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The entire nightmare culminated on an unusually cool night in August.  That was the night the scarecrow got his revenge on Uncle Nash.  I didn’t understand what was going on until after that night.  You see, I thought the scarecrow was after me.  Aunt Leda caught me one day after Uncle Nash’s death standing in the burnt spot where the scarecrow used to stand just gazing at the house.  It freaked her out pretty bad because she knew my preoccupation with the scarecrow. She didn’t believe that it was the scarecrow that killed Uncle Nash and thought I was crazy for talking about such things.  I guess she thought that I was really crazy standing there after the scarecrow was gone.  I can’t blame her, but I wasn’t crazy.  I was just on the verge of figuring the whole thing out.  All I was doing was trying to see the house from the scarecrow’s vantage in order to determine whether or not he could see inside the house.  When I realized that he couldn’t see inside the house that’s when I knew that he hadn’t been after me.  I was scared for my life and didn’t even think that it was Uncle Nash he was after all along.

I guess I should start from the beginning in order to give you the whole story.  You probably agree with Aunt Leda and think I’m talking a bunch of nonsense.  The first thing I need to tell you is how I came to live with my aunt and uncle way out here in the middle of Indiana.  My mother died when I was just a little baby so I never even knew her.  She got real sick when I was about to turn a year old and the illness killed her.  My dad tried to raise me the best he could but he had a hard time.  He traveled a lot with his job and was always leaving me with this or that person.  I didn’t have a very stable parental figure in my life those first several years.  Finally, my mom’s oldest sister Leda offered to take me in.  Dad used to come by and visit pretty regular but as the years went by I saw less and less of him.  Sometimes it makes me mad but he and I never really saw eye to eye on much anyway.

I remember the day Uncle Nash built the scarecrow.  I watched in fascination as he fabricated the creature right in front of my very eyes.  I helped where I could but he did most of the work.  He started with an old pair of coveralls and an old flannel shirt.  We stuffed the hay and patted, bent, and kneaded the straw until the body was the shape he wanted.  Then he took a ratty pair of boots and attached the feet.  Next he gave his creation hands in the form of old gardening gloves.  He took an old burlap bag and made the head.  The first thing he did was cut out two eyeholes, then he drew on the nose and mouth, and finally, he stuffed more hay into the bag.  The first time I beheld the face I thought it looked odd.  Not odd in a scary way because the expression looked like a happy expression.  It was weird in a lot of ways.  It didn’t look real, yet it didn’t look fake, either – almost like it was both alive and dead at the same time.  I can’t really describe it any other way.  But it did look happy at first.

Uncle Nash attached the scarecrow to a cross with its arms outstretched and then we hauled it out of the barn and stood it up in the spot I told you about earlier.  My bedroom was on the first floor of the house and I could look right out of my bedroom window at the scarecrow.  It was about 50 or 60 yards across the lawn and just inside the cornfield but that was plenty close enough for me to see it staring in my window.  At least I thought it could see in my window.

Uncle Nash and I stood back from the newly erected scarecrow and admired his creation.  “Billy, it needs one more thing to make it complete,” he said to me after a moment.

“What’s that, Uncle Nash?”

“A hat.  Run to the barn and fetch me that old straw hat hanging by Trixie’s stall,” he instructed.  Trixie was one of our milk cows.  I hurried off and returned with the straw hat in a matter of seconds and he hoisted me up so that I could place the hat on its head.  While I was up there my face was just a few inches from the scarecrow’s face and that’s when I saw something strange in the scarecrow’s eyes.  Something I can only describe as sadness.  When Uncle Nash lowered me down and I was able to behold the final product I noticed the entire expression had changed.  It no longer looked like the smiling, happy face in the barn.  Now it had drooped a bit and taken on a horrible look of anger.  It made me feel very uncomfortable.

I had drapes on my window, thank God.  I never used to close them until after Uncle Nash put the scarecrow up.  The first few nights weren’t too bad and I didn’t really even pay much attention to the scarecrow.  There were a couple of times that I happened to look out the window and see him there at the edge of the corn.  I didn’t look long because I felt my skin crawl.  It was like he was staring at me.

It was probably on the fourth or fifth night that I looked out the window and thought I saw him move.  At least, that was my first impression; and you know what they say about first impressions.  But, then I just told myself it was the wind that did it.  Well, the next night I couldn’t resist watching him again.  I hid behind the drapes and peeked out because I felt for sure he wouldn’t move if he knew I was watching him.  It wasn’t long before I saw him moving his arms; and there was no mistaking that it wasn’t the wind because the corn was as still as a rock.  Boy, did I ever have a tough time trying to go to sleep that night.

It was the next day that we found the first dead crow.  I was following Uncle Nash and he happened to walk right near the scarecrow.  I didn’t like walking that close to the thing but as long as Uncle Nash was with me I did it.  He would’ve thought me a pansy if he new I was scared of his scarecrow.  Anyway, we were walking by it and I was making an effort to keep my eyes away from its face.  That’s when I saw the mutilated crow.  I pointed it out to Uncle Nash and he knelt down to take a closer look.  Its wings and head had been ripped clean off of its body.  Uncle Nash grunted in confusion and mumbled something about a wildcat in the cornfield then we left.  But the strange thing is that I saw Uncle Nash glance back at the scarecrow.

That wasn’t the only crow we found torn apart like that.  After that we started finding them all over the place.  At first they were always close to the scarecrow but one day I walked upon one a good hundred yards or so from the scarecrow.  I froze stiff as a board and stared at it thinking of the implications of what I was seeing.

Then one night I peeked out the window and saw the scarecrow’s cross was empty.  It took a second for my brain to register what I was seeing but then I saw a boot disappearing into the corn and I screamed.  It scared me so bad I went running to Uncle Nash and Aunt Leda and told them about how scared I was of the scarecrow and how I thought he was alive.  Of course they thought I was a certified loon.  Uncle Nash was a stern man and he wouldn’t entertain any non-sense at all.  He was going to make me go back to bed but thankfully Aunt Leda intervened.  After that I was allowed to sleep in their room on the floor whenever I got too scared, which was pretty much every night.

I should mention that I never went to church until I moved in with Aunt Leda and Uncle Nash.  Since living with them I had started going with them to Sunday School like clockwork.  It was a ritual that I enjoyed quite a bit because I love good stories and we always came home to the best meal of the week.  I mean, I loved Aunt Leda’s cooking all the time, but on Sunday she put a little extra effort into her cooking.  Anyway, it was the stories I had heard at Sunday School that affected me most about the making of the scarecrow.

While we were making the scarecrow I kept thinking about God making Adam.  I know that the Bible says God blew into a bunch of dust but seeing Uncle Nash building a straw man made me think about it all the same.  It was like Uncle Nash was creating new life.  That’s why the scarecrow looked happy.  But then, when we built the wood cross and mounted the scarecrow on it I began to think of Jesus and how he was crucified.  And that’s why the scarecrow looked sad.

Now I’ve finally figured it all out and I realize that the reason he was angry and wanted revenge on his creator was because he was crucified so soon after being born.  It’s like he was enslaved the moment he was born.  Stuck up on that pole unable to do anything but watch and plot.

Keep in mind that I hadn’t figured all this out at the time.  I was just plain scared of the thing without really being able to explain why.

Aunt Leda’s sister, my Aunt Peggy, lived in Cincinnati and she came down with a real bad illness.  Aunt Leda volunteered to go and help her out for several days.  I begged her to take me but she wouldn’t let me.  I had to go to school and help Uncle Nash with chores.  Well, as I said, Uncle Nash wouldn’t put up with any craziness like being scared of scarecrows and sleeping on the floor at the foot of their bed so I had to return to my room.

The next few nights I didn’t sleep very well at all.  It was all I could do to keep from running upstairs to Uncle Nash.  Then, on the third night after Aunt Leda left was when everything came to a head.  That’s the night the scarecrow killed Uncle Nash.  I was lying in bed with the light on trying my best to keep my mind off of the scarecrow.  I remember I was reading a comic book.  It was probably about 11:30 or so when I suddenly heard a noise outside.  I’m telling you my heart sunk and a chill spread over my whole body.

I figured that I could either sit and be scared or I could peek out the window just to be sure that there was nothing there.  Slowly I crept to the side of the window and peeked around the edge of the drape.  And there was the scarecrow with his face pressed right up to the glass searching the room with his vacant eyes.  I jumped back and screamed as loud as I could.  My mind was yelling at me to run but I was frozen solid.  The scarecrow disappeared from the window just moments before Uncle Nash burst into the room.  I was crying a flood and trying to explain to him what had happened but he would have none of it.  He took a look out of the window, closed the drapes, and said, “The scarecrow is right where he’s always been out in the cornfield.  Now I want you to quit talking this childish nonsense about that darn scarecrow and go to bed.  It’s late and you gotta get up and go to school tomorrow.”

He turned and left and I thought to myself that he had been lying.  The only way to see the cornfield was to turn my bedroom light off so I knew that he didn’t see the scarecrow when he looked outside.  After Uncle Nash left my room I shut the door and locked it.  Then I climbed in the corner of my closet and hid trying the best I could not to cry too loud.  It was about ten or fifteen minutes later when I heard Uncle Nash scream.  I didn’t move, though.  I was in too big of a shock to do anything but sit and rock and try to keep my whimpering as quiet as possible as I waited for the scarecrow to arrive.

The next morning I was roused from my torpor by a policeman breaking down my door.  Everything was a flurry of faces and questions.  I remember telling the authorities about the scarecrow and asking about Uncle Nash.  Of course they thought I was delusional and that I was making up the story to compensate somehow from the shock of discovering my Uncle Nash’s lifeless body in his bed and having to spend the night alone with his corpse.  Then, the next thing I remember was being in Uncle Nash’s room with a whole bunch of people.  Uncle Nash was lying on the bed with a physician over him.  I could see his eyes staring dead and vacant at the ceiling.  His old, wrinkled face was frozen into an openmouthed look of horror.

The doctor announced to no one in particular that it appeared he had died of a heart attack but I knew that he had really died of fright.  That’s when my eyes came to rest on the straw on the floor and I knew that it was the scarecrow.  I retreated from the room unbeknownst to all of the officials.  There was only one thing for me to do – destroy the scarecrow.

I went directly to the barn and retrieved a can of gasoline and matches then proceeded to march out to the cornfield.  I had to work fast because if the police discovered that I was missing from the house they would stop me.  I half expected the scarecrow to be gone never to return, but as I crossed the yard I could see him upon his cross.  My steps slowed and a wave of apprehension spread through me.  The fear rose in me making my hands shake so bad that I nearly dropped the gas can.  I thought about Uncle Nash’s face frozen in that final scream I had heard echoing in my mind all night and his eyes now vacuous like a dead fish’s eyes.

Tears began to stream down my face but thinking of the scarecrow killing Uncle Nash succeeded in replacing the fear with anger.  I unscrewed the cap and as soon as I arrived before the scarecrow I began splashing the gas onto him.  I looked into his face and I saw that now his expression was one of evil satisfaction.  A devilish and hateful grin mockingly jeered at me, for he had finally completed his hell-spawned mission of killing Uncle Nash.  

As I circled him splashing as much gasoline onto the ratty coveralls as I could his head turned to watch me.  Then his arms began to move as he worked at disengaging himself from the cross.  I made a trail of gasoline from him across the dirt and once the can was empty I dropped it and stepped back.  He had nearly freed himself by the time I pulled the box of matches from my pocket.  I kept glancing from the matches to the scarecrow trying to hurry and get a match out of the box.  He was freeing his legs.  I struck a match and dropped it but nothing happened.  The match had gone out.  The scarecrow dropped from the cross.  I struck a second match cupping my hands around it as I lowered it to the ground. Then there was a resounding whoof as the gas erupted in flames and raced across the dirt.  The scarecrow was advancing towards me.  He looked at the fire not comprehending what it meant until it was too late.

The scarecrow burst into a roaring conflagration.  The flames caught on the dry hay that was his body and threw up great licking flames along the cross.  I stood and watched in amazement, oblivious to anything else.  I took great pleasure in seeing the scarecrow thrash about in pain.  It was screaming a high-pitched whine that didn’t belong to any creature I had ever heard.

Finally, it fell to all fours and tried to crawl towards me.  I just stared at its blackened face and backed away slowly.  Then it fell to the ground and tried to make one last effort to reach out a hand towards me.  Then, it died.

I kept staring at the burning remains of the scarecrow until a voice of one of the policemen broke my attention.  I looked up to behold a sight stranger than anything I dared imagine.  In a circle about the scarecrow, the cross, and myself – filling every available inch of the cornstalks – were thousands of crows watching the scarecrow burn in perfect silence.

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