An ordinary man is torn between worlds to fulfill his duty
Roland sat on a street corner bench, mesmerized by the plume of yellow leaves that blew from their cradle in the large Birch tree poised in the front yard of the Dean’s Office at Keene State College. The leaves were swooped up by the air in a swarm and then seemingly dumped on a beat up Honda Civic yielding at the rotary. He chuckled as what he guessed was a college student, a high college student, activated his windshield wipers to clear his field of vision before merging into the small round –a -bout. He really didn’t have much to smile about these days, as his life had slowly gone into a spiral. Day after day he felt as if he was dreaming… just drifting through life with no purpose…he just couldn’t seem to find his “normal.”
Roland took a long draw off of the cigar that he picked up from the Corner News and watched the smoke pull away from his lips much like the leaves had just moments before. He got up from the bench, sipped from his latte, and started heading toward the town common.
Tucked away between two small trees, atop the granite curbing that lined the sidewalks, sat a woman covered in a hooded shawl. The fabric of the dark jacket rippled like water as it crawled from the place that she sat in all directions around her. Joggers passed by, glancing only briefly at the woman, not wanting to meet her gaze. College students bounced by, laughing and yelling, most of them completely unaware of her existence. She rocked back and forth mumbling …her bony wrists protruding from her drape attached to fingers that looked like barren branches worked feverously pulling leaves and squashing berries. All of these things being stuffed into a bowl on her lap.
Roland made his way up Main st, dreamily admiring the downtown scenery of old architecture, light posts, and the transitioning trees. His gaze caught the hooded woman and he immediately started away from her, casually glancing in the storefront windows at menu prices and art that that he could only begin to understand. He practiced the act in his head. Tapping his pockets he would apologetically say to her sorry…only plastic. He’d used it before and he would surely use it again. He always wanted to ell them to do something for it… sing, dance, juggle- like any other respectable transient.
He couldn’t help but turn her way when her rocking caught the corner of his eye, and her rhythmic chanting seemed to call out “Gobbly goo, Scooby doo, meet my pants.” Her wild blue eyes filled the dark space inside the hood when she looked up to find him. His eyes were drawn to hers and they fixed gazes in such a way that time seemed to slow on the street and it was just the two of them there. Roland felt a surge of adrenaline kick up inside him and an instant hatred for the woman before him.
“Finally our paths cross…here in this in-between place. Its been a stretch Hunter.” The woman hissed.
Roland had a flood of recollection, as his mind adjusted to the Nowhere Place that he knew so well. “Time has passed, Witch. Too much time. Every second that you breathe is a second longer than I can stand.” With that, he charged at the woman, who despite her hunched appearance, shot upward as if sprung. Here rippling shall seeming to suspend her in the air as she began to move her fingers faster and chant even louder.
Roland wasted no time in drawing his blade from his waistband and lunged at the witch. She danced in the air to her side as Roland stumbled past her.
“Your age affects your speed, Hunter. You are much to sleepy to do what you are trying to do. The Someplace has made you soft. She cackled.
Roland reached for his sling, a strap and cradle weapon used by Hunters, and with the flip of his wrist and arm, delivered a projectile square in one of the deep blue targets in the woman’s face. She reeled backwards, clutching her eye, careful not to drop the filled mortar in her other hand.
Again, Roland charged, blade in hand, at the midsection of the witch. She parried, sending him flying into the storefront window/rock wall that was and wasn’t actually there. As the hunter got his bearings the woman began to chant.
“Gottlay Vu, Scopay Vu, Valt En-trans!” she yelled as she covered Roland in a cloud of black smoke. He lunged at her, cutting through he smoke as if it wasn’t there. His eyes started to burn and his breath was getting short, but he pressed toward her with all of his strength. His blade made contact with soft flesh… he could feel it. This made him quite happy, despite his situation.
“You know that you do not have the strength to kill me woman… not here. Not in tis world!” Roland beemed. “Might you one day face me hand to hand, I wot.”
The woman gauged her wounds and decided it best to get away, before the Hunter recovered. She began to chant her transport spell. Repeatedly. “ Otfall Nobar Somebarable!”
Roland heard the familiar words and began to sink. “ You can’t do tis forever!”
“ I have all the time in the world, Sai. Go back to your absent existence!” The witch replied.
Roland shook his head as if to wake himself up. The cool fall breeze blowing across his face felt quite fine. He lifted his latte up to his lips and enjoyed the sweet foam that swam across his tongue. He caught a glimpse of the hooded woman on the curb. He cocked his head a bit, certain that he had seen her blue eyes. One eye was the same blue, but the other seemed a fiery brown.
“Spare change sir?” The old woman asked.
Roland started to tap his pockets. “Sorry, not today. Only plastic.”