The Caravan

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
In the early morning of a dusty town that doesn’t deserve a name nor does it deserve a nickname, the caravan came in. The caravan filled with jugglers, poets, bards, and others that went against the steadfast ideas of the town that only drove the potential caravaners to an early grave. Yet every so often the caravan stopped through and traded with them before wandering off once more. Such as the ways of the worshippers of the naive artist-patron gods.

“It’s more like a train of vagabond's than a caravan of artists.” Remarked the busybody to another as the long head sits in the station: popping up tents that were just so... garish. “Why do we allow such hooligans to roam the country?”

“If I were to know my dearest neighbor, I’d tell you. But as of this moment, I haven't a clue, something to do with their wares being profitable and them being a tourist attraction, perhaps.” The mayor's wife replied as she guided her young girl away from the dirty window, with the exception of two small wipes, and into the cemetery with homegrown marigolds. Disgusted, the mother finds the train’s body defiling the graveyard of her and the town’s ancestor’s by placing strange flowers upon it, or painting some of the grave’s with images of unsaintly gods and goddesses of the arts, or singing a song to the spirits lurking about she shoos them away from her sister’s simple grave and starts to clean it with the vigor of a priest trying desperately to wash the sins off of a serial killer. When her daughter approached her asking what happened to her unknown aunt all she could reply is with, “Foolish thoughts lead her to death and you needn’t know more than that. So go off and try to chase off some of these grave defilers!” Leaving the daughter to walk up to one of the grave decorators. The young girl being especially careful to dance around the people giving instructions to some of the grave decorators.

“Why do you paint the dead’s headboards? Do you also paint their eternal beds?” The young girl looks up at the woman with bright blue hair and star’s eternally etched on her collarbone. She picks up the paints with some caution like a doctor examining a new patient with some unexplainable puss-filled welt. The woman looks at the girl before handing her a piece of paper and guiding her to the cherry tree.

“Little darling, you are on the cusp of womanhood and you seem to be on the path of two ways. Say,” The starry woman points the girl’s eyes to a misty like figure milling with others. “Are those a common occurrence for you? And to answer your question we paint those headboards because our patron saintly deity tells us too so the dead can be appeased. Dakil, the Goddess of death, courage, and mother of the artist deities. You have heard of her I presume?”

“Yes, I do see the misty loiters, but never to this scale. And of course, I know Dakil, she keeps the men of this town safe while they enlist to serve. But I must’ve forgotten her children. The priest doesn’t see her children as important as her. So,” The young girl turns to the starry woman. “ I am not ill of mind for seeing them? I will not be condemned for what I see?”

“Cusp of a woman! You see the dead! You have the great potential to join us, the tribe of the grave appeasers. I can be your mentor if you wish. Dakil would love to have another person from a hidden town in her ranks.” The young girl stops her painting, a calm sea with a water sprite dancing about and looks thoughtfully at her mother, then the misty woman next to her mother.
“I do not know if I can. Mother would miss me like she misses my aunty. But in the bottom of my heart, there is some wanderlust that cannot be quenched or squashed. What shall I do?” She hands the drawing to the woman as she stands up. Her eyes scan the crowd of people encircling the town: bright dyed skins (or natural like the warm brown of the starry woman’s), hairs, and etchings flooded her eyes making it almost impossible to not squint at while looking. And all of these colorful people were selling colorful things like dishes accompanied recipes her nose have never smelt or dyes with colors she’s never seen.

“Then on the third day after this one come to me with a decision and what happened to your aunt.” The starry-eyed woman replies as she walks into the crowd and melts inside. So for two days and almost three nights, the young girl wondered what could be in store if she left. Yet she also wondered what would they say about her if she left.

“Fallen soul,” from the priest.

“Pitiful excuse of a human,” from her teachers.

“A disgrace,” from her mother and father.

So in the earliest hours of the new day, she scrambled out of her room and to the graveyard. The caravan, merely feet away from the graveyard stayed alive with small fires and notes that refreshed her ears hitting upon her. It was a nice distraction from the uncomfortable rag she wore, her first woman rag of course. She walks over to her aunt's grace and slides her drawing under the marigolds making the misty aunt appear.

“What is it my dearest niece?” She looked only a little older than she, the young girl thought as the woman sat on her repainted headstone. “Here to wish me farewell?”

“How did you die?” The apparitions eyes widen as she looks down.

“You know without me saying a word. You know it will do if you stay here.”

“How did you die?”

“No, no, no.”

“If you don’t tell me I’ll leave you here and I’ll head back to bed.”

“Rope! Rope! Rope! A rope you fool!” The sun’s warm rays hit the misty woman and the young woman as she rises. Then the young girl melded into the caravan, nothing but the clothes on her back and courage of Dakil in her heart.

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