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The Wanderer

chap. 1

By Lucia LinnPublished 10 months ago 11 min read
The Wanderer
Photo by Landon Parenteau on Unsplash

I had been here before. The damp and springy earth sunk slightly beneath me as it always did, making space for me. A weightless scent hung in the air. The trees were finally in full bloom, with vibrant bunches of star shaped flowers I had never seen elsewhere, sagging off the thin pale green boughs and framed by spreading leaves. In some places, the weighted branches almost reached the ground, clusters of petals seemingly trying to tickle the moss below. Sunlight fought its way through the bright foliage to light rippling patterns across the ground. As silently as I could manage, I slowly filled my lungs as deeply as I could, until the stinging forced me to let it out.

I didn’t know where I was. Didn’t really care either. There weren’t many places I liked being and I wasn’t going to waste my moment of stillness by trying to think.

I didn’t move. I never did. At least, not much. Here, I was nothing more than scenery, though not the best looking part of it. I just lay there where I had opened my eyes, soaking in the clean warmth and watching the trees sway on their thin, split trunks, moved by nothing more than a gentle breeze. Moist soil was at my fingertips and papery bark against my back. Tying me down, reminding me to remain a spectator, flimsy gray roots crisscrossed my body.

A mare slowly came up from behind my tree and passed me. I watched soundlessly. Her coat was thick and wild, a deep red splattered by pure white spots. Despite the ungroomed fur, muscles stood out, rolling between her skin and bones as she walked softly across the ground in front of me and knelt beneath one of the fragrant trees.

Two more mares followed her. And a third. Walking calmly in a line to pick a resting place.

Then a stallion approached. By far the largest horse I had ever seen, the top of the mares’ heads barely reached his broad, gleaming shoulders. He walked with his head down to keep it out of the trees, but sometimes even that wasn’t enough and the branches had to rustle aside and part around him to make way. Rather than being specked, he was a steady and fiery red. And lying between the two broad shoulder blades, was the rider.

Wrapped from head to toe in strips of fraying brown cloth like a forgotten pharaoh, he slept. Thick, blond lashes flickered with his breathing but the rest of him lay completely still.

I kept my eyes on him as the stallion knelt down gently, trying to picture what the rider would look like beneath the coarse wrappings. I couldn’t help but be annoyed that I couldn’t see his face. As always, the moment he arrived was the end of my relaxation. My skin prickled and my head ached as I squinted my eyes, peering at him.

I would like to think that he was handsome, but the reality is that most people are incredibly plain. Especially boys, in my opinion. But if this boy was plain, that would be boring. It would entirely ruin the mystique of the situation. Maybe he was hideously ugly, or cursed, or scarred. That, at least, would be interesting.

Shifting my weight, I lifted my head off the side of the tree, the bark pulling at my hair. I cocked my head and narrowed my eyes further. The stallion stared at me peevishly, but I ignored it.

Should I break the roots? It wouldn’t be hard. Then I could just walk over and check. But that would be creepy. If he woke up, that would be a horrible first impression. Also, he could be some sort of undead and that would be disgusting. Like, really gross. He was dressed like a mummy after all. And the horse might attack me if I tried anything. It was a boy too, and boys tended to do things like that.

Anyway, breaking the roots felt wrong. There was this tightening in the pit of my stomach, like a leash tying me to the tree, that told me I shouldn’t do that yet.

I tried to relax again. The stallion huffed its satisfaction and set its head down in the grass and closed its eyes.

The rider moved.

My breath caught in my throat and I widened my eyes, trying not to blink.

This was new.

His head turned to the side, facing me, and his wrapping shifted as if he was parting his lips.

“Isla…” he whispered.

His eyes opened.

I woke up.



I threw my pillow across the room into a dirty banana yellow wall and watched it fall to the floor in a saggy and defeated heap. Groaning, I flipped over and buried my face in my threadbare blanket.

Pulling my head up, I pouted.

“I nearly saw his eye color that time,” I informed my Angel. It was three inches high and carved exquisitely out of a pale wood. I don’t know what type; my best guess is it probably came from a tree.

It stood alone on a rickety bed side table and gave no comment. I stared at it. It didn’t blink.

“Well, I’m glad you’re so sympathetic.”

I swung my legs off the bed and winced as my bare feet hit the freezing floor. The previous owners had wasted their coin on some sort of paint or stain for their walls instead of bothering with getting good floors. I cursed their idiocy under my breath, so Angel couldn’t hear.

The room was no more than seven feet in all directions, containing a sagging mattress, a rotting bedside table, and me. It sported yellow walls that were originally meant to look cheerful, interrupted in a few places with empty windows and patches of mildew. The floor was stone in most places and soggy dirt where rocks were lacking. The whole place reeked of dead rodent.

“He knew my name too,” I stated as I hopped across the floor. “Isla,” I added, for clarity’s sake. “It sounded pretty when he said it.”

Picking up the thrown pillow, I poked at two thick wool socks hanging from the sill. One was purple and had seen better days and the other was a deader yellow than the room and had also, coincidentally, seen much better days. The purple one I had nicked off a laundry line and the yellow I had made myself, which is why it looked so much uglier. A quick glance at it would provide anyone the reason why I had stolen a second sock instead of making another.

I poked them again.

“You know what?” I told the world, “Dry enough.” I snatched them and hopped a puddle on the way back to the bed and sat down. Tugging them onto my feet, I scanned the room.

“I won’t miss this place. Me and these walls are definitely a one night stand. No offense, love.” I nodded apologetically to the wall. It seemed unfazed, but then again, some things are just better at bottling up their feelings. I turned to my Angel. “You might feel the pangs of parting a bit more, though. You always like yellow more than I did. And you never were the wandering type. You like putting down roots. It’s a family trait.” I picked up a pair of heavy brown boots from beside the bed and peered inside. They were stuff with damp wool. I glanced at the Angel again. “it’s okay to cry. I can see past your poker face; I know you want to.” The Angel wordlessly declined.

I sighed. The only other item in the room was my bag. it was in a similar condition to the socks. Terminally ill.

Fishing around in it for a moment, I grabbed the handle of my knife. I only wore it on me in the city. I emptied the wool out of the boots in flaky fistfuls and then stabbed the mattress. It made an unpleasant and sharp sniggering noise as I tore the gash wider. Chucking the knife back into the bag, I started stuffing the boots full of the mattress guts and feathers. One flew up into my face and I puffed at it and sneezed.

“I know, I know.” I wiped my forehead and pulled the overflowing boots onto my feet and tightened the laces. “People always say to leave places better than you found it. But hey,” I shrugged and flexed my toes in the oversized shoes. They felt better. That damp wool had been living with my foul smelling feet for well over a year. “If we’re being honest here, this schlump couldn’t get any worse. In fact, I’m doing future visitors a favor. Consider it a warning. This is the sort of trap that lures you in with its deceitful appearance of looking like a bed and repays your trust by stabbing you in the back.”

The Angel didn’t look convinced. I reiterated.

“With springs. Viciously.”

I stood and stretched. It wasn’t a lie. I didn’t tell lies. Well, at least not to Angel. But seriously, spring beds. What were these people thinking? Such useless extravagance. Rotten yellow walls and broken spring beds. No wonder this place was abandoned. My back felt like it got a massage from a raptor who wasn’t holding back. Several muscles had curled into balls and were refusing to come out. One of my vertebrae had called a vote to take the day off and so far the ayes had it.

“You know, this is not a democracy,” I informed my creaking and screaming body parts. “I am the person and I am in charge. No one said any of you folks got a say. My word goes and my word says you have to be functional.” I took a step forward and my calf muscles threw a tantrum.

“Oi! Now is not the time to behave like a spoiled child! Get off the floor and stop whining!”

Bodily functions far from content, I still managed to make the painful walk around the be to the table and carefully pick up Angel.

I carefully, Angel is one of the few things I’m gentle with, unraveled a leather strap that went through a hook in Angle’s back and placed it around my own neck. I let Angel fall softly against my chest and relaxed. Turning to the bed, I folded up the thin blanket and shoved it into my bag. I wavered a second over the pillow, but I left it where it was. It’d be a waste of space.

“Alright, let’s skat.”

I ignored the door. I had checked it yesterday; the roof had collapsed in the other room and left the entrance blocked. Instead, I took the window route.

“Hold tight.” I carefully avoided the broken glass and heaved myself onto the sill and jumped out.

The ground wheezed when I hit it and I turned to look at the building one last time. It was a small cottage that had shot for a homey look and missed by a good couple miles. The fancy trimmings on the windows looked out of place and slightly sinister, the stone walls were bulbous and tasteless, and the bright red door was frankly the last straw. Not to mention the dying ivy or the collapsing roof. Oops, mentioned them.

“Doesn’t look much better by daylight, eh?” I scoffed, “Looks like the setting for any number of creepy tale round a camp fire.” For a moment I stood there in silence. I shifted my feet and the ground popped as my boots were freed from its suction.

“You know, it’s okay to laugh at my jokes sometimes, Angel. I mean, I already know I’m funny, but confirmation is nice every once in a while, you know?”

The silence again.

“Actually, you are so right. I’m cocky enough without you encouraging me. Good call.” I twirled in place and winced as my ribs loudly disapproved of the decision. But they can grit their teeth and take it. I twirl whenever I want.

The landscape ahead was wet. The trees of the forest were just sparce enough to offer the vague idea of shelter without following through and it had rained recently and would undoubtedly rain again soon. The forest floor was sopping and every leaf and branch was loaded and ready to bombard travelers with a rerun of last night’s storm. I groaned.

“And off we go.”

I began walking.


About the Creator

Lucia Linn

”Some days I feel like playing it smooth and some days I feel like playing it like a waffle iron.” -Raymond Chandler

Bits of fantasy and poetry and whatnot here, comedic comics on Instagram @mostlymecomics

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