The Hopeful Wanderer – To Be Known

Cradled in the palms of a young man was a nest of interwoven brown twigs, the bowl filled to the brim with tiny eggs the color of spring. Buttery yellow, pastel pink, hazy purple, soft white. All speckled with little red dots, minuscule dribbles of blood. The clack as they jostled against each other promised thick, hard shells, filled with gooey, spicy delight. My stomach twisted at the memory of overindulgence.

We stood together in a faded barn loft, where the boy had just pulled the nest down from among the rafters. Straw so old it had gone to white littered the wood floor and fine dust wandered away through the open loft doors. The eggs almost glowed with color by comparison with our drab surroundings.

As if in offering, the boy held the nest out to me. “Take these.”

Though desire arced through me, I raised my hands as if to ward him off. “Why do you want me to have them?”

“They’re my secrets,” he said. “I need you to hold onto them. Don’t you want to know?”

My mouth watered with the heady scent of sugar wafting up from the eggs. I swallowed. “If I take these,” I warned, “I will devour them.”

As his eyes widened, he hugged the bundle of eggs a little closer to his chest. “Why would you do that?”

I slipped my hands into my pockets, resisting temptation. “Don’t be so willing to give your secrets out,” I growled. “No one can protect them like you.”

The boy’s head bowed. “I’d still risk it,” he whispered. “To be known.”

“You know yourself,” I replied. Though he flinched, I pressed on. “Secrets are dangerous and therefore delicious. Be careful who you feed.”


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The Hopeful Wanderer – Jealous Grass

A person was laying in the grass, and she had been for quite some time. Flat on her back. A bouquet of big white and yellow daisies clutched in her hands lay across her chest. When she continued not to move from her grassy bed, I walked over to investigate.

Blue eyes widened when I came into her view. The woman, more of a girl, did not move at my approach, which concerned me most. My next concern being the large white daisy stuck in her mouth, slender petals folded inward between her lips.

“Looks like a ritual,” I murmured. To her, I said, “Was this on purpose?”

An emphatic head shake.

When I tried to pull her up by the arm, her back stuck to the grass. A quick peek beneath her showed grass woven into the fibers of her shirt. Sitting back on my heels, I plucked the flower from her mouth.

Gagging, the girl spat more petals into the air. One stuck to her cheek. “It’s the flowers,” she wheezed. “You have to run!”

A grass petal slithered across the toe of my shoe. I shook it off.

“What started this?” I demanded.

A tear slid from the girl’s eye as grass wove lovingly into her hair. “I picked this bouquet,” she whispered.

“Throw them away!”

“I can’t let go!”

I snatched the bouquet from the girl’s hand, stems slipping from her unresistant fingers with ease, and tossed it as far as I could, loose petals raining down in the bouquet’s wake.

Grabbing her hand, I hauled the girl upright. Grass petals fell from her hair past her shocked expression. “I couldn’t… get out,” she whispered.

“You can now,” I replied. In the distance, the bouquet had begun sinking below a layer of jealous grass. “Let’s go.”

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The Hopeful Wanderer – A Seven Vessel Mission

Seven boats lay keeled over on their sides in the shallows of a cloudy bay. Water swallowed the gray sky above until they became mirrored reflections, indistinguishable, and lapped against the exposed ribs of the boats like a kitten at a captured fish. Wood and metal creaked as the tide began to shift back out to sea.

I crouched on a nearby pier, watching these boats. The sunlight grew wan, wearing on toward evening.

When the tide had well turned, a low creak echoed around the cove. The sound somewhere between the call of whales and the scraping of metal upon stone. Each boat, large and small, shuddered, wood planks groaning as their skeletal frames shifted. Though they did not, could not float, the boats rose on their keels as field beasts rising from a nap, shaking themselves off.

Surprised the boats had, in fact, activated, I flicked a switch on a device cradled in my palm. Seven dots lit up on the radar screen. I’d heard about this curious phenomenon, which occurred on a regular if infrequent schedule, and I wanted to know where they would go.

Ripples grew into waves crashing against the rocks at the foot of the pier. The boats clustered into a formation sensible to some bygone programmers, ranging from the largest in the middle to the smallest at the ends, arranged in a crescent.

Then the boats floated away. No pilots. No captains. No motors or sails. They angled out to sea, ragged black outlines against the setting sun. The tracker screen showed the dots growing more distant, but their glow remained steady and a digital needle pointed in their direction.

Between one blink and the next, the boats slipped beyond the horizon.

And the dots and the arrow on my tracker winked out.

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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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Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

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 – Keeping Away from Windows

Shattered glass clung to the window frame from sill to ceiling, heavy, pale curtains flapping to either side in a fresh breeze. Large sections of broken pane lay scattered among shards ground to dust, strewn across the floor. The window smiled a ragged, toothy smile, as if to say, “Watch this.”

Another massive ball of ice crashed through the window, thunking into the wooden floor and rolling to join the first that had shattered the window to begin with. They looked like huge hail. The two dirty ice chunks huddled among the glass shards with smug satisfaction.

From my place on the bed, finger holding my place in my book, I stared open-mouthed at the destructive intruders. My host would not be happy about this.

As one, the ice chunks rolled on their own to reveal a pair of dark spots, one dead center of each. Together, they appeared like eyes. Pointed at me.

I set my book down.

From the stairs outside my door came the sound of running feet. In a moment, my host crashed through the bedroom door, holding a hairdryer, of all things. The icy eyes shifted in his direction.

My host threw the hairdryer cord to me. “Find an outlet!”

Shoving the bed aside, I plugged the hairdryer into the outlet behind it. As the hairdryer came to life with a faint roar, my host flicked the switch to high heat, pointing the business end at the ice balls. As he advanced, the frozen eyeballs rolled away. The scent of rain rose as ice melted to water, mixing with dust on the floor. Gaining enough rolling speed, they bounce over the windowsill and away into the cloudy afternoon.

Flicking off the hairdryer, my host surveyed the damage to the window and groaned. “Not again.”

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The Hopeful Wanderer – Detoured from Death

A sedate river of shaggy, horned beasts lumbered across the huge plain in my path. Snorting and lowing, their numbers stretched from the horizon on my right to as far as I could see on the left. Pressed together horns to tails, alternating between eating and walking. A cool wind blew them before it, sending them wherever they could find warmth.

I stood upon the single rise in this flat land, watching them pass below, noting how frost clung to brown curls. My own breath blew out white as I took a seat, resigned to waiting. No way could I pass through that herd in safety. At once, cold began seeping from the frozen ground into my bones.

Once I had built the weakest fire from withered prairie grass, I hunched over to shield the tiny flame from the ever-present wind, warming my chilled hands. When the ground shook beneath me, I looked up, surprised to find close by a young bison regarding me. Warm breath huffed into my face.

“The sun falls,” lowed the creature. “You will freeze to death soon.”

When I unclenched my teeth to speak, my jaw hurt from trying not to let them chatter. “I’m just waiting for you all to pass and I’ll be moving again.”

Turning its shaggy head to regard the passing herd, which showed no sign of abating, the bison said, “We will not pass soon enough. We’re not going the same way, but you can ride along with me for warmth.

I, too, gazed out at the herd, silhouetted black against the fading sunset, pondering the decision. Soon, though, I nodded and clambered up onto the beast’s back, snuggling into its thick woolly fur as it lumbered onward. Better detoured than dead.

A special thank-you to La Verna Joy for your support on Patreon! You are the best. Not only the best, but the very first Patreon supporter of this blog. Thank you so much, again and again.


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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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The Hopeful Wanderer – Ancient Advice

I stood at the foot of a giant, neck craned back to gaze up. Up past the treetops, up past the hilltop, up to the amethyst evening sky. Three vast arms stretched away from the top of the wind turbine, stars outlining the shapes of wide fan blades. These remained still in the evening quiet, no wind to spin them.

“Wanderer.” The arms creaked above. “What has brought you here?”

I could not imagine such a giant capable of hearing me so far down here, but I cleared my throat anyway. “I’ve been on this world a long time. I want to know what to expect if my life goes on longer.”

As evening fell into night, a red light appeared at the tower’s peak. Flicking on and off, a warning signal. To me the light appeared like an eye, blinking in thought.

“Few have lived as long as you, Wanderer,” the turbine intoned. “Yet I have stood here for time forgotten, long since all my sisters fell.”

The scent of pine needles rose. I knew from my trek up here that several turbines lay crashed to the forest floor, in varying states of decay. I’d been forced to walk all the way around one of them, bloody with rust and lichen. Eyeing the base of this turbine, I wondered how much longer it would last. The rust didn’t look too bad yet.

“You won’t notice too much after awhile,” the turbine finished.

Glancing back up, I said, “Really?”

“Nah. The older you get, the faster time moves, until it all becomes a blur.” The blinking red eye seemed to slow in reflection. “Though at that speed, whirling around and around the year, the changing of seasons looks really pretty.”

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