The Hopeful Wanderer 12 – Artificial Illumination

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Between one town and the next, I spied in the distance twin lanterns casting steady, white light into the night, throwing tree limbs and grass blades into sharp, black relief. One lamp hung above the other, appearing like the eyes in a face cocked sideways. Perhaps in curiosity, perhaps madness. No matter how close my steps drew me to them, I never quite reached the house I thought the beacons must illuminate. No turnoff marked the way to them. Eventually, I passed by, expecting to plunge back into utter darkness.

Yet the path ahead of me remained bright, like the cast of an LED flashlight. My own shadow wandered before me, lengthy and alone. Even the furthest reaches of light should have faded by now.

Two sounds reached me at once: water gurgling against rocks, and a strange, electric hum. I dared not look back, knowing I would see those lamps, one cockeyed above the other, following behind, homing in on me like spotlights. Heat radiated against the back of my neck where they stared. That humming grew louder and louder until it buzzed in my ears and down to my bones.

I broke into a run. With little chance of stumbling on that daylight-bright path, I stretched my legs as far as they would go. Satchel thumping against my back. Metal jangling behind, the hot scent of burning filament in my nose. Closer, closer.

The path dipped and then I was splashing into cool water up to my knees. Mossy rocks rolled beneath my feet and I fell headlong into the shallow river. When I resurfaced, however, gasping and bruised, the lanterns had vanished, replaced with natural moonlight and the hum with the throaty croak of nearby frogs.


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The Hopeful Wanderer 11 – Unrooted

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An ornate greenhouse existed not only far from civilization, but smack in the middle of an already existing forest. Enormous, though in height rather than breadth. Craning my head back to gaze upward at its towering, clear walls, I wondered what must grow within.

So I went inside.

Warmth blanketed my face like an unpleasant breath, filling my lungs with dew. The warring scents of growth and rot assailed me. Lush green plants grew in clay pots set upon plastic bench tops, rows and rows lined up neat from the door to the back wall. Some small enough to fit in my palm, others taller than me. None of them explained the reason for such a tall building.

But there, in the center. Looking like a shaggy Christmas tree, an enormous Douglas fir rose toward the glass ceiling, roots knotting deep into the dirt. I saw no one else, so I approached the fir. The only sound was the crunch of gravel beneath my shoes.

When I stopped before the  fir, a deep, timber creak rumbled over me, shaking leaves and rattling pots. “Are you a plant?” the tree asked me.

“Not at all,” I replied. “I’m the opposite.”

“A wanderer, then,” the fir sighed. “You have arrived at last.”

My eyebrows rose. “Where is here?”

“Your last stop,” said the fir. “All in my greenhouse once wandered, but they took root here, and now they’re safe.”

With new eyes, I took in the plants around. So many wanderers. All trapped in pots, unable to even touch true earth. A shudder rushed through me. “I’m not staying.”

All the way to the exit, roots followed me, breaking the earth threateningly behind my feet. Fir needles rustled in hissing laughter at my back. “When you weary of wandering, you will return.”


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

The Hopeful Wanderer 10 – The Scribbler

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From Pexels

The room was a disaster of notes pinned to cork boards, diagrams on white boards, stacks of notebooks, piles of crumpled paper, pens scattered everywhere. Every time I walked into the home of the Scribbler, I wondered if she would have begun plotting on the ceiling itself. A glance upward confirmed things hadn’t quite progressed that far. Yet.

At the sound of my entrance, the owner of this isolated house poked her head out of another room. Short brown hair stuck up every which way and a brilliant smile lit her face. “You came back.” She would be awake in the middle of the night.

I set my satchel down next to my favorite spot, a gray, sagging armchair. I had to relocate a leaning bunch of books from the cushion to an over-encumbered table, its surface more dirty dishes than wood. “I always do,” I said, dropping into the seat, closing my eyes.

“Someday you won’t, I think.” Soon, the warm scent of coffee reached me. When I looked, she was holding out a mug bearing the phrase don’t piss off the writer and nothing more, while with her other hand, she rummaged through precarious piles. Spiral notebooks slithered away from her touch like living, shrinking things.

Even accepting the mug weighed on me. Time for me to release the burdens of my recent experiences. Well past, really.

With a triumphant noise, she yanked out a much-abused flip notebook — the same one she had been using to record my wanderings last time — and took a seat on a squishy ottoman. Poising her pen, she turned her full attention to me. “Let’s pick up where we left off,” said the Scribbler. “Now tell me, how did you manage to get an ancient deity to sing to you?”


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

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 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.”


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