Hello, all. Yes, I’m back. Just call me the “Twice in One Day” Madchronicler. I just got some sad news that I want to share. Why? Because sometimes, you just have to. A couple of months ago I entered a short story in a contest. Long story short? It didn’t win. Me = Bummed.
This is not the first time I did something like this and it failed, but this one? It meant a lot to me. The reward wasn’t exactly amazing and I’m not going to post the contest or any details, herein. But it was very symbolic in ways that maybe I’ll be better able to explicate one day. But not now. Now, I just want to share it with you, because the one thing that I was not allowed to do was “publish” it until such time as it either won, or was rejected. No such constraints, now.
I want to share it with you. Why? A couple of reasons. The first? It’s about one of my daughters, co-starring my wife. And the second? ‘Cause it’s not every day I write a short story. It’s not exactly my cup ‘o tea. But this one? Well, I guess I’ll just let it speak for itself. It’s not long: 1174 words to be exact. And here it is. I call it…
The Wandering Seeker, a Short Story
I am awakened from my slumber by the sound of someone whimpering in the room next to mine. I crawl from beneath my covers, exit my room, arrive at her door and slowly push it open. By the dull glow of the light in her fish tank, I see her sitting bolt upright in her bed with tears upon her cheeks. I make my way toward her and she acknowledges my approach with a forced smile.
“What is it kiddo?” I ask as I sit upon the side of her bed. She immediately secures herself in my embrace.
“I can’t sleep.”
“I heard something outside.”
“What did you hear?” I ask and tighten my embrace.
“Crying,” she says, her voice muffled by my nightshirt.
“Crying? Well, that’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s probably just the Wandering Seeker.”
“The Wandering Seeker,” I repeat, “didn’t Mommy or I ever tell you about him?”
“Well,” I say, “lie down, and I’ll tell you his story.”
“Is it a scary story?”
“Not very. And I promise that it has a happy ending.”
“Okay,” she says. She lies down, crawls back beneath her covers and wraps my once-teddy bear in her arms. I clear my throat and gaze out her window. The shade is up, and the full moon is rising over the trees beyond it.
“The biggest question that people ask is why does the Wandering Seeker cry?”
She tilts her head inquisitively, “Why does he, Daddy?”
“You’ll find out,” I answer, “when I’m done, okay?”
“Okay,” she says.
I nod. “Once upon a time, there was a man who wandered the world… the worlds looking for answers to his questions.”
“What did he look like?”
“His face changed. Most days it would have a beard upon it, but other days it wouldn’t. Despite the changes, though, one thing remained constant.”
“His eyes,” I say, “his eyes were deep blue.”
She smiles, and holds her teddy bear closer, “Was he a nice man?”
“He was,” I say, “but he could also be mean. Being mean was his way of keeping himself safe. But his intentions were always good.”
“That’s good,” she says.
“And he was,” I continue, “for the most part. But he made mistakes and was afraid of making them again. He had lots of cuts and bruises, too, and he was looking for the one thing that would make them all better.”
“A band aid?”
“The right sized one,” I say, “but the cuts and bruises? They hurt. And because they hurt, he cried. Just like you do when you fall down and scrape your knee. It wasn’t like falling down, though. It was a different kind of hurt. You see, he hurt up here”—I gesture to my head—“and here”—I gesture to my heart—“and those are the worst kinds of hurt. He cried because he didn’t have a Daddy to come into his room and comfort him. He cried because he didn’t have a little girl to tell his stories too.”
“A little girl like me?”
“Exactly like you,” I answer, and plant a kiss upon her forehead, “he wandered the world, telling his stories to the people he encountered. His travels… his search for the answers took him many different places, and he met many different people along the way.”
“Where did he go?”
“All over. He visited worlds made of chrome and steel, and he saw the love that blossomed within them. He traveled from one world to the one right next door searching for paradise. His wanderings took him back through his own past, and he did battle with it over and over again.”
“Wow,” she says.
“That’s what I said when I first heard the story, too. And he had many adventures beyond those. He learned from each one, and grew each time. Despite his adventures, though? He still hurt. Yet finally…”
I pause, and she glances at me curiously, “What, Daddy?”
“Well,” I continue, “the day came when he knew he had to end his travels. That day he realized that a peaceful life was better than the one he’d been living.”
She cocks her head and looks at me askance, “What’s ‘peaceful?’”
“Good question,” I respond.
“I get it from you.”
I smile, “The best way to describe peaceful is happy. You see, the Wandering Seeker realized that he could never really be happy traveling the world… the worlds alone. One day, he was standing alone on a beach. He gazed at the ocean, and he realized that true happiness would only come from settling down and putting his wanderings behind him. In time, he found what he was looking for. He found the right sized band aid. He settled down. He doesn’t wander any longer.”
“Then why do I hear him?”
“You only hear an echo of him,” I answer, “He’s not really out there anymore. Not in body. In dreams, though? He’s still searching. Still seeking happiness. Answers. The places that he went? He revisits them when he can, but he now knows that there’s a difference between fantasy and reality. Now that he has responsibilities, he knows that he needs to focus on them and not his dreams. But that echo? It’ll always remain, crying on nights like tonight, because all of his experiences? They affect him, even now.”
“Is he a ghost?” she inquires, her eyes opening widely and a shade of her previous fear reentering her voice.
“No,” I say, “there are no ghosts, sweetheart. Ghosts are created by people to scare little girls. But they aren’t real. They’re fantasy, too. Not reality.”
“That’s good,” she says, smiles and re-closes her eyes.
“It is,” I conclude, “and that? That’s the story of the Wandering Seeker. Do you understand?”
She opens her deep, brown eyes and gazes into mine, “I think so. But Daddy?”
“Yeah, kiddo?” I reply with a sniffle.
“Why are you crying?”
Surprised, I raise my hand to my cheek. It comes away wet. I glance at the tears that sparkle upon it in the burgeoning moonlight. Somewhere beyond my daughter’s window, I hear the distant sobbing of the Wandering Seeker. I smile. Without another word, I kiss her upon her forehead.
“Another good question,” I answer.
She smiles, “Will you tell me someday?”
I nod. “I will. I promise that I’ll tell you all of the Wandering Seeker’s stories one day.”
“Okay,” she says, “I love you Daddy.”
“I love you too,” I say. She curls up beneath her coverlet, hugs her teddy bear close and closes her eyes one, final time. Per her slow and methodical breathing I understand that she is asleep. I stand from her bed and exit her room. I reenter mine and make my way quietly over to my bed. I crawl back into it. Instinctively, my wife shifts and her arm falls over my chest. I kiss the moonlight that dapples there.
Dream or reality, I embrace the contentment.
Short, maybe sweet and definitely contrite. What can I say? They only gave me 1200 words to work with. Oh, well. I did the best that I could. No worries. This, too, shall pass. I hope you enjoyed it. Have a good night ladies and gents. Hug your little ones closely, and keep your ears opened for the Wandering Seeker. There will always be a little part of him out there.
Winky emoticon. Smiley Face.