It was an ordinary corn field, like many others you will find this time of year dotted around the farming community. The green leaves waved hypnotically in the cool breeze. Silk plumes carved intricate patterns against the deep blue sky while the sun reflectively picked out dazzling white highlights. It was an ordinary, glorious summer’s day like a million others since time began…
I gingerly wove my way through the sea of dark green stalks, being careful not to trample any into the black, fertile earth. As a farmer, I knew they had been hard won from the seeds, the land and the occasional drought. Living off the land had never been an easy profession; there were too many variables to account for. The fact remained that in a good year you were blessed abundantly, but when crops failed you fought back with hard work, the sweat of your brow and the very depth of your soul to survive.
I took the short cut through the fields instead of the circuitous route along the dusty, gravel road that led to our farmhouse. I was already regretting the decision as the hot sun was directly overhead and I felt the sweat stinging my eyes and running in tiny rivulets down my back.
The only thought occupying my mind was the harvest. I allowed the peaceful serenity peculiar to corn fields to calm me. The deeper I entered the more silent and serene it became. In sharp contrast, the rustling of the stalks against my body, seemed extremely loud in the deafening silence. No birds or cicadas could be heard humming summery melodies and a sense of unease settled its fluttering wings around my heart. I heard my breath quickening. There was nothing to be afraid of; no overt threat, no imminent danger. Yet, it felt as though someone was breathing down my neck. The hairs on my neck rose involuntarily and I sensed, albeit faintly, someone following me. I turned quickly, hoping to surprise whatever or whoever it was. There was nothing behind me except rows of corn stalks. What else would there be, what had I thought to find? A silent, green world stretched out behind me and I felt a sense of profound emptiness that I am hard put to describe to this day. I shook the fear off, yet couldn’t help laughing at my idiocy; here I was a grown man in my forties, allowing a childish fear to take hold of me. The fields somehow seemed different; it was as though nature itself had been silenced by having her throat inexplicably cut.
Up ahead I saw a slight break in the rows. My mind instantly filled with possibilities to explain this: disease, an over-zealous aardvark digging up the corn roots (a peculiar delicacy to them) or seeds that had not germinated. I soon realized that the area was too large to be explained by any of the above. I looked around nervously, not wanting to surprise a wild animal obliviously going about its business. The absence of sound, however, told me that this was no animal. The silence had grown thicker, the air oppressive and bristling with imminent danger. The golden brown hairs on my arms and legs lifted and goose bumps appeared on my skin. A feeling of utter dread visited itself upon the surrounding field.
I wanted to run and not stop until I was safely on the dirt road again. It seemed like an oasis to me now, a safe harbor. Someone or something waited in the clearing; it was ancient and intelligent. I swung between instinctively running and an obsessive need to find out what lay ahead. My rational mind won out and I gently stepped forward, not wanting to alert anything as to my approach. I was always the first to admit to being skeptical of inexplicable phenomenon, such as crop circles, evil spirits and UFO’s. I tended to think rationally and logically and firmly believed that these events were the ravings of an overwrought, traumatized, emotional mind. Logically speaking, there had to be an explanation for everything, the world was ordered along scientific rules, chaos was not something I was familiar with. I was to come face to face with something that I would never be able to explain or rationalize. It would turn the world as I knew it on its head and stay locked in my nightmares forever.
As I entered the large clearing, I saw that the stalks had been flattened in concentric circles. Mathematically correct, dead centre was a scarecrow, made of dried stalks and corn husks. It was clothed appropriately in a red and black striped flannel shirt, threadbare jeans, tied at the middle with a worn brown leather belt. The black felt hat sat jauntily on a head made of stuffing and old linen. A chicken feather was stuck into the hat band and cruel eyes were sown on with thick black wool. The mouth was a jagged shape cut into the linen. Fire-blackened sticks, mixed with dirty stuffing, stuck out of the gaping hole in an eerie, rotten grimace. The scarecrow was forced down onto a bright red, freshly painted branch that was still dripping blood onto the flattened stalks below.
I slowly circled the intimidating figure, puzzled as to how it had got there. My workers would never do this for fear of losing their job; I did not tolerate disobedience or willful destruction of property. There were no children near the farm as the workers’ houses were a good 8 kilometers down the dirt road. There were no vehicle or human tracks amid the flattened stalks either. It defied logic. I stood back surveying the entire scene.
Icy fingers tickled my spine. The scarecrow bound me to it with ropes of fear. I retreated, hearing my footsteps breaking the stalks, their green juices flowing from open wounds into the black earth. The wind had died down, yet a slight movement, barely noticeable, lifted the chest of the scarecrow. I blinked my eyes in confusion and stared hard at the exact spot on the flannel shirt where I had seen it a moment before. This time I saw and sensed the slow thumping of its unnatural heart. I stood rooted to the spot unable to believe what my senses so clearly told me. Its heart was beating steadily in its lifeless body, dripping red blood. I wanted to scream but bit it back down; unsure of whether that would alert it to my presence. I was already ascribing human characteristics to it- the thought madly careened around in my head. I looked into its eyes and saw insanity and death waiting to drag me in. The grin seemed to expand until it looked as if it would cut the head in half. The rotten teeth spoke of its predilection for human meat.
With a slow rustling it started to remove itself from the blood red branch. Some of its innards tore apart and left gaping holes, yet it twisted and turned anxiously to free itself from the bonds. The dried stalks and husks fell to the ground in rotting, maggoty heaps. It used its twiggy hands to right the felt hat and grinned up at me lasciviously. An eerie, throaty chuckle emerged from the ragged mouth and the eyes became large, drowning sinkholes, popping the ragged, black stitches.
“Tassssty,” it slurred, stretching its obscene arms towards me. It moved jerkily in a crazy tilting, roiling motion. I couldn’t move, my feet had grown roots and anchored me firmly to the ground. In utter helplessness I cried for it to stop; to not to be real. It never stopped, just kept coming closer. My heart seemed ready to explode out of my fear bound chest. The scarecrow reached for me with stiff stick thin arms and I crumpled to the ground.
Time must have passed for when I came to the shadows had grown longer. I was in a great deal of pain. My left foot had been chewed down to the bone,. I had to have the foot amputated. Everyone’s explanation is that I must have been attacked by a wild animal, yet no-one can tell which kind as there no tracks were found, only the flattened stalks and my blood. Needless to say of the ‘ordinary’ scarecrow there was no sign and I have learned to keep it to myself, save this telling of extraordinary fear in ordinary circumstances.
Word count: 1417