The mountain folk were a completely different nation unto themselves. They were proof that a drawn line wasn’t what made a mixed group of people into a country. They were proof that it would make them enemies…
The forest underbrush had nearly completely obscured the trail. If not for the occasional bent reed or bare patch amongst the bracken a traveller could easily become lost in the half light of the bottom canopy.
Other than the man made tracks he was leaving behind there appeared no other sign that any other human had passed this way in generations. That was something very disheartening and troubling. The traveller had more than a lifetime of training in tracking and survival. He had even more memories of the countries landscape. Images of before and after floated across his vision, each step made on the internal magnet that could guide a homing pigeon or smart bomb to their final destination without error.
The only problem came with the now. The now could throw a wrench into any plan. The now could be raining or blazing dry, a flooded landscape or a burning forest fire. Only the Author knew for sure what the now would be. It was in that way He made sure the traveller would stay true to the story. At least that’s how everything usually went.
Alice nether knew where she was or when she had been there. The whole tumble from the one next into the other had left her a bit addled and confused. If it wasn’t for the sugary scent of strawberry glaze frosting that was currently drifting about the place Alice probably would have stayed in that kaleidoscope frame of mind for quite some time.
Hunger… Alice was very hungry. The first sounds to reach her ears was the growling of her own stomach. Soon after that conscious thought came the pain of the tight cramping knot of her guts slowly churning. The need to separate reality from delusion was to take second seat for now.
With a quick scan of the room Alice saw that presently no one was there. The rows of shelving and stacks of literature were present. The large ancient writing desk stocked with and ink well and piles of parchment paper was located just how she had seen it. The only thing absent was the box of pastry, the old man, and the ever increasing mess of sprinkles and jam about the floor.
“Damn”, Alice thought. “Missed out and stuck here, where ever here is.”
A almost unheard voice spoke from the dimness of the library. Alice almost mistook it as one of her own thoughts spoken out loud, then as the return of the insanity from the night before. “From where does the strawberry grow? From what does the hunger know?”
“Through what path have you vaulted? For what reasoning has time yet not come?”
Alice felt as if a door had opened and with the fresh in flux of air slammed yet another doorway closed. The sudden shift of pressure bringing a bit of nausea and the threatening kaleidoscope of confusion she had already overcome.
When the room returned to normal Alice noticed a few more lit candles burning, the box of pastry opened and set within arms reach from where she stood. The strange old man was busying himself with an even stranger white container with blue labeling. Without a single gaze back over his shoulder the sage asked,”Glass of lactaid free milk, Honey? I mean Alice… I fear we haven’t any honey at this moment.”
Pat sat once again in his garden. The summer heat had came earlier than expected but not so early that it would ruin the plantings. He’d have to run the drip hose more than usual until everything had set down good root.
The sky was filled with white cotton candy clouds; Each set drifting on a sea of pastel blue.
Many years ago Pat had hung many small wind chimes about the wood that surrounded his home. He had set so many so long ago that the watcher couldn’t remember where they were exactly. All Pat knew was on beautiful days like today the effort had been worth it. The native songbirds with a musical accompaniment by the wind softly off set the rustle of the trees in the cool summer breeze. “I know that reads as a horrible sentence, each word exactly accurate and the moment perfect.”
Pat was for the moment at peace with the world.