Mrs Wichfield was the first to die after they ran Scarecrow Sam out of the village. Her daughter found her the morning after a heart attack had stolen her life. At least, it seemed like it was a heart attack. Mrs Wichfield, you see, actually died from a road traffic accident twenty-seven years earlier.
I had lived in Lakewood for most of my life and was nineteen when the peculiar events took place.
The petition to remove Scarecrow Sam from the village had been signed by ninety percent of the one-hundred and sixty-eight residents.
I was not one of them.
Scarecrow Sam was the name given to a homeless gentleman who used to frequent the streets of Lakewood. He wore a huge, thick coat, even in the summer months and had a long, greying beard. He looked to be in his mid-sixties but no one knew for sure. His real name was also a mystery, as was his origin; no one had the faintest idea of where he came from. We didn’t even know how he survived; no one admitted to ever giving him any money, food or shelter. But survive he did, much to the annoyance of most of the village.
Scarecrow Sam was known as a trouble maker around Lakewood. He would shout and scream at people occasionally, and seemingly without discernable motive. He was never violent but would sometimes frighten the villagers. Most of the time however, he would just wander the streets in silence, not bothering anyone. I myself only witnessed one outburst. He was an odd person however — there was no question of that.
The petition demanded that the council remove Scarecrow Sam from the streets, claiming him to be a menace for shouting at people, and screaming at random. I was opposed, but too cowardly to voice my objections.
Scarecrow Sam was more or less forced from the village a week later. Three policemen escorted him from the streets and marched him away. Everyone came out to watch the event, all expecting a defiant show from the elderly vagrant. But he walked in silence. He bore an almost vacant gaze, only the slightest shadow of sadness tingeing the expression.
I was standing near the edge of the village as the police marched him past. He looked at me for a long time as he went by. It was such a strange thing. I couldn’t recall another time when I had met his gaze for so long.
Before the police pushed him down the long country lane that snaked away from the village, he managed to release himself from their grip. He rushed towards me and, in a moment of panic, I stepped away. But then I realised he was handing me something. It was a notepad that appeared to be several decades old. The pages were curled and the paper almost brown. I flicked through it as Scarecrow Sam walked back to the police, whereupon he was finally expelled from Lakewood. Almost all the pages were blank, except the first few, but I didn’t have time to study the text and pushed it into my pocket then promptly forgot about it.
Scarecrow Sam was gone.
Mrs Wichfield died the following day. She was eighty three and, although in good health, a heart attack at that age wasn’t unexpected. As the deaths mounted however, the village became unsettled.
Jane Thomas, 32; Clive Bassett, 54 and Harold Cunningham, 40, all died within the next four weeks – each from an unexpected heart attack.
Not long after, I remembered the notepad. I dug it out and began to read the words written inside. They were scrawled with child-like care and in block capitals. As I read the first two pages, my mouth became dry:
My name is Gregory Nesbitt.
I have a gift.
I can see the future.
I have saved five people in this village from untimely deaths.
1983 — Alice Wichfield was hit by a car.
1989 — Jane Thomas drowned after falling into the lake.
1997 — Clive and Harriet Bassett were killed in a car crash.
2011 — Jacob Anderson was killed in a hit and run.
I saved all these people by causing distractions at crucial moments in order to change the course of history, a course that would have led to their deaths.
I screamed and shouted to attract their attention. I pulled and pushed them to change what they were doing and this prevented them from an end they were destined to have.
These distractions, seemingly unrelated to their deaths, created exponential alterations in the order of their future from that moment on.
If I leave this village then my work will be undone.
They will die.
I was amazed and perplexed. But there was another, stronger emotion.
You see, the fifth name on the list was mine.
It is now six weeks since Scarecrow Sam left Lakewood. It was my birthday yesterday, a day without celebration. Every day I wonder where Scarecrow Sam is now. Every day I wonder if I can bring him back, and if I did, would that change my fate? But most of all I wonder about the time, a few weeks ago when I was out in the village. Scarecrow Sam had suddenly begun to scream a terrifying wail in my direction. I stared at him for a few moments, wide eyed, before continuing with my errands, crossing the road a few seconds after a van sped through the quiet country road. I wonder about that van especially. But all I have left to do now is to wonder and wait.
Hector McCrillis has been writing short stories since a young boy, but has recently completed his debut science fiction novel.
This story is sponsored by
Debi Blood — Believe in the magic of The Glendale Witch.