by Pety

“Pickles!” the man cried, desperately, startling a group of women. They laughed as they scurried away from him, across the busy market. They thought he was crazy or drunk. Everyone did. He could not remember how long he had been this way, but it was at least several years. He once had a home, friends, employment… even a name. He could speak eloquently and was extremely successful doing… something. A kind, gruff voice called, “Hey, Pickles. Try to keep it down, today.” The man pushing his cart of baked breads tossed him a roll and continued on to sell his goods in the market. He waved his thanks, avoiding the kind man’s eyes. The humiliation settled over him and he sank down to rest beside an old cart and eat the food as he remained invisible to most of the passing merchants and city folk.As he ate, he thought about her. He began most days, reliving his time with her. Anara was beautiful, smart, sophisticated, and utterly cruel. He had met her at a gathering. It was at some sort of feast or dance and everyone had been dressed in finery. He saw her from across the room and lost the ability to focus on anything else the rest of that night. She had long, silver hair, small pointed ears, and wore all white. She never spoke to him, but caught him staring at her. She approached, took his arm, and kept him by her side. After the party, she brought him to her home and he stayed. In the years that followed, he served the woman without a word. Anything she wanted him to do, she would whisper into his ear and he would do it as she spent her days, tending the trees and flora of the forest.One morning, the worst of the life he could recall, she woke him, screaming in a rage in a language he did not know. Her eyes cut through him and he felt horror at her anger. What had he done? She grabbed his arm and thrust him from the room. Finally becoming silent, she pointed out the door of the house. He obeyed and immediately saw what had caused her fury. The previous evening, in a rare act of kindness, she had given him a mug of coffee to enjoy as he tended the garden, then gone to her bed. He had forgotten the mug and somehow it had been spilled on the tree stump by the house. The dark drink had stained the bright wood, leaving an unnatural shadow across its top and down its side. He felt his skin go warm and his head began to ache horribly. He turned back to the house and saw the woman was chanting something and waving her arms in his direction. Then she turned and went back in the house and shut the door.Somehow, he knew the only way to stop the pain in his head would be to leave the forest. He took off at a run and found himself at its edge within minutes. The pain subsided as soon as he stepped out of the trees and the relief was enormous. He still did not remember his name, where he had lived, or who his friends had been. He tried to speak, but found whenever he tried to form words, he would say “Pickles.” Knowing he had been cursed, he returned to town and tried to ask around for help, but they would only see a man in rags, pleading, “pickles”, and turn him away. The man mourned the woman and her home in the woods, even though she had taken him from the life he had known, then cast him aside. He waited for the day she would return for him, but it was clear he would spend his days in the streets, written off as a crazy drunkard.

Categories: Stories

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