“Do you think he is sleeping?” Zim asked, leaning forward, placing her gathering basket between her feet.
“Byhaps he is dead!” Pocket cried, his eyes growing wider, pushing his wheaten hair behind his ears and trying not to divulge his fear.
The two young ones had climbed higher up the orchard hill than allowed. But it was first days of the Awakening; equinox birds where like bright coloured leaves in the bare branches. Pools of snow drops and sweet maries were blooming; blushes of white and purple against the fading, ragged piles of snow. Too tempting for youngsters set free from indoor Wintering duties to stay within easy sight of the inn. So they altered their plan to gather these early flowers, and perhaps some wild herbs and shoots for Auora’s kitchen.
They clambored almost to end of the wizenapple trees; to that point where dense, sharp-thorned corpse bushes demarcated between the dark, wildwood and the tamed lands. Just below that line, they found a stranger slumped against one of the hunchbacked trees. His head was fair bald with intricate tattooing.
“Looks a map to me,” Zim thought aloud. A few months older than Pocket, she acted the voice of authority. Pocket nodded solemnly; he tended to follow Zim’s lead.
“Byhaps, it tells his tale,” Zim added, “Whence he’s been.”
Pocket imagined the man telling the artist the roads he had taken; adventures to be set in ink upon skin.
The man had the appearance of a traveler – a hooded long cloak over plain-spun long shirt and leggings, high boots with worn heels. Beside him lay a staff, carved with symbols and letters, and a small bundle. His sling-bag flopped to one side beneath the cloak. The hood fallen open to reveal his oddity.
“If dead, then needs a parting lilt,” Zim told Pocket. “What is the ritual” asked Pocket, his brown eyes still larger than usual. In matters such as this, he deferred to his companion.
Zim thought for a moment; her olive-skinned forehead furled. She did not want to commit the sin of omission: “We needs flowers to honour. Then we sit vigilance and sing him into passing.”
They picked a handful of early blossoms, placing the fragrant blooms upon his chest. Zim recalled the words of a parting song her older sister, Nim, was want to sing. She stood close beside him, placing her small hand on his bare head.
She had only crooned a snippet of the opening lines, when the man stirred. Uttering a moaning groan, his eyes briefly fluttered open. The children jumped back; “You have redivivused* him!” Pocket cried.
Feeling braver, he moved next to the man. Zim also returned, placing her hand upon the stranger’s arm, asking “Are you a wraith or no?. Then, turning to Pocket, “byhaps he is stirring as a reverentence!*”
The man’s eye lids shuttered again, then stayed open revealing his winter blue eyes. He focused his vision, latching upon the images of the two children. Spellbound, they, in turn, stood watching. His lips moved, whispering words Pocket and Zim did not understand.
This week’s prompt invites you to write in the form of a mystery story that involves a “Bald Man’.
Your ‘Same Same But Different’ task is to take the five challenge words and NOT use them in your writing. That’s right, you need to dig out your thesaurus and find a synonym for each word instead.
my thesaurused words in order of use: change; betray; effect; skip; wonder
* the children have misspoken: Pocket’s redivivused is redivivus (reborn); Nim’s reverentence is revenant (a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.)
feature image: Mike Schley’s Portfolio – Fictional City Maps