The Hopeful Wanderer 6 – A Chance of Light Showers

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While passing a farmhouse late one summer evening, I overheard the weather forecast through an open window, the local meteorologist calling for light showers very soon. Though I saw no clouds in the sky, I took shelter beneath an overhang out in the field behind the house, making myself comfortable as the sun finished passing below the horizon. Hands in pockets, parked on a squashy hay bale, satchel at my feet, I would wait out the coming rain in comfort.

From a nearby barn, some farmhands emerged, the weather report blasting from a radio within. One of them turned it down. The farmhouse back door opened and several of the family members crowded onto the porch. They waved at me and I waved back, puzzled at all their expectant faces turned toward the sky.

Then from nowhere fell drops of light.

They arced in ribbons, showering the field with streaks of gold. Pouring almost faster than the eye could detect, slashing across the inky sky and lighting up the field and surrounding woods as bright as day. As each honey-bright gleam hit the ground, it exploded like tiny fireworks, scattering across the grass in a network of shining webs.

I couldn’t help it; I put out my hand. The sparks glancing off my skin felt like warm afternoon sunlight, nothing more. I let the droplets gather within my cupped palm, collecting there like a pool of golden sunwater, weightless as air. But soon the glowing substance destabilized and broke apart, disappearing into invisibility. The flash left sunspots on my vision.

I supposed it didn’t do to keep the sun. Blinking, I lowered my hand, only a little regretful, and witnessed the bright, brief spectacle until the final drop of light fell to the earth.


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The Hopeful Wanderer 5 – The Wretched Well

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Photo by Úrsula Madariaga from Pexels

When I stopped at a well in the woods, I found within not water but a wretched waif. A pale figure curled up on a bed of grass and crushed flowers, the hands cupped over their head the picture of abject sorrow. Their voice bounced off the stone walls up to me, distorted and muffled. “Do not drink here.”

Warm sunlight beat down on the back of my neck, a contrast to the chilly air rising up from below. “I would not,” I replied, leaning my arms on the well rim, where grit bit at my skin. Surveying the prison below, I searched for a way to free the stranger. No cracks marked the smooth inner walls, no handy rope dangled down. “How do I get you out?”

Grass rustled when the well-dweller turned their head to look up at me. My stomach plunged at the sight; for a moment, the face was mine, or that of someone I had once known. “I would rather stay here,” they mumbled. “I have poisoned the well, but the well contains my poison.”

“You will suffocate, then,” I replied, though I suspected they already understood that.

“Leave me.” The wretch curled up tighter, face hidden from me once more.

I tapped my fingers against the stone, gaze on the mossy middle distance. At a loss, but unwilling to leave. After a minute or three, I dug around in my satchel and withdrew two climbing picks. They thumped against the soft dirt next to the well-dweller’s head and they flinched back in surprise.

“For when you’re ready to get yourself out,” I explained.

Before I moved on, one pale hand reached out and grasped a pick, clenching it in a tight, shaking grip.


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The Hopeful Wanderer 4 – A Silent Eclipse

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Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

When the moon drew too close, we retreated indoors and barred the windows shut. Mystified, I helped with the task of preparing for a siege, but once the work was done, I tried to be on my way. The townsfolk would have none of it.

“It’s just a lunar eclipse,” I argued. I was standing in the night dark dining room, satchel over my shoulder.

Shh!” my host hissed at me. She held a trapdoor open while her children filed into the basement beneath her kitchen, ladder steps creaking under their feet. One of them, a dark, curly-haired child, glanced at me with alarm written across his face before he vanished below. “You’ll bring them on us,” she continued in a harsh whisper.

Outside, a low rasp echoed from the driveway. Every one of us froze, listening. To me it sounded like a plastic bag of wet aquarium marbles rolling across concrete. Rattling. Squishy. Through the dining room window, I spied twin beams of moonlight, roving independently of each other like small, pale spotlights. The creature crossed into the yard and then back to the driveway, around and around the cars parked there. Its slow, insidious motions had a questing, hunting nature.

The moonbeams cut across the window and I dropped to the floor, holding my breath. Glancing to see whether the creature had spotted my host, I found that she had already scuttled downstairs in the wake of her children. She had the door cracked just enough to see me, her eyes wide in the gloom. I crawled to join her on quiet hands and knees.

As I descended into the dusty basement, lowering the trapdoor behind me, I murmured, “Maybe you’ve got a point.” They shuffled to give me space and I let the door fall closed.


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The Hopeful Wanderer 3 – The Bravest Thing

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One evening, the stars looked down at me and asked, “Wanderer, you have traveled so far. What do you seek?”

I sat below them on an open, grassy hill. Points of light blazed overhead, like colorful jewels set in a black velvet cloth, twinkling expectantly.

“Hope, I think,” I replied.

For a moment, they said nothing. A light breeze shuffled blades of grass around me, bringing the cool scent of night with it.

“You are very brave,” the stars said at last. “We will keep watch for you.”


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The Hopeful Wanderer 2 – When the Park Slept

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I came upon the rusting ruins of an ancient amusement park far, far away from civilization. Its Ferris wheel soared into the clear sky, the broken spokes and missing seats like the popped blood vessels in a drunkard’s eyeball. Next to this, a single roller coaster loop made another eye, and there, a dry water slide snaking along below the two became the thin line of a mouth. Thick, green trees framed the background; they had the patience for a slow takeover.

Carnival music still sounded from some of the rides, tinny notes enticing absent crowds. A drop tower ride plunged downward, eliciting no thrilled screams. Lights flickered above the ring-toss booths. Moldy stuffed animals with black button eyes watched me pass. The air smelled nothing like popcorn or cotton candy and everything like damp and rot. I stopped in the central plaza and craned my head back to look at the Ferris wheel eye.

“Tired,” the park said to me, voice like shrieking gate hinges. “So very tired.”

“Then rest,” I replied. “Time has already been and gone in this place.”

With a wheezing, billowing sigh, the noises of the abandoned park ceased all at once. Ride carts ground to a halt, one or two bulbs popped in a shower of sparks as the lights went out, and the ticket stand shutters rattled closed. No music sounded, leaving only the rush of wind blowing through the treetops.

I stood listening to the silence a moment, until hesitant birdsong began to rise. Then I exited the park gates, leaving the ruin to its well-earned slumber.


I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story.

The Hopeful Wanderer 1 – A Barren Heart

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In my wanderings, I often find myself traipsing a barren land. From horizon to horizon the ground stretches dry and cracked, riddled like puzzle pieces with the long-gone memory of water. Gray haze blows across the sky, blocking out the sunlight like smoke from an unseen fire. But I smell no ash, only empty heat. Taste no soot, just grainy dirt between my teeth. Plates of ancient mud snap beneath my shoes as I plod across acres and acres of desert.

I never know how I arrive here, but I always know my destination: anywhere else.

In the wavy distance, other figures walk. Black silhouettes, mere smudgy suggestions of people. Some toward my destination, others across my path, a few back the way I came. Always anonymous and alone. When I approach them, they scurry away, perhaps seeing in me nothing but the void-cut shape of a human, same as how I see them. Little eddies of brown dust spiral between us, growing and growing in height, towering upward. When a silhouette steps into one of these, both dust devil and person vanish in a twist of crimson spray. I make it a point to avoid these.

Though at times I walk a lonely space made for dying, I one day or the next step out of it. When my feet find soft grass, when rain droplets cool my parched skin, when clean air fills my lungs again, I raise my bowed head and wander ever onward. Yet no matter how many times I escape, I know that I will continue to return.

 


 

I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story.