Saturday, April 2, 2011

"The Scarecrow"

The first time Hank Harding saw them was the day of his wife's funeral. He had lowered her into the ground, wiped the dirt from his hands, and drove back to their farm with an incomparable sadness. But when he stopped the car in front of the small house, he saw a figure, tall and dark, amid the rows of wheat.

He turned off the car and quickly got out. Someone was in his field! The field him and his wife had labored over season after season! He was beyond mad. He walked into the wheat field, his fists clenched tightly.

The man stood arms outstretched in the middle of a clearing. Hank looked at him. Something was wrong. The man wasn't a man. His body seemed to be made feathers.

Hank stepped closer and suddenly the man exploded outward in a storm of birds. He ducked as the birds flew overhead and when they finally vanished behind him, Hank looked back and saw that the birds had completely covered the one lonely scarecrow his wife had planted years before.

The unusual bird behavior didn't worry Hank. When his rage subsided, he was left only with sorrow.

The days passed and every so often, Hank would look outside his window and see the scarecrow covered in the mass of birds, looking more like a man than the scarecrow ever did.

One day, after drinking himself to sleep, he awoke to the sound of clattering. Specifically, the clattering of typewriter keys. He rushed into their study, where his wife had kept their old Remington typewriter and there it was. Sitting on the desk. And one bird, what looked like a rook, pecking at the keys.

"Shoo!" he said and waved his arms. The rook seemed to look at him and then flapped its wings and flew through the window (though Hank could have sworn he shut that window).

He stepped over to the typewriter and saw that there was one sheet of paper in it. And typed on that paper were these words:
we are the convocation
we are many

He wondered if the bird had typed that for a moment, then dismissed it as nonsense. It must have been something his wife had typed, some story she was working on. She had always been telling him crazy stories, maybe she had decided to write one of them down. He would never know now.

He put the typewriter away and got out another bottle of scotch.

The next time he woke up, he heard the clattering of the typewriter again. He rushed into the study and observed three birds, instead of the previous one. Two of them were pecking at the keys, while one was turned to look at him. The one looking at his squawked and the other two stopped their pecking, then all three flew out the window.

Hank stepped forward gingerly. How had they brought the typewriter out? He knew he put it away, but here it was, another piece of paper inside. More words:

out talons can tear through bone
our beaks can wear down mountains
our wings can cover the skies

He looked at it for a long time, then crumpled it and threw it away.

The next day, there was another note:

we are the roc we are the ziz
we are the angha we are the anzu

And the next day, another note:

we are the relentless motion of wind
we are the fury of air
we are many

Hank took another drink as he crumpled this latest note up and threw it on the floor. He looked at the typewriter with unease. He should destroy it. Smash it up. Tear out all the keys and melt them down. But he just couldn't bring himself to do it.

He wondered why the birds were doing this to him. Why were tormenting him like this? He had never gone out of his way to hunt ducks or shoot pheasants.

He stumbled into the bathroom and took another drink of whiskey. Then he looked into the mirror and saw himself. His eyes were sunken and his skin looked leathery. His clothes were dirty and old and he had slept in them for days. He was so thin now, too. It was his wife that had reminded him to eat.

He knew why now. He looked like a scarecrow.

He walked outside, dropping the bottle on the ground. He walked through the field of wheat. As he came to the clearing, he spread out his arms and he waited. He waited to be covered by the birds.

A swath of blackness spread across the sky and Hank smiled.

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