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Traveller
8.6.2002 by Rosemary, every Tuesday.


[How do you write an adventure story in one and a half pages? I gave it my best shot.
This story is somewhat based on the Talvin Singh track of the same name, as remixed by the awesome Kid Loco. I think both artists have a couple of albums that are worth extra shifts at the cash, even if you have to deal with the creepy man who steals the pickles.]



The mist swirled around me, heavy with the scent of jasmine and dreams. I could feel it choking my nose, my eyes, collecting in beads on my skin. The forest was dense now; past a few feet ahead the terrain was dark and obscure. I reached to my backpack and took out my machete to break a path.

Strange tropical leaves and reaching vines ripped wetly before the blade. The ground sloped slowly upward, and the mist cleared. After a time the sky began to show high between the choking trees, an uneasy sky of heavy, pregnant blue bleeding unevenly through racing clouds. The vegetation was thinning. Ahead rose bushes swarming with delicate orchids; the machete made short work of them, and as I passed they bled pink on my pith helmet.

Eventually I saw daylight glowing through the bushes ahead, edging the leaves with gold. Vines swooped low; I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled through the underbrush, breathing the scents of crushed mint and warm wet moss. I emerged into the clearing under the bruise-blue sky and felt a smile crinkle my worn face. There was a little waterfall tumbling onto blue stones, and a wide clear pool fenced with irises. In one corner mourned a tremendous willow. Grass carpeted the clearing, thick and soft, flecked with white daisies and nodding dandelions.

Heaving a tremendous sigh I lowered my heavy pack onto the grass. I took off my pith helmet, feeling it stick slightly to my sweaty hair, and laid it carefully among the daisies. Then, reverentially, I slid off my muddied boots, my patched and re-patched socks, and began to pad towards the water, stepping between the daisies and the dandelions.

The pool was smooth; its surface stirred only beneath the little falls. Blood-red fish swerved past each other in the depths. At the bottom of the pool snakelike weeds swayed between stone cobbles; every eighth cobble glowed a frosty blue and brought to light the spidery things that crawled among them.

Following the soft impressions of my feet on the grass, I traced the way back to my belongings. The buckles of my pack clicked, and the canvas rustled as I shuffled through the varied contents. Finally my hands found something smooth. I drew out a piece of bone, carved in the shape of a deer, its eyes wide, its mouth open in a cry of death or birth. I laid it between the flowers and reached in once more; this time I took out a section of wood, water-worn, with a knot at one end. I held it for a moment and breathed the humid air.

I took the piece of bone and the section of wood to the waterfall. I laid them on a flat stone that shined with spray. Then I sat under the willow, my back to the rough bark, and waited. A breeze tossed the flower heads. Shadows lengthened. The sun bled into the treetops and stars caught in the branches of the willow.

In the darkness, everything, even the wind, became suddenly still; the night seemed to be drawing itself together. When the breeze finally resumed, it crept up slow and cold, and sent little tremors through my body. The waterfall quieted and the stones at its base began to glow.

All at once the harsh bark of the willow seemed soft and giving, and I relaxed into it unwillingly. The air smelled heavy and sweet. My eyelids began to fall; I caught a final glimpse of the stones’ frosty glow before I lost myself to sleep.

I awoke to a prickly pain in my feet. The ground had changed from soft grass to pine needles, and the mourning willow had become a fir tree, dark green and unremarkable. I stood up and blinked my eyes dumbly. The daisies and the dandelions were gone, and the waterfall was a roar over jumbled rocks. The pond had become a marsh with trilling blackbirds and turtles, and the water was too thick with algae to permit a glimpse to the bottom . The sun was bright; the sky was clear. The woods all around were clean pine, with trees widely spaced and sunlight falling between them.

I stumbled towards the waterfall with aching limbs. The smooth stone was now dry. The carving of the deer was gone. I picked up the water-worn wood and ran my hands over its surface, feeling the new carving. It was a woman with long hair, an enigmatic smile, and eyes that burned. I laced up my boots, shouldered my pack and tucked the carving into a pocket. Then I went into the woods.




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