by Eric J. Krause
Teddy lifted one strand of barbed wire high enough for Cal to scoot through unscathed. They'd thought earlier the full moon would hinder them by illuminating their shenanigans, but the bright light had thus far proved to be their ally in sneaking onto the Johnstone farm.
Cal pointed at the paint cans and brushes. "Pass those over, and then I'll help you through." Teddy complied, and less than a minute later they headed towards the main barn.
"This'll teach his ass," Cal muttered under his breath.
Teddy nodded but said nothing. Cal hadn't explained how Farmer Johnstone had messed with him. But if Cal said the farmer was in the wrong, that was good enough for Teddy.
"There's the barn. Think of good cuss words to paint on the side."
Teddy frowned. "Cuss words? I thought we were just going to give it a crappy paint job."
"Yeah, that'd show him. Let's do his chores. The paint job on there now is so piss-poor, I don't think it's possible to make it worse."
Teddy's retort died in his throat. The scarecrow was looking at him. But that wasn't the weird part. Its eyes glowed ruby red. And they followed him.
"What the hell's up with that scarecrow?"
Cal looked over at it. "What? It's a scarecrow. Now you're afraid of scarecrows and cuss words?"
Teddy felt himself blush. "No, no. It just . . ." What? Looked at him? He glanced back and saw it was nothing but a crude, lifeless face. "Never mind."
Teddy thought he heard Cal mutter that he should have brought Dean instead. He gritted his teeth and promised himself he wouldn't disappoint Cal.
"Alright. You got some good words?"
Teddy nodded and tried to catch his breath. He was nervous, but not as much as this warranted. It felt like he'd just run the mile in PE. He glanced back and saw the scarecrow staring at him again, its glowing eyes back.
Teddy wanted Cal to look at the scarecrow to tell him he wasn't crazy, but he caught himself. He didn't want Cal to start hanging out with other people because he was a chicken.
"Uh, what if we just did one cuss word per wall. I mean, we'll write it a bunch of times, but each one will have a cuss word theme."
Cal thought for a second, then smiled. "See? This is why I brought you. That's brilliant."
Teddy could only nod. His whole body felt like it was being pushed to the ground. He looked up at the moon. Did it look bigger than normal tonight?
No, the moon wasn't the problem. The scarecrow . . .
Teddy looked back at it and had to stifle a scream. Its face. It was . . . different. He shook his head. Wasn't its mouth straight across before? A piece of string? Now it looked almost real.
"Come on, bro, we need to finish before we get caught." Cal was already painting "shit" over and over on one wall. "Either help me or pick a different wall to start on."
Teddy decided to head around the corner to get away from the scarecrow. Neither his feet nor the paint can wanted to lift up. He glanced over his shoulder and tripped, spilling the paint.
"Dude! Watch it! Now we won't have enough."
He opened his mouth to apologize, but couldn't. The scarecrow. It moved. It couldn't be the wind, as there wasn't so much as a breeze. No, it'd shifted on its own.
"It's moving, Cal, it's moving!"
Cal dropped his paintbrush. "What? Old man Johnstone? Crap! Grab your stuff and book." He grabbed his paint can, shoved the brush in, and took off the way they came.
Teddy watched him go. He wanted to follow, but couldn't move. He couldn't even scream. He found that out as the scarecrow stumbled towards him, the hay and leaved stuffed inside shuffling about.
It reached him and smiled. How had he ever viewed its face as anything other than real? The odor emanating from it, though a pleasant harvest blend on the surface, had a decay underneath that had nothing to do with nature. It reached out and brushed his cheek with an outstretched finger. It felt like a mix between a dried-out leaf and a squished slug. If he had any control of his muscles, he'd have retched and spilled his dinner down with the paint.
"Your turn," it said in a barely audible whisper.
It pushed its palm onto his forehead, and the world blinked. When everything reappeared, he found himself standing in the middle of the Johnstone field. At least he thought he was standing. He couldn't feel anything at all.
After a few minutes of trying, he flopped his head around, though he wished he hadn't. Not only was he wearing the scarecrow's clothes, complete with hay and leaves, but someone who looked exactly like him was hightailing it out of the field.