The Hopeful Wanderer – Burning Roads

Someone set a field on fire with me in it.

Gray smoke rolled skyward and drifted along the tilled dirt, tangling around my feet and stinging my eyes. I had picked this field to cross because nothing grew in it, so I couldn’t imagine what the fire consumed. Pulling my shirt up over my nose and mouth, I trudged along with my head down.

I hoped I wasn’t trapped.

With so much haze in the air, blowing ahead and behind me, I almost walked straight into a thick swath of fire. Orange flickered at the base of a line of heavy black smoke rising into the afternoon, flashing warning lights. The leading edge of flames churned ahead in a straight line.

Making a barrier right across my path.

Realization dawning, I ran. Lungs heaving, eyes streaming, feet digging into soft earth, I caught up with the fire. Leaped across in its path. The scent of gasoline hung heavy in the air, assaulting my already overwork lungs. Clinging to my shoes where liquid soaked the earth.

On the other side, the wind blew the smoke away from me. Indifferent to my near escape, the flames crept along the gasoline trail while I stood with hands on knees, taking huge gulps of clean air.

Later, as I climbed the side of the valley, I got high enough to see the shape of the roads burning through the field. They spelled out words in huge cursive letters. Big enough to be seen from space.

SAVE US.

The irony got to me and I laughed a little until I coughed up more sooty phlegm. I could’ve been trapped inside those lines.

If the fire starters wanted to message aliens, I sure hoped those aliens could read cursive.


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#Spooktober2020 Day 30: Plague

My mouth was a weapon. One I could aim and fire at anyone. But once. Just once. Too obvious and the authorities would take me down.

Shouldering my way through the crowd, I grinned at the knowing.

So, so many people had gathered for our high school reunion. I hadn’t been invited, but found out about the reunion anyway. All these people who picked on me. Shunned me. They would make a perfect ground zero.

When I got to the middle of the gymnasium, lost in the crush of my peers all around me, I

opened my mouth

and

coughed.

#Spooktober2020 Day 29: Mirror

Seven mirrors in the house and I smashed every one to pieces when you left me. Seven times seven equals forty-nine years of bad luck. Worth it to never see your face look back at me again.

You wanted to ‘be your own person.’ To ‘do things for yourself for once.’ But what about me? Together from the womb, you and I. My bad luck that you abandoned me.

Crying and gasping amidst the wreckage of the mirrors around me, I grasped the iron crowbar with shaking hands, lifting it one last time. Just one more mirror to destroy.

You.


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The Hopeful Wanderer – Guard Against

As I passed through a night dark farm, the door of a wood shed near the farmhouse rattled from the inside. A voice from within yelled, “Let me out! Let me OUT!”

I stopped at the door, hand on the cold iron latch, but didn’t open it. “Who’s in there?”

Something heavy slumped against the inner door. “This farm’s guardian. A scarecrow.”

Raising an eyebrow, I asked, “What’s a guardian doing locked up in the wood shed?”

“The farmer gave up on the harvest. Stored me in here.” The voice sounded more angry than plaintive. A thump like a slammed fist made me jump. “I ask you, what’s a scarecrow without crows to scare?”

I shrugged. Unable to argue with that logic, I pulled the door open.

All at once, I was face to face around the edge of the door with a bright orange pumpkin, light from within casting two broad black exes for eyes in stark relief. Body made up of an orange raincoat and red shirt. A trail of holiday lights led away from the back of the scarecrow’s neck into the shed.

The scarecrow’s head tilted as it looked me up and down.

I raised my hands. “Easy…”

“You’re no crow,” the scarecrow observed. A warm scent like decaying pumpkin pulp drifted to me. “More of a wren, I’d say. Now I have work to do. Leave this land.”

The scarecrow thumped and jerked away, headed for the withered cornfield I had cut through earlier. The holiday lights clicked along the ground in its wake, until somewhere inside the shed, the cord popped free from the plug.

The pumpkin in the distance blinked. Blinked. And went out. The scarecrow’s silhouette vanished in the darkness.

“Hey, you’re welcome,” I muttered.

In the trees overhead, a crow cawed.


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#Spooktober2020 Day 28: Nightmare

On my way into the kitchen to make breakfast, I tripped over something soft and squishy. When I flipped on the a light, there was a teddy bear, sitting in the doorway. Facing the fridge.

I had no kids and owned no teddy bears.

Following the teddy’s gaze to the fridge, I found words spelled out with my letter magnets. Two words.

‘He’s coming.’

I woke up. I had my dream journal with me in bed. Pen in my hand. Half asleep, I had written two words.

‘He’s coming.’

In the dark morning outside, a tapping started on my window.


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#Spooktober2020 Day 27: Spellbound

Her influence started small, but she caught you up in her spellbound following early on. You obsessed with her – the pictures, the status updates, the videos. All about her.

You wanted to be her so bad. It didn’t matter that I said you were more than enough.

Coming home one day to find her in the house – you as her look-alike – shouldn’t have surprised me. But it did. Not a trace of you remained in her face.

She didn’t spellbind me the way she did you. The way you did me. You became a stranger to me.

I miss you.


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#Spooktober2020 Day 26: Culling

We started sticking together when more and more of us disappeared each night. At first we consoled ourselves with the story that those who went missing had made it off the streets. Reconciled with family. Gotten clean. Begged enough to rent an apartment.

Until seven of the homeless community vanished at once.

Huddled together beneath a bridge, we didn’t realize we had made culling us easier until unmarked white vans pulled up, surrounding us.

Leaving my belongings behind, I scrabbled away before city officials could hem me in. Covering my ears to block out the screams echoing in my wake.


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#Spooktober2020 Day 25: Purge

I fought against the tide of people shoving me from behind, pushed forward by indifferent forces funneling us into a featureless corporate building. I had seen creatives, my friends, enter this place and come out the other side wearing business suits and complaining about taxes. I knew what was coming, but I couldn’t escape.

As I stumbled through the door, I wished for the touch of guitar strings under my fingers.

Inside were cubicles as far as I could see. My mind drained of songs about life and happiness. Unresisting, I headed toward my designated cubicle. Purged of all individuality.


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#Spooktober2020 Day 24: Altar

Deep in the woods, I built a mound of dirt and twigs and pinecones, an altar upon which to make my sacrifice. Packed together with my bare hands, mud squeezed cool and alive between my fingers, under my nails.

Rain started drizzling through whispering pine needles. I laid my phone down upon a bed of dry leaves on the altar. Fire from my lighter caught on the leaves with a crackle. Plastic and metal began to melt. The glass screen cracked.

Soon the phone melted down to a black lump. All my contacts, all my apps, sacrificed.

For my freedom.


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#Spooktober2020 Day 23: Cauldron

The cold had seeped deep into my bones by bath time. Shivering, I lit a fire beneath my oversized cauldron hanging from a metal hook driven deep into the brick above my hearth. Deep enough to hold my weight.

I started to melt the moment I settled into the bubbling water. My skin began to slough off. Floating around on the water’s surface like eerie bits of soup.

Revealing myself for the lizard-person I was.

I would have to reapply a new human skin, but that would come later. For now, basking in hot luxury, I hissed a contented sigh.


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