Saturday, March 11, 2006

Tales of the Stranger: Episode 5

Well, here's the next episode of this story arc. Yes, it's all headed somewhere...I think...Trust me :) Enjoy if you can, comments welcome.

Getting To Tomorrow by Eaglewing

He looked up. He looked around.

It was dull grayness everywhere. Like a smoker’s convention out of control, it was swirling around him, and he wasn’t even sure what he was standing on – let alone which way to go.

He called out. “Hello? Anybody there?” Nobody answered.

Is this it? Did I finally cross the river? He remembered the fading feeling, but not how he got here, and if this was the other side, it was a bit of a letdown. He was expecting something more. Then thinking back over the roads that had brought him here, he realized that maybe this was all there was for a life not fully lived. One gray nothingness exchanged for another. It was a sobering thought.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The last image he had seen before the darkness took him came floating past his mind’s eye once again. Eyes that had held so much, and maybe even a hint of something more than he could have ever hoped for. Of course, being what he was, he had just kept moving, not taking the time back when he should have.

And now he was here, with no idea where it was, the why of it, or how to make it back. In one way, he realized it was really nothing new. So he opened his eyes and tried to think of what to do, but he was just too tired for any more of this.

Then he saw movement. Something tall and dark was moving towards him through the fog. Running wasn’t an option, as his next step could have been off a cliff for all he knew, so he stood his ground waiting for whatever bad news was to come. Why am I always waiting for something to come?

He shook his head to clear it, telling himself to focus, and watched as a man emerged from the swirling gray shadows. Tall and lean, the man walked with a purpose. Then the stranger saw the face, and felt the shock.

“Hey Stranger. Good to see ya, it’s been awhile.”

The Stranger managed to find his voice after seeing his old friend, long since gone. “Sonny?! What the hell is going on? Where am I and how are you –”

“Don’t worry about all that, man. I haven’t got a lot of time, so I’ll get right to it. I’m still dead, man, but you sure ain’t. Not yet, anyway. You know what that means?”

“I’m going crazy? Sonny, the last time I saw you, we were – ”

“Yeah man, those were good times. Wild times too. Remember that day you earned the name Stranger? Me and the boys would’ve been up here a whole lot sooner if it hadn’t been for you…but hey, I’m getting off track. No, friend, you’re not going crazy. Well, crazy in a padded wall sense, anyway. Nah, we always had each other’s backs, didn’t we? I saw you slipping a bit, swinging at windmills, and then you wound up here with a choice to make. Figured you could use a little help.”

The stranger’s eyes narrowed. “And what choice is that?”

“Well, you’ve been sliding downhill, throwing away pieces of your life for a while now. I’m not saying it was right or wrong, but it got you here. All of which means you’ve got another chance, if you want it. But it’s all up to you, and I don’t see the point of going back if you’re just going to waste it. But keep in mind that there are still some that need you, one in particular…and man, I never knew you to let anyone down.”

“I know Sonny, I know…but since she left…I just don’t know. I think I just screwed it up, let her down, and now…”

“So don’t let it happen again. Look, I’m running out of time here. You’ve got a choice to make, and I thought you could use a little backup. Still, the choice is yours – but don’t make the wrong one. You can go in any direction from here, but some ways are better than others, friend.”

Sonny started to move back into the grayness when he stopped. “Oh, and by the way Stranger, I got a message for you too. She told me to tell you it’s alright, she’s alright; she loved you but it was her choice to make. Now you gotta make yours.”

The Stranger reeled at that and stammered, “She said?! Where is – That’s all? Did she –”

“Gotta go now, buddy.” Sonny started to fade as he walked backwards into the fog. Winking at the stranger and throwing him one last smile, he said, "Vaya Con Dios, Amigo." Then he was gone.

The Stranger felt shaken by what had just happened. He was either losing his mind, or something else was at stake. What did Sonny mean by a choice? He started to take a step in the direction Sonny had been, but then stopped. It didn't feel right, and his gut instinct was never wrong.

The fog was everywhere; no way looked any better than another. Then, thinking carefully on Sonny's words, an old feeling started to rise within him.

He looked around. This place of gray nothingness was starting to get on his nerves. A choice? Then so be it. You're not dead yet. Fight your way out of here. Pick a direction and just go.

So he did. Gritting his teeth, feeling a new resolve, he turned to his left, put one foot down, and took a step into the unknown...

He woke up to lights, beeping noises, and pain. Nothing new about that last one, but the beeping and chattering around him was. He quickly realized he was in a hospital, and then it all came back to him – the bus, the punks, the shot. Damn memory eraser. I’m usually better than that. Blinking his eyes clear, he looked around. There was a doctor and nurse there, doing what they do. The doc gave him the good news – he’d be fine, just lost some blood and passed out. The bullet had exited clean, not hitting anything major, and they would clear him to leave after bandaging his arm. You lucky old fool, he chastised himself. He felt his strength and wits start to come back to him as whatever the medical professionals had done for him began to do the trick.

He remembered the other folks on the bus, and asked about their status. All were fine, and the punks had been arrested. The nurse then informed him that there were police waiting to speak with him as well. She told him that he’d had no ID on him, so she had to go get some forms to fill out and just to rest until she came back.

As soon as he was alone, he forced himself up and got dressed. It wasn’t like it was the first time he’d been shot, and the lingering weakness could be overcome. Besides, thanks to what he was sincerely hoping had been just a dream, his newfound willpower fed his resolve to get going. Hurrying, he quietly exited the emergency room and headed down a back hallway. It took him no small bit of effort, but he found his way out of the building and down the street.

The sun was burning gold and red across the clouds in the sky as it slowly set about to hand off the business of the day to the quietness of the night. The stranger walked to a park nearby, and eased himself down onto a bench there. He leaned back and stared at the sky, and let his thoughts drift.

He thought of Sonny, how he missed his old friend, and the timely dream, if that’s what it had been; and he really didn’t want to think about the alternative. He thought of what had pushed him onto the road in the first place, and the places and people he’d seen since being on it. What Sonny had said about “wasting it” kept running non-stop through his head. He felt he had been disappearing, bleeding away, piece by piece for a long time now, but there had been a few things happening to him as of late that had tempered the bleed. Maybe he had just been alone with his own mind for too long. Maybe he needed a human touch. Maybe he was just crazy. But either way, he wasn’t going down without a fight.

Pushing himself up to his feet, he started towards a close by pay phone and dug a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. On it, he had scribbled down a number and he was thinking of calling it now. There was a pastor he had met in a small town that seemed to be made of the right stuff, and maybe a little conversation with someone who wasn't running would help ease his mind. Plus, he could ask a question he'd been wondering about at the same time. Quarters dropped and he dialed the number, still not sure what he was going to say. Then someone answered on the other end, and it took him by surprise.

"Hello?" A female voice. Not the pastor.

Her voice. Images of a lone candle, a cold night, a warm house, and something warmer with a beautiful face and troubled eyes burned across his mind's eye like wildfire.

His heart stopped for a second. Then, like always, it kept going.

"Um, hello?” The woman’s voice repeated the greeting, this time a little unsure. “This is...uh, this is the church actually...hello?"

He heard her again and he figured he really should say something.

"Hi, Robyn. It's good to hear your voice..."

The End.

To Be Continued in Episode 6 – Coming Soon!

Comments on "Tales of the Stranger: Episode 5"


Blogger The Original LRU said ... (March 13, 2006 4:23 PM) : 

Wow. That one had me glued to my screen. :-) Very nice.

I'm trying to think of a comment, but I don't have much to say. I just want more of the story. It appears to be coming together in some direction, with some hope, and that really makes the Stranger matter... especially since we've been following through the hard times with him so far.

Not much more to say really... just looking forward to the next chapter!


Blogger Eaglewing said ... (March 13, 2006 4:47 PM) : 

thanks. it works well too if you read it while listening to Landing in London by 3 Doors Down. Maybe I'll have to post a soundtrack listing to the Stranger stories :)

btw, did it come as a surprise, or did everyone see it coming that he unintentionally got the girl from the very first story - Magic Marker on the Mailbox - on the phone there at the end?


Blogger The Original LRU said ... (March 14, 2006 4:21 PM) : 

It was a surprise to me. :-)


Blogger The Texican said ... (May 30, 2008 12:03 PM) : 

Hey Eaglewing, I missed the first four episodes so I guess I'll need to seek them out. This was a good stand alone episode. Has me wondering what's going to happen next. I like the serial approach. Works well for chapter development in a longer work. Pappy


Blogger Eaglewing said ... (May 30, 2008 6:06 PM) : 

Texican: thanks for the comments! Being a fan of comics, I really like the short story, serialized in a longer story arc format. Gives it a tighter feel to the narrative sometimes.

By the way, all the Stranger stories are linked in the right sidebar for easy access :) Thanks for reading!


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