Scarecrow

 

“I dare you to go touch it,” Todd challenged Steve.

 

Steve tried his best not to look afraid, but as they both stared at the scarecrow hanging only ten feet from them, he had a hard time hiding his fear from his best friend.

 

The two ten-year-old boys looked at each other until Steve nodded, accepting Todd’s challenge.

 

He took a deep breath and started to inch his way closer to the scarecrow as Todd watched on.

 

The scarecrow looked menacing as its gaze seemed to remain fixed straight ahead.

 

Steve stopped as the wind rustled through the straw stuffing, making it sound as if the scarecrow had moved.

 

After a minute, Steve felt comfortable enough to get even closer.

 

As soon as he was able to touch the scarecrow with his fingertips, he did.

 

He let out a sigh of relief when he realized that all his fears of the scarecrow were ridiculous.

 

With his newfound strength, he stood up, walked right in front of the scarecrow, and put his entire hand on it.

 

Wanting to show his friend up, he said, “See Todd. There’s nothing scary about this old scarecrow.”

 

Todd relaxed and decided to join his obviously braver friend.

 

Before he could reach Steve, he let out a scream as the scarecrow suddenly came alive and grabbed Steve by the wrist.

 

Steve started screaming too as he tried to pull away from the scarecrow and simultaneously reached out for his friend’s help.

 

Todd ran to Steve and grabbed his free hand, trying to free him from the scarecrows grip.

 

The scarecrow leapt from his place on the post and wrapped his other hand around Steve’s waist.

 

Todd played tug of war with the scarecrow, until the scarecrow won and dragged Steve into the dense cornfield.

 

Even though he was terrified, Todd chased them in, but he found no trace of either of them.

 

He called out to Steve at the top of his lungs but heard no reply.

 

Not able to find a trace of either Steve or the scarecrow, Todd ran out of the cornfield as fast as he could. He didn’t stop running until he made it home to tell his parents what had happened.

 

Todd led the police to the scarecrow, which was back on its post and tried to explain to them what had happened, but no one believed that it had come alive and attacked them.

 

Seeing how distraught he was, Todd’s parents led him out of the cornfield to let the police conduct their search.

 

All they found of Steve was one of his shoes a few yards away. There was no blood, no sign of which direction he was dragged in.

 

The police spent weeks, along with volunteers from town, but they never found any other trace of him.

 

As time went on, life returned to normal for everyone except Steve’s family and Todd himself.

 

Todd looked out the window of the cab as they drove down the country road.

 

His father had died, and he was returning home to attend the funeral.

 

When he was a little older, he had returned to where the scarecrow was. He had poured gasoline on it and lit it on fire.

 

That gave a little relief, but his hometown had become haunted to him, and as soon as he graduated high school, he left.

 

Now as he rode back home, he wearily gazed out of the cab window, remembering what had happened that fateful night.

 

The corn fields were just a blur as the cab traveled down one vacant country road after another.

 

Todd suddenly perked up as he saw something up ahead standing at the edge of a cornfield.

 

A cold chill ran down his spine, and the hairs on his arm stood as he saw the same scarecrow that had taken his friend, standing at the edge.

 

At first, Todd thought either he was seeing things, or someone was messing with him by placing a scarecrow where he could see it as he drove by.

 

He tensed with fear as the scarecrow’s head turned to maintain eye contact with him as he drove by.

 

Todd was unable to look away, and they stared at each other as he passed.

 

As Todd looked out the back window, he saw the scarecrow turn and disappear into the corn field.

 

“Are you okay?” the cab driver asked, seeing that his passenger was visibly shaking.

 

Getting no reply from Todd, the cab driver returned to paying attention to the road, instead of his passenger, who clearly didn’t want to talk.

 

Todd felt awkward at his own father’s funeral. He felt as if the entire town was staring at him, judging him.

 

They all took turns taking glances at him, the once boy who had told a story to the police about a scarecrow taking his friend.

 

Once the funeral was done, all the people slowly walked away.

None had said their condolences to Todd for his loss and he was glad.

 

After the last of them had left, Todd gave his father’s lowered casket one last look and began to walk away himself.

 

After he left town, he rarely kept in contact with his parents.

 

His mother died a few years before Todd left town, and both parents seemed to look at him like the townspeople did, so when his father passed, he came back more out of obligation than love.

 

“Excuse me,” an old man said, stepping out from behind a tombstone.

 

Todd stopped and looked at the man approaching him.

 

“You are the one who saw the scarecrow when you were young, are you not?” the old man asked.

 

Todd almost didn’t answer. Everyone in town knew he was the boy, so the question had to be rhetorical.

 

The old man, seeing the annoyance in Todd’s eyes continued.

 

“I believe you and I have seen him too,” the old man stated.

 

Seeing the change in Todd’s posture, he continued.

 

“Yes, you’ve seen him again,” the old man said. “You saw him when you arrived, didn’t you?”

 

The only thing Todd wanted to do was get away from the man and away from the town.

 

Todd tried to walk away, but stopped when the man said, “If you leave, he will take more children. I believe you are the only one that can stop it.”

 

The man could see the war that was going on in Todd’s mind.

 

It didn’t take long for Todd to make up his mind. Though everything inside him told him to run, he knew he could never leave knowing he could have done something.

 

“What can we do?” Todd asked, hoping it would be simple, like saying a prayer, or finding some roots to kill it, but he knew that wouldn’t be the case.

 

“Because we are the only ones to have seen it and live, I believe it is connected to us somehow,” the man said.

 

“You’ve seen it too?” Todd asked.

 

The man nodded and said, “Yes, when I was a child, I got lost walking through the corn fields on my way home once and came across it hanging on a post. The funny thing is, I've been through that way before, and I had never seen a scarecrow there.

 

“Even though I had never seen a scarecrow there, it wasn’t unusual for farmers to put new ones up to scare off the crows and animals, so I just ignored it. That was my mistake.

 

“As I walked away from it, I could feel it sneaking up on me. I turned just in time to see it lunge, and I fortunately jumped away.

 

“Playing all those sports paid off as I was able to outrun it.

“I think it is limited to the cornfield, and I think the post it sits on may be the key. If we can somehow get to the post, I think we may be able to get to it.”

 

“I burned the scarecrow and the post, so I’m not sure that’s true,” Todd replied.

 

“I think since we witnessed where it was, it shed the scarecrow you burned like a carcass. The scarecrow that attacked me is still there. I went back several times with my parents and friends when I was older, but it never moved again.

 

“But I believe that when it does take a child, it and the post disappear. Otherwise there would be scarecrows and posts piled everywhere, or at least if there was only one, the authorities would have been able to determine where the children were disappearing at.

 

“No, I think it and the post arrive, and stay just long enough to take a child or before it’s noticed.”

 

Todd thought about what the man was saying and realized he didn’t even know the man’s name.

 

“Who are you?” he asked.

 

Extending his hand, he answered, “I’m Lewis Burns.”

 

Todd recognized the name. Lewis Burns was the town hermit. Now, Todd understood why.

 

“Okay,” Todd started. “How are we going to kill it?”

 

“You know where it is,” Lewis explained. “We just need to go in there and while one of us distracts it, the other one burns the post.”

 

“And then?” Todd asked.

 

“And then we see if we can kill it,” Lewis answered. “I'm not gonna lie. We may not survive.”

 

Todd understood and didn’t care. He had to at least try. At this point, dying was better than continuing to live with the guilt.

 

Once they had made up their minds, they drove to the closest hardware store and bought each a machete, an axe for the post, and a gas can to fill up on the way to the cornfield.

 

They could both feel each other’s tension as the car squealed to a stop.

 

“Are you ready for this?” Lewis asked.

 

Todd could only nod.

 

They opened the trunk and loaded up their gear.

 

 With one final look at the setting sun, they marched bravely into the cornfield.

 

The sun was barely peeking out when they found an empty post within the field.

 

“What do you think?” Lewis asked. “Do you think this is the right one?”

 

Todd couldn’t be sure, but he wasn’t going to take any chances. He walked up to it and started dousing it with gasoline.

 

He then stepped back and lit a match.

 

A sudden wind blew his match out just before he was about to throw it.

 

He went to light another one, when out of nowhere, the scarecrow burst out of the corn and tackled him.

 

Knowing what needed to be done and taking advantage of the scarecrow being occupied, Lewis quickly picked up the dropped matches and lit one.

 

The scarecrow saw what he was attempting to do and began to move toward him.

 

Todd knew this was it. This was the moment that would lead to finally killing this thing.

 

He held on to the scarecrow with all of his strength, giving Lewis time to throw the match.

 

The cornfield lit up as the post went up in flames.

 

The scarecrow screamed and seeing his post burning, his eyes glowed red with hatred, and he turned his anger towards Todd.

 

Todd fended off its attacks as much as he could, but the scarecrow was so vicious, it wasn’t long until he started feeling the punctures made by the scarecrow’s bony fingers.

 

Lewis quickly grabbed the machete, and began attacking the scarecrow, desperately trying to get it off Todd.

 

“Burn him!” Todd screamed, as blood began to seep from his mouth.

 

“No!” Lewis yelled back, continuing to hack at the scarecrow. “I can kill him!”

 

“I can’t hold him much longer!” Todd screamed, knowing he only had moments of strength left. “Burn him!”

 

Tears streamed down Lewis’ face as he conceded, dropped the machete, and grabbed the gas can.

 

The scarecrow tried to escape Todd’s grip and attack Lewis, but Todd continued to hold on with all of his failing strength.

Lewis poured the gasoline on the scarecrow and his new friend.

 

With a heavy heart, he lit a match and dropped it on them both.

 

As the screams of the scarecrow and Todd became one, Lewis looked on, wishing it had been him burning with the scarecrow.

 

It wasn’t long until the screams ended, and to Lewis' amazement,  instead of turning to ash, both the scarecrow’s and Todd’s bodies disappeared.

 

By the morning, there was little evidence of what had happened. The ground was a little scorched, but that was it.

 

Children stopped going missing and the town slowly returned to a place that wasn’t tainted by its sad mystery.

 

Since all if Todd’s family were dead, Lewis took it upon himself to mourn his death and honor his sacrifice.

 

Lewis took in the morning’s sunrise, seeing what he hadn’t seen in half a century.

 

Peace.