Short Story – You

You are standing outside with a full pack slung across your back, looking towards a small lumber village.  The forest off to your right is dense and full of old-growth trees and fenced off far off down the only path – the one you are on.  A lone raven flaps across the canopy and dives into the dense forest  Off to the left lies a stripped-down new-growth forest with a winding stream cutting across the gentle slopes of the lumber fields.  The path in front of you is worn down to dust and rock, with patches of moss scattered on the sides where the short, unkempt grass meets the trail.  Behind you, nothing matters – nothing of import anyway.

You gaze up at the sun-baked sky and see a solitary cloud trying its best to satiate the dry land.  The sun is particularly hot this day.  The cloud has no chance.  A prelude of things to come (or of coming shadows from your past).  The humidity in the ar is all but gone, leaving your lungs dry and struggling to breathe.  You hike up the packa bit more, eye the darkness to your right and continue on your way.  The village up ahead must have work for you.  Must keep the demons at bay.  Labor away, labor away the day.

A sudden movement off to your left catches your eye.  Only a lumber worker swinging her ax.  A flutter of blackness and a flash of feathers, a bird swoops past you, inches from your face, knocking you back on your heels.  A raven.  You drop your pack, swing around to watch as it flys up and over the forest and out of view.

“Oi.  You alright?”  you hear behind you.  “Reckon that thing was after yer morsel.”

You turn around and notice the lumber worker woman walking towards you, ax slung over her shoulder. “Morsel?”  you reply, confused.

The woman stepped right beside you and nodded to your pack on the path.  “That.”

Realizing what she was referring to, you say “Oh, yeah.  That.  That is my dinner.”, pointing to the dead jackrabbit hung atop your pack.

“Well yer best be keepin’ that nasty thing tucked away ’round here.  We gets lots o’ things wantin’ a free meal during the high sun” The woman said as she turned around to start walking back the way she had come.

A thought came to you at that moment.  Work.  You needed to work. “Hey, miss, would you…” you started.

A great loud laugh came from the woman, her ax falling to the ground with a dull thud.  She turned around and, with a glimmer in her eye said, “No one calls me ‘Miss’ ’round here.  Justine Severlake is my given name, but you, stranger can call me Sevvy.  Got it?”

“Uh, yeah.  Got it.” You say without breaking into a smile.  It was nice to see a smile and laugh again – especially after so many years.  You shake off the old feelings. “Sorry miss, uh…Savvy.”

“No problem now ya got straight.” She said.  Savvy eyed you curiously and continued, “You were going to say something, weren’t ya…..Mr. Stranger?

“Work…I….”

“Work? Mr. Work?  Never heard a name like that.  You not from around…”

“No, no” you correct, “I am looking for employment.  I need a job.  Would you know of anyone who needs a strong back and a quick study?”

“Oh, well then.  If its a job you seek, then you should check in at the lodge in the village over there”   Savvy pointed towards the village just up the path and continued.  “So what is your name then, stranger?”

“John”, you lie.  You nod your thanks to the lumber worker and heft up your pack, tucking away your catch in one of the empty side pockets.  You look back up and see that Savvy had crossed half the distance back to her tree.  Impressive.  Not wanting to keep her from her work, and slightly relieved that she didn’t probe any deeper into your name, you don’t call after her.

You take one last look behind you, shake off the cold shivers and with great strides, head down the footpath to your new life.  A new beginning.

 

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