The Scarecrow

Vacant stores line what was once a vibrant and lively road, remnants of a life that is no more. Shops remain but suffer from the scarecrows in the broken display windowsーsomeone thought it would be funny to use the old clothes, hats, and brooms to decorate the shadows. The other store owners take them down but within a week they always reappear.

“It’s all in your magical wand now, my friend. Convenience in the palm of your hand”, the man said.

He was seated on the sidewalk with a top hat between his legs and shiny black tuxedo hung around his neck. There was a sign in front of the hatーMoney for the Wealthy and Fortunate In Dire Need of More Help

I thought to myself, “Why give an affluent person like him anything?”.

He touched his fingers to the bottom of his chin and smiled, “Because you need to. You can’t survive the proper prices. You need me to fill your pockets. With a small donation to me you buy things cheaper. I provide what these stores cannot and no longer can, as you can see. Out of sight. Out of mind. Out of time. You crawl to me”.

I smiled a little, thinking he’s deluded, and passed him by, then turned the next corner and then turned another corner. I must have turned too many corners because I arrived back to the man with the hat and suit.

“The hat is empty now, but by day end, well, you’ll see. You’ll always see. You can only see, because seeing is believing and that’s what I sell. Faith. You must have faith. Donate and you’ll see” and then he reached into his pocket and pulled it out. “It’s empty. Nothing here but pocket lining and felt”, and then he reached in again, “oh still nothing, but the hat, well well”.

There was nothing in the hat except the pennies and two bills that were there earlier. I turned around and followed the street back until it ended, making sure not to turn any corners and keep away from men with top hats that were full of nonsense.

I arrived in an open park and went towards the first large tree that came into sight. The day was ending and twilight was creeping in, some fire flies in the distance flashing on and off, dimly illuminating the green darkness, swarming in circles near a small pond with reeds, twirling in the wind.

I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew someone was kicking my feet. It was a young boy, maybe 5 or 6, in dirty clothes wearing a baseball hat that was drooping over his eyes.

“Come on sir. Time to go home. The park is closing. It’s 10pm and you were dreamy eyed. This is not the place for bedy byes. Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to tell lies?”

I scratched my head and rubbed my eyes. When I reached into my pocket for my glasses my hand rubbed against my wallet. It was empty. All the money was gone. I must have been robbed.

“Come on sir. It’s time to tuck someone in”. He lifted his hat and looked at me with droopy eyes, the darkness hiding the rest of his face.

I crossed over the bridge that went over the pond. The light wind was no more and the fireflies were gone. There was only the sound of cicadas in the distance. The boy grabbed my hand and then pulled on the bottom of my jacket. He clenched my side and began shaking. Something had frightened him terribly. I couldn’t get a word out of him, nor move with him pulling on me like that, so I lifted him up and carried him.

He immediately hugged my neck, more like choking actually, and buried his eyes into my shoulder. I loosened his grip around me when I heard the clanging of coins approach behind me. I turned around and there was a shadowy figure standing against the rail and looking down into the pond.

“You stole yourself, my friend. And look where it’s gotten you. You can’t win if you don’t spend. Money for the rich for free and you’ll see. It all runs because you spend and spend unwisely, freely, helping the wealthy, and fueling the monopoly”.

“The monopoly?”, I asked.

“Yes, the monopoly. If you don’t pass go, you will never go. How could anyone go if they never know. And if you never know you will never. I told you this”, and then he pointed down to his hat.

It was full of bills, even some hundred dollar ones. A breeze came by and whisked some of them off and they floated down into the depths below. “Oh well”, he said. “Your loss, not mine”.

The boy started kicking a little and said, “It’s time to go. I don’t wanna be here. Come on. Move it or lose it” and then he kicked me between the legs and I dropped to my knees and rolled onto my side in agony. The throbbing and squeezing pain made want to vomit. I lost my breath for a moment and felt as if I were choking. The boy fell onto his knees and went face first into the ground, then got up and ran away crying for his mother.

The man’s appearance hovered above me and he looked at me with a smile cut up into both cheeks and friendly, lifeless lit eyes, “I told you once and I told you twice. Look where you are now and the debt still stands. With empty pockets and labored hands where will you go? What will you do? Who will you be? If you don’t see, you’ll never see. It’s the water or the forest, but you don’t care about the two because they’re both the same to you”.

He then disappeared from sight. I turned my head back before he disappeared and watched his figure fade away. He walked with a hunchback and dragged his feet. For such a lively fellow his movement was more like a ragged old man with a cane, only without the wooden support.

I made my way up to my feet and looked at the stars hanging in the sky. They seemed hung by strings awaiting their moment to be cut down and wished upon. Why I saw it in such a grim manner I’m not sure, but that’s how it was.

I heard a sound and looked down into the water below. There was something moving around under the bridge making a clasping sound, like metal rubbing together. I crept around the side to see what it was and it turned out to be the boy. He was seated on a rock with scissors in his hand and was cutting the reeds, “They’re too long. Much too long. Mother would never accept them. Have to cut them”.

I approached him slowly and he didn’t flinch. It was like I wasn’t there. Only moments ago he’d clung to me as if I were his parent but now he was unresponsive. I observed for several minutes and he didn’t say anything or even acknowledge my existence.

I came out from under the bridge and laid in the grass, looking for the stars. The sky was clear and black but the distant worlds were no more. There was only darkness with a crooked slice of the moon up in the corner, hanging in a sea of endless ether, the diorama of time playing out below.

When both hands of the clock reached twelve the boy’s silhouette approached, “Something terrible. We must go. No time to stay. It’s midnight”, he said. I wanted to ask him what he meant but he skipped off quickly into the darkness and vanished.

I followed in his direction in hopes to find him. I’m not sure why. I suppose the thought of him playing in the park so late at night was peculiar, yet somehow it all seemed fitting.

I attempted to leave the park but all paths led round about and returned to the place I’d found myself. The wind picked up and blew the trees, shaking the leaves to the ground. I was thinking about how to come right-side out again when there was a terrible scream from an animal.

Tired and hungry, with nowhere to go, I laid on the slide and took some shut eye. There I dreamed a dream, a frightening dream. With spaghetti-o faces mixed in sour cream. The face swirled round and round, the mouth in two, then upside down, like me and you. A claw reached up, and pulled it through, flowers sprouted on the sides, then split in two. The red of the soup painted pink blossoms anew, the surface sullen, the depths drowning true. The fragrance of life. The stench of death. For this the time had stopped. The preying mantis upside-down had taken his last breath.

I’m sure it would have continued had something not slid into my headーthe boy slapped his hands onto my cheeks, “I found him!” he yelled.

He’d found me, alright. I laid there and didn’t move and tried to fall back asleep but couldn’t; there was an eery and faint swirling sound in the distance that was subtle to the point you’d think it wasn’t there, but knowing you heard it there was no denying it was.

The boy crawled over me face first and down to the ground, “Let’s go. He’s gone now. He won’t trouble us anymore. I plucked all the weeds”. When I stood up he grabbed my hand. I tried to lead but he pulled in another direction, “No, this way. We hafta go this way”.

He led me up a hill to a gravestone that was planted beneath an old dead tree with no leaves: its branches reaching up into the nothingness above. There was a worn top hat perched on it and black tuxedo wrapped around it.

The boy laughed giddily and pulled on my arm, then began jumping up and downー”The pants are in the coffin below but we can’t see them”

Advertisements

The Long Sleeves

I could feel the day wearing thin. Haze was lingering around the buildings and hovering at about eye level. Fascination was everywhere, lighting up the street, along the alleyways, and back through my footsteps to where I once was.

The last time I passed the old wooden bridge on Turnlanders Street it was almost dusk and the sun was sinking down into the clouds. The sky was painted a deep red, and felt rather ordinary, like any other that had previously slipped by unnoticed.

I remember it so clearly because there was a long sleeve light yellow shirt, with navy blue trim around the edges, hanging off the guard rail. I didn’t think much of it when I originally passed it, yet I couldn’t get it out of my mind from thereafter. It just hung there like a memory, without fading out, pulling me back to it, like an unrelenting force, yet being nothing but merely cloth, hanging off a bridge.

I eventually turned back, amidst the twilight, retracing my tracks, down the long curving streets which stretched on for seemingly ever, and returned to the bridge.

To my dismay the shirt was gone. I looked up at the moon waning fully over the crooked, elongated, pointy rooftops. Smoke was rising from one and making the starry backdrop invisible, and seem like it was no longer there, nor anywhere. It reminded me of a crow’s mouth, pointing up, about to indulge itself in the sky, or perhaps engulf itself all over the sky.

I took a deep breath and almost swallowed myself, peering down into the darkness below. There were patches of deep green, dark blue, shadows drawn from the lampposts, all casting outlines. There was something else too, though I wasn’t fully conscious of it’s existence until some time later.

Without really thinking I went down into the field below in hopes of finding the long sleeves. When I was almost there I must have tumbled or something, because I woke up where the river bed once was, with something wet running down my face.

My head hurt and I could hear people’s voices talking above. The liquid tasted bitter ‘n salty, and somehow had a strange feeling of suddeness, as if something were certain to happen, or have happened. Everything around me was covered in a thick translucent fog, though I wasn’t sure it was even there at all.

I looked up again and could only see the lampposts above, silhouettes of the people passing by on the streets, continuing on their way. They were like shadows cast upon the open night sky, veering off to everywhere.

Moments later I remembered why I was there and began looking around. It was to no avail. It was nowhere in sight. I felt around in the grass and came across dirt, stones, and weeds, but there were no clothes to be found.

I gave up after about thirty minutes and started walking along the path: the dried up riverbed. Feeling dizzy as I was, I wished not to climb up the steep cliffs to the bridge. In hindsight, I’m not sure I could have. It went on for hours and hours without the banks receding at all. It was if it went on forever, enclosing everything in it’s path.

There was no escape in this sullen land. I was Malice in Neverland: only blood dripping hearts and spiraling spades, cutting up into the diamonds and ripping off the clubs. Somehow I was becoming someone else with only the slightest awareness that I was.

The fog grew thicker and thicker as I went deeper and deeper into the night. I was about to give in and climb the walls when I came to a dead end: a concrete wall covered in graffiti, with a pond at it’s baseー it was so small it was almost a puddle.

In the center of it a piece of clothing lay floating around, kinda dead, almost not moving at all, like it wasn’t even really there. It turned out not to be the one I was after. It was similar but had chocolate stains, or some purpose, all over it. I left it as it was and climbed an old wooden ladder that was perched against the wall.

I emerged to a trail in a dark forest, trees all around, stretching up into the sky. I followed it along to an old wooden house lit by candle light on the outside.

A couple knocks later an old man with a beard hesitantly opened the door a crack and peeked out, “Yes? What do call for so late at night?”.

When I asked for directions he recommended me to a hospital and asked that I wait a moment. Shortly after he reappeared, handed me a map, and then sealed up the crack without a word. The door closed.

I trudged along for some time, feeling faint, stopping to rest several times, before finally arriving at the red X that he’d marked on the map. The place had an uncanny institutional appearance to it, new age windows, crumbling grey stone walls, and a prickly elongated rooftop, much like the crows mouth I’d seen near the bridge years earlier. Only here there were many, rather than just one, resembling baby crows, gouging at the sky, with their mouths.

I went in the automatic sliding doors, took a paper number in the waiting room, and then went to the bathroom to clean up. Upon looking in the mirror I noticed something: to my disarray and utter confusion I was wearing the long sleeve light yellow shirt with blue trim around the edges– only it now had blood stains all over it.

I’d been so busy chasing it that it was all over me, without my knowing it. In fact, I was not standing in a hospital at all. I’d just thought it was because that’s where the map had led to.

I heard a dripping sound and looked upーabove was a sky of swirling, melting, purple smoke, no stars, just.. *Poof*

And then I awoke.

The Empty Room

Flipping the lights I entered the room and felt the fuzzy carpet rub against me, the walls sucking and breathing around and within me. In the corner stood a mirror with curtains drawn over it, light pink trim twisting atop it.

Frightened and aroused I was on the verge of falling into a dream, when suddenly the wall reached out and touched me, turning my attention from the image before me. When I turned back it was gone. The mirror was now no more. Merely a shadow hung before me on an empty street with fog creeping in.

The Death of the Yellow Bird

The image of them having sex suddenly popped into my mind and played over and over, ribbons spinning to the ground, panties shooting up into the air, when suddenly a yellow bird smacked into the window and shot right through it. It cut out the shape of a bird, perfect to a T. If you were to draw a bird on a piece of paper it would have looked exactly like that. What’s even more peculiar is the glass that fell onto the ground: it too was the shape of a bird.

Trav looked at me, “Weird, I would have guessed that it would have hit the window and fallen to the ground. Usually this kind of thing only happens in stories.”.

Strangely enough I had sometimes gotten the feeling that we were being written, yet being locked inside the world we’re in, there’s no way to prove the existence of an Author one way or another.

It would be an awful thing to realize that you were a character, now wouldn’t it? I mean, for my mind not to be my own is almost absurd. Though, there’s no way of proving it one way or another.

Trav laughed, “There’s no way of proving anything. How do you know that I’m not the Author, dressed up as a fish, secretly masquerading as the form before your very eyes. I’m pretty sure that I am. Believe me, I know all that is and will strike you down should you find your own mind and not agree with my opinions. To tell you the truth, I can’t understand why the Author would want to control anything”.

I picked up the bird shaped glass and tossed it into the trash, “What are you doing!?”, he said, “Let me have it. It must be a sign. There must be some meaning to this bird. I can feel it. I don’t feel like I’m just swindling myself into believing something either. We should put a string through it and hang it on the toilet. Actually, on second thought, I hate it” he said, and then tossed it into the garbage, smashing it into a million pieces.

I went to the back door and opened it in hopes to let the yellow bird out. It flew around for several minutes, smacking into the walls, and then the glass, and then the back of the tv before it was finally electrocuted and dropped dead to the ground.

Trav was freaking out by this point about the hole in his window, “Fuck! My window is fucking broken now. This fucking sucks!”

I reminded him, “You don’t even live here anymore, what do you care?”

He smiled, “Yeah, that’s true. I forgot. I guess it’s your problem now”.

The Dial Tone

When I picked up the phone all I could hear was a dial tone. I said hello several times but there was no reply. Wondering why I was talking to a dial tone, I hung up and thought about why I’d picked up the phone in the first place. It hadn’t rung, yet for some reason I was still holding it. I hung it up again and went to the kitchen for a drink of water to clear my mind.

The water had a funny metallic taste to it. I’m sure it had always been like that, only I hadn’t noticed until now. Thoughts have a tendency to do thatーmost ideas will linger by unnoticed to the sleeping observer, but if you’re watching wide eyed, things appear that weren’t there before.

I hadn’t finished my drink when something smacked into the window. By the time I looked over it was pasted on the glass and slowly sliding down to the floor. It was a big crow. “Funny”, I thought. “No blood”. It was dead on the balcony and wasn’t twitching at all, but it was making a fizzling sound and there was a wire sticking out its foot.

It wasn’t a bird at all, at least not in living sense. It looked to perhaps be a surveillance apparatus of some sorts. I wasn’t sure so I had an expert dissect it and it turned out to be just that, with cameras in its eyes, memory in its brain, and lots of small wires and circuits in its belly.

Some time later I awoke to the sound of tree branches scratching on the windows. My apartment is on the 26th floor, so it was impossible to say the least. I slowly reached for the phone and then stopped myself. Who was I going to call? The Ghostbusters?

My oh my, the false sense of security a phone brings. If anything terrible truly happens, the chance of a phone being useful or even within reach at the time is quite slim. I listened to the empty dial tone for a moment and thought about throwing the phone on the floor. I never did and as I hung it up noticed a crow perched on the windowsill cawing.

I watched it for a moment before it noticed me, its hair standing on end, half its beak falling off and onto the floor. With that it flew into the house and gripped its feet onto the tv. I swatted at it with the first thing I could findーan umbrella. I chased it all around hitting the walls and screaming like a crazy old bag out of her tree. I myself was only 24 at the time.

It felt like it had been days by the time I finally connected and blood squirted all over the walls. The bird swayed from side to side for a moment, dropped its head down, and fell to the ground in a spin. I was sick at the thought and lost consciousness. When I awoke the bird was gone and there were no blood stains, just a broken umbrella and scratched walls, the sun hanging in the morning sky, red stained out the window, a bird’s mouth on the floor.

The Door and the Light

The door slowly opened with a creak and a shadow slipped out into the light. The night light on the wall flickered several times before falling off onto the floor. Even without electricity it stayed on, battery powered, wiggling around the floor like a worm.

The shadow enveloped it and wrapped itself around it, until the light ceased and forever faded into eternity. The shadow disappeared at that same moment. The door remained open with no lights nor shadows in it’s world. How sad the door would have been had it had feelings.