Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's Good to be Afraid-- 20, October

20,October–Late Evening

The scarecrow went traveling. He marched through the town center. A few houses had Halloween decorations up. This was usually his time to reflect and relax. He was a planner, and everything for this year's Harvest was in order. Normally he would just sit and watch things unfold, but this time he had another death on his mind.

He hadn't personally killed Henry Talbot, and yet he could nearly feel the dagger in his hand. He had to wonder how much Jack really was rubbing off on him. A deceit here and a murder there; he was doing it in the name of a shared cause, but how long before he was betraying for personal gain? The truth was Henry would recover in time, angrier and with more knowledge than before. The real regret the scarecrow felt was over the personal road he had taken, and how long he had been on it.

And then there was the boy, and what had become of him. Hope for his safety was a lark. The truth of the matter was there was likely very little they could have done for him, even at the house under Countess Borsala's care. Yet Jack had stripped him of even that measure of safety and turned him away into the world.

How much blame did the scarecrow share? He knew Jack perfectly well, and he knew he would never have followed the scarecrow's own plan to the letter. Being straightforward wasn't in the man's nature. The fact of the matter was, the scarecrow was dooming decent friends for the sake of a liar and in the name of an ancient goal.

Perhaps that was why here, now, he found himself at the edge of the old farmer's field. Corn stalks hissed lightly in the breeze. The scarecrow took a deep breath of the crisp air, remembering what it was like to revive here all those nights ago.

He waded into the corn and began to move amongst the rows. The soil had grown hard and packed. He walked up hill until he reached the clearing where his old station had been. Indeed, the pole was still there, unoccupied, and there was something crouched at the base of it.

Quietly, the scarecrow drew his sickle and approached. The thing was barely more than a shape, and yet it gave off an aura of familiarity that disturbed the scarecrow. He reached forward with the sickle and touched it gingerly.

“You again,” suddenly the thing spoke.

The scarecrow leaped back agilely.

The thing in front of him seemed to reconfigure in size and shape. It transformed in front of him, going from something that could have passed for a rock in the earth to a humanoid shape, then at last, the boy.

“William,” the scarecrow said. “Dear boy, I guess I was hoping to find you here, in one form or another.”
“You didn't find me. I'm dead. Nobody can even see me now. I tried and tried to get their attention, but then when I start to, they just get scared. So, I stopped trying. I've just been hiding out here in the corn, because I don't want to scare my mom any more.”

“William. . . you are a creature of the night now. The living will fear you from now on, because you have the shape of death. I'm sorry, but you are one of us now.”

The boy pondered this. He thought about the long lonely days he had spent roaming the house and drifting through the corn fields. At times, he wondered if it was really so different from his living existence.
“It's just. . .” the boy said, “I can't go back. It's all gone.”

“The land of the living is closed to you,” the scarecrow agreed, “But a thousand new worlds have opened up.” He gestured grandiosely into the night. The moon was a gash in the sky surrounded by stars. Naked tree limbs jabbed up at them like spears. An owl called from the darkness, and a frightened rat dashed through the field. The scarecrow held out his hand to the boy. “Come with me, William.”

The boy regarded the scarecrow's gnarled hand. He stared particularly at the stub of bone protruding where his pinkie should have been. “Are you going to be able to protect me better this time?”

“Dear boy, you don't need protection. You are, after all, a ghost. You need not fear again. Now, you are fear.”

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