A Pillar Of Salt
The other day I was out on my regular morning walk, a little earlier than usual. For some reason I had woken up about twenty minutes before my alarm went off, and I figured since I was already up, there was no point in going back to sleep. So I hauled myself out of bed and began my daily routine. Because everything was twenty minutes earlier, it was the same, only slightly different. The sun was a little bit more below the horizon, so it was a little bit darker. I didn’t see the same people I usually see, everything else was just slightly different.
Until I saw him.
Or rather, he saw me.
I was walking through these rice fields, and a few farmers put up scarecrow for obvious reasons. As I was walking down this road, I noticed a scarecrow that I hadn’t noticed before. It looked very much like a real person, almost. There was something about it that made it obvious that it was not real, but it looked close enough to give you the creeps.
If you are walking down the street, and you see some guy standing on the corner, and he turns and waves at you as you walk by, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But something that is obviously not real, but looks as though it might turn and wave at you radiates a particularly unique kind of creepiness that you don’t come across too much in your daily life.
Other animals are pretty easy to fool. Ducks, insects, various mammals are all easily misled by accurate (or not so accurate) representations of it’s own species.
And humans aren’t the only ones that take advantage of how easy it is to fool other creatures. There is a certain variety of plant that tricks a certain variety of wasp into spreading its pollen. The flower gives off a scent that makes the wasp think it is a female wasp. The wasp buzzes in, does his business, and goes off to the next plant. In the process, all the flowers get pollinated. If the poor guy only knew, his friends would never let him hear the end of it.
It’s well known that for many animals, the first thing they see that moves will make an impression of its mother. Baby chicks are often cited example of this. If you have a hatchery (or whatever you call those things baby chicks are born in) and there’s no chicken around when they hatch, then start to follow around the first big thing that moves. Which doesn’t work out so well if the first thing that moves is a cat or a poultry farmer.
For some reason, I just couldn’t keep from frequently turning to look at that particular scarecrow. It was much more detailed than the rest of the scarecrows. I doubt the crows could tell much difference, although they are pretty smart. They have been known to distinguish between farmers with hoes and rakes, and hunters with guns. You’d think that a bird would see both entities as the same, but I guess not.
About the third glance toward this incredibly realistic scarecrow is when I began to lose grips with reality. On the third, (or maybe the fourth) glance, I had noticed that he was facing a different direction. Not his (its) whole body, just the head. Ok, maybe I was seeing things. The sun was about ten minutes under the horizon, and the shadows were different than I’m used to, as I was twenty minutes early.
The fifth time I glanced at him, he was staring straight at me. OK, so maybe it wasn’t a scarecrow. Maybe it was just some creepy guy standing as still as possible in the middle of a rice field at six in the morning. That may even be more dangerous that a scarecrow that has come to life. I tried to stare him (it) down, but I could only look in his (its) general direction for a couple moments before turning away. Finally when I had walked sufficient distance past him, I couldn’t help but think that he was still watching me. I felt like that lady in the Old Testament story that wasn’t supposed to look back. I felt as if I looked back, something spooky would happen, like he would be right behind me, staring at me and waiting to drag me to the deep depths of everlasting insanity and mental torture. Generally not the way I like to end my morning walks.
As tough as it was, I ignored the impulse to spin around and look. For some reason I was reminded of Schroedinger’s cat. This is a famous experiment of quantum physics. They’ve (they being really smart physicists) done plenty of experiments regarding the dual nature of light. Sometimes light behaves as a wave, and sometimes light behaves as a particle. Light generally behaves as a wave, but when you set up specific equipment to measure it, on a really small level, it turns into a particle. It’s almost as if simply observing the event changes it. This can also be extended to other particles, like orbiting electrons. They are sometimes discreet particles, but other times exist only as a probability wave. Only when they specifically interact with other particles, or are observed by humans does their probability wave coalesce into an event, or a probability of 1.0.
This guy Schroedinger explained like having a cat in a box. If you don’t look in the box, there is only a probability of cat being in there. But as soon as you open up the top and look inside, the probability immediatley goes to 1.0, and the cat exists. This goes way beyond that old “tree in the forest falling” metaphor. On the level of quantum physics, things really don’t exist in discreet form unless they are observed.
Which is what I was trying really hard to convince myself regarding that creepy guy/scarecrow/guide to everlasting insanity who was behind me. So long as I didn’t turn around, he wouldn’t be there. But if I did, he would be standing right behind me, and I would be dragged (not kicking and screaming, but most likely comatose from shock) deep into the place that does not exist unless you go there.
Finally I ended up at the convenience store, and bought a small yogurt. As I was standing outside, sipping it down, I felt an odd sensation just off to my left. I turned, and there he was. The man/scarecrow/entity. He was looking at me calmly. And strangely enough, I didn’t quickly lapse into a fear-induced coma, although I was particularly frozen.
He smiled, slowly at first, and then breaking into warm, wide, teeth bearing grin. Almost. You can always tell a real smile from a fake smile by looking at the lines around the eyes. If the eyes are crinkled, then it’s a genuine, happy smile. If the eyes are open wide, and the lines (strangely enough called crow’s-feet) don’t crinkle up, then somebody’s lying. And this scarecrow didn’t have any crow’s-feet.
In his eyes was pure, unabashed evil. But for some reason, I took the evil to be extremely patient evil.
“Not today.” It said.
“Maybe not tomorrow.”
“Maybe not ever.”
Then it laughed, turned and walked away.
Needless to say, I try not to wake up early anymore.
(And now for something that makes even less sense)
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