Something heavy was weighing me down, a mass resting on top of my chest. My limbs felt numb, devoid of any other sensation apart from thousands of insects crawling all over my body. It was too dark, too quiet. I tried peering my eyes open to inspect my condition but the more force I applied to part my lids, the heavier they became. I could feel nothing apart from the the mass pressing into my rib cage which was gradually sliding down, creeping towards my abdomen. My sweater seemed to have ridden up in the process by the way my muscles clenched the moment they come into contact with the furry sensation.
The realization seemed to have woken up my sleepy mind, causing me to sit up with a sudden jolt. A small yelp accompanied my abrupt movement making me shift my widened eyes down only to find a pair of yellow eyes looking up at me through the gap between my thighs.
It was a small black kitten, which had been lying on top my torso and had fallen down on my legs due to my unannounced action.
Rubbing the back of head with the side of my palm, I picked the kitten up with my left hand, looking around at the same time as I pushed my legs to stand up. As far as my sight allowed, I could only see a humongous sugarcane field surrounding me.
“How, in hell did I end up here?”
The soft purring brought my attention back towards the small creature huddled in my palm, looking up at me with its cute little amber eyes.
‘Wait, amber eyes?’
A slow Cheshire cat like grin spread across the kitten’s lips, taking over more than half of its small face, making me turn pale with the realization. I had heard that djinns can take forms of both humans and animals but I had never witnessed it with my own eyes. Seeing it happen before me seemed to have rattled my brain,
’Is he a djinn?
Just as I was about to look at the kitten closely, it jumped up towards my face, licking my lips with its slimy tongue before sprinting away without a look back,
It took me a moment or two to recover from the shock.
Hysteria was guarding my unconscious body in animal form yet he was the one who had brought me here in the first place, and now that rascal had run away, leaving me alone in this unfamiliar place,
“Come back here, you bastard! Take me out of here!”
I shouted loudly in the direction the kitten had disappeared off to, hoping for some kind of cheeky reply to resonate through the dark, but only soft whooshing of air answered me back,
“Is this your way of dumping me in a harder level? This is my life not a game!”
I continued speaking gibberish, aiming to cajole a remark out of him but still no sound was heard.
Puffing my cheeks with frustration, I took my phone out of the back pocket of jeans, turning its flashlight on to cast some light on the murky fields encircling me. Nothing much was visible except for the green leaves resting on top of tall stalks sticking in every other direction. Cool night breeze passing through the crop would stir the deadly silence every other minute by rustling the tips of the elongated leaves, urging me to tighten my clutch on my phone impulsively as I continued looking side to side in order to avoid a repeat telecast of the night earlier.
‘I need to get out of this maze and I need something sharp to protect myself as well,’
Just thinking about something popping out of these field had lead me to break into a cold sweat.
Trailing my free hand up the front of my sweater, I gripped its neck to pull it away from my body, trying to cool myself down somehow, but as time continued passing, the situation became more and more nerve-wrecking, making it almost suffocating for me to keep wearing the sweater.
Pointing the flashlight down, I used my free hand to tug the sweater over my head, but the moment I closed my eyes to let my head out of the tiny neckline, a slurping sound pierced through the deafening silence, making me open my eyes immediately,
‘What was that?’
Quickly removing the stuck sweater from my head, I rolled it in my arms, my hair scattering in every direction as I squinted my eyes trying to locate the source of the sound, but the only sound that could be heard was the soft rustling of sugarcane leaves.
‘Am I hearing things now?’
Ruling it out as paranoia, I clicked my tongue against the roof of my palate, prior to raising my phone up from the ground, directing the flashlight in front of me but as soon as the scene in front of me became illuminated, the phone fell out of my hand with a loud thud, setting forth my worst nightmares in action.
There, in the light coming out of my phone, I had seen a straw stuffed figure leaning over an animal that suspiciously looked like a cat. The cat’s belly was ripped open and half of its intestines were hanging out of the stick frame’s sewn mouth.
I wanted to move back and run away the instant I had seen the gruesome scene but my flashlight, the moment it tore its way through the darkness to reveal the deepest secrets the field had been hiding, had incited the creature’s head to lift up towards me and now, it was staring directly at me through its button eyes.
‘No one told me I was up against Harold’s twin.’
To my surprise the scarecrow was still staring quietly at me. I would’ve doubted his sight if it weren’t for the fact that he was clearly able to see the light that had fallen on him,
‘I can’t underestimate him,’
Gritting my teeth, I tried casting a quick glance around to see whether I could find any escape. I almost let out a sigh of relieve when I saw a small shed some distance behind him.
‘There must be some kind of sharp equipment in there. I need to hurry.’
Not wasting another second, I tossed my sweater on the deadly still creature’s face before sprinting in the shed’s direction.
‘I hope it works, Please let it work.’
Just as I finished sending a silent prayer up the heavens, rapid rustling of grass behind me reached my heightened hearing making me work my legs harder,
‘Hysteria, you bitch!’
He was using my worst fears against me, deliberately trapping me in places where I’d be forced to call him for help. My life was a mere circus for him and he was the ring master, the one in control.
I was definitely not an athletic person. I was good at hiding but I hated being chased like a mouse. Moreover, these things were never this bold. Deep down, I always knew that they weren’t going to kill me, but all that had became nil for tonight. I was running for my life, literally.
My lungs were burning with the need for more oxygen as I continued pushing my limbs forward, shoving the long leaves out of face, a lot of their sharp pointed ends and rough surfaces of tall stalks kept hitting me, cutting through my skin, making my crumbling exterior burn along with my heaving insides as I kept sprinting blindly towards the shed.
The dense fields had started thinning by now. I could almost see the parted doors of the shed peeking from behind the tall grass hindering my vision. The building was drawing closer and closer, nearly in reach, just about a couple of meters away.
My right hand, fingers outstretched, was about to grab the handle when a slender straw stuffed hand, covered by a leather glove pulled me back from my hair, making me scream on top of my lungs.
My scalp was burning as the scarecrow continued pulling my hair out of their roots, dragging me away from the door. Pressing my teeth hard into my bottom lip, I refused to scream or beg him. There was no point in it. Instead, I was scratching at his gloved hand, trying to let him go of the fistful of my hair.
My legs were dragging on the ground, kicking hard, as I tried my best to stay rooted on my spot but much like the corpse, the scarecrow was far too powerful for me to oppose. I knew from experience that kicking and scratching was not going to do me any good.
Suddenly the scene where Hysteria had kicked and slashed the corpse’s head flashed before my eyes,
‘Is their head their weak point?’
I was not completely sure regarding my theory but I needed to test it, and by the way the scarecrow had almost dragged me back inside the corps, I needed to do it fast.
Looking around frantically, I tried to locate anything in near vicinity that I could use as a potential weapon when my eyes landed on a group of wooden logs lying nearby. I let my hold on his gloved hand lose, attempting to grip the rough bark but I couldn’t reach for it either.
‘I can’t die here. I can’t…’
I was almost at the edge of the fields by now, close to losing all hope, when my defeated eyes met with the loose noose hanging around the scarecrow’s neck which I hadn’t been able to see previously.
‘Is it one of those hanged scarecrows?’
Gulping inaudibly, I lifted one hand to hold the dangling part of the rope, trying to be as discrete as possible so the scarecrow wouldn't notice my actions. Once I was successful in wrapping the loose end of the rope around my hand, I swiftly brought the other one near the knot, pulling the rope down to tighten the noose around its neck. The scarecrow, immediately let go of my hair, gripping its own neck to free it from the rope. His one hand was wrapped around the tight noose while the other one was slashing the air blindly, trying to cut through my skin.
Not wasting another moment, I sprung up from position kicking the scarecrow hard in its straw belly before sprinting again in the shed’s direction. I didn’t stop to look back at his condition. I was already stumbling up the stairs, running inside the open shed, picking the first thing that I could get my hands on. It was a pitchfork.
Not caring about the consequences, I quietly hid behind the door. Waiting for the scarecrow to enter through the door.
Just as I heard angry feet dragging inside the small building, I swung the pitchfork hard in its direction with all my might, but I had clearly underestimated the demon. He was already anticipating it. Holding the blow off with one hand, he swiftly moved forwards to grab me with the other one. I had expected him to immediately snap my neck like a twig but contrary to my assumption, the creature started inching closer and closer to me until its poorly sewn face was directly in front of me.
‘He’s trying to suck Hysteria’s soul out of me.’
The demon was clearly distracted and vulnerable and I knew for a fact that all his attention was fixated on my lips which definitely provided me with an opening. My eyes slowly slid up the table, which he had pinned me against, my eyes traveling over the place where I had picked up the pitchfork from, eventually landing on a sickle lying nearby.
‘This is my chance. I have to do it like he did.’
Recalling the event from my memory, I let my hand wander back, probing lightly over the wooden surface until it landed on a cylindrical handle made of metal,
With one swift blow, I had separated the scarecrow’s head away from its shoulder. It fell down with a loud thud but before it could turn into an updated version of the corpse, I buried the pointed corner of the sickle in it, lifting it up to smash it hard against the rough surface of the wall behind me, much like Hysteria had done. Right in front of my eyes, the scarecrow’s body and head both evaporated into a thick black smoke.
“I-I did it…”
I couldn’t describe the mixed feelings swirling around in me at that point. I felt relieved to some extent but there was still raw fear buried inside its surface, as I knew that it was not the end. The night was still young; more of these were going to come after me.
Sickle still gripped in my hand tightly, I passed the other hand through my messy ink colored locks, pushing them away from my sweaty forehead before turning to move out of the dark building. The moment I stepped out of the small shed, I saw a silhouette leaning against the wall adjacent to the door, his amber eyes giving me a scrutinizing look.
“My darling learns fast.”
Not wanting to indulge in his meaningless chatter, I avoided making eye contact with him as I started trudging silently towards the road which definitely wasn’t there before.