OtherWhere The Vagrant’s Tail, страница 1
The Vagrant’s Tail
A Short Story
By Garry Grierson
Copyright 2011 Garry Grierson
Arthur Meadows grabbed the cold lamppost as the world spun around his head. He slid down the smooth metal and came to an abrupt stop on the cold wet ground. The suburban street shimmered into view as the world came to a stop. The familiar yet now very alien road was a sobering sight. He used to live here. It seemed a strange thought now.
He gazed down at the crumpled and dog-eared business-card held tight in his clenched fist. This was the last physical reminder of his previous life. Arthur opened his hand and watched as the wind carried the old card high up into the air.
It seemed hardly any time had passed since things were very different. Less a year ago his business was booming and he sat behind his brand-new desk in his brand-new office making an honest living for his brand-new family.
The wind whipped around his shivering body. Arthur reached under his tattered overcoat and pulled out a frayed blanket and a small tin-cup. Other than the clothes he stood up, or fell down, in they were the only other possessions he owned.
He closed his eyes to this new-found reality, but the tears still came.
Life was cruel.
The coins hit the metal cup with a tinny clang, which shook him from his thoughts.
“God bless you, Miss,” he said to the young woman, who smiled and nodded her head as she quickened her pace down the empty street.
He scooped the coins into his pocket and stared up into the grey sky. Something was coming, something from the other place. He felt it in his cold bones. The staccato clip-clop of the woman’s heels faded as another set of more substantial footfalls filled the air with an altogether different resonance. A man, or at least something with the appearance of a man, was approaching.
“Spare some change, Governor?” Arthur said, holding up the empty cup. It was his standard ploy to attract the attention of passers by. More often that not it would result in verbal abuse instead of monitory gain.
The man jumped backwards. His eyes widened as Arthur waved the tin cup.
Arthur coughed and pulled the dirty woollen blanket up around his wheezing chest as old memories floated round his head. The sound of his son’s laughter and the scent of his wife’s perfume filled his thoughts. But now his company, his family, and his life were all gone. Even the soggy old business card was gone now and all he had left was a head full of broken dreams. Life was good before the dreams, before the voices, before…
The man rummaged through his pockets, with his face a mask of twitches and ticks. He pulled out a handful of change and threw it into the cup.
“It’s all I have on me,” the man said, and stared at Arthur with wide bloodshot eyes - rabbit eyes.
“Only asking, I’m not robbing ya, mate,” Arthur said, using his best down-and-out drawl.
“Sorry, I was in a daydream,” the man said.
“Were you now? Could be dangerous that,” Arthur said, before smiling at the stranger.
The man shifted from foot to foot as he stared down at Arthur.
“Thank’s, Mate,” said Arthur.
He broke the gaze and settled back down on the cold hard ground. His hands trembled as he pulled the scratchy blanket up around his weather-beaten face.
The hairs on the back of Arthur’s neck stood up as the man walked away. He had wanted to get a good look at the stranger. Now the old feelings rushed through his throbbing head. The feelings said that this man wasn’t right. He was wrong. He was from over there. The man belonged in the other place and the things from over there, the rabbits; they had no right walking amongst normal folk. They had no right at all.
Arthur’s muscles contracted as he rocked back and forth. The man walked up the street, disappearing further into the real-world with every step.
Arthur scooped the money out of the cup as he looked at the retreating figure. He peered at the man through stinging red eyes.
He yelled as loud as he could, warning the world, as he pointed a shaking finger at the interloper. The stale acrid smell of dried-in wine filled his nose as he pulled his blanket all the way up past his chin and over his face. He curled into a foetal position, and shook, as he lay on the damp ground.
“Rabbits always see you before you see them,” he shouted to the rabbit man. “You’re not all there, mate,” he said, and giggled as the familiar sense of dread washed over him. The man wasn’t all there, a part was missing. A part was forever lost in the other-place and Arthur was both envious and afraid.
It was coming. The darkness was coming and it was full of madness and despair. His body twitched. His lips trembled and he began his incantations as he tried to ward off the endless-night. He always tried. But it was no use. The nothing-place always won.
The world faded to black as Arthur drifted in the darkness. This was the nowhere, in the between, the forever night, a place where thoughts were solid and reality merely a dream. The sound of nothing forced its way in him, through him. If there were still any him. His irrelevant body was lost in the black. Only the clawing dark-presence that impaled itself against his thoughts was real.
He wasn’t alone in this place. The unseen others were moving in the dark, lost in the between, and they cried. They cried and wailed and screamed their silent despair. But he knew this was only the terrible night before the shining dawn, just a transitory blink before the welcoming light of an everlasting sun. On the other side of the nothingness lay the paradise of the other-place.
The things that lived there called it the OtherWhere. It is a land both like and unlike this one. It is over there, behind the wall, over the fence, or on the other side of a closed door. The denizens of this other place were fickle and jealous creatures. Their guards were fierce, the penalties for trespass swift and severe.
He drifted in the darkness, for a second, or forever… whichever came first…
Arthur fell. The world rushed back into being all around him as he plummeted towards a vivid white light. His eyes burned as he passed through the world-light, its colours swum around him as they coalesced into the recognisable shapes of grass, trees, and patches of clear blue sky. He looked up through the thick canopy of lush green foliage and down to a face. No, two faces. The nearest face belonged to the rabbit-man he had shouted at in the street, only seconds, or perhaps an eternity ago.
The man stared at him. Wide eyed and open mouthed.
“It’s the old tramp I met earlier today, the one that called me a rabbit,” the man said, then turned to look at his companion.
Arthur gazed at his surroundings. He was in small woodland clearing. The rabbit-man and a frumpy, but not unattractive, female companion stood in front of him. He tried to move but couldn’t. Vines and branches wrapped themselves around his body, binding him to a large tree. Arthur struggled, but the vines only tightened. He wasn’t alone in his plight. His stomach churned as he gazed around the small clearing. There were others, many others, all tied to trees. Some were bound only by a few loose vines. Yet more were all but swallowed up by the lush greenery of the forest.
The rabbit-man turned his back to Arthur. Both he and his companion appeared to be in deep conversation with another person, or persons, deep in the forest.
“He’s harmless. Did you capture him for this test?” the rabbit-man snarled at the unseen others.
A three or four-way conversation took place between the rabbit-man, his companion, and the others. But Arthur couldn’t make out what was being said.
The unheard conversation was soon over and the rabbit-man once more turned to face Arthur. A stony mask of concentration covered his flus
The rabbit said something to him, but the words sounded muffled and far away. Arthur’s head was fit to burst as the colour and warmth of this place assaulted his senses. He took control of his wayward muscles, stood up straight, and looked the rabbit in the eye. His blood coursed through his aching body, bringing power back to his numb limbs.
“I’m here, the other place. Thank you Mr Rabbit,” he said, and the world changed.
Arthur walked between the myriad of fruit-trees growing wild on the rolling green hills. They contained all his favourite fruits and nuts, sometimes on the same tree. Birds filled the air with their songs as he stopped to gaze at the clear blue sky. The sun warmed his face. A cooling breeze washed over him. He knew it would never be too hot or too cold here and there was no want, no threat, and no worry to be found.
He stood atop a small hill and gazed around. He knew this hill. It was called Tail-End. He remembered reading about it… somewhere.
As he turned and looked down the valley his gaze fell upon a traditional English thatched cottage. It nestled between the tree-filled hills beside the crystal clear waters of a small gurgling brook. It was his cottage. His fishing-gear lay by the water’s bank. He knew this, even though he had never seen this place before. Inside, his wife would be preparing dinner while his children played in the garden with Waldorf their large but placid German-Shepherd.
A single tear ran down Arthur’s cheek. He smiled as he walked down Tail-End, as he walked home.
Life was good.
Thank you for reading The Vagrant’s Tail.
The Vagrant’s tail is a free 1,500 word flash-fiction teaser story set around one of the ancillary characters from the first of the OtherWhere Novellas.
There are currently six stand-alone stories planned for the series. All contain tails set in the strange place set between reality and dreams.
The first of these, an 11K Novelette titled ‘The Crazies’ is currently published in e-book format – ISBN 978-1-4581-8230-2
About the author:
Garry Grierson was the first of three children born to Jeanette and Tom.
He came into this world on the ninth of October 1968, and is now quite old.
After an unremarkable childhood growing up in a small mining village in Fife, Scotland, he mailed his first short-story entry to a competition aged twenty; receiving his very first form-rejection letter.
From then on he has continued the dream of publishing that first Novel. Whenever real-life as a husband and applications developer doesn’t get in the way.
Although he has had some success with short-stories the dream of publishing that elusive Novell still lingers on.
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