I am a naïve vagabond with much to see, a peddler partaking of roadside roses; hobbling along crimson clay pathways with only moments to pay to the villages he crosses. I have parted the field grasses to come upon bread-scented cottages and Shetland ponies grazing; antique facades that profess to know only the passing of swallows and the language of rickety windmills murmuring. Who knew but a sage blessed with a profound clarity that only nights ago legends sought verification in the eyes of bewildered passersby? Who knew that the ambiguous creatures that stalk my dreams… and more frequently, my nightmares… could have poisoned the very streams of the next town? Furthermore, what ill-begotten whim provokes a man to tether his horse at a questionable tavern and enter to dull his senses with ale, allowing those wild fabrications of local legend to gain leverage over his weakening mind?
This, I say with woe, was my error to claim… to stay long enough to indulge in a town’s legends, and sleep at its inns with its strange liquors in my belly. Dream-vexed in a fitful sleep, haloed with a frigid sweat that chilled my brow beyond any threshold of comfort, I slumbered in the strangeness of a dark alien room in a dark alien village, denied for that night of any homeward hopes that might steady a reflection of familiarity. My pulse quivered and resounded into my pillow, echoing the steps of werewolves clutching stolen infants in their trek across moonlit fields… the wails of restless banshees shook the flame upon my bedside candle, a flame doomed to fail under the pressure of cacophonic winds.
The next morning woke me with reluctance, as though it pondered over leaving me for dead. Yet sunlight pried through the cracks in the ceiling to evaporate the sweat that stained my brow, and a walk to the window revealed only those Shetland ponies grazing and field workers dirtied in clouds of hay. I ignored the creaking floorboards under my feet that reminded of the previous night’s unwelcome oddities, robed myself and began to shed the hex a stay in this village had put on me. Haunting dream echoes lingered in my head as I breakfasted on a sunlit veranda, memories fading with each sip of steaming tea about my lips. Soon my feet would again feel the warm clay of those summer-sweet pathways, disappearing under the shade of oak tree overhangs and leaving those legends to sleep with the town that guarded them well.
© Brandon Gene Petit