A Silver-Shoed Scarecrow by Athena Zhuang

One of four Young Writer Award winners in the Mensa Canada 2020 Literary Contest

The house, which had once been so full of life, was now quiet. Silence replaced the sounds that used to be abundant. Senses were muted. There was an absence of everything that had value and presence. Their emptiness was deafening. Although birds still sang beautifully and flew through the skies gracefully, they lacked realism. They sounded fake and distant. It was the same with flowers, insects, and rabbits. The world was two dimensional, and I was on the outside looking in.

I stood watching, never moving a muscle. I no longer reacted or communicated unless pranced upon. I used to be filled with life and now… I am a scarecrow.

Empty. Filled with only straw.

I know what is happening around, but I am lost. I only hear, smell, and taste life. I cannot participate. Is this psychosis? No. This is real life.

The shiny plastic of my button eyes made me seem innocent. But I was not. I saw everything.

Polly was six-years-old when she first visited my garden of sunflowers. She began coming biweekly. They made her happy, and she danced and sang among the plants for hours at a time. I enjoyed watching her and wished that I could join her one day. I desired to live as freely as her again.

Slytherin was a cobra. He came to my field regularly, because there were plenty of mice that ate the fallen seeds. Every day, sometimes more than once, he would lie, waiting, as an innocent mouse made its way toward a kernel. A second later, the rodent was gone. The serpent was a cruel animal. He poisoned bunnies for his own entertainment. He savoured watching the blood paint the brown soil. He was sly and patient. He rarely missed, and I witnessed many fall victim to his tactics.

I never thought Polly would attract the cobra’s attention.

But she did, exactly like she attracted mine.

It was her silver shoes.

They sparkled in the sun like dew on a leaf. Slytherin was always looking for something to amuse and challenge him. He slid towards her.

My dark eyes followed his undulating path. He slowly, cautiously, and deliberately ventured closer to her. She was clueless of the danger, and I feared for her life. Polly was alive, enthusiastic, and filled with energy, unlike an empty house — or a scarecrow. I started to become frantic. I wanted to warn her about the snake’s intentions, but my face had no mouth. I resembled a house with no doors.

Empty. Filled only with straw.

She was distracted by a particular plant with two faces. She never suspected that a viper was within striking distance. I watched, but I always watched. I felt, but I always felt. I heard, but I always heard.

I longed to break from my silence. I was helpless.

He struck her with a frightening force. She reacted instantaneously. She screamed, but no one could hear her, except me.

I hate being a scarecrow… and so does Polly.