The Hopeful Wanderer – The Role of the Witness

In a disintegrating room stood a girl in a white dress. She had her back to me, hem trailing among broken bricks.

She was about to begin.

“What’s that sound?” She turned toward the wrecked wall, then she stumbled backward and fell over. Her form drifted apart like fingers raked through mist.

After a moment, she reappeared with her back to me.

This was my fourth viewing. Tourists come to see the ghost girl replay her last moments had all left. I blew out a soft breath.

“What’s that sound?” the girl said again, turning.

“Shhh…” I said. This time, I heard a dry, slithering rustle.

Now the girl turned wide eyes upon me. “It’s coming,” she whispered. Voices trickled in from another room.

“Just stay quiet,” I replied. Back then, I had stepped away to inform her parents of the danger and missed the next part.

The girl crept up to a spectral, boarded up window. Peeked through a gap in the planks. I moved closer to see what she saw.

A single eyeball, looking back at her.

The girl screamed and fell backward. A gasped breath. Then the entire wall blew inward, several bricks slamming into her. She lay stunned with a monster towering over her. Long, scaly body coiled up, feathered wings fluttering, single eye roving.

Her parents and I raced in. We all had screamed, “No!” But now our mouths moved soundlessly. For us, I said, “No.”

Snapping the girl up in its sharp metal beak, the creature flapped away into the night.

The girl reappeared with her back to me, but she turned around. “Will you come back?” she asked.

My heart sank. No matter how many times I returned to bear witness, she continued to make this request.

As always, I said, “Of course.”

Thanks for reading!

If you like what I write here at Word Nerd Scribbles, you can leave a one-time tip for the price of a $3 coffee ko-fi.com/sgbaker.

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The Hopeful Wanderer – Smiling at Strangers

A face loomed in the darkness outside our stopped subway train. Outlined in glowing white lines. Xs for eyes. A hand-drawn, rictus grin. A mask. It bobbed along up and down the cars, pressing against the windows, fingertips tapping the glass. Giggling echoed down the tunnel, accompanying a high-pitched voice asking, “Who smiled? Whooo smiiiiled?”

Within, some of us glanced around at each other, wondering who had broken the taboo. At all stations, ancient signs declared, “Do not smile at strangers.” Relics of a time of scams and con artists. Now the tunnels were too dangerous for casual opportunists. Suggestion had become rule.

The voice of the conductor buzzed over the intercom. “Who pulled the emergency brake? What’s going on?”

In front of me, the face had paused, tilted, as if curious. A bare finger rubbed against the glass. Over and over. “Was it youuuu?”

I swallowed.

Behind me, a woman stuttered a reply to the conductor. “No one,” she explained. “S-someone smiled at a stranger.”

A curse word sounded through the intercom before the conductor remembered to close the channel. Without the presence of an authority figure, the entire car held its collective breath.

The face watched us like fish in a bowl.

As the engine revved, the train lurched forward. Before me, beside the mask, the white outline of a hand bloomed, fingers outspread. They waved cheerfully at me. As the face receded, the voice sang out, “Byeeeeee.”

Thanks for reading!

If you like what I write here at Word Nerd Scribbles, you can leave a one-time tip for the price of a $3 coffee ko-fi.com/sgbaker.

At $1 a month, you can also join my creative journey @ patreon.com/sgbaker.

To read more free original short fiction every Thursday, follow the blog, like the Word Nerd Scribbles Facebook page, or subscribe to my monthly newsletter!

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Word Nerd Scribbles Joins #Spooktober 2019

Fall began a week ago, but now. Now. Finally and at last. Today. October has arrived. The season of spooks, monsters, and creeps. It’s here! The best time of the year.

With the arrival of October begins #Spooktober, a time of Halloween-flavored media in movies, fiction, art, gifs, and more. Whether you prefer gory horror or light-hearted creepiness, #Spooktober has it all.

Word Nerd Scribbles will be joining in on #Spooktober 2019 with four spooky, creepy, and scary Hopeful Wanderer tales. Departing somewhat from the usual serene mood of the Wanderer’s adventures, because everyone experiences frightening things. Tune in each week to find out what goes wrong when the Wanderer makes mistakes.

Since October has five Thursdays this year, and the last one falls on Halloween (!), Word Nerd Scribbles will continue last year’s trend of presenting a Halloween Special. An original spooky short-story all on its own. Be on the lookout!

For my part, I don’t get enough time to watch all the scary movies, read all the creepy books, or attend all the spooky parties I want in October. So this year, I’ve picked Annihilation to watch, starring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and Oscar Isaac. I haven’t seen it before, but some of you said it’s really good!

What are your October plans this year? Throwing a party? Making a costume? Let me know in the comments! For now and the rest of the month, my fellow spooks:

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