The Good Traveller

I’m a moron.

I know how to write. I know what it takes for me to write. I know I need time and music and focus. And still, I make excuses.

“But you’ve done this already,” the writer says.

“When?” I ask.

“Look in the mirror, moron.”

“Losing fifty pounds is not like writing a story.”

“It’s the same damned thing,” the writer retorts.

“I lost fifty pounds because my life depended on it.”

“And who says writing isn’t the same thing?”

I don’t have an answer for the writer. So, I am doing what the annoying bastard says. Here’s 500 words of “The Good Traveller”.

A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving

-Laozi

The bright noon day sun in the cloudless summer sky meant it was meal time for the good traveller but the dry plain spread before him didn’t leave much place to stop. He won the internal fight to keep walking and set up a small camp.

He shucked off his heavy pack and methodically set out his gear, creating a half tent using his walking stick and large cloak. He made a sandwich out of two thin, hard, colourless biscuits, and a finger’s width of tough jerky the size of his hand that looked like sheets of sun, bleached leather. He took small swigs of water between bites to soften the hard meal, careful to leave enough for dinner.

I need to make it to those hills by nightfall or there will be trouble.

Training enabled him to focus past hunger for a week and while his body could last a couple of days without water, as many as three, each day past the first would be draining and would take even longer to recover.

Like a sparring session rebuke, he heard the voice of his mentor and felt the humiliating Tabar staff sting the small of his back. Set your goals. Follow through. He deliberately took a waterless bite to reinforce this notion. Make no excuses.

What happened next appeared to occur instantly, but his brain refused to allow confusion to set it. The sensations came in sequence – first he noticed his tent post of a walking stick bent slightly away from him, then the hairs on his body all stood on end right before the corners of his tentcloak flapped madly around him after the pegs broke free. It happened in seconds, but his mind recorded in slow motion.

His mind set aside any worry about his gear while untangling from his windswept cloak – it was all heavy enough to keep from blowing away. The fabric seemed to come alive, enveloping him completely, and he only freed himself after the wind died down. He turned to the east, holding up his arm and squinting to protect his eyes against a barrage of dirt, gravel and grass.

What the hell?

The rolling hills and copses of trees in his wake hid the village he left days ago but did nothing to conceal the dark, threatening clouds that loomed in the sky behind him. Bolts of lightning lit up the contours of the heavy clouds, reminding him of a boiling cauldron. In the distance he could see waves of strong wind bending the dried out grass, wrenching the weaker ones from the earth and sending them skyward.

You don’t have much time.

Taking inventory while assembling his kit, eschewing the luxury of water while finishing his meal, he was walking away from the storm within minutes. As he walked, his muscles loosened, and he looked over his shoulder to gauge the storm had not sped up. But it had snuck up on him before and there was no telling if it would do so again.

It came out of nowhere!

The Tabac sting returned.

Everything comes from somewhere, it reminded him.

His gear stowed securely all around him, the good traveller started to jog away from the mysterious storm.

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