She hummed a simple tune, walking down the road, with a light step to match the breeze, and a daisy in her hand. She never questioned where she was going, or how long the road would last. She only cared that she was moving. And so, in her glittering eyes she held the sun, and walked through glen and valley and river just the same, all the while singing:
Happenstance upon the hill,
where all good things remain unseen
until the Spring, when Evergreen
shall call to every tender leaf,
“Arise, alive! Break Earth’s bastille!”
the Winter’s heart is laid
far and deep in Autumn’s home
and Summer’s on her way
Summer’s on her way!
Upon such a stanza she let her voice hover, spying a figure in the shadow of afternoon. Drawing her mantle close, she flits from shaded patch to shaded patch, barely a glimmer in the sun. Nearing the figure, she pauses behind a tree, stifling a giggle with a golden hand.
“If you’re trying to be clever, you needn’t bother,” the figure muses softly, unfolding from the shadows, seeming to peel part of the darkness into the air. “I heard you singing three ages ago.” He bends to pick up a boot, hitting it upside down against a tree, causing a cascade of spiders, cobwebs, and dried rose petals loose from the inside. “Quite a song, Wanderlust. Even if I don’t particularly care for the fact that you put me in it. And not in a timely spot, either,” he mutters, placing the boot back on his foot, his sky blue tunic twinkling in the sun.
She laughs in response, twirling away from the bark. “It’s not my fault everyone wants to stuff you away. It might help your case if you could act a bit less surly every so often.” She reaches to plant a kiss on his cheek, which he accepts, but the daisy she snuck in his shirt collar he plucks off, holding it in his hand. In a moment, or maybe an eternity, the slender white petals begin to mist over, then shimmer, having slowly become encased in ice. He places the fossil behind her ear. “Then why come so far, if I’m such company? You could have just stayed with the others.”
Wanderlust, jumping to the top of a nearby pine, bends backwards and pulls the tree with her. Hanging upside down, she looks him squarely in the face for eternity, or maybe a moment, and places crown of roses on his head. “There’s a very good reason why I came here, Withershins, and you know what it is. I’m not the one trying to be clever. You think you outsmarted us all when you slept yourself all the way out here, but you didn’t. All you did was get dusty.” To emphasize her point, she gives his chest a hard thwap!, causing a storm of dirt and misuse to float high up into the air. He sighs, thinking of how many dust bowls and desert storms he’ll get blamed for now. She drops to the ground, sending the pine tree into a frenzy of flying pine needles and a case of severe tremors. A million pine cones, or maybe it was one, end up covering the grove. Withershins turns away, stepping just above the bottom of the ocean. His hair stands up around his head, giving him the appearance of someone suspended in the air. Wanderlust floats along the surface, shimmering identically to the tiny wave-tops, leisurely soaking in the sky. A gull lands on her foot. She gives a happy sigh, flicking her foot to shake off the bird, then flips over to dive into the sea. The water rushes behind her, thundering, and they find themselves seated on a bench in a downpour, overlooking the Thames. She doesn’t say a word, but quietly begins to hum, reaching for his hand.
He sighs, tracing a patch of orange trees and mangroves along the inside of her wrist. His finger tingles, and the blue of his tunic ripples into a deep violet red. “I suppose I wouldn’t mind the journey back,” he says, the truth forming space within his words. She smiles, her eyes dimming to match the grey landscape. “I don’t suppose you would, my dear.” Standing, she pulls Witherskins towards a green breeze and a soft dirt road. They walk along a ways, or maybe just a step, under mountains and over valleys, until they reach the midnight hour. He stops, counting constellations, reordering a few, and with a satisfied sound resumes walking just before dawn. He keeps on, turning clouds pink then magenta then orange, than the welcoming yellow that spreads over top of many coffee cups, inhaling the aroma of steam. Turning to Wanderlust, he finds her dropped by a tundra, a lotus flower cupped in her hands.
“You continue on ahead,” she says, taking a long draught from the petals. She arranges herself cross-legged, her sky blue tunic settling like a grief on her skin. He bends to place a hand on her shoulder, planting a kiss atop her head. He makes to move away, then to place a crown of roses on her head. “I won’t be long,” he whispers. He sets off, towards the meadows. She bends her head to her knees, for a moment or an eternity, then pulls a boot slowly off her foot, wiggling her toes in the snow. She arranges herself in the shadows, leaning back against a tree. She reaches up for the flowers on her head, removes it, and slowly begins to pluck the petals loose, dropping them one by one into the empty shoe.
Far off in the distance, or maybe nearby, the sound of a song floats on the breeze. Withershins waits in a grove as Wanderlust draws near, a daisy in her hand.
This is a short story for the series “Small Sample Size.” If you have a short story to share, contact us!