Hay-Man by Daniel Finkel

Jack woke in spring, head poking through phlox and trillium among the wreaths of cabbage and of squash, coiled towers above the fragrant loam, when the air was still cool and mist lay on the land and rains brought the heavy scent of many types of sage. He grew, his broad face crisped by a warming sun. His flesh was the burnt sorghum and the wheat, threshed and re-threshed, plowed, watered, beaten, sunned, blown stiff by the breeze into wild threads of honey. Summer blew in, a swarm of locusts that boiled through the distance, creeping over field and country, coating the world with its great dryness. Jack shone and sweated through that first and only summer, plotting out the inward labyrinths of his mind while sipping deep drafts of subterranean wine. One night autumn came. She flew below a lemon moon, her bones cold, dead fingers of wood that scraped on quiet air, hoping for a spark to light the darkling season. Now was the time of harvests and of harvesting. The promises of spring made a full and hearty marrow for this long midnight, lit by the red moon, lodestar of autumn’s country. And Jack, Jack was king of it all! His head was plucked, the ribbed polyp reaped of flesh and bone, till he was strung as a banner above the bristled hay and swathed in rags, his smile so freshly cut, his eyes still wet with glistering blood, a shovel in his fist and a fire in his brain. He frightened. And in frightening found no joy. The jackdaws made fine bedding from his pungent flesh and he, a creature of lightning and straw, dust and thunder, was grateful, and thanked them for the company.

Daniel Finkel is a writer from the Philadelphia area specializing in speculative fiction. He has been published in The Bookends Review, Bewildering Stories, and Apocrypha and Abstractions, and can usually be found at his desk, with a cup of hot chocolate, imagining himself hard at work.