By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1,245
“This is the last time I work a job that has shiftwork.”
“Quit your jibba jabbin fool, you ain’t done nothin’ but winge since you started.”
Cliff Bloxxom stopped shovelling wheat from the ruptured silo and wiped his forehead with a handkerchief from his back pocket. He looked over at the tall, muscle bound islander with contempt. Cliff thought how easy it must be or someone that big to effortlessly shovel all day without breaking a sweat.
“Watcha doing now, fool?”
“Look, Bart, i have never worked in a flour mill before and wasn’t told that i’d be doing anything like this.”
“Well Mr. Bigshot, you just gotta do what i tell you, don’t you? I have been working here the longest and am in charge.”
“No you’re not, mate. You are just a mill worker , same as me.”
Bart tossed a shovel load of wheat at Cliff, covering him from head to toe with dust and husks.
Cliff wiped his face clean and opened his mouth to start an argument but thought twice. No point in arguing with someone like Bart, Cliff thought to himself. He had dropped out of school when he was fourteen and started working at the Tennessee Flour Mill. Men like that often thought they knew everything there was to know.
Cliff started shovelling the wheat into a forty-four gallon drum. The silo had ruptured an hour after the grain delivery arrived by train at 10.30 pm. Walt Townsend, the Shift Supervisor, assigned Cliff and Bart the task of cleaning the silo spill almost twenty minutes ago.
“This is ridiculous, Bart.” Cliff said harshly, “We need help. Cleaning up a silo of wheat with just two men will take a week.”
Bart lifted a shovel full of wheat, ready to toss it at Cliff again when the wheat behind him started swirling and rising in a dusty cloud.
“What the...” Bart said, dropping the load of wheat to the floor.
The wheat spun and rose to a height of almost seven feet, one foot higher than the muscled islander. Dust and grain filled the air in the packing room like a desert storm. It became almost impossible to breathe and to see more than a few feet in front of the two mill workers.
Cliff pulled the handkerchief from his back pocket again and held it in front of his mouth. Bart raised his free hand to cover his eyes. He could feel the husky shells of the grain cutting his face as it flew past like a pack of angry locusts.
Bart tried to move towards the door to the packing room but was disorientated and could not see any walls to make out which way was which.
Suddenly, the storm subsided and the wheat seemed to stop mid air, dropping to the floor like aircraft that had run out of fuel.
“Are you okay?” Cliff coughed.
“What the hell was that?”
“You’re the boss, you should know.”
Bart turned to face cliff. He was about to give Cliff a full on serve of his mind when he felt a chill run down his spine. He knew someone, or something, was standing behind him, which was impossible as the only door was on the other side of the packing room. He slowly turned around.
“Bart, get the hell out of there.”
Standing in front of Bart was a seven-foot scarecrow made out of wheat and chaff. It had its arms outstretched menacingly, and a piercing red eyes screaming out like two burning ambers.
Bart took a step back, slipping on the loose grain on the cold, hard concrete floor. He stumbled backwards and fell down flat on his back, dropping the flat bladed shovel as he landed. The scarecrow figure opened its mouth and let out an ear piercing shriek that would have shattered the windows, had there been any in the room.
Cliff took a step forward to try and go to Bart’s aid, but slipped on the loose wheat on the floor to. The mini cyclone in the room had moved the spilt wheat from the crack in the silo to the entire floor, making it almost as hard to walk on as thousands of tiny ball bearings.
“Over here.” Cliff yelled at the scarecrow.
As the scarecrow turned its head, which was a spectacular sight as the head did not so much turn as to become formless and suddenly reform in Cliff’s direction. Bart took this opportunity to get to his feet again, grabbing the shovel and using it to help steady him. He was only a few feet from the creature, close enough to take a swipe at it before he headed towards the door.
“Don’t Bart, just run for it, mate!”
Bart clenched the shovel tight in his hands and swung hard. The shovel passed straight through the scarecrow, like it was a ghost or hologram. Without the resistance of the shovel’s impact, Bart kept carrying through with his swing until he fell off balance and ended up on the floor again.
The face of the scarecrow lost its form, and then reformed facing Bart. Its eyes grew larger and the red light filled the room. Bart shuffled back on the ground, trying to get away from the creature as it lunged forward. The arms of the creature grew longer and ended in sharp talon shaped claws instead of fingers now. It grabbed Bart by his left leg, piercing his dark skin as it did.
The creature pulled Bart closer towards it and its grip grew tighter, crushing the bones in Bart’s muscular leg. Bart clawed at the shovel to his right, but it was just out of his reach. He swung around and punched at the scarecrow’s arm, hoping this time that he would make contact. His fist crashed into the grainy arm and the scarecrow’s grip loosened slightly. He thought that it must take solid form when it wanted to, like when it wanted to grab something, or someone.
Cliff saw Bart’s fist make contact and he threw his shovel at the scarecrow. The shovel whistled through the air and hit the scarecrow in the chest, or so it appeared for a second before it passed through and hit the wall behind.
Bart swung both fists at the arm this time and hit it on either side of its wrist. The scarecrow let go and let out another screech and pulled its talons back. Bart pushed himself back with his right leg, his left wasn’t much good now with the bone shattered. He picked up the shovel and tried to get to his feet.
Bart could not put any pressure on his left leg, so he had no chance of running to get away. He used the shovel as a crutch and made his way towards the door as fast as he could. Before getting more than two feet he was struck on the back by the razor sharp talons of scarecrow. Bart felt the skin on his back tear and did not understand how something made of wheat could be so solid and sharp one minute and loose and formless the next.
The scarecrow raised its other arm and torn Bart’s head from his body with one swift movement. Cliff heard the lifeless head drop to the ground as he ran from the room.
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