Friday, March 27, 2015

Day Eight-Thirty-Eight: Fuzzbrain

Traveller had never been punched in the face before.

Well, okay. That was a lie. He’d been punched in the face plenty of times. But never by one of his friends.

… all right. That, too, is a lie. He’d been slugged by friends, associates, and distant relations on several occasions. But never once had he been punched by someone he’d punched first, and put into a coma. That was most certainly true.

Well, there was that one time…

Traveller was, as soon as Dragomir’s fist hit his face, dimly aware that he was being dealt an injustice. He did not deserve to be struck, because he was a broken man, and broken men are not necessarily responsible for their actions. It took a while for this thought to coalesce into a solid mass, however, and Dragomir was already long gone when Traveller snapped back to his senses.

“He hit me,” Traveller mumbled, as his mother cleaned stale bun bits out of his hair. He didn’t know why he thought of Martha as his mother, but he knew that she was his mother. “He hit me right in the cheek.”

“Oh, lords, I’m sorry for him, he’s under a lot of pressure.” The last of the bread gone, Martha began brushing Traveller’s hair with a comb. “He’s not usually like this. You shoulda met him a few years ago, I bet you’d’ve gotten on famously.”

Of course we would, Traveller thought, the fog in his brain parting entirely for one very brief moment. He’s me. But what does that mean? I dunno. Some soul mate stuff, I guess.

“I’m gonna go for a walk,” Traveller said, standing up. “Don’t let Robert eat my cookies, he’s always eating my cookies.”

Martha took a step back, mouth falling halfway open. “Wh… what did you say…?”

Traveller shook his head. He left without another word. 

Bare-footed - he was always bare-footed, these days, despite an obsessive quest with finding new boots - Traveller wandered through Pubton without a clear sense of purpose, drawing cautionary glances wherever he went. Many people had watched him tip King Gok’s tower during the recapture of the city, and most knew his destructive power. Some had even witnessed it elsewhere, having fled from the Imperium, and Traveller’s reputation around the city was not great. He couldn’t even get work telling stories, as most everyone avoided him.

I need the voice in my head back, Traveller thought, peering into the yellow-lit windows of a pub. It always let me know what to do. Now I keep thinking things that aren’t really making sense. Like that time dad and I went fishing, ’n we got halfway through prep, ’n dad was all ‘Well, shit, son, I just realized there’s nowhere to fish ‘round here, guess we’ll have to fish for the eels - ‘

A vicious headache abruptly wracked Traveller’s head, and he fell to his knees, groaning - but moments later he was up again, walking and clutching at his temples. He had no idea where his body was driving him, but the image of his father, Oswald, yep, he’s daddy, made his mind hurt so much.

“Hey, c’mon, try a bit of this,” Robert said, shoving a spoon of green goop in Traveller’s face. “C’mon. It’s real good. Made it m’self.”

“You need to stop wearing through your clothes so fast!” Traveller’s mother grabbed at the hem of his shirt, tutting loudly. “We’re not rich, y’know! I’m running out of thread! Honestly, you boys…”

“That one there, boy,” Traveller’s father said, pointing. Then he pointed again, with his other arm. Two arms. “’n that one. Don’t know where these bloody stones come from all the time, but best y’get both right now. C’mon, lift like ya mean it!”

Why don’t they recognize me? Traveller thought, even pleaded, to himself. Why don’t they know who I am? I mean, sure, I don’t know who I am, but you’d think, after all this time, they’d still know their own son. I mean, look at the hair. The hair doesn’t even fit.

The hair just doesn’t fit at all.

Maybe I should get a haircut?

Traveller was standing outside Dragomir’s house.

Traveller blinked. He’d known, dimly, that his body was driving him somewhere, forcing him onto autopilot. He’d not had a clue what his destination was - yet now he’d arrived, and this was, unmistakably, Dragomir’s home. He could see a light inside, through the front window, and the man’s silhouette was thrown against the wall. Dragomir appeared to be gesticulating wildly, almost violently.

Without thought, Traveller pushed the door open.

Dragomir was sitting in his living room, though he was half in, half out of his chair. His diary - I should’ve kept a diary, too, Traveller thought - was on the table before him, its pages open. Dragomir appeared to be arguing with it, but not with it, as a pair of rats were also on the table. One was staring at Dragomir; the other whipped around to glare at Traveller. He instantly, immediately, and irrevocably blamed it for at least half of his woes.

Dragomir whipped around too, whatever he’d been saying wiped away by shock. “Wh… what the fuck… what do you want? You broke my damned door!

Traveller didn’t respond. Again acting on impulse, he took ten steps forward - exactly ten, because that’s how many he needed to take to reach the table - and picked up the diary. The rats chittered at him, the fur on their backs standing up, and he chittered back. Dragomir watched the act with a mixture of anger, horror, and odd amusement.

Traveller had never learned how to read. Had he made it to his final destination years before, a man named Robert may have taught him the intricacies of the written word. But Traveller could understand some words, and he found that proximity to Dragomir - yes, it was proximity, it was most definitely proximity - helped him along. So he read as much as was written down in the diary as he could.

“What,” he eventually asked, “is an ex-ee-coo-chun?”

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