He stood, back to the viewer, in somber clothes, baggy pants tucked into rugged boots. One hand firmly gripped a walking stick fashioned into a spear. Slung over his back was a leather satchel straps too loose to be comfortable or secure. His yellow hair, barely visible between cap and collar, yellow, suggesting alpine or Nordic heritage.
The ground where he stood, rough with rock and short tough higher altitude plants brown from the weight of winter snow, or rusting in the last of autumn’s sun. The terrain ahead, distance and topography, was obscured by fog or swirl of snow from lowering clouds. A foreboding, barren patch.
On the horizon, beyond folded mountain keeps, was a city of gold – crystalline, kissed by sun or made of that precious metal. The landscape gave no sense to it’s scale nor grandeur. Just as the boy’s stance gave little clue as to his direction or feelings: joy at the end of a long and painful quest; foreboding at what lay in the valleys ahead; sadness to be leaving his beloved home; relief to have escaped it’s impossible oppression.
The image made me feel lonely, isolated, cut-off from what I knew and loved. Some days, it made it shudder with the sheer coldness of the scene, of the boy.
Usually I was alone in the gallery where it was housed, but today another viewer stood in my usual spot. A traveler, I supposed by his odd suitcase, coat and hat draped over the handle. He crooked a cane over his arm.
“Exquisite, isn’t it,” he remarked hearing the rustle of my skirts.
“Yes, I replied, “You are so drawn in, to take him out of his loneliness.”
“No doubt the isolation is of his own doing; it is his responsibility that makes the picture unique.”
“Responsibility?” I queried, surprised to find myself in such a conversation.
“He must blink away his golden city.”
“Pardon,” I asked making more space between myself and the strange man who softly whistled Shubert.
“Because it is not a city, Miss, but yet another snowy peak, turned golden in the single ray piercing the storm clouds. A blink, and it is gone.”
“My card, Miss, he said handing me a card cut out of vellum in the same shape of his baggage. “Young women read far too much into such things as art and literature – flights of fancy. Though there are uses for such whimsy’s. Please drop by Miss Cardigan.”
I looked down at the card: Dr. Teagarten, Imagineer on the Continuum. I turned to reproach him for his forwardness, and he was gone, only the sound of whistled Shubert remained.
Written for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction #10, far far away