Bridging Worlds

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in many instances I agree with them. Whoever “they” are. I do however, disagree with that statement even more often than I agree with it, and so I’ve taken up a personal challenge for this semester. Each week, no later than friday, I will post a short story of at least 1000 words for one of my prints that I made last year in class, or that I’ve managed to make since then (to date the one time I was able to use my uncle’s and got selenium poisoning over, heh.)

I may or may not include a short review of the print itself, depending on my mood, personal feelings of it, amount of time I have left before its “due” and so on. My decision to undertake this exercise is in part due to the fact my color photography class for the semester was canceled, a game on myth-weavers I’m running, and the fact I’ve gotten lazy and my creative muscles need the exercise.

And now, with my rambling for the moment done, StarCraft 2 resting, a cashew cookie and glass of grape juice within reach, the time for me to begin has come.

As I’ve been writing this, and more especially, as I’ve looked it over as its done, I find it appropriate that I wrote this for the one bridge I have photographed. In many ways this blog is a bridging of many aspects of my life, and this project that I’ve started is another of sorts. Bridges are fascinating thins, and while the bridge itself is of only minor import in the short (which I will likely be adding onto at a later time,) it fits and I’m really glad I was able to link it in there.

And so, after three rounds of StarCraft 2 with my brother (Battlecruisers are sick) some of my amazing handmade hot chocolate, and a chat with my brother in the Navy, here we are, in all of its 1435 word glory. Rip apart and digest it as you will please, but tell me what you think and how I could do better.

A few hardy old souls will swear that old paths eventually come to life, weaving new routes through the woods and forests like the blood-vessels of a truly living creature. Dryads and other fae tending them as the blood in your body does you, never seen, but present, in some way and strings just beyond the corner of your eye. This is during the day, when the sun is alight in the sky and pleasant thoughts wander languidly.

Rain does some strange things to one’s head, not the least of which is getting it wet. It can make even the most common, well-known roads a strange and fearsome  creature; an ever lengthening serpent lurking underneath awaiting some short chance to steal you away forever. The fog that so frequently accompanies drizzles likewise lends itself to that eerie feeling of traversing something alive. Breath, some say, of the demons that have made their home of those familiar roads. Demons that only come out in the darkest moments and hours.

During one of those periods of life when seems most at ease with putting one out of ease, a young man was traveling down a familiar stretch. A journey from one town to another on foot, a few days journey, was no unordinary feat for him; a wanderer and floater at heart, he rarely stayed in one town for long. His life had been lived on a long circuit of a number of towns and villages, never staying much longer than to meet with a few old friends and work a few odds and ends and resupply. He would attend church while in town and leave a half a step ahead of a hoard of mothers looking to settle him down.

Just two days ago now he’d fled his latest stop only a quarter step ahead this time, and laughed to himself now about his carelessness, a deep and rich chuckle ringing out into the early morning mists. Sensing their master’s mirth, his two dogs lolled their tongues, seeming to grin, and shook their thickening coats. His only constant companions, though he often joined small groups of travelers for a few miles or days at a time, the dogs were a large pair of huskies he’d found abandoned as pups and raised himself some time before, now entirely loyal to their savior.

Today, the mists seemed to be hanging thicker than usual, and the clouds overhead promised rain soon. Neither were of much worry to the rogue, his coat was thick enough and oiled to prevent soaking, and his pack was likewise warded. The road was one well enough traveled that it had clear markers for turning, and he’d frequented it himself he was sure a passage in the dead of a moonless night wouldn’t be much more difficult than in the mid-morning sun. Well, if this midmorning had sun, that great light seemed to have decided to sleep in late today. No matter, the cool was refreshing and he was making good time.

A rustle in the bushes froze the dogs in their tracks, pointed almost painfully rigidly into the thick of the foliage. The man himself paused, contemplating the chance to hunt some fresh meat and weighing it against his plans of making it to the next village before the rains would certainly become harder. Shrugging and shaking long brown hair out of his eyes, he unlimbered the bow he’d stored on his back, the only weapon that had ever felt right in his hands and only one wanted. A shrill whistle sent the dogs crashing into the brush, mirrored by a third sound, much softer and fleeing the scene.

Following the sounds issuing forth from the undergrowth, the young man joined the hunt, weaving around branches holding his bow close. The clouds’ promise rang true now, a light sprinkle growing slowly into a drizzle, the mist gathering closer to the ground and swirling weirdly. The barks grew closer and farther in short turns, never getting too far away before a small clearing broke out and revealed their quarry.

Tall birches, mostly bare, lined the glade’s perimeter loosely, and long soft grass padded the floor thickly. Standing in the center, and surrounded on either side by a barking dog, haunched back tense and ready to lunge, was a white doe. An albino certainly, yet perfect in every respect, a dream of a creature standing frozen. The young man slowed and then stood, bringing his bow to bear. The rain was lighter here, more of a mist, and the fog lay writhing on the ground and snaking around a bridge that looked mostly forgotten by time beyond the clearing.

Lightly twinkling in the air, as if carried by the rain and the slight breeze, came laughter to his ears. A sweet flowery smell, almost like perfume, wafted through the air, not overpowering, but faint and pleasing. The doe paced back and then forward, uncertain as what to do. Arrow back to ear, he took a breath in and then released, arrow streaking out. Somehow, the arrow missed, the light laughter continuing stronger and slightly maliciously now the hunter bit back a curse. He redrew and fired again.

Another miss, and another strengthening of the imagined voice. Angered, he loosed a shrill whistle, his big dogs lunging eagerly at the fair creature. And midair, they seemed to change their minds. Always before they’d been perfectly obedient to their master, but now they seemed as unable to harm this white hind who now seemed to have lost all concern for the levity of her situation. Indeed, now that  his ire was raised, the young man began to notice a profound change.

Fading away was the white doe and taking its place was a vaguely human shape, elongated features giving it a vulpine look. The huskies circled the figure affectionately, and were given pets as they neared. Transformation complete, what appeared to be a young woman stood across from him, fair and unassuming, yet exotic beyond mortal means. Her laughter matched that which had been whispering to him, and her white dress and long mossy hair were interwoven with delicate white blossoms unfamiliar to his eye.

“Now now then fair traveller,” The woman’s voice was deep and breathy, though almost flitting as though coming through leaves. “Are you so ready to harm that which gave you your companions. That which has been your constant companion as you wandered otherwise alone?” She frowned and the dogs lowered their ears and started growling. “Perhaps this will make you more mindful in the future.”

Both dogs bolted out to either side of him, getting ready to flank. Edging back, the hunter turned hunted felt thorns behind him, and a quick glance back showed a thicket had sprung up, blocking his way. Charging now, the dogs were close, quietly loping towards him with ears back, padding softly over the thick fog-covered grass. With only one direction remaining the young man bolted, praying for all the speed he muster.

Rushing past the woman who was fading quickly, a whisper caught him as he fled, “Take care now, my love. I’ll see you again before too long.” Fear powered long strides, and the old brigade was rapidly drawing near. His pursuers were gaining yet he kept pressing on. Up to the brigade, onto the bridge and beyond, some familiar trees beaconed to him, a welcome change from the unfamiliar glade he’d just left. Bursting onto the road he’d left earlier, lungs gasping for air he fell as a pothole took his step away from him.

The dogs, just feet behind him quickly overtook the young man, whimpering and now licking him. Startled and confused, he shied away from them for a moment and then realized all was well. The rain had began again, in earnest this time, and his clothes were slightly muddy, but he was free, and safe. Looking back into the undergrowth, he strained for the bridge, not remembering it from past trips along the road, but certain it was just beyond sight.

Though he searched for some time, he wasn’t able to find it again, and perplexed, continued on his path, cold, wet and confused. Before too long he was on his merry was, spirits reborn and renewed, and mood jovial once again. As he set up his camp for the evening he noticed a pure white flower with his food, smelling faintly of the glade, and a note on creamy paper with a flowery scripted note. “I  told you darling, and here is my reminder. We’ll meet again, remember me then.”

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