The Wanderer Part 3

The compulsion to walk never lessened, but over time, Carl gained some control over it. Like a drug addict who still hungers for dope but somehow chooses not to use, Carl willed himself to control his steps.

At first, he focused on the mere act of stopping. He believed if he could end his constant state of motion, he might be able to regain control over his life.

How long had it taken? Months? Years?  Time meant nothing to him. But after focusing on each and every step for some exhausting amount of time, his movement came to a stop- just for a second. But the pause was long enough for hope to be born.

*****************************************************************************

Every day, his freewill gained momentum. One particular spring afternoon, he found he had gained the ability to stop walking for longer than a few seconds of time. His gaze had wandered up, and he found himself admiring the afternoon sun as it hit a stain glassed window on the large Catholic Church. The window depicted a dove carrying an olive branch. The subject matter was not of particular interest to Carl, but the colors looked so lovely and alive with iridescence.

A loud honk disturbed his daydream. He had not realized he’d paused in the middle of the street. Luckily he had stopped in a small side street without a lot of traffic, but the cabbie behind the wheel was still anxious to see him pass. The noise signaled his feet to get moving, and once again, Carl was a man with a mission. While his feet might be under someone else’s control, no one could stop the smile from spreading across his face.

Carl continued to work on controlling his steps. He gathered the strength to pause for several minutes at a time and worked up to navigating down paths that were not directed by his feet. Of course, he always wandered back to his predetermined trail.  He continued to pass through the portals, locking them securely behind him.

Until one day, he didn’t make it.

Maria had been telling him about a vacation she had taken with her family as a child. The summer heat was scorching the sidewalks and everyone was dreaming of cooler days.

“We went to see my Grandma Jo in Colorado. It was the end of May. I had just gotten out of school, and we thought the weather was going to be really nice so my mom only packed shorts and t-shirts. But when we got there, it was freezing. I mean like FREE-ZING! I’ve lived in Phoenix my whole life. I don’t know anything about cold weather.”

As she talked about her family, Maria’s features came alive with joy. Her rosy cheeks bounced up and down as she laughed, like tiny balloons floating to the sky. When she laughed her eyes crinkled in the corners. They reminded him so much of his mother’s eyes in happier times, when he was still her darling boy. Maria tucked a piece of her long brown hair behind her ear, the same way millions of women do every day, but Carl became lost in the motion. For the first time, he paused on the street to talk with Maria and listen to the end of her story.

“So I wake up the next morning, and I look out the window and you’ll never believe what I saw. SNOW! It was snowing in May. Granted it was only like a tiny little bit of snow, but it had snowed! I had never seen snow before. I put on my tennis shoes and ran out on the porch in my pajamas. My grandma found a hat and gloves for me and brought them out. I made the world’s smallest snowman. It was this big.” Maria held her hands apart to indicate a span of four to five inches. “It was one of the best mornings of my life. When it gets really hot like this, I just like to dream that tomorrow I’m gonna wake up to snow on the ground.”

He smiled at her, lost in her words, wishing they would never end.

“That’s a great story.”

“Oh thanks. Sorry to talk your ear off. Alright. You got the pamphlet. Seriously, would you please come by? I really think we could help you get back on your feet. I’m sure you’ve probably heard people make a lot of promises like that, but we’ve got some great programs.”

He raised the paper indicating he knew where to find her. He wanted nothing more than to follow her to her office. Programs or not, he simply wanted to talk to her for as long as he could, about anything or about nothing. It was the only time in his days that he felt human.

“Sorry. Can’t make any promises. I’ve got places to be.”

“Yeah. Okay.” She didn’t hide her disappointment. “I’ll see ya later.”

“Bye.” With that, his feet awakened from their slumber and regained control of the ship.

*******************************************************************************

Dawdling had not paid off. Not only had Carl been left with a yearning for a life he could never have, he arrived in time to see he would not be the first person to make it through the portal.

The blackness oozed from the small opening, taking on the appearance of a growing shadow. The shadow widened and elongated, blanketing the ground and climbing the walls, searching for a host. Carl watched as the black crept up the arm of a drunken bum passed out next to a dumpster. The shadow continued to climb until it came to the man’s mouth, sliding inside in one sweeping motion then forever out of sight. The man shot straight up, eyes unnaturally wide and combing the ground. He staggered to his feet knocking clumsily into the walls before gaining control of the body.

As he walked from the alley, the man spotted a mutt, mangy and thin, rooting through newspapers looking for scraps of food. He kicked the dog with all of his force, launching it directly into a brick building. The dog fell to the ground in a crumpled heap, never to move again.

Carl saw the whole thing and knew he had made a grave mistake. The next day, after having resumed his tireless walking through the city, Carl glanced at a stack of newspapers. He saw a headline about a man stealing a car and crashing it into a local daycare center, killing himself, two children and a teacher. Below the headline was an old mug shot. Despite the lack of shadow, Carl recognized the bum.

********************************************************************************

From then on, Carl followed the path religiously. The tables had somehow flipped. He used to focus on urging his feet to stop.  Now, the hunger to stop remained and grew each day, but he forced himself to keep walking. Hope can be a dangerous tool. Once Carl flipped the switch and knew he could control his actions it became nearly impossible to resist that temptation. He felt a strength rising within him so massive, at times he believed he could stop walking at any time and resume a semblance of normal life.

But the memory of the darkness haunted him. How could he not seek out the portals? How could he allow destruction to enter this world, knowing he had the power to prevent it? If he even entertained the idea of ending his journey, the memory of the newspaper headline, the realization that HE was to blame, flooded his mind. Most of all, he saw the dog, limp and lifeless- a visceral reminder of the importance of his mission.

He kept walking. What else could he do?

********************************************************************************

He still talked with Maria. A smarter man might have avoided their conversations, but Carl couldn’t resist the lure of the interaction with her. Only a few minutes each time, always ending in a plea for him to come to the shelter- a reminder of how she truly saw him, how he should see himself. It didn’t matter.  The moments prior made it worth it.

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3 Responses to The Wanderer Part 3

  1. I loved this! Its so beautifully written, you have a very unique talent, and i sincerely hope that you plan to write more stories like this one. Or even a continuance of this one. I will surely read them. Every single one! I love your blog!

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