Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Prompt Drabbles #10

Prompt: A cold wind carries the whispers of scarecrows.

Just because it was winter didn’t mean the Crows had left. You could still see them, at night in the dark, hovering over our fields. Right now we’re all just thankful Javed had finished the scarecrows before the crows showed up. Who knows what we would have done without our crops of Berber Berries.

The physical aspect of the scarecrows was pretty easy to figure out. They just needed to look vaguely like us; so torso, legs, arms, head. Simple. The difficult part of it was fooling the Crows sensitive auditory canals. See, when the first Crow scouts started showing up, we yelled and threw stones at them. We as a race seem to do that with things we don’t understand. We start out frightened and defensive.

Maybe if we had been a little more welcoming we wouldn’t be in the middle of this war right now. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 and what ifs can’t change the present. Also the one about wishes and horses and beggars but that doesn’t apply as much. But, I digress…

When the Crows first appeared what they encountered was loud, frightened, flailing people who threw things. So that was the report they took back. Then came the first wave of them. We none of us knew what exactly they came for, as we had never seen them before or even heard of them. So for the first wave, we were silent. We stood back and watched. And they came so fast and in such great numbers that we were understandably shaken. We watched as they flew past our cities, towns, storage facilities. They knew where they were headed. Straight to the fields where the Berber Berries had only just begun to sprout.

We were as confused as we could be. The Berber Berries were nothing special. Our main export because of our rich soil and damp climate, but not something the Crows would want. At least so we thought. But towards the fields they went and landed in huge black and gray clouds. But then, instead of gathering the tiny sprouts they just began… wreaking havoc. They pulled the sproutlings up and piled them in the center of the fields. The ground which was freshly plowed and recently watered was torn up and left in clumps. All the wire fences around the fields were pulled into the plots and mixed into the dirt. The Crows left their waste lying in mounds and when they were finishing razing the fields, they left. They just. Left. As my small town looked on in horror the Crows took to the sky and sped away.

That was our lives. Our livelihood. Everything to us. And it was destroyed. But we would not be dismayed, no, because our lives had never been easy and we were prepared to fight for our future. So the farmers took their families and headed to the fields. It was still early enough to replant. It was hard, grueling work, however, many of the townspeople who were not farmers by trade volunteered their help to get the fields clean and empty for the new Berber Berry seedlings. The scientists, researchers, and analysts did their parts by taking the waste the Crows had left and looking for weaknesses.

And that was where Javed had come into the story. He was known around town as the crazy tech dude who rarely spoke to anyone. But as we came to find out, he is one of the greatest technological minds of the century. Once the scientists had found out what exactly the Crows were, Javed took the information and ran with it. Immediately he began running experiments, night and day. He was the one who came up with the name too. Many of us had begun calling them Locusts, because of the devastation they brought with them. Javed called them crows, because from that first wave, we only ever saw them in large, black, roiling flocks. Javed analysed the waste they had left and was able to build a very rough model of what they looked like and how they functioned.

The next wave came while Javed was still working on defensive measures. We were more prepared that time. Since the scouts didn’t stay when we yelled and threw things we decided to try to do the same for the next wave. Maybe it would scare them and maybe it wouldn’t, but we weren’t going to stand by and let them destroy our crops again. So we as a town surrounded and filled the fields when we saw them coming. And it worked, to a degree. Random noises didn’t seem to deter them, and the rocks were completely ineffective. But screaming words at them appeared to confuse the Crows. To anyone who didn’t know our entire story, we would have looked insane, standing in our fields screaming lyrics, poems, book excerpts, and complete nonsense at floating black machines. But it worked for the time. Eventually they retreated but we knew they would be back.

We still had no idea why they were after our Berber Berries, and really, we had no idea where they even came from. But we were fighting back and making progress. The head scientist on the project, Azaria, eventually came to the conclusion that words confused them because they had no communication system, or if they did it was completely unlike ours. She and Javed worked together on the mock up he had made, slowly making it look more and more like the actual Crows. With pictures the townspeople had taken, interviews with those of us who were eyewitnesses, and Javed’s findings, they made the model Crow frighteningly realistic. However, they had no way of discovering what powered the Crows, or whether they had some sort of controller somewhere.

We made do with what we had though. The town set up a rotation of lookouts and outposts around our crops. When they saw Crows coming, they alerted the town and we trooped to the fields to protect the Berber Berries. It was an exhausting and trying few months. The doctors were continuously producing new and better sore throat remedies. The scientists worked on ways to protect us from the elements. And Javed labored to invent speakers and computer systems that accurately replicated the sound and intelligence of real people.

Like I said, the physical part was easy. Just the typical scarecrow shape, although they had to be fairly eclectic and randomised. We were trying so hard to find a solution before the hard freeze hit. See, Berber Berries have to germinate over the winter in order to be edible. If they don’t get the cold of at least one winter, the berries are incredibly poisonous. But the people can’t be outside in the winter here. Certainly not in the fields and even the outposts will probably be too frigid to stay in. There are good reasons many of our roads are underground. Easier to heat. But if the Crows got to our crops that close to winter, well… Let’s just say our town wouldn’t be much of a town by this time next year.

Just as the season began to turn, Javed hesitantly said he might have something. He and Azaria had made six different prototypes. Just in case. Even though we had to wait for the next attack, the town was joyful. We believed in Javed. The six prototypes were set up in six different fields, and the people assigned to those fields were given strict instructions. They were not to make any sort of defensive movements unless the prototype failed. When the Crows came next, no one could have told you what number it was. There had been too many and this war had been going on for so long. They came though. They came and two of the prototypes worked. Each working in completely different ways, the two prototypes kept the Crows different distances away. One worked for about thirty feet and one for more like eighty.

So here we are, days away from the first hard freeze, and the wind carries the whispers of the scarecrows to the town. Our Berber Berry crops are safe. Our people will be safe underground during the winter. And the Crows hover, outwitted by the human language.