The Hopeful Wanderer – A Dogged Decree

At the top of a snowy mountain in the earliest morning, when rays of sunlight bloodied peaks and bruised purple clouds low on the jagged horizon, the noise of claws scratching on ice brought my gaze up from my boots. My nose burned with the cold and my hands ached where I nestled them inside my coat. I had no idea where I was going and now something approached when I wanted to be alone. A certain vulnerability gripped me.

When I looked back, a dog was crossing my path at an angle to just pass me on its way elsewhere. For all that it looked like a regular dog – clean, black and white, fluffy fur, forehead smooth and very pat-worthy – its eyes glowed white as the rising sun. It trotted light across the surface of snow that I plunged into as deep as my calves.

I paused, losing momentum as my feet sank a little farther into the freezing slush. Wondering whether I should address what might be a passing god, I said, “What do you know?”

As it moved up beside me, the dog snapped at my heels. I threw myself sideways, keeling over in the snow. Moisture soaked me from hip to shoulder. Flakes puffed upward, suspended on the still air.

With a snarl in its voice, the dog growled, “Grieving for the unknown means no end to sadness.” Looking back not at all to view its handiwork with me.

Half-trapped in snow, I watched until the god-dog vanished over the ridge, considering its words. Should the strange message have meant something to me, or to the dog? By the time it had gone, I still didn’t understand. So before moving on, I took the moment to lay back and make a snow angel.

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The Hopeful Wanderer – A Dance at Dusk

In the depths of a cloudy blue twilight, I spotted a darker shape flailing within a grassy field. All around, long stalks reached toward the sky, silhouetted black against the encroaching twilight. Among them, the figure whirled and leapt, feet thumping against the dirt. Shoulders and hips swayed. Though I squinted, I could not make out limbs or face, these blurring with motion and the dark.

Leaving my path, I stole closer, twilight deepening to bluey-black. Even as I got close enough to taste on my tongue the kicked up dust cloud, the figure’s visage never resolved into more than a shadow.

A shadow dancing to greet the oncoming night.

As I stood nearby, watching these wild motions, the leaping shadow moved over a little, as if inviting me in. Blurred arms waved me closer. Blurred feet stepped in place.

The pull of silent rhythm tugged at my bones. Yet I considered the risk of accepting a strange invitation in such transitional half-light. Stars winked on in the darkest parts of the evening, watching.

I joined the dance.

My feet matched the shadow’s rhythm as I moved in. Spinning in a circle, my outstretched palms smacked grass fronds. The scent of broken stalks rose sharp and green. My head tilted back, laughing mouth open wide enough to swallow the night stars above.

A light tug on my hand. The shadowy person’s face crinkled in a smile, it’s other arm motioning me to follow. Somehow, I knew this meant forever. I wanted to go on dancing, too.

“Wait,” I said, slowing my feet with difficulty. “I can’t go yet. I’m still looking for something.”

Indistinct shoulders gave a shrug. With the last vanishing scrap of light, the figure disappeared.

Cradled by a night unspoiled with light, I kept on dancing alone.

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The Hopeful Wanderer – Mirror Mimic

Over a still lake, pale pink fog rolled, muffling the surrounding forest noises to silence. I knelt on the pebbled shore of a small peninsula, cleaning myself in the water. Splashes echoed into the distance. Goosebumps raised on my chilled skin.

Once I finished, the surface became mirror smooth. Reflecting the fog back on itself until every direction appeared soft and billowing as a dream. My own reflection grew crisp. Somewhat at odds with the surrounding blur.

But something seemed… wrong. I’d have thought my reflection had just moved on its own.

I concentrated, not blinking. Not breathing.

Though mine rested at my side, my hand in the reflection reached toward me. Fingertips broke the surface from below, water streaming off the outstretched palm. Plaintiff. Desperate.

I took the hand in my own, fingers gripping clammy fingers. Only now I had my own for comparison, I noted the much greener cast of the other one.

The mysterious hand yanked hard. I fell forward, up to my elbows in water. Rocks scraped at my knees.

Another yank. I scrabbled against the loose stones for purchase. Happened to catch on a big enough boulder to stop myself flying into the drink. Bracing my foot against the rock, I hauled backward on my trapped arm.

With a mighty yell, I flopped my assailant halfway up onto shore. Green limbs flailed and web-toed feet flopped. These attached to a person with all the amenities of a frog. Golden eyes. Wide mouth. Wormy tongue.

The frog-person released me with a hiss. Turning, it hopped back into the lake, breaking the surface again enough to stare daggers at me.

I wiped a sheen of slime from my assaulted arm and flicked it into the water after the creature, who just responded with a long, sulking croak.

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The Hopeful Wanderer – Toxic Remedy

With sickness dragging at my bones, my throat, and the pit of my stomach, I shambled through a flower market nestled in the heart of an unfamiliar region. As I was new to the area, I didn’t know where to find the plant I needed. That plus the language barrier meant this market was my last hope.

Hand on aching stomach, I peered into every stall with swollen eyes. None had the right herb. At least, I hoped I hadn’t just missed it because my eyes hurt so much.

But on the edge of the market, I came across a man selling dried flowers. They hung on a slim metal wrack, upside down in bunches of several kinds. Each bundle tied with a neat tag explaining their contents in that unfamiliar language. But it didn’t matter, because I spotted the very remedy I sought.

Pointing to the bunch I wanted, the seller and I exchanged money for dry, rustling flowers. The moment I had them, I popped a blue, star-shaped blossom into my mouth.

The seller gifted me a surprised look.

Powder puffed across my tongue, tasting like the sky and rainwater. I sighed with relief.

Miming eating and then throwing up, the seller said a strange word that I guessed meant ‘poisonous.’

“Oh, is it?” I asked, crunching down on another flower. “Huh.”

Recognizing my language, he said, “Make trouble?”

I shook my head, feeling so much better already. At least I could see him now without a blurry film over my eyes. “Not at all.”

Smiling tightly at me, the seller made a ‘stay there’ motion and walked off toward a nearby herbalist. I took the opportunity to slip away before someone decided to pump my stomach.

Besides, the flower had made me drowsy. I needed a nap.

A special thank-you to Jenette Baker for your support on Patreon! You are the best. Friend to all creators. Thank you so much, again and again.


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The Hopeful Wanderer – A Tower of Doors

Eighteen doors. Four atop six on top of eight. Their hues ran the gamut of the rainbow, with like colors clustered together within each layer. The bottom eight doors shifted from navy to indigo to cerulean; the middle six ranged from forest to emerald to lime; with the top four a mix of sunflower to apricot to blood.

This tower of doors had appeared in a busy square. Suddenly, where nothing had stood – gleaming in the afternoon sunlight like a rainbow invitation.

Many of us gathered around the mysterious tower, hands shading eyes, chins tilted back. Creaks and clicks sounded as various doors opened and closed on their own, as if invisible people walked through, even the ones at the top which opened into thin air. Within, we glimpsed swirls of colors that matched their respective doors.

Intrigued, I stepped forward. “I’ll go in one.”

A young man also stepped up. “Me too.” He glanced about, as if expecting objection. Everyone else shrank back.

I chose a door from the bottom set. So did the man. The others looked too difficult to reach without a ladder. He and I braced and opened our doors. Mine revealed turquoise and teal, and as I stepped through, the scent of salt filled my nose. I couldn’t help closing my eyes as hues and smells crashed over me.

A roar sounded nearby. Warmth caressed my face and soft sand tickled my fingers where I lay. When I opened my eyes and sat up, I found myself at the sea. No sign of the other guy.

This stretch of shore seemed familiar. I realized then that the doors were portals and mine had sent me to the ocean, almost a week’s journey away. With a sigh, I flopped back down, resigned to catching up later.

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The Hopeful Wanderer – A Weary Drifter

On the side of an empty stretch of highway, I found a little white stuffed rabbit sitting in the winter-dead grass. It wore a red dress patterned with bursts of yellow flowers. From beneath the hem, fuzzy feet poked out front, seemingly sat there and left behind. Black button eyes turned down toward the toes, as if deep in contemplation.

A breeze ruffled the rabbit’s long ears as I stopped close by, frowning downward. When my shadow fell over it, the rabbit looked up at me.

“I’m too tired to keep going,” it explained. Its front paws hung loose at its sides and it slouched over a little. The posture of the weary.

My mouth quirked. “I understand that. Where are you going?”

“I’m not really going anywhere,” said the rabbit. “Just going.”

A glance around in all directions revealed nothing nearby. Just miles of brittle brown grass and a long stretch of highway. The wide sky above had that navy blue quality that promised cold rain. “In that case,” I said, “I’d suggest finding a place to stop wandering. Only this is not a good place.”

The rabbit’s gaze found the tips of its toes again. “It’s as good a place as any.”

Nothing more did the rabbit say. After a minute, I turned my feet back toward the road.

But I hesitated. “Looks like we were headed the same direction,” I observed. “Would it help… if I walked with you awhile? Until you find a better place?”

Still the rabbit said nothing. At last, I trudged back to the highway shoulder. But behind me, I heard a crunch of grass, then gravel.

The little stuffed rabbit stepped up beside me, looking improbable. “Okay,” it said. “Just until I find a better place.”

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The Hopeful Wanderer – The Way of the Rabbit

From within the depths of a snowy hill, an enormous dark eye stared at me. Iris a deep brown, shot through with white snow. Pupil veined with tree branches. Snowflakes puffed away in the wind where a clump of snow had fallen from the opening eyelid. Unwavering focus pinning me down.

Rooted in place, I stood at the foot of the hill. Longing for the cover of trees and brush several paces behind me. My tracks leading from their protection fast vanished beneath thick flakes. Cold filled my nostrils as I took several panicked breaths.

Before stepping out of cover, I had not noticed the eye. My footfalls must have woken the hill itself. I waited for it to blink.

Instead, the eye’s gaze shifted. A primal part of me couldn’t turn away from the threat of its presence, but curiosity won. I followed the eye’s attention downhill, where a white bunny hopped along toward the treeline, appearing in and out of the curtain of snowfall. It paused long enough to scratch its long, floppy ear with a hind foot, heedless of the living hill upon which it rested.

Above me, the eye crinkled up with glee. Wood and stone groaned with the motion, more snow rolling downhill. A small snowball zoomed past me, sending the bunny into flight, away into the bushes. With the fluffy creature gone, the eye at last drooped closed. The rumble of the hill settling beneath my feet sounded almost like chuckling laughter.

After a few minutes in which the eye did not open again, I dared to take a creeping step. And another. Throat dry, I tiptoed away into the snowy afternoon myself, going the way of the rabbit.

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