This was another Writer’s Carnival Team challenge where we had to include a scarecrow, a rubber duck, and a blind donkey in a flash fiction story. This one came out a little weird, but I can’t say I’m surprised at that. (Word Count 762)

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The gritty soil whipped around my face as the vortex gradually unfolded from around my body, unveiling acres of farmland spread out before me like squares on a patchwork quilt. The tangle of twigs inside my head shuffled into some kind of order and, without looking down, I knew I was still a bloody scarecrow.

My straw neck crackled as I looked skyward. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Like a crazy carousel, I found myself in this field more times than I could remember. My dry hands felt scratchy, which of course, they were, as, tugging on the rim of a tattered straw hat, I pulled my shoes out of the mud. What did you think? Of course scarecrows need shoes.

Dust plumed into the air as I trudged across the dry cracked earth towards the farmhouse.

To be a man again was all I wanted. Some buck’s party joke this turned out to be. The fortune teller whose crystal ball I shattered had cursed me as an ‘unfeeling idiot’. I guess, in this part of the quest, a scarecrow was the closest fit.

She’d said ‘I must take a close look at myself and ‘see’ the error of my ways. The last test was a ‘sink or swim’ challenge.

I’d worked out the sink or swim bit pretty quickly. I patted my pants pockets, relieved when I felt the firm duck-shaped bulge. A rubber duck. At least the fortune teller was not resetting the day completely. I collected the duck when I found myself whisked back as a mascot in a shopping mall. Man, that chipmunk-costume head had been heavy. Except, for me, it wasn’t a costume. I really became an eight foot tall chipmunk. Stealing a rubber duck from the toy store was not easy with kids circling my legs like sharks.

I gladly jumped through every hoop she set, and here I was on the last quest.

I’d lost count of the scarecrow days I’d endured. I must be missing something. I shed a storm of broken straw as I vaulted the gate. This was bullshit. I knew the answer to this challenge must have a beating heart, if I wanted mine back.

I’d tried every animal on the farm. Every. Single. One. My clue from the fortune teller was, ‘you’re looking for a heart… nothing more, nothing less, a pure heart’.

What then? A frigging princess. I wasn’t about to take another human into the vortex. That’s why I was never human… we wouldn’t make it.

I scanned the farmyard, ticking off all the animals I’d already taken back. Cow, pig, even the sheepdog. The barn door shifted as the one hinge hanging onto the wooden frame creaked.

I crept inside. In the far corner was a small grey donkey. His nostrils flared. As he tossed his head, I caught the glimpse of milk-white cataracts in glistening eyes. Was this the ‘heart’ I needed to rescue? I didn’t have one inside my straw chest, but still, sadness seeped through me.

Closing in slowly, I reached for his rope halter. I didn’t want to scare him. I patted the blind donkey on a quivering shoulder as I whispered, “It’s okay, I won’t hurt you.” I hoped this was true. I tightened my grip on the harness as the hurricane of wind whipped up, realizing the vortex was taking us back.

I closed my eyes against the dirt and chaf blustering into my face and, when I opened them again, I was in the dimly lit room where gossamer scarves draping over the lights gave the room a rose-colored glow. The donkey had disappeared and I felt weirdly heavy.

The jingle of bracelets moving on a bony wrist drew my attention. The fortune teller was smiling. That had not been a good sign so far. My shoulders sagged. I dreaded the words she would utter.

I jolted in surprise as she said, “Quest completed. You are now a man once more.”

I scanned the cards laid out across the green baize table, reminders of the three tasks I had completed. I frowned. Heart, soul, and mind.

“If the donkey was heart, and helping the child escape from the maze was soul…. how is the rubber duck the mind?” I asked.

The fortune teller grinned, her black beady eyes glittering. “The donkey revealed your pure heart, the child, your kind soul, and the maze focused your mind. The duck was just for my amusement. To see you stuck as an eight foot tall chipmunk for three days was just hilarious.”