Homeward Bound

The scarecrow feeds me its black eyes. Yellow stalks of teeth gnash through the tendons in my neck. Curled bones grip my shoulders as I thrash in attempted escape. Purple pulp squirts from my veins and runs down the straw chin of my assailant.

Let me back up. To the day before the dawn. To the beginning of this nightmare.

I was walking home from League City Middle School, a shithole of a single building stuck in the cow pastures of southeast Texas. Slick mud and cow shit marked my trail.

It was 4 p.m. on a wet November day. The sun threatened to disappear behind a thick mist. My thin, tattered jacket did nothing to protect me from the cold. I buried my head into my collar and daydreamed of sunny days at the beach with my family, my dad next to me, extending an olive branch for his perpetual absence in my life. We were together on this beach and it’s what I’ve always wanted from this miserable teenaged boy’s life. But so far, it’s been nothing but loneliness and acne.

My daydream was broken up by a giant squish and then the suctional pop of my shoe as it plunged into a wet cow turd. I lost my balance as my shoe popped off and my sock soaked deep into the earth, my foot wet and my mind bitter. I screamed toward the sky for my bad fortune and wished to be struck dead by lightning. I retrieved my shoe and slipped it back onto my soggy foot and then stomped away, head down and fuming.

I must have daydreamed longer than I thought, because when I looked up from my misery, I was no longer on the trail. I’d wondered through a broken barbed wire fence and into a large pasture. I was about to turn back to the trail when I noticed the most peculiar thing: a scarecrow. We don’t have scarecrows in southeast Texas. There aren’t any cornfields here. Just fat, lazy cows. I needed to investigate this, no matter the weather or time or my ill temper.

The scarecrow was partially hidden by a large oak tree, its branches snaking out from the squat trunk like tentacles. I approached it cautiously, jumping at the squawk of a crow standing guard atop a wooden fencepost near the tree. It flew off when I approached, large black wings shepherding in a death I could not foresee.

The scarecrow was propped up by a large wooden post with rusted barbed wire wrapped around its emaciated body. Its eyes were sunken black holes and its skin a tattered and dried straw stuffed burlap sack. Its mouth was a gaping, miserable looking maw and I imagined a silent and eternal scream escaping this monstrosity. I took a step back, intending to flee this cursed place, when I tripped over a root and fell promptly to the ground, striking my head hard against the earth. Blackness.

When I awoke, head pounding, my body felt chilled, as if I’d been outside for hours. I scanned the sky, with only my right eye, as my left was swollen shut, and noticed the sunlight was breaking over the eastern sky. Dawn. Indeed, I must have been out cold all night. I wondered if my family would have missed me and called for a search party.

I felt a sharp pain in my left arm and grabbed it, expecting a broken bone. What I found was much worse. The scarecrow was next to me, gnawing at my elbow, its hands a horrifying yellowish bone. How I hadn’t noticed it before I can only imagine was due to the injury to my head and my left eye swollen shut, for now I could see it clearly and as it feasted on my body.

And that brings us to the present moment, the black eyes of the scarecrow gleefully pulling me in, the yellow stalks of sharp teeth sinking into my skin, the blood from my body forever running. My final wish, my final daydream, is again that of a perfect summer day at the beach, surrounded by my family, father next to me, holding me, keeping me safe.

Nobody comes running when I scream my final scream into the blood red morning.