

The boy continued to struggle, but he looked back now.
“It's me,” he told the boy. “It's Henry. Henry Talbot.”
The boy relaxed at last, though he still appeared wary.

“Well, William, can you tell me why I always find you out wandering at night? And usually in trouble, it seems.” Now that he was sure the boy wasn't going to flee deeper into the graveyard, he released his shoulder.

“I'm looking for my friend,” he replied.
“You should look in the daylight.”
“I'm not sure he's out then. . .”
“Who exactly is this 'friend?'”
“You'd never believe me. No one would. You'd think he's. . . not real.”

Henry sat down and put his back to somebody's tombstone. It felt good to get his tired legs out from under him, even if the ground was cold. “I think you'd be surprised. How about you just tell me, and we'll see what I believe.”

“No way. Besides, you don't know him.”
“Well, let me tell you what I am, William. I'm only telling you because you strike me as the type to understand. Any kid who'd go poking through a graveyard late at night this close to Halloween is somebody I think might believe me.”

The boy considered him for a moment, but he couldn't hide his interest. “So, what are you?”

“William, once a month, on the full moon, I change and become something else. Can you guess what it is?”
“Do you. . . grow hair?”
“I do.”
“Do your teeth get longer?”
“They do.”
“Do your nails get longer?”
“They do.”

“Wow.” The boy said nothing for a moment. “A real. . .”
“Yes, William, a real one. So you see, now you know I'll believe you, whatever it is, so why don't you tell me who this friend is?”
William said, “Okay, he's a scarecrow. And sometimes he's with his friend, Jack.”

Henry seemed to contemplate this for a moment. “A scarecrow, huh? And who is Jack, exactly?”
“Sting-- er, Jack O' the Lantern.”
“Okay. Did Jack tell you to come out here?”
“No, the scarecrow did.”
“Did he really?”

“Well, not exactly, but, you see, he told me to meet him, and then I never showed up, and he disappeared, and I've been looking for him ever since. I'm not going back this time until I find him.”
“Don't you have school in the morning?”

“Not on Sunday.” The boy sounded like he was beginning to doubt Henry's intelligence.
“William, this is Sunday night.”

“No it isn't. I only left a while ago. . . it was Friday night. It hasn't even been daylight yet!”

Henry looked puzzled. “Can you tell me everything that happened after you left?”

William filled him in on the trip across the fields, over the bridge and into the cemetery. When he got to the part about the man with the coffin, Henry's face went white.

“William, you didn't see his face, did you?”
“Of course. He had a big beard, and he was wearing a suit.”
“Did he say anything to you?”
“That's the thing. He won't shut up. I can still hear him now, far, far away. He keeps asking me to come into the coff-” 

The boy's arm was nearly yanked out of its socket as Henry grabbed him and began pulling him from the graveyard.

“This is a dangerous place!” Henry was saying, pulling the boy along behind him. “We have to leave. Now.”
“Where are we going?” The boy had gotten his legs under himself and was managing to keep up.
“We're going to find your friend.”

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