The old man's farm nearby had scarecrows. Usually six feet tall held by a large wooden frame plunged into the ground. It wore a shabby long sleeved shirt, and its tan sunhat was big enough to cover its stuffed burlap head. Or at least that's what it looked like. Multiple of them guarded his area. The old man would typically come out when the sun was rising and again much later when it was pitch-black outside.
Out of the countryside was a little town, warm and friendly, and the people visited here every once in a while, often in the summer. Because of that, we always had leftover crops from our farm and we would kindly hand it out to them; resulting in ten pumpkins, twenty potatoes, a basket full of berries, and much more. I lived with my grandpa during summer break when my parents would go on vacations by themselves. I didn't really mind as I and Grandpa had a great bond.
Along with the townspeople visiting us, there were also kids playing around in the field. Sometimes we'd gather up, go out into the forest and build a little campfire where we told folklore stories. Despite me being quiet and not very social, it was generally a fun time.
One thing Grandpa would tell me, repeating over and over until I could recite it in my sleep – was to never go to the old man's house.
Every summer, at least one police man would visit our farm and ask if any suspicious activity was noticed. We had no clue, but apparently one kid would go missing every year on a visit. A pattern was created here – it seemed the ones who were a bit too curious and went to the old man would go missing. Gone. Never to be seen again.
Typically Grandpa would wake me up at around five A.M, but today was different as he went to the town to sell some of our crops. I was ordered to stay in the house and attend farmer activities; harvest, trim any dead leaves, water them, and plant more seeds if necessary. It was expected that he'd be home around dinnertime.
The sky grayed up, and the rain trickled down our windows. It was peaceful and calming as I read my book in the rocking chair, where Grandpa often liked to sit at. Something then caught my eye out of the window. A little girl wearing a yellow dress, casually walking around our area. She looked to be about six years younger than me.
“Hmm,” I thought, “probably just a visitor.”
The little girl stood there, moving her head towards all kinds of directions. I finally wore my rain boots and walked out of the house. Maybe she was lost.
“Hi,” I greeted. “It's getting late and you're standing out in the rain. Do you want me to walk you to the nearby town?”
The naïve girl stared at me with her big, doll-like eyes. She shook her head no.
“Well, do you want to come inside?” I suggested. The girl kept staring at me, not really giving any sort of expression. I looked down to see her not wearing any shoes. “Jeez, who let her out here?” I thought.
While I kept trying to figure out what to do, the little girl playfully ran towards the farm. The old man's farm.
“Hey! You're not supposed to go there!”
I ran as fast as I could, but the little girl was as swift as a cat running away from her predator. Through the forest she went, making it out to the clearing which led to the farm. In my mind, I already thought of giving up, but sure enough – I was right outside of his house.
My heart beat – not out of pure exhaustion from running – but the sheer anxiety I had knowing I was merely a few steps away from his front door. I gulped, I blinked, and then the girl appeared out of nowhere. She stretched out her arm towards a particular scarecrow. I was ready to bolt out of there, but I trod towards the lifeless scarecrow. The girl's eyes followed me, making sure I kept my word and checked it out.
The scarecrow had a yellow fabric loosely wrapped around its body, secured with rope. I sighed, tired of this little girl's shenanigans. I jerked my head towards her, whispering for the man to not hear me. “Look, this isn't funny. Let me take you inside to our house until my grandpa gets home, okay? This house is not safe.”
The girl ignored me and walked closer to the scarecrow I was standing near. She looked up, her eyes widened and she audibly gasped, shocked. Curious, I looked down and to my utter fright – the scarecrow's head had eyes bulging out of its burlap fabric.
The whites of the eyes were gruesome, bloody, and the iris were discolored. It fell apart when I jumped back from shock, making the head with the sunhat tumble onto the ground. The fabric unraveled from the decomposing human head, showing only bare teeth, ripped-out skin, and burnt flesh.
I gagged, and looked to my side – only to see the little girl was not there anymore.
The old man's door! My hands trembled uncontrollably. I felt as if my arms and legs were numbed. I was dizzy, like an earthquake was happening in slow motion.
The man laughed like a maniac, and the next thing I knew: I faced the ground, my vision blank and blackened.
I slowly opened my eyes. I felt as though I was blind as my surroundings were so dark, impossible to see even a foot ahead of me. I could not remember why I was here, or where I was. I stood up slowly, the pain throbbing in my head next. I dragged my hand over the back of my head, and sure enough it was pulsating and possibly bleeding there. A foul smell started dragging itself over to my nose as I blindly walked around the room, trying to find a light switch. I only heard noises of chewing and something scurrying across the floor.
My hand flicked on a piece of plastic screwed onto the wall, and while it only turned on the overhead dimmed yellow lights, what I saw next could've only come out of a horror movie:
Children. Once alive and not having a clue on what they were getting into, sat against the wall with a wooden stick impaled into them. Each of them had a colored fabric wrapped around them to cover up a disturbing mess underneath.
Their pink-toned skin was now bluish-grey, their eyes half-closed staring into an empty abyss. Some fell and lied on the floor to which the rats chewed on them gladly, the rotten stench growing stronger. A table at the corner of the small room had a bunch of scratches and was permanently tinted with blood. There were yards of burlap and various colored cotton fabrics – yellow, blue, and red. But beside that was a bloodied wood axe and all sorts of disassembling tools. A few wooden sticks settled on the floor nearby.
It clicked in me, and I remembered everything that happened before this mess. “Grandpa must be so worried. I must find a way out and tell the police!”
I frantically looked around the room and walked upstairs, to a door which did not open. Then the wood axe, although big, my thin build would have not done it justice. I thought of lunging at it with the wooden sticks but they were frail and thin. I stood there, tears welling up. “God, why did I follow that little girl?”
The little girl.
She wore a yellow dress, also pointed me towards a scarecrow who had a yellow fabric around it. The eyes were so similar to hers as well. Could it have been...?
STOMP... STOMP... BURR...
Heavy footsteps came towards the door to the basement, then sounds of moving some heavy furniture which I presumed blocked the door.
The old man walked down, shaking, yet had a menacing grin across his face.
He carelessly picked up one of the children, plopping them onto the table. I struggled picking up the axe with my lanky arms, but I was ready to plunge it into his crippled body.
But before I threw anything at him, a few men from upstairs shouted, “Freeze!”
He didn't listen, and bullets fired right into his head.
The men rapidly walked down the stairs, gasping and one gagging at the terrifying sight. However, they did not notice me. No matter how loud I shouted, or how many times I flailed my arms around like an idiot, they instead examined the horrendous crime scene.
Everything that happened in those few minutes flashed before me, but I sprinted up the stairs and dashed out of the man's house as fast as I could. It was nighttime, but I could see my grandpa's house lit up with police cars parked near our field. I got there and stood by the stairs, waiting for an answer from the police. Grandpa, just like the others, did not notice me. His face was pale and sunken, and his hand quivered from holding the phone.
It was concluded that the old man made scarecrows out of children, whom he kidnapped. He would “dress up” the scarecrows with the same color as their outfit from the day they were captured.
One of the policemen walked over to us, talking to my grandpa. “Mr. Acker, what was your grandson's name?”
He replied, his voice weak. “Jack...”
“And what colored shirt he had?”
The policeman stood in silence for a moment. “May I see a photo of him?”
Grandpa went into his house and got a photo of me during Christmas last year, and showcased it to the officer.
A grim face the man had. I knew it. I knew it the second they did not notice me, and the familiar scarecrow with the blue fabric, which was chewed on by rats before it was ready to be speared into the ground, to act as guards for his crops. I followed into the same trap, just like the other children did. The same trap the little girl fell into.
I was kidnapped and turned into one of “them”.