Bought to you by Sara C. Snider. For more spooky contents follow to the link and see who else is taking part.
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The Circle Master
There is a scarecrow in the field by the barrow. It has been there as long as the oldest villager can remember, and it never seems to change. Always with the same squashed top hat and tattered tailcoat it guards the crops throughout the year. From when the seed is planted in the cold dark earth, through the spring, growing to the full yellow wheat and until there is nothing left but broken stalks. The crops grown in this field are always the best that they can be; a golden grain that can be ground down to the finest wheat. Wheat that will make soft warm bread with a dark brown crust that smells of home when it leaves the oven.
The children come, sometimes running, along the over grown footpath to stare at the distant figure in the field. They call him Jack and claim he is the servant of a witch who has been enchanted and hung on his frame as punishment. None of them ever go into the field. If it is summer the brave ones will reach a hand under the fence to break an ear from the field’s very edge where the scarlet poppies mingle with the wheat. They’ll chew it carefully, almost reverently, watching the scarecrow because they are sure that it is not always where it should be. Of course it’s feasible that the farmer moves it from one day to the next, to confuse noisy crows and curious children, but as they walk away they are sure the figure flickers in the corner of their eyes, and no matter how quickly they turn it is always still and dead hanging with its arms stuck out.
For the most part that is how the year passes: turning slowly from dark to light and back into dark again. Ramblers pass by, families with bags of cheese sandwiches, and occasionally the pagans creeping down in the twilight to the barrow and walking back in the dark. They point at Jack, but their attention wanders over the rest of the valley and Jack is happy to wait in the field. Happy for them to stay away because after all that is the job of a scarecrow; to protect the crop until it has reached its zenith.
Once a year when the nights are growing longer, darker, when the veil is thinning then someone will amble down to Jack’s empty field. Perhaps they want to take the fresh air, to visit the barrow in the quiet evening or perhaps they aren’t sure why they are there at all. They’ll stop to rest their arms on the fence and stare at the only other figure for miles around. Out in the night an owl will hoot, a fox will bark and when the visitor looks back to the field they’ll swear that the Scarecrow seems closer than it had. Even though they know that in the failing light it’s easy to confuse what you think you see with what is. They’ll climb over the stile that may or may not have been there before and their boots will crunch over the dead stalks of this year’s harvest. Up close you can see Jack’s smile: crooked big stitches that slide over his canvass face. His eyes are wonky, but they still stare straight at you. Almost as though he is trying to tell you something about the way time moves in spirals, the importance of blood or just maybe that he is sorry. He smells of old straw and must, which is out of place in the cool shifting of the air. The visitor will turn away to let their vision slide over to the distant hills, and that’s when Jack moves faster then a breath leaving a body. The next day the farmer will wake up and without really knowing why will decide that today is the day he needs to sew next years seeds in the field down by the barrow, and the cycle begins again.