Téo is alone, as usual. Alone but for Sam, who wags his tail happily now before him, now behind. If you ask Téo, he will tell you he doesn’t mind. He has always felt better like this. The other boys don’t understand him, and it’s been a long time (for a ten-year-old boy) since he stopped making any effort to understand them.
So he walks alone. With Sam.
Only, he’s never really alone.
Téo’s mind never rests. He’s always imagining things. That’s why the other kids said he was weird. Téo stared at them, with his unblinking black eyes, and simply asked if they couldn’t see “them”, pointing in their vague direction. That used to scare the hell out of the other children.
Téo didn’t understand the other kids at first. In the end, he came to acknowledge they didn’t feel comfortable and stopped talking to them. He didn’t see it as a great loss. Neither did them.
But he keeps seeing things.
Wondrous things. Especially in the forest.
It isn’t much of a forest, as forests go. Téo knows he can make the round walk in a couple of hours, without hurrying it. He seldom meets anyone, and Sam loves the forest. And one never knows what the forest holds.
Téo follows the path. He knows the forest well enough that he doesn’t need it, but he actually likes the path. It’s easier, and the walk is still nice. And he can think. He likes to think.
Sometimes Téo thinks he should write. Take a pencil and a notebook, and write everything he thinks about. Téo is not silly: he knows he’s just a child, but he believes some of his ideas may be useful for someone. And he also thinks that reading them later would be fun. So he toys with the new idea of writing, and ponders it carefully. He takes into consideration the fact that he’s not a really good writer, and that sometimes he would find expressing himself difficult.
But it would have its advantages. He could improve his calligraphy, undoubtedly. Ah, and if the words he knew were not enough to express his ideas, he could always invent new ones.
Téo finds the concept fascinating, and inevitably wonders how words are invented.
Sam barks then, and Téo sees the plane.
It’s weird. Where’s the propeller? It has none. And it’s broken: there are bushes growing around it already.
Neither the bushes nor the plane were here yesterday.
Téo shrugs and approaches the plane. It’s really odd, entirely made of metal. No wood or canvas. It’s also a monoplane. Téo knows there are monoplanes, but they’re really uncommon.
And oh the lack of propeller.
Téo wonders how this plane could fly, and his mind kicks in. He’s in the fifth alternative when he decides to climb aboard. Téo picks Sam up and takes a look inside the cockpit. He decides it is safe and slides inside. The instruments come alive, and he understands them. Altimeter, wind speed, compass. The plane roars.
A man’s voice. With an accent. Téo is already imagining where he’s from.
Téo stares. The pilot: he’s wearing his uniform. He looks like he wasn’t here yesterday. Which is true.
His plane wasn’t, either, but it already looks like it belongs. Not so with the pilot.
“Can you… understand me?”
“Yes,” Téo says. “I can.”
“I… I need help. My plane crashed, and I couldn’t eject. But somehow I’m… perfectly fine. Only, I think I’ve been walking in circles. Well, I know I’ve been walking in circles, because I’m back at the place where my plane is.”
“Could you help me?” the pilot insists.
“What do you want?” Téo saks, still from within the cockpit.
“Well, I’d like to go home,” the pilot says. “So I’d need to get to the closest town. Or somewhere with a phone so I can…”
“I can show you how to get home,” Téo says.
“Home. I can show you how to get home.”
“Yes. If you want.”
“Would you do that?”
“Yes. If you want.”
“Well, thank you. I’d like that, yes.”
Téo climbs out of the cockpit, picks Sam from within, and places him on the ground. Sam smells the pilot, happily wagging his tail.
“This is Sam,” Téo says. “I’m Téo.”
“Hans, pleased to meet you,” the pilot says.
“This way.” Téo points at what’s only the barest hint of a path.
“Are you sure?”
“Completely. I’m going that way. You can stay if you want.”
And Téo sets out. Hans hesitates, then shakes his head and follows the kid.
They walk for ten minutes, Hans judges. The path has all but disappeared, yet Téo walks with security. He turns here and there, never doubting. He speaks little to none. Hans find this really weird. Perhaps there’s some kind of radio station deeper in the forest. Whatever it is, if it helps him send out a message, he will.
Téo stops, and points.
There it is. A white spiral floating before the kid.
“Your way home,” Téo says.
“What is that?”
“I don’t really know. But it will take you home. It always does.”
“What do you mean, always?”
“I know it works. I’ve used it myself before.”
Hans hesitates. Then decides, what has he got to lose?
He approaches the spiral and touches it. Nothing happens.
“You have to go through,” Téo says. “It will take you home.”
Hans shrugs, takes a step forward. Then another. The next one should take him through the white spiral.
Then he disappears.
Téo gazes, as if he could see the traveller fading away.
“Home, but not your time,” Téo says. “Come on, Sam! We can yet be home on time for dinner!”
Sam barks and the two of them leave.
Behind them, the white spiral keeps drifting between realities.
This is my entry for this week’s Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Strange Photos. The challenge was as follows: go to Google Images, type “Strange Photos”, pick one and write 1000 words inspired by it. That’s what I’ve done, in a difficult week for me. But now it’s done.