Geoff Barker – MG Folk-Horror – THE SCARE CROWD
I am writing to you to submit my Upper Middle Grade folk-horror tale, The Scare Crowd, which is complete at 54,000 words.
The Village of the Damned meets Goosebumps: The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight (and The Wicker Man!
In a remote Scottish town, the homeless start vanishing from the streets, only to be replaced… by scarecrows. 13-year-old mute, Maggie, is the only one in the community ready to investigate this mystery. One small problem: due to a traumatic incident when she was young, Maggie is now terrified of the ‘tattie-bogles’. Her unique journal charts the disquieting rise of the scarecrows one dark winter. How come no one else in Langtoun finds it distinctly weird – and sinister – when the scarecrows start settling in their homes? The story begins with Maggie’s first ever friendship, with Freja from the quirky Danish family, and ends with her having to save her own brother from the tattie-bogles.
I write non-fiction books for a living and deliver writing workshops. An active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI; Southeast Scotland), I run the Fife MG/YA critique group. I have also set up my own website called ‘the mind bloggles‘, publishing long-form interviews with children’s/ YA writers, such as Kathy Evans and Keith Gray. I’ve been selected, on two separate occasions, for mentorship schemes: the Scottish Book Trust Mentorship in 2017 (for my comic caper Booty & the Beasts) and #WriteMentor in 2018 (for The Scare Crowd).
The Scare Crowd
Though it has no thought of keeping watch,
it’s not for naught that the scarecrow stands
in the grain field.
For the community of ‘Langtoun’, who offered me help when I was
writing this book. My special thanks to ‘Maggie’, whose Private
Journal became such a reliable record of the events of that most
strange of winters.
The events described in this story actually happened.
Any resemblance to persons either living or dead is intentional. However, the
author respects the privacy of the individuals and the community that suffered such
extraordinary happenings – and has changed the names of the people and places
to protect their identity. He hopes that, one day, those worst affected by the tragic
events will recover from their distressing experiences.
[taken from Maggie’s Journal]
I see things. I do.
I see things I don’t want to. I try to get used to it, but sometimes they really scare me.
At the beginning, maybe it was only me seeing this stuff. In town, they’d call me ‘the liar’ or ‘wee witch’, but when normal people started seeing the same things too, all the name-calling stopped.
I wasn’t too crazy about that happening either. Because it all meant this was serious. Properly serious.
[fragment (undated, possibly several years later) found with Maggie’s personal effects
I guess they’ve always freaked me out. Ever since I was really young.
The first time I saw one it was the shock of it: coming over the hill through the mist, and seeing nothing but a dark shape. I wasn’t that far from home, but, at that very moment in the fog, I had no idea where I was. It was a tall figure. I could just see it over the stone wall, standing there quietly – and a jolt juddered right through my bones. It looked human, but somehow unlike any human I’d ever seen before. More shadowy than real, but all the more scary for that. It just stayed there, battered top hat perched on its head. And as I drew closer, up the lane, the murky figure rattled in the breeze, and waved at me.
The round head swivelled in the wind towards me, and I could just about make out two sunken eyes and a split mouth.
I’d never felt terror like this before. Two sightless eyes that could still see everything. See me. I realised now that I was on a lonely country lane – on my own – and that I desperately needed to run. So run!
Before my feet got the message my heart was hammering in my chest, and – without daring to look back at the figure in the field – I ran like I was possessed. The swirling autumn mist threatened to swallow me up whole. Dim lights at the bottom of the hill. My knees pumping away beneath me like puny pistons. Would I ever reach the cottage down in the dip? Even stumbling halfway down the hill, I wouldn’t look back. Couldn’t.
Stupid, I looked back.