Because of the Rules

Because of the Rules

A Story by JesseBurgess

Dr. Noble comes into possession of a mysterious book found in the ocean, and examines its contents.


From the notes of Dr. William H. Noble:

Fourteen days ago, a book was pulled up from the Atlantic Ocean by a small, unnamed fishing vessel. The book is large, bound in leather, and badly damaged from being submerged underwater. The majority of the book is heavily burnt. Carbon dating indicates that the book is approximately four thousand years old. Given the contents of the few readable pages, this estimate is clearly false, and it is the opinion of this scientist that this book is some sort of a hoax. Regardless, the readable sections of this book are reproduced below:

I'm not sure where the boy came from. He is just in the room now. It is strange to have another person in the room, after all these years. For so long it has just been me and the Scarecrow. And the Scarecrow isn't allowed to speak to me. Because of the rules.

Maybe the boy will be allowed to speak to me. Although, it is difficult to write this down while talking to someone.

The boy looks ten, or maybe eleven years old. There is blood running down his neck, from his left ear. He is dressed like he is from the 1800's. He looks like a character from Oliver Twist, except with bare feet. He is surprisingly unafraid. I had been terrified when I first appeared in the room, and there hadn't even been a creepy-a*s Scarecrow yet.

The boy looks around at the little, square room. He looks at the stone walls, rising up and up into darkness. He looks at the Scarecrow, smoking his long-stemmed, wooden pipe. He looks down at the grass floor. He looks over at me, standing behind my huge wooden podium, pen racing. And finally he notices plain brown door in the wall behind the Scarecrow.

He looks back and forth between the Scarecrow and I. I hope he addresses me first. He doesn't.

"Who are you?" he asks the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow's hay-stuffed head jerks to the side. His permanent, painted black grin quivers as he answers.

"I am the Scarecrow."

Jesus, it's voice is creepy. I had forgotten.

"Do you know what this place is?" the boy asks.

"I know everything," the Scarecrow replies.

"How is that possible?"

The Scarecrow's grin seems to widen. I mean, I don't think it actually can, but it really looks like it did.

"I can prove it," the Scarecrow says.


"We will play a game." The Scarecrow leans forward and the black buttons that it uses for eyes catch the light. I sense malice. The boy doesn't seem to notice. "Do you like games?"

"What kind of a game?"

"Well, you can ask me anything you want. Anything at all." Smoke puffs from the Scarecrow's pipe in little blue clouds. "I will tell you the answer. If you can ask me a question that I cannot answer, then you win. If you give up and admit that I know everything, then I win."

"What do I get if I win?" the boy asks.

"If you win, you can go through the door behind me."

"What if I lose?"

"If you lose, you have to become the new Scarecrow, and I get to go through the door."

"Why can't you just go through the door now?"

"Because of the rules."

"What rules?"

"Everyone who enters this room is governed by certain rules," the Scarecrow explains. "For example, I am the Scarecrow right now. I cannot go through that door unless someone else agrees to be the Scarecrow."

"And if you prove that you know everything, then I am the Scarecrow?" The boy asks.


"Are there other rules?"

"There are many, many other rules. Too many to list."

The boy considers this for a second. I can tell he is a bright boy.

"Which rules affect our game?" he asks finally.

"We are only allowed to speak to each other now. You can only ask questions."

"When do these rules start?"

"They started the second you appeared in this room."

With a start, my eyes flicker back over what I've written of the conversation. Damn, that Scarecrow is a clever b*****d. When my eyes leave the page to look at the room again, the boy is seated in a chair in front of the Scarecrow. I have no idea how a chair got here. Just like I have no idea where each of these books go when I fill all the pages, or where the new, empty ones come from.

"So we are already playing?" the boy asks.

"Yes," The Scarecrow says.

Here the boy is silent for several minutes. I can tell he is thinking of a quick way to stump the Scarecrow. I know a way, but I cannot tell the boy. Because of the rules.

"What is my name?" the boy asks eventually.

"James," the Scarecrow answers with no hesitation.

"Where was I born?"


"What is my mother's name?"


The boy falls silent again. Every few minutes, his eyes flicker to the door behind the Scarecrow. I know what he is feeling; I feel the same thing every time I look at the door. He wants to pass through it, with every cell in his body.

"Who is he?" the boy says, turning to look at me.

"He is the Writer."

"What is he writing?"

The Scarecrow spreads his arms wide. "This," he says.

For the first time, I see fear in the boy's eyes.

"Is he making it up?" The boy stutters.

"No," the Scarecrow answers, with a laugh that rattles my spine. "He is just recording it."

The boy lets out a sigh of relief. I wonder why he was so afraid.

Here the text becomes unreadable again, for dozens of pages. Then there is a brief snippet that can be read, as follows:

Silence. Nothing happens. Silence. Nothing happens. Silence. Nothing happens.

It is unclear how long this repetition continues for, as there are nearly 200 destroyed pages after. The next readable section is as follows:

...and armed with an ornately engraved pistol. He is waving it about, eyes wild and afraid, especially when they pass over the Scarecrow. He chooses to address the little boy first, probably as he seems the least threatening.

"What is this?" Eddie demands. I'm not sure how I know his name.

The little boy does not answer. He doesn't even turn his head. I don't think his dull, green eyes have left the Scarecrow's black, button ones for a century, but it is hard to tell. Time is funny in the room.

Eddie presses the pistol against the little boy's head, just over his still bleeding left ear.

"What is this?" he repeats. This time there is a hint of panic in his voice.

I take advantage of the opportunity.

"He can't answer you," I say. My voice sounds foreign. How many thousands of years has it been since I've spoken?

Eddie walks over.

"Why the hell not?"

"He can only talk to the Scarecrow," I explain.

"Uhm. Why?" Eddie asks.

"Because of the rules."

Eddie's eyes narrow.

"What are you writing?" He asks.

"Listen," I plead, pen still scribbling across the page. "You have to do what I say."

He presses the gun against my forehead. The barrel is hot.

"No," he says. "Stop writing."

"I can't."

"Stop! Now!" He jabs my forehead with the gun.

My pen continues. Obviously.

"I will kill you!" He says. Briefly, I wonder what would happen if he pulled the trigger. Could I even die here? The question will remain unanswered for now, as the boy comes to my rescue.

"Scarecrow," the boy says, his voice almost as hoarse as mine, "why can't the man in the corner stop writing?"

Eddie turns to look at the boy. He jumps when the Scarecrow answers.

"Because of the rules."

Eddie's brow creases. He turns to look at me again, fear obvious in his eyes. He slowly looks down and starts reading the words as I write them. These words now specifically. Now his eyes travel up the page to what I've been writing previously. He takes a few steps back, shaking his head.

"Listen Eddie," I say, struggling to talk and write simultaneously. "You have to listen to me."

"Why?" He asks.

"So we can get the hell out of this room."

He looks at the size of the book I am writing in.

"How long have you been in here?" He asks.

"I don't know."

"Scarecrow," the boy speaks again, "how long has the Writer been in this room?"

"Technically he has not been here for any time at all. There is no time in this room," the Scarecrow answers.

Eddie looks back over at the little boy. I can see curiosity in his eyes now too.

"Eddie, no! Ignore them," I beg.

Eddie steps towards them, looking at the blood on the little boy's neck. He kneels beside the boy.

"Am I dead?" he asks softly. I roll my eyes.

"Is Eddie dead?" the boy asks.

"No," the Scarecrow says, giggling. "He's standing right there."

"Eddie!" I snap, drawing his focus back to me. "You have to do what I say."

"What do you say?" He asks.

"It's very important," I say. "You have to take that gun, and kill the boy. Then kill the Scarecrow. Then you need to go through that door in the wall."

Eddie notices the door for the first time. I see the hunger in his eyes.

"Why do I have to kill them?" he asks.

"I can't tell you that," I sigh.

"Scarecrow," the little boy chimes in, "Why does the Writer want Eddie to kill us?"

"Because the Writer cannot leave this room until there is no one else in it."

"Why?" Eddie asks me.


More destroyed pages. Many are missing, it is impossible to tell how many. Words here and there are legible, but it is impossible to ascertain their purpose. The next passage follows:

--clears his throat. He is going to talk again. My ears pick up with anticipation. What on earth could he possibly have to ask now. He must have asked every question that can be formed by language. I have heard the Scarecrow tell him everything. I have heard the Scarecrow tell him the meaning of life. I have heard the Scarecrow tell him where the first nuclear bomb will drop on the United States. I have heard the Scarecrow tell him what the name of the last living human being will be, and how she will die.

There is only one question the little boy has never asked.

"Scarecrow," he gasps. His voice is pathetic. "What is on the other side of the door?"

The Scarecrow's permanent grin ac--

There is only one more readable passage. It follows:

--nimbly across the page. It avoids stepping on any of the letters for some reason. Maybe the ant has rules too.

The Scarecrow is blowing smoke rings again.

The ant is nearer to my pen now. It can actually run across the page faster than my pen does. My heart sinks as the ant stops further up this line. Yep, there it goes. As my pen made made that last sentence, it passed over where the ant was standing. Now the ant lies in two pieces, neatly sliced in half. It's antennae twitch for a moment before going still.

Just me and the Scarecrow again.

Silence. Nothing happens. Silence. Nothi--

The readable text ends here. There are maybe fifty pages after the preceding passage that cannot be deciphered. This book is obviously an extremely elaborate hoax, although given the carbon dating evidence, I find it difficult to conceive of how this could have been faked. Perhaps the more pressing question is why.

© 2014 JesseBurgess

Author's Note

Let me know what you think. Anything at all.

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References to 'Oliver Twist, Pens, nuclear bombs, using modern day names all show that this is clearly a modern day piece of writing.
Not too impressed by the content either.

Posted 10 Years Ago


10 Years Ago

Well it reminds me of a Dr Who theme.
Some years ago there was a US series on British TV call.. read more

10 Years Ago

Thanks for the input

10 Years Ago

You're very welcome but I'm not sure my comments will help you much. I tend to say what I think. I d.. read more

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1 Review
Added on May 14, 2014
Last Updated on May 14, 2014
Tags: surreal, abstract, bizarre, short story, mm



Barrie, Ontario, Canada