This isn’t the sort of title, or catch phrase I’d usually come up with. A writer at Writer Zen Garden on Facebook came up with it, along with the picture of a boy, challenging the rest of us to come up with a story. I found myself imagining a boy, caught between a fundamentalist preacher’s bigotry and desire, when an old character popped into my head. I haven’t thought of Madam Journey in a long while, but this story now belongs to her. 🙂
I’m posting part of it here. To read another fragment, go to inspirationcauldron.blogspot.com
The trees disappeared, to be replaced by rolling green countryside. The gravel was getting rougher. Bless the beady-eyed goddess, it was turning into cobblestones! Her cart was no longer metal, but wood. Up ahead, a line of cottages flanked the road on either side.
“Omphalos,” Madam Journey grumbled under her breath. Maybe she shouldn’t have thought of Gabrielle Bouchard. Her thoughts might have led to that girl and that shop of hers, the Navel. She and ‘Brie were in similar lines of work, collecting the lost bits spat out by the Shadow Forest. Only the girl hadn’t been doing this nearly as long as Madam Journey. Once she’d been a wanderer herself, after a mutual friend freed her from the church, which had been keeping her locked up. The girl had settled down to open a shop in Omphalos, what was its name?
“The Navel,” Madam Journey said, letting the name roll over her tongue. Names had power. She didn’t mean ‘Brie no wrong, but that girl had a job to do, just as Madam Journey did. If their jobs crossed each other, well, it was good to have a name for protection. What’s more, she had the girl’s name, too.
“Gabrielle Bouchard,” Madam Journey said, tasting it. ‘Gabrielle’ was smoky with powers and secrets. ‘Bouchard’ had no flavor, so it had to be a fake. ‘Gabrielle’ was only too real, rich with secrets, pain, and myths almost as old as the world, which some people claimed they knew all about. Fat chance.
She shuffled forward, losing some of her speed, as she approached her goal. For it was here, very close. Whatever the boy had left behind was near. It wasn’t in the Navel, thank the beady-eyed goddess. She wasn’t going to have to get into any kind of a smackdown with Gabrielle to get what she’d come for. It was here in Omphalos, though. Madam Journey could feel it approaching, a pulsing, warm familiar sensation. The song played constantly in the back of her mind, as it walked towards her?
Madam Journey stared at the slender boy walking in her direction as purposefully, as she shuffled towards him. For one terrified moment, she thought it was him. The boy she remembered, whom she once sang with. Only this boy wasn’t him. This boy had shorter hair, nor was it the dusty light brown she remembered. This boy looked like someone had poured copper, gold, and tarnished bronze all over the top of his head. His hair positively blazed in the setting light of the sun. His shoulder hunched a bit, as if he had some reluctance about approaching her. He wore an ordinary black turtleneck in jeans, which would have looked normal in the world Madam Journey had left behind. Perhaps more normal than in this one.
There was nothing normal about this boy’s eyes, though. They were a weird mixture of colors, mixing, shifting, and drifting apart from each other, as his eyeballs were the surface of a pond, when the light hit it, just so. The weirdness didn’t stay, though. Give those eyes a second glance and they’d be just violet blue.
Madam Journey and the boy stopped walking, a few feet from each other. The boy stared at her, as if he could see more than just a ragged old lady. Madam Journey got a nasty feeling he was looking straight into her bones and guts.
“I have someone you want,” the boy said. His voice was nothing like the one Madam Journey was looking for. It was high, sweet, smooth, and almost girlish. His face was heartshaped and almost doll like. Yes, someone had made him, built this pretty shape just for him, but he reeked of darkness. Stolen dreams and ideals clung in traces to his lips and hands, like cigarette smoke sank into clothes. His eyes were the worse, though. Madam Journey could almost hear what he stole, crying out from all those colors. One of those colors was a sad gray blue, exactly like a pair of eyes, which had once looked into hers.
“Ain’t no rest for the wicked,” he sang, as he surfaced from a pond of other crying colors, swimming around in the boy’s eyes.
“You do, at that,” Madam Journey said, shifting uneasily behind her cart. There was no hiding her cargo from this boy thing, no disguising it as trash. He’d sniff out the tasty bits of soul hiding within the junk. “It’s odd, seeing one of your kind outside the Shadow Forest.”
“I was given this form,” the creature said. He looked down at his hand. There was a surprising innocence to his words, mingled with an all too human sadness. It nearly shocked Madam Journey out of her senses. “I was pulled out of the shadows, forced into flesh and humanity.” He stared at her with those weirdly colored eyes. “Everything I devoured is now trapped within me.”