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Along the Illinois Path

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Illinois Path

They hadn’t argued this much in seven years.

George and Lynda’s marriage was deteriorating at an alarming pace; what had once been love and compassion was now replaced by sheer neglect and cold-hearted abuse hurled at small hours of the night. About eight years ago, George went to Naperville, Illinois on a business trip. Half-way to Naperville, however, George’s car broke down.

Rather stupidly, amongst other things, George had decided to take the off-road path heading in the direction of the small settlement of Clinton. About quarter way into his journey, his back right tire burst. Cursing himself, he stopped his car to check the damage and see if any repairs could be made. Upon inspection, George found out that he’d ridden over a whiskey bottle, and it’d shredded his tire. George was, to say the least, angry with his blunder. He popped open the back of the car to ascertain if he had a spare wheel to add in place of the broken one. Lo behold; no tire. “Aw, hell!” George exclaimed; the previous week he had removed the tire and made it into a tire-swing for his son, Devin. Gathering his directions, he decided that he’d have to either wait in the boiling sun until someone drove past, or start walking to Clinton, which was still about four miles away. Better still, he could walk back to Oreana, which he’d only passed 25 minutes ago. Either way, he’d be missing his business trip. So he called ahead and told them that he’d not be able to make it. For a reason unexplained at the time, the meeting had been pushed back four hours, so someone agreed to drive down the Intersection to pick him up. Only issue being that it’d be a while before anyone got to him. With no visible people or accommodation in sight, George sat in his Malibu, and stared out the window into the corn field. George later figured that he must’ve fallen asleep, as he was then woken up by a gentle rapping on the window to coerce him out of his dream.

“Your car’s totalled, George,” Leonard called through the glass to him. When he got out, he found that the front of his car had been scratched of paint. The indicators on the back of the car had been totally wrecked.

“That’s surreal; I was only asleep for-“ George checked the time to back-up his story. He’d only been asleep for 30 minutes – nowhere near enough time for someone to sneak up on him in his car, key his goddamn bonnet and ruin his indicators. Besides, he’d been awake for 15 minutes and checked about the car before getting inside to wait.

There had been nothing in his eye-sight for miles; no trees, any secret hide-holes and definitely no secret bunkers.

Leonard let George into his car and they exchanged small chit-chat before driving off. Leonard had helped George the previous year by securing the deal with Kasiru-Tagachi-Ahama Industrial Corporation to build a few small factories in hometown Conway, Arkansas, just opposite Laurel Park. Leonard only asked the George “not get mugged”, or “upset the locals” of Naperville.

The meeting took place and a deal was struck. Feeling sporadically kind, Leonard offered to drive George back home to Conway. He agreed, and they set off.

Leonard decided it’d be funny, in the moon-light night, to drive past George’s wrecked car and show him the condition. As they passed it, they had to stop. When looking at the car, they were fairly surprised that someone, or something, had cannibalized his Malibu. The doors had been sheared off, the wind-shield had been removed, and his remaining tires were either scavenged or slashed.

“Well, I’ll be damned” Leonard explained. The hair on both men’s necks stood on end, as they could hear charging feet, and an exasperated and tired scream filled the near-by air. A young woman of Asian descent jumped out of the corn-field next to them, just as surprised to see them as they were to see her. She hurriedly told them that her name was Mimi, and she’d stopped off to investigate George’s Car, as she saw a figure standing next to it, rummaging through the back of the car. When she stopped, two men approached at her from the cornfield. These men, were wearing as she described, “Scarecrow suits”, with extra hay coming out of the sleeves. She says she was chased down the road by them, and they disappeared. She then explained to them that she heard someone crying for help inside the cornfield and went to see if she could help. Since the corn was only shoulder height for an average male, she couldn’t personally see where she was.

No sooner had she gotten into the field, she had fallen into a small hole. The hole was full of bones. A sharp bone had gashed her Achilles tendon, and she had cried out in pain for hours. She passed out, to awake and find the “Scarecrow” visages standing over the hole and watching her. She then says that she never took her eyes off of them, and must’ve been there for 10 minutes, just staring at each other. She then saw them reside into the grass. “My god, do you still think they’re here?” Leonard told Mimi. Mimi nodded her head frantically. Meanwhile, George was looking a little puzzled.

“Mimi?”

“Yeah, what is it?” Mimi spoke.

“You said you parked close to my wrecked car. I’m standing here and I can’t see your car,” he counter-argued.

Mimi stuttered for words; she was at a loss. “You think I’m a liar?!” she gasped. She began to weep silently. Leonard hugged her and consoled her about her ordeal, that it was all over and the “Scarecrow” men wouldn’t harm her again. The group bundled into Leonard’s car and drove off. Mimi pointed to a map where she lived; it wasn’t a far drive at all – maybe 8 minutes tops.

When they pulled up to her house on the side of the intersection, both George and Leonard both noted the disarray of a house in front of them. It was a farm house, minus the actual farm. The shutters on the windows had been boarded shut, the top floor lacked any windows at all, and the door had three heavy bolts attached to it.

“I cannot thank you enough, guys,” Mimi chirped happily. She hugged Leonard and George tightly and whispered in their ears.

“Would you like to come inside for some beer?”

Leonard didn’t really mind, and neither did I. We both got into the house, and were sat in the guest room. There wasn’t much to look at or note; old wallpaper, old TV, old everything. The seats were covered in a film of plastic. Leonard theorised that it was due to the settees being old and her not wanting to get them wet or dirty.

Mimi declared that she was going upstairs to get changed into something practical and that Leonard and George could go into the kitchen and make themselves a sandwich and eat some chips if they felt like it. As she trundled up her decrepit stairs, George wandered into the Kitchen. Leonard soon followed and stared at a selection of what looked like family photos.

“Hey, George, look at these photos,” Leonard whispered to George. He pointed out that as time went on, year by year, one person had been removed from the photos. In the first year, it was an old man who was missing, and in the second, a small dog and child. George simply put it down to illness.

As Leonard opened the larder to gather a selection of foods, he jumped back in total horror. On the shelves... were stacks of meat. On one of the slices of meat, lay a single garnet earring.

“Well, how’s this for practical, boys?” Mimi cheeped from the top of the stairs.

There she stood, holding a hatchet, which looked messily congealed in the blood of family and strangers. Mimi giggled cutely, and advanced on them from the top of the stairs, in the guise... of a scarecrow.

George and Leonard bolted for the door, but found it locked. With no time to unlock, Leonard hurled a small lamp through the porch window into the cold Illinois night. George had jumped through as Leonard was half way out. Before he could get out, Leonard snagged his trouser leg on the broken window shard. George went back to grab him, but it was too late. Mimi had pulled him inside the house and was already dismembering him. On the porch, George could see Leonard’s car keys. He picked them up and ran to the car. He looked back as he started up the engine, to see Mimi startlingly close to his car-door. He sped off into the night, and straight back home, leaving Mimi stranded in the night, screaming like a possessed child. Like a demon being purged from an infant.

George arrived home in Conway, Arkansas to a dismayed wife. She could see that he’d been up all night and was shocked. He back the car into the garage, and went to bed, without noticing the bloody hand prints on the bumper, which were on a gradual slope down. He never spoke of those fateful events in Illinois to anyone for seven years, until he became addicted to alcohol to forget all of his nightmares he was having. In a drunken rage, he confronted his wife and told her the whole story, after beating the shit out of her. She never forgave him afterwards, but not for not telling her; but leaving his friend at the mercy of a psychopath.

George’s son, Devin, never found out about his father’s cowardice, and set off to become a salesman for Kasiru-Tagachi-Ahama Industrial Corporation Ltd. One meeting was left before Devin could go on holiday with his fiancée, Dianne, and their baby. This was the final job, and he could retire to California and live a happy life. All of this was interrupted by Devin’s car battery going dead. He got out, in the hot Illinois sun and checked the extent of damage.

When he shut the hood, and stared into the field, he could of sworn he heard footsteps behind him, next to the rusted car and the cornfield.

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