"And whatever you do, Bart, don't make the Scarecrow mad, alright?"
Bart and Stevy were only seven when Stevy's big brother Alec imparted those words of wisdom. Bart thought he was being his usual bossy self, trying to tell people what to do all the time, but he bobbed his head in agreement with the totally unnecessary order.
This was to be his first time to "Trick or Treat" without his mom whispering "Say thank you" every time some neighbor put a Tootsie Pop in his bag...he hated those things!
Tracy Hamilton had given her only child permission to go out on Halloween night with his best friend, Bart and his older brother, when a bad cold had turned into bronchitis. She was exhausted from the deep cough that seemed to start at her toes leaving her body feeling like she'd just endured the torture of the rack.
Because Tracy was a single mom, not unusual in her social group, Bart's mom arranged for the boys to Trick or Treat together around their quiet neighborhood.
"There's only our development, Tracy and a few farms nearby, so they'll be fine. Alec is almost twelve now and knows the rules of keeping together. Oh, and I've given both my kids flashlights so you might want little Bart to have one too."
After struggling to get her son dressed as a pirate, she handed him his treat bag, an old pillow case. Tracy had watched apprehensively, as Bart stepped out of the small hallo of light, into the darkness of a country night.
"Alec, when are we going to see the "Sacred Scarecrow God"? Stevy asked his older brother, a god himself in his seven year old mind.
Alec and Stevy were both dressed as Zombies, their favorite scary creatures. Alec was thinking he was getting too old to be out Trick or Treating, but figured he'd do it one last year. Besides, the little guys needed his help to show them the way to get more stuff.
"We can't go to the old Cranker farm until we have enough to offer to the Scarecrow God! If we don't please him, he'll just take one of us and make himself another servant."
They went to every house with a light on to beg for candy and Bart's pillow case was beginning to feel heavy as they finally approached the long deserted Cranker place.
It was only a huge smudge against the pale night sky, the trees closely hugging the warped wooden siding and scratching against the few window panes left.
Bart didn't really like the looks of it, but didn't want to tell his friends he was afraid to go closer.
He remarked quietly to Stevy, "I have enough stuff, let's just see the Scarecrow next year."
Stevy had picked up the chill in the air and told his older brother he was ready to go home.
"We want to go back, Alec cause we got enough candy and it's cold here."
"What a little whiner you are, Stevy. You begged me to let you guys see the Sacred Scarecrow King and now you're just gonna punk out on me!"
The two young friends looked at each other as best they could. There was a moist fog settling over the farm house and around the barren fields surrounding it. They shrugged their shoulders at one another in a tentative consent to continue.
"OK guys. Now we have to walk through this old corn field and keep going till we see the old silo. He'll be standing in there somewhere. We gotta be as quiet as ghosts so he won't get upset with us disturbing his sleep."
"How do you know he'll be asleep?" asked Bart
"Because knucklehead, scarecrows always sleep until the noise of the birds wakes 'em up. That's when they scare 'em away from the corn and stuff. Geesh, you guys are dummies."
They entered the stubble of the long-harvested field, each boy hauling their bags of candy treats. They skirted the farmhouse and headed out toward the center where the promised God would be standing watch.
Alec raised his free hand in the stop signal. The younger boys collided into each other with the sudden command.
"Up ahead...he's waiting for his gifts and us to..."
Bart and Stevy only saw a blur of movement as Alec suddenly became airborne and was sweeping like a scythe across the empty rows. At first he was totally silent, speechless with the shock of being hoisted bodily into the air.
Then it was too late to scream. His head was quickly detached by two straw arms jutting out of a tattered jacket. The headless body dropped like a felled tree to the coarse ground.
Bart and Stevy were now mobilized and screaming like witches at their cauldron, high pitched squeals of terror.
They gave voice to their horror, but they couldn't give power to their legs and stood rooted like stubby trees in the pale light of the night sky.
Stevy was the first to gain control over his limbs, but just as he turned to run back to the road, the form of a headless scarecrow came bounding after him.
Bart would never forget the bloodcurdling screams as the straw man tore his friend limb from limb.
He didn't actually see the murders of his friend and Alec, because the fog was thickest there in the middle of the field, but he knew without a doubt, they were victims of the Sacred Scarecrow God.
As Stevy was being attacked, Bart took off like a bat in the night, his little legs pumping like pistons, his treat bag lost among the rotted corn husks.
He ran until the stitch in his side made him slow to a jog. The porch light was on at his back door and he was inspired to gulp some air and run again.
Just as he reached the cement step he heard something behind him. Something crinkled like stiff straw being dragged across the stones of the driveway.
He looked frantically over his shoulder, trying to peer through the swirling mist.
The Sacred Scarecrow God stepped out of the fog, an apparition holding a head under a tufted arm.
"I thought you would want your Treats" said old man Cranker.