On October 13, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a goat, a foggy morning, and a long road. This freebie story for Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins was the result…
Fog rolled in from the trees. It rose along the path. Not blocking my way to the crystal. Not welcoming me either. It wasn’t supposed to be this thick. Nor was the path supposed to be this long.
Sound nearly made me trip over my own boots. Sheep are starting to make my whiskers stand up straight. Only this wasn’t a sheep.
Thought for a moment it was one of those ruddy goat-legged women who enjoyed hoping under the trees, playing their reed pipes, only to pretend it was the wind. Right. If those sharp-toothed creatures creeping about our cottage weren’t bad enough. Garnet might not have any whiskers left if the Forest creatures didn’t leave him alone. If someone didn’t convince him to stop tugging his beard.
Only it was an actual goat this time. Cocking its head in almost cute fashion, chin tuft sticking out, all bony legs.
Bony legs. Right. Actual goat, my hammer.
“Baaah!” He bleated again, butting my head, trying to convince me he was nothing but a goat, before mincing off into the trees.
“Right. First sheep. Now goats. This is another ruddy dream you’ve decided to stalk.” I crossed my arms and stopped in the middle of the path. “I’d think you’d have better things to do.”
“I’d think you had better things to dream about than that silly crystal.” The goat disappeared in a cloud of yellow smoke. Sure enough, Nimmie Not stood where it had been.
He began to do a jig in the foggy air, making the bells on his toes ring. Prancing about the path as if he owned it. “Quartz, Quartz, why must you dream of crystals? They’ll become coffins if you don’t take care, yes, they will!”
He paused, reaching out with a bony finger to twist a whisker of my beard around it. “Why not dream of me instead?”
“Thought I was.” I slapped his hand away from my beard, only to end up holding it. “You’re here. That ruddy crystal my road leads to is you. Even the goat was you, one of your pebble-brained pranks.”
“Why I’m both flattered and insulted in equal measure!” He took a deep breath, only to shudder with a smile. “My delicious dimwit, whatever makes you think your shiny namestone has anything to do with me?”
“Same thing that makes you think your book has something to do with me.” Meant to drop that hand of his. Somehow I ended up stroking his bony fingers.
Who was truly pebble-brained here? Don’t answer that.
“We’ve got our instincts.” Not sure what I was saying. “A sense of what’s what. What we believe, what gets us going.”
“And this believe this damaged crystal growing under Prunella’s direction is my dark and lonely heart?” He chucked as if I were the fool, not him. “Quartz, Quartz, I simply do not share the romantic resonance with the rocks you possess! I wouldn’t let myself get tied down to a pretty trinket, a crystal heart.”
He wagged a finger. “They always grow into crystal coffins you find yourself lying in, if you cannot catch yourself in time.”
“Doesn’t have to be like that. Not with a quartz.” Felt my nose turn red at the double-speak. Nimmie Not was a bad influence on me. “Doesn’t have to tie you down.”
How could I explain it? I pressed his hand against his own heart. “It’s strength you draw from the earth. Steady and true, making you stronger.”
“Making you stumble with your own weight! Ooo, watch me sink! I’m a gravity magnet!” He slapped my hand away, stood still, and made a face.
Had to admit it. Stillness didn’t suit him. There was something in what I was saying. Something of use to him.
If only I could figure it out before he skipped away. Laughing at me.
“That’s what happens you drink and drain the poor earth.” Nimmie Not scowled all the more. “The road is long enough without being dragged down. Perhaps you’re not of as much Interest as I thought.”
“Been telling you that,” I scoffed, in spite of the ache in my chest, creeping up my throat.
Aye, it was pebble-brained. Letting the ruddy little man get to me.
Hearing him say I wasn’t of Interest still hurt. Shards.
“Now that you’ve finally come to your senses, you can leave me alone.” I turned my back on him. “Stop wasting my time…and yours.”
He nodded, bowed, backing into the mist. “Oh, it’s not over, Quartz. I must consider how to thank you properly for disappointing me.”
Woke up with those words ringing in my ears like a curse. A chill ran through my beard and my belly.
Right. Like I’d let that kobold scare me.
Still couldn’t help giving the cuckoo clock a second glance on the wall. Wondering if something nasty might leap out.
With Nimmie Not, I couldn’t let my guard down.
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