by Joyce Chong
I met a scarecrow once. He was hiding in my closet, buried beneath old dresses and piles of dirty laundry. He fell over onto my floor as I was cleaning it out and I just let him fall. I didn’t even apologize because what cause is there to apologize to an inanimate object?
But then he spoke. He said he knew me from my nightmares, saw me clasping to the edge of a cliff that kissed a blue-green sea washed awry with currents. He watched me cling on, even though I’d long ago decided I’d rather be down there than up here.
The struggle is the hardest. I feel novelty in my suffering every time it comes back and kisses me on the forehead before bed. Its kiss splits my mind in two, and lays eggs birthing beetles black and toxic.
“I eat your fears, desires, and your dreams; occasionally I even take out little nibbles of your heart. It tastes better.”
He only told me because I saw him collapsed on the floor like that and I asked myself what he was doing there. Of course, he was eating parts of me away as I slept. I protested.
“But they’re not very important parts of you, anyway,” he said, straw hair blacker than blindness itself.
He was right. What use are fears, desires and dreams? They make us drunk, dizzy and reckless. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been drunk off of life, simply because he had been leeching the intoxication from me. But, what happened to those empty spots inside? Pools of anxiety floating in the empty spaces. My soul is pock-marked like the moon, filling up with residual dark after he’s had his fill. I wanted to gut him and see what he’d taken from me. I wanted to empty him on the spot, and scream at him, and curse him and cut him to pieces with a knife and tear him apart with my bare hands.
Instead, I took him outside and stuffed him in a trashcan where he taunted me with his unmoving features, laughing all the while. I took a barbecue lighter to his hair. I gutted his stomach and lit the protruding stuffing on fire. Then I watched. I sat outside and watched the smoke curl, prickling my eyes whenever a rogue breeze cast the ash in my direction. By the time the rain came sprinkling down, the scarecrow was nothing but shriveled waste.
When I was chilled entirely from the rain, I grabbed the trashcan. It was as clean and empty as it had been this morning, with nothing but a puddle of water collecting inside. I shut my eyes and saw his mocking face, still speaking to me. Still cackling. I dropped the trashcan and opened my eyes, wishing that the scarecrow lived in my closet, and not in my head.