The Hopeful Wanderer 46 – The Memory Tree

They arrived as the full moon crested the horizon like an enormous gold coin. Silhouetted people in ones and twos materializing beneath the spreading limbs of the Memory Tree. Their outlines wavered and shimmered beneath the hazy moonbeams, solidifying as the night grew darker. I wasn’t the only person sitting beneath the boughs, so I wasn’t the only one with guests tonight. The living, strangers to me, sat or stood apart, awaiting the return of their own remembered loved ones, unconcerned with my presence.

All around me, my guests talked and laughed about times long gone. Some had already met each other through me, through previous events like this, but others introduced themselves for the first time. Eyes glinting and teeth flashing in the dark. I simply sat nearby and observed these friends long passed. They smiled or nodded at me, knowing their place here with us tonight meant they held a place in my heart.

The night grew longer and longer as the moon fled through the sky. The strangers nearby finished their visits and left, but we remained, for I could not visit the Memory Tree often. I opened drink after drink for us and grew dizzy as the twin suns began to pink the sky. With the oncoming morning, my guests wished me farewell and rained away into nothing.

Alone again, I lay on my back in the grass and the fading stars overhead spun and spun. I missed them all so much.

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The Hopeful Wanderer 45 – Insecurity

Beneath a brightly lit city, a yawning tunnel ran away into darkness. As if to avoid attracting attention to the area, no light spilled across the wide concrete steps leading downward. Yet at regular intervals, the footsteps of one or two people passing below rang out, telling those walking along the railing above that a few more souls had breached the unknown.

Always before these journeyed on, a faint ding sounded at the decrepit security scanners lining the mouth of the passage. A green circle lit up on crackling screens, indicating this traveler carried no doubts. I felt no call to join this inexplicable pilgrimage, so I stood watching from atop the stairs.

Nearby, an ugly buzz sounded from the scanners and a red X appeared on the screen. Little sparks showered the person standing below and she ducked until they fizzled out. Once she uncovered her head, she just stood there. Unable to move forward, too desperate to turn back.

Unthinking, I held out my hand toward her. “I’ll take it for you.”

The girl turned toward me, face half cast in shadows. She was terribly young for one burdened with too much doubt to pass through. “I couldn’t find a place to drop it,” she explained. “But if you don’t mind…”

My outstretched hand remained steady. She handed me a live, squirming, slimy thing. Extreme anxiety hooked into my skin and I instantly doubted my decision.

But she smiled. As she passed through the scanners with an uplifting ding, she seemed to shine in the dimness before complete blackness swallowed her whole.

As soon as I could, I found a waste bin where I dropped the nasty doubt. It left a smear of grease across my palm that I could only hope would come out with a wash.

Thanks for reading!

If you like what I write here at Word Nerd Scribbles, you can support my writing habit for the price of a $3 coffee @ ko-fi.com/sgbaker.

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The Hopeful Wanderer 44 – Whispering Waters

When the waters rose and swept between the pillars of an innocuous shrine, it was said a voice could be heard by those standing beneath its graceful wooden arch. Intrigued by this rumor, I arrived there just as the rainy season petered off and stood where calm water met grass, toes bare, gazing outward at the flat expanse of shallows stretching to the horizon. Upon stepping onto the sandy path leading out to the shrine, buried beneath inches of clear rainwater, the splashing of my steps seemed insignificant against all that emptiness. 

Little rock gardens stretched away to my left and right, lit by afternoon sunlight beneath the ripples my motion created. The people here knew the depths of water would arrive every year to kill whatever grass they managed to encourage up from the earth, but they built beauty here all the same. Still, my heart thumped dully beneath my collarbone, hardly moved, my walk to the shrine a mechanical one. 

I arrived between the shrine’s old pillars too soon, before feeling could return to my chest. Deeper water rose and fell around my thighs now, threatening to push me over, and I rested a hand against smooth lacquered wood to keep myself upright. Once steadied and focused, I cocked my head, listening, for I had heard something… familiar.

Then I realized what maybe a few other visitors had understood before me. It was only my own voice, telling me what I needed to hear.

Shhhhhhhhhhhh… shhhhhhhhhh… it said.

Fingers trailing in water, palm rested against ancient tree, toes pressed into sand, and hair tousled by wind, I closed my eyes. And I listened to what I had to say.

A little, just a very little, the weight in my heart eased. For now, it was enough.

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You may have noticed the recent lack of posts…

I just suffered a death in my family. My family being me and my ancient, toothless dog, a Pomeranian little more than four pounds of fluff. My sweet baby.

Trinket passed away about two weeks ago on April 14th. While I was out of town, she walked out onto a garage porch and, unable to see with her bad eye in the dim light, fell off onto concrete and had a concussion and mild stroke. Though she survived the fall (thanks to the fast work of my sister) and we fought together on her recovery for three weeks, though she beat the weakness, and the loss of appetite, and was beating the dizziness–getting herself up and walking most of the time–though she had almost recovered her quality of life, she had a severe relapse one night and ultimately passed away in my arms.

She was very brave.

The grieving process is real. As I mourn the fifteen years she was with me and the loss of the very best dog in the world, I can’t predict how long this will take. But new posts will start going up as soon as I can write again. Thank you all so much for your patience.

I miss you, Wonder Dog.

The Hopeful Wanderer 43 – Lost to Hidden

A ruined city glimpsed between thick clouds, spires and skyscrapers towering above the earth, breaking through the eternal fog enveloping its forgotten world. Sunlight poking through the windows illuminated dangling innards — wires and ventilation ducts. Cold and empty and beckoning explorers and wanderers alike.

I stood somewhere within the fog layer but still outside the fabled city, uncertain of my direction. My hand shielded my eyes as I tipped my head back, gazing up at those tower tops. Sunlight had broken through again, glittering off broken window shards and limning the fog in gold. Last time the towers hove into view, I had walked straight toward them. Yet now, they reappeared… to my left.

Soon they vanished again. Altering my course and beginning my trek anew, I reflected on how folks referred to this as ‘the lost city,’ implying it never meant to get that way but had become obscured all the same. Still, the lost hoped for discovery; it stood to reason someone should have found the city by now.

As I slid down a ridge, shale nipping at my bare palms, the towers materialized once more. Two now stood to my right and… I glanced about for the third. There, back the way I had come.

Understanding dawned. I stood grumbling under my breath, condensed fog dripping cold from the ends of my hair. This was why no one had found the lost city: it wasn’t lost, but hidden. The city itself was toying with me. A minuscule flock of unfamiliar red birds took flight from the distant towers, their cries reverberating through the low clouds sounding just like laughter.

Fog rolled up over the skyscrapers once more, swallowing them for good. Though I searched and searched for another glimpse, they did not show themselves to me again.

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The Hopeful Wanderer 42 – Dreams of Home

While ducking under the bone-bare branches of a snowy wood, I came face to face with a pale barn owl. It perched on an aspen branch at the exact height to be eye level with me when I stepped around the tree’s trunk. I found myself close enough to count the small feathers on its face and to become quite familiar with the wicked curve of its beak. I took a swift step backward out of striking range.

“Excuse me,” the owl hooted. The muffling effect of the snow grabbed at the low sound. “I have no dreams of my own and I cannot sleep without them. Would you lend me one of yours?”

I glanced around at the dim afternoon light filtering through the gray clouds above. Nothing else moved out there in the cold. Regarding the owl once more, I thought this nocturnal creature must have been awake a very long time now. “You may keep the dream,” I said. “I will have little need for it back.”

“Very good,” said the owl. “Might I request a dream of home?”

So often was the case that those I met already knew I wandered, I felt a faint surprise. “I am a Wanderer,” I explained. “I have no dreams of home.”

“I know what you are.” The owl blinked canny black eyes. “Not everyone has a home,” it continued, “but all feel a yearning for someplace.”

I stilled, thinking. The owl shuffled its feathery wings, patient. Waiting.

At last, I said, “When I dream of that place, I dream of the night sky.” I wondered if I should give such a thing away after all.

The insomniac owl cocked its head. “That will do nicely,” it said. “But once I’ve slept, I believe I will return it to you.”

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The Hopeful Wanderer 41 – Wreckage Recollected

Every wrecked window of the fallen airplane contained a different story. The story that interested me existed at the front of the plane. Or it would have, if the crash hadn’t shorn the cockpit windows clean off when it plowed the plane’s nose into the ground.

I stood on the spine of a once-white, narrow-body airliner. Fire had gutted the insides black sometime before the crash and the elements had scoured the company logo from the outside sometime after. If I squinted, the hulk appeared as some great beached marine creature with too many eyes or mouths, crouched here on the shore. The tide could not budge it and the locals had no use for this particular spit of black sand, so here it remained.

Damp from a chill, clinging fog soaked my shirtfront as I stretched lengthwise on the forward end, head and arms hanging over the ragged edge of ripped metal, leaving the cockpit open to the skies. Dangling upside down like this shifted my perspective — the roar of breakers became the death rattle of compromised engines; wind whistling through exposed wiring grew into the screams of doomed passengers.

I squeezed my eyes shut. I knew the real story ended in passengers, attendants, and pilots parachuting to safely. What I heard in my mind was what might have been. Because somehow the pilots had angled the plane to land successfully on this beach, everyone would have lived anyway.

The empty cavity of the cockpit looked meaningfully back at me.
Well… Everyone except the pilots, apparently.

I rolled over onto my back to ease the blood rushing to my head and patted the plane’s metallic hide with a hollow clank. This plane had no voice to speak to me, but I heard its story all the same.

I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story. To read more free original short fiction, hit that follow button, subscribe through email, or throw a like on the Word Nerd Scribbles Facebook page.