- The Legend of "Scarecrow" Jack -
Generations ago, a farmer lived on the outer side of Noware. His name was Jack O'Lanton. He was a kind man of middle age, he would regularly sell his seasonal crops at the market in the Noware square on weekends and mid days of the week, they say that his harvests were fresher, crisper sweeter than any other vendor. To this day, no one knows his secret for such fine produce.
His specialty, however, were his favorite crop; Pumpkins. How he loved them, everything about them, the heft, the varying shapes and sizes, the various pumpkin treats that could be made from the famous squash... Not to mention, it was his hottest seller annually, townsfolks would flock to his stall for his plump, unparalleled pumpkins, which he delivered and sold by the cart which was stacked up high like a mountain each time he would roll into town, along with fresh baked pumpkin pies, bread loaves and purees.
During the Fall season, he could regularly be seen by passerbys on the road, keeping unwanted visitors from his prized crop during the day, earning him the nickname Scarecrow Jack... But his success was not without it's trials. There were young men in town who would regularly dog him and steal his crops in the night, particularly during the Fall, when the pumpkin harvest was nearest. Into his patch they would leap, hooting, hollering, hoisting pumpkins over their heads and throwing them into others, at each other and stomping on the juicy, plump squash, destroying several of them for their own sick kicks.
Jack would always appear too late, unable to predict what edge of his vast patch they would invade, and by the time he got there, the boys would be dancing in the pulp and guts of the pumpkins they pulverized. He would approach to reprimand them, but they would shove him down into the slop they created and laugh at him, call him names, "One day, you're gonna turn into a pumpkin, Scarecrow man!", they would jeer before taking their leave. Sullen, but far from defeated, Jack would pick himself up time and time again and use the seeds from the destroyed crop to plant a new patch, then tend with care to those that remained. It was bothersome, but they could never get close to destroying all of them...
...Until one fall, when the boys had grown into men and added a few more crows to their murder. They came late at night and approached from all sides of the patch, bent on doing more damage than ever. Jack heard the chaos from inside his quaint farmhouse, but this time he was ready. He picked up a harvesting sickle that hung by his door, and out he went.
He was surprised, as he came out of the tall grass surrounding the patch, to see a single man stomping and stumbling over his pumpkins. They usually came in greater numbers and it gave him pause for a moment. The invader was clearly drunk, he could smell the alcohol even over the smell of the ruined pumpkins' innards. "H-Hey! You!", He shouted as he ran at the man.
"Scarecrow!", The man shrieked, startled and drunk as he stumbled to his feet And ran off in another direction of the patch through tall grass. "Scarecrow, Scarecrow!", He taunted, his voice shrinking off into the distance.
Jack realized that the man wasn't alone, after all, and was sounding an alarm to his group. They were everywhere, he could hear them now in the silence he was left in, echoes of laughter and hooping coming from all around. They would do more damage to his patch than ever before this way and he couldn't get to each of them in time to stop them...
"Why..?", He asked, dropping to his knees in the pulp of the smashed pumpkins, which he picked up a handful of and then let his arm drop loosely. "What have I done..? Why do they harass me so..?", He asked himself as a tear of frustration rolled down The valleys of his aging cheek. His teeth ground together and his lip quivered, he slammed his fist into the pulp below, making it splash over him. "I hate them!", He shouted, bent down on his knees and elbows as his head hung limp between his shoulders. "Help me...", He whispered...
It was legend, even in his time, that strange things happened the closer it grew to All Hallow's Eve in the town of Noware. Ghost stories and campfire tales, most dismissed them as, but there were some folk, some story tellers, who told such elaborate stories that some believed them. Tales of the supernatural, of the weird, of the impossible... Scarecrow Jack's story was just beginning.
He felt a cool sensation beginning to crawl up his legs and he sat up to inspect what was happening, seeing his legs sinking into the pool of orange pulp. He'd sat there for too long, he supposed, and he sniffled as he attempted to get up... But he could not. "What in-...?", He asked as he tugged on his legs, trying desperately to get free... Then he realized, he was not sinking. He was being swallowed. "A-... Ahhh!", He shrieked, the cold pulp of the pumpkins creeping further up his body under his clothing. He grunted and cried out with panic as he clawed and tore at the pulp, some of his flesh ripping away with it, but it was spreading faster than he could remove it. Vines shot up from around the pumpkins and wrapped around his wrists and arms, around his neck, binding him as he was consumed. He tried to scream, but the tight grip around his neck prevented it... With one powerful jerk, the vines pulled the man down forward, he forced out one final shriek before his face crashed into a pumpkin, and then, silence...
"Did... Did you hear that?", The invader from before asked his friend he'd joined.
The other man ceased his stomping and looked over his shoulder, his eyes scanning the field around them, listening in the silence for anything more than the joyous sound of laughter from his companions. "Nah.", He said, "Reckon ya heard a crow.".
"No, that was no crow.", The other said, "It came from where Scarecrow was...".
"Who cares?", his friend said as he kicked a bit of pumpkin guys from his shoe, "Come on, let's get outta here. Buzz is wearing off.".
"He's an old man.", The drunk man said, "It's fun to smash pumpkins but I don't want the guy to be hurt.".
"What're ya now, some kinda girl?", His friend scoffed, "F'rget the old coot, let's get the boys and have a few more rounds. I'm tired.".
"Y-... Yeah.", The drunk man said, still looking over his shoulder towards the part of the patch he'd exited from as he followed his friend through the talk grass leading towards their group.
They shambled through the field, the rustling of leaves in the wind, the crunch of the flora below their feet and chirping of crickets were all to break the silence in the air, until the air went completely still, completely silent and they came to a stop, looking at each other as if to confirm they weren't alone in noticing the deafening silence that suddenly befell them. A crackling could be heard before a high pitched vibration, which they could feel in their feet, and then, sound returned to the world around them.
"W-what the hell was that?", The drunk man asked, a quiver in his voice.
"I-... I don't... Let's get out of here!", His friend shouted as he began to hyperventilate and sprint as quickly as he could towards their friends.
They reached the clearing to the next part of the patch and what they saw could have driven them mad... A tall, thin character, with a carved pumpkin for a head, danced and hopped about in a pool of red debris, which they quickly identified to be what used to be their friends. The scarecrow paused, it's back turned to the men, then the pumpkin on it's shoulders turned, slowly, completely around to face them.
"J-... Jack?!", The drunk man shouted.
The inside of the pumpkin began to glow so spontaneously that fire shot out of the holes carved for it's facial features. It's body snapped around in the direction it's head faced and he raised a familiar sickle, which still dripped with blood.
"Move it!", The friend shouted as he grabbed his drunk companion and took of like the devil in the opposite direction. "Oh god, oh god!", He panted as he sprinted, directionless now, as long as they were heading away from the monster that danced in the guts of their friends the way they danced in the guts of the pumpkins they smashed annually. Suddenly, with a shout, his foot caught on a bit of knotted grass below him and he tripped, nearly bringing his friend down with him.
The drunk man stopped, but only for a moment, and continued on, leaving his friend behind. Soon, he hurried back to the patch he started in, seeing the wooden fence he'd hopped. Just a few more steps and he could run into town for help, for safety and-... A bad step in the guts of a pumpkin caused him to slip and fall, tumbling into the ruin he created. He started to get up, but the pulp seemed to bind him in place, he could not move as he hugged and cried out, continuiously pulling at his arms to get free... He was almost there.
He paused, frozen, as he saw a glow like fire casting over the ground beneath him. He looked over and there was the scarecrow, shambling towards him, sickle in hand. "Oh, god, oh, god...", He whimpered, "Jack, is that you?!", he asked, noticing that Jack was nowhere else to be found. "I-I'm sorry, Jack! It was... It was just a bit of fun, we didn't mean for-...!", He paused.
Behind the scarecrow, his friend held a large pumpkin over his head and with a roar, crashed it over the scarecrow's head, causing it to fall limp and the glowing jack-o-lantern for it's head to extinguish and split to pieces on the ground below.
Huffing with his hands on his knees, the man looked over the scarecrow, then prodded at it with his foot and kicked the pieces of the pumpkin away, looking for who was underneath, but found no one. "It... It isn't human...", He said, confused.
The drunk man was released from the pulp and he arose to his knees with relief, but looked over his hands, covered in pulp. "Th-... The boys. They...", He swallowed hard and shoot his head as his hands buried his face, "Oh god, this is a nightmare...".
His friend shook his head and caught his breath, then stood up straight, "I... I don't know what we saw.", He said, "I just know we need to get the hell out of here.".
The drunk man nodded and started to get up, but froze as his blood ran cold. Behind his friend, a pumpkin raised with talk roots seeming to grow straight uoward, until the squash seemed to carve itself, just like the scarecrow had before... He raised a shaky hand and stuttered, pointing over his friend's shoulder.
His friend squinted his eyes, then turned around, only to be grabbed by the creature's hands, which felt like the rough roots of a plant, and held tightly in place as the pumpkin towered over him and he stared up at it. There was a silence as he drew in and exhaled shaky breaths, until he opened his mouth to speak.
With an ear splitting shriek, the scarecrow's face lit again and fire cascaded out of it, engulfing the man in it's grip as the drunk man watched in absolute horror, too afraid to even look away, until the fire subsided and the man the scarecrow held crumbled to ash in it's grip. It settled it's gaze on the drunk man and approached, vines raised at it's side and brought it the sickle it held before. The sickle spun in it's fingers and it drifted towards the drunk man until it reached him and bent down, stating at him.
The drunk man swallowed and trembled like a leaf, then with a silent voice, as if his voice was stolen, "P-please, I...".
With an echoey, deep hiss of air coming from the jack-o-lantern, he could have sworn he heard, "It's just a bit of fun...", before....