The Stranger

By spent

The Stranger

The first time anyone laid eyes on the stranger in the town of Hampstead Hollow was the afternoon of the storm. Of course, at the time, no otherworldly or supernatural connections were made to the strange bloke with the wide-brimmed hat; least of all that he had somehow managed to conjure the disaster. No. It was not until it was all said and done and folk of the Hollow—as it was called by those that lived there—were wandering around with the dazed, cow-eyed stares of ones that had been through a proper shock. But by then, however, it was far too late.

It is best to start with the storm, I believe, because that was how it all started. Old Ham, that is to say the ole weather-master, had predicted fair weather for the Hollow that same day. His daily prediction was pegged to the board in the center of the town-square for all to see and they did see and took it as the gospel. For although they did not ken nor understand how that the old man came to know what only god should know—it was something to do with tree roots or some such nonsense—they knew that in nearly fifty years Old Ham had never been wrong.

The folk of the Hollow set about their day, reassured and confident that it would be a slightly warming day with great cotton-shaped clouds—such as the type children most often spotted dragons and unicorns and all manner of miraculous creatures. It was cotton that the adults most often tended to see in the sky, for it was cotton that was one of the town's chief crops and exports, along with grain and tobacco.

Children played and cooed on the soft grass of the town-common, as their papa's and mama's went out into the local bazaar to dicker and barter over varying goods with their many neighbors. The dickering would do very little good in the end, I would say, as every farm owner selling goods was well versed in the bartering tactics of their fellow farmers trying to wheedle a better deal out their friends and neighbors. But the act of bargaining was a social event that was not to be missed. So the folk humored and hawed, talking of lowering this price in exchange for that.

The stranger road into town on a pure white stallion, threaded stock. A magnificent beauty of a beast which was sure to catch the eye of those mingling on the outer reaches of the bazaar. If the horse did not garner any attention, then the man riding astride it most certainly did. He wore a wide-brimmed hat—as I've already mentioned—and the black robes of a holy man. Many of the children halted their merry-making to stare as black-dressed man with the flowing white mane cantered his horse toward the center of town. His hands were crossed in a steeple-shape across the pummel; the reins lay gently across his wrists.

What sort of a man is this? Many wondered as he halted before the ornate fountain at the edge of the bazaar, dismounting from his horse gracefully. Those that had spied his face beneath the shadow cast by his headpiece thought the stranger's face seemed all at once aged, but yet, ageless. A glaring contradiction, no doubt. One that would surely puzzle those farmers that cared to take an evening drink at the Galt House Saloon during those restless nights of the off season. During harvest a farmer could think of and more importantly had the time to think of little else.

The stranger sidled around to the front of his horse, letting the beast take a sugar cube from the palm of hand and then turned to face the silent crowd as a proper gentleman was wont to do. He wore a dour expression that would have put Chamesh—the town undertaker—to shame were he there to see it.

The man eyed them from beneath the crown of his wide-brimmed hat. His teeth were pearly white suggestions hidden behind thin lips. He licked his lips and then spoke in a clear, dark voice.

“Clicks and miles and roundabout, from sea to sultry sea. I've come to your town, at long last, to be delivered what is due to me. Fifteen souls, wagered and lost, a debt that must be paid. For if I leave without my due, an example will have to be made.”

{Take this story and run with it. Be creative and bounce it back to me. I will build upon ideas and the writing of others. Enjoy, have fun, and be creative.}

The Stranger

Created: Feb 10, 2010

Tags: writing collab, fiction, writing exercise, creative collaboration, science fiction, horror, short script

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