So I wrote a short (really short) story a couple weeks ago (which I’ve decided to call “A Stranger’s Errand”), as a writing exercise. I got a little bit of feedback on it and most of it was positive. A friend emailed me with a list of postive critiques and pointers, that left me feeling pretty good about the piece.
If you didn’t see it, it’s here. Let me know what you think. I whipped it up on the spot, and I’m quite pleased with how it came out.
Here’s attempt number two.
Before reading, please note that my favourite genre is fantasy.
Oh, and note that this is the first (and only) draft. This is unedited, unfiltered, and unprofessional…
The sun was slowly retreating below the distant snow-capped hills, sharing the last of its rays for the day. As the light faded, and darkness began to creep over the village of Harme, a hundred windows burst to life with the warm glow of a hundred candles. It was a peaceful time, and the only sounds for miles around were the faint whisper of the wind, the clicking and chirping of insects, and the occasional far-off howl of a wolf pack preparing for its nightly hunt.
Mere minutes earlier, the village had been alive, a sprawling bustle of folks finishing up their daily business. Merchants closed their stalls and secured their wares, farmers led their horses to stable, and children played without a care. Now the roads, the farms, and the entire world, it seemed, had come to halt, retiring for the night.
All except Farrin. A respected elder of the village, Farrin stood hunched on his front porch, propped up by his wooden cane. It was a magnificently carved family heirloom, used by his father and his father’s father before him. He did not know where the cane had come from – the woodcarvers of Harme had always been good at their craft, but Farrin’s cane could only have been the work of a true master – and he often pondered its origin.
Farrin was a shrinking figure of a man, plainly – and proudly – showing his years, through the lines in his face, the slump in his posture, the grey in his hair, and the fading glint in his eyes. He had lived a long and happy life in Harme, raising his two daughters, serving his community, and watching the village grow. Now he watched his home sleep, and wished he could do the same.
But there was no way he would sleep. Farrin’s mind raced. He knew the night had finally come; the night for which he had waited all his life. He didn’t know what was going to happen, but he knew something big, something monumental was coming.
When Farrin was a young man, his father, Shim, had told him that one day a great power would come to him. And with that power, a great decision would need to be made, and a great toll would need to be taken. He wished he could tell his son more, but that was all Shim had been told by his own father before he died.
That was many years in the past now, and Farrin knew the day he waited for had arrived. He had felt it for some time. He couldn’t put his finger on why, but something in the air, the moon, his own heart gave it away.
He had not told anyone in the village, because he really had nothing to tell them, lest he cause a panic. The people of Harme were superstitious folk – prone to overreact to anything potentially ominous or supernatural – and he had no desire to worry them with what could turn out to not cause them any hardship or difficulty.
What was the power? So many years he had wished he knew what was coming to him. The thought never left his mind. Even through the birth of his daughters, the death of his wife, all the joy and the sorrow he had experienced in his life, he was always weighed down by the anxiety of his unknown responsibility.
Why was this power part of his destiny? He was a simple man, with simple ambitions, and never asked for anything more than what he already had. There had been days he cursed his father for giving him the news, cursed his grandfather for his secrets, and cursed whoever – or whatever – was the source of this power. Those days were gone, however, and Farrin, now older and wiser, knew nothing was to be done except wait.
The light had long since disappeared, and the moon had taken the sun’s place in the night sky. Hours had passed, spent lost in contemplation, before Farrin finally retired inside to escape the cold, which by now had sunk deep into his old bones. He picked up a tattered old blanket, pulled his favourite chair in front of the fire, and gently lowered himself to sit.
He stared into the flames, watching them dance, careless and unbound to any concept of future, fate, destiny, or any other nonsense that humans had to face. They were free, slaves only to the elements, and Farrin envied them so. “You’re luckier than you know,” he muttered in a hushed tone barely above a breath, before feeling embarrassed and a little silly that he was an old man talking to a fire.
Three quick knocks at the door – tap, tap, tap – brought him suddenly to attention. His heart skipped. The moment had finally arrived. His whole life had come down to what was on the other side of that door, and now that the time was here, he realised he wasn’t ready. He would never be ready. How could any man prepare himself for something foretold generations ago, that would change the very nature of his existence?
He laughed at himself. It seemed a cruel joke that, earlier that same night, he had almost accepted his fate, but now he could not even bring himself to answer the door. “You’re a foolish old man”, he thought. Ignoring it wouldn’t make it go away.
Another knock, louder than the first. Farrin dropped his blanket to the floor, and climbed out of the chair, groaning with the effort. He grabbed his cane and walked to the door. He reluctantly reached out his right hand to grasp the scuffed bronze doorknob, and turned it slowly. The clicking sound of the door being released, felt like the most profound, yet simple, sound he had ever heard. The difference between being inside – warm and safe – and being outside – faced with whatever future was waiting for him – came down to a single click.
The door seemed heavier than it ever had before, as Farrin pulled it all the way open, following his hand with his eyes, before moving his gaze to look at what was outside. When he looked up, after what seemed like an eternity, what he saw filled him with more confusion than fear or dread.
Standing right in front of Farrin, on his own front porch, not two feet from his face, was himself. He stared into the eyes of a man who was his double in every way. He had Farrin’s tired face, his slumped posture, his greyed hair, and he wore the same simple shirt, trousers, and belt. Farrin would have felt he was looking into a mirror, an identical image, had the strange man been holding a cane. That was the only difference he could see; no cane.
This is already longer than I had intended, folks. I’ll write the final part in another post.
I realise that so far nothing has really happened, and I’ve used over a thousand words to describe what is essentially just an old man thinking. I apologise if you feel your time has been wasted by that. (But seriously, what else would you have been doing?)
For anyone who is wondering, something will eventually happen. Don’t worry about that.
But do let me know what you think so far. I’m really open to thoughts/criticisms/pointers during the creative process.