It was worse this time. Milton was discovering the reality of hate crimes. The name calling always came first, then the shoving and tripping in the school hallways and locker rooms. Gym class was a virtual nightmare for a boy like Milton. The beatings came last, when the simple torments were no longer enough to satisfy the bloodlust of young men who hated him and his kind, without knowing why.
“Get up Jewboy.”
Even in his semi-conscious state, Milton recognized the voice. It belonged to Craig Thomas, stereotypical highschool quarterback and class president. More than his voice, Milton recognized Craig by his touch. Always so gentle and loving, he thought sadistically.
The two other boys shifted uncomfortably. At least, their feet did. From down in the dirt, that was about all Milton could see of them.
“Yeah…he’s had enough.”
Todd Hayward and Jimmy Martin, Craig’s Neo-Nazi Wannabe pals. They had gone along to beat the Jew, no doubt without much convincing, but as things had spiraled out of control they had backed away. They were afraid, not of the consequences of their actions, but of the crazed light in Craig’s eyes.
“I’ll decide when he’s had enough.” Milton could felt a hand grab at his crotch, it was not the caress of a lover. “Watch me change Auschwitz boy’s religion…”
The painful clutch at his testicles became too much. Milton could feel his skin tearing. A warm liquid that was neither sweat nor piss ran down the inside of his thigh. His underwear was saturated by it. He felt his link to reality slip away. Black clouds engulfed his vision, a fog formed in his mind.
Craig’s face filled his blurred vision. “You’re dead Jew.”
The words rang hollowly through Milton’s mind. He knew it was true, he knew he was dying. He smiled uncontrollably at Craig’s moon-like face.
The words were barely a whisper. But, a whisper of defiance was all that was needed to unlock the full of Craig’s fury.
They beat him long after he passed out.
They beat him savagely.
Todd stood up from next to the body.
“Hey man, I can’t find a pulse. I don’t think…I mean…”
“Oh Christ…oh shit!” Jimmy grabbed at the front of Craig’s shirt. “He’s dead! We killed him! He’s dead, man!”
Craig shoved the other boy to the ground. He seemed calm and in control of himself as he produced a deck of Lucky Strikes that he had stolen from his old man's dresser. He lit the smoke and spit a loose piece of tobacco from the tip of his tongue.
The other boys stood nervously waiting for him to speak. They knew Craig well enough to know that he would get them out of this mess. They also knew him well enough to know that he would not tolerate any interruptions as he decided how he was going to do it.
At last, Craig smiled. It was a smile that would haunt Jimmy’s dreams for the rest of his life.
“Relax boys.” He blew a line of smoke down at the prone body on the ground. “I gots a plan.”
Milton the Magnificent took the stage with a flourish of his red cape. He stood before the enrapt audience without saying a solitary word. His assistant, a lovely, leggy blonde dressed more for sex than the stage, carried out a series of signs. On each of them were similar messages.
See Milton the Magnificent return from the grave!
Milton…the man with 9 lives!
In the audience, Hitler nudges Pope John Paul XII and they share a private remark. Both men are astonished at the powers of this one Jew.
Soon, the world is dark. The earth is cold and embracing, clinging to him like a mother to a child.
He is entombed.
The audience holds it’s breath in wonder (and even a bit of mortal terror). They wait to see if he can cheat death. They wait to see if he will defy the laws of mortality. They wait for his triumphant return.
He came back slowly.
He tried to open eyes, but it was like using a dull knife to peel an apple. Slowly, the black clouds edged away from his vision. He could see.
He could see corn.
A field of corn. The tall stalks danced in unison to a gentle breeze.
“The Halstead farm?” The words came out slower than the realization of where he was. Dried blood flecked from his lips with each syllable.
His whole body ached and his skin itched horribly. He strained to move his neck. It hurt but, he finally managed to look down at himself.
Milton was loosely tied to a wooden cross. He was dressed in the craziest outfit he had ever seen. A red and black checkered flannel was draped over his underweight chest. It appeared to be stuffed with hay.
That explains the itching.
His pants were three or four sizes too large and were belted on with a rope. His feet were adorned with an old pair of workboots that reeked of cowshit. Mercifully, the boots fit. His peripheral vision seemed to be lacking, and he discovered that a burlap sack with rough eyeholes had been tied to his head.
They dressed me like the Halstead’s scarecrow. They thought they had killed me and hid my body.
Milton looked at the sky. The sun was high in the east. He would have a few hours of daylight left until nightfall. And this night would be special…
They’ve had their Devil’s night. Halloween is mine…
Somehow, he removed himself from the cross and made his way to the barn. It was a slow and exhausting journey. He stopped frequently to rest, and once to piss. The piss was filled with blood.
The barn was quiet, dark and cool. It sheltered his bruised eyes from the harsh glare of the sun. He rested.
He awoke shortly before dusk. As the sun slowly melted away into darkness, he felt his strength return. The black of the night seemed to course through his body like an uninvited, yet oddly welcomed stranger.
He stalked the inside of the barn. In a far corner, hidden by the deep pools of shadows, he found a rusted and broken pitchfork. Under the burlap mask of the scarecrow, Milton Wiess smiled wickedly.
“A fitting weapon for the scarecrow. A fitting weapon for dealing death…”
His laughter sent the sole cow of the Halstead farm deeper into it’s stall. It bellowed unhappily. The family cat stopped it’s incesstant mouse hunting and gave a frightful shriek. Outside, the sky exploded with black birds taking wing.
Craig chucked another beer can out the window of the car. He smiled and nudged a very drunken Jimmy. “What’s up for tonight?”
Jimmy stared into space. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, he replied: “Lesh kill the Zhew boy.”
Craig laughed wildly. “We did that last night.”
“We could always do it again,” Todd added from the backseat.
Craig seemed to maul this over with serious consideration. “Yeah. Fuck it. Why not?”
Craig started the powerful engine to his rolling piece of Detroit iron. He could feel the Nova’s vibrations roll through his body. He grabbed the stick and double clutched the car into gear. The tires screamed along the shoulder of the road as they headed back to the Halstead’s farm.
He felt them coming.
He knew why they were coming.
He welcomed them.
“Come out and play Jew!”
Craig walked to the center of the field. He looked up and down the endless rows of corn. Something wasn’t right.
“Jeeeeeeeeeeeew. Come out and plaaaaaaaaaay!”
“Shut up, you fucking idiots!”
Todd stumbled forward. “What’s wrong?”
“I thought it was here.”
They looked at each other in disbelief. They knew the scarecrow was supposed to be here. Craig was positive. It would take more than a few beers to cloud his vision of the previous night.
“He’s supposed to be…RIGHT…FUCKING…HERE!!!”
“Do you think someone found him, Craig?”
“We would have heard.” Craig looked around in amazement. “Where the fuck is he?”
Craig looked at the other boy. He saw his fear mirrored in Todd’s face.
Jimmy stumbled blindly through the rows of corn. It was near. It had chased him away from the others when he had stopped to puke. It had chased him here, into it’s playground.
He paused at the next row of corn. He had to catch his breath. Jimmy stood with his hands on his knees, drawing in labored breaths. In his drunken stupor, it took him a few extra moments to realize that the stitch in his side was becoming worse.
He felt for his stomach at the same moment the pitchfork exploded through his body. Jimmy managed to twist the rusted steel tips as he fell to the hard ground. He landed on his back and came face-to-face with the tines of the pitchfork, bare inches from his eyes.
“Zhew boy?,” he muttered weakly through a mouthful of blood.
“Scarecrow,” Milton corrected as he plunged the fork downward.
Todd proved to be the easiest kill.
He and Craig had separated to look for Jimmy. Todd had wandered towards the barn.
As he crossed the threshold of the doorway, it flew through the dark like a giant bird of prey.
Milton climbed down from the rafter and grabbed his improvised spear. He tore it from Todd’s chest with a savage twist that sent gore flying in a wide and colorful arc.
“A pity you did not have time to scream. I would have enjoyed it.”
Craig fished for the deck of Luckies in his shirt pocket. He dropped the pack on the ground and scrambled in the dark to find one of the spilt smokes. He managed to find one, and after several tries, even managed to get it lit. He took a deep drag from the cigarette and tried to stop shaking.
“Where are those idiots?”
He leaned against the cross they had propped ole Milty’s corpse on and grinned. How fitting it seemed to crucify the dirty Jew. How fucking poetic, he had thought at the time.
The grin quickly vanished. Now, it wasn’t poetic, it was surreal. Because, his friends had gone missing and the Jew was…well, who knew where the fuck he was?
Craig tossed the smoke to the ground and stepped on it. It was time to make like a banana and leave, or something. As he moved to stand up from leaning on the post, he was grabbed roughly from behind. Hands that crept out of the darkness and clawed at his face and neck. He started to scream, but there was a sudden explosion of pain in the back of his head. Stars fell from the nighttime sky and filled the world.
When he came to, he felt like he had done ten rounds with Tyson. His wrists were bound to the cross and his weight had been placed on his shoulders. He tried to stand.
“You are awake,” the voice rasped from behind him.
The scarecrow moved into view, allowing Craig to see the masked face of his own death. The jew was naked from the waist down, and the scars of Craig’s religion-changing ceremony were visible in the pale light of the moon. The scarecrow leaned casually against the pitchfork.
“You’ll have to forgive my lack of modesty,” Milton rasped in response to Craig’s stare. “The only rope I could find was the belt…”
Craig began to scream.
The policemen moved about the field slowly. They had tried not to disturb any evidence that might be hidden in the maze of corn.
“Hey Sarge,” called a young patrolman, “there’s another one in the barn.”
“Tag him up.”
The patrolman shook his head. The thought of going back into that barn more than unnerved him. He would not find sleep for many nights to come.
The sergeant moved back to the cross. He looked down at the county coroner. “What’s the word, Doc?”
“It’s all very odd. The first two seem to have been impaled with a large farm implement, most likely the pitchfork you discovered earlier.”
“Same with the one in the barn,” the patrolman interjected.
The coroner wiped his bald head. It’s twenty degrees out here, and I’m sweating like it’s the Fourth of July.
“What about the naked one?”
“That’s the odd thing. He appears to have been beaten to death by hand. And while the others have been dead only a few hours…” He wiped sweat from his bald pate again.
“The naked one appears to have been dead for about two days.”
“Two days!,” the patrolman exclaimed.
The sergeant began to walk back to his car.
“Where you going Sarge?”
“To file my report, and be rid of this mess.”
“Oh. Well, hey…”