The Old Road it was called, for it had always been. Like the stars in the sky. So we were told by the few dwellers living along it, anyhow. Formed of stones the size of cottages, the Old Road stretched to the horizon, wide enough for forty men to stand shoulder to shoulder and straight as a thought. Those few inhabitants we encountered were unaccustomed to travelers, and spared little insight as to the road’s destination; or hospitality. Not even Molly’s dimpled smile and large brown eyes could chip away at long years of solitude and wariness, or win us a loaf of bread.
We camped when the failing light of day made the stones grow to catch our toes, and began again when our eyelids went orange and the sun’s first rays warmed our aches. Simeon and I covered the traces of our camps and sought out any food or water sources missed the night prior while Molly and Dev studied the road ahead. Our options for nourishment had grown sparser as the forests receded, replaced by small jagged shrubs and long stretches of grasslands.
“Ready?” asked Simeon, hoisting Molly onto his thin shoulders.
“No,” she scowled, grabbing his ears to steady herself. Simeon grinned and patted her leg as he started out with his long strides.
“Today, I bet we’ll find another town,” announced Dev. “Wouldn’t that be nice, Molly?”
Dev had made that declaration each day since the last town and its effectiveness was wearing off. Ahead of us stretched an endless horizon of grass, and of course, the road. I handed out my collection of gathered roots to a welcome of wrinkled noses and pinched scowls. We’d discovered that these roots were edible… just. They filled a spot in the belly and helped with thirst, though the flavor inspired us to dream longingly for even our least favorite foods from the ‘better days.’
Once, in desperation, we’d piled around Dev and used his wishing stones, ‘borsignibbits,’ he called them, to wish ourselves to water. We arrived at a lovely trickling stream and thought ourselves both clever and fortunate until Molly noticed that we’d been there before. We’d lost an entire day of progress. After that, ‘wouldn’t it be nice,’ became a common phrase between us. We no longer wished.
“Let’s play a game,” suggested Dev.
Simeon and I groaned in unison but Molly perked up. “What kind?” she asked.
“Every ten steps you have to say something that you see, and it can never be something you’ve spotted before,” instructed Dev, and the game began.
“Grass!” shouted Molly. “Sky! Road! Um, dirt?” Silence reigned for a while and Molly’s little shoulders slumped. “We need a different game,” she said.
Instead, we walked in silence until the great sun blazed down at us in its full midday fury and we were forced to seek what shelter we could find under the tall grass. Dev began weaving the stalks together to provide a better canopy while the rest of us sat and watched with detached interest.
“Those borsignibbits,” Simeon said. “Where do they come from?”
Dev shrugged. “Don’t know. They’re funny little things. I can feel them buzzing from time to time, like they’re talking to each other. Remember that stream they took us to?” All three of us groaned at the memory. Dev smiled apologetically. “Well,” he said, “I think there was another borsignibbit there. I could feel them reaching toward it. They’re attracted to each other.”
“Did you find it?” asked Molly.
Dev shook his head. “I looked, but no.”
“I wonder if there’s a big pile of borsignibbits huddling together somewhere,” I smiled dreamily, wondering if the power of granted wishes would increase with such a number.
“They have to have a source,” nodded Simeon, the same dreamy look in his eyes. “Wouldn’t it be great to find that?”
“I wish!” laughed Dev.
The woven canopy swayed in the breeze, letting the sun past and blinding us for a second.
“Dev!” complained Molly. “Dev?”
But only the woven grasses remained.
Written by W. C. McClure www.wcmcclure.com. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. Oh, and if you want to show your support, tell your friends – and pick up a copy of “The Statues of Azminan” by W. C. McClure. Thanks!